With the variation of the modes and far from unchained crowd, the man in black builds in the shade his imposing and solitary work.
JT: I am called Janik Top. I never knew my father, and my mother was washing machine. What wants to say that I always had to work to live, that I was never maintained. That was extremely important in my relationship with the life and people who, them, were not always obliged to look at reality opposite. At five years I started to take courses of piano to the musical college of Marseilles. At nine years I tackled the violoncello, and a year after, the direction of orchestra with Maître Andre Lhéry, who is perhaps the person who the most marked me on the musical and human level.
In parallel, I followed normal studies to the Thiers college. In class of second, I stopped the music, because I had had as example of people who had arrived at very an high level in the traditional one and who burst the flagstone… I thus continued my studies, and the music returned gradually, until I give up completely the maths for it, in third year of FAC. But I had completely given up the idea to make a traditional career, it for what I intended myself at the beginning. This moment, I started to listen to John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
MB: Front, you listened to only the traditional one?
JT: Yes, one can say that I like really the classical music, that it is Bach, Bartok, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, or the modern music: Varese, Penderecki,… To Marseilles, I had also followed the courses of the group of search for Frémion, with the Academy. Studies of sounds were made; all definitions, mass of the sound, the grain of the sound. One swallowed the musical theory of Schaëffer, which represents a considerable job. I was always rather rigorous with work. I like really that. Not imposed work, but personal work, improvement of its own capacities.
MB: Did that have to be a shock to listen to Coltrane for the first time, whereas since your childhood you were plunged in the traditional one?
JT: That rained me immediately. I found certain forms of the modern music there, though it is not completely exact, I realized some later: Coltrane had developed a whole very special method of work, even if some say still today that it makes noise in a sax. And there was something moreover, which depended on time present. It was music created at the time with a latitude much larger than in the classical musics or contemporary. Coltrane and Miles Davis really showed me what it was that to live the present in the music.
MB: How did you come from there to play of low?
JT: Precisely by listening to this music, I was immediately struck by the low one, I fell in love with this instrument. It is at the same time a very marrowy cushion and something of hard, which weighs tons and on what all rests. At that time I listened to much a disc of Miles Davis recorded in Antibes with Tony Williams, George Coleman, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter with low. Ron Carter really sat me, there was something moreover than the notes…
MB: Under which conditions you did learn how to play of low?
JT: There was a coincidence. Day at the following day I had to replace a comrade in a regional orchestra. I learned the repertory and I went there, and I had never played basic front. After, I withdrew myself during two years all alone with Aubagne to work the instrument. A comrade had lent a cottage to me which I had to repair to live there, in a great property belonging to its family.
Afterwards, I decided to go up to Paris, but before being able to do it I had to solve material problems as stupid as to pass the driving licence, to buy a car, an amplifier, and to solve a problem of cords which was completely personal for me. Indeed, I was accustomed to the violoncello which agrees C-ground-D it, at the beginning I granted low normally the semi-the-D-ground, but very quickly that degenerated into semi-ground-D it, which is really a hybrid agreement, until a house of Lyon agrees to manufacture C engraves especially for me. Since, I grant C-ground-D it. And then I turned some time around Marseilles with orchestras of ball to gather some small financial provisions, and finally I arrived at Paris with 2.000 F out of pocket. With the passing, I realize that does not make it possible to go very far. But finally, that occurred well. A comrade lodged me for four months with the eye, and a month and half after my arrival I played of the double bass and low electric with the French Comedy in the adaptation of the “Middle-class man Gentleman” of J.L. Barrault. There, I contacted some musicians. Exchanges of addresses. It is always similar when one arrives in a city, one breaks the feet with everyone. One does not stop telephoning because one turns like a rat died in his part. Of needle and thread, I found myself in Olympia to accompany a high-speed motorboat. There I will not quote any more names. And then at the end of one month I cracked. I expected very safe that, especially after the period of insulation and intesive work which I had lived. At the same time I did a little jazz with André Cecarelli, Henri Giordano, Jacky Girodo, and an evening I was with them with the Bubble when Christian Vander came to see me to discuss.
MB: You knew already Magma?
JT: I had seen them with the festival of Chateauvallon, into 72. They had made a speech which had enormously displeased to me in connection with people like Ron Carter who, said, were there to make an official reception than a jazz festival. A certain lack of tolerance had struck me. Today, I know that at the time it was because of Giorgio Gomelsky. When I met Christian it really did something, therefore I entered Magma. One worked, and gradually accumulated facts which, in themselves, did not have any importance. But there was a sum of misunderstandings that personally I interpreted as being other thing that misunderstandings.
MB: As being what then?
JT: When I do something with somebody, I always consider that it is there, opposite me. However, and there I speak in a general way, I was always struck by generalized selfishness. Certain things had not badly stirred up me, I thus stopped; two discs had been made: “Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh” and “Köhntarkösz”, on which there was “Ork Alarm”, my first composition for Magma. Musicalement that occurred well, one made five rounds in England and that moved. One could really have done something if there no had been human problem.
One can say, of course, that one should not attach importance to it, that the public of fout and is there only for the music. It is true. But in the operation of the group, for me, that has a very great importance. If not, one is together why? Me, I answer: for nothing. I know that there are very known groups where people are any smile on scene, and as soon as outside ready to balance chairs on the head. But that does not attract me in any way.
Then I continued to work on my side, and for the jazz festival of Nancy, Gomelsky proposed to me to assemble something. That fell well, I had just composed “De Futura”. However, in Nancy, he was announced: Utopic Sporadic Orchestrated of Giorgio Gomelsky and Christian Vander, whereas I had just spent six months of job on this trick. That gave me a good lesson: I always openly gave what I did, my ideas. Never nothing left under my name. But after one finds oneself “having given”, a point it is all. However in this trade, much of people know and apply celebrates it Chinese proverb: “When there is for two, there is inevitably for one”. After that I was to leave a disc, but there still were chicaneries on which I do not want to extend me. In February of last year, I re-examined Christian and one discussed much to remake Magma. I forget a little bit too quickly what occurs, but I consider that there is nothing statics, that each one can change its points of view and reconsider its errors. I make confidence, and I do not regret it. It is a very good school, just as to try to see the things as they are instead of digressing in philosophical speeches highly imbus of oneself on knowledge. However there is no speech, or at least one leaves them with those which are done to make some. But it is another history.
MB: How was held this second experiment with Magma?
JT: As I said it, very had happened very well on the level from the discussion. But I very quickly realized that something had not evolved/moved in our reports/ratios, namely that when one had decided to do something, it was necessary that immediately the opposite occurs. It is necessary to take its time when a new group is assembled, to act with parsimony and reason. The whims do not change anything with the business.
MB: You aim who?
JT: Once again, I speak in a general way. But if you me installations the question precisely, I can say that Christian is very capricious. I did not want to set out again on bases that I did not find solid.
MB: At the time of the concerts of the Theatre of the Rebirth, most of the public seemed to find the music very hard… .
JT: It should be said that the hard repertory was initially assembled. Personally I quite to the contrary played keyboards the “Music of the Spheres”, which is not a hard music. But it is necessary to replace all that in its context. If a producer puts on the front of the scene two chicks equipped with a certain manner with much of powder, light and perlimpinpin, it goes. But that has nothing to do with the music. To pass into radio operator it is necessary to realize pieces of 2 ' 30, cast in the mussel of the advertizing, so that the rate/rhythm humming and commercial is not broken. Me I believe that there is place for everyone. If somebody likes such or such pop-star, I do not see why it would not have it. One does not have to frustrate the amateurs of handkerchiefs and limousines. Otherwise one does something of élitaire, one says that one will impose it, and that somebody who does not like that will have passed to the furnace… It is not my design. But I believe that there are a public and a place for the music which I like to make. It will be with me to prove it, and it is a thing to which I will get busy. People are not animals, even if one wants to make it believe. It is nevertheless nutcase whom in private everyone acknowledges that the radio is disgusting but that it is necessary well that it is like that because of the others… If there are short pieces on face 1 of “Udü Wüdü”, it is only for reasons of this kind.
MB: What do you make in this moment?
JT: I work. I intend to reserve a surprise for the re-entry, or for the next year, I am not in a hurry. Because I made the decision, after the break of Magma, not to live music more, because that brings to make a product, and that when one has this product, it should not any more be released. It became an brand image. It is sad. The fundamental thing, it is the handing-over in permanent question, and it is incompatible with the “market”. I thus live of a work which I make of my better, but who am completely dissociated from my musical activities.
MB: Which work?
JT: I make meetings of recording in studio with “high-speed motorboats”. I will not quote names. It is a work. In margin, by taking all my time, I make the music which I like, and, when something is ready, I will make available it of the public. From here some time I hope to work with Henri Giordano, that nobody knows, but who is really a mountain, somebody of the gauge of Hancock.
MB: You started again to play of the keyboards?
JT: Yes. In my music there is, mainly two votes: one, anchored in the ground, which returns inside, it is the low one. And then it there with the voice of the cloud, keyboards. The mixture of both will give what I will do soon.
MB: Which music listenings you in this moment?
JT: I listen to music per periods. In this moment I réécoute much Coltrane. I decipher with the helmet all the “Mikrokosmos” of Bartok. I listen a little what is done, but does not find there really what I seek. It is too a period of gears, and not only in the music. The great proverb, it is: “More quickly, one understands nothing”, or “more extremely, it is not rather quickly”! All is a little free. Weather Report is perhaps the only group which can at the same time play and create a certain climate. I say well a certain climate, that does not go beyond. But there is an unquestionable climate.
MB: And among the bass players?
JT: That which impresses me more, it is Michael Henderson, the bass player of Miles Davis. Pastorius and Stanley Clarke are fantastic instrumentalists, but I find that something misses from the climate point of view of.
MB: Rock groups?
JT: I adore certain tricks of Stones, which really décoiffé. They had what I call the “grain”. But a long time ago that I did not listen to them. Pink Floyd at a certain time went in the direction of the climate, but I believe that now they were completely reformed with the commercial mould, with nevertheless always a small veil with far, behind, which is strange among people like that.
MB: Why “people like that”?
JT: What I wanted to say, it is that they do not have any technique, but there are people, like Hendrix, who have things to say and which say it with nothing, with any technique.
JT: Tricks rained me, mainly when it was with Miles Davis. Afterwards, I liked less. I found that very cold. I believe that with Shakti it is found, I again felt this “grain” which it had front. But I would like to reconsider the technique: it is a tool which one must improve to the maximum, and it is all. It should not be permanently used with the detriment of the feeling and of the music, it is not necessary that becomes acrobatics.
JT: One forever last enough of time on a disc for really leaving the sound. In all the discs of Magma, there is a veil on the music, which filters energy. But it would have been necessary to spend six months on each one… Stevie Wonder spent two years well. It should be said that it has the means and that the musical careers are also financial careers.
MB: You love Stevie Wonder?
JT: I find that a little too perfect, a maximum. I speak about the interior swing. This said, its field, it is the song. Let us say that it transcends a mould in which I do not want to have to run me.
MB: There is an impressive series of discs of James Brown on your chimney…?
JT: Yes. When I started to listen to Coltrane, there were also the first
elements of the rhythm' blues, with there still a dominating place of low. I love much James Brown. On the other hand, which I do not include/understand, it is somebody like Hancock, which starts to make of the James Brown without James Brown. That wants nothing to say. Especially for somebody like him, which has a touch of incomparable piano. At the point where it arrived from there, with all the possible contacts in the musical world on a world level, it could all be allowed. But if it did all that to arrive from there there, I do not include/understand. Finally there is a whole style of music which one does not know very well if it is made for the boxes or the motorways: all times with the large case, a good small front of guitar, an easy topic that everyone will retain very quickly. Me, in my motor, I can listen to anything. But one cannot speak about the music without speaking about what there is around, of the general situation.
MB: Thus speak about what there is around…
JT: There, one comes to the bottom. One starts to realize that the bases of the theories which had course at the 19th century and which founded the economic advancement of the Occident were false: the ground is not infinite and its resources are not inexhaustible. Back machine should very quickly be made, to stop the economic gears which, as well, are reflected in the music. It is not any more one problem of distribution of the richnesses, but simply of life or of died for the man. That supposes a radical awakening which must start from each one. As for the concrete means of this disengaging, I do not know them very well. But I remain optimistic. One will need well that something is done, even perhaps for the last moment, if not it is the catastrophe.
MB: What do you think of the cultural movement which was grafted around the rock'n'roll, drug, etc?
JT: All the companies had their derivative. After the company of the wine, perhaps one goes towards that of grass. It is a problem of individuals. I believe that to some that can bring something, in others not. The danger, it is that people become increasingly unable to give each other a personal discipline. Many projects what they seek, i.e. power, in the others, which it is a pop-star or a guru. It is easier than to try to see itself opposite. I have very little real historical knowledge. What plunged me in these considerations, it is the experiment of my own life, and the discovery of another thing that the pure material gears, a certain work on oneself, the purification of projections.
MB: Whereas do think you of the speeches of Vander?
JT: Each one is free to want to become the Master of the world. There are many people like that.
MB: The direction of my question, it was: people who were in Magma with one moment given shared all his design of the things?
JT: Not, of course. You put the finger at the place where it is necessary. There was an immense contact between us, in spite of a total dissension on the bottom. There is only Klaus which is in the same history as Christian. To solve this kind of problem, it is necessary to fight against oneself, and I really wish in Christian to realize one day.
MB: For much of people, the music of Magma is a dark music, distressed…
JT: Me much was said that. I crossed very hard periods also, and at this moment that was to correspond well so that I felt. And then one can say that for two thousand years there always have been people who perceived a certain vision of the Apocalypse. And it is nevertheless them which made Art, more than those which spoke about the small flowers and the loves with water of pink. In any case, the only thing which counts, it is to say and do what one feels, to be in agreement with oneself.
MB: For “Köhntarkösz”, you had written “Ork Alarm”, for “Udü Wüdü”, “Ork Sun”. What: Ork?
JT: To try to render comprehensible a little what was my music, I had imagined that there was a planet completely mixed with ours: it was Ork, whose inhabitants were with the machines what the machines are with the man. But as they lived in another dimension, we could not see them. Of course, the transposition of the history, it is that we are the inhabitants of Ork, that we believe ourselves men but that we are machines. It is a very schizophrenic history.
MB: You said to me that you did not leave practically any more at home. Why?
JT: Because outside, it is the madness, the perpetual aggression, You are in the motor with 90, it is limited to 80, and you are pursued by guys who multiply the calls of headlight, make you cuts in front, etc
MB: And you are nevertheless optimistic?
JT: Yes. I believe that people reflect more than in the past, even if they accept conditioning because after all it is much less tiring. And my only wish, it is that peace reigns in the hearts…
WARNING: I heard bandage secret of Janik Top. The director of recording company which will refuse to sign a contract to him, and this at any price, will make a coarse error.
IT WILL BE TRANSFERED IN TWO YEARS. - (remarks collected by MICHEL STUFF).
Rock'n'roll and Folk n° 124 - May 1977
Caballo de Feria - Diluvio
6 years ago