Secret Agent
(Broken Silence / DMG Germany) featured the 2013 CD by Philippe Caillat-Grenier called Surf Jazz Twist For Horse Riding Heroes and he puts a new twist on his space age surf-jazz guitar twist sound with the 2017 CD release of Secret Agent. The all-original ten track CD was recorded over the past two years and it's truly a unique merger of jazzy guitar technique played with a kind of 21st century retro-surf instrumental groove. Philippe isn’t poking fun at the time honored instro surf genre, he’s just combining it with heavy jazz and also Nashville style country twang ala Chet Atkins. Surf rock fans who enjoyed his 2013 Horse Riding Heroes CD, may not be aware of Caillat’s unique repertoire of albums from the past 35 years but they’re all still well worth hearing. Philippe's English language skills aren't excellent, which stands in contast to his mastery of instro rock music, and especially the retro style and sound of legends like The Ventures and The Shadows. Speaking to about the inspiration behind his last two "Surf Jazz Twist" albums, Philippe explains, "This style of music forces the composition to give the impression of simplicity and minimalism. I love this era of the 1950’s and ‘60s, which gives a joy of life." Since 2013 Philippe has acquired an insatiable appetite for creating music that say, Joe Meek and Hank Marvin would approve of. Some of Caillat’s sonic ideas for his past two albums look back on Meek’s groundbreaking early 1960s work with The Tornados way back when. With one excellent track after the next, Secret Agent jettisons Philippe Caillat-Grenier’s sonic retro guitar vision into the heart of the 21st century. presents an interview with
The Secret Agent Interview

: Is your surf-jazz sound turning into a kind of ongoing musical series? It seems like with both your Horse Riding Heroes album and now with Secret Agent you’ve tapped into an interesting musical vein for guitar players to aspire to. Are you bringing back the Hank Marvin guitar sound back to the music world of 2017?

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: This is the feeling I had during that period. Can it be for the next one? This style of music forces the composition to give the impression of simplicity, and minimalism. I love this era of the 1950’s and ‘60s, which gives a joy of life.

mwe3: Who played with you on the album? Did you change the band sound around on Secret Agent and who did the engineering, mixing and mastering? You must have had some specific ideas about the sound this time.

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: The bassist is new, Mr. Gérard Carbonnel while the drummer remained the same with Alex Vesper. The studio also remained Recall Studio in France as well as the sound engineer
Philippe Gaillot, who had a big influence in the realization of the sound of this album! For the sound this time we chose less reverb and more direct.

mwe3: “Blue Fields” is a great way to start the Secret Agent album off. The song chords are interesting in that it’s a very circular type of composition. Sounds like you dropped the fans in the deep end right away!

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: In this piece it takes minimum of 3 guitar harmonics and the rhythmic work is very important! To have this sound there is a harmonic part in the low strings and another in medium and rhythmic high strings that returns later.

mwe3: How about your song “Ghosts”? “Ghosts” has a great air-like effect, almost weightless like a ghost!

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: I imagined two ghosts who pursued it, pushed by the wind!

mwe3: Does “Let’s Go” show your American country style guitar picking roots? How influenced were you by Nashville and what country music guitarists influenced you?

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: I always had a great respect for all those pioneers of blues-rock and country. There are too many to quote them and I fear after forgetting.

mwe3: Another favorite on Secret Agent is “Sparkling Pants”. It has a late 1970s Shadows beat, almost disco yet the song has great energy. Do I detect a kind of “Hotel California” circular chord sequence?

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: Your analysis and perfect super bass super drums. Disco pants and glitter!

mwe3: “Obsessions” sounds like the name of Bond film theme song. What were some of your favorite Bond movies or other movie soundtracks influenced your guitar playing?

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: “Goldfinger”. I love the composition!

mwe3: “Beatrice” has a kind of Santo & Johnny effect. Were you going for a kind of retro NYC circa 1961 kind of sound? That kind of polarization between the hard jazzers and the burgeoning, early rock and roll scene.

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: Yes that was my inspiration for a declaration of Love to Beatrice. The same parts of the guitars are very precise to replace the pizzicato violins.

mwe3: “Wild Horse” is a cool track. Does that track get back to your western cowboy influence? Is there a kind of Bollywood effect on that song?

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: Once again Robert you saw just that is exactly the right analysis!

mwe3: How about “Happy Cats”? That’s another song that has a kind of cool retro bop, Les Paul effect on it.

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: It pays tribute to Arthur Smith and Les Paul and the joy of the 1950s and ‘60s and a group called The Wild Cats. The Wild Cats were a rock 'n' roll twist group in the 1960s. (In Français: Les Chats Sauvages )

mwe3: The title track “Secret Agent” is one of your best. Did you set out to make a kind of action type theme song. I imagine every country, France included, had their own spy movies and TV shows back in 1960s!

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: Yes it is all these series and the films where there are always beautiful car chases with many tensions!

mwe3: It seems like you can’t break free of the 1950s on the CD closer “Romantic Lover”. It’s very much rooted in that 1961 sound as well. It’s just amazing how well you combine your famous jazz-rock guitar sound within the realm of Santa & Johnny meets Hank Marvin sound that Secret Agent does so well.

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: This is the feeling I had in this period. As I told you I love this time, and I do not know yet or if the wind will push me, but there is a lot of musical direction but I let life make me move!

mwe3: Last time you played the Fender Relic Jazzmaster a lot on Horse Riding Heroes. Were the same guitars used on Secret Agent and were any new guitars or guitar sounds added this time? Are you listening to any new music these days by other guitarists or artists?

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: No change, it has remained Fender Jazz Master, Fender Telecaster, Fender Baritone Sub Sonic and Fender Stratocaster. I listen to everything and mostly classic music and when I'm in the car I love Mozart! In the world of guitar there are many very great performers in all styles. For me music is like painting with infinite colors.

mwe3: Some fans just started listening to you after Twist For Horse Riding Heroes album and now with Secret Agent they might not be fully aware of your vast output of music going back 35 years at least right? Also would you consider doing a double disc box set to put your career into perspective? Looking back on the early years, what were some of your favorite solo albums that you made over the years? Secret Agent is like a trip through time so I hope there will be more!

Philippe Caillat-Grenier: Make a double or triple disk? I've already thought that. My favorite albums are three last Opposites Attract, Twist For Horse Riding Heroes and Secret Agent. Yes, looking back I had the chance to do real-time evolution of the different musical styles. Of course, I will continue to make albums if the inspiration is there. This and another story…


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