Pop Montreal: The Jean Leloup experience
par Kevin Laforest
dans Hour, 22 septembre 2011
Jean Leloup & The Last Assassins drop by Pop Montreal for an Electric Voodoo Night, Hendrix-style
"I'm playing more of a pure-type thing, exactly what I feel at the particular time. Whatever it turns out to be, I don't know." That's Jimi Hendrix talking to KMPX-FM in 1968, but it might as well be Jean Leloup, sitting on the terrasse of a Mile End café a couple of weeks ago and telling me about his latest endeavour, The Last Assassins.
Throughout my interview with the local music scene veteran and his new partners in crime, Hendrix's name keeps coming up. "Jimi Hendrix didn't play music so that people would say he was extraordinary, he did it because he needed to," says Leloup. "The reason I make music is because I need to share with people something else than shitty conversations about relationships and midlife crises..."
For Leloup, The Last Assassins -- a project which has him taking off his singer hat to focus almost entirely on his guitar playing -- is an opportunity to finally let his inner Hendrix loose. "There are lots of guitar riffs from that whole Hendrix school, I've written a lot of riffs like that and have never been able to add lyrics to them." Then came the making of Karaoké Dream, his experimental film that screened at Fantasia this summer, and the realisation that all those riffs would make an ideal soundtrack for it, though he still figured it'd be good to have some lyrics to go along with his music.
Enter Virginia Tangvald and Mathieu Leclerc. Leloup met the former in a bar, found her accent sexy and asked her to sing backing vocals on his 2009 album Mille excuses Milady. The latter he met some ten years ago, on a street corner, and after finding out that he wrote, Leloup collaborated with him during the creation of 2003's La Vallée des réputations. The three of them ended up getting together at Pierre-Carl Daoust's Studio Orange to record songs for Karaoké Dream, with lyrics written and sung by Tangvald and Leclerc, and a whole lotta raw, gritty, almost arrogant riffs played with gusto by Leloup. "We began to jam," remembers the guitar slinger, "and we never stopped."
The result is an album, simply titled The Last Assassins, ostensibly the soundtrack to Karaoké Dream. "But the record and the film each have their own life," Tangvald points out. "They both live independently."
JOHN THE WOLF
Even though he's been an iconic figure of our franco music scene for more than two decades, going back to early hits like Alger, Printemps-été, L'amour est sans pitié, Cookie, Isabelle and the generation-defining 1990, Jean Leloup, who was born in Quebec but who grew up in Togo and Algeria, has never been against doing songs in English. Prior to the nearly 100 percent anglo The Last Assassins LP, he recorded half a dozen of them (Think About You, Blue Eyes Sky, Horrible Fool, etc.), not to mention such bilingual classics as Johnny Go, I Lost My Baby or Je joue de la guitare, with its "Fuck the system, do it, do it, do it..." hook.
"You do it the way it comes out," says Leloup. "Like I did this song Think About You in English probably because, at the time, I'd been speaking in English a lot. That's often what happens, like when you spend three months travelling, you talk in English all the time, then when you sit down to write a song, it comes out in English."
"We did write some songs in French, but in the end we had too much material and we decided to keep those for Jean's next album," mentions Tangvald, who was born in Puerto Rico from European parents, then grew up in Toronto. "Nothing was really thought-out, it was all done on the spot," adds Leclerc, who's of Acadian descent. "Ultimately, playing guitar is the trippiest thing for me, and that's universal," says Leloup. Who knew all it took was six strings to end the linguistic divide?
ELECTRIC VOODOO NIGHT
The Last Assassins will hit the stage for the first time during Jean Leloup's show at Pop Montreal, which will kick off his new tour, Electric Voodoo Night -- another nod to Hendrix, as well as a reference to Leloup's habit of playing guitar at night. "I play riffs, I sing whatever goes through my head," he explains. "And I'd like the Electric Voodoo Night show to be like that; going back to the essence of each song. Often, there are four verses in a song, but the first one is the only one that really matters; the rest you struggled to write. When I play at night and go into one of my old songs, I only sing the verses I like, and then I just jam."
"We'll play some songs in a straightforward way when we want to, but you've got to leave some room to manoeuvre," Leloup goes on. "The thrill of playing live is precisely the fact that it's live. You can make a right turn or a left turn, you can explore various atmospheres and new ideas. Otherwise it can become really boring, like those nostalgic concerts by all those singers who once had some hits and who just play them one after the other. You go see them the next year and it's the same setlist; the year after that, still the same thing. I can't understand how they do it."
Jean Leloup & The Last Assassins
Pop Montreal at Théâtre Rialto (5723 Parc)
Photo: José Enrique Montes Hernandez. Jean Leloup: "We began to jam and we never stopped"
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Dernière mise à jour le
26 septembre 2011.