Interview Manu Lanvin, Neil Black
Friday 13th September 2013
"Satellit Café" (Roanne)
Neal : Hello. I am from San Antonio, Texas.
AM : And you, Manu?
I am from Paris. I am French.
AM : That's why you speak English!
Manu : (smiling) Yes, there are many mysteries about me, you know!.
Neal : For me it was such a giant spectrum of influences because in America at that time on the radio you would hear something like Barbara Streisand and the next song you hear would be Jimi Hendrix, and the next song would be Sly Stone, and the next song Frank Sinatra. It's so hard to think of all the influences, but that's how american radio was back in the sixties in the United States.
Manu : I had the opportunity to meet guys like Paul Personne, you know him, I'm sure, Bernie Bonvoisin who was the lead singer of Trust. When I met these guys I was a teenager, I was trying to play the guitar and they said to me if you want to know this instrument you have to know your classics. So I started to make my own research and I found guys like Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, all these guitar heroes and wonderful guitar players. They were my first influences. Later, maybe ten or fifteen years ago, I thought, these guys, maybe steal the music or songs done by others, so I started to listen to old Delta singers, artists of Mississippi, Louisiana.
AM : That's why you have this tattoo on your arm.
Manu : Oh yeah, the Route 61. It's a real symbol for me. This is the cradle of american music, not only Louisiana because Route 61 goes to the North, and musicians like Elvis Presley from Tupelo, Chuck Berry from Saint Louis, Bob Dylan from Duluth. I have a lot of respect for them. when I was a kid one of my dreams was to go there one day.
Neal : I wanted to be a drummer but the drums was too expensive. The guitar was half the price, so my parents said if you want to play some music you can get the guitar, plus they thought the drums would be too loud in the house, so I had the guitar without amplifier and it was fine for my parents.
Manu : I wanted to be a drummer as well, but the drums was too loud for my mum and after a week she said, you know what, you should take the acoustic guitar which is in the living-room. My father had it from one movie he did called Marche à l'Ombre. They gave him the guitar at the end of the shooting. So she said you should take this guitar. What is nice with the guitar is that you can travel with it. My parents were travellers you know, they are artists so we were moving from one city to another every year, we were not staying at the same place more than a year. I said okay the guitar can follow me.
Neal : Yeah, exactly. It's a lot easier than carrying drums around. Now I am glad I am not a drummer because I see all the things they have to take every time they play.
Manu : Yes, it's a nightmare.
Neal : This album called Sometimes the Truth, came out two or three years ago. It was recorded, one part in New York at Popa Chubby studio, and the other part in France with Michel Casuso. My guests are Fred Chapellier, Nico Wayne Toussaint, Mason Casey. The title was chosen by Philippe of Dixiefrog, the record company because he likes that song.
Manu : For my part, this is my latest album, Mauvais Casting on Veryrecords label. It tells a lot about my life. it's a new beginning for me. I had an amazing experience with Calvin Russell, another great artist from Texas who is somewhere else now. He helped me to lose this complex of being a French and white musician. I am fond of Blues, this kind of music. When you are white, I admit this is not my real culture, I haven't been educated in a middle of a cotton field, I grew up in the suburb of Paris. Calvin said yes, but you have something, you have to go on, you have to believe in what you are doing, so this album is a new beginning, it's full of what I always wanted to do, the music I am playing on stage, the music I do with Neal, this is, in fact, my culture because since I was a kid, I've been listening to all these great artists we were talking about before. This is the only music I am capable of playing.
AM : Why this title?
Manu : Mauvais Casting, bad casting?
Neal : Yeah.
Manu : This title because everybody is keeping an eye on me, being the son of another great artist, Gérard Lanvin, that everybody knows in France. Some people would expect me to do some dance music, this kind of very stupid and useless music. I don't know why because it is not the culture of my father, who is a real rocker, he has also something. That's why, I wanted to make fun of the people who didn't believe in me.
Neal : They are expecting something different.
Manu : Yeah.
Manu : Yes, she was a great singer, not very famous but yes she was a singer. My parents have listened to a lot of music since I was born. I was listening to music 24 hours a day in our house, even when I was sleeping, I remember they were doing crazy parties with lots of musicians, Téléphone for instance, all these musicians were coming to our house in Boulogne-Billancourt. I remember waking up at four o'clock in the morning, my mother was dancing with my father on loud rock'n'roll music, so after it's in your blood!
Neal : I knew about Manu's music before I met him. I had no idea who his father was, so for me it was just the thing that he had worked with Calvin and I've seen some stuff he's done on Youtube. There was a fusion of Blues and Electro. I really like that a lot. We worked on an album together in the studio for a female american guitarist named Jennifer Batten. We started talking a little bit, we got to know each other more, we talked about the possibility of making some concerts together. it's working out good.
AM : What is the name of your studio?
Manu : La Chocolaterie. The chocolate factory.
AM : Why this name?
Manu : Because we are crazy for Lanvin Chocolate! Just like the advertisement. It's a funny thing I wanted to do. A music studio has to be a place where you feel secure, you know what I mean, something warm. I want the people who come to my studio to feel at home, just as it was their own place, and chocolate is always something you keep in memory when you are a kid. Je voulais quelque chose de ludique!
Neal : Really?
Manu : I think so, did I show you my ID?
AM : What are the advantages to work together?
Neal : Because of our age difference? We said it everytime in interviews. Manu brings Blues and Blues Rock and what I always try to do with Blues Rock is to keep the young people interested in this kind of music. Even though there is age difference between us, we are both trying to keep things, you know slightly more progressive and more innovative with less tradition and I think more creative than a lot of Blues artists, this is one thing we have in common about working together.
Manu : For me it's a real honour to play with Neal. I have always a lot of respect for older people than me, because I still need to learn a lot, and for his experience because Neal has played with great artists. He did more shows of course than me, so it's always a pleasure for me to see how an artist like him works on stage and makes his music. I've learnt a lot with Calvin Russell, in the way we are singing, and with Neal on stage, and Mike Lattrell, for me it's a great opportunity, being a French artist and to play with those guys, it's gold.
Neal : The learning is mutual. There are a lot of things that he does that I can do, but when I watch him doing them, I say okay, I get an idea for this, you know what I mean. It's not even about the age thing because we come from different places and we have different ideas so it's really timeless, it becomes all about music.
AM : And Are there some drawbacks?
Neal : Not really. Being on stage and playing is easy. It's everything else, it's six or eight hours on the road, 3 hours of sleep, those are the drawbacks. The easiest part, the shortest thing we do is to spend ninety minutes on stage and everything else for the day is the drawback.
AM : But everything is forgotten on stage.
Neal : Yeah.
Manu : For me it was the perfect link, this is what we are doing, you know I come from Paris.
Neal : You work with other Texas guys.
Manu : It was this idea of making the trip, just like this one, we are travelling and we want the audience to make the trip with us during ninety minutes.
AM : There is not only the two of you on stage, you work with other musicians.
Manu : Of course.
AM : Could you please introduce them?
Manu : There is Mike Lattrell on Piano. He is an unbelievable pianist. He plays with Neal, when he is with his own band, he also tour with Popa Chubby, so it's the musician that Neal brings with us on the tour. I bring my two guys too, Gaby Santossuosso, the upright bass player, and Jimmy Montout who plays the drums.
Manu : Yeah.
Neal : Congratulations for that.
Manu : It was unexpected because I really not going to say I should be involved in this competition. I am not a competitor, because for me the best, in our job, does not exist. Everybody is different, everybody is coming with their own universe. But yes I am happy to go back to Memphis because I've been there twice. it's a very nice surprise for me, I didn't expect it. They called me and said you are going to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge. They want you to represent France, so it's an honour.
AM : Thank you very much Neal and Manu for your time, have a great gig tonight at the Satellit Café in Roanne, France.
Manu : Thank you.
Neal : Thanks for having us on your interview.