I first saw François R. Cambuzat as one-half of Putan Club alongside bassist Gianna Greco. The gig (and François) was intense, noisy, dark and a whole lot of other adjectives, including “committed”, to music and honesty. With projects including Trans-Aeolian Transmission, Machine Rouge, and L’Enfance Rouge plus a touring schedule that takes him from Europe to China, to Africa, and all kinds of in-between places, François practically lives ‘on the road’ and in the nether regions of the internet. He also has an attitude towards music-making that is quite inspirational in this corporate century…
1. Name an experience that contributed to your becoming a musician?
The dissensions and disagreements, the existing hatred between my parents, which reigned at home during my early adolescence brought me to find a family somewhere else. Then the power of an amp, and the feeling of revolution that rock & punk had drove me to become a musician. Maybe the main experience was one afternoon back from school, finding my mother banging her head on the wall. Then I ran away from home at sixteen, diving into music, first in London, then New York, Caracas, Tunis, Heifei, Dushambe, and more.
In times of early adolescence, music and literature were defined as nice ways to travel, as far as possible. It worked out.
2. A lot of labels have been applied to your music, including “avant-garde”, “post-punk”, “industrial”, etc. – all of which imply a rejection of and by the mainstream; how do you find and reach an audience for your work?
Obviously I don’t agree with any of these labels. I claim the right to love Haino Keiji or Olivier Messiaen then Die Antwoord or Bring me the Horizon ten minutes after (I guess you can hear that in the Putan Club, from techno, punk and Berio, for example). There’s no rejection from my side, only the presence or not of duende makes the difference (that’s also why, after being deeply interested in improvised music, I started to hate it and its performers: during one hour and a half of onanism, maybe we have five minutes of transcendence). Then, I never thought in terms of reaching anybody. I had quite early the feeling that life would be too short to experience all that I wanted, from classical to Uyghur music. The motto came quite soon: doing what I wanted, where I wanted, with who I wanted, and how I wanted. A bad thing, careerwise: I was always somewhere else. But I love it. I’m performing at huge festivals as well as little informal venues in Tajikistan. I really am living a fantastic life. But poor and precarious: out of the mainstream business of avant-garde, world, punk or pop music.
If you were then asking in terms of logistics, six years ago I started to do everything by myself, from communication/promotion to booking, sending to hell the agencies I was working with. I’m definitively doing better, with an average of 250 concerts every year, all over the world I love, from Africa to Central Asia, China or Europe. Then why are people coming to my concerts ? I really don’t know. Nor relatively care. I know that we love each other.
Then my favourite test for reaching an audience: to know it. I would throw any musician in a shabby fisherman’s café in the Gabes Gulf, with no electricity, no facilities, no nothing. Discovering if the so-called artist, from punk to jazz, can give an emotion for more than ten minutes. I really do believe in the social responsibility of all of us.
“To be an artist is a choice that we settle first of all at an essential level: either we choose to express the conservative structures [avant-garde, punk, jazz or whatthefuckever: because any released music IS in the dirty game] of the society and we are content with being a robot in the hands of the power, or we act for and with the progressive components of this society (the people) to try to establish a revolutionary relationship between art and life.” –Gian Maria Volonté.
3. You focus almost exclusively on live performances and have comparatively little recorded material – what’s the attraction of the live venue over the recording studio?
There’s a lot of recording material. I’m recording almost every day. Your problem is that this material is for free and hidden on the web (the interested ones have to work & sweat a bit to find it). With no conventional promotion. It prevents me losing time in communication and label-hunting fellatio. That was a decision taken 6 years ago: trying to not release anything anymore, avoiding the media AND performing everywhere I wanted, from Western festivals to other worlds. Freedom is here. And it’s a long time now that my ego has been satisfied and allowed me to not have my little name printed on a piece of plastic or paper for sale. Every honest artist can tell you that beside 5,000 sold copies, a cd/vinyl/media is paying for few kebabs and some gas on tour, not a lot more. So what’s the use? And of course I have to say that I’m absolutely not coming from a rich family. Nobody is supporting me, and my work is paying rent, bills, food & education for my daughter.
4. There’s a strong sense of political agitation in what you do; how has that influenced your approach to music ?
It has been the contrary: music leads me to travel, then travelling leads me to meet thousands of people. Injustice is at the corner, everywhere. My anal political virginity had been broken. Democracy nowadays is bullshit. I know that we should kill them all, there’s no way to talk and interfere anymore. Then there is Inclusive Democracy. Maybe. I’m not a tourist in this world. I love travelling for the people, not the landscapes. Can’t close my brain.
5. You tour a lot in Africa and Asia; what do you think of the music scenes there compared to Europe?
When then countries are rich it’s exactly the same horrors as here, with avant-garde churches, punk abbeys or pop cathedrals, all of them based on greedy feelings. I like the musical scenes of the Pamir or the Bektashis. And what you should know about them is already badly written on Wikipedia, and it’s enough. The rest of the knowledge will come from the buckets you are willing to sweat to reach them.
6. Where do you stand on the streaming/downloading/file-sharing/musicians-not-getting-paid-for-their-music debate?
Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!! Them little wankers!!!!!!!!
7. If money and time were no object, what would your next project be?
Financing a project of international revolution. And change the tires of my car.
“The World rots in a well-being which is only egoism, stupidity, lack of education, gossip, moralism, constraint, conformity: to contribute in any way to this decay is, maintaining, the fascism.” –Pier Paolo Pasolini, in Vie Nuove n. 36, 6 settembre 1962.
(From the Djerid desert, Tunisia, August 2015, working with the Sidi Marzûg Banga.)
Normally, at this point, I’d throw out a bunch of links to recordings online but, as François says, you should “work & sweat a bit to find it…” Still, here are a few breadcrumbs to start you on the trail:
Putan Club: http://www.putanclub.org/intro.html
Trans-Aeolian Transmission: http://www.trasportimarittimi.net/trans-aeolian_transmission.html
L’Enfance Rouge: http://www.enfancerouge.net/intro.html