Bruno Pitch

Bruno Pitch is a Chapman Stick player, originally guitarist coming out from France. We talked about his musical background, as well as his work on the Crystal Garden album, the instrument and future plans.

Nick: Hello, Bruno! Would you mind telling us more about your musical background, your early beginnings in music?

Bruno: Hello, talking about my beginnings in music is an interesting thing as I’m not considering myself as a conventional musician. I started to play guitar at the age of 14, at this time I had no idea of what was a metronome or the fact a guitar must be tuned! Instead of caring about these things I just started to compose my own tunes, and the first thing I played was a creation. As you can imagine listen today to this music can be horrible, but the most important thing was the creation process, not the technique.

Nick: For many people you are known as a Chapman Stick player, but originally you are a guitarist. What is it that pulled you off to start playing and composing on the Chapman Stick? What this instrument in particular provides you comparing to the „classic“ guitar?

Bruno: Well, I’ve never been a cover specialist, so I always preferred to compose on guitar than practicing famous tunes, and the big frustration in this process was that I had to record guitars chords, then bass lines, and finally the melody. The first time (in 1993) I heard some Stick music was from an album of Jim Lampi (one of the best players in the world), and I thought… incredible! A string instrument with you can play bass and guitar simultaneously!  And the sound was so unique… At this time I was considering playing this kind of instrument was for me an impossible thing, so I didn’t think about looking for one. Finally in 2004 I decided to buy one, and it radically changed my way in playing music. Now it was possible to play simultaneously chords on left hand and melodies with the other hand. Another fact with this instrument is the natural sound you get, just straight to the amp with or without effects it sounds great. Since this time I don’t play guitar anymore, I’m filling at home with the Stick.

Nick: As you might’ve mentioned above, during late 80′s and in early 90′s you was involved in a hard rock band called Wisdom? Are there any recordings from that period? What were your main inspirations at the time?

Bruno: Unfortunately we didn’t go to the necessary level for recording an album, but it was for me a great period, we were composing in a heavy metal atmosphere, our influences were Metallica, Rush, Loudness, Van Halen… We loved to insert some prog parts in our songs but at this period I didn’t know the ‘progressive’ naming.

Nick: Later, you expanded your musical sights and, let’s say, you progressed coming to the jazz subgenre which is today a significant part of your music. Where does it come from?

Bruno: Well, in 1993 I went to a French music school (the actual M.A.I. in Nancy) to improve my ‘metal’ guitar technique, and there I met many musicians coming from various genres like metal, jazz, song, funk and so more. At this time I started to practice some jazz standards and continue now on the Stick, of course I’m not a real jazz player, but with a single jazz song you can work on all of the aspects of an instrument: chords, accompaniment, melody, rhythm, soloing… So in my music I think a natural jazz color can appear in the way I play, but it comes naturally not intentionally.

Nick: Would you tell something more about the tapping technique used on the Chapman Stick?

Bruno: There are so many things to tell about tapping. First when I started 7 years ago, I thought it was limited in the variety ofsounds you can produce, now I can say that every week I discover new way to play ,it’s infinite, one life is not enough to learn to play this instrument! Then the Stick is not the only tapping instrument, these last years many tap-guitars were produced by other great luthiers, but the Stick is something special, an unique sound. Tapping players’ community is like a family, we are not so many, so it’s very easy to meet a famous player, I often go tapping seminars, where I can learn, play and talk with great players, each one has developed his own technique, each one is unique, that’s impressive. There are people coming from bass world: they can play crazy bass licks on the Stick, people who play keyboards : they are easy with the independence aspect…

Nick: Magic Street, an instrumental funk project originated in 2007 and it came up as a collaboration between you, the drummer Guix Hure and the bassist Boris Nicolik. Was that sort of a tendency to do something new and try new musical subgenre in an ever-evolving process or you strictly knew what do you want to produce?

Bruno: Magic Street was first created by Boris with Guix, they were looking for a guitarist, I called them and said: “I’m a guitarist but now, I play only on a Stick “, so they said “Ok why not , but what’s a Stick?”. The goal of this band was to produce funk music, but it quickly turned into a prog band, it was a very intense period, we were composing together mixing various influences from funk, psychedelic, metal, rock genres. The funny aspect for me is I was playing with a bassist, so I didn’t have to use the bass side of the Stick and try to use it as a guitar.

Nick: Crystal Garden was released in 2010, signed by yourself and as it’s stated in your biography it’s an album dedicated to the Chapman Stick. How was to work on the album? What inspired you?

Bruno: In first I only wanted to record some ideas coming on the Stick at home, so I thought to use some drum loops libraries to make recordings on my computer. Then after the Magic Street experience I contacted Guix saying him I wanted to try my compositions with a real drummer, and after some rehearsals I discovered the tunes were sounding really better than I could suppose. So I decided to record with him, and the project became more serious at the point I chose to record in a real studio. We attached great importance in the drums recording process, Didier Lamaze (the sound engineer) did a great work. The inspiration is an easy thing for me, I always compose, it’s natural. But the more difficult aspect is when you have to choose what to keep or what to throw out, that’s where the presence of another musician is important, he can bring a new fresh ear on your sounds and suggest you to develop things that would not do alone.

Nick: There is an omnipresent feeling that on the Crystal Garden you are flirting with different elements, but the core of the album is rooted in progressive rock. Where does it come from?

Bruno: I guess the rock aspect come from my metal past years and the playing of Guix. For the progressive thing, I think it’s something personal, I’ve got a fanciful attitude inside me. I think we should not keep away our childhood in the past, to have a little crazy attitude is a secret of balance for our lives, Franck Zappa knew that, he was a master.

Nick: I can’t avoid a question about the song Karachi, which is personally my favorite track off the album, adorned by Mid-Eastern influence weighed excellently on the Chapman and Tabla. What do you think about employing such Mid-Eastern motifs in the genres such progressive rock / fusion jazz? I find it as absolutely something that could be described as the crown in the making of music.

Bruno: Well this song was originally played with my friend Breme Coumarin who is born in South of India where he learned the tabla playing. I listen to many different genres of music and like to mix these influences coming from other cultures, sometimes when people see the Stick for the first time, they ask me: “Is this an traditional indian instrument ?” probably due to his aspect remaining the sitar or something like that… Personally I can’t conceive music in only one restrictive genre, for me it needs to mix influences, cultures and genres, it’s like cooking, in France we have a famous cooking,  but this traditional cooking include many influences from other continents most of them were brought by the past conquerors.

Nick: What are the latest news coming from the Bruno Pitch camp? Are you working on any new projects? Can we expect a new album some time soon?

Bruno: We are now recording demos for the next album, it will be more produced. There will be strings arrangements by Célia Picciocchi a french violinist and keyboards, parts by Steve Gresswell an english musician. So it will not be a Stick focused album, but it will sound more like a band. We tried to find a singer for this project but didn’t find the right person, so it will be another instrumental album, I’m not disappointed for that, I like the instrumental aspect too.

Nick: Is there anything you would love to add to this interview that I didn’t cover in my questions?

Bruno: Yes just a message to everyone: be creative, be yourself!

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

1 Comment

  1. Gary Lacey

    November 11, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I’d never seen or even heard of that instrument before. I watched the video of Bruno playing it and I was so impressed that I checked out the prices but it’s outside my price range.

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