Si un jour on m’avait dit que j’écrirais sur un groupe de Métal, j’aurais eu des abdos en béton tellement j’aurais ri. Et ben on est passé du rire à l’enjaillement en découvrant Here Lies Man l’année passée. Une nouvelle bande de LA formée par le polymorphe Marcos García aka Chico Mann (chanteur/guitariste/producteur/auteur-compositeur), *Geoff Mann (batterie) et Will Rast (tous trois membres d’Antibalas, Daptone Records), Rich Panta (percus) et JP Maramba (basse). Un groupe calé entre Métal et Afrobeat, un non-sens à priori. C’est pourtant le défi que Marcos García, à l’origine du projet, et ses acolytes ont relevé avec un succès aussi improbable que mes connaissances et mon appréciation du métal, d’où mes a priori.
Quelques réminiscences d’une brève période métalo-skate-punk auront peut-être aidé à choper cet OVNI dont la démarche rappelle celle de Ginger Johnson. Ce dernier qui fut le précurseur de l’Afrobeat est largement méconnu, contrairement à son illustre élève Fela Kuti. Ginger avait établi des ponts entre musique nigeriane et Jazz, Rock ou encore musique Afro-latine. Il collabora ainsi avec Quicy Jones, Led Zepplin ou les Rolling Stones (Sympathy For The Devil). Grâce à ce coup de génie ruminé depuis près de dix ans et l’expérience Afrobeat de Chico Mann et sa bande, une nouvelle connection s’est faite entre deux musiques d’ici et d’ailleurs.
Mais attention, le son HLM est tout sauf mix, collage ou fusion selon Marcos, un touche à tout qui au passage gère ses différentes carrières (Antibalas, Chico Mann et maintenant HLM). Et Geoff de préciser qu’il s’agit d’une connection entre Métal et Afrobeat basée sur un point commun : la rythmique. Les figures rapides et répétitives de guitare Afrobeat sont très proches des riffs métaleux aux dires du concepteur. Du coup, leur rapprochement qui se fait de manière organique, était une évidence pour Chico Mann. On y trouve des distortions/saturations qui ralentissent le rythme et des synthés rajoutent des effets psyché, le tout savamment dosé. Il aura fallut dix ans à Chico Mann pour concrétiser son idée qui aujourd’hui sonne comme une évidence. Si vous n’êtes pas convaincus, allez comparer Sorrow Tears And Blood sur leur EP Animal Noise à l’originale de Fela Kuti sur l’album éponyme sorti en 1977 sous le label nigerian Kalakuta Records. Un tribut au roi de l’Afrobeat qui malgré une inculture patente du Métal a fait tilter mon oreille. Le premier Here Lies Man est en plus une vraie réussite.
Pour la tournée européenne de son premier LP, HLM était passé en mode furtif à l’AB Club (27/02/2018) avec un live encore plus trippant qu’une écoute casanière. À peine viennent-ils de la terminer qu’il a déjà annoncé son nouveau LP, You Will Know Nothing, avec un premier single prometteur, Fighting, délivré vendredi par Riding Easy. Monde De Poche les a alpagués pour une entrevue, histoire d’éclaircir ce mystère. Avec son combo Afrobeat-Métal, Here Lies Man démontre que les voies de la musique sont décidément impénétrables.
Entrevue enregistrée à l’ABConcerts le 27/02/2018 et partiellement retranscrite. Retrouvez son intégralité sur Soundcloud. Bonne lecture/écoute !
Monde De Poche is thrilled to be here with Here Lies Man. A band who comes from LA, who’s currently touring in Europe. So I’m lucky to be here and I’m happy to be with you guys. So Chico Mann, Geoff, JP, and…
MDP: So how are you doing guys?
HLM: Good thank you.
CM: Thank you for interviewing us.
MDP: It’s a pleasure.
CM: People don’t want to hear anything we have to say.
MDP: Actually that’s why I’m here so we will have a lot to say now. So guys how did the project of Here Lies Man start?
CM: When I moved to LA and got together with Geoff. That was basically the beginning of this project. I imagined what I wanted to do in 2005 and it took… When did I move?
GM: Two years… Two and half years ago. 2015
MG: So it took a wile before I could get, you know, to make it happen.
GM: Ten years.
MDP: So two years an half to put things together.
MG: Pretty much one month after I moved, we already recorded (laughter).
GM: We play together in Antibalas.
I just didn’t feel it with anyone. And then Geoff and I sat in the studio when I moved. I was like finally « This is it! That was it! »
MDP: Ah, okay that’s why.
MG: But we hadn’t set down to… In New York I had tried out different drummers to try to get the project, you know, started and I was gonna start it in New York. I just didn’t feel it with anyone. And then Geoff and I sat in the studio when I moved, I was like finally « This is it! That was it! »
MDP: Ok. And how did you meet those two guys, JP and Will?
CM: Will in short present term. Will plays in Antibalas. And JP came recommended through a friend of ours. Through…
JP: Gabe. I think he got my number through different people
MG: I remember when I’ve called you there was like a general sense of… I couldn’t tell what was on your mind.You seemed suspicious. Like “I don’t know”…(humming)
GM: But then it was obviously… the second he started playing it was…
MG: Yeah, in less than dirty seconds when he came into the thing, I was like “Oh yeah he is the guy.”
MDP: The idea of mixing like Metal music with Afrobeat. I know that the idea comes from Marcos García if I remember well?
MDP: Oh so you are… Journalist… bad.
MG: You’re not gonna get away with things.
GM: Ok you can go.
MDP: Because I know you better as Chico Mann.
MG: The thing is there’s no mixing. There’s no mixing happening. It’s not a mix of anything. I don’t see it that way.
I had the idea of playing Afrobeat, you know, more with a rock feeling playing Yellow Fever.
MDP: Ok so how do you see it?
MG: I had the idea of playing Afrobeat you know more with a rock feeling playing Yellow Fever. Fella’s Yellow Fever, the tender guitar part. As I was playing, I was hearing it like, you know, fuzz like heavy, heavy, heavy, heavy. And that was it. It was that moment. And then it became obvious that I could hear it in all different ways.
MDP: When did you see that it was working with the crowds. I don’t know if you just try on your own at your place rehearsaling? When did you face a crowd for the first time with the sound and you sow that it really worked, that the people were responding.
There was a pool party near a festival. People were like hang over, you know, like the day time and chillin’ around the pool and we disturbed their peace.
GM: A couple of days ago.
MG: I don’t know man. The first we played the show was April 20…
MG: (Laughter) The first three song were good!
GM: There was a pool party near a festival. People were like hang over, you know, like the day time and chillin’ around the pool and we disturbed their peace.
MG: Yeah. The thing is like in my mind it all works really well but when you have to do it in front of people, sometimes it works other times it doesn’t work. Most of the time it’s been working but this time it not worked. People just didn’t want to hear it. And they left (laughter).
MDP: Bad for them! And how is going the tour?
MG: It’s been pretty good. It’s been interesting ‘cause it’s the first time we’ve been here.
MDP: In Europe?
MG: Yeah. As this band. So it’s always a pleasant surprise when the people come to the show. ‘Cause I’m like how the hell did you find out about us? How did you even hear about us? You know.
MDP: Because we’re following I guess.
MG: Yeah. It’s the magic of PR and internet. The record label too. They do support.
MDP: But I have to confess that I’ve been following you because of Antibalas, Daptone. I just interviewed Lee Fields two weeks ago.
MG: Oh nice.
MDP: Yeah. This guy is just a cream. I’m still working on the interview. Deep, deep, deep!
MG: Yeah he’s great. I love him.
MDP: I would like to know what’s the story about the LP, Here Lies Man because the cover is stunning, amazing. But what’s the story behind the LP, Here Lies Man? The title?
MG: Well, it’s all been a process of discover everything. I had these voice memos on my phone, a collection of ideas but I didn’t have a drummer to play them with until Geoff. And then we did arrangements and recorded it. And I felt a lot of urgency to get it, to record it because it took ten years to… with him. ‘Cause I lived in New York and he was living in LA. So we were finally in the same city. It was like it needs to happen now.
So it was like « we need to do this immediately! » And he played along with that, you know, he indulged that. Then we took the recordings after tapes, bounced it to digital and I took it to a room that I was staying in.
MDP: Otherwise it wouldn’t happen.
MG: Well I just probably would have been obsessive. So it was like we need to do this immediately! And he played along with that, you know, he indulged that. Then we took the recordings after tapes, bounced it to digital and I took it to a room that I was staying in. And start working on the keyboard. And I was like that’s cool, this is different. Not exactly how I imagined the keyboard but it was working. And then I never intended to be the singer. I was looking for someone to be the singer so I could just play guitar. But…
MDP: You didn’t find.
MG: Hum hum, no… Some little things that came back to me when I send out little demos things for demo, it just didn’t quite… So then I was like I’m gonna have to do it.
MDP: Good for the band I guess.
MG: Well thankfully California, you know, they have medical marijuana ‘cause that helped. So yeah, I wanted into some a kind of psychosis when I was working on it. It was just kind of letting the words come out, not trying to edit to much. Just let it flow. And then I had a long list of band names. I had a list of hundred different names. I couldn’t figure out what to call the band. And then the last song I recorded is called Here Lies Man. And I was like (whispering)“That’s the name of the band.” That’s it because it kind of captured the spirit of what this all is. Basically that was kind of the first view of the musical landscape. Every since then It just become more and more clear that deeper we go into that landscape you know. What the different features of it are. And ultimately every song title is the lyric of the song. There’s no narrative to it. But the picture that it paints is when take all the songs, all of the lyrics and you read them together. And so the first three albums are one big narrative, the one big picture, I should say.
MDP: You made also an EP.
MG: That was just of the single, the opening track on the second album.
MDP: And then you have a song of Fela Kuti.
MG: Sorrow Tears and Blood.
It’s just that, you know, for me that was the first Fela’s song I could shake to. I would listen to it over and over when I first heard it. And every time it give goose bumps.
MDP: Yeah, it was a kind of tribute to Fela Kuti and Afrobeat?
MG: Yeah, yeah. It’s just that, you know, for me that was the first Fela’s song I could shake to. I would listen to it over and over when I first heard it. And every time it give goosebumps. And then I didn’t understand most of the words. It was something about the feeling, the way his voice sounded. So I thought that would be a good in the early part of this band to kind of pay tribute to that. And to show the musical functioning the same way.
GM: A lot of people that would listen to the record, at least in the US, don’t know what Afrobeat is. They don’t know who Fela is. Some people do but there are people who are coming at it from likes heavy Rock, Metal, Doom side who like it.
MDP: So most of your crowd comes from…
GM: Not about the most but there is a good number of people who we talked to before to start playing.
MG: Yeah I mean we have rock n’ roll fans because of our label.
MDP: And what’s the name of your label?
MG: Riding Easy.
MDP: This way of making music reminds me Ginger Johnson, I don’t know if you remember, which is the forefather of Afrobeat who collaborated with Quincy Jones, Let Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil.
In Hide Park, there’s a live show where you see Ginger Johnson and The African Messengers performing live. Crazy! That’s why the way he connected African music with Western music. It was really interesting and that reminds that way of (connect music).
MG: I think we need to find more about Ginger Johnson.
GM: That’s the word. That’s a good word for exist. It’s not a mix but it’s a connection because they are already connected you know. They come from the same place.
MG: Well, it’s all African so.
GM: And so like I’ve been trying to say it’s almost like family. It’s like you know these things spread appart but because they are coming from the same they share a lot of similar trades, melodic trades, rythmic trades. And so it’s not that hard to it’s just like sort of family reunion.
MDP: Yeah, it’s not like thinking to hard, like theorise to much. It’s just like the way that feels naturally with rythim.
I have another… I think this is it. I think I’ve no other questions.
MG: No other questions (laughter).
Check the complete interview on Soundcloud.