TAO FESTIVAL

GILLES PETERSON

Talkin’ Launch

By Christophe Chommeloux

16 June 2017

As a tireless discoverer of musical talents, inventor of the term Acid Jazz, creator of the Worldwide Festival, DJ, remixer, label boss, radio host and curator of some hundred compilations, Gilles Peterson is considered a legend in the world of modern music. He ‘‘gave us his immediate impressions as a headliner of the Tao Festival, in French.

“The setting for this festival is incredible, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. When I arrived in the jungle, I was blown away!” enthused the creator of the legendary Talkin’ Loud label, a few minutes after his set on the beach, unquestionably one of the highlights of the young Tao Festival.

And yet, it now takes a lot to convince this adoptive Londoner, who has been traveling the globe for three decades, constantly looking for exceptional records which he then plays on the world’s most beautiful scenes, or on his BBC radio show. The man who has launched the career of artists such as Omar, Incognito, Galliano or The Young Disciples is constantly discovering new talents, and often produces their rst albums. His new label, Brownswood recordings, features some of the most interesting musicians of recent years: Ben Westbeech, Jose James, Youssef Kamaal…

The mere presence at the Tao Festival of this zealot of world music, this champion of diversity and blends, this jazz fan and pioneer of electronic crossover, was an incontestable guarantee of quality. The opinion he has of this first edition speaks volumes about the incredible success of its organizer’s crazy bet…

What you played in Koh Tao, with a lot of eclecticism, perfectly matched the idea that we had of the festival when we saw the line-up: Gilles Peterson, Jazzanova, Arrested Development, Kevin Yost, Thai groups such as T Bone or Rasmee, etc. We almost felt your hand there, did you help them?

Not really. I met Eric (Bochet, one of the organizers) last year at my festival in Sète. I didn’t know him at all and normally, I don’t take so many risks anymore with people that I don’t know and who don’t have a reputation that I can check right away. But I was quite impressed that he came with a whole bunch of people, and he seemed very serious. I didn’t talk about it on social networks much because I first wanted to see a bit of what it was about. I take a risk on ten offers, maybe. I’ve been in this circuit for thirty years, so generally I go where I know the promoters very well, where I know the DJs that I work with and all that. I was nonetheless very impressed with the line-up, so I came, even though I was asking myself a bit how there could be any kind of audience at this time of the year. When I arrived, it was raining cats and dogs and my doubts became even stronger, but when I landed last night in the jungle and saw the work that they put in there, I was absolutely blown away!

Of course, the line-up is good, but everything was good: the art, the street artists, the film, the video mappings, the lights… it was really, “What the fuck is this?” The scene is so huge they could put anybody on it, they could get Stevie Wonder to play! Right in the middle of the jungle, I was expecting something more low. There was a very good sound and I loved the first band: Rasmee, with these almost Californian tracks, smooth, very slightly funky…

In any case, congratulations! They did a very good job. I think that the word will go out and if they want me to come back next year, I’ll do a lot more work on it.

Have you been coming to Thailand for a long time?

Since 90/91. I came here with Rob, from Galliano. When they were touring the world, they finished here in Thailand to have some fun. I just came to see them and spend some time with them, since I was their A & R and I have friends who own a hotel in Samui, so I came three years in a row like that.

At the time, we were listening to some Talkin’ Loud on the beach…

Yeah, I went to a few Full Moon parties back in the days and there was even a Talkin’ Loud bar in Koh Phan Ngan, with all our record sleeves on the wall, it was hot. I spent a few nights in Samui, it was kind of lame, but there were enough English, and French, to party! Since then, I played at the Bed Bar, I played in Bangkok a few times, and you were there last time, it was at Sing Sing, a place where you think you’re in a Wes Anderson movie…

Since you have some perspective when it comes to Thailand, do you find that there is an evolution in the quality of the music here?

Yes! For me it’s the guys from Bangkok Paradise, especially Nat, who has his store (Zudrangma Records), his little club (Studio Lam) and the band, who all made it click.

I started to play their tracks when they came out, three or four years ago. It was the rst band with that sound. But it was also the Sound of Siam compilations which turned me on to local music, kind of like the Francis Falsetto Ethiopiques compilations. When I heard the Ethiopiques, it was a whole new musical world that opened up to me, and it was the same with Sound of Siam.

I played them a lot on the radio, and then Bangkok Paradise made an album, and then there was another band, Khun Narin Electric Phin Band, a kind of psychedelic version of Bangkok Paradise, who signed an album on Innovative Leisure in America.

I started playing all of that in my gigs, this slightly crazy mix of Country & Western, of James Brown and Balkan Beat, and it worked! I invited Bangkok Paradise to my Worldwide festival two years ago and when I came to Bangkok I visited their club and their shop, and as usual I spent all my money in there…

I think that the world has really shrunk and that Western music is tired. World music is taking more and more of its importance, and that’s normal. When you listen to a concert like Rasmee’s last night, it’s as good as any concert I go to in London, and world music isn’t limited to a circle of people who go to the Womad… Young people are much more open to world music now, thanks to the DJs and all those labels that dug to discover incredible stuff . Next to this music’s freshness, we see how tired rock’n roll is. Techno too, but thankfully it keeps reinventing itself, especially in the UK. There has been Drum & Bass, dubstep, Grime…

The reason I live in London is that the music there is so much renewal in terms of music and competition in the electronic space that it continues to be fresh, to evolve. Unfortunately, it often takes quite some time before the rest of Europe follows. France follows quite well, and the West Coast of the United States too.

You defend a musical diversity that is expressed in your sets through a mix of styles, but most DJs play techno or house at four in the afternoon…

Yeah, it’s too easy, everybody plays house. I always defended what you said with the festival in Sète (Worldwide Festival). I love house and techno, but in the afternoon … it’s hot, come on! The problem is that everyone is afraid, so nothing happens and we’ve been hearing the same thing for 30 years.

The great DJs in England, those who earn a lot of money, who play in Ibiza or Las Vegas, but don’t do EDM produce really interesting things, like Four Tet, Floating Points, Daphne from Caribou… they play a lot of techno but they’ll go, for example, to Africa… You can very well mix a Carl Craig with the Cotonou Poly-Rythmo Orchestra, everything goes together and people are more and more open to it…

www.gillespetersonworldwide.com

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