Remasters and re-pressings. A culture that is now synonymous with the recent rise in desire for the black crack. As with the advent of HD technology and games consoles shorn of backwards compatibility, there is no lower risk cash in than a rummage through the archives. In recent times, this has seen your bog standard rock act see their not too unavailable back catalogue rendered in 180g coloured vinyl on hallowed Record Store Day. There are worthy caveats to this production line clogging of the pressing factories. Take the work of Bernard Fevre for example.
If it wasn’t for a key piece of curation on the part of Rephlex and Lo Recordings, the quartet of albums released by Fevre in the seventies would be ideal cult list bait, long out of print and sight. However, Fevre has become synonymous with the disco sound that embraced the synthesisers of the day that themselves have started to see repackaged for modern audiences.
That this is his identifiable sound demonstrates the need for these re-issues; where Black Devil ‘Disco Club’ is the obvious glinting jewel in the crown, the other trio are much more curious affairs. A pair of concept albums lead the way; ‘Suspense‘ and ‘Cosmos 2043‘ are soundtracks for films that have never been made, while ‘The Strange World Of Bernard Fevre‘ is the purest dive through the machines of Fevre. Each of the album has a crystalline melodic nature that pre-dates 8-bit’s claiming of the motif a decade later.
Now pushing the boundary of his late sixties, Fevre has managed to operate outside of a cynical and often mundane music scene, embracing the chance to continue touring with his music and interacting with his fans – the latter of which is done through the excellent word salsa generator of Google Translate. With this labour of love coming to fruition, we took the chance to catch up with Bernard and ask him a few questions.
"Music is like sex, people who don’t get it really hate it. I just feel sorry for them."
You’re probably best known for your work as Black Devil (Disco Club), but your work under your own name suggests a far more diverse source of inspiration than just disco. What would you say your key musical influences, your musical history, was when you were growing up?
When I was young I was into Chopin, Beethoven and Satie. Then came Paul Anka, The Supremes, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, The Moody Blues, Erold Gardner. Basically classic jazz and pop. Experimental but easy.
I never really had idols, I’m mostly into the sound and more than that, the melodies. My brain connects to every aspect of the structure, so it’s a bit confusing sometimes, but really it’s the harmonies and melodies that keep me interested.
In a sense Black Devil is the synthesis of all these sounds that I’ve heard in my simple life but transferred to the dance floor, a place where you can dream and escape yourself. [note: make sure you check this mix and this article to see some choice inspirations from Bernard]
"‘Cosmos 2043’ could have soundtracked E.T. It's pretty childish and positive, even romantic in a way."
Cosmos 2043, Suspense and The Strange World Of… come from the perspective of soundtracks for films that haven’t been made. With Jeff Mills making a his own soundtrack for 1927’s Woman In The Moon, what film would you loved to have made a soundtrack for?
‘Cosmos 2043’ could have soundtracked E.T. It’s pretty childish and positive, even romantic in a way.
‘Suspense’, I’d like to think could have been used in Hitchcock’s The Birds or maybe Minority Report.
‘Strange World’, I don’t really see. Maybe a director should listen and make a movie for it!
"I thought I was making music of its time. I guess I was wrong."
There is obviously a heavy synthesiser angle to your music, when did you discover your love for these wonderful machines?
I didn’t want to work the old fashioned way. It was expensive and boring to me. I really loved synths and back then sound-engineers all looked down at them. But I didn’t have any plan to be some kind of a music pioneer. I was just doing my thing. I’ve always liked to try and break the routine, break the habits you have. I thought I was making music of its time. I guess I was wrong.
What was your setup back when creating these now remastered albums, has your studio changed much to what it was back in the seventies?
Back then I had 3 synths, a Clavinet, a Solina, some cheap beatboxes, some bad FX, a Teac 4-track recorder, an Allen & Heats 8-track console, some monitors and an amp. Some girlfriends of mine were into my sound, so I felt confident. At the time I was living in a loft in Paris, so my home studio was small – just 9 square meters – but my street was popular and great for living on. I was going out a lot, everything seemed inexpensive and young back then.
"I can't really tell you much about nowadays music but I have some pretty mixed up feelings about it."
I first came across your music when listening to Francois K’s radio station on Grand Theft Auto 4, it sounded fresher and vibrant than anything contemporary it rubbed shoulders with. Did you notice a tangible increase in interest in your work over the 2000’s, through this and the Rephlex re-issues?
Ah yes, I heard about this GTA4 video game through my son! He was 14, he’s now 21. I don’t play video games myself..well I just play a bit of Game Boy once in a while!
Many are inspired by your work, Luke Vibert’s latest album as Kerrier District cites Black Devil as a direct template for its sound. What do you find inspires you in the modern music scene?
Back then I thought music would eventually become something way different from what we knew. I can’t really tell you much about nowadays music but I have some pretty mixed up feelings about it. But who am I to tell if the kids are right or wrong? People ignored or despised my music 40 years ago, but it’s now gaining popularity and even considered ‘classic’ by some. Life can be pretty funny sometimes.
Disco obviously had its fatally defining moment with the Disco Demolition night in the US, effectively all but killing off the sound. Did this have an impact over in France? And was it that which made you put a halt on music production until Lo Recordings picked you up?
Actually I only heard recently about that demolition thing. People can be super dumb. Music is like sex, people who don’t get it really hate it. I just feel sorry for them.
"In 2043 I'll be 97, so who knows what is to come. This whole circus so far has been written, but the future is not."
How are you enjoying your new lease of life in the modern music scene, does it compare to the heady days of the seventies?
It’s pretty cool to be able to keep on doing music, travelling, meeting people, experimenting… It can be tiring but it feels good. It’s rewarding. I don’t care if people are young or old, if they like talking, sharing, having fun… then I’m all right.
What is next for you musically, what are your ambitions for the next few years?
Oh, I still have tonnes of things to do, I still work daily in my home studio. I never really stopped. That’s hopefully why my new records since 2006 sound good. I put a lot of soul and effort in making them. I’m a craftsman. I just hope people are into it. I make music for other people not for me, seriously. In 2043 I’ll be 97, so who knows what is to come. This whole circus so far has been written, but the future is not.
All four albums from Bernard Fevre are out now and can be picked up in physical form at outlets such as Piccadilly Records.
Discover more about Bernard Fevre on Inverted Audio.Bernard FevreBlack DevilLo RecordingsRephlex RecordsSound ObsessionDiscoExperimentalItalo-DiscoLeftfield