Somewhere between The Specials, Beck and Dick Dale lies Barth, whose most recent album ‘Cuchillo’ sees him take on a spaghetti western alter-ego. He tells Rockfort the story.
Rockfort: You’ve released some music in the UK in the past…
Barth: I released my first album on Boss Music six years ago with Andy Ross, he was the main guy on this label. And then we played a bit but it was like solo gigs mainly in Camden town. And the second album was recorded mainly in the UK but released in France on Ici d’allieurs, a label which works quite well for indie things. And the new one, Cuchillo, is on Ici d’ailleurs as well. I hope it’s going to be released very soon in the UK but I can’t say more because there’s some FBI stuff…
Rockfort: Was Cuchillo recorded in the UK as well?
Barth: Yeah with the same team, with Mike Pelanconi (Ed: producer of Lily Allen amongst others).
Rockfort: What does the title mean?
Barth: First of all it’s because I’m French and I sing in English, so I thought a Spanish title would be great (laughs). And just because it’s one of my favourite characters – Cuchillo is a kind of human hero from the Sergio Solima movie, a spaghetti western and he’s a Mexican guy who’s got nothing, nothing at all, and he fights with ‘cuchillos’, which means ‘knives’, against Americans, against big guns and big money and he’s very naïve but he succeeds in everything he tries to do just because he’s naïve in a good way. So it’s a kind of anti-hero. So, I like this kind of guy, we have the same kind of characters is music as well, like Harry Nilsson is for me a kind of Cuchillo – so it’s an homage to all these guys I like.
Rockfort: Apparently you really like dressing up, do you have any special stage outfits for this album?
Barth: We played on show where I was dressed as Cuchillo but we need time for that – for this particular gig we only had a line check so it was a bit hard for me to get my outfit on. But it’s not a concept album, it’s not about Mexican music and country music, it’s more this character who is a guide for something, but it’s not in the music itself, it’s more in the overall mood.
Rockfort: You had ska influences in your previous albums, is that evident on the new one?
Barth: Yes, for a couple of songs there’s still some ska flavour, but I tried to make it more like in a cartoon – I don’t think I’m Jamaican! I work with some very good Jamaican musicians on a side project and I know what it is to play very good ska and reggae, it’s not for little white guys like me. So I try to do it in a funny way, my ska is more influenced by The Specials more than real Jamaican stuff – it’s a mix of The Specials and a cartoon when I do it.
Rockfort: Could you tell us more about your side projects?
: I work with Mike Pelanconi on Prince Fatty
it’s kind of big in the US now for people who like Jamaican music and the girl who sings, Holly, she’s the daughter of the drummer from the Sex Pistols, she’s a very nice girl who sings very well, so I write songs for Prince F, and it’s played with wonderful Jamaican musicians in a very good studio in London where I recorded Chuchillo, so it’s the same team. And I work with Nostalgia 77 as well, a jazz band. So I’ve got my English connections for music (laughs)!
Rockfort: You live in Paris – what do you think of the scene there?
Barth: To be honest, I like Paris for the food, and my girlfriend is there and she’s amazing, but I work with a lot of English guys or the guys from Steeple Remove or Axel and the Farmers. I’m not into going out and seeing the new French scene because I like music from different countries, I’m not patriotic about music at all.
Interview by Ludovic Merle