J.C. Satàn's Five-Piece French Fuzz
Straight outta Bordeaux, France, comes a piping hot flume of garage, psychedelia, and rock in the form of five-piece J.C. Satàn. Forget Bordeaux's wine. Yeah, we know the soil, the conditions, and the châteaus there are prime for growing chic grape vines. Whatever. The flume's over here, with songs about dragons and morning-after sex in a drug haze. We've got Paula on vocals, Arthur on guitar and vocs, Ali on bass, Romain on drums, and Dorian on keyboard. The band's sound stems from Arthur's guitar. He doles crisp hooks, solos, and churns through distorted rhythm. Paired with Paula, they have a '60s-tinged he/she moxie. Live, the quintet rips through dark, prog-grated pop with punk-sodden up-tempo bursts. They have range as well, dipping into slower, pensive, psyched-out serenades. Look for J.C. Satàn releases out on Slovenly, Teenage Menopause, and Azbin Records. And put down your sauvignon blanc blah blah. Or dump it on a writhing pile of flesh and love and fuzz pedals. The band spoke from Bordeaux. No one writhed, I don't think.
What's up, Satàns? What's up, Bordeaux? Ali: It's noon, I just woke up. I'm in my room doing this interview 'cause I want to practice my English before going to the USA tomorrow.
Paula: I'm in bed, too. I can't wait to leave to come to the States.
Romain: I'm drinking Belgian beer and searching the internet for a floor tom and a snare to buy when we will be in LA.
Arthur: I'm actually finishing a drawing for an album cover in my room. I'm missing a good gig in the town because I'm fuuucking slow, and I'm listening to Nashville Pussy and Al Green. Weird combo.
Let's get into your song "Dragons." You're running away? Is the dragon death? P: "Dragons" is about a dream I had some time ago after taking some MDMA before going to sleep. The kind of dream you wake up from and you feel was really long and really real. I discovered the real heaven, and it was actually underground. After being in a really crowded and smoky room, like a discotheque, you can go outside of it and you're in a paradise. But there was a forbidden zone—the dragon's zone. If you decided to go to see the dragons, you would definitively die, forever. I mean, after dying on earth, you could live forever in the heaven, if you would like to. Or you could go to see the dragons and die, die forever.
What have you been dreaming about lately? P: I’ve been dreaming about people being mean, or sad stuff, like my boyfriend cheating on me or being put aside by my band. Often, I’m arguing with Arthur, and in the dream I can’t talk or scream, people aren’t listening to me, and many times I can’t go onstage. I guess those are my most common fears, going a little bit too far. I don’t think friends can be so mean like in my dreams.
Ali: I dreamt that an old gypsy woman was trying to kill me with a pair of scissors in my bathroom. She opened my arm in two parts. I dunno what that means, but it sucks.
Where did you record "Dragons"? Who produced? What distortion pedals do you like to use? Arthur: We record everything at home. And we produced everything ourselves, Dorian and I. I'll record guitars and bass in my room, then premix it to give an idea of the song. After that, Dorian does the drums on his computer. Yeah, no real drums. I used a homemade tube preamp/distortion to record. I also have a homemade Big Muff, a terrible Filthy Fuzz by Benfox, a Fuzz Warr Overload, and an Octafuzz by Fulltone. I will also have my own Satan Fuzz soon. It's a kind of big classic fuzz, but with a cool gate on it. Like the fuzz sound on "Trouble" by the Music Machine, but so much bigger.
Describe the philosophy behind Hell Death Samba. P: Hell Death Samba is a prayer, inspired by Carmina Burana. As you can read, it's a sort of invocation, like a song to sing for this Death Samba—kind of a goddess or queen of the darkness, corruption, and hate. Even if it's dark, it's also really joyful, like you are really happy giving your morals and your soul to the evil.
You guys say you're not a garage band. You say you're more lo-fi pop and rock. Why is it incorrect to say you're garage? Arthur: It's garage only because of the lo-fi sound or the wild gigs. But the songs are deeply pop. It's just a kind of classic American rock. There's no '60s style, no Reatards, Oblivians, or Gories, none of those references. I mean, my favorite band is the Beatles. For me, garage is just a kind of additive, something you put in your music. You can play pop, grunge, techno, and put some garage on it. Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Night Beats, Feeling of Love, Jack of Heart, all these garage bands are playing rock. It's like, today, when a band is playing an exciting new rock, everybody says it's garage! [Laughs] No, man, it's just a fucking new exciting rock band, don't try to put a name on it. It seems that these days, garage is the new rock.
I've heard that Paula is a good cook. P: Yes! I'm originally from Italy. The best food is the Italian food. With four ingredients, we can cook for a wedding and make sure that it is the best lunch of your life. Once I did a cassoulet, or better said, I tried to do, and apparently it wasn’t really well done, even if the taste was delicious. People are still breaking my balls about it, after two years. Like “Oh, she’s a good chef, but don’t ask her to cook the cassoulet.” [Laughs] Annoying.
What are your favorite American foods? P: I've never been in the States, so I don't know, but I'm really curious about the American Mexican food. I like to read blogs about cooking, and these American Mexican recipes look delicious. I can't wait to taste the American enchiladas, taquitos, or burritos. I'm kind of curious about mac and cheese, too, never had it in my life. I feel like, besides hot dogs or hamburgers, there isn’t a real USA cuisine. But I can’t wait to experience it.
We fry everything. Have you ever eaten a fried Twinkie? Or a fried Snickers? Ali: I watch Man v. Food, and man, that guy would be able to fry your parents and then eat them [laughs].
P: The fried food is the one I like the least, aside from french fries.
Arthur: There’s a video on YouTube about a sort of pizza, with cheeseburgers and tacos.
Do they fry things in France and put them on a stick? Like a fried éclair on a stick? Ali: They fry things in France, but not so much as in your country.
R: Fried food is more popular in the north of France; we are from the southwest.
So are there fried éclairs on a stick there? Wait until you have a fried Whatchamacallit bar. It's going to blow your fucking mind. R: What is a fried éclair? I don't get it.
Arthur: How can you fry an éclair? You can't fry chocolate. What is a Whatchamacallit bar? If I say, in France we have Tapettipoudoudidou candies, do you trust me? [Laughs]
What's Bordeaux like? Ali: Bordeaux is beautiful. I lived in Tuscany most part of my life, and then in Bordeaux. Everywhere in France, the architecture is so different.
R: Bordeaux is not a really big city, so it's peaceful. And when it's not raining, it's really cool to go outside, have a drink with friends, and hang out at cool gigs. The music scene is really good here. It’s really close to the beach, too, 45 minutes by car, so when it’s sunny, it’s really nice to live here.
What are some bands and music in Bordeaux that we should know about? Ali: Magnetix, Year of no Light, Lonely Walk, and Kap Bambino.
R: Lispector—this girl lived in New York in the past and she made tons of records by herself. She is a genius. KissKiss Karate Passion, Arthur mixed their last LP. It's a masterpiece.
Arthur: Destination Lonely, the band I'm missing tonight, sadly, but they are not all from Bordeaux. Complications—pure classic real garage band for me.
Where are your favorite places in America? And why? Ali: I think my favorite place is the South, the Louisiana and the Florida. I want to go to New Orleans because of the music. I'm a blues fan.
R: I have been two times to America. The first time was in New York, and it was really cool, but I only stayed a few days. The other time I made a road trip from Denver to the West Coast and San Francisco. Driving though the desert is fucking awesome, and American parks are great. Your trees are so big. I'd love to discover Louisiana, too!
Arthur: After seven tours in the US, I like Big Sur. The sequoia forest was nice. A little bit hippie, but nice.
Where are your least favorite places in America? R: When we drove though Utah and Wyoming, I felt really sad [laughs].
Do you know about American wrestling? Ali: I love Hulk Hogan. I like wrestling. I used to watch it when I had the TV.
In your song "There's No Goodness in Her World," Paula sings about keeping a secret. What's the secret? P: This song is totally inspired by Twin Peaks from David Lynch. It's talking about Laura Palmer. Bobby Briggs was talking with Doctor Jacoby about her. He said that there is no goodness in the world.
Arthur, how are you getting your tones there? What’s the vocal effect? Arthur: I used some cold sounds on it. I think I recorded two lead guitars and used a fast tremolo on one. I always put some fuzz somewhere, and the secret for me is that I like to mix the bass round and loud. And I always put a distortion or a fuzz on it, so the distortion of the bass is naturally mixed with the guitar’s distortions. You can create a massive and homogeneous sound like that. For Paula’s voice, we just doubled it and put a tremolo on one of the tracks.
You all recorded it in an old house in the medieval town of Tournai in Belgium. You gave yourselves two days to write and record, ballads only. Why these parameters? P: We were touring and had some days off in Belgium, and we asked our friends in the band Regal to host us these two days. We’ve been friends for a long time and wanted to do a split together. We were joking about doing some ballads, and then we just did it. We were on the veranda in front of the computer, and Regal were recording with real amps in the attic.
I have to ask about your name. You're not satanic, right? Ali: I don't practice any satanic rituals except to live in sin.
P: I don't believe in anything religious in general. But after living three years in the worst collective of Bordeaux, I think the devil exists.
R: I have a satanic laugh sometimes [laughs, nicely].
Arthur: I'm close to sacrificing the cat of my roommate, if it doesn't stop shitting everywhere...