start at the beginning; what was the first record you ever bought? At what age?
Gueffier: My first ever record was the Moody Blues On the Threshold of a Dream
which I bought during a trip to England in 1969 when I was 15 years old. I had
a chance to listen to previous Moody Blues tracks on radio in ‘67/’68 and their
incredible sound blew up my mind. The discovery of Mellotron was a sound
revolution for me. In fact, nobody was talking about Progressive music at that
time, but later, many journalists and music fans came to consider the Moody
Blues the founders of Progressive Music.
did you start collecting progressive music? Was it during “the Golden Age” or
Immediately after this discovery, my taste for original music developed and
then listening to early Pink Floyd, King Crimson or Soft Machine turned me into
a real Progressive fan and record collector. I was living in a little town in
France at that time, where it was impossible to find any of these albums. So, I
started to buy from England by mail order. Most of the stuff from these
catalogues was really outside of the commercial market.
In the beginning,
were you mostly interested in only French music, or perhaps other countries as
my first tastes were for British bands. But I rapidly discovered the French
scene, starting with Gong and Magma, which were intensively touring at that
time, even in small cities. They use to play in some kind of youth centers
called MJC (for House for Youth & Culture), which existed in every French
town. This opened the eyes of the Progressive
audience to see that this type of music was existing in several other
countries. Rapidly, it became possible to find in French shops some German and
Italian records as well. This allowed me to discover and collect LP's by Amon
Duul, Agitation Free, Faust, Banco, PFM, etc
the 1970’s it seemed the progressive music scene died off somewhat, then
experienced a bit of resurgence. In some ways the French Discographie book and
MUSEA helped re-start that. Who had the original idea to start MUSEA? What year did you begin the original work
on the book and start the MUSEA label?
After a decade of masterpieces, it happened that Progressive Music was banned
from all media at the end of the ‘70's. Most groups disappeared and the
production was reduced to nothing. But of course, this was only the rules of
the music market which led to this situation: music business had discovered
other sources of easy profit in the form of Punk music and later New Wave, so
why go on carrying those old fashion Prog dinosaurs ? This attitude was
obviously neglecting many music lovers - even if they were not as many as in
the old days - and not taking into consideration all the musicians who went on
composing interesting works.
time, I was still trying to increase my knowledge of the Progressive scene,
trading LP's and live cassettes with other Prog fans all over the world. This
is how I met Francis Grosse, who had a special taste for the French scene. We
rapidly decided in 1982 to gather our information and make it available for
other Prog fans. This took the form of The French Rock Discography, the
first edition was published in 1984.
several months, we gathered all possible information about past & existing
French bands, meeting lots of musicians. The situation was the same for all of
them: they had no label to release their work, so they had to self produce
their albums, and no distributor to sell them. So they usually sold them to a
few friends and kept the unsold copies in their cellar!
as we started selling our book, the usual answer from our readers was:
"Where can I find this record?". So we were in that special situation
where we knew musicians without listeners, and music fans without records to
listen to! What else can we do ? We decided to be the missing link between
them! We asked the musicians to give us some LP's on consignment, which we
started selling to the Discography readers. And this was the real start of
Musea. Needless to say that at that time, we had absolutely no plan for the
future, no idea where this could lead us!
In 1985, while going to Paris to
a music festival (with appearances by Shub Niggurath, Eskaton, Uppsala and
others ), Francis & me decided to found a record label and called it Musea,
in reference to the Muses, Music and Museum.
to give our readers some musical elements, we asked several bands to record an
original track to be included in a cassette given free with the book. This
cassette was called Prelude and included unreleased tracks by Noco
Music, Troll, Joel Dugrenot, Serge Bringolf/Strave, Pataphonie, Eskaton,
Uppsala, Yog Xothoth and Datura. This cassette is the first ever Musea release!
I think this request to bands for new material, with the guarantee to be
distributed , even at a limited scale at that time, gave hope to many musicians
and contributed to the re-birth of the French Prog scene.
I think there
have been 3 versions of the book, how many copies have been sold up to today?
First two versions were printed to 1,000 copies, the third one to 2,000 copies.
This was not really a huge quantity, but it was clearly showing that the
audience for this kind of music did not disappear completely. The second
edition was published in 1988, a third one in 1994. The content was
considerably improved with each edition.
there be another discographie released? If yes, when?
Definitely yes ! We never gave up this work, and went on during all these years
to gather all useful information for each new edition. We plan to release the
fourth edition in 2001, probably in the form of a CD-ROM. This edition will
include at least three times more bands and records than the previous one !
the beginning how did you obtain the money for the early albums?
was simple: we had absolutely no money for anything ! This is the reason why in
fact our first releases were totally financed by the bands themselves ! As I
told you, at that time, the ONLY existing solution for Prog musicians was self
production. At least with Musea they could let us do all the work regarding
cover conception, pressing, legal declarations, and have the guarantee of a
minimum distribution, which was real progress. But this made no difference on
the bill: they still had to cover all costs. This was how our first 4 records
were published: Jean Pascal Boffo Jeux de Nains (2001), Shub Niggurath Les
Morts Vont Vite (2002), Elixir Sabbat (2003) and Jean Pascal
Boffo Carillon (2004). With the profit we made on distributing these
titles, we could afford to self-finance our next two releases: Enneade (2005)
a compilation devoted to Magma related bands and Enchantement (2006) a
compilation devoted to French progressive bands.
many labels does MUSEA publish today? Do they feature more than just progressive music?
Today, Musea includes 11 different labels, each one devoted to a special
musical style: Musea for
Progressive Rock, Angular for
Neo Progressive, Gazul for
New Music, Rebel for Rock, Brennus for Hard Rock, Thundering for
Metal, Ethnea for Folk,
Dreaming for Electronic Music,
Bluesy Mind for Blues, Musea
Parallèle and Great Winds
for Jazz & Fusion. Altogether, these labels have released almost 700 titles
MUSEA releases a very large number of
productions it must be very expensive. How many do you release per year and how
does the company raise the money for these?
usually release approx. 50 to 55 CD's per year, (i.e. one new release every
week). About half of them are financed by bands, the rest by Musea. The profit
on previous releases allows us to finance the new ones.
I’d be interested
to hear a little about how the company works. I’ve heard it is a non-profit
organization. Does that mean you cannot make any profits?
Musea legally exists under a very special status defined by French laws, as a
Non Profit Association. This allows us to exist, to make a commercial business,
even to make profit. The only limit is that this profit can not be given to any
private person or shared between investors. All profit has to be reinvested in
a very important aspect of our activity: we all knew, when starting this
adventure, that there was no money to be made on this music. By choosing this
Non Profit status, we wanted to show to all our partners, musicians, music
lovers, that our aim was not business or money, but just to share the music we
love, to work in order to have it available for the largest possible audience.
Our only motivation is musical passion.
the company make a profit? What is done with the excess money you earn?
course, we are aware of the economic reality and we manage our budget as best
we can, not to make profit, but only to cover our costs, pay our bills and
salaries and go on existing. If it sometimes happens to have a little money
left, we invest it in promotion, productions or help financially our bands to
tour in international festivals.
people get paid a salary for their work?
we started Musea in 1985, it was only run by benevolent people. There was
absolutely no money available to pay anybody. This happened for 10 years. But
we reached a point where some tasks became too important to be done only on
leisure time by benevolent members. In 1995, we hired an employee for logistics
(shipments, stock keeping etc.). Then in 1998, two heads of Musea have been
hired: Alain Robert as technical manager and myself as general manager. At that
time, we spent all our evenings and nights, all week ends, all holidays for
Musea, in addition to our regular jobs. It was too much for us and our families
and we had to give up - with regrets - our benevolent status to become full
time employees of Musea. Today, Musea has five employees and soon there will be
seven. Of course lots of work is still done by benevolent members, approx. 15
is currently the “MUSEA team” of workers?
said above, I'm the general manager, taking care of A&R matters, choosing
bands and coordinating the whole thing. Alain Robert takes care of CD
conception and pressing, as well as conceiving all printed matter (catalogues,
promo documents etc.) and our web site and computers. Charles Wegner is
responsible for commercial matters, sales and purchases. Alain Ricard is the
head of the French distribution and Brennus label. Thiery Paya is in charge of
logistics (shipments, warehouse etc.). Amongst benevolent members, we have Jean
Claude Granjeon (Promotion), Alain Juliac (Musea Magazine), Bertrand Pourcheron
(Japanese dept), Philippe Arnaud (Promotion Redaction), Jean Claude Hesse
(Gazul label), Charles Zampol and Laurent Bocquet (Thundering label), Stefan
Kost (Angular label), Ghislain Schmitt (catalogue), Jerome Mergen (catalogue),
Yves Javier (catalogue), Albert Bergemont (Great Winds label), François Arnould
(Author Rights dept), Philippe Gnana (Musea Magazine), Nicolas Juan
(Promotion), Gilles Cador (Bluesy Mind label). We also have very active foreign
representatives, running some Musea branches in several countries: Michael
Suckow (USA), Enrique Gomez & Pascale Montiel (Mexico), Alexis Loppe Bello
(Venezuela), John Bollenberg (Benelux),Jaume Pujol (Spain), Vitaly Menskikov
many countries does MUSEA have distribution in now?
Musea is distributed in 90 countries: North & South America, all Europe
from Scandinavia, EC, Eastern Europe, Russia, Middle East and Far East,
Australia and New Zeeland. In some countries, we have only one exclusive
distributor, taking care of one or several labels and providing all local shops
with our titles. In some other countries, we deal with several importers or
directly with shops and retailers. In the latter cases, we also sell directly
to customers by mail order.
are the average sales for a new MUSEA
title by a known artist? What about new artists?
is difficult to talk about an average quantity sold, as there are huge
differences between our best sellers and our lesser ones: Prestigious reissues
like Sandrose or Pulsar "Halloween" reach quantities over 10,000
copies. For the lesser releases, we can go sometimes no higher than 300 copies!
The average sales could be around 1,500 to 1,800 copies. There is no real
difference between reissues and new artists: we have good sales as well for
70's reissues (Trace, Asia Minor, Kaipa, Neuschwanstein, Mona Lisa, Atoll all
between 4,000 and 5,000 sales) as for new artists (Anglagard, Now, Christian
Decamp, Minimum Vital, Eris Pluvia, XII Alfonso, Galadriel).
MUSEA promote concerts or have other
musical activities in France, or elsewhere?
knew since the start of Musea that producing and distributing records is a
completely different job than arranging concerts. So we always kept apart from
this activity. It's really too much work and risk, and could cause some large
loses of money that would be fatal to Musea's existence! We also know that
music needs to exist on stage, not only on records. So our choice is to help
financially concert arrangers who decide to include Musea bands in their
programs. In that sense, being a large source of bands for concerts arrangers,
we’ve cooperated with some famous events such as ProgFest, NearFest, Baja Prog,
Rio Art Rock Festival etc.
you think the progressive scene is still growing now, or has it leveled off?
Obviously, the Progressive scene was bigger in terms of audience in the 70's.
But after the dark period of the 80's when it was almost considered
non-existent, it's slowly, but regularly growing since the mid 80's. Today, the
Progressive scene is full of diversity and creativity, building bridges between
different musical styles, and its audience is increasing every day. You know in
the mainstream musical press in the 80's, it was kind of a shame to listen to
Prog'! A Prog lover belonged to another age, they were considered fossils!
Today, the attitude of the official press is much different as after 30 years,
Progressive music has gained a kind of respectability, or at least the right to
exist amongst other musical styles. Its a kind of peaceful coexistence!
I feel that so
many new labels and new releases swamp the scene, there is so much to choose
from and only a certain audience. Do you think we are seeing “the law of
diminishing returns” affect the marketplace today?
are right, it has become today so easy to record and manufacture a CD with the
new technology that anybody can do it by himself. In the past, the investment
to release a record was so high that any project had to go through the
"filtration" of record companies, where professionals could select
the most interesting ones. Of course, that caused a kind a market censure, but
it mainly avoided the flooding of the market with music of little or no
interest. Today's listeners have to make the selection themselves, they have to
be more cautious. They have to be more active, to find the information by
themselves in order to choose the really interesting music. This is also the
responsibility of distributors to help them to make their choice. Apart from
our own releases, our mail order catalogue MusiCDirect includes several
thousands of independent or self produced productions. In fact we receive from
the whole world 10 times more submissions. It's our responsibility to select
from this mass of music the few projects which we think are interesting for our
audience, and avoid that the other ones come on the market.
MUSEA have any special plans for the
future to perhaps create wider interest in progressive music?
we started a very special project in France these past few months in order to
reach a wider audience. In the past, we had to go through distributors in order
to have our CD's in retail shops. This was the weak point of the chain between
us, the label and our audience. Due to the rather low quantity sold, and thus
the low profit made, distributors were not really interested to invest their
time on our releases. They would only satisfied the pre-existing demand, and
had no real desire to increase the audience. For this reason, we started in
2000 our own distribution network in France. We have today 11 salesmen visiting
over 500 record shops in France and offering directly to shop owners our
releases. This offers us the ability to cut out any intermediary and thus
increase our French sales. We hope to export this experience to more countries
in the future.
Personally I like all kinds of different musical styles. For your
own enjoyment, do you listen to more than just progressive music yourself, or
is that your exclusive interest?
several decades, I’ve opened my ears to lots of different musical styles, weird
Rock ala Zappa or Beefheart, New Music of all kinds, from Fred Frith to Urban
Sax, recent classical or contemporary music (Stravinsky, Bartok, Varese,
Boulez), jazz (Pat Metheney, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea), folk music etc.
Progressive music has a special status in my mind as it was the music of my
adolescence. I experienced some emotions connected with this music which I will
never find with any other music, any time. But this is only my personal story,
it has nothing to do with the music itself !
would be your 5 all time favorite progressive albums? And do you have 5 all
favorite non-progressive albums?
Machine - FOURTH
– M. D. K.
Genesis - FOXTROT
4) Yes- CLOSE
TO THE EDGE
Crimson - RED
– FREAK OUT
Captain Beefheart – LICK MY DECALS OFF
Frith - GRAVITY
Bley - MUSIQUE MECANIQUE
Riley – A RAINBOW IN CURVED AIR
- Archie Patterson