Interview with Michel Delville

This interview was given to our site by Michel Delville, famous Belgian guitarist and composer, after the release of After the Exhibition (2013, MoonJune Records), the newest album of his group The Wrong Object. We thank Leonardo Pavkovic, chief of the MoonJune Records, for helping us with making this interview.
Leonid Auskern (LA): I'm glad to speak with you immediately after release of The Wrong Object's new album after long interval. Why did this project was secondary for you for so long time?

Michel Delville (MD): The band toured extensively in several European countries after the release of STORIES FOM THE SHED. It was a huge critical success and it attracted the attention of promoters all over Europe. We practiced the songs until we could play them blindfolded. A couple of years later, Fred, our sax player, decided to devoted himself exclusively to his jazz quartet and Jean-Paul, our trumpet player left for Spain. We had to reinvent ourselves, find a new line-up and develop a new sound while developing a sense of continuity with the past. Effecting the transition between the "old" and the current period of the band's history proved quite a challenge. Even though I have been involved in several other projects (douBt, Machine Mass, Comicoperando, TZGIV, ...), the band never became a secondary concern for me and we continued to play gigs, although we were much less active between, say, 2010 and 2012 as most of our time was spent on trying to build something new and solid.

LA: The name of the album, After the Exhibition, is very intriguing for me. Reviewing this album, I wrote: maybe, there is a connection with Pictures At An Exhibition from Emerson, Lake & Palmer here? Is it right and how the name of album was born?

MD: Now that you mention it there may be a subconscious connection with the ELP album ... and Moussorgski! But the title was originally suggested by Marc Atkins, the author of the album's fabulous artwork which captures the "local colors" of the repertoire we've been developing, a style which often alternates between the mysterious and the whimsical.

LA: The Wrong Object is expanded and renewed in the After the Exhibition, there are very interesting guests in the ensemble. How this group of musicians was formed?

MD: Laurent Delchambre and I are the only members of the line-up which released our first four official albums. We decided not to try and reproduce the sound of the previous CDs and hired two sax players instead - Marti Melia and François Lourtie play the whole sax family from bass to tenor, which is a great addition to the band's sonic palette. We also decided to include Antoine Guenet (who recently joined the new incarnation of Univers Zero) and Piere Mottet on bass because we wanted to expand our harmonic and rhythmic possibilities. I genuinely believe that the current line-up is the best we've had so far.

LA: Spanish Fly with it's ethnical motives is standing out from other compositions of the album. Can we guess that world music in different contexts will become the integral part of your interests in composition?

MD: I have always had an interest in non-Western European music or, rather, in ways of approaching and appropriating certain form of traditional folk music. Pieces such as "The Honeypump Riff" (Platform One) or "Sonic Riot at the Holy Palate" (Stories from the Shed) reflect that desire while paying tribute to Bartok and Stravinski. World music - for want of a better word- is also present in Machine Mass Trio's _As Real as Thinking_ where I play the bouzouki on two pieces.

LA: When I compare After the Exhibition and Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love, latest album of douBt, your another project, it seems to me that in some tracks with significant rock influence The Wrong Object is looking as douBt's modification for the large format. Is it right? If not, tell me, please, what are the differences of your artistic goals in your latest time projects: douBt, Machine Mass Trio, The Wrong Object and others?

MD: The advantage of working with The Wrong Object is that we all live in Belgium and therefore have more rehearsal time, more time to develop arrangements and learn to play complex, polyphonic compositions. Except for the solos, 90% of the stuff you hear on _After the Exhibition_ is written. douBt and Machine Mass are two very different bands placing more emphasis on physicality and improvisation. douBT is a very special, telepathic power trio. And Machine Mass is increasingly rooted in the use of electronics, samples and loops. Tony Bianco's loops, in particular, allow us to develop a kind of nu-jazz which is both loose and tight, groovy and wildly experimental.

LA: Many journalists wrote about Zappa's and Rypdal's influence on your compositions and guitar playing. Can you list three most important for you guitarists in jazz and in rock?

MD: Hendrix, Zappa and Rypdal come to mind. Still my biggest influences come from non-guitarists: it may sound strange but Coltrane, Elton Dean, Mingus, Messiaen and Squarepusher have influenced my soloing style at least as much as Zappa or Rypdal or McLaughlin.

LA: Moonjune Records and Leonardo Pavkovic brought all albums with Michel Delville on our site. Leonardo often declares that all Moonjune's musicians are like one large family. Do you feel like a member of such family?

MD: Absolutely - Leonardo Pavkovic "discovered" me at a time when The Wrong Object was only beginning to gain some visibility after our stint with Ed Mann at Zappanale. Since then, he's done an incredible job not only as a promotor but also as a developer of new projects and ideas. He also gave me the necessary confidence to start more and more ambitious musical ventures. First there was the Alex Maguire Quintet CD (which was largely an encounter between Alex and The Wrong Object). A couple of years later, Leo sent us to Italy to record the first douBt record under the supervision of Beppe "Arte & Mestieri" Crovella, another great MoonJunist. Antoine Guenet is a member of SH.T.GN and The Wrong Object. Antoine's wife, Susan Clynes, who guest-sings on _After the Exhibition_ will record an album for MoonJune next year, etc, etc. And I'm pretty sure that Leo will see to it that more collaborations between MoonJuners will see the light in the near future!

LA: Electronics is the integrated part of sound in all your projects I listened before. Michel Delville's acoustic project – is it unreal?

MD: I have been writing some tunes for a solo album, which should feature some acoustic sounds and also some singing. This being said, I am primarily an electric guitarist with a growing interest in electronics and programming.

LA: Literature is the subject of your interests as teacher and writer, which brings a few questions. Cortazar, Kerouac, Vian wrote about bop and boppers in their books. On the other side, James Joyce is a never-ending source of inspiration for free improvisation musicians, I think. Do you know some books or some writers who wrote in such way about progressive rock or fusion?

MD: It's funny that you mention James Joyce - there is a little-known story about Joyce who wanted to tour England as a lute player, playing Elizabethan songs, before he became a full-time writer. The "rock novel" and the jazz novel" are sub-genres in their own right, but I don't know of any fiction writers who wrote specifically about progressive rock. Jonathan Coe's _The Rotter's Club_ is no exception as it only contains oblique or epigraphic references to the Hatters. Michael Moorcock and Michael Butterworth once wrote a series of novels about Hawkwind, but I'm not sure they can be considered as a progressive rock band.

LA: I read in the Wikipedia article about you, that in Czech Republic your new book Crossroads Poetics: Text, Image, Music, Film & Beyond was published this year. Tell us something about this work.

MD: It's a book of essays I wrote about the contemporary avant-garde, bringing together figures as diverse as Zappa, Gertrude Stein, Charlie Chaplin Tom Phillips, (who is better-known to prog fans as the cover designer of King Crimson's _Starless and Bible Black_), Bill Viola, Louis Feuillade, Joseph Cornell and others. There is a chapter on the loop, which directly relates to my most recent work as a musician. I'm also very interested in exploring the interface between the popular and the avant-garde, which is why I have also included a chapter on Charlie Chaplin!

LA: What do your students think about their professor, one of the leading Belgian musicians in the field where jazz meets rock?

MD: I guess most of them know I am a musician but I'll never put up a poster advertising a Wrong Object gig on my office door - I don't want them to come to the show for the wrong reasons (LOL).

LA: I learned from this article one more interesting fact: you have the rank of Officer of the Order of Leopold. It isn’t common for jazz or rock musicians. How did it happened?

MD: I don't think it has anything to do with the music - until recently I was virtually unknown in Belgium and 90% of the people who review my music are foreign critics. It's one of those things that happen to academics when they gain a certain reputation. (Btw, the reference is to Leopold I not Leopold II, who was one of history's most rapacious and criminal monarchs, the guy who spent most of his life plundering the Belgian Congo which he held as his private possession!)

LA: Michel Delville was born in 1969, you’ll be fifty years old in 2019. What goals do you plan to achieve to this data?

MD: I really don't think in terms of goals, only about the next thing to do which, right now, is mixing and releasing the second Machine Mass CD with Dave Liebman and Tony Bianco la

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