Interview: Patrick Rondat

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's start from the real beginning, when a not-so-young French boy, one day, after some "musical shock" thought, "I wanna be a guitar hero!". What exactly happened?

Patrick Rondat: It was in 1977, and I had the chance to listen to the first Ronnie Montrose album. I loved it. The sound was amazing. So I decided to buy my first guitar. Even I don't consider myself a guitar hero. Hendrix, Van Halen, yes - not me!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Your first release was called "Just For Fun". How did you release that album? And why that title?

Patrick Rondat: A long time ago. Many bands, many demos. And one day a guy wanted to produce a metal compilation so he went to Hard Rock magazine in France to listen to some demos. Mine was there, and he loved it. So first I signed for this compilation, and then for my first solo album. Why "Just For Fun"? I always thought that in many people's minds playing instrumental music is more a show off ability, and for me it's fun. I play that kind of music because I love it - not to prove or show anything. So - just for fun!

Guglielmo Malusardi: On your next CD "Rape Of The Earth", your guitar playing was already at the highest level. An amazing album; absolutly brilliant tunes and a cover ("Nuages") from a jazz master: Django Reinhardt. Why did you choose a composition from a jazz master? What's your relationship with jazz?

Patrick Rondat:Django was an incredible musician. We all have to thank him for what he brought to guitar players. I love "Nuages" - it's a great song. I just wanted to play it in a different way, more bluesy, and with a slow tempo. I was a metal player when I first listen to Al DiMeola and It changed my entire approach to playing guitar. Then for a while I listened to many bands in the jazz and jazz/rock fusion scene and went back to metal later, mixing both styles.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Time to talk about "Amphibia", where you open the album with the title track; a masterpiece, 28-minute guitar suite, composed of six parts. Tell us how you created and composed the whole suite.

Patrick Rondat: This is one of my favorite pieces ever. I wanted to compose a big piece of music with all the emotions I felt. I knew It would be a long one with a few different parts - heavy ones, acoustic ones, etc. I wanted to compose it in a classical form, with melodies and riffs that appear at different moments of the song. If you listen carefully to it, you will notice that, for example, the first riff of part 2 is back at the end of part 6; the end of part 3 is the main melody of part 4; and the end of part 5 is the same as the end of part 2. It was a lot of work, but I had it all in mind from the beginning.

Guglielmo Malusardi: After "Amphibia Tour", a live recording of the best of your first three albums, you released "On The Edge". On this CD, you show how you can constantly improve (globally speaking) the quality of your music. A very special guest from jazz, left his fingerprints on the CD, Michel Petrucciani, who suddendly passed away couple of months later. What is your memory of this great musician?

Patrick Rondat: He was a very nice guy with a great sense of humor, and of course was an incredible pianist. I met him first at a big JM Jarre show at Paris' Eiffel Tower (800,000 people attending). I played the Vivaldi Presto there and Michel came to me after the show to tell me he loved it.. Later he asked me to sign my "Amphibia" album. I was so honored I asked him if he would agree to play on my new "On The Edge" album, and he said yes! I was so happy we had plans to work on some songs together - unfortunately he died a couple of month later. I was so sad, I miss the guy.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Speaking of "On The Edge", also appearing as a special guest was violinist Didier Lockwood. What was your goal when you recorded "On The Edge"?

Patrick Rondat: I played with his brother Francis (piano) on my first album. We were signed to the same record company, so I asked him to play on the same song as Michel. I thought it was a great idea to mix jazz soloing with the Tommy Aldridge métal drumming!

Guglielmo Malusardi: In the spring of the year 2004 you released your latest album, and first CD available on the Guitar Nine site, "Ephemeral World". I still remember my feelings about the album. It's normal to read, on occasion, about every album release, "Best album to date." Frankly speaking, I didn't think you could do anything better. But once I heard it, I thought "He did it!". Tell us about that recording.

Patrick Rondat: I am very proud of this album. It's really what I wanted to create. I took my time to compose it, and when I didn't have new ideas I'd just do something else, such as play with other people like Elegy or Jarre. It brought me some fresh air. I have always tried to do albums that sounded different without losing my individual style.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You already explained the title of your first album. Can you comment on the titles of your other CDs?

Patrick Rondat: That's very difficult you know, it's been a long time. What I can say is on every album I try to compose songs that fit together and record the album using a wide range of emotions and atmospheres. What I mean is, If I think I have enough speed/technique songs, I work on an atmospheric one, or an acoustic number. I always try to balance elements such as technique, melody; fast or medium/slow rhythms, etc.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You've not just established your solo career, but you are also the guitarist for world famous composer Jean-Michel Jarre, and last but not least, the guitarist of one of the most famous prog metal bands, Elegy. How can you balance all these situations?

Patrick Rondat: I guess I need that, you know, or I would not be able to compose new albums. Without these experiences, I would probanly repeat the same story. I love to play with these guys. I was in Poland last summer with Jean-Michel, and it was incredible. He has some shows planned for this summer.

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Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's talk now about your "weapons". I know you are an Ibanez endorsed artist.

Patrick Rondat: I have a few Ibanez RG Prestiges, some are customized some not. We are working together on a signature model - a mahogany body with a flamed maple top, a piezo transducer, two Dimarzio Pickups, Humbucker from hell/neck, and Virtual Hot PAF Bridge.

I use a few Peavey amps - a slightly modified TripleX, and an Ultra A classic 50. Sometimes I use an Ibanez Tube Screamer, sometimes reverb and delay (but not so much). I have a Xavier Petit acoustic guitar. I use Ernie Ball strings (10/46 electric, 11/52 acoustic) with Ibanez 1.2mm Rondat picks.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you use the same stuff in studio and on stage?

Patrick Rondat: Yes, most of the time. For recording sometimes I've used different Peavey amps - on stage only one. Guitars are the same.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Very often, when somebody like you is playing live, you can hear people asking, "Who knows how many hours each day he has to practice to stay at this level?" What's the answer?

Patrick Rondat: Between four and eight hours every day, for more than 20 years.

Guglielmo Malusardi: My classic question. In my personal opinion, instrumental music is the highest form of musical art. Every human being from every country, language and even religion can enjoy it immediately and totally without any barrier. What is your opinion on this?

Patrick Rondat: You are right, even though I think to be able to appreciate a style or genre of music your ears must be trained for it. I mean it's also a kind of culture; people throughout the world can listen to my music, but if you are not used to metal guitar sounds, and a certain amount of complexity, it can be strange at first! For every kind of music I guess, you need the keys.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What kind of music do you like to listen to?

Patrick Rondat: Every kind of music played with passion for people with the same passion - from metal to classical music.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What's your musical plan for the near future?

Patrick Rondat: I am working on a new album - a very different one. It will be a duet with electric guitar and piano. As I told you earlier, I need to do something different before composing a new album. I have also a live DVD, a "best of" CD, and an Ibanez signature model guitar planed for 2006.

Guglielmo Malusardi: OK Patrick, thank you very much for the interview. Feel free to leave a message to the Guitar Nine web site readers.

Patrick Rondat: Thanks to you all for your support. Keep on playing and listening to music. Take care.

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Looking at him, one could get the feeling he came directly from the court of King Louis XIV, with his long curly black hair and elegant manners ...What we know for sure is that this French man is one of the most brilliant and active guitar players on the scene. Over the years, Patrick Rondat has released one live and five studio solo albums, and he's also a permanent member of famous prog metal band Elegy, as well as being guitarist for synthesist Jean-Michel Jarre.

Guglielmo Malusardi spoke with Rondat about his career, his early days and his many musical projects.