jacques biography

I was born June 13th 1960 in Algiers, which was then a French department, just in the middle of the independence war. Algeria independence took place in June 1962, forcing all French families, including mine, to go back to mainland France. We chose Marseille, because of its very similar climate, featuring 364 sunny days for one rainy day, which is generally the day you planned a very important outside party.
My family counts numerous musician, including my Grandmother, who was an amateur opera soprano singer ,and my uncle Jean, who graduated from French conservatory in classical piano.There has always been a piano at home, and my mother could play a lot of tunes. Her way of playing chords and bass was the first thing I tried to emulate. Thanks to my uncle, there was a classical guitar and an accordion too, all these available for my early sonic experiments.  So , at the age of this picture, I was already able to make enough noise to drive a whole family upset.

My first brush with rock'n'roll was this record, which was presented to me for my 9th birthday by my aunt, certainly as a mistake. I was not able to listen to it until the next year, where the family record player  was eventually repaired. I brought the record, which was my only one, and the famous "Paint it black" sitar intro suddenly filled the air with electricity, making me instantly a rocker for life.

The very first real musical instrument I ever own: the mighty Eko Cantorum 44 organ, featuring bass pedals and electronic drum. The first night I could not sleep of excitement. I entered the Yamaha organ school , very similar to the Yamaha violin school, and started my serious musical education at the age of 13. It was a great school because they make you learn chords with the jazz notation -like CM7/9b- allowing easy gigs with any other jazz or rock musician, unlike classical music system.

And the independence between hands and feet was a great asset to think in terms of orchestration, as you have to play in the same time a melodic line, chords and bass line. However, this beast was VERY heavy , making gigs a nightmare and parents driving obligatory. This organ was anyway present at my first gig taking place at the high school auditorium ( Lycee Perier Marseille) , with my first band ever, The DEVILS, featuring my buddy Pierre playing EKO electric guitar plugged into the organ input, and Jean-Pierre on drums. We of course played "I can get no (satisfaction)" 3 times , what else?

Deep Purple "Who do we think we are" was the second electroshock. At that time, I was still an organ player, and what Jon Lord could do with his B3 completely amazed me, even if this was impossible to do with the Eko. But Ritchie guitar was so present here that I naturally felt the urge to learn the guitar too. At this point I bought my first guitar (if you except an horrible classical I almost slaughtered but putting high gauge steel strings on it) : an electro-acoustic 12 strings Melody. Sort of all-in-one guitar but you know the say: jack of all trades...

I don't know why. I just came in the music shop and bought the companion fuzz. I had no idea what this strange metal objet could do, but I had to buy it. Animal attraction. Love at first sight. Strangers in the night. I was even afraid that the salesman will not sell me the magic box because I did not possess the accurate gear. I was relieved and euphoric when I came out of the store with that weight in the bag. As soon as I could get home -walking- I just plugged the Melody in the Companion and the Companion in the Eko organ. And then, heaven just show its face in a squealing, exquisite, mother-running-in-the-room-neighbors-banging -on-the-wall feedback. My first distorted tone.The secret of the stars revealed to me by a 9v battery. Within the hour , all my school mates were in my room, enjoying the horrendous fuzz tone like Mozart "La flute enchantee" ouverture. I remember one of them saying "With a tone like this, you don't even need to learn guitar". He was sort of right: the "I can get no (satisfaction)" riff was not ridiculous anymore. We were electric guitarist at last and for good.

Anyway, the feedback due to the large acoustic body of the made in Italy 12 strings Melody, became quickly annoying. I knew it was time to buy a real electric guitar. I took advantage of a trip to Paris to have my parents buy me an electric guitar. I went to Pigalle, famous for music shops and nasty aging whores, and ,despite the salesman advice, bought this Ibanez standard Les Paul. And then I spent the next three days just watching it. No playing. Just watching.

Summer 1977. I just get my baccalaureat. I am 17. In July , my parents send me to the obligatory holidays in London, in an English family. What do you think I did then, between starving, being turned down by girls, hanging around nowhere and being smuggled by drunk proto-punks? Music shops of course. I bought this exact big muff. On a vintage point of view, I should better have bought an English pedal, but as a stompbox builder, this muff was really a milestone. By that time, I had already 5 prototypes home made distortion circuits, more or less working. But the big muff introduced a new notion to me: harmonics clipping, a somehow new technology in distortion circuits, giving that smooth, creamy tone , so pleasing to my ears.

June 1984. We are in Lausanne, Switzerland , just before my 24th birthday toga party, after a not-so-serious H.E.C. University graduating year.From left to right: Massimo (Max), Dennis, yours truly, Francesco and Fabio. Augusto, my drummer is not on the picture and I can't remember why. So here is the only pic I found. ( Yes, all those plastic glasses were filled and emptied).

Augusto and I , drums and vocal& keyboard, formed in our first year of University in Lausanne, a group/duo which really made the scene ( those who where at that famous gig in the "Lapin Vert" in the old town certainly remember that night ). We had no name when we started this, but end up with the "Week-end" moniker because of my ultra-local hit "Week-end in Cannes". Augusto is a great guitarist too, and he had a vintage strat that allowed me to play on old wood for the first time in my life. Too bad it was plugged in his home stereo.

Then came the mighty DX7. This keyboard really was a revolution and instantly put all guitars in the background. I bought it around 1985. 3 drafts, that animal was expensive. I was back in Marseille, and this lead to my 3rd important band, "Lou Grant", featuring my sidekick guitarist Pierre from my first group and Yves on Bass. Yves was no newcomer either as we first met in kindergarten at the time of the 1st pic on top, with the telephone. It is worth noting that Yves is still in the rock biz, and had some success with his alternative band "Les Edmonds" in the '90s. "Lou Grant" was great music but was plagued with technical problems on stage ( mis programmed drum machine, beer spilling, forgotten riffs, anorexic pa, etc...). A particularly lousy but cheerful gig at the "Corsair" - a former downtown striptease joint ,and believe me , in Marseille downtown really is downtown - ended this great band, leaving behind such gems as "Gagarine", "The Avengers", "Lost in the  stormy weather", "I belong" (an hommage to a former school mate, Jean-Marc who refuses to see us again no matter what ) and last but not least the x-rated romantic ballad "Swallow".


Pierre and Yves, Lou Grant vintage / Yves and yours truly Insects era.

Card shuffle. A few month later the 3 from "Lou Grant", after a 100% bison vodka night, gave birth to a new metal band that was supposed to revolution the "genre": "The Insects". Till today, French ears shivers to the sound of this name ( well not so many as we never made it to the stage).
Featuring Pierre on Ovation Viper electric, rockman ace and Peavey classic first version , Yves on drums (!) and Jacques on bass, The insects adventured in the melodic metal rock a la Aerosmith "Kings and Queens". Power songs as "Hulk", "Watermanor" or the dodecaphonic "Ride the thunder" are still praised now, and certainly influenced my latest solo works such as "O.L.I.O."

1990: one of my numerous prototype distortion, Miranda,- -named after a hairdresser who used to embarrass me a lot when I was 15: imagine the most beautiful woman you ever see, at touching distance for a full hour--builds herself a reputation in Marseille electric guitarist circle.
Encouraged by this little success, I listen to the pros and cons of my shining beauty, and rework the circuit a thousand times.
This same circuit was to give birth a few months later to the Fuse Blower, making Miranda the revered ancestor of Jacques distortion tone.
I am not sure the woman would like this title.

This same year I went to NYC. I am pictured here with at the MOMA, in front of "ONE (Number 31, 1950)", of my favorite painter, Jackson Pollock. I went out with native friends in a sort of restaurant/club--"Taboo"?-- which was then famous in the big apple. In the same night and at the same place, you could eat fresh poached salmon, listen to a live alternative band and dance to the sound of house music. We frequently criticize the '90s but honest, who would dare to open a combo joint like this now?  
I also visited famous NYC music stores but was disappointed by stock and prices. I ended up at "Odd Job" across the street. Much more fun.

Now we are in 1995. Armed with a S series Ibanez and my famous ear-shattering jcm800 50w, I get in a new gang of younger rockers to start the "Ultralevure" adventure. This was my first band as a solo guitarist. Not really precise at start, my playing was so loud it inspired respect and ear diseases. Really accurate for a band with a medicine name. Some ridiculously low budget gigs ( heck, we had to pay for the beers!) , ego and girls problems later, "Ultralevure" dissolved in the hot Marseille summer and I went on concentrating on my solo projects, until....

In 2005, I opened my own vintage guitar shop in Marseille , 1001 guitares, which gave me the occasion of hanging with more musicians. This lead to MERCER .
The band started end of 2005, with a newcomer, Remy ( letf on the picture ) on electric guitar and backing vocals. Alain, on the right end of the pic ,( drums, ukuele, backing and lead vocals---while we have not used his ukulele skills up to now) was also the drummer in Yves'band Les Edmonds back in the 90s. I am on electric bass ( a very nice '65 Gibson EB0 ) and on lead vocals. We have great expectations for MERCER. Come and see us whenever in France. Saple songs follow.

email : jacques@ts808.com

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