CHICO’s INTERVIEW of the TRUCKERS: Already 30 years old!
By Philippe Archambeau
Philippe Archambeau: Hi Chico, thanks to granting us this interview for Road to Jacksonville, for the 30th anniversary of the Truckers. First, can you tell us a little bite more about you, where were you born?
Chico: I was born in Valentigney (Franche-Comté) an east city of France, I was the second of a family of five.
Philippe Archambeau: Did your parents play an instrument? Were there many people playing in your home?
Chico: Sometime my father played diatonic accordion, but my family was not into music.
Philippe Archambeau: How did you discover music? Was it through your brothers? Or by friends?
Chico: At that time parents put their children at music class, it was kind of a trend, and allowed them to be peaceful. My big brother and I found ourselves at 7 and 9 years old with an accordion, learning waltzes and various marches, a big mess! I was not a big fan of this instrument, even if I still have it today...
Philippe Archambeau: How did you come to play an instrument? And how did you choose?
Chico: I was very interested in the tenor saxophone, so I asked to my father to switch my instrument and I joined a municipal music school to learn. I had a great time. Afterward, as I worked well, my grandmother offered me a new saxophone for Christmas, the best gift of the world… and I played in the wind section
of the city until my 14 years old.
Philippe Archambeau: What attracted you in the sax? And how did you discover this instrument?
Chico: Actually, I discovered the saxophone by accident, but I was attracted by the instrument. In the instrumental band of the music school, we needed a tenor saxophonist, so I stuck to it… and I really feel in love with this instrument.
Philippe Archambeau: Have you had the opportunity to play music in family with your brothers and sisters?
Chico: Yes, I played with my big brother: accordion, saxophone, we played whatever came to mind,
but only at home.
Philippe Archambeau: What kind of music did you listen as a teenager? Did you play live with your music school and in what circumstances?
Chico: I never wanted to play with my music school, I only wanted to mastering sax. At that time, I was a
Rudy Pompilli’s fan, Bill Haley’s saxophonist. I dreamed of integrating a Rock band but at that time where I lived there weren't any. I listened to my classics, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and of course the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, the Beatles, etc...
Philippe Archambeau: So, after learning and playing the saxophone, what were your first bands? Did you play saxophone there?
Chico: I thought in stopping in there. Like any teenager, I was more interested in hitting on girls and having a good time with my big brother we were very close. I didn't think my life was going to change suddenly and that I would never be the same again. At the beginning of the 70’s my grandfather died suddenly because of brief illness, he was a god to me, and then my big brother in a car accident. A feeling of injustice and hate invaded me to never leave me. From that moment on, a period of wandering began for me. I met a lot of people by going out in creepy places, I made friends who were also a bit dumped, who had suffered like me for various reasons, alcoholic father or mother, death of a very close person, like me, beaten children (often the case at the time). Then began a life a little rock'n'roll: alcohol, fights, girls, excess, anything and everything. With Yves Philippot-Degand, we told it in " In the city " on the album " Travelin' Man ". And there I found my new family. I was fine, not happy, but fine, and of course, in all this little world, a lot of musicians who are rock fans. So, we used to get together in the evening to have a drink and play some rock'n'roll.
Philippe Archambeau: Can you tell us a little bit more about your beginnings, how did you come to sing?
Chico: I never thought about singing before. When I was 16, I joined a group of friends who formed a band (NdR.) to play on Sundays in a small place where they had small parties. Everyone sang whatever they wanted. It was only in 1986 when I started thinking about starting my own band, that the question arose because we had all the instruments but no singer. So, my musicians asked me to try singing. That is how I got here. However, it is not easy to start singing and above all trying to manage the pressure of the first concert where everyone's eyes are on you. Then, you work, and you try to find your place, but it has been very hard for me. You are on your own, on your own to learn how to sing pretty much correctly and there is no shortage of references. So, you must learn humility, rock'n'roll is not just about playing: it's also a state of mind.
Philippe Archambeau: Was there already a member of what would become Truckers a few years later in these first groups?
Chico: No, not at all: I was the only one trying to set up my project, we met sometimes on stages during concerts. Afterwards they followed me in my adventure, which they thought was ephemeral. It is true
that at that time rock bands had a limited lifespan for different reasons.
Philippe Archambeau: At that time, did you see some lives artists who then influenced you? I think in particular of Dr Feelgood?
Chico: No, at that time, I didn’t have for different reasons the opportunity to see bands I admired on stage. However, I listened to their albums as often as possible. It made me dream, it’s true I'm a fan of Dr. Feelgood but not only. I’m very open-minded concerning music, I'm interested in everything that's being done.
Philippe Archambeau: Can you tell us about the groups you had before Truckers and tell us some anecdotes?
Chico: I joined a rock'n'roll band in 1973, I went to rehearsals on a moped, good old days. In 1975, I was the opening act of a famous rock band, The Black Angels, they were going on tour and needed a saxophonist, so
I stayed with them. It was a very rock'n'roll era in every sense of the word, rock, alcohol, girls, fighting, etc... I could even write a book on this epic, because the adventures I lived with them were so extraordinary.
They didn't teach me music, but they gave meaning to my life.
Philippe Archambeau: How was Truckers set up? Can you tell us about your beginnings?
Chico: I had just left a band where I was saxophonist for 8 years, and I wanted to start my own band.
I searched for weeks for musicians who would trust me and who would follow me in my adventure. In fact,
I found musicians who needed a band and a stage, who came while waiting for better days, that's how it started.
Philippe Archambeau: One year ago, was released your eighth album, “I Need You”, can you tell us more about how and where did you record it? Do you have some anecdotes?
Chico: After the 7th album, no one had thought of doing it again…. But our bass player my friend JP on his deathbed made me promise that despite everything Truckers would continue without him... So, I decided to do a little bit more to pay tribute to him with a last album, before hanging up... The band's musicians had no desire to return to the studio. I had to fight to make this project come true at the Mulhouse studio, the spot where we recorded our studio albums. Many musician friends participated musically to pay tribute to JP
on this album... which was stopped in its promotion by the Covid crisis.
Philippe Archambeau: I invite everyone who doesn't have it to contact you to get it, but can you tell us more about the title "I Need You", which gives its name to the album?
Chico: We miss JP a lot, he brought us stability and knew how to manage the crises that sometimes affected the group... "I Need You... It was the ideal title...
Philippe Archambeau: There are two covers on the record, can you tell us a word about them, first on an amazing adaptation of Bowie's "Heroes" with Manu Aeschbach on the six strings, and a cover of Arc Angels' Texans, "Shape I'm In", their boogie-rock fit like a glove to the Truckers.
Chico: For the Texans we have been playing "Shape I'm In" in concert for a long time. The audience appreciates it very much and often thinks it is one of our compositions. I thought that our version would go well on an album, with Jean-Marie Coron at the scratch... As for the cover of "Heroes"... One evening while drinking a beer in a bar with friends, we were listening to Bowie on the bar's speakers. And one of my buddies told me that a Truckers version of "Heroes" might be interesting just to see how we would treat the subject... We doesn’t attack Bowie overnight, his singing is particular, it took me some time to decide to take the plunge… We also needed an exceptional guitarist to reinforce the rhythmic part, I immediately thought of Manu, with whom I spent an excellent day in the studio with Jean-Marie. A very good memory.
Philippe Archambeau: What does "On The Side of Your Road" tell us, where Jean-Marie Coron gratifies us with an efficient slide game?
Chico: It’s a very personal song about my mother... Being not the only one in this case, I wanted to make a song about it, helped by Yves Philippot-Degand... And if I had to sum up this song in one sentence...
"You left me on the side of the road."
Philippe Archambeau: There is a surprise when you let the record run, with a gypsy jazz track, how did it go, and will it lead to a sequel? What are your musical projects for 2021?
Chico: Yes, I like jazz swing very much. At the beginning we did that with friends, on evenings party... then we recorded a track for a hidden piece, and it is true that I hear a lot about this swing. So, we made a second one, and we made a video of both visible on YouTube, typing the unexpected, the neighbor... It’s for a different audience, so specialized journalists contacted me to find out if we had an album. Astonishing for me. It is true that I also like to sing in my native language... For the projects 2021, 2022... I'm working with friends on a blues album that I hope will be released at the end of 2021... And in parallel I am working on a swing album in French. A lot of work in perspective…
Philippe Archambeau: I have only had the opportunity to see you in concert twice, but the stage is your domain, how do you feel when you go on stage?
Chico: The stage is a place to share with the audience... Our music is made to be shared and the stage is the ideal place for that. Some people say that Truckers are made for the stage... Maybe they are... In any case it’s a magical place to share with an audience.
Philippe Archambeau: The opening act of ZZ TOP that you performed in the North, will it remain the top of Truckers on stage?
Chico: Not really, it was amazing, but the Truckers have had other moments as amazing as this one,
I think the best moment to me was the day I opened for Rory Gallagher on my first big stage.
Philippe Archambeau: Where was it?
Chico: At the Free Wheels in 1993.
Philippe Archambeau: Last and traditional question, if you must stay on a desert island, what would be the five records that you would bring with you?
Chico: Ah yes, the traditional question... In fact, honestly if it’s on a desert island, before asking myself which album I would take, I would find out if there is something to listen to them.