Multi-instrumentalist Pascal Udol aka Skalp DBS: “It took me 30 years to find my way”

Multi-instrumentalist Pascal Udol aka Skalp DBS

Even if the bass is his favourite instrument, Pascal Udol aka Skalp DBS has been playing several musical instruments since the age of 12. As a teenager, he studied at the Centre d’Informations Musicales (CIM) and began performing on the great stages of Paris in the 1980s. The musician who left Guadeloupe when he was 5 years old has been back home for a year. He has just started promoting his latest album entitled “Retour aux Sources” locally. He has invented his own music, its name: Afro-Caribbean. offers you the 2nd part of this long interview that the talented artist has given it.

Skalp DBS 2 : Why did you want to create a new musical style?

Skalp DBS : All my life, I’ve been looking for my style. It took me 30 years to find my way, I’ve been composing since I was little, I didn’t want to do like Sixun etc… and that’s why it took time. And I am proud of what I offer. That’s why I quickly gave up zouk, reggae. I’ve made some zouk tracks but I’ve developed them so much that I don’t know if it will be okay, it’s zouk but it doesn’t sound zouk, I’ve given up because I can’t do like everyone else…

Skalp DBS 3 : You have released and produced 2 albums which are on all platforms : “Retour aux sources” in October 2019 and “ORUS” (Observatoire des Rythmes dans l’Univers du Son / Observatory of Rhythms in the World of Sound) ten years earlier. Is “Retour aux Sources” because you have returned home or is it because there is a return to the Guadeloupean musical heritage?

Skalp DBS : It was necessary to put a date but, there are some tracks I created a very long time ago. It was necessary to find musicians to play them, to exploit them.

I started composing at the age of 11. I didn’t have memory but I knew how to do that. There is a track that I created on “Retour aux Sources”, I was, like, 12 and 40 years later, I put it on a record.

I can’t say it’s a return to the heritage, it’s not possible because I’m the only West Indian in my music. It’s a return to the roots for everyone, for the whole planet because I think my music is broad, there are some tracks that are specifically composed for the West Indies but not the whole album so it’s a return to the roots for everyone. I play with Africans, French and several other nationalities.

Skalp DBS 4 : How do you define your music?

Skalp DBS : I think that society prevents us from being happy because we are “driven” too much. When you turn on the radio, you don’t select the music you want. The radio plays the same song 40 times a day, it’s behavioral conditioning. We are limited in what we can hear because there are all kinds of music on earth, we don’t know half of it, we’ve been locked into American music, 1-2-3-4 or the 3 beats. Me, I went elsewhere: 3-5-7-9 ; something odd. I asked my musicians to take an interest in Caribbean music, in my culture, to understand what we were doing. Playing is easy but you also have to understand (…). : Is there good and bad music?

Skalp DBS : Yes definitely! All electronic, synthetic music is just machines playing, just noise. I did a festival in the rue de Charonne in Paris, they invented a music with only low frequencies. Is that music? You want to vomit. There is nothing, no notes (…).

Skalp DBS 5 : What’s good music for you?

Skalp DBS : It’s music where you feel concerned, where the guitarist is a real guitarist, it’s not programming ; the guy is playing, he’s putting his heart into it, he’s sending a message. I’ve always refused to make music in sequences, I went to a jazz school, it’s not to go and make sequences. In 1989, when I worked on Phil Control’s record, there were already a lot of programmes, I arrived, I made two notes and I left, the drummer too, I never understood. And even before that, I had already been in the studio several times, there were already programmes. It was in the 80s, imagine today… When you learned music, spent money and you see that that’s what music is all about, it hurts. It’s not new, it’s been around for a very long time, but today I can assure you that there are a lot of guys who know nothing, they’ve never touched an instrument in their lives, they know how to program, they have a sensitive ear, they take the “samples” and make a lot of money (…) I’ve always told my friends : everything you hear, I played it, even what was programmed by me, I played it (…).

Skalp DBS 6 : Do you consider that your music is new, is another style of music?

Skalp DBS : Absolutely, it’s another style of music. I called my music “Afro-Caribbean” on purpose. I removed the word jazz. In my music, you hear Africa and you hear the Caribbean, you see the connection. When people say “I am not African”, useless words, I prove them wrong, I am sorry. It’s the same line. That’s why in my track called “Afro-Caribbean”, you feel the connection with Africa and the Caribbean and it blends naturally. : Where do you get your inspiration?

Skalp DBS : I draw it from my brain because I lived in France. While you live in Paris, you can’t have the spirit of the Caribbean, you’re not there. That’s why I came back, I wanted to make a record and to be in it, it’s better that I’m there. All my life, for 30 years I’ve been looking for my way, I found it when I decided to go into odd rhythms (3-5-7-9) and the polyrhythmic which is the fact of mixing 2 different movements (for example mixing a 4 beat with 3 beat, a 5 beat with a 9 beat) (…).

Skalp DBS 7 : How did you find the musicians who recorded with you?

Skalp DBS : I struggled to find my musicians. I’ve always struggled, I’ve always had to make sacrifices, either to give rights in my work or to train the musicians. On these albums, I was obliged to train my musicians and it took me a lot of time. Basically, my music was Chinese to them, they didn’t want to play it, I had to reassure them by telling them it was me who created it. They are great musicians. We form a band even if everything is in my name because for my first album, I let someone manage my communication and he told that he had paid me to play his music (…) We are a band because if my musicians are not there, my music cannot be played.

Skalp DBS 8 : Why are the tracks very long on your first album?

Skalp DBS : “ORUS” was my first record and we had fun. It was the first album, the first experience, at the time I was only doing concerts where the tracks didn’t last 3 minutes, there was a lot of improvising. On “Retour aux Sources”, the tracks are shorter. I took into account the length of the radio version but the length for jazz is 6 minutes. There are some tracks where I couldn’t go into these standards because music requires space to express itself. : In the track “Double-Face”, we hear the drum-ka from Guadeloupe, was it important to put the sounds of this instrument from Guadeloupe?

Skalp DBS : Actually, I’m a jazzman and not a drummer (tanbouyé). I was thinking about carnival and I wondered how to put the drum and the ti-bwa in my modern music, I tried to create something that sounds Caribbean and I think the result is correct. When I went into the studio. I thought I would release the record during the carnival period unfortunately my grandmother passed away and a lot of things happened.

Skalp DBS 9 : How did the audience welcome your music?

Skalp DBS : They love it. All the people who have listened to my music, have bought the records. They have been waiting ten years for me to release a new album. They always ask me for my first album “ORUS”. : Now you live here in Guadeloupe, is your music played as you would like it to be?

Skalp DBS : In Guadeloupe, you have to go calmly. It’s been a year since the record was released ; I arrived in November 2019. My last album was released digitally but not yet physically. I thought it was going to take much more time (…)

The Guadeloupean audience barely discovers my music, for a year nothing happened. It’s only been a short time since the radio stations and journalists started to call me because they are beginning to discover my music.

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