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A Conversation with Jean-Michel Pilc

By Published: November 6, 2003
JMP: Exactly. That's what Picasso used to say. 'Painting uses me, I don't paint' and music uses me. I think, of course, with technology we'll find a way to explain what happens in the human brain in these moments, but I'm sure it would be useless to find out. It should remain a mystery. It's a beautiful mystery. It's like love. How come you fall in love with one person and not another? For me music is like that. How come you say that and not this? For example, to come back to your previous questions, let's suppose someone has a concept in love. I should fall in love with such and such a person'like you read in the ads sometimes. You know, that's terrible. Young white male looking for young'

AAJ: Right, young white male pianist looking for theme and variations!

JMP: Right, exactly. So you know for me, music is like that. There are some people who do music like in the ads, and some people who just look for love. For me, music is like love. It's a mystery and it should remain a mystery. If you try to break the mystery, you break the thing itself.

AAJ: Talking about things that are subconscious or those things that are outside the music, as far as forms of inspiration, I think there is a'first of all, I was going to preface this whole conversation by saying that I think there's a misunderstanding that all artists do is think and talk about their work'so I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about other things that you do, that influence you. Outside of music, where do you seek your experience and inspiration?

JMP: Well, like Thelonious Monk used to say'I think it's one of the most incredible quotes in the history of art'talking about music is like dancing about architecture. When you say that, you've said everything. Talking about music is nonsense. You know, words are almost the reverse of music.

What inspires me is everything in life'I love nature. For example, looking at a tree or looking at an animal is enough to give me inspiration. Walking in the woods, or walking in the field, a park, or in the city sometimes. It depends on where of course. Not in the subway. Well, even then, you might be inspired by the subway in some way. Also, the people I see. The people I talk to. The person I live with, the person I love. Everything, I think, influences me. What you eat, what you drink, what you experience in life good moments bad moments, it all goes to your brain and stays there and after awhile you have something to say. That's what is beautiful about all human activities. What you live goes through you and right to creation. That's a beautiful process.

I would also say that what inspires me as a musician is the people with whom I'm playing. This is very essential. People forget that. They see bands where you have a leader and everyone around the leader playing what he is supposed to play'nothing much happens. I think for me it's very important to play with people with very strong personalities, that bring to the music' something special, something unique. It's very important to be surrounded by people like that, as I was lucky to be on this last album. Otherwise, I'm bored and nothing happens. I lose my inspiration.

AAJ: How important do you think it is to play with the same people over a long period of time, as you have been with your standing trio?

JMP: Well, I think it's not very important. Lately, I've been playing with other musicians because we all have availability problems. So I've been playing with other drummers and bassists'.and it's been exhilarating. You know, it doesn't matter. When I played with Ari and Francois the first time, it was already there. If you play with a musician with whom you are meant to play, it generally clicks right away. You know, after two seconds. In the course of years you develop something deeper, and that's very important of course. I think we did with this trio. But it's not so important as this initial connection that works. For example when I played with Ari, or Mark, a few years back it clicked right away. From the very first concert we did together and we had not even rehearsed''s like a switch in your brain and suddenly you feel great. The years bring more depth, more understanding, but it can also go the other way and bring more automatism, routine, eventually boredom, and you have to change groups.

AAJ: How do you describe that first connection? What brings two musicians together like that?

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