Thomas Pasquet A.K.A. Bobwall – Paris, France
Q: What do you do for a living?A: I buy and sell records for a living, the perfect job if you like to wake up at 5am Sunday morning, to deal with some white trashes in the middle of nowhere. Just kiddin’, I love this job!Q: What was your first album? How did you get it? At what age? Can you describe that feeling? Do you still have it?
A: I can’t remember my first album. But my parents had a dozen of records and a turntable since I was born, and the good thing was 3 of those were a Beatles 1967-1970, Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here and Gainsbourg La Chanson De Prevert. Not bad records to start my collection. That Pink Floyd one was played on heavy rotation, it could be a sort of first album. I think the first record I owned, well, that my mom bought me, was the 45 record book of Star Wars Return Of The Jedi. It was probably around ’84, so I was 8. We bought this at the supermarket, and I still remember the feeling when R2D2 makes his noise to tell you when you had to turn over pages. What I also remember is the waiting when you just put the needle on the record, the crackles… a moment of magic! I think I still know the story by heart.
The JP Mounier very own copy of Jazz A Marseille.
Q: what was your Initial interest in music? Did you have any influence from your family? Or perhaps your best friend (or enemy)?
A: I often went in my cousin’s house during summer holidays, and he was a real music addict, our main day activity were basically listen music all day long and play video games, and I loved it. A lot of pop rock from the 70’s, like David Bowie, Cat Stevens, Deep Purple, Genesis…Music has always been a big part of my life and I went through many phases: indie pop, hip hop, big beat, trip hop, jungle, broken beat, even metal when I was a teen…Music never left me.
Q: Why vinyl?
A: It’s obvious, the vinyl is beautiful. Weighty, warm, with fabulous large cover art, how could you prefer dull plastic CDs over that superb object? It’s hard to explain that feeling, but a stack of records is nice to my eyes, I love the aspect of a good old crate of vinyl in a countryside flea market. I also love the vinyl for its antic aspect. I love the treasure hunt aspect of digging, the history charge behind a record that was owned by someone else. I must admit that since I’m not DJing on a regular basis, the discovery and search became more important than the music itself, even if it wouldn’t my full time job. You can find most of the music easily now on internet, but you can’t find the pleasure of digging real records anywhere else.
Q: are you following any specific genre when you collect? Or perhaps fixed on a specific album cover artists? Or maybe pressing years? Or maybe it’s just the music, no matter what..
A: Due to my story with music, I have very multiple and evolving collecting directions. I used to collect samples, breaks.. Then I started keeping every French rare groove records, like I was on a mission to preserve that piece of our culture that is largely unknown, except for big names like Gainsbourg. Now I just keep records that really move me, that put shivers on my back. I have mainly late 60’s and 70’s jazz records in all their forms: modal, spiritual, jazz funk, west indies jazz, Latin jazz…but I also like prog rock, psych, some good old cheesy jerk and pop, I also keep most of the French soundtracks EP I find, I have some libraries, some musique concrete LPs, dancefloor stuff like disco, funk, hip hop. I don’t think like “this must be good for the dancefloor”. As I’m not a regular DJ a dancefloor track really has to please me first and foremost. My collection is quiet small (around 2000 records) but I try hard to have no fillers. Of course I have some stupid obsessions like every collectors I know. But I don’t try to have every record by an artists, I don’t even try to obtain wanted records by all means. I almost don’t even have want list no more! What I like is to discover a record on the field with the fisherprice portable, or by trading with my records mates. I like to have records in my collection that means something to me, a feeling, a memory, I remember where I found most of my records, this is important to me. I also like to refresh my collection often, I hate when a record is not listened, It’s like wasted it. I prefer to trade or sell records often to gain more new records. It’s the adrenaline of the discovery that motivates me, no matter what kind of music it is.
The infamous Alain Goraguer OST La Planete Sauvage.
Inside the gatefold of La Planete Sauvage.
A: My life of collector began during the eBay era so it changed nothing to me. But it’s all about real life digging anyway mate! Of course at the beginning I bought most of my records on eBay and web shops, I still do some eBay and internet tricks, found some nice bits like that, but maybe 80% of my collection comes from finds in flea markets, records fairs, warehouses, old (or even dead) guys private collection, and trades. I have the luck to do it as a job, so I have a lot of time and put a lot of dedication and heart to find records in France. I feel very lucky to live here record-wise. France and more precisely Paris area is where you have one of the richest, diverse and greatly ethnic mixed choices of records in the world. I like all the forums like soulstrut, Waxidermy or VG+, I met some very friendly people out there and got some strong contacts, but internet searches isolate you. When you dig outside you meet a lot of people who share the same passion, it can’t be compared!
AIR cover, now with a possible influence, the always great cover art from the Pierre Cardin label, here the infamous Jason Havelock LP.
A part of the gimmick cover art from the first EP by famous French band AIR.
More Pierre Cardin label cover art madness. Bernard Lubat & His Mad Ducks .
Q: In a world of endless musical sources, streaming music, MP3’s, Serato and other digital substances. Do you sometime stop and ask your self “what for???”
A: Once again these things already existed when I started collecting, it just get bigger, so I don’t feel uncomfortable with it. I never asked myself the question like this cause it’s not the same pleasure at all for me. I’m not a massive music consumer, I don’t collect records to “eat” music all day like some of my friends do, of course I have no problem with this, we don’t have all the same need, and I don’t have those of a regular DJ or beat producer, music has to be shared and blogs are great for that. But internet sources make the things easier, and maybe that is the problem! Like you don’t go to a guide Michelin restaurant every day, you don’t have to discover 10 killer records everyday too. It kills your ability to be surprised and amazed, every records seems normal, average and easy to find. With internet and global world market, people no more realize some of these records out there were 500 pieces pressed worldwide. They don’t realize how extraordinary it is to have access to killer records from Pakistan, Benin or Iran. That’s why I like the way guys like B-music runs the reissue game, high quality press and very limited quantities. Of course for me the object is very important, to have the record is essential, to touch it, put it on the turntable, it participates of the listening pleasure, that’s why I can’t stand MP3 for my own listening habit.As for DJing, as opposite to many of my fellow collectors, I think Serato is great. It depends of how you use it. It allows you to be really creative, and it’s very complementary with the digging game. I know countless tracks that can’t be played on their original form, countless dope French jerk or disco killed by a very cheesy moment or chorus, or can’t be used because of a low press quality. Unless you’re rich and can double all your records, and even like this you have to be a very skilled DJ, the editing game makes your selection richer and interesting, it’s a lot of new opportunity…When people dance and enjoy they don’t care if you play an original record anyway. It has to stay your own personal pleasure to play an original, it can’t be the main event. I don’t like that much the new music biz but I’m equally pissed off by the record fascists who live in the past and refuse all kind of progress.
One of my favorite records, coming from the West Indies, the Henri Guedon masterpiece Cosmozouk.
A: Melody Nelson by Serge Gainsbourg, Gerard Manset first album, Metronomie by Nino Ferrer, Electric Prunes Release Of An Oath, Stevie Wonder Innervisions, Pharoah Sanders Karma, Alice Coltrane Journey In Satchidananda, Eddy Louiss First album, Chene Noir Orphee 2000, Cortex Troupeau Bleu, Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here, Henri Guedon Cosmozouk, Janco Nilovic Rythmes Contemporains…When a record strikes you directly to the heart it’s hard to explain why. It’s mostly melancholic music, I guess I’m quiet melancholic myself!Q: How do you organize your collection?
A:It’s roughly organized by genre, then sometimes by country, subgenre or label. But I’m not obsessed like the guy from High Fidelity! And I like the idea of de-structured organization, it allows you to dig in your own crates. I recently found some great records I didn’t remembered I had, in my basement. And I’m always pleased to find back a misplaced record sometimes.
Q: Tell me a useful record storage / shelving tip!
A: Put the most valuable records at the top when you have children or animals. Avoid cellar with rats at all costs!
Q: What do you look for in a record?
A: Definitely some music I never listened to. I love to dig a record that looks great and I don’t know about. In every kind of music. The weirdest and mysterious is the cover, the better it is. And I tend to have mostly records that are solid from start to finish. I had too many of these one trackers!
Q: What’s your partners’ reaction to this obsession?
A: She respects my passion since the beginning. It’s even her who pushes me to go to records shop when we travel together to a new place. In return I try not to harass her with long speeches about records. Sometimes we both would like better to be together during those damn flea markets Sunday morning, but it’s all good, she’s very comprehensive. She even plays video games with me, she’s a geek girl!
A classic Legrand score, for the Jacques Demy movie “Les Demoiselles De Rochefort”, starring Catherine Deneuve.
Q: Name some holy grails from your collection history.
A: I don’t have lot of Holy grails, the kind of 5000$ northern soul 45 or psych acetates. I do have some descent rarities, like the Placebo LPs or some rare psych LPs, some French or Belgian jazz really obscure, but my personal grail are the records that were given to me by the artists. Those are priceless. My Moravagine copy comes from Olivier Hutman. I have Sunbirds and Marc Moulin LPs that come from Philip Catherine personal collection. Some years ago I was after the rare Jazz A Marseille LP, a record that used to leave for 1000 Euros in Shibuya during the golden age of French records, and I managed to have the email of Jean Pierre Mounier, who played on this record, and is the pianist of Bob Azzam on all of his LPs recorded in Sweden. I had him on the phone and asked him if he still had copies of the records. He told me he still has his copy, and he would gladly send it to me. I tried to at least to pay for the shipping, but he refused and he sent it as promised. That’s probably my most favorite record.
Q: Do you have a record collecting philosophy or routine when you enter a store?
A: I’m not an intensive shop guy, Paris is quiet shitty for record shops, they’re packed with diggers every time, and owners are usually awful and shady, except on some exceptions, mostly the new generation like the guys at Superfly Records.
Great Jimmy Smith soundtrack for one of my favorite French movie, La Metamorphose Des Cloportes.
Another great French soundtrack, Les Gants Blancs Du Diable, superb cover art.
Jean Yanne sleazy OST Coit.
Q: I know that every “your favorite” question is a tough one, but try to remember. Can you name a few of your favorite album covers?
A: Definitely my Musique Pour L’Image (MPI) collection. It’s one of the very few label I try to collect every releases. The cover arts by Robert J.Hilton are just superb. I have an overall weakness for black and white cover. I love the prospective 20eme siècle serie on Philips, a musique concrete serie of records with cover made of silver paper sheets. I also like very much the BYG/Actuel serie. The inside gatefold always have some great pictures of the musicians. And the Pierre Cardin records. Speaking of Pierre Cardin label, I love the main ideas of it: complete artistic freedom, crazy concept, ambitious cover art, for a payback close to nothing! Pierre Cardin was a real patron. I like when a label has a sort of visual coherency, like Blue Note or Impulse.
The Johnny Trunk book about libraries LP cover art.
Another favorite of mine, the always good looking BYG/Actuel LPs, here the Jimmy Lyons and Archie Shepp ones.
Q: Can you tell me a bit more about your “obsession” with Library music?
A: First, library music is really a European specificity. Even if you have some labels in the US and other places, 95% of the production came essentially from the UK, Italy and France. So it was a little private garden for Euro diggers like me. You definitely have that European flavor on it. The way the guys play jazz or funk is different from the US. It’s basically less raw and straight funky than in the US, but they add something different to it, a kind of romantic, melancholic feeling, or at the opposite a lot of sense of humor. The interesting thing about library is the music in it wasn’t designed for a “public”, an audience; it was created to illustrate documentary or TV series. The music was more like material, modeling clay that directors cut, edited and used in function of the images on the screen. It sometimes sounds like movie soundtracks, with theme variations. So the musicians in library music had a totally different view about their work. It’s very reductive to call that muzak, or elevator music, cause in contrary the musicians were free to experiment or create new kind of sounds and music, without any commercial pressure. Can you imagine a guy like Janco Nilovic had a complete 70-piece orchestra just to make one of his library album? Guys like Roger Roger and Nino Nardini were on the top of the new instrumentations on music, their mythical studio Ganaro were full of ahead of its time moog, keyboards and other effect machines. If you go deep into the library music, you notice there is music concrete, experimental music, electro acoustic music, Psych Jazz, Psych Prog, Cosmic Disco and more interesting stuff, and not only the usual cheesy instrumental pop people are usually aware of. It’s the same for the cover art. They didn’t had to sell the product to kids or teenagers, they didn’t had the need to follow the fashion of the moment, that why many of the library cover art are very innovative and still very fresh nowadays. Even the repetitive logos or label art make it looks like pop art series. That’s why library music is so interesting, it’s a kind of industrial product, but art at the same time, like a concept car or a design chair!
Some of my favorite cover art on the so precious MPI French library label.
Robert J. Hilton, who did most of the cover art of the MPI label.
Q: You mention Robert J. Hilton as one of your favorite cover artists.Can you share some knowledge about him?
A: Not really, sorry. There isn’t any information about him. And judging by the name I Would say it’s a pseudo, which is very usual in library music business, cause theartists used it as a side work apart from the label or major they used towork with normally. Many successful musicians of the 80′s in France usedand did library music as a starting career, like Michel Berger, LaurentVoulzy, Manu Dibango or Catherine Lara. So maybe Robert J. Hilton was asuccessful artist years after with a completely different name.
Q: Bad album cover that hides great music inside the album? or the other way around?
A: I guess the best example is the KPM library label. It can’t be less sexy than this generic cover that all looks like the same. At the opposite, 99% of the West Indies records got appealing cover art but are mostly uninteresting. A real trap for baby diggers!
A bunch of rare Christian records, dull music but great cover art!
A great JC Vannier production (Gainsbourg arranger on Melody Nelson LP).
Q:Tell me about a dollar bin record you would never part with!
A: My collection of Les Treteaux records. Mega cheesy, but it started from there for me. It reminds me the time when finding an Eddie Driver LP on the field just made my day.
Another favorite, Jean Constantin rare Le Poulpe LP, brilliant collage cover and even the music is great (by JC Vannier).
Q: what about digging buddies? Do you share or you go solo?
A: I share a lot, I have lot of friends who dig for records and we always share most of our new finds, all these secret squirrels. I used to go out with my buddy Fisherman Price, but he quitted the record game a couple of years ago. Now I try to have digging buddies with me most of the time. Here’s a personal rule: when you score, you’re happy to share, when you don’t score, it’s always better to have a buddy by your side to share your pain!
Q: Tell me about the most unlikely place/occasion where/when you found records?
A: A couple of times in some racist drunken white trashes records fair. Here’s another interest to have digging buddies to watch your back.
Q: Tell me about a record you still regret not picking up?
A: Not a record, a huge collection of records! I missed a 20 crates of contemporary/concrete and rare pop all in mint condition LP collection, because I was too lazy to put pressure on a flea market dude. Anyway I have no regrets. You learn much more from your defeat. And that’s maybe, thanks to this bad experience, that I finally get my hands first on the best record lot ever found in Europe the last 20 years!
The famous Piranha Sounds EP by Jean Pierre Massiera. One of the first and most mythical release from his SEM label. Incredible stomping breaks jerk featuring Andre Ceccarelli on drums. And one of my favorite cover art too!
Q: Who has the toughest record collection that you have ever seen?
A: In France, guys with thousands of records are often totally crazy and anti-social, and come to their place would be almost dangerous or at least disrupting. If I had to pick a great collection, I would pick in several collection I witnessed in Paris: my man Pal for the soul and funk, Peeer for the French 45 records, Manu Boubli for the jazz and west indies, and Gwen Lueke for libraries and experimental records!
Q: in your most euphoric dreams, how do you imagine your perfect digger’s life? A life partner that cleans your shelves every week…continue…
A: I had records opportunity that went way beyond my wildest dream, and I actually do a sort of dream job so..my digger’s life is perfect enough for the moment..oh yes, one thing: I would like 48 hours day so I could run all the things I wish to do.
Visit my rare vinyl shop website: www.frenchattack.com, for the best jazz, libraries, progressive, psychedelic, soundtracks, afro/Latin and funk records from France, Europe and anywhere else.
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