Pierre Bensusan

Press Release

Luigi Marinoni:
Your latest work is surely a very mature record in which you seem to convey all the experiences you have gone through in these latest years.

Pierre Bensusan
It was great to work on Altiplanos. I spent 3 months in my home studio, to record, finalize some of the scores, go on tour to Sweden twice and resume and finish the recording for the last day of 2004. Most of the pieces have been maturing for a while - some of them over a period of 15 years - before I felt that it was now the time to lay them down onto a recording. I have always tried to approach the writing from a composer's point of view and certainly not a guitarist. Very few of these pieces are really guitaristic. I also used the album Intuite as a reference, a place where I didn't want to go back. The playing and the sound are different, the music too with maybe even more diversity. It was also the first album I did with my brand new Ryan Signature guitar model and the first time I played and recorded in standart tuning (on the tune "Altiplanos") for more than 30 years. I would also like to thank Dany Rallo for having engineered and supported the project.

Also Intuite was beautiful...

PB: Thank you ! A lot of the tunes which are contained in "Intuite" have gone full circle from the writing to the playing mode on stage and touring. It was the right time to lay them down onto a recording, even if the title track "Intuite" was almost completly improvised in the studio. Also because it was the first of my recordings that I did by myself in my home studio. So, I look at this all experience with a special smile and contentment. Especially since Steve Rodby (who has produced Pat Metheny, Herbie Hanckock, Michael Brecker, Oregon and many others) has brought his tremendous experience in co-producing the final stage with me. So, I believe Intuite has been channeled in a very serene and gracious way from his conception until its delivrery.

A prevailing trait of yours song, and not only in this last work is a miscellanous of sound and styles.

PB: I was myself educated into a very favorable musical environment within a family with very mixed origins all leading to the Jewish diaspora of Spain, Marrocco, Algeria, France, England, Persia... My sisters and parents exposed me to all kinds of different music even when we still were living in Oran (Algeria). I have since then always refused and run away from sectarism and orthodoxy, and always liked the idea of mixing so called cultural elements to the point where the origins of what is played are still noticable but no longer relevant. And yet, I believe that my playing and sound can be recognised at the first glance. I grew up first in Oran (Algeria) and then in Paris. I played the Classical piano since I was 7 and went into guitar and folk music since I was 11. When I remember my childhood, as I was exposed to lot of music even before thinking of playing music myself. I realize now that the best of these "musiques" have been linked since within, as a constant source of reference, inspiration and help to grow beyond. The piano has helped me to think harmonic and polyphonic. It has also helped my fingers to stretch. Some of my big heroes then were : Classical composers, the Beatles, Ottis Reading, The French singers songwriters scene, the Irish, British, French and US folk scenes have also created a big impact of my first years as a guitarist. At my family, my father was listening to Swing, Django, Tango, Musette, (Accordeon Paris Music), Opera, Singers... My mother was often singing Arabic and Jewish Spanish songs...One of my sister was listening to all the Anglo and US pop scene, the other loved Sonny Rollins, Ray Charles, Jazz... I am not sure why some people feel they have to label or put music into a box or category, prefer one genre more than another. In reality, music is immense and has no border, nor genre, it is as free as a bird.

How do you work for the arrangements?

PB: I mostly improvise with the guitar, voice or piano, or follow an inner idea. I then optimize that first rendition into a more structured form, which utimately in most cases ends up on a piece of paper prior or after beeing recorded. I also use the concerts to rehurse the piece, improvise, try new things and keep on building the piece until I am fully satisfied with its form. My main concerns being that it works musically. Often, the piece keeps on maturing even after been recorded, in some cases, I would record it again later then. I am inspired by the piano and want my playing to be fluid, smooth, well built. I am trying to stay away from the usual guitar-finger patterns which are not necessary reflecting a musical need. I think in terms of voicings and also harmonic correlations. Playing solo, I need to restitude the orchestral qualities that the instrument offers: melody, bass line, harmony, counterpoint, played simultaneously, or at least to give the illusion of that.

Personally I believe this to be a very exiting moment for the acoustic guitar, there are a lot of excellent musicians around, venues to play , even the quality level of the instruments and the technical research are making giant steps....

PB: True. We come from a time when there was no repertoire, not much written music, hardly any teachers, seminars, festivals, press and within these last 25 years things have changed for the best. This has helped a younger generation of players to emerge, but in my opinion, lots of them are still very focussed on the guitar instead of on the music. Guitar is a vicious instrument, it would play the player instead of the player playing it.

The birth of record labels expressly dedicated to the acoustic world , above all the Favored Nations Acoustic of Steve Vai, is it not the sign that a big change is happening?

PB: Well, I would not like to undermine your enthousisam, but I have seen many "big changes" since 25 years with several revival of acoustic music, either in the US or in Europe. There will always be a home for acoustic music because this is the mother of all musics and people are in demand of something pure and authentic, without any prtecting net, something which connects directly with them.

Your Live dimension, with only the acoustic guitar, is maybe the most difficult to propose. How do you deal with it?

PB: Very graciously and harmmoniously. Playing live and solo is where it's at for me. All the music I write is made to stand out alone, by itself. I also sing and create much diversity and variety into my show. I use also the electro-acoustic output of my guitar which I mix with the mic. It really sounds awesome and as powerful as a big organ, with lots of dynamics. People are very receptive, extremely focussed and warm and some shows last almost 3 hours...

Artistically , which point do you think you have reached at this moment in your carreer?

PB: A point where I can listen to what I play as if if I was a different person. My fretboard starts to make a lot of sense and I feel freeer in my rendition of music, but there is still plenty or room for progression and my best work is still yet to come.

Can you still be moved?

PB: The answer to that strange question is into listening to my albums and all the heart and soul I put into what I do.

Do you still study?

PB: Every day: interprations, writing, arrangements, technical practice, improv. I love studying and working at it. I am always in a writing/working/playing mode.

What do you think about the new techniques apllied to the acoustic guitar? I am refering to tapping , percussion and so on ....

PB: Guitar is such an open instrument... It would be very easy to lose oneself into new techniques and approaches. It's still very exciting to invest that potential as long as you have a musical intention and project. I relay first on the music I imagine and how I could get it to be played and exist. that's already quite challenging in terms of finding the according techniques and making the appropriate choices.

What are you doing at the moment?

PB: Writing new pieces, practicing my tunes, improv a lot and preparing to go on tour to France, Canada and Ireland, and then take a big vacation in the French Basque Land. Vacation for me means lots of music playing and rides in the country and mountains.

Which guitars do you own, your electronics...?

PB: Even, I have had several electrics, including a synth guitar, I have owned and played just one S22 Lowden guitar for 25 years. The "Queen Lady" is now retiring, but still very fresh and dangerously exciting to play and has signed off with "Intuite" which I have recorded with. Now I am focussing onto my brand new Kevin Ryan Signature Model which I have been playing 18 months and is on its way to become a fantastic instrument. All the solo tracks of Altiplanos were entirely recorded with it. I also own a Nylon string Signature Model designed by Juan Miguel Carmona, a luthier from Granada. My guitars are equipped with B-Band. I also use a AS100 D marshall Electro-Acoutsic Amplifire at times and on stage, I also use TC Electronics effect devices, such as EQ (TC 1128) and Reverb (a M4000) + a volume pedal.

Name you favourite guitarists. Three at least !

PB: Paco De Lucia Egberto Gismonti John McLaughlin Ralph Towner Ry Cooder Lenny Breau Leo Kottke Django Reinhardt

Do you know italian guitarist? PB: I know Bepe Gambetta and a few others but am not really familiar with their work.

What would be your advice to a young guitarist, just starting and wanting to make of music his life?

PB: To not be impressed with technique only, the good and undispensable servant, but rather to make up their opinion by listening to and "visualizing" the ideas. Finally, to recognise what is their music and work the according techniques. He or she would need to do a lot of hear training, study chords, scales, harmony and play following an inner idea and apply it onto the instrument. That's the best way to learn a polyvalent technique. Also to look into the Classical and Flamanco techniques which constitute a treasure of ways of doing things in the most ergonomical way. For me, what is said from within, in tri-dimensions, matured to the point of reaching other people's soul, is what's impressive, virtuosity beeing always used along the way.

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