|.||with Jean-François Désilets, the bassist of Canadian Progressive Rock band HAMADRYAD|
Sergio Motta, Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
Motta - Your band is composed of five musicians between 20 and 40 years
Jean-François Désilets: The only difference from the original line-up is that we ad a full time keyboard player. Originally Jocelyn (singer-guitar) and me use to split keyboard duty. By adding Francis, we could concentrate more on our instrument and at the same time it ad new dimension to certain songs. Francis ad parts here and there to bring these songs to a higher level. While we were handling keys. Me and Jocelyn use to call ourselves the half of a bad keyboard player.The music performed by you has verged upon progressive rock, Jazz and classical music
between other tasty trends of course. Was it hard for you to find musicians who were
able to follow you in such a project?
Jean-François Désilets: Me and Denis have been playing together for sixteen years now. While we were doing club gigs, Yves was developing his skills. One day I went to his rehearsal studio and was stunned by his playing. Our then drummer was about to leave, so Yves came in to FILL UP the spot. Through a prog project (cover of Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, Gentle Giant and King Crimson) we met Jocelyn after this project was over we decided to work on some original material. Francis joins in 1999. So to answer your question it kind of easy because everything failed at the right, at the right time.‘’Conservation of Mass’’ is the title of your debut; whose the listeners’ acceptance has
apparently been great. May you say already how satisfactory has the outcome of this
been for you so far?
Jean-François Désilets: It’s positive from the beginning to where we are now. Every time that we found ourselves in need of something or somebody to help us, it happened. It’s true for the implication of Andy Cherna (produced, engineered, recorded and offered us his studio for miserable money) Michel St.Pere (Unicorn records) who distributed our CD around the world, arrival of Francis Doucet, the positive answer of every critics that we arrived and the fans who bought the CD and came to the show.‘’Conservation of Mass’’ has magnificently brought a bit of the sound of the old Hammond
organ afresh to the listeners’ ears; I even thought for a jiffy that I was just returning to the
golden era of progressive rock music. In your view, why has this peerless instrument
been despised by most of nowadays’ bands?
Jean-François Désilets: Maybe it’s because today you can find every wannabe under the same keyboard. Also Hammond B-3 and C-3 are pretty rare instruments and often out of price. Like you afore mentioned Hammond organ are peerless, so it’s a good thing that not a lot of bands are still using it, it gives that little extra to the one’s uses it.You have mentioned that the band members were united by destiny in 1995 on a tribute
show to progressive music. By the way, did you have already self-composed songs from
that occasion, or did you only play other bands’ music?
Jean-François Désilets: We had already began to compose songs with another keyboard player at the time ( songs who did not make it on the album except the main guitar riff of ‘’Amoras Demonis’’) the prog tribute only content cover materials.As far as I can understand you are taken as the most experienced musician in the band,
and you are also described yourself as a ‘’musician by persistence’’. Do you remember
having more pleasant or unpleasant moments in this struggle for the accomplishment
of your aims as musician?
Jean-François Désilets: As far as I can remember, there never was anything bad about playing music. sure I had a few nightmare gigs but it only made me a better musician and showed me how to deal with different aspect of music business. Persistence always paid and playing with this band is my paid, money is extra if there’s any.Hamadryad seems to be a very active band in the current Canadian progressive scene,
seen that you have been performing a lot of live appearances over there in your
country. Would you say most of Hamadryad’s fans are centralized today in Montreal?
Jean-François Désilets: Montreal uses to be open to prog but time changes. As a matter of fact, there’s not a lot of prog bands around. You have to be kind of special to catch people curiosity. It seems like nobody (music bizz) want to get involved in this genre. Every radio stations are now playing standard 3 to 4 minutes songs. As for our live performances, we’re starting to build a following. I do not want to look pretentious but people who come to our shows are impressed, it’s amazing. We like to play outside Canada and return by the back door. Nobody is prophet in its own country.Do you take the current canadian progressive scene as a promising one!
Jean-François Désilets: I hope so!! (laughs)Your debut CD ‘’Conservation of Mass’’ took 3 years to come out since you were working
hard upon its creation. Do you esteem to spend the same time on the next work’s
Jean-François Désilets: Through these three years, we were seeing each others twice a week, 3 or 4 hours max at time. We were still doing live gigs of cover songs (except for ‘’Amoras Demonis’’, ‘’nameless’’ and ‘’watercourse’’ - the three songs that we first composed) we all have to day job, Andy had to move the studio just when we were ready to record. He has a day job too and have to leave for a week here and there. Put this all together!!! As for the next one, it should be completed at the end of this year...
Jean-François and Denis formed their first band together and played mainly cover songs of Rush. They struggled through years of personnel changes, trying to find the right people until they met Mark McKee and formed what would become Blue Line, a classic rock band. Mark had a lot of club experience and from the start he became a mentor to the others. They did a lot of clubs for two years gaining valuable live experiences. Then Mark left for Vancouver and they needed another singer. They changed their musical repertoire, adapting to the "grunge" style of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilot, etc. They mixed in some heavy rock classics, and changed the name to Final Project, symbolizing the fact that this would have to be the last club band project.
When they began having trouble with their drummer, Denis thought of his younger brother Yves, who had been playing drums for five or six years, as a replacement. After just a couple of weeks of practices together they started getting gigs. They still played covers for another year until they had reached their saturation point. They wanted to play original music! Not knowing what would come of their efforts, they started to play with Darren, a keyboardist who originally played with Yves. Having to exchange ideas with Darren inspired some to learn more about the technical side of music and this new combination of band members produced immediately a progressive sound that they all loved! The only piece missing was the singer.
One day Darren answered an ad for a keyboard player and ended up getting a job playing with a progressive tribute band. They all lent a hand to ensure the success of this effort. However, due to poor management, what was supposed to be a big production folded up after playing one single tribute show. All was not lost; one good thing came out of the experience as Ben, the singer of the debunked tribute band, came on to be the singer of our newly created prog tribute band named Awake. However, he was not terribly involved in the creative process and didn’t want to invest more time in the band. Thankfully destiny was working for the band and every thing worked out as, one day, while rehearsing they met Jocelyn, another one of the original prog tribute band member. He came over to listen to us play and when he played for them a demo tape of an original song he wrote, the band thought, "We may have found our missing link".
So Ben left and in came Jocelyn; Darren our keyboardist, for personal reasons, soon departed which left four of them: Jean-François, Denis, Yves and Jocelyn. The music really started to develop and for the first time the band was good enough to be compared to any professional band out there. To form a really "tight" band, musically speaking, they decided to practice doing shows mixing cover songs with two or three original songs until they felt ready to assume the next big step: Record a first album.
While composing new material the sound of the band matured through experimentations and a wall of sound soon began to take shape. Each band member took his place and understood his role. Wanting to maintain the integrity of their music, they all decided to produce their own album. However, realizing the benefits of having a keyboardist’s point of view, when it comes to orchestration, the band decided to hire Francis, a former guitarist student of Jocelyn who became a keyboard player. Including Francis in the line up came naturally as most of the material for the album was already composed. But Francis skills for arrangements proved to be a major contribution to the overall statement the songs would make.
Jean-Francois soon became much more involved in the recording and production of the album; along with a good friend of ours, Andy Cherna, who provided in his home studio, the engineering skills and production experience needed. The recording sessions were to last all of the summer of 2000 and the mixing of the recorded tracks took place in the autumn. Conservation Of Mass was launched on April 7th 2001, in Montreal. Already, we had many great reactions from the media, and we prepared all summer for a series of shows, including a participation at the 2002 Baja Prog Festival.
And then they were four - In the summer of 2002, Jocelyn, the lead singer, announced that he was pursuing his musician career on a different path. This brought the production of the second album to a screeching halt. The departure, however strange, was made without bad feelings; the proof being that members of Hamadryad contributed to some of Jocelyn’s solo projects. Once the initial shock subsided and time passed, in which the four remaining members took the time to take in the announcement; they all agreed that replacing Jocelyn immediately was not the way to go. So they started from scratch trying to find a new sound for the band.
What was suppose to be work sessions, where they would try to rework the existing songs, became, unexpectedly and unconsciously, writing sessions. Jean-François, who already sang one song on the first album, and a few covers live, took the lead singer role and everyone came up with bundles of new ideas. These writing sessions where put on hiatus in the fall of 2002 due to the necessity to play a few shows in Montreal. For these, "old" songs had to be reworked and remodelled to the new outfit. The shows confirmed that as a quartet Hamadryad was as strong as before and fans where supportive and anxious to hear the new material.
Hard at work - Now in the fall of 2003, the new album is still in the works, every weeks sees new ideas being added to songs in progress and new tunes are blossoming. Even though the pressure is on to play live, the accent is on creating their second contribution. The new "sound" is not far from what Hamadryad’s fans are used to, without being the same. It’s a strange and magical feeling to hear these new songs, for you recognise some part of it while others are brand new. The new web site is also being worked on. This new Hamadryad’s site will provide many audio and video samples and information on the band and it’s four members.
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