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PAM, from new-wave to jazz-fusion


Pierre-Arthur Michau, better known as PAM, is the co-founder of OKONKOLE Y TROMPA, a well respected blog of the digger community on the internet. Also resident of the London radio NTS, he recently came to play Bordeaux and kindly accepted to prepare a mix for us. Between obscure records with slow tempo and other French boogie, he tells us about his career, his involvement in the Antinote label, and his musical universe in the following interview.

tplt: Can you introduce yourself quickly and tell us a little about your background?

pam : I was born in the middle of the 1990’s in the south of Brittany and now live in Paris. I’ve been collecting records for about ten years and I’m a disc jockey under the acronym PAM, on the right and on the left and every month in the show Okonkole Y Trompa on NTS. I started with a Japanese friend, Satoshi Yamamura, a blog with the same name where I write weekly about more or less forgotten records.

tplt: How did you get into music? Is it something that comes from your parents or just your own curiosity?

pam: It’s hard to say what triggered this strong relationship I have with music… Maybe it has to do with a particular character trait.

Maybe it’s something similar – mixed with a slight feeling of boredom – that drives kids to devour volumes of the Pleiades or to develop extraordinary reflexes at Street Fighter. In my case, it was listening to music obsessively.

My parents certainly encouraged me to play an instrument – as I’m sure is the case in many “good” families – but I can’t say that we listened to much music at home. The family record library was quite modest, and a few tapes of Julien Clerc and Souchon were playing on my mother’s car radio. Two CDs stood out from the rest: Daft and In Visible Silence by The Art Of Noise. Later, I started to work at the local media library where I borrowed CDs every week and burned them, methodically going through each section. In the “Rock” section, it was probably Trans-Europe Express that traumatized me the most; in the “Jazz” section, the three or four Miles Davis albums (one per decade).

With the installation of ADSL, I could live the end of the golden age of “obscure music sharing” blogs like Mutant Sounds or Holy Warbles (eternal respect to their contributors). Unfortunately, I recently lost hundreds of hours of music downloaded on these sites during a catastrophic hard drive crash…

Finally, I had the chance to meet some music freaks who opened the doors of sound universes that I didn’t suspect – big up Dave, Vidal, Zaltan and the others !

tplt: Tell us about your blog OKONKOLE Y TROMPA, how did you get the idea and what is the concept?

pam: I guess it started from a pretty healthy idea of sharing: with my buddy Satoshi, we found out one day that we started to have a lot of records that we loved and that it was impossible to listen to them anywhere else than in our respective living rooms. For people who had discovered so many good records on the Internet, we saw this as an injustice. So the idea of putting music online on YouTube came quite naturally.

It wasn’t quite hip to have a YouTube channel yet, and I didn’t want to post music that was uprooted from any musical, social or historical context. I wanted to tell the story of these forgotten records and artists, as Eric Lumbleau (prolific Mutant Sounds contributor) did so well, for example. That’s how the idea of a website was born, where I try to tell a story – more or less long, more or less incomplete – about a record we’ve previously posted on our YouTube channel.

tplt: What are the musical styles you like the most?

pam: None! If someone had told me a few years ago that I would listen to what I listen to today, I would have laughed at them – or worse…

That said, one of my main entry points into music having been jazz, I have kept a certain tolerance for jazz-fusion pieces that are a bit silly, a bit cheesy, and especially a particular liking for music with a groove, however unstructured. To tell the truth, even when I listen to very abstract or experimental music, I can rarely do without it. I really have a hard time appreciating pieces that don’t care about rhythmic constraints.

Some people who don’t know me well would probably say that I mostly like “sophisticated”, “rare” or “crazy” stuff: this is not true. I don’t judge music at all by how sophisticated or weird it is. There are tons of silly songs, hundreds of pop hits that I love: Simply Red’s Holding Back The Years moves me and I hold Hall & Oates’ I Can’t Go For That in high regard.

tplt: What is your relationship with the vinyl object? What are the places where you prefer to digest ? (record shops / flea market / discogs / 2nd hand with friends…)

pam : Unlike a hard disk, a vinyl record does not crash (see question 2). Apart from that, it’s hard to justify this sick passion by avoiding clichés like “a vinyl record is a beautiful object”.

My main interest in records today is related to the search for music that I don’t know. The vinyl record dominated the recorded music market for decades, and it was while going through piles of LPs and 45s, remnants of the music industry from the 1950s to the 1990s, that I discovered many of the tracks published on Okonkole Y Trompa.

I don’t really have a preference as to where I like to dig: there are completely rinsed out shops, sinister Emmaus and hopeless flea markets; and on the other hand, miraculous garage sales and record shops that seem to have gone through the 1990s and 2000s without anyone having stopped there since 1988.

That said, I particularly like the big trips with one or two friends: leaving very early in the morning, crossing departments, stopping in bucolic flea markets, in recycling shops in the middle of nowhere, and in the worst case, coming back with a handful of average singles and good anecdotes. In the best case, with a record recorded by a teenager from a high school 10 kilometers from the yard sale where we found it.

tplt: What kind of place do you feel most comfortable mixing in?

pam: Again, it’s hard to avoid common places but I don’t care where as long as the audience is cool and open minded! If on top of that, the soundsystem is good, how can I not be satisfied…

Special mention to the members of Bruits de la Passion who combined these two conditions with brilliance during a Zone Disco Autonome of anthology, last June. Big up to Vio DJ for his Leihaus parties (if you’re in Berlin, make a date).

In Paris, I award the kevlar medal to Belec for his Bisou parties.

In Bordeaux, you already know the solid guys 🙂

tplt: How does it feel to be one of the few French residents of the London radio NTS?

pam: I never asked myself that question. I don’t want to be modest about it: I’m very happy to have a show on a radio station whose bias and programming I respect a lot and on which some of my favorite DJs play (I recommend Jack Rollo and Elaine’s Time Is Away show).

I guess I’ve always had an “Anglo-Saxon” feeling in my relationship with music which must fit quite well with the NTS spirit. I consider the radio show as an extension of the blog: it allows us to communicate the records reviewed on the site with other records, which would not have their place on Okonkole Y Trompa (not because they are not good, but because they are not so unknown – at random, Chris Rea’s On The Beach or RAMZi’s last record).

In conclusion: I’m proud to have a show on NTS, not because I’m one of its few French residents, but because I have a lot of respect for what’s done there. I had the opportunity to have a show on this English radio but I consider that there are incredible shows and very talented DJ’s on our national radio LYL, just as respectable.

tplt: What do you think all these new web radios that have emerged in the last few years add?

pam: In my opinion, these web radios are part of a set of devices that have taken over from the blogs I was talking about before and that were put to death by the FBI in 2012, with the closure of the file-sharing site Megaupload (this is not a conspiracy theory).

Thanks to them, networks of enthusiasts could be woven and thanks to the commitment of some DJ’s, shows push the limits of our musical universes, with a spontaneity that podcasts, often more solemn, may not allow (in any case, in my case, any podcast I record is much more thoughtful than a radio show, monthly appointment).

If you listen to Poulet Bicyclette on LYL, for example, you know you’re taking the risk of being jostled by incongruous records. And it’s this kind of show that constantly revives the excitement of musical discovery, especially for people who are not totally immersed in a musical universe, whether it’s digging or around a particular style or genre.

tplt: Can you tell us about the mix you prepared for us?

pam : Let’s say it’s a warm-up type dance mix. It was inspired by a sunny Sunday in Lille last September (hello Lény and the Stick To The Groove team).

I tried to mix with more or less skill some recent finds – some of them relatively badly produced – with less obscure records that I never get tired of (Sakamoto’s Steppin’ Into Asia for example). The whole having for center of gravity a magnificent Bossa Nova piece sung half in French, half in Spanish. Those who follow Okonkole Y Trompa assiduously should recognize a few tracks. Not necessarily adapted to the evenings by the fire, wait to listen to it again at the end of the afternoon, when the beautiful days will arrive… Guaranteed effects!

tplt: We’ve seen you several times on Antinote sets, are you involved in the label’s functioning?

pam: Yes. I’ve been helping Zaltan every day for a few years to keep the label running. Since a few months, Raudie joined us, and he manages a lot of boring stuff. So, thanks a lot Raudie ! He actually released a cool record under the name Tambo’s House on his own label, Vulcan Venti.

tplt: What are your plans for this new year?

pam: 2018 is the year where the project that is closest to my heart should come to fruition. No, I’m not getting married. I’m not expecting a child either. But that should be leaked soon… Stay tuuuuuuned!

Interview by Raphaël Le Manchec.

Photos by Sylvain Pinot