June 21, 2024

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Interview with U-Nam Emmanuel Abiteboul: Soul always comes first: Video

Jazz interview with a bad musician, as if guitarist ”U-Nam” Emmanuel Abiteboul. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Emmanuel Abiteboul: – I’m born and raised in Paris, France and I’ve started playing guitar at age 12, I was listening to a lot of 80’s Funk/Disco at the time (1982), Kool and the Gang, George Duke, Earth, Wind and Fire, Shalamar and so on.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the guitar? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the guitar?

EA: – Well, I got an interesting story, but first let me tell you that I never really had a teacher that helped me to be who I am today, I took some lessons and was in a Jazz music school in Paris, so I basically much more learned about the theory and then applied it on the guitar and the rest was just me practicing on records, transcribing solos and so on, that’s probably why my style is a bit different, I took a liltle bit of everything and as much info I could get my hands on, and always been open-minded, about any kind of music and voila:) … Regarding picking up the guitar, that’s the interesting story, I remember that for a long a time when I was very young probably 7yo or so, until I started at 12, asking my mom what was that weird thing that was sitting in the closet in that black bag, she told me it was a guitar and I kept asking her to play it, but each time she told me she couldn’t play it ‘cos actually she kept it as a souvenir as it was my grandpa’s guitar that passed away the year I was born. At some point around 12, I was so much into music that well obviously guitar was the instrument of choice and I’ve started on that very old cheap classical guitar, it killed my hands though 🙂 …

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

EA: – Interesting, if it’s about my sound on the instrument, I would say, that I’m playing a lot with my thumb, it gives me such a more warmer sound and I love being able to really “Feel” the notes, now when I have to play some very intricate and very fast licks then I switch to the pick, also one thing, that evolves a lot (and now I’m very happy with it), I’ve been experiencing for years all on my albums, all kinds of guitars, amps, preamp etc … and I found the perfect combination for me, recording wise since a couple years … I got a very limited Ibanez GB40th, which sound fabulous, as I really like, its mid-range and my recording preamp and compressor which are a mix a tube and transistor, are just fantastic (not cheap though), but I just plug direct and that’s it!!! For those interested by audio equipments, my rig is a Vintech Audio X73 going to a TubeTech CL1B compressor then to the audio interface … I grew up in big studios and I had several on my own, so I had the chance to try everything.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

EA: – Shame on me:) I’ve stopped a while ago :), but I used to practice so much like all day long and the most important with a metronome (in my case a drum machine), and here’s a very usefull advice talking about rhythm, the ultimate way to be in time and groove is to practice with your click or drum machine or whatever, and to have it only on 2 and 4, I used to put a snare sound, that way its the best for practicing being in time ‘cos its not easy at the beginning and also to get the best groove, ‘cos the groove for everything that is Funk or R’n’B is 2 and 4 always been, just listen to James Brown 🙂 2 and 4!!! Now I don’t practice anymore,  I guess I practice when I record, ‘cos I’m always recording, writing a lot either for me or other artists, and also I guess I practice when I have some shows to do.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

EA: – Oh, it’s absolutely on purpose, see at some point when I was 15/16 I had my Scofield/Stern moment and learned all this, I learned as well the Bebop stuff etc etc..and I can play Fusion, and even asked to tour a few years ago with that band Graffiti and Dennis Chambers, we toured for 2 years and that was really fun and I was surprised to get the call, but I’m always up to something new, but this is not what I feel or like the most, this is why I love so much George Benson, because he’s so melodic and bluesy but can play all those bebop outside stuff, but it always sounds never too much, always perfect fitting in the song, and I’ve been trying to achieve that, I love it….:) I like to be able to play simple and melodic and all in a sudden, throw some super fast lines or crazy arpeggios and outside stuff and boom back in the funky groove 🙂

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

EA: – Good question, I absolutely don’t, and it’s funny ‘cos I’m known at covering any songs and make it my own:), honestly I just try to do my best all the time, and mostly just trying to be me, without not thinking much …

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

EA: – Trying to find the perfect balance 🙂 everytime 🙂 … but I would say, “Soul” always comes first, at least for me, that’s the most important, but the perfect balance, that’s the way to go 🙂 …

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

EA: – Always, this is why, many times I thought I should change a bit what I’m doing to please more the radios or the medias or simply try something different, but I will always have to please my audience and the fans, ‘cos this is the people buying my music and albums, this is the people buying the tickets to see my shows, so…But I think that with my latest album “Future Love”, I found a right balance with pleasing quite everyone, even though you can’t really be unanimous:)

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

EA: – Wow, too many, I would not know where to start, Live shows, well being an headliner and playing for thousand of people is always amazing; Studio sessions, well there’s one I will never forget, it was for the “Tribute to George Benson” album, I went to George Duke studio, to record with him for the album, and when you have George Duke asking you if that was good for you or if you needed anything else and so on, I was speechless…I used to tell him “You’re the man!” and he used to reply to me, “No, you’re the man!!!” Wow that’s George Duke talking, such a sweetheart and genuine human being, I really miss him 🙂

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

EA: – Well, we got to create new standards:) and make it more accessible as well to the younger crowd, even though in Europe and especially Eastern Europe there’s a ton of young and very talented musicians interested and passionate about Jazz, and by the way, at Skytown Records (my record label) , we’ve signed a few of them, like Valeriy Stepanov from Russia and Andrey Chmut & Nikki Sax both from Ukraine.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

EA: – I guess, music is a place where you can escape from your everyday life problems and where you can as well express yourself in the most sincere way.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

EA: – Stop the streaming!!!!

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

EA: – These days, it might be surprising but nothing much, if so a lot of music from the 80’s, I’m a huge fan of George Benson, Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton, so I will say anything by those guys:)…but it depends, I love listening to Bireli Lagrene and Luis Salinas, 2 of my favorites Jazz guitar players, and I would say lately I went back to listen to a lot of “Level 42” which was my favorite band when I was a teenager, they are just AMAZING!

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

EA: – Fire, Passion and unconditional love!!!

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

EA: – In the 80’s, def for sure, I was there but too young, so I’d like to go back in the 80’s in L.A or NY but being an adult and really enjoy it to the max, all that happened back then! Best period EVER!!!!

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

EA: – A question from me?.. those days I think a lot of “Where is the love?”…. (To cite Donny Hathaway.), that’s my question 🙂

JBN.S: – Thanks for answers. I guess it must have been my fate.
To fall in love with someone else’s love …

JBN.S: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

EA: – To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of written interviews, ‘cos I’m not the best to express my thoughts and feelings through writing, I’m more comfortable talking, but I have to say that this one was different, it was almost flawless to me, and I have to say that your questions were super interesting and different than the usual ones I always got. So thank you so much for that and thank you so much for having me. Peace.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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