Interview Franck Carducci

"It's a very individual album, but that's what makes it sincere and genuine"

(July 2011, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, picture provided by Franck Carducci)

For me, one of the finest musical surprises of 2011 was the release of ODDITY, a great album recorded by the French musician Franck Carducci (see review). The achievements on this amazing debut album were for Background Magazine good reasons to introduce this talented musician to the outside world. So I asked him for an interview and he was very willing to share his thoughts.

Can you tell me something about your youth and why you moved to Amsterdam?

Franck Carducci: “Sure, I was born and grew up in Lyon, France. In 2008 my girlfriend got an opportunity to work for TomTom in Amsterdam. I thought it would be nice to change environment for a while trying to get in the local music scene of Amsterdam, which is amazing by the way.”
Franck Carducci

Are you a self-made musician or did you have lessons in playing and composing?

“No, unfortunately I never took any music or singing lessons. I'm a completely self-taught musician. On the one hand this probably gives me some kind of freedom to do things the way I feel, but on the other hand I'm limited by the lack of technical skills.”

To what extent did progressive rock dominate your life before being a support-act for Steve Hackett?

“It all started with The Beatles once. I don't know how much music of this band you would label with prog rock, but hey, they sure brought some solid roots to it. Since then I started playing guitar when I was about ten.
Steve Hackett (left) and Franck Carducci
I have been a Pink Floyd fan from the moment I saw them perform live in 1994 without Roger Waters. Soon after, I also fell in love with the music of Genesis, Supertramp and Kansas. I think I was spending 95 percent of my musical time listening to those bands with Genesis and Pink Floyd probably taking a 60 percent.”

You were a support-act for Steve Hackett. Was that event decisive for you to record a solo album?

“Well, a few days after I did the support-act, I paid a visit to Steve Hackett at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer and we had backstage an unlikely one-to-one discussion for about 45 minutes. This chat went in many directions, but it certainly was the highlight of my inspirations to start off my own project and give it priority number one.”

Did you write the material for your debut album recently or has it been written over the years?

“The material was written a long time ago and it was just wasting space in my computer. I never thought I'd do anything with it. I had some solid demos so I just did some re-arrangements and re-recorded all pieces in a professional studio. However, the song Alice's Eerie Dream I composed during the summer of 2010 after I decided to make this album, so that's the only original song for me. I already had a few long and complex songs and I thought let's try and make a short and straight-forward mainstream rock song to put in the middle of those long pieces and keep the album a bit accessible. I kind of failed in that matter, ha, ha!”

How difficult was it for you to get all the musicians that contributed on ODDITY?

“For most of them it was pretty natural, they were enthusiastic about the project. Collaboration between musicians should never be an issue! For instance with John Hackett; he told me he really liked the song Irish Land I wrote for Yanne Matis.  Then I told him about my album project and he would like to listen to some demos and I added some flute parts to Achilles particularly for him!”

Was it difficult to record the album on four different locations?

“Well, most of the work was already done with my great sound engineer and friend Chris Morfin in his studio in Lyon. However, I wanted to have different drummers in the songs, which makes it a bit trickier. For Achilles, I really wanted the Phil Collins-sound and feel, so I asked my friend Phildas Bhakta, who's a disciple of 'Master Phil'. She plays on the same Gretsch-drumkit. Of course it was easier for me to go to London, rent a studio there for the sessions and then bring the tracks back to Lyon. For Alice's Eerie Dream I'd already finished the composition knowing that the drums would be played by Larry 'Mr. Sticks' Crockett in New York City. He's got a very busy planning and Paris was the handiest place for him to record the track. I still can't comprehend he did the whole song in one single take! Other drums were played by my friends Fred Boisson in Lyon and Toff 'Crazy Monk' in Amsterdam. After that it's just a matter of synchronizing all those tracks and then recording the rest of the music on top of it.”
Larry Crockett (left) and Franck Carducci

Did you also ask musicians to contribute on your album who were not available at the time?

“No, I didn't.”

Why is the album title written in capitals? Does that or the title have a special meaning?

“No, there's no particular reason for the capitals. All my stories are fantasies about bizarre characters, so I guess having the album called ODDITY kind of makes sense.”

How important are history, literature and movies for you since these subjects must have inspired you?

“Yes, I love literature and especially mythical stories. I'm very fond of that! I don't have time to go to the movies and most of the time I'm very critical towards the films I watched. However, those I love are very inspiring, indeed. For me Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey merely is a masterpiece!”

Would you please tell our readers what the individual songs on the album are all about?

Achilles obviously is about the main parts of this hero's life during the war in Troy. Each part of the song describes a specific relevant moment of this story.
The Quind was written together with my good friend Nicolas Gauthier, who sang the backing vocals on the album version when we were sixteen. Honestly, I still don't know what it's all about. It's just a psychedelic odd song, partly inspired by John Lennon's I Am The Walrus. I remember being particularly struck by John's interview saying: 'everybody's trying to find a hidden sense to I Am The Walrus but really, there's none. I was stoned, I wrote those nonsense lyrics and that's the end of it!' I guess that's about the same story as for The Quind.

The Eyes Of Age is another imaginary story about and old and wise man reaching the end of his life and looking back at it. There's a small story in the booklet explaining how I wrote it.

Alice's Eerie Dream is a funny story based on Lewis Carroll's famous character. Basically Alice got lost in wonderland and kidnapped by the wicked Red Queen who turned her into a hooker. The song also features excerpts from Carroll's nonsense poem Jabberwocky emphasized by the music's weird time signatures in the song: 13/16, 7/8 and 11/8.

The Last Oddity is a tribute to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's the spaceman's last communication with Ground Control.”

In some songs it's easy to tell who inspired you most music wise. In The Quind I heard a short fragment of Song For Guy by Elton John. In Alice's Eerie Dream I heard fragments of Rudy by Supertramp and in The Last Oddity I noticed traces of Pink Floyd's Echoes. Did you do that on purpose as a kind of tribute or was it just a coincidence?

“For The Quind it's a coincidence, for I don't know Song For Guy. I will check it out, but it's not very surprising as the piano part is quite simple and made out of very common chords. For Alice's Eerie Dream, I didn't specifically think about Rudy but there's clearly a Supertramp kind of piano atmosphere and this was intended. On my draft during the writing, I called this part Pianotramp. For The Last Oddity it's more obvious and intended as well. The song's being inspired by Stanley Kubrick's movie 2001. I wanted to pay tribute to a couple of songs I love and that are somehow related to this movie. The first one is of course David Bowie's Space Oddity from which I stole the character's names and the very last bar of the song, and the second one is Pink Floyd's Echoes. There's a rumour saying that Echoes was composed following the rhythm of the last 24 minutes of the movie. Although it was never officially confirmed, if you try the experience to synchronize the music with the movie, you'll be fairly surprised. So this was on purpose as well, and the last sentence of the song is 'I call to you across the sky' to mark this reference (see Wikipedia article). On Achilles there's also a very short organ phrase which is a reference to Genesis's Supper's Ready.”
Franck Carducci with his double neck guitar

Mentioning Genesis brings me to next question. In general, why did you record a Genesis-cover and why in particular The Carpet Crawlers?

“It was recorded during the Matis-sessions five years ago. I just added it as a bonus track here thinking people would enjoy that kind of extra material. At the time we recorded this song - it was Yanne Matis's favourite Genesis-song - I did all the arrangements for her.”

Who came with the great idea to use a violin in this song?

“Matis was a folk band, so no electric guitars, but with a great female violinist from Estonia: Vivika Sapori-Sudemae. I thought it to be a nice idea to make her play Steve Hackett's parts and it worked out great, indeed. When Steve listened to the song he said he liked it very much, because when he played these parts in 1974 he tried to make his guitar sound like a violin. Well, that was a great coincidence!”

On Alice's Eerie Dream I heard some fragments that I described as 'Praise the Lord' passages. I read in other reviews that you have some sort of connection with religious music. Can you tell me what you meant by these fragments?

“I don't have these connections, but I like those old stories as long as they remain stories. The 'gospel' part in Alice's Eerie Dream you refer to was unintended, but suddenly during the session my cousin Richard Vecchi started to play the Hammond-organ like a devil on this part and everybody started to naturally clap their hands and I just thought: wow that's great, let's just keep it like this!”

The last track on the album is a radio-edit of Alice's Eerie Dream. Why did you include it and do you intend to release it as a single someday?

“Well, this song was first intended to be a short mainstream rock track. When I finished composing, I realized it lasts for twelve minutes and hence I failed with my first intent, which is no big deal because I didn't record this album to make concessions on the music. In this sense it's a genuine original album. During the mastering session I mentioned to Chris Morfin what my first intent was with Alice's Eerie Dream and he said: wait a second, it's not too late! About half an hour later he gave me this radio-edit track to listen to and I thought it somehow quenched my frustration, so I decided to add it as bonus material as well. I'm now considering the possibility to release a video track on it, which would help me to spread it out through channels like YouTube, but I need to find the right people to work on this with.”

On the album credits you mention many musicians who inspired you. I think it's normal to read the names of Roger Hodgson and the members of Genesis and Pink Floyd. However, you also named people as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. How important were they for you?

“First I realized I forgot a very important musician starting with Steve Walsh (Kansas) who for me is the best rock singer ever. I also forgot Richie Havens who's a great source of inspiration for me either. I shall correct this for the re-edition of the album. I admire Michael Jackson's work and Stevie Wonder's groove. If you happen to be in Amsterdam and come to clubs like Bourbon Street or The Waterhole you might hear me sing songs like Superstition or Living For The City. Stevie's concert in Ahoy, Rotterdam two years ago was one of my musical highlights. I was lucky to see Michael perform live twice giving amazing shows.”

Not only the music on your debut album is excellent, but also the art work and lay-out. Who was responsible for this great package?

Manuela Mambretti is an Italian friend of mine living in Amsterdam and she's a very talented graphic designer. She happens to listen to a lot of prog rock music thanks to her husband Michele, so she got a good idea of the style of cover I wanted right away. The cover basically features all the main characters of the songs within the same picture. So you got Alice dressed as a prostitute about to slay the Jabberwocky she sees across the looking-glass which happens to be Achilles' shield as well. The spaceman, the walrus and the old and wise man are also around. I just love this picture.”
Franck Carducci in concert

How long did it take to record the album? Are you satisfied with the end result?

“It was recorded, mixed and mastered in a total of 26 days of studio. And yes, I'm very satisfied with the result.”

How many labels were interested in releasing ODDITY?

“You might find it strange, but I didn't contact any label. First of all, I wanted to do this album only for myself to have something relevant to present to people, like a portfolio. I wasn't ready to make any concession on the music or the realization, so I produced it hundred percent myself. In a way it's a very individual album, but that's what makes it sincere and genuine. That's also what Steve Hackett and Larry Crockett advised me to do. Making an album the way I feel, without expecting or anticipating on any success. And then see what happens ... I followed the tips of these two guys being probably the most experienced musicians I personally know. Producing it on my own allowed me full freedom.”

Do you consider yourself a progressive rock musician rather than a singer-songwriter?

“I'd like to say both, but the reality is probably none of them.  You better ask this question to the listeners.”

How did the press and prog audience react to the release of your first album?

“Strangely amazingly well, although I wasn't expecting any particular reaction, but people seem to like this album because it's fresh and it's prog that remains fairly accessible. I'm always delighted to hear comments from people who don't know anything about prog rock saying they love the album. It's a great way to let them discover the genre. I think prog rock is very underrated and almost unknown by a large public and that's a pity. Maybe it's because it sometimes tends to be too technical or too elaborate. For me there was no stronger experience than Rome 2007, when 600.000 people were shaking their heads on Genesis's Firth Of Fifth or a full stadium drinking up Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon in 1994 or more recently with Roger Waters. This music really takes you to a higher ground!

You have intentions to take the album on the road. Can you already say which musicians will be playing in the band? Are you going to add prog rock classics as well?

“Yes, I'm looking for bookings at the moment. The ODDITY-tour should start in November 2011 at least in the Netherlands and Belgium and we're hoping for gigs in France, Germany, United Kingdom and - why not? - Italy later on. I put on a great band together featuring French drummer Toff 'Crazy monk', German guitar virtuoso Michael Strobel who recorded the lead guitar on Alice's Eerie Dream, Dutch guitarist Roy van Oost, British keyboardist Tom Smith and myself on bass and twelve-string guitar. So it's kind of an international band already! We'll add some classics to the set list if needed, but I'm not going to tell you which ones!”
Franck Carducci

Can we expect more solo albums in the future and are you going to use your live band to record your next album?

“This I don't know yet, but I'm considering the possibility. I would surely love to do a band album, but sometimes it turns out to be too complicated to make things happen.”

Do you have any other plans that you would like to tell our readers?

I've been offered a great opportunity to work for the The Rome Pro(G)ject together with Steve Hackett, Francesco Di Giacomo, Vittorio Nocenzi, John Hackett, Nick Magnus, Narrow Pass, Vincenzo Ricca and so on. It's a celebration in adventurous and peculiar sound and music of the greatness and the beauty of Rome. Here's the trailer on YouTube.

Would you please mention the links to your websites?

“Yes, I will put all the news on my website which I invite you all to check out. You can find all kind of information and also listen to the whole album for free on streaming-audio via BandCamp and then buy it if you like it, or not. My website is: I also maintain a Facebook-page where I put all the updates. Please look at Thank you very much everybody for your support, I really feel blessed!”

Thank you for answering my questions.

“You're welcome!

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