Pierre Bensusan

Press Release

By Matt Levitch

Matt Levitch:

What's new with you? Any recordings in the works or planned for the near future?

Pierre Bensusan:
A big tour in the US starting in Aspen on Jan. 4th followed by concerts all over Europe and Japan, about 80 shows all together, and my 8th and brand new album called "Intuite" which has just been released before Christmas. It will officially come out in the USA in the late winter or Spring, but is available as a preview through my web site and at every show of this current US winter tour.

What is your touring schedule like in general? Where do you play and how often? Are there any countries where you have bigger followings than others?

PB: My new album is going to help make 2001 a "big" touring year. Where I play the most is the US, UK, Italy, Ireland, France, elsewhere in Europe and I am also looking forward going back to Japan

How would you compare playing live to recording in the studio? Which do you prefer and why?

PB: I like both because they are very different experiences with radically different qualities which complement each other at the end of the day. In studio, I can focus on the myriad of details and start again until I feel in sync with what I played and hear. On stage, I think completly differently, it's an instant sensation which will never come back the same, the audience, my mood and the stimulation of the event make it unique and dangerous. This is very deep and exciting.

How would you describe your music to somebody who had never heard it? What are your shows like? What can we expect when you come to the Wheeler?

PB: I would suggest he or she listens to it a way or another. I play what I feel and I feel many different and complementary musical routes which I try to bring into a natural synthesis. My home has been into classical, folk, Jazzy, world, Pop, but saying that is not saying much. Anyway, I am not good at describing. Playing it is already hard enough. What I know is that I do not play in a style, I feel as free as I can, very open and tolerant for anything which has a musical dimension or universe, whatever the aspect.

How is your music recieved when you play live? What do you think the appeal of your music is to an audience?

PB: It's hard to say for sure but I feel that people receive it in a deep place where they don't necessarly go often in a concert situation. I sometimes wonder if it's appropriate of me to take them there. I very often play with my face on the side of the guitar. It's not intentional but my atitude on and with the guitar has been perceived as an invitation for people to step in my microcosm, whereas it has often been a way to not show my face. Today, I feel more in peace and much more relax and like to look at the audience and tell them my stories whether they are musical or with words.

Why did you switch from playing piano to guitar? How does playing the two compare or contrast for you personally? Do you feel guitar is better suited or you as far as expressing yourself somehow?

PB: I played piano first and guitar accidentally. The piano has helped me to think harmonic and polyphonic. It has also helped my hand and fingers to stretch. The guitar touches a more sensual note, the vibrato I guess, the relationship with the strings, the fact that you can move/shake the instrument and incidentally influence the overall sound. It is something else but at the end of the day, it's just an instrument.

What were your early influences on your music and how have they evolved or broadened? How has your playing evolved technically?

PB: Classical composers, the Beatles, Ottis Reading, The French singer song writer scene, the Irish, British, French and US folk scenes have also created a big impact of my first years as a guitarist. In the house, my sisters were listening to a lot of Jazz and pop, my father was a big swing, opera, gypsy and tango fan. I have listened to a lot of different sources of inspirations that I cannot understand why people feel they have to label or put music in a box or category, prefer one more than another. In reality, music is immense and has no border, nor genre, it is as free as a bird. The difficulty for me, the musician, beeing to transcend that fact and make it vivid at the first glance.

Where did your interest in world music develop? Have you traveled a lot?

PB: I believe I have a world music passeport, born in Algeria, raised in Paris, the country of jazz, immersed in folk etc. I have been into traditional musical idioms since my very youth and very naturally have always tried to bring these essences with me wherever I go. I have also played with a lot of differnt poeple, including fluid jazz improvisers. I travel a big deal thanks to my guitar and have seen people in their natural environment. This helps to feel or imagine how they are connected with me and why they perceive the music the way they do.

What have you learned from your experimentation with world music in general? Anything specifically in the technical realm?

PB: I like the idea of mixing so called cultural elements to the point where the origins of what is played are no longer relevant.

You use DADGAD tuning - what is the traditional tuning called?

PB: Standart I guess

I know you prefer not to have audiences to concerned with your tuning, but what >does using this tuning allow you to do that traditional would not?

PB: To be completly honnest with you (everything I said before before was a lie), the tuning is not the most crucial element, the inspiration, the ideas, the organisation and architecture of the music, the feel, the grove, etc. are the keys. The tuning helped me to articulate, have maybe more fun and understand what I had inside that wanted to come out, but sincerely, I could have very well achieved the same or different results in standart tuning and be as happy in the process. Maybe I am saying this because I don't even notice that I am playing a specific tuning.

Why would a musician choose this over some other form of tuning?"

PB: This is a good question.

What does finger-picking allow you to do as a guitarist that using a pick would not? How long have you used this style?"

PB: I have played some Bluegrass guitar and mandoline in the past in the Bill Keith Bluegrass Band and used to play a lot of flat pick, at some point, I felt that I was missing not using my real body. Today I need to use the flesh of my fingers to touch my guitar.

Your singing consists of chants as opposed to spoken lyric. Why? What do you think the chants convey to you and to an audience? Are the chants improvisational or are they somewhat written/predetermined?"

PB: I also sing "spoken lyrics", but it's true that singing just for the sake of using the vocal colour is something that I have always done. I guess the none wording singing is more according the the musical statement, I still like both. I also need to sing words, but it's already great to pass on an emotion which depends only on sounds.

Describe the electronic effects you use and the resultant sound or effect they have on your music.

PB: My electronic set up nowadays is very basic and is not any more what it used to be. My new album is completly solo and acoustic: just a guitar with 2 mics. On stage, I use a bit of reverb, volume pedal, and sometimes looping to play different parts, but I mostly concentrate on the infinite palette of tones and colours of just one guitar.

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