INTERVIEW PAVEL MARCEL Guitarist of PUMPA.
Hello Pavel, first many thanks for accepting this interview for Road to Jacksonville magazine dedicated to the Southern Rock in French and in English, the only one in the world,
Pleasure for me too!
I am intrigued : you have a French name Marcel, have you French origins ?
No, it just sounds like that, Marcel is a bit rare, but used name in Czech too. I would like to give it a chance and say maybe, but as I know, there is nobody French in our family for centuries.
I'd like to come back to the PUMPA,'s early stages, can you for our readers remain us the story of PUMPA and its creation, I think it was in 1981 ?
I was 6 in that time, so it's not my own memory. The band came known after Beat Salon 1982, some weird communist competition of rock bands. Communists hated Rock, so it had to be a kind of semi-legal event. Rockers gave communists the same love, so every band that was able to play rock was almost instantly famous, treated like heroes and often banned in a short time after. Pumpa won that competition, so they went very famous. They have recorded few singles and compilations and got banned in some areas. Out today’s fans are often 50+ guys, who were right there in 82. They say it was very needed band in that stupid era. Nobody played even close to that mixture of classic and southern rock.
What does the band's name PUMPA mean ?
How did you fit in the band in 2001 ?
I was working as recording engineer in studio, where the album "Tak trada" was recorded. I was a young gun, when anybody had a problem with a part, I was there to record it. It always made my day, because soon after my degree in Music Production and first job in studio, I found everyday recording very boring for me. Record, stop, rewind, one's more, second more, third more... say something smart, again, moving on. As a guitarist and pianist, I was soon recording tracks for loads of bands instead for waiting for happy take. Sometimes, they were waiting for my happy take, but it's another story. One of those poor bands, infected by my guitar ambitions was Pumpa. Later on I was asked to play live with them. I loved that style, so I have agreed. Soon after that I stopped to record other bands and start to play, tour and record myself.
I have seen that you also own a studio. Do you live from the music ?
Yes, I do. I need a studio, because I'm recording a lot of postproduction stuff and guitar parts. Sometimes I record and produce some bands there, history is repetitive and friends are friends.
PUMPA played almost 2000 performances or concerts, how would you describe the music of the band ? A kind of crossing between the boogie of the Southern Rock associated with a harder side ?
Ok, you said it well. I would say "You wanted ZZ top, but you got AC/DC :-)"
Strangely the band published its first tune only in 1999 with the release of « Tak Trada », what does this title mean ?
Something like "Here we go", in lyric it continues "tak trada - jsem mlada", which means "Here I am, young and hot!" The lyric was originally about a hot stupid chick with long hair, coming to concerts every Saturday as a county groupie. Lyric was lately changed for some "artistic" reasons I still don't get, because people were and still are mad about this song. Of course, the band and especially Michal as an author hate it as a shit song, people still sing that old lyric and French journalists are asking for details about that song. That's the reason I personally love it!
The band sings in Czech like most of the bands in your country, how do you explain that ?
Because Pumpa singers are very lazy for languages. The other side is communist era, we were talking about before a while. I really have no good word for those motherfuckers. They literally banned to sing in English in 80's, I remember it was still practically banned when I was starting to play in late 80's. People get used to Czech in rock songs and they still are. So it's much easier to get more audience when you sing in Czech at home. Bands know it. It's getting better now, after 25 years among young bands. I would appreciate English in Pumpa too, but you will never teach old dogs new tricks.
How do you explain that there are so many bands inspired by the Southern Rock (we can name General Lee or The Cell) ?
Because Czechs love Country! Again, communists hated Americans, so we played Country. Musicians did everything to piss off commas in the past. But Czech Country bands don't sound like American Country bands and Mike has laughed his ass off while listening Czech country radio. Imagine Austrian Tyroll Volksmusik style combined with Dwight Yoakam singin' in Russian and you're close to it :-) It's weird relic of the past. (Banned English, even in Country covers!)
Are you in touch with some of those bands ? Have you played before with some of them ?
Of course! Small playground, remember? I know them all, played with them, recorded them, humped their wives and fondled their kids and dogs. They are all nice guys.
PUMPA's leader is Michal Nemecek, how does your collaboration go when you are playing ? How do you share the solos ?
We don't have any rules or secrets. Michal comes with a song, we have a rehearsal, I take this, he takes that. When there is a room for harmony, we each just play the voice, that sounds better soundwise for each player and his current setup (boxes, amp, pickup) in current part of the song.
How do you compose in the band, who makes what ?
It's Michal's band, he composes almost everything, I try to arrange things and make it more technically possible to play it with ease. He's a brain, I'm a hand.
Question for our readers guitarists, what kind of amps and guitars do you use, you and Michal ? Do you use famous Czech (Jolana…) or Polish guitars ?
No Jolana, we were fed by Jolanas during stupid, boring and nonsense socialistic regime. I know I'm obsessed comma hater, but you keep asking me for that! They were horrible and we still don't like them, even they can do good guitars now. No nostalgia, sorry, it's not Pilsner Urquell. In 70's and 80's it was like regime revenge for playing Rock' n Roll. We both use Ibanez guitars, Michal SG type, me RG and RGA. Then Michal uses Gibson SG, I use Jackson Dinky and Fokus PRS. I have tremsetter in all Floyd Rose bridges. It's a smart part that keeps bridge in neutral position during bending, so I can play normally on Floyd Rose without tuning or jitter problems, common for superstrats with Floyd Rose or Stratocasters with default bridge setting. I love Jackson and Ibanez necks and tuning stability. It's like Japanese car. Not a cult, but it works so good, that next time you buy it again. It's like a hooker that gives you for a hot dog and share a bite with you, to be more poetic. I personally love Fenders, when it comes to classics.
The band seems stabilized since 2008, how do you explain the many changes before ? Is it hard in Czech Republic to find musicians, even if there are many ?
It is a bit hard to find a good pro musician, that's one point. Other point is we are such a bunch of idiots, that it's almost impossible to spend long time with us without losses. Only Skinny Molly could keep up so far :-)
Your last album Masarka was released in 2011 ? How can we get it ?
It's recently released in all major e-stores like iTunes, Google, Amazon, etc. and all streaming services. Don't forget to write down "Masarka" in search, otherwise you'll get some dance band called Pumpa with their billions disco albums in results. I didn't know about this band until now, but you will soon realize, that the other band is not southern rock at all. So not a big deal for rockers searching for us.
I'd wish to talk to you about this album, how and where was it recorded ?
It was recorded in my studio in between 2009 and 2011. We were recording in between shows and it was long and exhausting. But I love the result, it was mixed classically on analog console as one of the last albums I have done this way. It's smooth and it shows the band performing in the best condition ever.
« Takhle Budu » is between Molly Hatchet and 38 Special, how did you share the two magnificent guitar parts that we hear ?
I play the higher part, Michal the other one. Solo is mine.
« Dneska Platim » is in the ZZ TOP style, is for you their Southern Boogie an inspiration ?
Sure! And it's not hidden!
« Masarka » (the blue fly) that gives its name to the album is well-done in a swamp style, sticky, dark, in the HOGJAW style with Kafkaïan lyrics. I have the impression that Pumpa gives a great importance to the lyrics, am I right ?
No! Hah, gotcha! Pumpa don't give a shit to lyrics, really. It's drinking song about having a blast in morning street train, being nagged by old "behave yourself" lady. No Kafka at all. The blue fly is a comparison to blue fly eating a shit
O Tom To Muze Bejt » is in a Hogjaw style, overall with this bass/drums rhythm that sounds quiet brutal and heady. It looks like Hogjaw like a lot of tunes from this album, did you play with that band ?
Hell yeah, in Prague, two years ago! Cool guys, that don't give a shit to sound checks. Maybe, they expected that sound guys in Prague must have some skills. Haha, they were wrong :-)
« Hrabicky » remains Asphalt Horsemen, the Hungarian Southern band, do you know it ?
No, I have to check them up!
« Slzy » has a beautiful melancholic framework, expertly done, very ethereal with a great part of guitars, who makes what between you and Michal ?
It's Michal's song and guitar parts, I play the piano.
Formerly there was Otuzovani, released by Michal. It's 1994 recordings. Other records have also been released in 2002 namely Ozveny and Parni Pumpa with recordings respectively from 1983 and 1986, do you still play some of those tunes on stage ?
Yes, Otuzovani, Parni Pumpa and loads of other old songs are still played.
How many dates do you play currently each year ?
About 30-50 shows, usually in Fridays and Saturdays.
Do you sometimes play covers of some Southern bands during your concerts ?
Yes, “Cat Scratch Fever” from Ted Nugent and “Tush” from ZZ Top.
Over the years, the Czech stage released about 50 records in the Southern Rock or Boogie, etc., If you have to recommend one of them except Pumpa which one would it be ?
General Lee and The Cell for sure, you picked the best already.
The guys of Natchez came and play in Czech Republic in 2015, did you have the opportunity to see them and to meet them ?
No, I wasn't at their show, but I had a great opportunity to meet Manu at Skinny Molly show and happily spend some time with him in Czech and in France. He's a nice guy and kick ass guitarist!
Coming to the Skinny Molly tour, how did you get in touch to play with the band as substitute of the ill Jay Johnson ?
We were playing together in Prague and Karlovy Vary. We had a blast in Prague and during this great time it was born. It was very fast decision and I'm glad for it, even it was hard for me to leave everything here and go to UK for 5 weeks after 1 week of learning songs. I think it had to be hard for guys too, but after few shows we felt really relaxed on the stage and enjoyed the rest of tour.
How many dates did you play and where ?
20 across the UK, Sweden and Finland. Wales to Orkneys, Malmo, Gavle and Sala in Sweden, Helsinki, Poorvo, Kuusamo and Taivaloski in Finland. London as the end of it. Including epic journey from Stockholm to London in one night and day after major injector failure in our van and instant repair by great guys in Sodertalje in Sweden.
For you, is there a difference in the role you have with Pumpa and the one you had with Skinny Molly ?
Yes. I was a replacement in Skinny Molly, new guy that has to learn a lot. It wasn't a routine like in Pumpa. But I have to say that guys were very kind to me, accepted me as a real member and they did their best to I could feel like at home.
During the rides or the nights, is there an anecdote you can tell us or an anecdote told by Mike Estes that you remain ?
There were so many great moments with all the guys and of course with Mike itself. We were in good mood daily, but almost every joke we did is practically unpublishable. It was not about telling jokes, but much more about commenting things that happened on the road and cheating each other all the time. Mike is a real master in those skills. His offences are hilarious! We had a great gastronomy situation in Sweden. Mike didn't want to eat those well known meat balls again in hotel. He pushed us to go outside to eat in some Mexican restaurant, he found on the internet. It was absolute disaster and we deserved it. Nobody was expecting original Tex-Mex taste in this part of the world, but this was 10 times worse than Taco Bell, measured by Luke Bradshaw's scale. The bad side of it was the fact, it wasn't even close to anything Mexican and tasted like PVC. The good side - it was cold :-) Mike was doing some faces like this is sooooo delicious, that were funny, especially for Luke, that made the same mistake in England few days before. We came back to hotel and you know what? Mike went instantly back to beautiful stylish quiet restaurant, we all leaved one hour ago because of him, and ordered MEATBALLS! Of course the best meatballs ever!
Do you think that a new PUMPA record will be released in 2016 ?
No, we'll not planning that. Let's hope, we'll start working on new album at 2017. Everything important has been recorded already and the band is almost retired. But there are some new songs to record, no worries.
Have you some solo musical projects ? Acoustic projects ?
Yes, I work for hudebnibanka.cz, postproduction music library. I have several albums there and you can listen it free online at that address. Or license it for movie! My favourite album is "Rock Anthems", which is instrumental melodic rock. Other albums are used for games or trailers, especially Motors I & II - rock composed for racing and adrenaline sports.
Last and here traditional question, if you have to finish your life on a desert island, What are the five records you would bring with you ?
That's the hardest question so far. I'm not sure about albums, but definitely one Whitesnake, one Kiss, one AC/DC, one Styx and one Bad Ass Country compilation. Maybe I would choose all five as some compilations. 5 ain't just enough. I still don't have any Southern Rock! I will think again later....
Bye and regards to France!