Dec 17, 2014

Tony Allen - Interview for "Film Of Life"


Originally published in French @

In late October, the godfather of Afrobeat signed a sublime album Film of Life. A gem released on Jazz Village transpires Tony Allen from beginning to end. Yet all was not so simple. The Nigerian told us about this album with a pleasing freedom. Meeting with a master of the genre.

Film of Life he has a special place in your discography?

Tony Allen: I knew and I had decided that he would not like the other albums. It would change compared to my habits. That's what I had in mind before you start.

I suppose it is strange for you because it evokes your career?

Tony Allen: It can be explained in this way indeed. That's what the song is Moving On, this idea of movement, like being in a movie, the film of a lifetime. I had ups and downs. I have known different places, different times. I went through all that with my character. And as long as I am now, and I keep moving, all is well. But I will not be able to move for a long time. But I continue because I never saw the end and I do not see her as long as I continue to explore music. Music has no boundaries and it can never be any.

You invited Damon Albarn for the title Go Back. Could you tell me more about your relationship with him?

Damon is my friend, and it's even more than a friend to me, he is like my family. You know, we've known for a long time now and we work together all the time. Damon still wants to write, and for this reason he wanted to do something new including myself. We worked together in his studio in London. I work with him because he has this way of proposing new things all the time. It does not stop asking until we did not tell him yes. (laughs) That's what I like best about him. He's a genius to me. I like many rock artists, but particularly stands out because it's someone who does not stop. I believe that nothing stops, there is no end, and we can always move forward. Some have done their best and end up no further. It is always better by continuing to move forward.

When did you realize you wanted to do an album on your career, your life and your experiences?

Tony Allen: That was when I wrote Moving On. I wanted to build only the music at first, from a strictly instrumental album without song. I wanted to live my freedom and I did nothing that could stop my game. Make an album with the song has its good and bad sides. Because when it comes to the stage, this means assume two parts: drums and vocals simultaneously. I have done but I just wanted to get in shape to do it. It's harder now, the party is already complicated percussion and if I have more singing over it means that my mind has to think more than five things simultaneously. Five people, that's it. It is as if he had to think like five people simultaneously.

For this album, you worked with The Jazzbastards. Why did you choose these musicians?

Tony Allen: We are friends and we worked together with Sebastien Tellier, Air and Charlotte Gainsbourg. I suggested to participate in the project after a concert where we played with Sebastien Tellier La Cigale. I said, "Oh, I am preparing my album, maybe you could come to record in my studio."

Boat Journey song has a political dimension. You denounce the situation of migrants, but also unconsciousness of such exile.

Tony Allen: Actually, as I have said, I did not sing on this album is the record label, the label that I was asked. I needed time to figure out what I was going to write on any topic. Boat Journey is really obvious, eventually. Because I saw these dramas almost every day on television. How people capsized in the ocean. In the ocean, the deaths, people who die in the ocean to escape the situation in their country ... They want to come to France to change their situation, but they chose the wrong side, the wrong way to achieve Europe. For, if they want to come to us, why not, I have never stopped anyone from coming. But when they arrive in Europe, if they get there, what job are they going to do? What job and where? What boss is willing to give them a job? And when they did not capsize and the police scavengers, they go straight in detention in a camp. Suffering in prisons over there is worse than what they left behind. Some of them are begging the authorities: "If you do not let us go, let us at least start."

Going back to your drumming. It is the heart of your music. Are percussion always the starting point of your compositions?

Tony Allen: When I write, the drum part is all the time in the beginning. The rest comes later. because it's my battery sets partitions I play. It is a way that allows me to not repeat myself.

Film of Life is a real Afrobeat model ...

Tony Allen: The Afrobeat can be used anywhere in the music as it is written in 4 times. The Afrobeat glue to Western music, sad music. No matter the pace, slow, fast if it is written in 4 times. This is a signature that is also present. But it is an open style to all.

Your autobiography was published last year and now a retrospective album comes out. I feel that you need to step back on route.

Tony Allen: I have always been aware of my life from the beginning. If you ask me what happened to me at the age of 10, I could return it. I could tell you everything in detail. In fact, the book explores the best that I have experienced up to this album. Film of Life is more a continuation because nothing is set in music.

This means that with Rocket Juice and the Moon, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, it is not necessarily finished?

Tony Allen: I will always be willing to take a project. The music comes to me in different directions and each time with different artists, different stars, whatever ... When they invite me, I'll go, I'm game. I was made for this job. I love the challenge, because it's always a challenge when you have to deal with people and music as a whole. I'm open because I like to have a different approach and I always respect other people's music when they invite me.

You have several upcoming concerts. The scene remains your favorite place speech?

Tony Allen: Yes, frankly I'd rather be on stage and in the studio. In the studio we spend time practicing to be perfect. But on stage, you do not have time for that, you need to focus and succeed the first time. "Poof, go!" Everyone can see how it goes. On the recording can not see anything, just listening to music but we do not see action. It's more annoying.

Originally published in French

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