Feature: Bruno Hovart a.k.a. Patchworks

Picture of Bruno Hovart a.k.a. Patchworks

Interview by Tom Breslin

Following in a long line of esteemed producers with a penchant for multiple monikers and split musical personalities, Lyon's Bruno Hovart has more names than the phone book. Many will know him as Patchworks, purveyor of the finest in Disco and Funk-infused Deep House, whose Q:Tape and Still Music releases have, quite deservingly, garnered something of a cult following in recent years. Most of us (hopefully) will also have realised that he is the man behind Porkswatch, who gave us 2005's essential, but barely labelled Deep-Disco 12", the "Minotaur EP" (anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of coming across this needs to track it down before it is too late!). Few of us, though, will have realised the full extent of Hovart's talent and musical range, knowing that he is also behind a plethora of other worthy projects and production outlets. So, I thought it was about time that we got everything out in the open, and discovered a little bit more about the mysterious monsieur Hovart.

Bruno, you're a man of many identities. For those who don't know, please talk us through your various guises (and projects) and their associated styles.

Well, the main project is, of course, Patchworks, with the stage band being called Patchworks Ginger Xpress. That ranges from Deep Disco House to Rare Groove and Soul (released on the Still Music record label). Porkswatch (an anagram) is only a studio project, and it again covers deep disco, but is more electro oriented (released on Q-tape). Cinnamone is another name, which is used for productions on the French label Superhuit and it digs the dirty Detroit style Housey side of my work. Then comes EVERGREEN, a kind of sixties poppy project, which will be released soon on Magnetic Fields (Quantic's new label). Evergreen is probably the most "whitey" project I have and it rocks! The Dynamics is a Rocksteady/soulful Dub alias that I have, which is more stage oriented (http://thedynamics.free.fr) Metropolitan Jazz Affair is a Jazz band, which was created in 2003. The first LP, released in 2003, was a real surprise case, as it was really successful and the audience was much wider then we had expected. Well, I guess that's quite exhaustive.....

You don't seem to be a follower of trends, so what is that you set out to achieve when making a piece of music? How do you approach the creative process (in relation to Question 1. do you say "today I am going to be Patchworks or Cinnamone, so I am going to do it like this", or is it just something that happens naturally?)

That's a good question...it's about my "multi-schizophrenic" ability! I spend a huge amount of time composing and digging new directions. I try not to anticipate too much about the tune I'm working on; I try to let the things go and the ideas come with no direction or restriction. When the tune is finished or nearly finished, then I start thinking about which folder this tune should fit into. I do not like to work with a precise direction, for a very simple reason: if I do, then I'm crap!!!!

Having seen your "influences" page on your website, they are seriously extensive and broad in nature? What is it about a piece of music that grabs you as a listener? Who have been the most profound influences on you as a musician - if it's possible for you to narrow them down?

Honestly, it is impossible for me to answer this question. In the last 15 years I could say that people like Gil Scott Heron, Moodymann, Ali Farke Toure, Donovan, D'angelo, Horace Silver, Mulatu Astatque and blah, blah, blah caused big, big emotions when discovered! There are no restrictions in my tastes; I like Brian Auger, the Stooges, Archie Shepp, Slim Smith and Bunny Lee, Pharoah Sanders and Marvin Gaye. When I was a teenager, my "god" was Neil Young, which is quite surprising! I went into electronic production after discovering what the guys did in Detroit in the mid '90s (Kenny Dixon Junior and co) and the Mo' Wax stuff in the UK. In recent years, bands like Koop, Soil and Pimp or Sleepwalker have had a real influence on the way I'm listening to music. Sometimes I feel like the music I love is only from back, back, back in the day. It's cool to see that those forms of music can be taken out of the dust, and that their evolution is continuing (for example Stooges / White Stripes, Horace Silver / Soil and Pimp, Sly Stone / Amp Fiddler). Listen to www.la-spirale.net, our online radio show; that's the best way to find out which musical fields we are influenced by!

You spent a year (1996?) in London, playing bass with the Into Something collective. Tell us about that experience - what effect (if any) do you think that had on your musical development? And, why did you only stay for one year?!

I stayed for one year only because I was studying there, and because I had to go to the French military service after that (awful). One particular thing I liked about London at this time was the real mixture of musical styles and the curiosity of the people. At this time, the UK had created a 100% British way of producing Garage music and Drum 'n' Bass, just the same as they had done a few years earlier with Soul and Acid Jazz. It's exciting to feel like you're part of a proper spontaneous and prolific artistic trend. We had a night in Ladbroke Grove and the audience was boundary-less. The UK is very interesting for music because the people are more able to listen to the music without identifying with a social group. Into Something has moved to Slovenia now, and my mate Fedja is really rocking the place there, with a 100% Fresh audience! I worked with Tam Cooper and Joe Grey too, which was a real pleasure; they are now part of Precision Cuts, a Breakbeat collective based in South London. In London, when it's about music, people seem to be judging you from what you sound like, not from what you look like or the colour of your skin. That's probably why collaborations and boundary crossings are that much easier. The consequence of that is that, since the '60s, London has been a major city in the world's music scene. London understands that the main ingredient in music is the people.

Subsequently, you spent some time with cult French label Pro-Zak Trax, working with deep-house artist Plaisir de France. How did that move come about and, again, what effect did that have on you musically?

Plaisir de France were some of my mates and we made only few tunes together. The very interesting thing about this project was that a global approach was taken in mixing the musical and aesthetic fields. This was led by Julien "Sweetlight"...this guy is amazing and talented! He is now on the psychedelic, freaky Electro scene.

Your first solo outing was under the Cinnamone moniker back in 2000/2001, on the elusive Super Huit Records; and this (the "Cinnemascope E.P.") apparently includes a collaboration with free jazz legend Archie Shepp. How did you hook this up, and what was the experience like? More importantly, how the hell do we get hold of a copy?

Getting a copy of that? It's very hard to find, and that's a shame. I worked with vocal and saxophone parts from "Sea of Faces", one of Archie's best pieces. And to be honest, I was really impressed when I met him. This guy composed "Attica Blues" and to me, that LP is a masterpiece; one of the most interesting and amazing Jazz LPs ever made. So you can imagine that I felt lucky to meet and work with him. The experience I got from it is that everything is possible on the artistic side, but when it comes to business, sometimes it turns into nightmare.

Following on from that, you are clearly skilled in the art of networking, as you went on to team-up with Detroit funkster Amp Fiddler on the excellent "Sugar E.P". Tell us about that collaboration - Amp Fiddler seems to be a pretty colourful character.

Jerome Derradji, A&R director from Chicago label Still Music actually put us in touch. At this time, I only knew Amp from his work in the early '90s with George Clinton. I did not expect him to become a main figure in Soul music today! I remember the day when I received his files from over the internet. "Wooaa, what a voice, what a style, Jerome was right, this guy is top!" So I wasn't surprised a few months later when his LP and his tour became so popular !

Your Porkswatch records have been gaining support from DJs across the board - from Louie Vega to the Detroit, Disco, and Electronica dons - was this a surprise to you? The cover of Candido's "Thousand Fingered Man" is a sure-fire bomb, reminiscent of Pepe Bradock's classic "Burning". What's the story behind this - and was it recorded with live musicians?

This tune, "Million toes", was originally an interlude on the "IMMO EP" (Q-tape). When we received the DJ feedback on this one, everybody told us that the 1:30 version was only providing frustration - I knew what they meant. Then Mattieu (Q-tape A&R) asked me for a longer edit...so I did it long (9 minutes long, as far as I can remember). Candido's original version is just brilliant. I love, love, love when Disco music sounds that smart! Check out the last one called "Minotaur"; it digs the same direction.

Tell us about your apparent partner in crime, the vocalist Mr. Day? How did you guys meet, and what makes the musical relationship work so well?

Well, this guy is my neighbour (and I had some of his solo projects on Rotax records in my collection before I met him). So I met him, naturally, and started working with him when we needed a vocalist for the Jazz project Metropolitan Jazz Affair. After a while I also joined his crew on the radio show "www.la-spirale.net". By having this weekly radio show together, we discovered that our musical tastes were much broader than the Soul/Deep House field. This collaboration is really quite prolific and it will take a long, long time before we start getting bored with each other. I think he is now involved in nearly every one of my projects (both in the studio and on the stage).

Please talk a little about the labels Still Music and Q:Tape, as your output is largely channelled through them. What makes them such great labels?

Well, both have a very natural A&R direction. They release this or that because they love it, and they do not seem to be following any trend. That's why 2 or 3 years after they are released, their EPs are still wanted and played. It's cool, because when "Summertime" or the "Sugar" EP was successful, Q-tape or Still Music did not tell me "Do exactly the same for the next one"; no, they just asked me to produce the stuff I wanted to produce, and that fits with the way I work.

Lastly, what recent and upcoming releases should we be looking out for?

Patchworks Ginger Xpress "Brothers on the Slide EP" (Still Music US) - a few copies left in the shops, but being repressed very soon. "The Best Of the Real Fake MC and Patchworks" - CD available from www.thepusher.fr or straight from contact@patchworksproductions.com - out now! Patchworks remix for Jimpster, expected in April 2006 on Freerange Records Lee Mac Donald - we've only just begun part II (Patchworks Re edit) on Favorite Recordings - April 2006 (www.thepusher.fr) The Real Fake MC and Patchworks - "Live and Survive EP" (Favourite recordings - May 2006) Summer 2006 - Metropolitan Jazz Affair's second LP Autumn 2006 - Patchworks LP on Still Music US Autumn 2006 - release of a special "vintage funk LP" on French label Soulution

Tom Breslin, Feb 2006

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