Le guitariste Rodolphe Burger sera à l’abbaye de Noirlac, vendredi 19 avril, pour présenter un projet musical inédit. La veille, il fera partie des musiciens qui, au Palais d’Auron, rendront hommage à son ami Jacques Higelin.
He was companion of Jacques Higelin, Alain Bashung, Rachid Taha. With Kat Onoma, his band for almost twenty-five years, he has also explored uncrowded lands of rock … And today, he likes nothing more than to multiply the heterogeneous musical experiences.
For sure, Rodolphe Burger is an unclassifiable musician. It is the poster of the Printemps de Bourges Friday, April 19, with, as right, a creation for the least singular since it was especially designed for the abbey of Noirlac, near Saint-Amand-Montrond.
For the Republican Berry , the guitarist talks about his taste for the acoustics of religious buildings, the trigger that rock music of the 1960s triggered, the festival he created in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, his hometown in Alsace, or his projects with the jazzman Jeff Blood Ulmer and the Breton singer Erik Marchand.
He also evokes the fraternal bonds he had forged with the man he always calls affectionately “Jacques”. Thursday, April 18, he will also be on the stage of the Palais d’Auron, along with fifteen other musicians, for a concert in tribute to the artist, who died in 2018.
You will perform in an atypical place, for a musical festival, which is the abbey of Noirlac. What are you going to propose to the public of Printemps de Bourges that will go to this place?
It’s a chance to play at the abbey, which is an extraordinary place. I visited it, in view of this concert, and I made a proposal very related to this place. A first time in the abbey, a little thing quite acoustic, with bassist Sarah Murcia, who used to accompany me. And then, in trio, always with Sarah and the percussionist Christophe Calpini, a second concert in the refectory, where I will present new things, that I will play for the first time and which will appear on my new album, which will be released very soon.
What seduces you in such a building?
I had the opportunity to play in several abbeys. And I still have other projects in this direction. This is the kind of place I like a lot. This one is really exceptional, from an acoustic point of view. I am particularly happy to be able to offer something.
The day before, you will also participate in the creation around Jacques Higelin, Jacques, Joseph, Victor, sleeps . Often, you collaborated with him. What memories do you keep?
There are so many! I was lucky to live with him a lot of privileged moments. We recorded three records together in my studio, in Alsace. He is quite isolated. We lived in autarky, we were in a bubble. With Jacques, we shared more than just working time. Very fraternal bonds have been created. It was, with the musicians, like … I do not know what we could compare that … A kind of privateer crew on his boat! Filibusters! What used to be called fraternities, precisely. By his father, he was from Alsace. It played a bit, he had fun to be there. But everything came from the links we made by preparing the first album we made together. It was Amor doloroso ( released in 2006)), which somewhat marked his return to the stage. From there, he found a huge pleasure to play. He then multiplied the concerts, really memorable for all the people who could attend.
You had already come to Printemps de Bourges with your former band, Kat Onoma. You are now back in solo. What does this great musical Mass represent for you?
I came twice, with the group. I do not know in which year because I confuse the decades! It goes back, in any case … Solo, not at all. It touches me to participate in the tribute to Jacques, because I associate the Printemps de Bourges with him. It was a little festival. There was a link from the start ( it was programmed as early as the 1970s NDLR ), which continues with his children.
You yourself have created a festival, It’s in the valley, in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (Haut-Rhin). Why this initiative? What do you think such an event brings?
Where Jacques came every edition, by the way … Nevertheless, it’s a festival that has nothing to do with the Printemps de Bourges, from the point of view of dimensions. It’s something that was inaugurated in the early 2000s, from the time of my band Kat Onoma. Sainte-Marie is my hometown. Of course, I left her, but I came back often enough to repeat, with the group, in an old farmhouse, which became the studio. Where I play and I always record.
The idea came one day to offer the public concerts of my group and to invite other artists. Bashung, too, liked to come. It has taken a certain scale. But, above all, it has become an artist’s rendez-vous more than a festival. They come up with things they do not do elsewhere, in general. A bit like the abbey of Noirlac, precisely. There are magnificent little chapels, with a particular acoustics.
This is an opportunity to propose creations adapted to these places and it gave rise to a lot of unique concerts, which took place only there. Including concerts of Jacques absolutely unforgettable. And then there is a very friendly atmosphere. Because we are outside the box office, completely outside the promotion. The artists come in a very generous way, to propose something special and to meet again. The next edition, in October, will be entirely dedicated to Jacques.
Rodolphe Burger. Photo Julien Mignot
You mention the desire to be out of promotion. You have just founded your own music label, Last Band, on which you publish your projects. It is to fix yourself the frame in which you like to create, a pledge of freedom?
Yes that’s it. Initially, I did not have the vocation to do it. But at one point, my way of working, of functioning, called that. It’s true that I multiply different projects. It’s not that I’m Stakhanovist, but I just like it. There have been my last three solo albums, of which the very last, Good , has resulted in a fairly classic tour, but there are also many things.
Recently, we paid tribute to Rachid Taha ( musician pioneering magnet mixing rock and music of his native Algeria, with whom Rodolphe Burger, his friend, had collaborated, and who disappeared in 2018 NDLR ) at the festival Banlieues Bleues, Seine -St Denis. We were about twenty musicians, on stage! A record will come out from recordings of the band I had with Rachid Taha called CousCous Clan.
I also made records with Jeff Blood Ulmer ( guitarist and American singer of jazz, blues and funk NDLR ), for example, with Jeanne Balibar ( actress, director and French singer NLDR ). I needed, to do all that, to be able to express myself on a larger surface than the one of the album which leaves every two or three years, followed by its tour … This kind of running a little routine which does not do not go too much. I feed on different experiences and I want to publish this work. I’m not a record company, it’s more like a publishing house. On my label, there are all my productions and, sometimes, as recently with Fred Poulet (French singer-songwriter Edl), I may come out something from a friend artist.
You talked about your multiple projects. What are the next ones you will work on?
There is a new album to be published, of which I will deliver the elements to Noirlac. The tour around Good will end with a small closing concert at New Morning ( Parisian jazz club Ed ), in May. And then there are a number of other things. I spoke about the taste that I developed for the churches and their acoustics: I have precisely a project around the Song of Songs , which I played at the cathedral of Strasbourg, last year, and that I will play at the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris. Among others!
“I have few prejudices … It’s not the musical genres that interest me, it’s the people. ”
These are projects that mix very different genres. Are there countries that you have not explored yet?
I have few prejudices … I happened to do very unexpected things, like a record with a huge Breton singer, remarkable, Erik Marchand. I never imagined one day doing that, it’s because it’s him! It’s not the genres that interest me, it’s the people. After, I must admit that I have musical allergies. There are things impossible for me … I will never do a record of zouk, salsa, or lounge jazz!
Rodolphe Burger at the Thirteen Arches, in Brive-la-Gaillard, where he presented, in 2013, his work around the Song of Songs and poetry of Mahmoud Darwich.
What were your influences initially? In terms of guitar, your instrument, especially …
I am from that generation who was eleven years old in 1968. The music of those years completely upset me. It’s like Lou Reed’s song, Rock’n’roll, about a little girl, Jenny. She is five years old. She falls on a New York radio station and her life is changed. It’s a little what I lived, and I’m not the only one. It was a real shock.
After, these are things that can pass. It turns out that it immediately put me to music. Very young, I founded a group in this small industrial city of Alsace. We lived a rock epic in miniature. Then I did other things, but I never left the music. I returned to rock in 1980, when I was no longer a teenager, to remake something that is not a revival, which takes into account other influences, other music that we could listen.
With my friends from Kat Onoma, we had practiced improvised music, listened to world music, African, but also repetitive music, some jazz a little free, radical … It was not about making fusion, no more. We tried to find our own sound, to chart our own way.
What does Kat Onoma represent, across your career, in hindsight?
I think it’s been a very special way, very original, on the French scene. It was our school, we formed ourselves through this group. Then, I opened in the 1990s to collaborations, I also started to work in solo, parallel to the group. And to write for others, like Françoise Hardy, Alain Bashung … All this brought me to things that always keep this experimental rock nucleus. On the other hand, I can also work with people who come from the electro, go get musicians Uzbeks … I am rather open, musically.
The band has not been around since 2004. Will fans see it coming back one day?
Unfortunately, Kat Onoma lost a very important member, Bix (Guy Bickel, Ed), the trumpet player. By definition, the group can no longer reform. On the other hand, I sometimes play with Philippe Poirier ( saxophonist, guitarist, but also draftsman and filmmaker, Ed ). We made a record together recently called Play Kat Onoma, on which we play again, years later, pieces of the group. And I very often get back to it. For me, it’s a repertoire that continues to live, basically. I have the feeling of being in continuity. Moreover, we repeated every time our directory from scratch, proposing very different versions of our own songs. It’s a group that was constantly evolving. I continue that. And I do not feel that the story is over.