Wally Badarou – The Prophet Speaks…

Wally Badarou is a real life living legend responsible for some of the most memorable pieces of music over the last 30 years. Most commonly known as the ’5th Member’ of Level 42 Wally was also responsible for literally dozens of pieces of amazing music you will recognise without realizing that Mr. Badarou was the man behind the sound.

Wally kindly agreed to answer a list of questions for Cosmic Disco readers, the answers of which we think you will find not only interesting but highly conclusive.

Respect to the ‘Chief Inspector’ and keep posted to his personal webspace for updates and news on his upcoming projects of which we very much look forward to finding out more about!

cosmicdisco: As a youngster you lived in Cotonou where you were exposed to a variety of musical genres through radio. Can you remember what stations you were listening to and what music had the biggest impact on you at this time?

Simple. There was one and one only radio station nationwide. The national radio would broadcast different types of music at different times. Around 5 p.m. there would be a popular on-demand program where listeners would call for songs of their choice, mainly Rhythm and Blues classics such as Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and some french ‘yeye’ songs. Of all, James Brown undisputably had the biggest impact. When “There Was A Time” was aired, it looked like the whole nation stood respectfully still. Rest of the time would be shared between Congolese Rumba, Afro-Cuban Cha-Cha, Pre-Salsa, and local music. Summer of 68/69 1960′s, there was a remarkable rock program that introduced youngsters to Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles (Sergent Pepper), Bob Dylan and Santana, etc.

cosmicdisco: Your parents had very responsible, professional careers (Your Father was one time Ambassador of Benin and your Mother worked as a Pediatrician). Did they actively encourage your developing interest in music?

Absolutely not. My parents fought hard to get where they got, and could only see me follow similar path. In ‘civilized’ urban Africa as a whole, apart from strong political figures like Fela Kuti or Franco, artists were not viewed as “Intellectuals” like in Europe. You would indulge in artistic activity only when there wouldn’t be anything more ‘useful to the society’ you could achieve. I was raised in that sort of thinking. Besides, in those days, my mind belonged quite exclusively to aviation. Back in Africa, I am not sure that my parents were ever aware of something musical growing within. I surely never made it visible. It really was just a hobby till will we returned to Europe. But friends and relatives – and most notably our German neighbourghs back there – did notice something.

cosmicdisco: You mention that as a teenager aviation and space travel rather than music was your no.1 passion. Where and how did this fascination develop and can you explain what it is about aviation that you love so much?

A whole book would not be enough. To sum it up, let me just say that I did not think I was any different from most teens of those days. Space and aviation were in the forefront of human progress, not just scientifically speaking. From ever lifting an object heavier than air, to breaking the sound barrier, to landing a man on the Moon, space and aviation graphically bore the strongest symbols of ground breaking achievements; Till the 60′s, it looked like each year just delivered a mammothical piece of that mind boggling revolution, at a rate unsurpassed to this day. I simply felt privileged to be a sensitive witness of those giant steps, for they meant a lot to me: they meant that, wherever you were, whoever you were, whatever you were, you could surpass yourself, break the chains, and fly. They meant that dreams could come true. I never ignored the politics that went behind the scenes during WWII and the cold war, favouring such burst in invention. I just chose to be elevated by the visions of those who fostered the revolution. To me, they meant that, whatever the domain, dedication could transcend the odds. They had a dream, and the planet had a dream…

cosmicdisco: You have also mentioned that Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ helped shape your perceptions of space, technology, religion and relationships. Can you explain in more detail just how much of an effect this novel had on your philosophy and development?

Like any masterpiece, 2001 could be viewed in countless angles, the majority of which were probably not expected by Clarke. I would take, for instance, the resurgence of the black monolith, era after era, and translate it as a message that could be sent to all religions: assuming they all agreed on the fact that there’s only one God, they only differ on the perception of that common entity, like watching a pyramid from different angles; if only that simple fact could be kept in mind long enough, how many wars could have been avoided ? Or take for instance HAL-9000, the master-computer: what better description of man vs machine ethical problems could there ever be, long before all the Terminators reach the screen ? Or else, what is it like to be worlds away from home, vulnerable to the lightest asteroid particle when any single help message would take hours to reach base ? Why does any scientific progress inevitably bear an evil within ? How free do we think we are if ever monitored by a superior being from the start ? The novel just managed to embrace the whole of man’s activity from dawn to eternity like no other.

cosmicdisco: You moved back to Paris in 1971 where the overwhelming industrialization of modern day France possibly stopped any further involvement in the aviation industry. Do you think if you stayed in the tropics you could have quite easily have not been involved in music as you are today?

Yes, certainly. Ironically enough, it was easier to approach (and eventually) practice aviation over there than it was in France. The irony goes that, in return, it was much easier to get into professionnal music in France than it was over there. So had my parents decided to remain in Africa, I sure would have had a different life. But that what if game is no exception really. Aviation always remained high in my hobby wish list; but just a hobby, and only God knows if that wasn’t not preferable after all. The reverse could have been interesting too.

cosmicdisco: You’ve worked with an innumerable amount of artists and you can say people (Especially bands) get their energy from constant tension and fights. Do you actively encourage and/or manipulate certain environments in the studio to get the best of the artists you produce?

Never ever. In that, I might not be that good a producer… I want to believe great things can come out of great working ambiance, even though I know it is far from the case most of the time. I just can’t help it, that’s my nature. In fact, I’m not too concerned about getting the best of the artist than I am about getting the truth that emanates from her or him at the time I press the record button. In that, I view myself more like a film director than a factory manager. With the difference that things don’t necessarily have to fit my vision: after all, the album at stake is hers or his, not mine.

cosmicdisco: Was there a defining moment where music and especially the keyboard became the new passion in your life taking over from aviation?

No, there was no such moment. Reason being that I never felt music ever took over aviation or, at least, I never saw things that way. Things just materialized in a way that made music the vector to the goal I was pursuing through aviation: surpassing myself, breaking (mental) chains, flying. I do just that every day. Think of it: I am to embark into a new project. I’d better make checklists of all the required resources and personnel. Then we get in the most sophisticated cockpit ever: the recording studio; a collection of cold steel hardware just waiting to be fired up in the intent to produce the journey, the masterpiece that will make people around the world fly , just listening to it. The project takes off, reaches cruise speed, and lands a magnificent album. What better trip could there ever be ? I started fiddling with guitars, flutes and melodica. Then I played bass (which is still my favourite instrument), then piano, organ and synths, as I could afford them. So I grew as a multi-instrumentalist, never seeing myself as a specific virtuoso but, thanks to the multi-track, fully aware that playing all instruments of my music was fundamental if I wanted it to be set apart. The synthesizer just happened to broaden the number of “musicians” I could multiply myself as. Technology allowed me to become a true “recording artist” from day one, a layer-by-layer painter of inner-landscapes, an aviator.

cosmicdisco: You state Herbie Hancock’s ‘Thrust’ album as being a big tutorial document for you. Can you explain what it is about this record that you found so inspiring?

Well, simply take it track per track. Each one of them was a lesson in rhythm (Palm Grease), orchestration (Spank-A-Lee), soloing (Actual Proof & Butterfly), synth-orchestration (the midway freeze in Butterfly), or writing as a whole. I knew Watermelon Man from my days in Africa, but did not know it was Herbie’s first hit. “Thrust” was the album that introduced him to me. And, if anything, Palm Grease ‘ famous rhythmic canvas and solo groove were a perfect example of James Brown’s immense (and yet largely underrated) legacy. That alone was an indication of paths to follow.

cosmicdisco: What are the other main tutorial documents that were milestones for you?

Before Hancock’s “Thrust” came to my ears, Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book” was my primary tutorial, only to be followed by the near-perfect “Innervisions”. Both had everything I was striving for, in terms of songwriting, singing, playing, everything; plus, last but not least, multi-instrument self-producing. The first true recording artist as I defined it. THE Master in setting oneself apart. Sure he didn’t do it all by himself; but all of Jeff Beck, Malcolm Cecil and Bob Margouleff pure gems helped making him the core of a unique vision to be brought forward. To my opinion, Cecil and Margouleff made Wonder’s four classics (“Music of my mind”, “Talking Book”, “Innervisions”, and “Full Fillingness First Finale”) cornerstones in music history as far as recording artist concept is concerned: they made music recording and art in its own right. Along with Hancock, Weather Report, Stanley Clarke etc, all of those revolutions occurred just as I was self-teaching myself. Timing of the mentors couldn’t have been better.

cosmicdisco: Your first keyboard was a Hohner Electra Piano, which was funded by taking on a summer job. What job did you do to finance this instrument?

I spent a month in a magazine printing plant, preparing paper rolls for the printers, manual work. It was my first insight in the world of manual workers, unions, salaries, hierarchy. I learned what it meant to be watching the clock to make sure I didn’t work overtime. I was so tired on week-ends, I just slept non-stop. Ever since, I never lost sight of how privileged one is, when one can make a living out of a passion.

cosmicdisco: Often guitarists name their instruments. Did you ever name your various keyboards?

No. It never occurred to me. As close as I felt I was with my gear, I never had that kind of relationship with an instrument; it never felt that human to me. If things didn’t go well, I’d blame it on me rather than on the piano. I did not establish conversation with it. Instead, in every great instrument I had, I always saw the work of the genius behind it (Bob Moog, Tom Oberheim, Roger Linn, etc), and I would converse with him rather.

cosmicdisco: You mention that your 1st ever ‘professional’ live performance (circa 1973) was ignorant of live performance basic principles. Can you give us some details of what these principles are?

Well, just common sense principles such as extensive rehearsal and preparation, proper budgeting, reliability, accountability, plan-A & plan-B provision, avoiding arguing publicly, knowing when to stop, how to tell practical jokes while re-tuning the guitars, etc. You’re in for the show, not just the music.

cosmicdisco: Once your studies finished (Completed a 3 year course at the Law University of Paris) you joined several amateur bands until you joined an Afro-Funk Jazz combo called Voodoo Family (Later reformed as ‘Centers’) with Philippe Danbury, who was recognized as the French Herbie Hancock. Can you tell us about Philippe and your time working with these bands?

Philippe Dambury is an immense Guadaloupean pianist who never got the recognition he truly deserved, to my knowledge. In the days of Voodoo Family, his mastering of the Fender Rhodes was staggering; it was just like having Hancock in the band, and really made my belonging to such band all the more challenging. In order avoid redundancy, I ended up specializing in synths and clavinet rather; a position that would eventually re-occur in all fusion bands I belonged to, Level 42 included. God knows why and how, I’ve always had great working relationship with keyboard players in the bands I’ve joined; never was a hint of rivalry, only complementary forces instead, learning from each other’. Working along with Philippe was the first of such great experience.

cosmicdisco: In 1977 you were called to do military service as a French citizen. How did this experience effect you post service?

It made me all the more assertive about how to conduct my life, while severing most of the links I had before, mainly the Antilles fusion world. During service, I got acquainted with traditional bagpipe music, which turned extremely helpful years later, when working on Marianne Faithfull “Ireland”, and on the Bicentennial of the French revolution. I got a few friends and so muscles over the bones. Other than that, I didn’t gain much: I could discipline myself way before draft. But the service itself was nothing gentle and sweet for my hands, specially during winter. I was quite happy when I was done with it.

cosmicdisco: When you were starting out as a regular session musician you were also making music for ‘Blue Movies’. We are intrigued! What was this music and is there anywhere we can here it?

Blue or pink, soft porn, how you want to name them. There was no picture to score to. Sessions consisted in just improvising non stop for about an hour. They just needed miles and miles of uncredited background music, no overdub, just wandering and redundant stuff, absolutely nothing to strive for. We’d get paid and that’d be the end of it. Editing, mixing, none of the rest was our business so I couldn’t even name a movie title. I could pay my rent and I was happy.

cosmicdisco: When you had forged a reputation as a recognized studio session player in 1979 you were laying down synths on mainly disco flavored records in almost every studio in Paris. What are you memories of the disco era and what impact on modern dance culture do you think this period has had?

Impact of disco is – and will remain – undisputable although musicians like me always had mixed feeling about it. On one hand, it could be viewed as an easy-made easy-danceable tasteless genre, with all the flamboyance and glittering fashion attached to it. On the other hand it could bear some of the most sophisticated melodies and productions ever and, moreover, be confused with funk. The same era put Earth Wind and Fire or Chic into the same lane as Gloria Gaynor and Grace Jones. Under Donna Summer’s overacted whispers in “Love to love you baby”, you could hear one of the funkiest bass lines ever. Hancock doing “You’d better bet your love on me”, and George Clinton being featured in disco compilations, it all seems alike today. In fact, most musicians always had a clear understanding of what they were doing in those days: you went disco for the masses, and turn to funk when you wanted to get ‘serious’. Merging the two was just an attempt to put the ‘serious stuff’ across but, in doing so, one always had the feeling of being on the verge of betraying. How successful one could be in doing so, made that feeling more or less comfortable: musicians of my generation always saw funk as an ‘art’, and disco as a somewhat ‘downgraded’ massification of genres.

cosmicdisco: Disco could be considered the 1st style of music where the producer was the main influence on the overall sound of a record, the producer being even more important than the artist. Did you ever come into contact with any of the leading American producers of this period such as Larry Levan, Francois Kevorkian, Patrick Adams, Leroy Burgess etc. If not are you familiar with their work?

I really don’t know that disco was such 1st style: for as long as the recording industry ever existed, producers always had artistic control, only to be contradicted sometimes, under specific terms in the contracts. I met Larry many times, and I am a good friend of François. But I certainly wouldn’t put them in that era, even though Larry’s fame debuted in the very late 70s. As far as I know, both François and Larry really hit in the 80s. The bulk of disco took place between 75 and 79 and, yes, it was all producer-made music, with Georgio Moroder and Deodato as some of the most visible icons. I never met them, nor Adams, nor Burgess.

cosmicdisco: Working with Robin Scott for ‘M’s – Pop Music’ was your first introduction working with a British artist and a big break though as the track went straight to No.1 in both the UK and US. You appeared on TV programmes such as Top of The Pops, traveled in style and stayed in the top hotels. What was it like suddenly experiencing the lifestyle of a rock star?

Exhilirating and strange at the same time because, having made jazz, afro and funk, in my universe I never viewed myself as a rock artist to start with, and later realized it was just a matter of definition. But it sure put me in place and a position I felt a bit estranged with, and that probably helped me keep a distance with the tantalizing and fatal glitters fame is … famous for. I never took anything for granted, and remain a hard worker up to this day.

cosmicdisco: During the 80’s you became known as ‘Prophet’ (After your use of the Prophet 5 Synth) through your 10 year extravaganza of working in Nassau as part of Compass Point All Stars collaborating with the likes of Sly & Robbie, Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Mick Jagger, Robert Palmer & Gwen Guthrie (To name only a few!) resulting in some of the most legendary albums of that period. What factors contributed to such a highly consistent level of quality output and do you have a standout favorite artist/album/track from this period?

It is always tempting to sit and look back at what was achieved and try to make sense of what made us do what we did, as it is tempting also to credit (or blame) what is done today on things of the past that are no longer present. I, for one, will try to avoid those traps by first stating that I never felt my performance was any better in those days than in days before or after, or if it was, it was simply following its learning curve, which is a slow curve, just like this of public mood and taste. Sure, Chris Blackwell’s intuitions and charisma, the real driving forces behind Compass Point All Stars, were the main factors to that prolonged output. But I remain a firm believer that, consistency in anything creative, good or bad, always results from the crossing of two curves: this of the artist’s own path, and that of public recognition, period. When it works, all one can do is hope that the slopes of the two curves are not too far apart, so one can get prolonged recognition. Artist need recognition. Most of the time, the crossing of the curves is plain luck at start; but it can be worked afterwards, danger being that things may sound forged and fake in the long run. That’s another story. But, from what I just said, one can easily understand why the same ‘ingredients’ (or better ones) put together might not yield the same results over and over. That makes me hypercritical of my own work: off that era, Gregory Isaacs’ “Night Nurse” probably remains the one album I can listen to from top to end.

cosmicdisco: Lets talk a little about what we consider to be your seminal piece of solo work in the ‘Echoes’ album. Being African/Parisian with many musical influences it seems like a natural composition for you to produce but at the time the record industry found it hard to promote, as it couldn’t be put into one definable genre. The album was considerably more successful in some territories than others, the UK being a region where it was embraced. What do you think it is about the UK that the people here are so open to all types of music from all types of backgrounds?

I honestly don’t see the UK be more ‘open’ than say France, or Spain or Portugal. While pieces like Chief Inspector and Mambo made it in the UK, others like Hi-Life and Endless Race really had a ride throughout the whole of Africa, the French West-Indies, and in some extent, France. I believe their relevant colonial empire offered both nations a different sets of sensitivity that are quite comparable in magnitude, the Brits being more on the Indian and east and south-African side of things, and the French more on the north and west-African counterparts. Spain and Portugal have their own sets just as well. Colonial past – and the subsequent diaspora generated since – do explain that cultural sensitivity and apparent ‘openess’. Where the UK does have an advantage is the formidable amplification the US can give to any English success. That also derives from how history was written.

cosmicdisco: In the UK you are of course recognized as the (Informal) 5th member of Level 42. In Level 42 you are recognized as a co-writer/composer/arranger where as on many other tracks you have performed on you were paid nominal fees to act as a session musician and are subsequently not credited on these records when in fact you were never given pre-arranged/written music to follow but have always been left to create your own ideas and sounds hence the reason you have been asked to play on the records. Was it impossible to insist on being credited at the time or were you happy to simply contribute and have an influence on these records knowing that people would dig deeper to find out who was behind the music?

It’s a difficult one. Should any session musician creating his own part be granted co-writing credits? In all fairness, answer should be a definite yes. But hey, could the world only survive the chaos this would imply if it was to ever get applied ? As we all grew up, we all started assuming what we heard was the sole creation of the singer(s); then we realized there was a composer in the process, an arranger, then a producer etc. But how many people realize that over 90% of the instrumentation we all hear in recorded pop music past and present was never ever written ? … My case was no different from say any seasoned bass player, if only a synth riff could appear more ‘memorizable’ than a bass line. Bernard Edwards bass lines were fundamental to many songs he worked on outside of Chic. If he sure managed to give his best to Chic, part of the reasons was: he was involved, just the way I was with Level. Some would say: there’s some justice after all…

cosmicdisco: What’s your personal highlight of your involvement with Level 42?

There was none: the love and respect I got from them, from day one up to this day, simply made my day every single day I worked with them, and after. Working with Level was one of the personal highlights in my whole life, equal to my solo career, period. It remains a fuel to my endeavour, present and future.

cosmicdisco: And what is your favourite Level 42 album & track?

What is my favourite child? I really can’t answer that, sorry. They’re all equal, for each of one of them was a necessary step to the next one. It was a constant quest for excellence, never to be satisfied; if we really achieved something here and there, it only made us even more demanding on the following ones. Even today, sitting back and listening to what we did, I can still recall the motivations that made us do those things, which we did not quote as ‘pieces of achievement’ in those days. The same goes for my solo career’s albums.

cosmicdisco: In your studio sessions, productions and compositions you are a man of melody. When working on your own compositions what methods/techniques do you use to start laying down your melodies?

My favourite way of doing it is, prior to going to the studio: improvisation, endless improvisation, recorded improvisation. Then I can sit back and listen to hours and hours of apparent pure non-sense; sometime, a gem would pop up, that would simply need to be developed. Most of Words Of A Mountain was written that way. Another technique is, prior to a project, getting a new toy for the studio and just messing around. Chief Inspector, Mambo and Hi-Life were written just messing around with my newly acquired Linn-Drum. Melodies came afterwards, most of the time during sleep or walking or in the shower, like everybody does. Sounds corny but the advantage this has over any instrumental based technique is: if one can sing it, then one is on a good track. Last but not least: listen to loads and loads of classical and jazz, just like good writers feed themselves from permanent reading.

cosmicdisco: And who are your favorite ‘Melody Makers’?

All classical giants first, from Bach to Fauré. Then in pop, Stevie Wonder, way above any other. He simply remains incredible. Then bossa nova monuments like Anton Jobim. Then, etc…

cosmicdisco: You could also be seen as the pioneer of the home recording studio after completing a tape-less recording in your ‘Words of A Mountain’ album. Just what opportunities has the insurgence of modern technology given composers today compared with 20 years ago?

Economics basically. Today, with a fraction of yesterday’s budgets, you can make valuable records. Ergonomics sometimes. Quality, well, now that people are happy listening to music of inferior sonic quality, the quest for quality recording has appeared less mandatory these last years. But with the sky-rocketing increase of hard drive size and web streaming bandwith, one may witness the return of that quest, perhaps?

cosmicdisco: You have worked on several projects as composer for film soundtracks (Countryman, Kiss of The Spiderwoman, Dancehall Queen) but can you tell us some of your favorite musical film scores?

My ecclectism would go from John Williams undisputable masterpieces to things you may have never heard of, like Gabonese Francois Ngwa’s score on Imunga Ivanga’s Dole movie. Much too many to single out just a dozen, thank God: film scores is a genre that bear too many genres within to just elect a few. Although some may have a life of their own when taken out of context (like most symphonic works), the aim remains to work with the picture; therefore my preference will always go to those that really bring something to the general feeling the visuals and dialogs are to convey, as minimal as those score might be in reality, like this of Neil Young on Jarmusch’ Dead Man.

cosmicdisco: …And what are some of your favorite films in general?

My collection holds over a thousand movies. Depending on the mood, I could be locked onto just sci-fi for months, then just bio-pictures, then just thrillers. At times, I could watch Polanski’s Chinatown five times in a row, but sometimes I wouldn’t call it one of my favourites. It really depends on what it is I am striving for in a given period. The only one that remains an absolute statement of what I like in art in general, whatever the mood, is Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. But I would refrain from watching it for years: one can kill the best thing by having too much of it. I tend not to proceed by favouritism: I’ll give a chance to ‘minor’ achievements, and find magic and poetry within the most unexpected like The Final Countdown. If I was given the choice of a few to isolate myself with on an desert island, I probably would take none other than a set of a couple hundred ones.

cosmicdisco: What is your studio setup at present?

Mainly virtual: one Apple G5, one Apple PowerBook G4, and just one rack of Kurzweil and Emu units that I cant find emulations of. Sure, virtual will never ever ‘equal’ vintage; but just like what we call ‘vintage’ today could never equal acoustic. Simple as that. Each instrument past, present or future, has its raison d’être, that only talent can make blossom. So I make no religion as fas as technology goes. If it works for me, I keep it. I simply decided to stream down my gear to the minimum, so as to concentrate on the fundamental: the irresistible melody, the killer melody that will transcend worldwide, regardless of the mix, the mastering, the production. Sound always comes second in my values, even though it chronologically appears first most of the time. Sure I do spend a big deal of time and money on it. Still, it means nothing until I make it sing. So I make my duty to make it sing, whatever sound it is, by just how I play it. And when it does sing, then that ‘song’ should be able to survive regardless of the sound: I will just play it accordingly. Lesson from Ravel’s Bolero., lesson from Zawinul, from Basie, from countless great orchestrators.

cosmicdisco: How do you go about developing your own sounds within the sine wave tables and what work have you done with Arturia (French based company that produces virtual synth’s)?

I don’t systematically start from scratch, far from it. But I make sure I can, and I believe one should be able to, should a precise sound be required: it is much quicker (and way more gratifying) than having to browse through myriads of libraries. Once I have a bulk of ‘basics’, derived from a combination of factory presets and my home-made presets, I spend a great deal of time tweaking them in order to suit the overall color I want to give to the current project. That’s why understanding the instrument is so vital, if you don’t want to end up sounding like everybody else. I have never been a sampling addict (even in the days of Synclavier) and I never ever used loops, so I managed to keep a distinct approach throughout the years. I’ve been supporting Arturia’s efforts from the beginning, providing sound presets sometimes. Not too often though because, again, I’m spending my life trying not to sound like others, so I don’t feel like inciting others to do just the opposite. I only provide them in the hope that synthesists won’t just use them as they are, but develop from them instead. Do I sound too optimistic?

cosmicdisco: Do you think the most common use of ‘sampling’ today has been used in a way that was not initially intended and are samples being used to their full potential?

Definetely not. Sampling was designed to incite people to create countless arrays of sounds unheard, and make any element ‘sing’. Great attempts have been made throughout the 80s in that direction. I can still recall how moved I was when I heard Brad Naples of New England Digital demonstrate what could be done with just a single finger snap and the Synclavier. I went back home with my mind full of incredible dreams. Like, everything became possible. Re-synthesis was to break further barriers too. The whole palette of instruments, as we then knew them, was to literally explode with the advent of unbelievable items by the millions. We were on Mars. But at the dawn of the 90s, that dream suddenly vanished: sampling quickly got reduced to an easy way to ‘steal’ from other people’s music and be smart at combining the original with the added new. Artists of my generation never could win that game (if only they wanted to play it,that is). I simply never could imagine myself using anybody’s patented recording and pretend to deliver something original, regardless of how ‘innovative’ my contribution could ever be. That’s why, as far as drums are concerned, I would either use a real drummer, or be happy with my sequenced drum sounds, to the risk of not sounding ‘contemporary’. There was an hefty price to pay in order to stick to that principle, you can bet.

cosmicdisco: Is imitation the best form of flattery?

Yes it is, for the better, for the imitator that is. Contrary to sampling, imitating (and doing covers rather than remixes) is a way to pay tribute, educate oneself and, at that, get a chance to create something authentic, genuine and original, ironically. Think of Georgia on my mind, a song written in the 30s, that the whole world identified Ray Charles with, since his incredible rendition in the 60s. No sampling, no remix, pure genius paying tribute to a simple song, that kept Georgia on everybody’s mind.

cosmicdisco: Do you see any negative effects of modern technology in the studio either to producers, musicians or artists?

No, technology is never to be blamed: I can only see people acting either wisely or stupidly (criminally sometimes). This has been going on for millenia, nothing new. In the days of wifi, bluetooth, dsl, superfast computers and superlarge hard-drives, one can still decide to stick to paper and pencil to write the score: that does not make it better or worst. Choices are just made wider day after day, it simply is down to the goals each one of us puts upon oneself to seek.

cosmicdisco: What modern day producers/artists do you admire and why?

I do enjoy listening to a wide range of artists and producers from around the world. Some sound great, but none sounds like what I would call a milestone. I wouldn’t say that I ‘admire’ them the way I used to admire producers/artists back in the 70s. Perhaps I just turned ‘blasé’. I hate to sound like an old chap, but my own 20 year old kids feelings about the revolution that went on from the 60s to the 80s tells me there is some ground to my not being as excited as I used to be. The density of milestones that permanently went on throughout those decades simply remains unparalleled. So when I want to hear good stuff of today, sort of a step from last year stuff, I turn the radio on. But when I really want to get excited by something new, I turn back to things way older: I can find plenty of incredible ‘past’ novelties in classical or rumba or bebop or latin, things that I never heard or never thought they could be possible in their times.

cosmicdisco: With the influence of the internet on people’s access to music and how this has changed the way we can purchase music what do you see for the future of the recording industry?

Unless internet giants like Google decide to offer all music for free while remunerating all creators from a fraction of their mammothical ads revenue, I clearly see no future to the recording industry in the long run. As I said earlier on, economics is the main benefit modern technology has to offer. But what will happen when, with the demise of record labels and publishers, fewer and fewer artists can afford that fraction of yesterday’s recording budget ? Music recording, as an art , will simply die, slowly but surely. Cinematography will follow, and maybe modern literature too. It’ll be the fate of any form of digitiable art. I am not being pessimistic, just realistic. Someone ought to address the issue. I sent mail to Google, got no reply yet, but I’m not too surprised. Don’t misread me: only music recording will die, slowly but surely. Only survivors will be those who can combine writing and performing skills. Thus music as whole will not die: it will simply lack the invaluable contribution of non-performing song-writers and composers.

cosmicdisco: Can you give us any more information on the Chief Inspector Remixes album scheduled for release?

I just can’t: I am not the producer. Distribution schemes are still been investigated at the moment, among other things. I just hope it won’t be too far from now.

cosmicdisco: Can you tell us about some of your own writing, acting and film making projects?

I’ve learned – the hard way – not to disclose anything till near completion. I will only state that I am very active on all domains.

cosmicdisco: You are a huge fan of classical music. For someone (like ourselves) who don’t have much experience of the genre can you recommend any good places for us to start?

I am not just a fan, I was raised in it, more or less unknowingly. Maybe a good way to proceed would be to go backwards, using film music as a starting point. Say you like John Williams music. Look into Stravinsky, Holst, Debussy and Ravel and see where it all came from. You need not to listen to everything they did. Start listening to their masterpiece. Then, if that grabs you, you may go further back to Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Beethoven, Handel, Bach, Vivaldi, bit by bit, and appreciate how they all created milestones by imitating each other’s predecessor. It’s a fantastic trip.

cosmicdisco: What music have you been listening to recently?

The whole of Count Basie, unbelievable!

cosmicdisco: What do you find inspiring at the moment?

I get most inspiration from movies nowadays, bio-pics most of the time.

cosmicdisco: If you could create your ideal ‘Super Group’ (From artists living or deceased) who would be in the band, playing what instrument?

Again, the kind of recording artist that I am would never dream of band, large or small, super or modest, to create my music. If needed, I would un-passionately put one together, for life in a band leaves very little to be desired: the day I go promote my music, I’ll be happy with a small and modest body. Sure I could dream of a one-off show that would gather all the greats I’ve worked with, but without Robert Palmer, Bernard Edwards, Gwen Guthrie, etc, it would rapidly turn into a tribute rather. What we did in the studio is so much more valuable, I am happy with it.

cosmicdisco: What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

Making a living out of my passion has always been what I prayed for, whatever the passion. I am just happy with that.

cosmicdisco: What’s next for Wally Badarou?

You named them: music, acting, movie, all at the same time. What will complete first, it is still too early to tell.

Cosmic Disco would like to thank Wally Badarou for taking the time to answer our questions. It has been an honour and a pleasure to host these answers which we are sure you will find inspiring and enlightening. We very much look forward to checking out Wally’s upcoming projects as and when more information is available. Go check out his website and here is an incredible list of work Wally has contributed to.

We’re waiting on Wally to hit us back up with a mix so make sure you check back for an update…

  • http://soulfunklifestyle.blogspot.com SoulFunkLifestyles

    A true artist.

    Had “Chief Inspector b/w Novela Das Nove” on my want list for years (but then again there are always many, many records I need or would like to own – LOL).

    Seems this 12″ is type-rare according to discogs, huh? ( http://www.discogs.com/sell/list?release_id=105800&ev=rp )

    By the way, good info on Mr Badarou. Thanks.

  • http://www.cosmicdisco.co.uk baggy

    Check out that link at the bottom of the post to the list of tracks he’s worked on.
    I’ve been listening to the Tom Tom Club – Close To The Bone LP again for the last fortnight and the sounds are amazing. Pleasure of Love from that album is stunning.

  • Fabio

    great, great! got to print it and take it home tonight with me: a lovely pre and also after supper reading!

  • http://www.cosmicdisco.co.uk baggy

    I’m off to check out some classical! :)

  • http://www.sorcerermusic.com sorcerer

    so awesome. thanks for making this available! the dude runs deep.

  • http://uglytalented.blogspot.com Haydn

    What a great insight. I put this article to one side to give it my full attention – well worth it.

    Who took the interview and what were the circumstances?

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  • Count Darkbeard

    I am most enlightened after reading this. I have summoned the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in support.

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  • http://www.ultimatelevel42.com Paul Waller

    Thanks for the great interview. Wally is one of my musical heroes and I created the discography which you’ve kindly linked to. I talk to Wally now and again and he has a fantastic track called ‘Fisherman’ which us fans are itching to get their hands on. Thanks, Paul.

  • http://www.cosmicdisco.co.uk baggy

    Looking forward to that one Paul.
    Great work on compiling Wally’s body of work… ;-)

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  • http://ryutsos-mr.blogspot.com Frank

    Thanks for the info, definitely helped

  • MrRamon

    17 or more years after “Chief Inspector”, “Mambo”, etc. keyboard wizard Wally Badarou (ex Level 42) comes back to music with “Fisherman”, a 15 minutes funk instrumental that he sells directly from his website using the GetJuke technology.


    “Fisherman” is the first extract from an upcoming trilogy that Wally wishes to unveil to the public “song by song” before releasing it under a physical format.

  • Dexter

    Hi wally Badarou,
    I am looking for a Music by you. This i heard on the
    Soap opera. Please help.