În luminile albe ale Parisului

La sfîrşitul lunii mai am primit poate cel mai frumos cadou muzical care mi-a fost oferit vreodată. După 5 ani în care fusesem tachinat cu doar două piese ale unui album nelansat şi neauzit de nimeni, iată că respectivul material a ajuns în sfîrşit la mine, oferit fiind de Sylvan, long time virtual friend şi, totodată, basistul trupei la care ne referim, Stilair. Nu mai insist cu alte informaţii despre trupă, am tot vorbit de ea şi, mai mult decît atît, mai jos veţi putea afla totul în cadrul interviului pe care l-am realizat cu Sylvan şi Gilbert (vocalul trupei). Albumul White Paris Lights pe care personal îl consider (alături de Human-ul lui Civil Twilight) cel mai bun debut discografic pe care l-am ascultat vreodată, are astfel ocazia să nu rămînă doar micul meu secret muzical şi nici doar marea mea pasiune de ascultător fascinat de sunete aparent simple care transmit anumite stări. Discuţia cu Sylvan şi Gil a decurs chiar mai frumos şi mai interesant decît mă aşteptam, acest lucru adîncindu-mi convingerea că muzica a pierdut o mare trupă, chiar fără să ştie nimeni asta. Nu rataţi partea cu Adi Minune, it was hilarious!

Stilair - White Paris Lights

Această piesă (a 4-a de pe acest disc care apare aici pe blog) este cea care dă titlul albumului şi mi se pare cum nu se poate mai potrivită pentru a asigura fundalul discuţiei de mai jos, însă nu înainte de a vă spune şi care au fost membrii trupei (in Sylvan's unique presentation):

Vox/Guitars/Piano - Gilbert Micallef (pronounced micallef ....c for cat)

Guitars - Trevor Kissaun (pronounced Kissoooon ...o for other)

Bass - Sylvan Borg (pronounced Silvan Borg ....g for gesture...altho when I played in London they all called me Borg...g for gut)

Drums - Karl Fenech (pronounced Fenek....k for king)

Je: Hello, Sylvan! We go back quite some time but still never got the chance to meet and play some music together. You know I'm really proud and fond of the band that used to be Stilair. When did you meet and how did you get to play with your band mates?

Sylvan: Hey Bogdan! First of all, thanks for the interview! As for the question, the band started off between Gilbert and Trevor as a duo electronic project but then they felt they needed the presence of a drummer. Gilbert knew Karl since early childhood and knew that he played drums, and so Gil introduced him to Trevor. They spent some time together and even gigged together as a trio but realised they needed a bassist. Apparently they auditioned several guys but never found an adequate one. Then, once I was watching them play live at a local pub and I remember being amused by what they were doing...so I asked Trev if they needed a bassist...and so the rest is history!

Je: Of course, the next one is predictable. What does Stilair mean and why did you guys choose this name?

Sylvan: Stilair is a state of mind! (laughs)...no no...it doesn't mean anything...it just sounds good! And we hoped it would make it to the dictionary one day!

Je: I still remember the summer of 2004, when Sylvan sent me the song Icon. It became one of my favorites ever and I really consider it to be a great portrait for the perfect other, still painted in such few (but beautiful) words. Was this song written with any particular woman in mind?

Gilbert: You are almost right there, it was actually written about three different women. What actually happened was that at the time that the song was written I had just come out of a long relationship and in true rock'n'roll fashion, or rather out of emotional confusion I was sort of dating two girls. It's one of my personal favourites as it captures the ache and the beauty of it all. Sometimes the three girls in question were present at live gigs and it was quite weird singing the song and watching them sing along. Only one of them really knew that she had a stake in there. Any way we're all friends nowadays and good friends at that and either married or getting married in the very near future. I'm getting married to none of them; someone else and happy about that :)

Je: "Like a long lost friend, like a long lost love suddenly cares" - this must be one of my dearest lyric ever, it really suggests new beginnings and neverending chemistry between two people, I'd say. Who was writing the lyrics for the band?

Gilbert: Well the lyrics were written by me. Yes that line really sums it up. One of the girls was an on and off the relationship for more than five years (due to terrible timing) and the other one was someone totally new. What I can I say life has some funny twists and we do take some stupid decisions which somehow enhance the experience of life. So yes you got it spot on there, there's a cycle there which is never ending and when we're lucky true friendships are found, and some legitimate heart warming romance is thrown in for good measure.

Je: You recorded a really great album, White Paris Lights, which unfortunately didn't get to be launched and never hit the stores. I personally feel like some really great pieces of music were wasted. Why did this happen? Do you think there's any chance this album will see the light of day sometime?

Sylvan: The more time we spent in the rehearsal room, the bigger the bond between us became stronger. Gilbert, Trevor and Karl spent more time together than I did with them, since they knew each other much before me, but still, the guys made me feel very welcome from day one. We spent a lot of time together, not only musically. We travelled abroad to attend concerts and we used to hang out and about very often. Then came the dreaded 'studio time'. Musically, it was one of the most intense moments I remember ever going through. We wanted to make THE perfect album. The amount of stress between us grew to such a large extent that we fought continuously. Mind you, we didn't let the friendship go astray. The fighting was only musically related...I don't want you guys to think that we became enemies. We used to fight in the studio and then go for a drink at a pub immediately afterwards. But while in the studio, we wanted it to be so perfect that we used to argue a lot about a tiny detail such as a missing bass drum beat, or the attack on a bass note, or about the sound of a guitar and how it wasn't warm enough or bullshit like that. But, guess we reached an unspoken consensus between us where it was either the friendship or the music - and, maybe unconsciously, we chose the friendship. Till this very day we do meet...and we enjoy our time together. And I know for sure that it is better like that at the end of the day! As for the album...well who knows...time may tell!

Je: Any band has some influences, even if this is acknowledged or not. Who inspired Stilair's music and at what level?

Sylvan: We are big fans of alternative music - you name it! Kings of Leon were big amongst us four even before they got this big. There was Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Joy Division...and of course U2! We're all big U2 fans and we even went together to Rome for the Vertigo Tour concert!

Je: Hehehe no kiddin'! White Paris Lights sounds like a great title for an album, it definitely takes you places and sets a certain mood or feeling. How did you come up with this name for the album? The song that gives the title of the album is also very moody.

Gilbert: The title and the mood was inspired by two movies. Last Tango in Paris a Bertolucci film starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, and Paris Texas a Wim Wenders film starring Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski. The two movies are quite tragic, they scream tragedy but somehow there is a serenity through out the whole movie. It was something that at the time I was identifying with and as soon as I came up with the name it seemed to give a scope to the lyrical side of the album, I believe it gave it certain weight without sounding overtly sentimental and self pittying.

Je: Are there any special themes throughout the 12 tracks journey?

Gilbert: Well the theme is surely what I was going through for that period of 3 years during which time the song writing took shape. The movies mentioned above influenced Shame's theme, White Paris Lights and Push. The tracks were strategicly put at the begining, middle and end. Another movie I used for inspiration was 'Raging Bull' the Scorcese film starring Robert De Niro, the character was given a female twist. A couple of biblical references can be found in there too.

Je: Which are the songs you feel closest to? I know you hate Carter, although I can't figure it out why, hehe.

Sylvan: I adore White Paris Lights (the song) and All Gone - the latter because it has this drousy bass loop that almost goes into the 'chillout' style. But then when I listen to Shame's Theme, I remember how it all got together - in a matter of a few minutes we had the song ready. I'm particularly fond of the whole album - as I said before, we used to fight continuously over tiny details - so we are able to listen to certain pieces that no one would bother listening, and when I remember about it, it is with a big smile on my face. I have a unique fond memory of each and every song!

Je: By the way, who are Kinski, Kravis or Carter?

Gilbert: Well Kravis is no one and as far as my English language knowledge allows it does not mean anything, it just sounds good. At the time I was an actor in a theatre group and one of the training regimes was to give meaning and emotion to meaningless words, that branched out from there. As for Kinski and Carter the titles are a tribute to the beauty and talent of Nastassja Kinski and Helena Bonham Carter respectively. (the two movies in paticular vis-a-vis these two actresses are 'Tess' and 'The Wings of the Dove').

Je: Here comes one from my friend Anné, also a Stilair fan: Who's Mr Taint and what's with his purple eyes?

Gilbert: Well, given as you can tell by now I am so self-absorbed as a lyricist Mr. Taint is me. As for the purple eyes, I just love the colour purple, one of the girls that used to feature a lot in my lyrics at that time used to wear purple a lot; also purple is used in Catholic celebrations to identify sorrow and also purple eyes is going beyond red eyes.

Je: Trevor does an amazing guitar solo in White Heat, the kind that creates a very strong feeling without being necessarily a spectacular piece of work. That's exactly the type of guitarist I like. Is he playing for another band now? Do you still keep in touch with your former band mates?

Sylvan: Musically we're still very active. Trevor is playing bass for a band called Bletchley Park, I have my own solo project with the guitar and a drummer (seems Trevor and me exchanged roles!), Gilbert has his own studio and his stuff is AMAZING...have the occasion to listen to it every now and again, and he promised me I shall play the acoustic on one of his songs..still waiting for that call Gil! (laughs)..and Karl is now playing drums with a huge band in Malta called Winter Moods. Me and Gilbert have kept in touch a lot, but we do still meet occasionally, and when there's a big event on the island, it's quite easy to see us all four together having a pint and a laugh!

Je: Before splitting up, did you get the chance to play gigs and become well-known in Malta?

Sylvan: We were well-known for the alternative circle, although we weren't that alternative. Our music was not alternative, and it wasn't commercial. It was a good crossover between styles, especially in Malta. But since we live in a such a shithole - musically speaking, since Malta's very nice to visit!! - we weren't followed in big amounts by both the alternative and the commercial crowd. But still we did pack up a place wherever we played and our songs always made it to the charts on the radio! By the way, I think Kravis had made it to one of the biggest radio stations in Vancouver and we were being played a lot there too!

Je: Oh, I must tell you I simply love Kravis! Tell me, Sylvan, was it strange to play bass in Stilair? I'm asking this knowing you are basically a guitar player.

Sylvan: It was strange holding a bass at first. I am not a bass player. I started classical guitar at seven and there is a certain technique in how you play the classical guitar that is identical to that of the bass. So in that regard, it really helped. But I am more of a melody person rather than rhytm and so at first it proved to be a bit difficult to create the rhtym. But then again, the Stilair sound is unique and so should the bass playing! If you listen closely to my bass playing, it isn't the way bass playing should be and it isn't the way most people know it. Probably that is one of the reasons why Stilair songs have that kind of mood and magic! Then again, it is very difficult to pinpoint what makes a Stilair song. Guess it is the sum of all parts.

Je: And now that we mentioned playing guitar, tell us about the new project you're into right now. I know you played some gigs in London and also have a growing fan database on Facebook and MySpace. Shall we get ready for an album with the name Sylvan Borg on the sleeve?

Sylvan: Oh...it's too early for an album, although it did cross my mind. Am in constant contact with producers in Malta and abroad and one day, maybe I'll do an EP or an album. Time will tell. For now, all I want is to just gig with my drummer, Kris Schembri - he's an awesome drummer - and enjoy my performances. As long as I am enjoying them, I will continue playing. When I stop having fun doing music, I will stick to my day job, at least there I get paid! (laughs)

Je: Let's imagine you're in the comfort of your home, in a quiet pleasant evening. You grab your guitar. Which song is most likely you'd play?

Sylvan: Most probably I'll try to write a song, or else, if I don't manage - I don't like forcing the inspiration to come through - I just play one of my songs. I am very fond of them. They're my babies. I don't particularly do covers - neither live, nor in my bedroom!

Je: Many years ago, for pure amusement only, I sent you that song from Adrian Minune, I guess it was "Of viata mea", to give you a small taste of the poor Romanian "music" quality, best known under the name of manele. I really hope you're not listening to that crap anymore!

Sylvan: You know Bogdan...I really enjoyed that song (laughs). I can imagine why you hate it! But to these virgin ears of mine, it sounded unique and very alternative!

Je: Honestly, do you still hate me for that night, long time ago, when we both stayed awake and online for that official chat with U2's Edge and I was the lucky bastard who got to ask him a question? Hahaha.

Sylvan: Arghh!! I repressed that memory!! (laughs) I remember you asked him whether they were going to do any acoustic tours and he answered that they did acoustic songs in each concert! But now, do you hate me for going to the first U2 360 Degrees Concert? (laughs)

Je: Oh, I sure do! So let's call it even, hehe. Now tell me, do you have an all time favorite guitarist?

Sylvan: I am a big fan of simple things. So the simpler the better for me! On the other hand, I like The Edge (U2) - not for his guitar playing mainly but for his sound. Jimmy Page and his riffs is another one I adore. But then again, the best things in life are the ones that are close to you, and maybe you don't realise. For example, I used to learn classical guitar with another person called Sandro Zerafa - he was in grade 6 or 7 when I was still starting but we still had guitar lessons together. Nowadays, he's an accomplished jazz player in Paris if I recall well and I've had several occasions to listen to him up and close and to speak to him. Maybe today he doesn't remember me, but I remember him telling me that my guitar playing was good - I was like 8 or 9 years old back then, but it was a big compliment from someone like him, especially seeing that he became such a fantastic player today. And then there is another great guitarist - Trevor (Stilair): not many appreciate his talent. It is only when you work so close to him that you can see and appreciate his talent. I used to feel frustrated because I couldn't hear his playing. It wasn't a matter of volume. It is just that he used to choose the right notes and the right rhtym and it would amalgamate so well with the songs that it was hard for me to decipher what he was doing.

Je: My dear mates, thanks a lot for sharing the Stilair experience with us and not only for that. See you across the music universe!

Sylvan: Thanks once again Bogdan for the interview. It was a pleasure!


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