DRIVE BLIND

DRIVE BLIND

90′ Noise Rock Legends – Nîmes
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FR – Il y a tout juste 20 ans, sortait une des pièces maîtresses de la discographie de Drive Blind : « Be A Vegetable ». Avant de crasher la voiture le conducteur aveugle avait assimilé le meilleur de la musique de l’époque : l’énergie du  grunge de Tad, Nirvana ou Mudhoney, la rage des riot grrrls de L7 et Babies in Toyland. Il avait aussi incorporé dans son rock calibré 90’ une bonne dose d’électricité tout comme Helmet ou encore Jesus Lizard.
David Weber, ingénieur du son au studio des Forces Motrices à Genève a travaillé sur le remastering de cet incontournable de la scène française. Il l’avait enregistré et masterisé il y a  20 ans. En sortant les bandes originales il a retrouvé un inédit, un titre enregistré à l’époque qui n’avait pas trouvé sa place sur le disque. Le groupe en avait même oublié l’existence !
Dans ce double vinyle, vous trouverez donc, en plus de la chanson fantôme de l’époque où les membres du groupe ont échangé leurs instruments, un titre rare qui n’était sorti que sur un mini CD offert pour l’achat du disque à l’époque.
Le légume qui pourri sur la pochette a donné des graines, Head records en est une. Il nous semblait tout à fait logique que le label s’occupe de cette réédition vinyle, premier chapitre d’un travail de collaboration avec le groupe qui risque de révéler d’autres surprises.

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TESTIMONIES

 

« Je me souviendrais toujours de notre premier contact avec les “Conduit Blindé”. C’était à l’époque (sic) où je tournais avec Condense, en tant que commissaire politique / émissaire à rien. Le lieu : un petit festival dans un bled du sud-ouest profond, organisé si mes souvenirs sont bons, par le fils du maire. Un festival moitié « punk rock » et moitié fête foraine ! Avec des auto-tamponneuses, Michel Delpech en fond sonore, des tortues Ninja et des pistolets à eau. Ou plutôt des mitraillettes et/ou des lance-grenades à eau… Dont les membres des deux groupes s’emparèrent illico pour s’attaquer mutuellement pendant leurs sets respectifs. Et c’est depuis ce jour-là, que le cordon ombilical de la franche rigolade reliant l’Hérault au Rhône ne s’est jamais vraiment distendu. C’est deux ans après cet épisode que les Drive Blind ont fait une halte à Lyon, un dimanche soir en revenant du studio des Forces Motrices de Genève (où Condense avait également enregistré), pour nous faire écouter leur nouvel album sobrement baptisé « Be a Vegetable » ! Et question impact, ce fût un peu le même effet sonique que le Nevermind d’un obscur trio californien cinq ans auparavant : putain de gros son et des tubes imparables. Il y en d’ailleurs un, pas forcément le plus évident, qui continue à nourrir régulièrement mon autoradio aujourd’hui : The Last Temptation Of The Modern Man. Double voix, mid tempo, riffs lancinants… Magnifique ! Depuis ce temps-là (sic, 2e), I’m trying not to sink, mais ce n’est pas facile de trouver quelque chose à quoi se raccrocher. Ou peut-être que si : la reparution prochaine de ce disque en vinyle ! Et vogue les autos-tampons… »
Laurent Zine (Under a Big Black Sun)

« La nouvelle version 2.0 de Drive Blind est une totale réussite. Be A Vegetable est une pépite dans l’univers musical des années 1990. Un des meilleurs albums : noisy, pop, sexy élégant et intelligent »
Virginie & Armand (Sloy)

« Remember the energy, the sharing moments on stage, the laughs, the southern perfect accent… and you need no more reason to smile. »
Loïc Gaonac’h (Seven Hate)

« Drive Blind pour moi c’est lié au camion, la route, les dates, les tournées … Peut-être parce que la première fois où j’ai vu le groupe sur Bordeaux c’était une date improvisée après une panne de camion. Mais aussi comme des parents (ou au moins des grands frères et sœur) de la scène noisy pop française, en tout pour Mary ‘s Child c’était vraiment le cas, une référence évidente. » Jonathan Lamarque (Mary’s Child)

« Parrain de Drive Blind au FAIR, je fus comblé quand 6 mois plus tard, ils me contactent pour que je m’occupe de leur tournée. Un excellent groupe, des gens merveilleux, intelligents et attachants. Une référence, un son dans le monde musical français à faire pâlir les Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Swervedriver, News Atomic Dustbin… »
Christophe Bosc (3C Prod)

J’ai vu Drive Blind pour la 1ère fois au début des années 90, au regretté Jimmy de Bordeaux. J’avais alors vaguement entendu parler d’eux, mais sans plus, et j’en avais un peu rien à faire, vu que j’étais là ce soir pour écouter et voir the Afghan Whigs, dont ils assuraient la 1ère partie. La taaaaaarte ! Afghan Whigs ont fait un excellent concert, mais Drive Blind se sont surpassés, et nous en ont offert un magistral. Sans les blagues à 2 balles de Pierre et Rémi entre les morceaux, qui nous rappelaient leurs origines françaises et sudistes, on aurait pu nous faire croire sans problème qu’ils avaient traversé l’Atlantique eux aussi, ce qui n’était à l’époque, pas une mince affaire dans nos contrées. Notre amitié fut scellée le soir même, à grand renfort de cervoise frelatée, et nos chemins se sont croisés de multiples fois au cours de ces 90’s où tout semblait si simple. Leur trois EP nous ont bercés et secoués durant toute cette époque, mais Be A Vegetable, en 1996  a véritablement enfoncé le clou. Avec ce disque, ils se sont aventurés là ou peu de groupes français avaient mis les pieds, exécutant l’affaire avec brio, et avec un vrai son digne de ce nom, qu’il me tarde vraiment d’écouter enfin sur vinyle !»
 Luc Magnant (La Charcuterie)

« 1994 marked an important year for A Subtle Plague – 3rd album, new van, no day jobs and our first nine-month maxi-European Tour. To boot, the post-Kurt indie rock world had firmly slithered its way into the roots of the entertainment industrial complex.  It seemed the Continent was awash in a sea of Sub-Pop spawned grunge pirates all flying the flannel flag of convenience. When we first shared a bill with Drive Blind we knew one thing – Drive Blind were different. These young south of France rockers stood out from the crowd by carving their own sonic niche. They had not only mastered the sound of that era but had spun it into there own unique tapestry- throwing in elements of pop, noise and soaring vocal harmonies that could make a Spector smile. The Drive Blind tableau was the stage. They put out every night. Not just flailing passion -which they had in spades- but unique full band coordinated dance moves. Imagine James Brown choreographed by Marcel Duchamp. Live you couldn’t take your eyes off them. Days later you couldn’t get the songs out of your head- you wouldn’t want to anyway. To top it all off they were a blast to go on tour with – gracious, smart and really funny.  (We could have formed a Drive Blind / A Subtle Plague comedy-improv group.) We were honored to share stages with them in Germany and France. To this day they have always remained Family and hold a big place in our humble, little history of Rock’n Roll. »
Pat & Benji (A Subtle Plague)

« Je trouve rien à dire sur Drive Blind, ils étaient trop parfait, une perfection qui engendrait l’inaccessibilité, comme quand j’ai rencontré Nirvana, je ne savais pas quoi dire ! D’ailleurs ils étaient Nirvana pour moi et heureusement, eux sont tous encore vivants et je ne perds pas espoir de les rencontrer un jour ! Love ! »
Patrick Sourimant (The Skippies)

« Les Nîmois commençaient leurs concerts par « On s’appelle Drive Blind et on fait du heavy metal ». Derrière cette grosse blague trompeuse, le groupe délivrait une puissance de feu digne du genre cité, une décharge d’adrénaline jouissive et sans concession. L’album « Be a vegetable » est une patate chaude, un concentré de colère doublé d’une beauté singulière.
Une bombe incendiaire qui nous anéantis, comme ce fut le cas en 1996 pour ce groupe majeur, détruit en plein vol. »
Max Well

« A la grande époque où les groupes devaient se revendiquer d’une “famille” musicale, Drive Blind appartenait à toutes, ou presque. Grunge, Hardcore, Noise ou shoegazing, j’y retrouvais le meilleur de ce que j’aimais alors. Ils étaient aussi doués que gentils, on voulait leur ressembler, même avec l’accent chantant. »
David Lespes (Mary’s Child)

« Dans “High Fidelity” Rob Fleming fait des top five. “Be a Vegetable” est dans mon top five. Mais pas seulement dans mon top five des albums, il est dans le top five de ma vie. C’est un disque que je ne peux pas écouter distraitement car dès les premières notes de “Fear” je me retrouve à Genève, entre les Jardins et l’Usine où j’ai assisté à son enregistrement, je me rappelle toutes les scènes sur lesquelles j’ai découvert les morceaux qui le compose, concert après concert, je suis au volant du Ford Transit rempli d’instruments et de T-shirts gagnés par Michel. À chaque morceau je ressens la même émotion, celle ressentie ce soir-là, chez Nico, au retour d’une tournée avec Moonstruck, quand j’ai écouté le master pour la première fois. »
Galfi Guillaume Favreau (Seven Hate)

My first encounter with Drive Blind was seeing them at the notorious death trap, cellar venue of the LE PHYLACTERE, Montpellier, Summer 1991. Having been introduced to drummer JD, a few weeks earlier, he said I should come along and see his new band play. JD was clearly enthusiastic about music and very excited about his new band, so a whole group of us went along and I thought it would be… Well, I didn’t really know what I thought before seeing them actually play…
I had been active playing in and around the London music scene since 1977 and had just moved to Nimes at the point of the Grunge explosion from the States and the rise of Creation records in London, with their roster of bands, Jesus and Mary Chain, “shoegazers” Ride, Lush, Slowdive, sub grunge outfit Swervedriver et al. I witnessed at close hand my friend, Andy Ross, curate the A&R signings of the more pop heavy Food Records, – Crazyhead, Zodiac Mindwarp, Jesus Jones, Voice of the Beehive and he’d just signed Blur on my leaving London.
I was sure, between both labels, they had pretty much signed enough of the happening bands in the UK to make me believe I wouldn’t see much else around that time to impress, especially coming down to La Midi. British snobbery about French bands is legendary, truly unfounded and lamentable. (I apologise on behalf of all British rock snobs).
However, I was not prepared for what happened that night at Le Phylatere…
I cannot imagine how anyone of us in that cellar could actually breathe on that hot night as the place was rammed full but the biggest surprise and joy came when Drive Blind fired up their amps, took up their weapons of musical destruction and launched into their opening instrumental salvo. The place went nuts and the scorching sound coming from the band raised the room temperature to paint peeling, critical levels.
My jaw hit the floor as they shredded through the number with an energy and fury I hadn’t seen since early punk days. I then shrieked with child-like glee as Pierre and Remi turned their backs to the packed room and, still playing their guitars full throttle, ran backwards into the crowd, knocking people over, spilling drinks, causing mayhem! They demonstrated a petulant confidence beyond expectation. This certainly was NOT shoegazer!
They continued to play a blistering, super powered set of songs enhanced by the sheer chemistry of all members. JD’s insane Keith Moon like drumming, Remi’s accomplished and sometimes psychotic guitar work, Pier’s rich, impassioned rock voice and Mathieu’s (bass player at the time) solid, confident delivery, all constituted a tight, serious, uncompromising, noise. 
After that gig, the single thought that stayed with me was that this was four guys who knew exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it…  They were functioning on a level beyond just a bunch of mates, having a laugh, playing to their friends on a Saturday night.
Despite all the hundreds of concerts; famous or non-famous bands, I’d been to, from the mid 70s to now, it is still one of my all-time abiding, memorable and favourite gigs. The warmth, (literally and creatively), the sound, the energy, the intensity, the competence, the power exuded from those boys, made it apparent Drive Blind were a serious force to be reckoned with, but seriously good fun too. Also, I think importantly, there was a collective intelligence between the four members giving DB a smarter, creative edge over many other bands.
I was sold. I was won over. I was touched. I was in Love and I did whatever I could to get near this band, to contribute to their future, to have something to do with the journey they had embarked upon.
They already had a first single release “Charlatan”, so there was an in built purpose to their mission. Along with my video making friend, Adriana Capano, we set about planning and drawing up ideas for an accompanying video. Although a promo for Charlatan never transpired, some months later we did end up making an on the road documentary, travelling with the band, me as roadie, Adriana as Video documentary maker.
In the new year of 2001 Mathieu left Drive Blind (I still don’t know why?) to be replaced by Jack (former band mate of JD’s in the Bohemians) who proved formidable on bass and it was this line up that defined the band for a good 2 years or more to come.
In that time Remi and Pierre found their voices and crafted their songwriting skills, producing a prolific number of powerful, uncompromising, infectious rock pieces that were a match for any well-known contemporary bands at the time. They released 2 albums, a mini CD, a few more singles and gigged extensively, building up a considerable underground following. It took me a while to realise, en France, most rock music was “underground”.
I spent as much time as I could with Drive Blind, loading and offloading gear from van to venue, setting up amps, overseeing sound-checks, offering advice if I could, assisting Fred their manager in any way I could simply because I believed in them and I wanted to see them play as often as possible. It’s a rare thing when it happens… Like I said, it was love…
It is no exaggeration to say that I had some of the happiest and most satisfying times of my life, being involved with Drive Blind.
One spectacularly childish but hilarious moment –  the rotten food fight between sound engineer Jako, on the back seat of the bus and Fred, at the front, on the long haul home from Clermont Ferrand to Montpellier. Not quite sex, drugs and rock and roll but still one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced. 
Drive Blind reached a point where they were incapable of turning in a bad gig, their onstage energy, musical delivery and performances grabbing even the most lethargic of audiences and shaking them out of their stupor. They were already stars before the rest of the world knew, reminding anyone who saw them what the truth and refined essence of Rock n’ Roll should be. The frustration for me was knowing full well that if Drive Blind were from London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, any UK city, Creation Records would have snatched them up instantly!
For the record… I did tell Andy Ross at Food Records, about them and he did ask me to keep him informed of progress… Which I did, but there was always that psychological distance and mental disconnect between London and The South of France. As if it were some unbridgeable gap between Camden Town and Mars! It’s Ironic that when Milk returned from their French tour, they were also raving to Food Records about Drive Blind … Ho-Hum! 
An exceptionally memorable gig was in Rennes opening for The Teenage Fan Club, the same weekend they finalised details to record with Rennes based indie label, Black et Noir. The climax of that gig was Drive Blind’s particular rendition of The MC5s “Kick Out The Jams”, deteriorating into chaos as they proceeded to smash their guitars and kick over the drums in full Who style. The crowd went mental. This was Drive Blind at their best, outwitting and out-performing the indie stars from the UK. Indeed, standing in the wings, I turned to Norman and Steven of The Fanclub who just gawped, wide eyed at the total carnage playing out onstage, wondering how they were going to follow this insanity…
There’s video of it somewhere. At the end of the documentary, I think?
I spent the next day, travelling in the van, reconstructing Remi’s guitar from all the rescued parts ready for that night’s Bordeaux gig.
They were incredibly intense, incredibly close, incredibly emotional times. But, alas, all good things must come to an end and after a couple of years circumstances forced me to return to England. It was whilst back home, I received the news that Jack and JD were leaving the band. I was shocked at first but came to trust their reasons. (I still see JD in London, to this day where he plays for London outfit Atomic Suplex). However, being replaced by Karine (from Moonstruck) on bass and the phenomenal Nicolas on drums, Drive Blind continued with a vengeance with a new, tight, heavier sound, finally recording their last Album, “Be A Vegetable”, for PIAS.
I was very honoured to receive a phone call from Remi asking me to come out to Geneva to sit in on some of the recording sessions. They flew me out where I was set to work going through their lyrics, making sure they had translated from French to English with the correct intent. I gave them 10 out of 10 and a gold star. That was a wonderful, memorable, if not freezing week and it was a privilege to watch them work on the album.
The next incredible surprise came when they called and asked if I’d conceive and direct the video for the single release. PIAS gave us a not too bad budget and me and some friends managed to make a Video, filmed in London and even though the band do appear in it, they were not in the city at the time. That was surreal but typically Drive Blind…
That was the last thing I was able to do for Drive Blind in their mad five year life, before they finally imploded… Until they asked me to write this, twenty years later.
There is always a place in my heart filled with Drive Blind…There is also a hole in my heart caused by their absence… It has been an honour, a joy and a privilege to have been a small part in the Drive Blind universe and as I sit here writing this, as a middle aged married man, in the home counties of England, I sometimes can’t help think it was all some glorious dream…
But then I seem to remember someone once sang – “Dreams are our own movies…”
Roger Payne