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Manu Katché: The Colors I See

Adriana Carcu By

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“I think that these days jazz should be called 'rock' because it is very evolutive. Nothing much has happened in rock after Nirvana. But if you listen to jazz from the eighties up to today, there is a huge development and diversity there. —Manu Katché
Manu Katché is one of those few names familiar to a large audience of quite different musical orientations. Along his career he has played with some of the most representative pop, rock, country, jazz—and even classical—musicians. Katché's immense adaptability and emulative spirit, together with the harmonic roundness of tone on his instrument, make him to an outstanding presence on the world's musical scene. His most recent album Manu Katché (ECM, 2012), comes to illustrate the stylistic accuracy, musical fluency, and vigor and subtlety of a fully accomplished musician.

All About Jazz: Do you consider yourself a born musician?

Manu Katché: Not really. Nobody in my family is a musician. Now when I look back, it feels like it all came to me. I started playing piano very early in my life. I was about six, and at that age you don't know what you are doing, but as soon as I started playing percussion it was a great feeling, and I knew that it was what I wanted to do. In those times, you didn't do things for money. It was more like a challenge. I started listening to all that music and I wanted to be part of it. Another thing was, I wanted to travel. I was living in the suburbs of Paris and traveling was like getting out of that environment into the wide world.

AAJ: Are you still happy with traveling?

MK: What I like about it is that it gives you the opportunity to meet a lot of new people, and get in contact with different cultures. That's the whole thing. It is an enriching experience. The beautiful thing about it is that you meet old friends, too. You don't only play together but you spend time together and share a lot of things. Sometimes, you spend Christmas together. The relationship becomes more important than the music. You never plan those things, they just happen. It is the same with my career; it is all about meeting people. Music is a great thing but the fact that you get to meet people through it is not less important.

AAJ: What was your most inspiring musical experience?

MK: I would say that it is what I am doing just now. In music, like in any other form of artistic expression, you go through periods. When a period is closed, you move to the next one, and that new period is most inspiring at that time because you are right inside of it. I really enjoy it, and I know that it drives me to the next step, which I don't know what it will be. I am learning a lot every time. Everything I did so far has been very inspiring to me. A great experience was to meet Peter Gabriel, and to make music together with him. That was amazing.

Manu Katché—Man KatchéAAJ: There is a remarkable sense of harmony and roundness in your playing. Is it a result of the long musical interaction or was it always there?

MK: I think it was there as soon as I started learning classical music. At music school, you learn a couple of instruments and techniques, you learn to play in an orchestra, but the most important thing about it is you open your ears and perceive the sound textures. Now then, if you want to be inside it, you have to pay attention. Afterwards, when I started playing pop and rock, up to the point where I started playing jazz, I was very aware of what was happening around me. The other thing is the musical approach, which does not only mean doing your thing at the drums, but also becoming part of a whole. I think this provides the roundness.

AAJ: When, in your development, did you start to use nuances and textures?

MK: I think it was when I joined in with Peter Gabriel. We were recording the So (Geffen, 1985) album, and there was the track "In Your Eyes," which I didn't know how to play. Of course I had been playing with some African musicians in France, but I was not totally at ease. So, I started trying things, like tones and splashes. Maybe that was not the moment when I started using nuances, but it was the moment when I realized that I could play the drums with a rock track. Since then, I really applied that.

AAJ: Where do you see the drums in the band economy?

MK: I think the drum is the heart, right in the middle. It gives the pace and the pause. It happened to me a few times that I felt tired or sick, and the whole band was like tagging along. It is not only your performance; it is the fact that you have to be there for the others too. They can relate to it and go where they want to go.

AAJ: Would you describe your manner of interpretation as narrative?

MK: This is funny, because I just wrote a book that will be coming out soon. I think that my manner of interpretation is colorful. When you play music, no matter what music you play, what you want is to reach that moment when everything is coming together. You can't plan it; you have to wait for everyone to get into the same sphere. If it works, it is that magical moment when everyone is sharing the same thing— one note or one sound. When you reach that moment, you are like in a kind of a trance. When that moment is reached, I see colors. Pastels. So, you want to get there again. Every musician wants to reach that point. I think that's why we are playing, to get to that moment.

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