ANTOINE FAFARD
Occultus Tramitis
(Unicorn Digital)

 

Although the record company name is Unicorn Digital, the label run by progressive guitar hero Michel St. Pere actually makes great CDs, complete with amazing looking artwork and snappy looking discs. Case in point is a fantastic 2013 CD release by composer / bass player Antoine Fafard entitled Occultus Tramitis. One of the top jazz-rock bass players and instrumental music composers in the world today, Antoine turned heads around with his stellar musicianship in the group Spaced Out, who released some excellent albums on Unicorn during the last decade. That said, Antoine fulfills his sonic mission with his second solo album. Antoine’s greatest musical statement as a solo artist to date, Occultus Tramitis is superbly packaged with eye-popping album art and the music inside is white hot too, filled with solid performances featuring Antoine backed up by a range of players including ex-Group 87 drummer Terry Bozzio, the great Jerry Goodman, drummer Simon Phillips and more. Although Antoine plays bass and also guitar, he gets solid backup from other fine ax men including Scott Henderson, Jerry De Villiers Jr. and George Hayes. An hour of high-powered instrumental fusion music, Occultus Tramitis is a dynamic, superbly recorded album of 21st century jazz rock at its finest. www.AntoineFafard.com / www.UnicornRecords.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
ANTOINE FAFARD


mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like most about it?

ANTOINE FAFARD: I’m originally from Montreal Canada, but now live in London England. London is a city where a lot is happening on many levels. And there’s always something interesting going on artistically.

mwe3: When did you start on the bass guitar and the guitar? What were your early years of studying music, the bass and the guitar like and how has your sound, compositional style and overall sonic vision changed over the years? Can you remember your first guitars?

ANTOINE FAFARD: I began to play the classical guitar at the age of 11. My first guitar was a Takamine... Actually my last guitar was also a Takamine as I recently purchased one! I switched to the electric bass at 15 which has been my main instrument since. In the recent years, I have reacquainted myself with the classical guitar mainly to help in the creative process. Sylvain Bolduc and Denis Labrosse are bass teachers I studied with who have both influenced me greatly. I thought I’d pay tribute to them on my recent album by inviting them on a bass trio piece entitled “Tree O” which they both collaborated on.

I listened to a wide variety of music growing up and I’m still eclectic in my choice today, so I guess that my compositional style reflects that. I’ve always been fascinated by improvisation and the music I compose has always room for it.

mwe3: Your 2013 CD is titled Occultus Tramitis. You say in the CD liner notes, the title actually means “Hidden Track”. What does the title signify to you, how did the album come together and over the period of time, where and when was the music written and recorded?

ANTOINE FAFARD: The title was inspired by the photograph on the cover which was taken by Jean-Pierre Dodel who is an old friend of mine. It also represents that the music I create is, like it is for most independent musicians, hidden from mainstream news / music outlets. It doesn’t have a lot of visibility. Some of my listeners perhaps accidentally found what I do which is like finding something that was hidden.

I started to work on Occultus Tramitis not long after my previous album Solus Operandi was released in August 2011. It took nearly two years to complete Occultus, which is roughly the time it normally takes me to start and finish an album project. The music was all composed in my home studio where I also recorded my own tracks. The tracks from my collaborators where are recorded in their respective home studios.

mwe3: Occultus Tramitis is a superstar filled CD. What was it like working with Jerry Goodman of Mahavishnu Orchestra? How did you meet Jerry and how did he inspire to bring your music to another level on the CD?

ANTOINE FAFARD: I basically approached all the collaborators on the CD via e-mails. Jerry Goodman’s contribution had an incredible impact of the overall sound of the album. His tone and his playing are second to none and it elevated the melodic aspect to another level. The first track he recorded for me was “Holding Back Time” which also features Terry Bozzio. Once I knew that Jerry was onboard, I then composed additional pieces specifically for him. It was such an honor for me to have him and all the other great players performing my music! One of thrills I have is to receive a track from a collaborator and listen to it for the first time... it can’t be described!

mwe3: Can you tell us who plays electric guitars on the Occultus Tramitis CD and how did you choose the different guitar players to work with you on certain tracks?

ANTOINE FAFARD: Scott Henderson plays on “The Chamber”, Jerry De Villiers Jr. plays on “Sum Of Six” while George Hayes plays on “Slydian”. Whichever instrument I write for, I sometimes I have a specific player in mind while I compose a song. Other times, I simply compose a piece and then think about who would be good on it. I didn’t have a preconceived idea of how many songs should have an electric guitar solo. It turned out that only three of the 11 tracks on the CD feature some lead guitar.

mwe3: There’s also some excellent drummers on the Occultus Tramitis CD including Simon Phillips and Terry Bozzio, who are both legends of the jazz-rock world and in Terry’s case, the rock world too. Can you say something about the variety of drummers that are featured on the Occultus Tramitis and what they brought to the CD?

ANTOINE FAFARD: I describe Occultus Tramitis a little bit like a drum fest! It was amazing to have all those players agreeing to play my music. I’m a big fan of drummers and it was important for me to have great players who I admire and who I knew would do a terrific job. The drummer can make a huge impact on the end result of a piece being responsible to hold everything together as far as groove, time and musicality.

mwe3: Can you tell us which basses and guitars you played on the Occultus Tramitis CD? How about amps and other devices you use to color your sound? What kind of sonic programming did you feature on the CD?

ANTOINE FAFARD: I used my Sei Bass 6-strings fretless on nine tracks and my fretted 6-strings made by the same London-based luthier on two. I plugged the bass to a Boss GT-6B which was itself connected to a Genz Benz amp. I recorded the direct signal as well as miking the amp. I didn’t use anything else to color the sound other than adding some reverb in some key sections. As far as programming, I use Spectrasonic’s Omnisphere and Stylus RMX a lot.

mwe3: The new CD sounds great. Who else was involved in the behind the scenes, mixing, mastering, engineering to give the album that bright, sparkling kind of sound and can you say something about the eye-popping artwork and design of the album / CD art?

ANTOINE FAFARD: Dave Weckl and Gavin Harrison provided a stereo mix of their tracks. Other than those two drum tracks, which were really great, I mixed the whole thing myself. The mastering was done by Richard Addison in Montreal. As far as the cover, I tweaked the railroad track photo taken by my friend Jean-Pierre myself as well as designing the whole digipak, CD and booklet.

mwe3: With you in London was it a big challenge to record with such a range of players who were situated in different continents around the planet? What kind of technology do you use to bring about those kind of sonic breakthroughs that were unheard of just a decade or two ago?

ANTOINE FAFARD: The fact that I’m based in London doesn’t change the recording process for my albums. I would use the same approach wherever I’d be in the world. I’m of course not against recording with other players in the same room. I simply don’t see the fact that the players I want to work who are spread around the world... as a challenge to what I want to achieve. High speed internet has completely revolutionized the way collaborations can be made. I’m aware that what I do now wouldn’t have been possible when I began to compose and record music. Possibilities are now endless!

mwe3: What’s new on Unicorn Records and who are some of your favorite Unicorn artists? What was it like recording the last Mystery CD, The World Is A Game and can you say something about the group in general? Not many bands can claim to have a former member of YES in the lineup!

ANTOINE FAFARD: I’m not completely aware of the music that Unicorn has been releasing lately so I couldn’t comment. My contribution to Mystery’s last CD was a fun thing to do. I don’t get asked a lot to do this sort of thing so it was an interesting challenge. The fact that Benoît was in YES for a few years definitely helped the band!

mwe3: What have you got planned for 2013 and 2014 as far as writing, recording and performing goes. What new musical adventures do you have your sights set on for the future?

ANTOINE FAFARD: I have my trio here in London with whom I recently played music from my two albums. One of our shows was recorded/filmed and I intend to make that available shortly on YouTube. There are possibilities to play live in music festivals in 2014. I’m also working on new music... I will actually try to work closely with Montreal-based Jerry De Villiers Jr. who I think is a fantastic guitarist who deserves to be heard a lot more. Stay tuned… new music coming up soon!

Thanks to Antoine Fafard @ www.AntoineFafard.com











 

 
   
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