Gérard Batrya lives in Germany for twenty years now – most of the time in Berlin – however he never lost the connection to his home-country, France. Today he is known for his bass-playing, but he actually began his musical career with lessons on classical guitar. Batrya´s latest CD is called « To Jaco » as a tribute to his great idol Jaco Pastorius. Nowadays Gérard Batrya preferably plays jazz, but he is still always interested in other styles of music, new ideas and inspiration by younger musicians.
Carina: What about the jazz-scene in Paris? – Some people say it is better than here …
Gérard: The scene in Paris is completely different. It is a great scene, there are rather good musicians. But it is also really difficult to live as a musician in Paris – it is not so easy. When I came here in the eighties, the free-jazz-scene was about to begin …
In the first place, I am here because I met a German girl, you know. Musicians are moving sometimes: It’s music, that makes them move – but sometimes the girls make them move. I would never have come here, if I hadn´t known my girlfriend. I met her on tour, in Corsika. So I said, ok, I´ll stay here for a while … – But in Paris I was lucky – I mean, I had some good jobs in Paris. I was lucky – but « sonst » its difficult.
Carina: What projects are you involved in at the moment?
Gérard: I am playing with … – but ok. – first: My CD is « aktuell »! – Beside that I try to organise some festival gigs later on this year – one in Berlin, but also « outside » in Italy with some friends. I really like to work outside of Germany, too. And then I play with Golem Shuffle, this is a great band in Berlin. We got this project together.
Since I made my record, I just make jazz. I think I have to explain something to you: how I came to make my record – because it is twenty years now that I am playing for other people. You know: Rosenstolz, Jocelyn B. Smith, Pete Wyoming Bender – twenty years. I was playing … making some job, a living job. And then I started my own studio here. And I told myself: « I am going to make big money » and began to record some HipHop-things. Sure, I like jazz, but nevertheless I am listening to what is happening.
I like what is on MTV – well I like something, not everything. I like what the young people listen to, like Techno – although I don’t own any Techno CDs. I am not what you call a « purist » jazzer. I am open for everything. I was really into electronic – on my record I used a lot of electronics, and I made everything on this sampler here. I also am into this « HipHop-thing ». I had these two guys and a girl singing HipHop in german very good, and I was going to produce that. And then a guy was there and I wanted to make him listen to what I am doing – you know: « Hey bud, move your ass …, buffpa! »
I got all these things parallel. I was doing some jazz things, you know – I mean: for me! I told myself: Ok, this is great, I´d like to produce that. – So, my original concept was to make money and try to be a producer. And now, I am going to be a poor jazz musician, but I am really happy. This record is very important for me. Because it is my first record – but also it is twenty years of my life. It means twenty years of composing. There are tunes that are eight years, nine years old and even more. And then I put it together on this CD – actually I really like it …
That’s life, sometimes you go there, and sometimes you go « boom ». – I am thinking about making my next CD with a friend in France – Techno music – I will maybe mix some live crazy, jazzy bass with some Techno. Maybe for my next record – if there is a next record.
Carina: Why did you call your band « Gerard Batrya and the Lions »?
Gérard: I tell you why: The name at first was « Gérard Batrya » and that was it. You know, all my musicians are very famous « Berliner » musicians. So they´ve got jobs and everything. So it was always like: everybody is there, and then one says, oh, I have to go now to the radio and make a rehearsal! So it was one less. Then another. Then another less, you know, so in the end we were like three or four people. You know, one said: « Oh, there is just four of us left! Where are all the other people? » And I said: « Yeah man: outside there is a lion, you know – and when they don’t play good, the lions are eating them. »
the lions are eating them!
You know, it is a joke actually. – It has nothing to do with reggae! There are some reggae things and lions – but this is a joke. But also: it’s a good joke – because « lion » means « king ». And all of my musicians are really « the best », really some of the most interesting people in Berlin, who play in Berlin. – You’ll know a few of them …
I was very happy to get them. It was very difficult, because I just got a little record company, I had a small budget and everything. And my first thought is, I wanted to pay the musicians some decent money. It was really hard to do.
Carina: What are important events in your life – have there been some turning points?
Gérard: It was in Paris, when I was twenty. My girlfriend was a photo-model, she was working for Salvador Dali. And she once said to me: « Ah, ok., can you pick me up? » – So, I went to pick her up, and I went in this famous hotel. – It is one of the most famous hotels. – And then I was there and I said: « Oh, I like to see my wife, my girlfriend – I have an appointment! » They said: « Ok, go upstairs, first floor… »
And I go there, come into this room, I sit on the big couch and wait. And then suddenly the door opens. And there is Mr. Salvador Dali. And I say, no, this is a misunderstanding, I just want to get my girlfriend! He sat next to me on the coach and we took well like an hour to talk about music and art and everything. I told him that I am a musician. And he said: « Ah, ok, that’s great! » I mean – …: Salvador Dali!
In life it is my big event, as a life-event. As a musician-event it was of course for me to play with some people I was a fan of when I was a kid. For example Dick Heckstall-Smith ofCollosseum. That was a big band … I had the chance to play with some very good people in my life.
Carina: How would you describe the way you play the bass – what do you think is special about it?
Gérard: What is « special » is, that I am not playing « bass », I am playing « music ». That’s what is special. – As well: when I teach, I try to tell « An instrument is an instrument – this is like a screwdriver or whatever! » You don’t ‘play a screwdriver’, you ‘play music’ with a screwdriver – try to make music and all the other things. I am not playing bass, I am a musician. On my card already I don’t put « bass player », but « musician ».
CD: Gérard Batrya and the Lions – « To Jaco »
(Timescraper TSCR 9825)
Cover: Sybille Batrya / Anita Lorenz – blond communication