It’s out. The 4th edition of WEST FM, le podcast has just hit the soundcloud platform. Very happy to welcome WhiteVal, an artist that did a lot of good music in Europe and in the USA. A great artist with inspiration and magic in her hands. Check the guitar soli. Thanks WhiteVal for that piece of chat and for the “Voices” in the head.
This is new day. On the eve of Christmas, I wanted to show my passion for a brand that disappeared more than 22 years ago: West FM. It meant a lot for me. My musical culture started to build listening to them. This podcast in French today and in English tomorrow sums it all. My present for you all. Merry Christmas.
By Brendan Flynn.
Making your way to Yverdon to the Amalgame venue on a cold Swiss night (February 28) from the railway station of that lakeside city, through almost deserted old tree lined streets across a car park and into an old industrial estate, sent flashbacks.
Many gigs from yester year held venues secreted in old warehouses and pop up buildings. You only paid a few quid to see all kinds of bands.
Walking from the street to the venue, you are greeted by a rusty old caravan parked next to an equally rusted barn with paraphernalia strewn haphazardly outside it. As you approach the Amalgame which is old school in its appearance and size, you are almost stepping back in time. Indeed the venue and location could easily sit in 1990’s Berlin.
The crowd began to slowly trickle into the venue. Mainly avid Scratch Massive fans greet each other and conversations about previous gigs in Paris unfold. Even though there was a rumour that all gatherings of over 1000 people may be cancelled due to the coronavirus, most in the venue didn’t care. The Amalgame houses less than a thousand and as I said to one of the staff “the virus couldn’t afford to come to Switzerland any way”. This brought a wry giggle. Music fans are not the worrying kind when it comes to their favourite bands.
Tonight they are here to see Scratch Massive
The lights went down as the backing band Pyrit appeared from the dark like a spectral figure. The band turned out to be a single guy decked out in a scuba dry suit. Ok interesting! A backlight illuminated his wiry frame as he tinkled on his keyboard/emulator and projected twisted Aphex Twin styled sounds. Half the gathered crowd looked on bewildered, while the ears pricked up on the other half. He began to build up his sound with added guitar, which he played with hand and violin bow, then crashed two cymbals in front of him whilst tapping strings on his guitar at the same time with the drumstick. He then built up to a crescendo with pulsing tech and industrial beats intertwined with his high ethereal vocals. He was defiantly non-mainstream and one to look out for.
After all, holding an audience betralled to the end with rapturous applause was quite a feat. One that he accomplished with his self-belief and musical talent. After a brief break the crowd sensed that Scratch Massive was about to take the stage. Fans near the bar and the back of the venue shuffled forward with fevered anticipation and staked their spots at the front.
Sebastian and Maud walked on stage to rapturous applause. The crowd cheered as they started the eerily beautiful intro to Last Dance .
This almost eight minute version was a feast of retro 80’s infused mellow techno crammed with bursting fills and sumptuous swirling bass rumbles with an almost sad vocal sympathy to it, combined with Maud’s ghostly vocal samples, threw people in the crowd straight into a main course of musical gastronomy.
Scratch Massive don’t do starters!
Next up Fantome X, which slided effortlessly alongside Last Dance, all which showed the bands natural ethereal controlled chaos that seems to tumble into free-fall when the vibe hits.
Sebastian began by throwing his contorted body everywhere as he lives the vibe almost like a first time ecstasy user listening to Pink Floyd for the first time, while Maud stood, controlled and concentrated silhouetted against the lights bedecked in a red and black hoodie looking like Gillian Gilbert from New Order.
Next up were Soleil Noir. Which sent the crowd swaying as they began to warm up. The song had a simple complexity to it. Most of the best artists just instinctively know how to do a simple complex song.
Soleil Noir slowing faded out to simple drums and the haunting intro vocals of Waiting for a Sign slipped in, which then gave way to a more menacing drum and gritty EDM fusion. This combination was interspersed with early eighties mini-Moog type synth poured on top with twisting swirls of mutated synths. Those synths sounded as if you were spinning around the room with a speaker on a rope as it built to a stop.
Up next Pleine Lune. With its almost Jean-Michel Jarre “Blade Runner” like futuristic intro and beautiful riding a motorbike through a soundscape of an atomic wasteland with flowers growing on the side of the road colourful through the wreckage as you speed towards a sunset.
Dancer in the Dark came out of nowhere with its Depeche Mode/My Bloody Valentine vocals like a mermaid luring you into a dark brooding place. It then built up to a pleasing high tempo but still keptt its dark edge. It felt totally European. It reminisced and gave you a feeling of walking with headphones on down a crumbling east-European street at night looking at bullet holes in a building.
Prey burst through with hopeful hits and choppy skips. Soulful synths played with you and brought sunlight. It flowed and spiked with upbeat sine’s and led nicely into Event Horizon which just halted your flow and you just knew it was going to explode on the lift, but it played with you for a bit before synth and organ slowly teased you as “Chute Libre” burst forward. Sebastian was by then sweaty and 100% invested into the vibe like he always did. Maud directed the orchestra as the duo flowed in tandem. Chute Libre was drippy and wet and chunky as it slowly changed direction.
Numero 6. It was happy but doom laden synth sound took you back to a majestic vocal weave. Its quiet tech beats lifted you up all hands in the air as you closed your eyes, head down until its up. Its Skippy beats filled you with euphoria and cleaned your musical palette. Tasted the happiness’ like musical skittles in your mouth.
Closer seamlessly slides in on psychedelic Modular Trippy-ness. We were closer! Harsh but soft! Uplifting but angry! Pulsing but soft!
Let me feel your love. One More time.
Sunken then thumps in with its heavy bass drum and slow explosions of sound like air hisses along with jumbled vocals sung by Leonie Pernet all chopped up and sublime. Beeps and pulses carry the flouting vocals like balloons through the air.
A Girl on Top burst in to finish the night with a huge marching beat. If you were next to the speaker you could hear and felt the bass vibrations snaking through your body. It felt like a trippy trip down a very trippy lane and then running into traffic naked with a road cone on your head.
Scratch Massive are a very underrated band/duo which does not have to work hard at what they do as what they do they love and if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.
Interview with Sebastien Chenut from Scratch Massive
What does your band name mean? And who thought of it?
We were looking for a name, like every start of a project. We had several music magazines from the UK we found in a toilet (in the toilet itself?) In the last pages of an issue it featured the worst and most wasted faces from the last parties of the last few months in UK clubs. One guy was particularly wasted, the picture title said “What a Scratch Massive crowd”. We thought if our music could make people be in this state it would be a good name to have.
Who are your biggest influences on your music and your life philosophy?
The eighties definitely!
How did you meet?
We met in a club in a coastal town in western France called St Nazaire. I was DJ in a club over there during the summer and we met there one night in 1999.
What’s the craziest thing you experienced?
The craziest moment was right after the assignation of Rafic Hariri in Beirut, in Lebanon. All the people were out on Liberty Square, it was an enormous crowd. We were playing down at the Palace of the president. After the ceremony and the meeting were over, the crowd moved over to our show. That was a very special moment.
How’s the tour going? And would you take your music to North Korea if allowed?
The tour is going great; we have been meeting beautiful and intense audiences, which always gives us the biggest buzz. We used to play a lot for dictators, so North Korea would be not a big deal for us. After all, music has no frontiers
What’s Your Songwriting Process?
It’s often really how a word sounds; that is maybe the most important thing for us. Sometimes it is as simple as collecting words and sentences when you read a book, then sometimes we put some of them together because we feel them and remember them.
Who do you sound like?
We all try to sound like our idols, so we try to do the same style first, then slowly you start to forget what it should sound like and how it feels to work a song your own way. I couldn’t say we sound like another band.
Who would you like to collaborate with musically ?
We would really love to feature on a track with Thom Yorke, Grimes, or maybe make the soundtrack of a David Lynch movie.
If you woke up tomorrow morning and found you where the last two people on earth? What would you do first?
I will say that we would be lucky to be the two of us rather than one. We would find some food and wine.
Have you ever had stage fright?
Absolutely! Sometimes before each show we still get it. But the most difficult time is in Paris, our city. When you know that your parents or really good friends are in the crowd…
When we are not touring we like to make some music and we like watching movies, take some time to see our friends and family. When we are touring, we are usually in a train station, an airport, or a hotel.
What’s your average day like when you’re touring and when you’re not touring?
When we are not touring we like to make some music and we like watching movies, take some time to see our friends and family. When we are touring, we are usually in a train station, an airport, or a hotel.
Do you fear for the future or are you hopeful?
Not very optimistic about it, we don’t really see good signs anywhere of something that is making sense as part of the evolution of our society. I don’t really have fear! I’m just sad about our evolutionary course.
Digital or analogue?
Both for better pleasure and enjoyment. We have a lot of analogue equipment in our studio in Los Angeles. Maud, in Paris, is working more in digital at her home studio.
Best advice you’ve been given and what advice would you give to young musicians starting out?
To never listen to advice first, to try go on with your own personal instinct of research and creation. Then step 2, you can then listen to advice.
What’s the strangest thing ever given to you by a fan or thrown on stage?
A Polyvox synthesiser in Vilnius Lithuania.
If you weren’t in a band, what job would you think you would be doing?
Probably making cool movies or working in an artistic creative way.
If the story of Scratch Massive was made into a movie biopic, who would you like to play you?
Sebastien: Ewan Mc Gregor.
Maud: Juliette Binoche ! A lot of people tell me we have some similar vibe.
Scratch Massive, the website it is right here.
Introducing DJ Billy to the world is a fun game to play, so much to say about this real music lover whom I first met on the marché de la Palud in Lausanne, thirteen years ago, on a sunny Saturday morning. Billy was selling music related t-shirts of his own making with his stand squeezed between a flowers merchant and an organic veggie dealer. Billy is a Swiss DJ from Ireland, a music reviewer, a funny man to have a chat with and a pint “emptier” at every good beergarden near you. To describe Brendan Flynn (his real name), I would say that he always chased the good bands that make him happy in Dublin, London, Zurich or Lausanne for a professional reason or just for the sake of it. We share a passion for New Order, Ride and The Smiths, three names ringing the bell for every Anglo-Irish indie kids who grew up at the end of last century. Pure music love, no need to make money out of it, his passion does not pay the bills! For the music signature, Brendan chose the familiar Billy (say “Belly” to sound more Irish). Billy for the DJ’s name on the bill sounds more efficient and the man is now a well-known Lausanne turntablist – among a group of expats I belong to – that is giving on a regular basis great sensations to the people in different regional pubs, private parties and Bar-Mitzvahs. Billy will also soon be a new contributor with The Swiss Music Show. Welcome to the Swiss Music Show! But before you get to know the man’s music reviews in Switzerland (his article on deck is a gig review + an interview with the French electro duo Scratch Massive, patience, it is coming up in a few days), let’s discover Brendan’s universe. The writer and Swiss resident for more that fifteen years is married to a Swiss woman and is also a swiss music lover, with a lot of good jokes and anecdotes about the indie pop music scene in Albion, let’s find out about the man and his good words. Beware, explicit lyrics have not been censored in the interview, keep the kids away.
The Swiss Music Show: What is your style like when you spin records?
Brendan Flynn: I have a strange style when I’m playing. I like to go along the vibe with the music and I have an eclectic taste in music. I tend to go with how myself and the crowd feel and I love to play obscure music as my Guinness count goes up.
Who are the people you play music too?
I love to play to people who truly hear the hooks and drops and understand the lyrics’ place within the music! Oh and drunk or stoned funny people who enjoy themselves!
Where are you from and why did you choose Lausanne to live?
I’m actually from a very rough housing estate in Dublin and grew up with punks, skinheads, metal heads and lads in tracksuits. My area was filled up with burnt stolen cars driven by junkies for the buzz. But music was the one thing that glued all these people together. That and actual glue in a bag! I came to Lausanne via London where I met my Swiss Jura wife in a goth/industrial nightclub in Camden Town on a Friday night. She couldn’t speak much English and me much French but 24 years later she speaks better English than me.
Can a DJ can survive with his earnings outside of a quarantine situation?
Not really but earnings are just a way to buy a few pints and a bit of bread and cheese. I just love playing music and if others get a blast from it that’s what really gives me the bumps.
What’s your relationship to Swiss music, what are your favourite Swiss
It took me a while here to really appreciate Swiss music. It’s a different scene from the UK or Ireland as Swiss German bands tend to sound more Germanic and edgy, whereas Swiss French usually tend to be like what goes on in France and be more rap or old French crooner style. But more and more new Swiss bands are taking the zoned mentality off and going for it. I worked at les Docks a few years ago for 10 months doing free Wednesday night bands on a 500 CHF budget that helped me get a good look at some Swiss bands out there. There are some really quirky bands around which I booked and I loved the experience. It was different from the bands I had promoted before in Ireland and the UK. I loved the Peacocks, Favez and The Young Gods which I met in London in the early 90’s. I got to chat with them before the gig and ended up fairly drunk and allowed on stage to fling my long dreads around on stage alongside a girl wearing a cat suit with a tail. Embarrassingly it was all caught on tape.
Do you play a lot of Swiss music in your mix?
I try to if I really like the tune. I tend to probably play more French or German stuff. I love to also play quirky Japanese garage music and general quirky stuff like Tijuana Taxi etc.
What is your opinion over the music nights in clubs in Romandie and
elsewhere in Switzerland?
I think sometimes in Romandie they can be a bit restrictive in musical styles allowed to play and the 100 decibel law is a bit Boo! Spoilsport. It really boils down to the Canton, as some are more open-minded and some old school boring farts.
What is the first song you will play after the confinement?
Has to be Always look on the bright side of life by Monty Python!
Would you be ok to play for a mobster or in a Donald Trump’s hotel?
Yeah. Why not? Even mobsters need a little Marvin Gaye to chill.
Interview by David Glaser
Have you ever heard of the FCMA (it stands for Fondation pour la chanson et les musiques actuelles)? No? Not a problem, I am going to try to make a little presentation with the help of its director Albane Schlechten who happily took my call just before the COVID19 locked all of us home. Why do I want to talk about the FCMA? Because they rock, they do an amazing job for the sake of Swiss music in Switzerland but also on a global level.
The FCMA and its partner the Swiss Music Export office in the german speaking zone of the country have managed to plug the Swiss music bands on most of the European taste-making festivals like Groningen’s Eurosonic and les Transmusicales de Rennes. In 23 years, the FCMA has also helped hundreds of bands, solo artists and music professionals in shaping their carreers, choosing a manager or defining a media strategy to reach their audience.
More than twenty years ago, the Foundation was born in Nyon, inside the Paléo Festival organisation. The aim was to offer the youngest artists and bands from the chanson. rock and hip-hop scenes emerging scene in Romandie. It started off as a platform that provides professional tips and contacts to break through, it became a central actor to help the musicians to make the best out of their craft by linking them to professionals in rights management, production companies, music programmers in clubs and radio stations.
Behind this project, Daniel Rossellat and Jacques Monnier, the founders of Paléo who are preparing themselves this year to organize a Paléo festival edition that is healthy for everybody if the Swiss Federal Council allows them to operate this Thursday. Along with the famous duo, a group of political and music actors like the Mayor of Geneva Alain Vaissade and the music programmer and director of the late-Dolce Vita in Lausanne Marc Ridet were important in launching the Foundation. Marc Ridet became the boss of the organization and ruled it for 20 years. Albane Schlechten replaced him when Marc retired late 2017. How are things now in Nyon at the FCMA, Albane tells us all (the interview took place the 9th of march)
Hi Albane, how are you coping with the whole coronavirus outbreak and its repercussions on the music industry? Is the FCMA financially safe?
The FCMA does not have any financial losses really, for now. The situation is in fact difficult. We are navigating in uncharted territories. We are reallocating budgets, cancelling trips without insurances to help us on that matter. We are monitoring the situation, on a short-term basis. We are confident that the crisis will come to an end.
Could you tell me more about your promotion campaigns inside and outside of Switzerland in 2019 and early 2020 before the outbreak?
We developed the Eurosonic Project, the most important festival for new talents with a significant number of showcases offered to the media partners of the festival and also bookers and programmers in clubs all around Europe. A lot of the summer festival programming work starts there at the Eurosonic Festival in Groningen (Netherlands). It is also a big opportunity to reach a bigger selection of the media outlets that play and curate music. We came there with a “Focus on Switzerland”, with 22 artists, in many different genres, among them L’Eclair, an instrumental jazz-dub-synth pop combo from Geneva which released their music on Bongo Jo records. And there was Emilie Zoé. She attracted a huge amount of interest from medias from everywhere. Emilie’s presence was highlighted in the different reports given away to the press, she has been selected by the music programmers to appear as the “flagship” of the swiss scene.
Who else stood out according to the medias and the programmers?
Emilie Zoé was of course not the only one to stand out these last months. Camilla Sparksss, the project of Barbara Lehnoff the bass-player of the ticinese band Peter Kernel. Her performance at the Swiss Music Export event at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg last september was really appreciated along with the electro artist La Colère.
What kind of partnership did you create with the artists and the Swiss music professionals?
We have established a real relationship with these artists, we are tracing a path together with the help of the Foundation. We also gather forces from everywhere in the country for that Swiss Focus, whether it is institutionnal or mediawise. For instance, the EBU (the European Broadcasting Union based in Geneva) is a partner at the Eurosonic festival. They team up with the Swiss public radio stations like Couleur 3 or SRF 3 to produce a quality coverage of our artists’ presence.
Who are the other artists that you helped develop outside Switzerland?
Marius Baer, Muthoni Drummer Queen. Pascal Gamboni (an artist supported by the Radio Televilisiun Svizra Rumantsch)… and many more. First means to measure the efficiency of the Eurosonic Focus Switzerland scene, is KT Gorique gonna be more programmed elsewhere. It seems so because the Wallis female rapper and Camilla Sparksss were lined up for “The Great Escape” in Brighton (which had have to take place right now).
Some Swiss bands found bookers in England and Germany to book them on domestic tours. These guys hear songs from our artists and if they are convinced, they want to see them live, simple as that.
Could you describe your strategy to break those artists elesewhere?
We have a strategy in two different levels, the first. As we have a diverse and independent scene, we work artist by artist, we interact with the medias that we know and the labels, we will talk about some artists linked to us to the appropriate media or label. We target the right networks, the right actors. We work on the globality of the Swiss scene. One of our media partners is MX3, a platform that gathers all the music and the biographic facts to help programmers and journalists to get to know more about Swiss music in rock, electro, hip-hop and chanson. Their platform is linking up our four linguistic regions with the help of the public radio stations. We exchanged with the people of the radio station 3FM is the Netherlands, BBC Music Introducing or the Belgian broadcasting company RTBF in the French-speaking region, they are interested by what MX3 does.
MX3, this seems to be a dream tool for artists, why is it not more pushed forward?
It is a public financed platform, it is not a big platform like Spotify, you need people to work for it, to manage its content, promote it, you have to be very pushy with communication, produce new contents and to be on the look out for new talents, the Radio Télévision Suisse and MX3 are doing a great job to promote our Swiss artists, with special shows on the radios, with sessions in the Studio 15 in Lausanne. The collaboration with the Swiss media is really good.
Who are the financial actors that inject money in the FCMA?
Paléo, the cantons, the munipalities, some of the municipalities have clubs, some others have none. Every other year, cities like Neuchâtel, Geneva or Lausanne contribute, we also get subsidies by the Lotterie romande, Fondation Pro Helvetia and Fondation Suisa. We have a trustworthy relationship with the cantons, we meet with their representatives to discuss the money question, but we were certainly not at risk these last two years.
What is your aim for the following years?
The market is getting more complicated each year. Our means to help artist break through are still not enough, we would like to enforce more self-sustainable strategies.
By David Glaser
FCMA on line on this website.
HERE’S A SELECTION OF SWISS SONGS FROM ROMANDIE’S SCENE