Interview Oncle Jack / Alain Chopo
Interview Oncle Jack / Alain Chopo.
Translation: Y. Philippot-Degand

RTJ : Hi Alain, thanks for giving us this interview with your band for Road to Jacksonville, our site dedicated to Southern Rock.
For our readers, let’s begin from the start: can you introduce you to us?
What did you listen to when you were young? What were your first musical influences?

TonTon Alain C : I had the chance to be young (I’m still !) at a time that was musically buzzing, Stones, Who, Pretty Things, Them, Sam & Dave, Otis Reading, The Animals, Moodie Blues, Ten Years After, Joe Cocker, Hendrix, ZZ Top, Titanic, Yardbirds, aso, aso… Blues, a lot of Blues, and of course the Beatles but I was less fan!

106: For me, really young it was the time Steppenwolf, MC5, Jimi Hendrix, Chicken Shack, Blue Cheer, Santana...

Helmut Air: When we were young? Why, aren’t we anymore?… It was Woodstock, from Crosby Stills Nash & Young
to Hendrix, and in the same time a particular affection for Jethro Tull and its Aqualung.

RTJ: How did you start ? What were your first bands?

TonTon Alain C : I began to sing in '67 in my first band The WHY then with the SWINGERS, the band that had the longest hairs in Toulouse, one of the first professional rock bands ! We drove a pink and white Cadillac with the gear in a trailer! Classy!

Helmut Air: My first « with gigs » band, it was Johnny Pujol in the 80’s hand in hand with 106, who was drummer at that time.

106: My first band: Taxy Way in 1979, on the drums, already Southern influenced, opening for Rose Tattoo, Little Bob, aso..., then Johnny Pujol with Helmut.

RTJ: Alain, you were a member of Solexine, can you tell us more about this band?

TonTon Alain C : After eight years in the West Indies, shoot up with biguine and other Compagnie Créole (a French West Indies band, Translator's note), I went back in mainland France, that how we say. Very quickly with some friends, we set up SOLEXINE, a blues rock covers band, we played in every bar in the area, the story lasted 17 years! We ever released a record: On The Rock Again!

RTJ: At what time did you play harmonica? Did you always played it in your former bands?

TonTon Alain C: From the start with The WHY where I covered « Bye Bye Bird » (Moodie Blues version) to ONCLE JACK where I like to blow a part when the tune lends itself to! I never learned, I play by instinct, but today I have
a little more time and I take lessons with a young mind-blowing teacher: Mathieu VERNET.

RTJ: Before speaking about Oncle Jack, who are the singers who influenced you the most ?

TonTon Alain C : Without a doubt Van Morrisson , then Eric Burdon, Joe Cocker, Mike Jagger, later Billy Idol, Steven Tyler, Bruce Springsteen .

RTJ: Can you tell us how Oncle Jack was set up? How did you meet?

TonTon Alain C: In my bathroom! The Nedge was relaying tiles, and as we were drinking a beer at the end of the work, I learned that he let his Gibson miaow in the band WAFF and was searching for a singer, so we made a try and « 10 years after » (in English in the French text, Translator's note), we are still together !

Helmut Air: By steps and successive meetings. To make simple, Helmut, 106 and The Nedge at the end of a former band (WAFF) teamed up successively with Tonton Alain (Uncle Alain, Translator's note) and Felipe to form Oncle Jack

RTJ: Can you introduce yourself each one in turn for our readers?

106: Guitar & slide, and fishing rod! I played drums during 20 years, Helmut advised me to stop hitting my knees and here I am! I took the first Point Blank album point blank and then ZZ, Lynyrd, Molly, Doc, Allman, Gov’t Mule, Thin Lizzy, aso... Southern Rock and Country Rock are my inspirations, but with the ears wide open for all the rest of the music.

Helmut Air: Bassist, has successively played drums, guitar, banjo … to swing for good to the bass, fascinated by Aston Barrett’s Reggae groove in the 70's.

TonTon Alain C: For me, it's already done, isn't it ?

Felipe: Since 1983, I gave the beat to many bands from Toulouse: Western Electrique, Vertigo, Corner Mocks (Allemagne), among others. My « drumistic » influences are varied, from Bill Bruford to David Garibaldi including Steve Gadd and Peter Erskine, without forgetting the inimitable John Bonham.

The Nedge: I already made my Les Paul scream in the band Kephren and in the band Afghan in which I also had to perform the lead vocals. My influences go from Journey, AC/DC including Thunder, Lynyrd Skynyrd…

RTJ: Where does the band's name Oncle Jack come from? (We have a little idea, ah ah !)
Who had the idea of the name?

Oncle Jack: To choose a name is always difficult for a band, we looked for a long time and then through thinking about it, Jack appeared evident for many reasons: it's a name easy to remember, the Jack has many meanings, from the Jack Daniels, the essential rockers' drink, the jack of the guitarists, to the AC/DC's « She's got the jack » with a more sexual connotation! Including our favourite dog (Helmut & Alain C.) which is the JACK RUSSEL! ONCLE added naturally considering the maturity of the members of the band (all old enough to be uncles), and then it sounds good without giving too much the name an American look with an UNCLE! 

RTJ: Is there lovers of this famous Jack?

TonTon Alain C: I could tell it, I leave to the others to denounce themselves!
106: There are many… no? We could also take the name of Oncle Jaune ! (Uncle Yellow: it’s an allusion to the anisette, Translator’s note)

RTJ: At the start, what was Oncle Jack’s repertoire? What are the covers you played the most?

106: The “20th Century Fox” (38 Special, Editor’s Note), “Don’t believe a word” (Thin Lizzy, Editor’s Note),
“Sweet Home” (Alabama, Chicago? Which one ?Editor’s Note), aso...

TonTon Alain C: The « 20th Century Fox » opened our concerts a very long time.

RTJ: So the end of 2013 finally sees the release of your new record, can you tell us more about your firdt try in studio, Old n°5? Will it be available on your site?

TonTon Alain C: Yes, why not? That’s an idea ! We could have some titles available by downlowding, I still have the masters, but first we have to make our site! Otherwise yes, we can consider Old N°5 as a try!

RTJ: Let’s go to this Magical Way, when, when and how did you record it ?

106: The recording of the bass, the drums and the 2 guitars of the 12 tunes during 3 days, then solos 2 days, so about a week. Sometimes some takes after a day of working!

TonTon Alain C : Recorded and mixed in the Studio CDM Toulouse by the excellent Marc Dubézy, the whole instrumental part recorded in live condition with the vocals (to keep the energy and the spontaneity of the band), then I made the vocals again title after title day after day !
And finally the backing vocals and the harmo.

RTJ: The record opens with the title of Lynyrd Skynyrd « Last of a Dyin' Breed » coming from their last album, do you like especially this title, is there a particular signification to this cover?

Helmut Air: We can’t ignore a real sympathy with the notion « dyin’ breed» which is the theme of the vocals… but beyond this, it’s overall a great tune! A pleasure to play.

RTJ: There is a superb slide part on this title, who is guilty?

Oncle Jack : The lefthanded ! (106, Editor’s Note)

RTJ: You make many covers on this album, eight in total against four compositions, is it a trademark of the band to twist some titles like Come Together to a Southern oriented version?

Helmut Air: Rearrange a classic is a tricky exercice, other people made it with positive results, but about playing it our own way… I’m not sure that we really have the choice, we can’t make it differently!

TonTon AlainC : It’s true that as soon as we make a cover with a tune it’s coloured in an ONCLE JACK flavour !

RTJ: Who composed « Take my Hand » which is as Southern as can be with its guitars at the third?

Helmut Air: The tune was reworked from a basis prepared by Helmut, the band churned the title for un
community result.

TonTon AlainC : Then we developed it during a long time on stage.

RTJ : Who chose the cover « Live to Ride » coming from the duo Smith & Harley that takes us to some Hillbilly Southern Boogie ?

106: The choice of the tunes is always made in common, the collection of 106.

TonTon AlainC : I often propose some, but the customers are very difficult and if there are not more than four chords and long guitar parts, it’s shot ! (Laughs)

RTJ: You make a second cover of the last Lynyrd Skynyrd record, namely « Nothing Comes Easy », are you so much fans of the current Skynyrd? The members of SWAMP from Lille, French tribute of Lynyrd Skynyrd, also often make covers of titles from the last albums.

106: The current Skynyrd version wins more unanimous support owing to our different influences.

RTJ: You seem to play often some 38 Special on stage, is it a choice not to have recorded one
of their titles on this album?

106: We already recorded « 20th Century Fox » on the Old N°5, then 13 tunes, we are superstitious!

RTJ: How can our readers get your record?

TonTon AlainC : We have many contacts it’s in progress, the Fnac of Toulouse (the Fnac is a great French chain of stores specialized in cultural -music, literature, cinema, video games- and electronic products, Translator’s Note) refuses now local bands ! So the limit for the moment !
Send a 12 € cheque to the name of the association below:
Association Blues Rock d’Autan
10 impasse Léopod Gimié

Mobile : Alain 06 07 08 19 76

RTJ: About the gear, can you tell us on which you play on?

106: Marshall 2 bodies, 1975 Les Paul Standard, a Lag Roxane, a Strato, together with a Czech guitar « Bach » in a left handed Firebird style.

Helmut Air: Bass: SWR amp, Markbass speakers, Warwick Thumb (and some other axes in back shop: Gibson SG (EB, Editor’s Note), Jazz Bass, 4 string exclusively)

TonTon Alain C: We always attached a particular care to the sound diffusion and put money into top of the range gear, I have to name the 6th TonTon : Thierry Soulignac, Master of Sounds to let all that stuff work ! And I have an harmo microphone “Helmut made”! A killer!
The Nedge: Ampli guitar II: MARSHALL JVM 2 Bodies. Guitar: Gibson Les Paul 20th anniversary.

 Félipe : Kit SONOR 5 drums.
RTJ: I suppose that you have each varied musical tastes, for each of you what is your favourite Southern band ? Doc Holliday ? Allman Bros ? Lynyrd ?

106: We won’t get down to the definition of Southern Rock… Point Blank!

Helmut Air: Lynyrd for the vocals, ZZ Top for the hair on the chin, Doobie bros for the turnery!

TonTon AlainC : ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

RTJ: How were you led to listen to Southern Rock?

Oncle Jack: It’s 106’s fault! (Laughs)

RTJ: Would you describe yourself as a Southern band? Do you set the Confederate Flag on stage?

Helmut Air: We aren’t a Southern band, but a band from the South. The flag is a cultural evocation,
not a militant display.

RTJ: Do you think that the fact that you live in the South, in Toulouse, makes it harder for a band
to make itself known?

TonTon Alain C: It depens on the goal, we never searched for a national fame, but I think it’s not harder here
than elsewhere: from the moment you fire energy, sincerity et generosity away on stage, it always ends
up really paying off!

RTJ: You cleaned out every live entertainement bar from Haute Garonne (a French department, Translator’s note) and around, what are your most striking live memories? Have you some anecdotes ?

106: In Luchon a great stage and final jump in the audience (…) during the chorus of « La Grange » with landing on the ass! Classy.
Helmut Air: In Foix, we were more on stage than in the hall. Ha ha ha !

TonTon Alain C: In the Aveyron (a French department, Translator’s note), 4 o’clock in the morning, back from a gig for the Bikers of the Joebargus ! All lost in a pea souper, even the GPS didn’t know anymore where it was because the road didn’t exist!
And in mid- concert at the Paddock Toulouse a fan a little to enthusiast shakes my hand and pulled it violently, I take the microphone in the face, smash my lip that gushes blood and break my brand new microphone stand!

RTJ: I think I know that you have a project of recording a gig, will we have the possibility to see it be released in DVD? When will that happen?

TonTon AlainC : Yes it’s pending in the CDM studio that is still under construction to finish its great live concert hall that will be equipped with 5.1 sound and et video HD control room.

RTJ: What do you want with Oncle Jack in 2014?

Helmut Air: Propagate the record, keep the concerts’ rhythm (1 each month), work on new compositions, have fun with all that stuff.

TonTon Alain C: Sustain our momentum, give priority to the quality of our concerts versus the quantity (places, audience), set the fire in our performances where I like to let the girls climb on the bar and the tables! And at last be a part of some great stages!

RTJ: If someone wants to see you play at his place, who does he contact? Are there hidden conditions like this trio who wanted 100 beers in the fridge?

A TonTon Alain C : No, no particular condition except the nosh that has to be top range otherwise The Nedge will take action and get out of the bottom of his truck a square cheese for men only, a saustek, and some bottles of wine from the area to improve the ordinary ! Exception by Marian from the Auberge Sanvensa (Temple of Rock in Aveyron) where we are always hosted like princes! To contact me ? See above.

RTJ: Actuellement what do you listen to sur votre platine disque in this beginning of 2014 ?

106: Blackberry Smoke, Gov’t Mule, Bob Seger « Smokin’O.P.’s », Jeff Beck “Emotion & commotion”.

Helmut Air: Black Dub, Moreland & Arbuckle.

TonTon Alain C: Moreland & Arbuckle, « High hopes » from Bruce Springsteen, the last Lynyrd and Magical Way!

RTJ: Do you know the other bands of the Southern stage in France, Natchez, Diesel Dust, Calibre 12?
Did you see some of them live ?

106: Yes I have some albums from the three named, but I never saw them live, they never come down in the South!

TonTon Alain C: It’s true that they don’t often go in the area! Coming to think of it, we don’t either go by them! For us, above Agen it’s already the North! So driving for kilometers with the truck in the cold and the snow, brrrrrrrrrr !

RTJ : Classical question at the end of the interview, if you have to finish your life on a desert island, what are the 5 records that you would bring with you ?

106: Point Blank “Second season” Lynyrd Skynyrd “Endangered species”, Allman Bros “At Fillmore” Jeff Beck “Live at Ronnie Scott’s”, Zz Top “Deguello”

Helmut Air: Natty Dread (Bob Marley), Pilgrim (Clapton), Soul vaccination (Tower of power), The captain and me (Doobie Brothers), The river (Springsteen)

TonTon Alain C : Joker! Do I have the right to my I Pod ?

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