Interview Manu and Thierry Aeschbach
(Natchez guitarist and singer)
(Questions by Phil Archambeau & Yves Philippot-Degand - Translate David André- February 2013)
Hi my friends! First, thank you to give us the opportunity to do this interview for Road to Jacksonville, net webzine.
Some times ago, Thierry made an announcement and told that you wanted to realize a double-cd, one part in English, one part in French. So you did what you promised, two years after Double Dose is now in our hands.
Before talking about your record, I'd like to come back where do you come from and if you can remind us the Natchez history. I just want to say again that your band is 25 years old want and you did a big party last September!
Thierry : 25 years, yes ! When I think about it, it's enormous, it's hard for me to realize… We've played more than 1.000 shows, 8 albums (more an acoustic one and a compilation) and a DVD. We just missed a double-cd, now we've got it § We have the same line-up since 1998 when Ben our drummer arrived in the band.
DD is on the bass since 1992.
How did you get into a Southern Classic Rock style of music? Is it because you met some people?
Manu : That's exactly the way I see our music, classic rock with Southern accents. It was normal for us, the way I play the guitar, especially on lead parts, is very inspirited by Skynyrd, .38 or Molly, so the songs we write are obviously in that way. But when we meet and try to compose new songs, we don't want to absolutely create some special southern stuff. We are more trying to use classic rock inspirations.
Thierry : I'm a real Skynyrd first era fan, and Ronnie Van Zant gave me the will to sing. I've always wanted to play such kind of music. I say this "kind" of music, not this "music" I don't want to compare what we do to their masterpieces! But that's why, naturally, we have a southern sound!
On Catch The Spirit, in 2007, you've decided to sing in English. Do you think that it is an obligation
if you want to sell your records abroad ?
Manu : We sell so few records abroad that we only can do better ! I think that the English vocals are for the European market, and it seems that the Anglo-Saxon countries enjoy when we sing in French, it seems to be a little be exotic!
Thierry : The goal of Catch the Spirit was not to sell more records out our frontiers, but to try to be able to play in different countries. Today, I can say that it didn't match and we didn't go abroad. But our audience is bigger and from different origins now.
Let's talk about DoubleDose. First cd is in French. Is the first song, Amerique'n'Blues, a way to tell that you'd like to move to this fascinating country?
Thierry : it's clear that the music we love comes from the other side of the Atlantic ocean, it's not in the French culture. To play in the United States is a kind of dream, who knows? Maybe one day? However, I enjoy this country so much that I wrote this song Amerique'n'Blues for a kind of invitation to travel…
The song L'Homme à l'Harmonica reminds us a little bit to Blackfoot, a band you enjoy. You often play Railroad Man
on stage. Did you do it on purpose ?
Thierry : To be honest, I wanted this Blakfoot style intro when I had finished writing the lyrics. The other musicians agreed and our friend Seb Delcroix came to play this intro. It's clear that's it's a little sign to Shorty Medlocke, but the "hoo" are not done on purpose (I think Seb don't know who Shorty is). I really enjoyed the way he did it!
The last song on the first cd is Seul au Monde, a Southern song with its special atmosphere and its guitars parts.
Does it prove that it's possible to create Southern Rock in French?
Manu : I don't see why French could be a barrier to that kind of music…
When you get the atmosphere, the language you use is behind, I think!!!
Can you tell us more about the way you have created this song?
I really enjoy it and I'm impatient to see it played live on stage.
Manu : it's funny because this title has never been played live yet, but I hope we can do it soon§ It has been built in two different moments. First, Thierry did the cool side, we played in the studio with the band. I thought that something was missing at the end, and I decided to join this ends that goes faster and faster. I think it's closer to .38 "Just wanna Rock n' Roll" that "Free Bird". I began with a riff which is totally different that what we did at the beginning, and it sounds great!
Thierry : I was playing that song for years on my acoustic guitar at home. I wanted to play a ballad just like "Rentrer à la Maison" on the album Paradis avec Toi. When we tried it in the studio, Manu wanted to join a faster part. And the song has changed in a Southern way, obvious influences! We just choose to sing it in French at the enc, because we wanted to balance both albums. That's why it's the last lyrics I wrote! Autism being a real big problem and a national cause in France, I thought it was the good moment… It's a subject that moves me, I do enjoy the lyrics!
So now, let's talk about the second CD, all in English. Who is the Blues Outlaw, one of you ?
Thierry : Definitively not ! He comes from Mr Archie Lee Hooker's imagination ! He is famous John Lee Hooker nephew and lives about 15 miles from my home… Unbelievable, can you imagine ? I just can tell you he is a real and great bluesman, and I thank him again to write me this song. Just about that, he told me "I've written so many words that you can create the music on now!", so I was obliged to adapt his text to the music, you're great Archie !
Tell us about the other songs of this second record. Do you choose For You or Breakdown to make us discover it ?
Manu : For me, I'd choose For You. I wanted to write a ballad in three times, we never made that before and I find that now this song is really moving. But I could have chosen Blues Outlaws or Climb Aboard that really smell
the deep South !
Thierry : It's hard to choose, I do really enjoy all the songs of Dose 2. But if I have to choose, maybe I take Camaro which is a heavy song and I do enjoy play it live!
A classical question : what stuff do you usually use (amps, guitars…) ?
Manu : I have my old Peavey Classic 100 amps. I found them at a Skynyrd show in Belgium in 1995. I could try it later in Paris, then I bought two of them, I do enjoy them! I use some pedals too, one Xotic RC booster, one Boss Blues driver and one MXR Micro Amp, it depends on the guitars and the songs.
I have a lot of guitars too! One stratocaster CS 60, one telecaster Plus Deluxe de 1989, one Les Paul Special CS 60, one SG standard CS, one Explorer 58 reissue….
Thierry : I play for years now on an Orange Rockerverb 50 amp. It is good for me and I think I'm not really change soon. My favourite guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Special reissue 56 custom shop. I use the P90 mikes. I also play on a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top reissue 57 custom shop, it has a perfect sound in the studio!
I am obliged to talk about the Simple Man Cruise you attended. What was the best show you have seen ?
The Outlaws comeback ?
Manu : Hey, I've seen many incredible concerts! I can talk about 4 : Blackberry Smoke first show, a discovery for me and a confirmation about the 4 songs I already knew and that will appear later on "Little Piece of Dixie" ; .38 Special I went on the cruise for them, I wanted to see them on stage before I die and I was not disappointed!! A Skynyrd show on the Top deck where they played old song such as Comin' Home, Billy Powell last show, a very special thought ; and last but not least, the Outlaws, the best line-up for the beginning, a very emotional show for me!
Thierry : It was just my first Simple Man Cruise and I can tell you that it was huge! 4 days of emotion. There were Skynyrd, Outlaws, Doobie Brothers, Blackberry Smoke, and 12 other bands. I had a great moment with the Outlaws, they made perfect shows! Billy Crain and Chris Anderson know how to find the magic back, it was fabulous! There was a great Blackberry Smoke too, my favourite band now. All the groups where excellent, I did enjoy Tom Hambridge, a great Rock n' Roll man, and my heart did enjoy The Cadillac Black (supported by Mr. Rickey Medlocke), a heavy power trio! They are very young and their album I excellent. The new generation is here!
Have these cruises brought a revival for Southern Rock? Is that style of music "bankable" now ? (we know how important it is now to play live because less and less records are sold)
Manu : It's a kind of family on the ships, it's very interesting to see our favourite bands in front of their American audiences. We know that we are not alone, we have other fans with us! And event if there's a kind of opposition between Southern rock and this kind of ship, it's only for good moments and for parties! Et to focus on your question, it's clear that it's pleasant to see such bands become "important" again! A lot of these groups have been very low for years, and for bands such as the Outlaws or Hatchet, it must be hard!
Thierry : These cruises are made to gather all the fans. There's a good mood, quiet, there's no one who don't enjoy that music. People are her for fun and for good music, and it's nice to use such a comfortable ship. It's really a great moment!
We have discovered, between so many other bands, BLACKBERRY SMOKE during the cruises. Why did you enjoy that band so much?
Manu : I enjoy everything, the band, the songs, their look, how nice they are… First time I've seen Charlie Starr, I told him they play the music I've in my heart and in my head, and that's true. It seems they compose what I want to play!!! It's a strange feeling…
Thierry : I admire them for what they have created. It's a real generous band with its fans. Wonderful songs, all beautiful… Gifted musicians…Charlie is, for me, the best guitarist-singer in the Southern Rock history.
He's become my master!
What's Natchez future?
Manu : We want to tour to promote Double Dose, a lot of shows, a lot of great meetings.
Thierry : We go our own way and try to promote our new album. Today, we play eleven Double Dose songs on stage ; we are going to use the seven others, including Seul au Monde.
I really think that each song has a real potential…
Can you tell us more about a party you had with Nono (Trust guitarist)
Manu : We wanted a guest star for our 25 years concert, and we had the opportunity to meet Nono who took the place of Vulcain at the last minute. He was very happy to join us. We finished the show in a big jam!!
Thierry : We sell a lot of Double Dose cd after all the shows. We don't know how many are sold on the Brennus website. We'll see, we just hope to get our money back. Despite the crisis and the illegal downloading, I really trust that we can make it with that album, even if I know we won't reach a golden record!
You have a lot of true fans and a great fan-club. How do you explain such a fidelity?
Manu : We exist for a long time now, and that's why the fans stay with us. We are a kind of family, people enjoy that, we do party with the fans and they enjoy it. It's quite a family stuff!!
Thierry : We do have a great fan-club, and our annual feasts (in January) are always great moments. We have a good and great moment, people enjoy and come back. But we stay at our place, in a kind of modesty, we only have about one hundred official fans, but, however, we can be proud of that!
2013 is a special year of Natchez. After Germany, Belgium, Holland, you are going to visit and play in the Czech Republic, a country fond of Southern Music with bands such as Ohniva Voda or The Cell. Do you know that country? What does it bring you to play abroad?
Manu : We also have played in Switzerland and in Luxemburg!! So it seems you know the Czech Republic more than us. I know we play three shows there, including one with The Cell. They seem to be very famous there, we are impatient to play in the Eastern countries. It will sure be a great moment!
Thierry : It will sure be a nice experience! This kind of opportunity is very motivating for us. We enjoy going and playing in places we've never been. We enjoy discovering new horizons and new people. And we need to be at the good level, so it's an exciting challenge!
What is your position about downloading? Can we buy online the Natchez recordings?
Manu : We try to sell them online but we are definitely no computer specialists! It's the 21st century, we must live now, not in the past. Young people don't know the pleasure to buy one record, so our music will sure end in
a mp3 recorder!
Thierry : I don't know anything about that, I let people and things go their own way. For people who want to download, they won't have the pleasure to touch our Double Dose!
For people who want to get a Double Dose, where can they find your record ?
Manu : At this precise moment, our cd can be found everywhere and on the Internet, even on our website www.netchezband.com So I advise everybody to get this Double Dose, and to listen and listen again…
Thierry : Well said my bro !
On December the 14th, a great date for Natchez, with an opening act for Molly Hatchet in the bar Chez Paulette.
You Manu organises that show. Is it an obligation now to promote tours and shows ?
Can you tell us more about that special night ?
Manu : You know what we say, we need to do ourselves something if we want it to be done. In fact, from times to times, bands managers call me to organize a show somewhere ; if I can do it, I try to help them. That's what I've done with Molly, it's the 4th time we play together, it's always great moments. And with Natchez, we get a great audience for this show. Sometimes, other bands don't bring a lot of audience, it depends on the bands' reputation…
Thierry : I'll always thank Manu for all these beautiful shows he could get for us. When he talk to me about the December show , I said "Let's go!". It has been an excellent moment!
Having seen so many good bands during the cruise, what will be those you'd like to see again or that you take with you if you're the next ship captain?
Manu : First, Skynyrd, .38, Blackberry Smoke and the Outlaws. And I take ZZ Top too, Mister Dicky Betts and the Allman. Black Crowes are on the cruise too. And I take, as a new and fresh band, Big Hat, a new band with Peter Strout, Audley Freed, Robert Kearns… I'm waiting for their album!!
Thierry : First .38 Special that I still haven't seen on stage yet! Manu's list is good for me too, but I won't forget Tom Hambridge, Bonepony and The Cadillac Black I really enjoyed on the Simple Man Cruise. And, last but not least, Natchez as a support act for Skynyrd, my ultimate dream!