Audion #50

May 2005 A4 40 pages

GARDEN OF DELIGHTS: Drum Circus, Vinegar, Virus, etc.
NURSE WITH WOUND (almost 3 pages of reviews)
STAUBGOLD / QUECKSILBER (label features)
'IGGINBOTTOM'S WRENCH (a choice rescued relic)
Cuneiform, Electroshock, Viajero Inmovil (label features), etc.

out of print / sold out!

Example article extract

"Le Merlin de l'ectronique"

The French independent experimental scene has long been populated by solo artists with their own projects exploring unique avenues in music that are totally isolated from mainstream rock culture. This has resulted in a few talents now world "famous" for their originality and innovation, and numerous more that are cherished by fans of such French music.

One such innovator is Bernard Szajner, who made a series of three innovative electronic based albums. Once quoted as "Le Merlin de l'ectronique" Bernard had a wide-ranging and chequered career. Born in France and a Paris resident for many years, Bernard's family is of Polish origin, hence the highly unusual name.

Working in both France and England he became associated with Tim Blake in 1971 and his explorative "Crystal Machine" concerts, and being able to speak English, he also struck-up a relationship with the English band Bachdenkel that had been spending much of their time in France. This musical friendship led to Bernard becoming a unique talent of the Paris "synth rock" style as also explored by the likes of Heldon, Lard Free, and numerous other soloists.

With his early albums now on CD via Spalax it's a good time to catch up Bernard's innovative music. He was an artist I hoped to locate and interview sooner or later, but by chance Bernard instead found us by accident when doing a search on the Internet, which led to the following interview conducted by a volley of email's...

To most people in Britain (that know of you) you are best-known as the inventor of the laser harp and other novel electronic gadgets. I recall seeing a feature on you on BBC's "Tomorrow's World" programme...

I never really imagined the "instruments" I invented as being "gadgets", but rather as: instruments that pushed the limits of a synthesizer instrumentalist way beyond he would be able to express with a simple keyboard instruments. I could simply play, because they were also conceived for my inability to play a standard keyboard (I never had any form of musical training). It was far easier for me to invent highly sophisticated instruments than painfully learn to find a "c" on a keyboard...

I see. From what I'd read elsewhere it seemed to make out that you were a professional musician and technician.

I have always liked what you can do with technology but I never graduated. As far as being a musician, total amateur would probably be more adequate.

In my original draft introduction, I said that Tim Blake was a key influence, which I believe was wrong?...

Tim Blake had absolutely nothing to do with myself getting "into" music, he's just one of the people I used to do light shows for or rather "Szajner is not a musician, he was just my lighting technician" (direct quote form Tim Blake), in a sense I guess he's right.

So, how did you get involved in music?

I used to create light shows for various musicians (Magma, David Allen, The Who, etc.) and aiming very hard to get to a fusion between music and visuals, it struck me that if I created the music myself, I might get closer to the point. Then a friend lent me a sequencer and two Oberheim expanders and I turned the knobs till I found things that pleased my ear.

Were you aware of the other musicians active in this field?

Very few, I listened to very few records at that time. I did meet
Richard Pinhas once. As years passed, however I did meet
various instrumentalists, but one way or the other no one in electronic music.

You obviously knew some, as you worked with Magma's Klaus Blasquiz who'd also worked with Heldon.

As said, many "real" musicians came to see me and play as they seemed fascinated by my totally instinctive approach of music. Among those I particularly enjoyed meeting Laurie Anderson because she had a very wide approach to creation.

VISIONS OF DUNE was an instant hit here (to both experimental rock and synth music fans) and it even got in the indie "Euro Rock" charts. How did you come up with such a complex mixture of styles?

I really have no idea. Everything was instinctive.

To me VISIONS OF DUNE is one of the all-time classics of French synth rock. Its most unique aspect is the way you seemed to endlessly entwine all these layers of sequencers and arpeggiators.

Thank you. I must admit I have always had a liking for piling up layers of sounds. I guess the result was quite complex to listen to and demanding to the listener patience and attention.

I think that for many SOME DEATHS TAKE FOREVER was a mixed success. I still find side 1 to be stunning. Do you think that the Amnesty International concept got in the way of the music at all?

Funny, for most people it was much more successful than VISIONS OF DUNE. I am used to hear such totally opposed points of view and do try not to be influenced to much by these differences of opinion. NO, the Amnesty concept absolutely did not get in the way at all. I was quite excited at the challenge of trying to express feelings and emotions related to death. It is and will be an eternal subject of creation for me. At least till I die.

Despite the obviously chilling subject matter "Execute" is still pretty awesome.

It is probably the most "abstract" and therefore the one I now prefer (although I have never listened to my own music as it got in record form) if I do remember it well. What I do remember is mixing to the track part of a speech by Mussolini. If you listen carefully you may hear a 10,000 people crowd cheering and THAT used to make my own back chill!

How did SUPERFICIAL MUSIC come about?

I had the idea to take the tapes of "Dune" and play them backwards at half speed, and remix the whole lot using mostly a harmonizer. As the tapes played at half speed would have been too long for a record, if I remember well, I took all the rest of the music and accelerated it a few times till I had ALL on the record.


Article by Alan Freeman

To read the complete article - buy the magazine! There are also additional selected page images on Bookogs