Roberto PIAZZA
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Little Bob - Interview - October 11th 2009

Thank you very much to Nathalie Milliet for her translation.

(c) Copyright Little Bob Rhino Jazz Festival

  1. We last met on rock-interviews in September 2007. What happened since then ?
  2. Well, some important things happened. We did not tour a lot but I prepared my album. I wrote, I rehearsed and we did a few gigs just to make sure we don't get rusty. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews But the main thing is that I wrote for this new album, especially towards the end, in fact. That's the reason why, in "The Phone Call", I say that rock'n'roll called me at midnight and told me : "What's going on ? What are you doing ? What are you waiting for, man? You know why you're here, I need you back. It's time to kick them ass." That's it. I wrote in November and December while alternately rehearsing with my musicians and then we recorded in January 2009...

  3. So you released a new album called "Time to Blast".
  4. (c) Copyright Little Bob Yes. It's time to blast, time to explode, to deliver whatever we want. Why ? Because I think people, at the moment, are a bit apathetic. Everyone accepts without turning a hair, all the bad things happening in life. It's high time for people to express what they think.

    AM : Yes, and you say : "Time to react, to deliver sound, to blast, to express what you think, to stop letting oneself be walked over".

    Exactly !

    AM : Music is a real therapy that cures pains affecting heart and soul, especially during these hard times when greed, cupidity, racism and ambient cynicism overwhelm friendship, sharing and respect.

    And individualism too, I must have missed this one ! It's a fact; we live in a world where everyone's more and more out for himself. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews I have the chance to be free. I've been doing what I want for 33 years now. When people urged me to do things I did not want to do, I left big record companies. I do whatever I want so I'm a happy man. It's not common to meet people who have been doing exactly what they like throughout their whole life.
    I can feel sadness all around. People don't move anymore, they don't want to react, they accept everything. TV programs are becoming more and more stupid. In fact I have a strong feeling that one wants to make people idiot. They are offered stupid TV programs so that maybe they could be in trouble when it comes to vote. Although nowadays, voting for the left-wing or for the right-wing is becoming more and more difficult. The left-wing hardly exists and our beloved President knows how to dismantle it little by little. I'm talking about politics here, but in that case politics is also part of people's life. We must not look the other way. I don't say that the left-wing would be necessarily better. I have always known through my father, through the life he lived, through what I lived myself, that there is a little bit more humanity in the left-wing parties and that the crisis is global. Leaders are causing bloody chaos everywhere. (c) Copyright Little Bob When we elected our President, I thought to myself "I'm going to leave". I wanted to go back to Italy which is my place of birth. But when I saw who they elected, I realised that I really wouldn't want to live there because he is a crook, a bastard. That's why I'm still in France. France is the country that welcomed me, that adopted me, that's where I have my fans, my friends, people I'm happy to meet when I'm on tour !

  5. Can you explain why you produce your records ?
  6. Precisely because I want to stay free. The last album I released through a major company (EMI) was "Lost Territories". I thank them, it was a nice album, well recorded, with a big budget. I lived in Los Angeles for three months. My musicians joined me for one month. We recorded and rehearsed with my American friends. JJ Holiday was there. (c) Copyright Xav Alberghini He worked lately with the Imperial Crowns. He is a bloody great guitarist, especially on slide guitar. He is exceptional. There were also Kenny Margolis on keyboards, a drummer like no other, and Bertrand Couloume, my musicians, etc. I should have sold immediately 30000 copies over a three months period but my music is not made of "commercial hits". I would love that more and more people listen to it but I can't force them. In addition, it's getting more and more difficult to be broadcasted on TV. At that time, they did a great video clip for me with the "Tango de la rue" cartoon, it was amazing. The fact that I did not sell my 30000 copies in three months represented the first "swerve". I was invited by the Pow Wow who where friends of a Rockabilly band from Caen called the Alligators. They invited me to appear in Taratata (French TV show) with them and sing a song by Zachary Richard called "Travailler c'est trop dur" (Bob sings). I could sing this song. The product manager from the record company (you are products in this kind of business) came to me and told me : "So you can sing in French ?" and I answered : Yes. I'm not a stupid idiot, I can sing in French if I want to. I did it for my friends but I don't feel like doing it on my records. At this moment, I realised well in advance that nothing was working properly any longer. Lots of people were fired from record companies. It happened to famous and important people like Jacques Higelin for example. I took this decision in 95 (I talked about it to Mimie, to people around me). Of course the recording budget wouldn't be the same anymore ; we would not go to Los Angeles anymore and spend three months on the Pacific Coast. Of course it was great but on the other hand, we can do whatever we want. That's what I did until now even with RCA, BMG, EMI and Musidisc. From 96, I became independent. In 96 I still had an editor, one of the biggest, Warner. I realised that a lot of people had been fired from Warner and I found myself having to deal with bureaucrats. When I was asking for some money because we needed it (they would get it back on the record sales), I saw that I had to wait a little bit too long. Then from Blues Story, I recorded with a good editor who helped me record the album in Paris in a great studio with my American mates like Kenny Margolis (he was the producer). Kenny was on keyboards, there were JJ Holiday and my musicians. Even Serge Teyssot-Gay was there, my real mates. For the album that followed, I noticed that the label who was distributing my records hadn't been doing a good job. So I called Dixie frog , Philippe Langlois, who told me : "Send me what you release, what you want to release". I sent him demos I had done and he answered : "Ok, let's sign, but I don't want any long term contract between us". We've been working together since 2001 and I keep on releasing my records through him because he is the most honest guy I've ever met in this business. On the other hand, he does not produce, he distributes, he signs a license, he takes my records, manufactures them, he helps a bit with the promo and for the rest, I'm in total control. I chose not to have an editor anymore because, ladies and gentlemen, when an editor gives you money, helps you in artistic terms to release what you want to release, when your records are in progress, to be able to propose songs elsewhere, then I'm ok. But generally speaking, they are only here to take 50% (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews of the rights and they are not willing to give much in exchange. We decided to put all the tracks under copyright control. This means I'm my own editor and the SACEM keeps its own operating percentage. I have the figures. We perceive all my rights as a song writer/composer. Mimie puts the money on an account and when I need to do a record because I have new songs or when I have to make a record urgently, she tells me : "You have that amount of money. It represents your copyrights". Then I make my record with this money and now, I'm absolutely free. I don't say that it does not cost us money. We print the t-shirts ourselves, we pay for the posters but freedom has no price so I'm free and I want to stay free as long as possible. On the other hand, this implies additional work. The proof is that we tried to work with Parisian booking agents who booked us for three times the current price in order to get bigger percentages. We decided (c) Copyright Aymeric Vincenot to create our own booking business and we play and tour more often than before. As nowadays there are not much ways to be broadcasted on TV, you have to come and play for people. They always ask me : "When will you be back ?" whereas I just finished my concert ! We can tour, go and see people, meet them. My fans can find our albums in their record shops, in their village where we play or find them at the merchandising stand at concerts and of course they can meet us!

  7. What's your strongest and most beautiful rebel yell ?
  8. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews There is always some kind of rebellion on each record. The last one is "kick them ass". It's on "The Phone Call", the first track of the album, but there are others such as "Libero". I was talking about my father. Libero means free and this feeling of freedom is always walking by my side. I can also quote "I'm Free". There are things like this on each album.

  9. According to what's being said and heard, you seem to be a living legend in French rock. How will you do to retire ?
  10. I don't want to retire. No way. I hope to keep on enjoying the same level of energy as today. I'm sorry about the loss of friends such as Willy DeVille who left too early. He wasn't really a friend but a good mate. We toured together in the UK. I met him in 1978, 31 years ago. And this year, he died just when he stopped all the drugs and stuff he used to take. (c) Copyright Xav Alberghini I stopped a long time ago, well before him and I've never been as addicted as him. That's why I feel good, I'm full of energy and he stopped too late. While we are on tour, we pay a tribute to him. We play one of his songs. We searched in all his records. There were so many good songs that we took the first song of his first album "Cabreta" which is called "Venus of avenue D" (Bob sings). We play that song at each concert on this tour to remember him. There are others who left before. Calvin Russell I hope is going to recover because he is not well at all. He just cancelled a one and a half month tour. I don't remember your question, I talk too much!

  11. What do you think of today's French rock scene ?
  12. There is something happening. There are lots of good bands, young bands who appear everywhere. Some are good some are not. Some are luckier because they sing in French or because they are cute and young girls go and see them more often.
    I'm happy for the Bijou reunion and that Philippe Dauga hits the stage again. I would not have been willing to reunite Little Bob Story, especially without Guy-Georges Gremy. If Guy-Georges had been ok to come back (ok there were others too), maybe we would have done it for one tour but it's not my style to reunite bands. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews I have a band made of people who have been playing with me for a long time. There is something happening at the moment. Some magazines such as Rock'n'folk or Crossroads try to help or encourage young bands. But unfortunately, French culture nowadays is managed by people who don't care at all about this kind of music. I don't want to say that rock is a bit of a counter-culture. But all these venues that have been created did not exist when I started. We call them clubs or music cafés. All these bands can play there. When the new government was elected, these venues stopped getting financial help because I think that people who govern us prefer allocating funds to Zeniths where you can go and see variety shows. Of course for them, rock is made of people who moan, who grumble, who express what they think, whatever their language is. They'd rather see us disappear. I keep on fighting to exist and I advise young people, kids who start playing rock music or even those who keep on doing rock music, not to give up. God knows how hard it is. Even those who play in bars can't do it in fact because they are obliged to be declared. In bars, how do you want to do that when you pay a band 150 or 200 euros ? This is not possible. Even when you declare a professional band, you pay charges. Ok, it's for intermittently work but all this makes the prices increase. Prices become too high for venues that don't get any help whereas culture in general, "hype" culture, you see, the great culture, painting, modern ballets, draws less people than all the rock concerts in France. These ones are given money whereas all the ones who organize concerts don't get anything. So nowadays, it's getting harder and harder. The main thing will be to resist !

  13. I think you have friends on rock-interviews. The first one is Jack Bon , ex-Ganafoul. You were with him yesterday evening during the blues evening at the Festival Rhino Jazz in St Chamond (Loire). The concert was called Route 69 to Le Havre.
  14. Yes, you remind me of a great tribute.

    AM : Can you tell us more about this concert ?

    Yes, it was super cool. In fact, the date was not ideal for me as I'm in the middle of a tour. I started touring last week. I went to the North of France and to the eastern area of Paris. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews I went down on Thursday. I took a plane between Le Havre and Lyon and then we rehearsed with Jack, in fact with Jack and his trio called Route 69 I think, with Eric on drums and Stephane on bass. They invited Robert Lapassade ex-Killdozer, with his guitarist Edouard. There was Puce from Factory (back to the Givors years). It was some kind of veterans'reunion ! I had been asked to do something a little bluesier. I love the blues. That's an important part of music. Rock music derives from the blues. Bands I first listened to in the 60s were the Stones and the Animals. After that, I listened to lots of others and they were all influenced. They covered blues tracks from John Lee Hooker to Muddy Waters to Robert Johnson and so on. Instead of listening only to these bands, I bought blues records. I did not become a specialist but I'm a real amateur of blues music. I love playing it and singing it. It was a great opportunity. I brought tracks such as "Just like a Hobo" which starts as a blues track and end as a rock'n' roll ; "The Gift of the devil" (you know that the gift the devil made to the blues is rock'n'roll). I also added to these tracks a Little Richard rock'n'roll song because he was one of the first rockers to play rhythm'n'blues. The track is called "Bama Lama Bama Loo" and then I took blues tracks I don't sing very often. There is one on the last album which is called (c) Copyright Xav Alberghini "the Devil got my woman" (Bob sings). This means : I'd rather be the devil than this woman's man. There is also "I feel so good", a song by J.B. Lenoir, the other one is from Skip James. We did a mix of rock'n' roll and blues. We rehearsed on Friday. I asked Jack who is a brilliant guitarist and a good friend (we met in 77). Each time we can, when I come to Lyon, we jam. We jammed too when he came to Normandy to play with us. I asked Jack to spill his guts out, to express what was hidden inside him and to be wilder than ever. It was great and the concert was good. In the end, I asked Robert Lapassade, Edouard and Puce to come back on stage. We finished with three guitars, two singers and the result was really cool. There were a lot of people for a jazz festival. Thank you to Rhino Jazz for allowing me to be a member of this party. I called people and they came dancing rock'n'roll in front of The stage. It was absolutely great. In other words, I made a mess!

  15. And your second friend on rock-interviews is Jean-Jacques Burnel from The Stranglers too ?
  16. Yes, I met him too in 76-77. It was the beginning of the Stranglers. When we started we immediately toured the UK and we had many opportunities to meet and to see each other. Jean-Jacques told me : "Why do you sing in English, Bob ?" He is of French descent and lives in London. I replied : "What about you, why do you sing in English ?" (c) Copyright Aymeric Vincenot In my opinion, English swings more than French. Then everyone is free to do what they want. I remember the time when we played just before them at the 100 club in Oxford Street, in the centre of London. We also did a fabulous thing : the New Year's Day, on the 1st of January 78 or 77, I don't remember. It was at the Roundhouse in front of 2500 people and Motorhead was the headliner. The Stranglers were playing just before. And we were just before the Stranglers. I don't remember if the Gorillas played before us. What a great experience, so many rock musicians were there ! It was a mix of punk and rock'n'roll but for me it was more like MC5 and this kind of bands, wild and savage with an audience on cloud nine. I have great memories of this moment !

  17. And your third friend on rock-interviews is Philippe Dauga from Bijou svp ?
  18. Ah ! We toured a lot with Bijou. We did festivals ; we played at Fourvière (in Lyon) together. This particular one had been very harsh for Marie et les Garçons who were welcomed on stage with cans. It was a bit hard because Starshooter were playing at home in Lyon. They had taken the place of Dave Edmunds and his band with Nick lowe on bass. I found this a bit off-hand. It was their turn to play and in fact, Starshooter took their place because they were from Lyon. I came on stage and of course I complained. You know I'm a loudmouth. I said : "I would like you to give a big round of applause to Dave Edmunds & Rockpile. Such a band is worth all our French bands. You'd better give them the welcome they deserve !" Some must have been sulking at this moment. (c) Copyright Rock-Interviews And we were supposed to come on stage at 1 AM. We were loaded. At that time, we were taking stuff. We played at 4 AM. The sun was starting to rise. There were people sleeping in the tiered seating area. I arrived on stage. Some of the band members were totally wasted and after two tracks Barbe Noire (Black Beard), Little Bob Story bass player, left the stage leaving his bass on the floor. In the dressing room, his wife shouted at him : "Go back on stage immediately" and I woke the audience up and told them : "Call Barbe Noire" Manoeuvre remembers this as he was there for Rock'n'folk. They called Barbe Noire who came back on stage and we had an awesome concert. After us, the Dogs and Au Bonheur des Dames were supposed to play. It was 6 AM, it was a crazy situation ! And Dauga was there with Bijou & Palmer. I'm glad he is back on stage because people like him are made for it. And I saw him, so sad, at gigs before he came back. He found two guys who play with him, that's cool and Bijou had quite a lot of fans. Vincent Palmer is not in the band, because he doesn't want to play anymore. Guy-Georges Gremy doesn't want to play either but not for the same reasons. He doesn't want anymore stress and timings. He wants to be totally free.

    AM : Thank you Bob for this new interview with us.

    Thank you, thanks for welcoming us, Mimie and I.

(c) Copyright Rock-Interviews

(c) Copyright Little Bob Rhino Jazz Festival