: YeBaDong

INTERVIEW : Sylvain Gouvernaire - IRIS

Some history…

How did Arrakeen find itself doing the opening act for Marillion's Season's End tour?
Our manager decided to organize a Marillion concert at Vitrolles in October 1989. In so doing he was able to get Marillion's tour manager to have us play the opener. That day, during the soundcheck, we gave a tape to the members of Marillion and asked them to come and see our set. That's what they did and apparently they liked it because two months later they called us back, asking us to do the opening act for the Season's end tour in March - April of 1990

What sort of contact was there between Arrakeen et Marillion during the tour?
The contact was excellent, as Marillion is one of the bands that had influenced Arrakeen the most. So we were really happy to do the opening act. Communication wasn't always easy for those of us who don't speak English. But the atmosphere was very friendly, with a lot of great parties after the concerts.

Who did you have the best contact with?
With Steve Rothery who's become my friend. With Mark too.

What do you remember about Folle Marie on stage with Steve Rothery in Lille? Did you know what was going on?
Yes I did. We'd planned it beforehand. We were all real proud and for me it was really one of the best moments of the tour, with the Zenith in Paris. I remember we had the big sound on stage, and the public who were already into it went even more crazy when Steve came on stage. Pure euphoria!

Why did you abandon Arrakeen for the second album?
That's not exactly what happened. Actually, Arrakeen had separated, or broken apart: Maiko first left the group. Then, as we had a hard time finding a new singer, Eric thought it would be better to look for a job. That was a big step backwards for us all, as we had been working full time with Arrakeen. Once he'd left the whole group broke up, Gauthier left for Paris and Yves stopped. As for me, I was really bothered by it all, and just then Mark offered to let me stay in his apartment in London for a month or two. So I left and stayed in England... A few months later, Eric took up music again with Maiko and they started a new band as amateurs, with Gauthier in Paris, etc. However it didn't interest me to work as an amateur after all we'd been through together. It didn't have anything to do with our aims and our commitments with each other. And I was in England where musically there's a lot more happening than in France... For me Arrakeen was finished after Patchwork...

Past and present

How did you get into the Racket club and write your album with Ian and Pete ?
In the beginning of 1995 the members of Marillion all had free time and Ian said he thought we should try to make an album together. At first there was a time of uncertainty when we didn't know if we would use pieces I already wrote, or if we would try to create new ones from jams we'd done together. It quickly became quite clear anyway that we wanted to do an instrumental album which represented a challenge, an interesting approach; in addition, I had a lot of instrumentals tracks written that I wanted to record and this concept pleased Ian cause it reminded him of the time when he played with Steve Hackett. A little later, just as the project was shaping up, Pete said he'd like to participate.
Most of the time, Ian and Pete kept the parts I'd written because they were close to their own sensibilities. Sometimes, they personalized them and that always added to the song. On Memory of Eagle, Pete didn't play the fretless bass, which was done on a synthesizer. On Train de Vie and Crossing the Desert, which originated from jam sessions between Ian and myself, they entirely created their parts as we were recording. In general it was always impressive to see how those two are used to play together: Pete guessed Ian's breaks in advance and joined him exactly where he should right away. It was like magic. In addition, Ian and Pete were in an enthusiastic and fresh state of mind because it was the first project they'd done outside of Marillion for a long time. This album benefited from the strength and finesse of Marillion's rhythm section at its best.

What does IRIS mean, why did you choose this name?
When we had to find a name for this project, Ian suggested we call it 'Sylvain Gouvernaire', as I composed all the songs. But personally I was more interested in the idea of presenting my music under the name of a project. I finally decided on Iris. Iris is the name of the winged messenger of the ancient gods in Greek mythology. I liked the symbols attached to the name and the fact that it has many meanings: the flower, the iris of the eye, it's a feminine first name in English, and also the name of a destructive cyclone... Danny, the artist who drew the cover was enthusiastic about the name Iris because it inspired him for the logo, which was very well done in my opinion.

Crossing the Desert, why did you choose this title?
Crossing the desert, that's what we're all doing, isn't it? It symbolizes modern humanity, which I think is crossing the desert. The figure on the cover is in the middle of the desert and his burden is a television that's switched on. It's the symbol of our almost total enslavement by the media and the consumer society which determines our behavior, what we are or what we "should" be. The figure is following the road which he'd drawn from the pack of cards (an ace of hearts is lying near the fire; he's put everything he's got into his journey). He's going toward his goal: the mountains, symbols of attainable equilibrium and plenitude but he's carrying with him the reason of his unhappiness which slows him down considerably in his journey. It's also a personal allusion to the difficulties encountered during my career after Arrakeen.

Le foureux* who watches him go out into the desert, is that the view Arrakeen had of you when you left?
Yes, you can interpret it like that, it's a second meaning of the cover; I wanted to make a little allusion to the past, there are also the Arrakeen monks wandering in the desert (We used to come on stage dressed in monk's capes).
* "Le Foureux" is the animal with blue fur which is on the cover, as well as being on the covers of Arrakeen's albums.

Present and Future

Are you still in contact with Marillion and will they be present on your next album? (why not do a solo duet with Steve R.)?
Yes, I'm still in contact with Ian and Steve Rothery, less often with the others. As for the presence of members of Marillion on my next album, it's quite possible. Maybe Pete will play the bass guitar. We'll see, it depends on the possibilities of each person. As for a solo duet I don't think so (we already did that on Arrakeen). But, well, you never know!

When will your new album be ready?
I wish I knew, I hope it will be ready very soon and there should be, besides instrumental tracks, others with singing in English.

What's the line up for IRIS Live?
Stephane Bechet on drums, Christian Betaille on bass guitar, Hervé Cosentino on keyboard and Jean Michel Bernard on second guitar.


What has influenced you musically in the past and present?
Many different influences. I began with classical music, I played a lot of piano, so this has really influenced me as far as composition goes. I often compose on a piano. My favorite composers are Beethoven; Schubert, Mozart, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, etc. Concerning my rock music influences, in the beginning there were the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan. I learned how to play the guitar by myself by redoing David Gilmour's solos. Then other guitarists like Van Halen, Ian Chrighton (Saga), Steve Lukather (Toto), and others I'm forgetting. Oh yes, there was Police also. Then of course "progressive" rock groups like Marillion, Genesis, some albums from Yes.

What equipment do you use?
I use two Mesa/Boogie amps (MKII and MkIII). My effects are DEP5 Roland, SDE3000 Roland + volumes pedals and many others.

Can you tell us who the three members of the Gouvernaire family mentioned on Iris are (Iseult, Aymon and Claudine)?
The people mentioned on the album are Aymon, my father (deceased), Yseult, my sister and Claudine, my mother.

One last question

On the Freaklist, the general idea at the time was that you were the only guitarist capable of replacing Steve R. if he quit Marillion. What do you think?
Why, Steve was going to quit Marillion? I'm very flattered to be thought of as the only one capable of replacing him. However, I think our styles are very different.

Interview by Jay, Christian Orsatti and some French Engineers from Marillion-The Web France web site

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