Interview with Christophe Bailet
Interview conducted by Daniel DGYDP Guerrero
Date online: January 31, 2009
One of the first things that should pop into one's mind when thinking of French metal is this: Christophe Bailet. He is to French metal what London is to England: it's impossible to talk about one without mentioning the other. After working for over 25 years as a professional in the metal scene, 2009 will be the year that his first book sees the light of day. Titled Total France Metal, this is a must read for all headbangers interested in the history of the French metal underground. Even those of you who have spontaneous allergic reactions to all things French, have no excuse to ignore this book, since there will also be an English version available. Wanting to know more about this fascinating person and his new book, I sought Christophe out for an interview.
Dan: First of all, what's the story behind this book? Why did you decide to embark on this challenging quest and what is the main concept?
CB: Many years ago, I saw and bought lots of books concerning the metal history of different countries (Germany, United Kingdom (NWOBHM), Sweden, ...) and I said to myself that it would be great to also have one concerning France. Since I'm a professional since 1982 that has worked with a lot of record companies and because I've been personally in touch with many bands since the 80's, I decided to start this project because everyone told me that I'm the only person able to do such a book in France with all my knowledge concerning this scene. The concept is simple and the name of the book speaks by itself: TOTAL FRANCE METAL. I mean by this all the bands from 1966 until now with their line-up (including nicknames and their real names), their full discography (including the demos of those bands that have released something official), and their full story with details you'll only find in this book.
Dan: Why exactly the year 1966?
CB: In fact 1966 is by chance. I didn't choose this date, it was just the year when the first 7" EP single of the first French metal band called "LES VARIATIONS" was released. They have recorded lots of albums and even had a big success in America in the 70's.
Dan: Over the years, a good number of books have been released concerning heavy metal. What makes your book different from the rest and why will people read it?
CB: The big difference is that it will also be possible to know the demos of these bands, which is not the case in other books. The stories of the bands are not going to be only something like "the band was formed in this year and has split in that year". There will be some important details that only the bands and me know that made them be what they became. People are going to read it just because they know that France has very good bands, even though they don't know exactly all of them or what to expect from them. I can already tell you that a lot of people can't wait to read it.
Dan: What is the current status of the book and when will people be able to buy it?
CB: As you can imagine, this is a big work and we are only two persons working on it. My assistant is writing the stories of all the bands, right after I give him the albums, the official press-books and my knowledge. I'm doing all other things (selection of the bands, line-ups, discographies, ...) and as I'm the one that created this project, I'm in touch with 70% of all the musicians from those bands. I also take care of its marketing parts. My assistant is free on his writing except that he has to fulfill two conditions: everything that he writes has to be true and verified, and secondly, I have to like it. Concerning the issue of this book, I think that people will be able to buy in a year or a year and a half. It's in a long time and very short at the same time when you see all the work that it represents.
Dan: When did you first get involved with metal and what made you so interested in this music?
CB: It was in 1979. That year I was on vacation at my cousin's, who's older than me and was listening to metal, like most of people at that period. This music was on fashion a lot more than it is now. I remember his collection at that moment; he had some LPs of UFO, SCORPIONS, DEEP PURPLE, FOREIGNER, RAINBOW... In fact all these hard-rock bands from the 70's. One day he put the famous DEEP PURPLE "In Rock" to play and it was a revelation for me. Then when I came back home after those vacations, the first metal record that I bought was this album "In Rock". So I even remember now the 4 first albums that I bought in 1979, they were: Deep Purple "In Rock", UFO "Strangers In The Night", SCORPIONS "Virgin Killer" (with the censured cover now, it wasn't at that period), and my first French band that was just released : TRUST "L'Elite" (their 1st album). The band TRUST was completely unknown at that period. Then in 1982, all the sellers of the metal record shops were journalists in Metal Magazines and I became friend with all of them very quickly and easily. That year, I was living in Paris, in the same street where the famous label Black Dragon Records was. So I was at their office almost every day until I started to work with them... Then, I worked with Axe Killer Records and with a lot of others until naturally I became a manager of French metal bands (SORTILEGE, NIGHTMARE, ADX, ...).
Dan: You have also released a compilation CD in 1998, what's the story behind that?
CB: Yes, in the beginning, I wanted to release a CD with the book, but finally I've released a compilation beforehand as an "appetizer". This compilation is called "REVOLUTION HARD-ROCK" and was released worldwide in 1998 through Axe Killer Records. There are two different versions. The 1st version contains one CD with 16 French metal bands (16 tracks) and the 2nd version contains a double CD with 32 French metal bands (32 tracks). It's too early to tell for the moment if I'm going to release another CD compilation joined to the book, but I'm thinking about it...
Dan: What do you think of the current metal scene in France? Are you still an active part of it?
CB: A lot of people in France consider that I'm responsible for its revival since the end of the 90's, but I've worked on this scene as I told you since the early 80's, so I don't know why it seems to them that I'm responsible for this, except maybe because it's at that period that I started to do a lot of CD reissues from the bands of the 80's (like SORTILEGE, H BOMB, WARNING, SATAN JOKERS, ATTENTAT ROCK, NIGHTMARE, ...). Concerning the actual scene, I'm of course still involved. I'm the person that has discovered bands like MANIGANCE, HEADLINE, MALEDICTION, DREAM CHILD ... and made them be signed with their record companies. But of course, the French scene has changed a lot in 30 years, like the musical style, which is normal.
Dan: what are the current key areas or festivals for metal in France? Are there any notorious musicians we should know about?
CB: The biggest French metal festival is HELLFEST (at Clisson). Currently bands like GOJIRA or NIGHTMARE are a big success and tour all over the world. Concerning the notorious musicians, there is Rudy Roberts (ex SQUEALER) and Renaud HANTSON (ex SATAN JOKERS) that were both respectively guitarist and singer of STARMANIA and NOTRE DAME DE PARIS (both from Luc Plamandon). Patrick RONDAT is also known as the guitarist of JEAN-MICHEL JARRE. He also played in the band ELEGY and in the guitarist project called G3. Other example with the French musicians of XYZ that moved to America and started to be very known at such a point that everyone thinks that XYZ is an American band. Some members of DREAM CHILD are now involved in RHAPSODY (OF FIRE).
Dan: More than three thousand metal albums have so far been released in your country. What do you consider the most influential/important ones and why?
CB: I consider some bands important when they succeed to be at the origin of a new style that will last "forever". A band like OCEAN opened the doors in France to the music of the 80's. BLASPHEME, SORTILEGE and WARNING also gave a lot for the 80's. Bands like CHARTER, H-BOMB or ADX were the first ones in speed-metal. Bands like IXION or MORSURE has opened the doors of the more extreme scene (thrash) like LOUDBLAST or MASSACRA also did later. All these bands have brought a new style.
Dan: Time for a cliché question that I'd like to know your take on: how come people say ignorant things like "metal is just noise"?
CB: I've heard this sentence so many times in my life! Or "why do they all have long hair?" is also a classic! Of course, if an outsider is going to start to listen to Death or Grind or Black metal at once for the first time, there is 99% chance that he is not going to like it. The problem is that they think and say that it's "noise" just because they don't know this music. The media is responsible for this. When you see the metal videos that TV put actually, I can easily understand that after this, you don't have the envy to continue to listen to this kind of music. But it's also because of those bands that are all the time on TV and give a bad image of this music to the "outsider" because it's the only way for audience to know what metal music is if they don't have friends or members of their families that are able to show and explain them the good things in this music.
Dan: Being a metal enthusiast myself, I am looking forward to this book ... Where can the readers pre-order their copies?
CB: It's possible to pre-order it by sending an e-mail to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. When you send your pre-order, you have to mention: your name, your complete address (address, zip code, city), your country, your telephone (in case I need to get in touch with you), your e-mail address. Don't forget to specify how many copies and which version of the book (the one written in French or in English) you want to pre-order.
Dan: Our time here is unfortunately up. Thanks for the interview! CB: Thanks to all of you and special thanks also to you Daniel!
Interview written by Daniel "DGYDP" Guerrero for Circle of Destruction, 2008.
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