HRH Radio Station Manager and HRH Mag’s John Ellis caught up with progster Franck Carducci a few weeks back – before the Corona virus had taken hold of large parts of Europe.  Here’s what he had to say:

Hi Franck, good to talk to you, where do we find you today?

Hi everybody. Well, when I’m not on tour, I spend my life between Lyon, France and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I also like to spend time in Italy near Naples, where part of my family lives. I’m travelling as often as I can, so I guess I’m kind of what they call a citizen of the world.

Lyon isn’t necessarily the first place you think of when you talk about progressive rock, your music has a great authentic classic rock sound, musically your influences make sense, what do you draw from your environment?

I grew up in Lyon, France, in an Italian family where 70’s classic-rock music was part of everyday life. We would listen to the Beatles and the Stones as well as Billy Joel or Supertramp, Led Zeppelin and old Elton John records. As a teenager, I grew particularly fond of a band with very weird album covers. They had this cow with no band name on it, and another one had 2 guys shaking hands but one of them was on fire. My favorite one pictured a pig flying over an old London power station. They went by the name of Pink Floyd, and their music changed my life. So I started to play covers in pubs and clubs downtown Lyon, where I was not even old enough to be allowed in as a customer 🙂 I was also doing some studio sessions work in the area. In parallel, I was writing my own songs and recording some demos. Regularly, friends would tell me: “Hey, these songs sound good, you should make an album!” and I would always give the same answer: “What for? Nobody knows me and it’s never gonna work!”

Later on, I moved to Amsterdam and joined the local scene there. Then I got to meet one of my childhood heroes, Steve Hackett from Genesis. I opened a gig for him and we had a long discussion. At some point he said to me: “Your songs sound good, you should record an album!”. So I fired my usual response to this, but then he replied: “Well, just do it for yourself, that way you can’t be disappointed, if it works you’re happy, if it doesn’t, you’re still happy because you did it for you anyway!”

The next day, I started the recording of my first album “Oddity”. Steve was very supportive in the process and he apparently enjoyed the album because he then offered to play on the next one, which he did on “Torn Apart” in 2015. So I guess, everything I achieved as a solo artist, I owe it to Steve somehow, I wouldn’t be here without his wise words.

Your third album “The Answer” has been given some great reviews, talk me through the process of writing and recording, there are some really creative flourishes here, how experimental can it get?

First, it is the answer to my previous album “Torn Apart” which was written during a tough period in my life, lots of personal issues, that’s why it is a bit dark and tormented, while this new one is more light and joyful. The main themes evolve around the question: “What is the meaning of human life?”. Part of the album is an attempt to answer that complex question.

I played about half of the new songs live during our last tour, so I’ve been able to fine-tune them for a while. I wrote all the songs alone except “The After Effect” which was co-written with my keyboard player Olivier Castan. I made all the demos at home, so I could experiment as much as I wanted, and then I properly recorded most of it with my friend and sound engineer Christian Morfin, in his studio near Lyon. Some parts were played by my usual live band, and then I got some special guests, including Derek Sherinian (Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Dream Theater) who played some great Hammond and Mellotron on the song called “Asylum”. Christian and I mixed it together and then it was mastered at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in the UK

A recurring question I like to ask is how do you know when a song is complete and ready to record? Is there a temptation to add more? Do you find that your tracks evolve and change more with a live performance?

Well, you never really know when it is complete. And it’s the same for the recording and the mixing steps, … it’s never finished. There’s a point when it’s clearly good enough and you have to take the decision to stop now, because obviously, you could keep changing small things here and there forever, but in the end it makes no sense to linger on for too long. And you won’t change the sheer essence of the song anyway.

So it’s up to you (aka the producer) to say “OK that’s a wrap!” and move on to something else. When we play live, we are restricted by the gear we can use and transport, the number of players, etc … which we are not in the studio because we can always add an extra track. So I tend to say that live, we play adaptations of the songs, based on who’s playing.

We’re fortunate to have you play at HRH Prog in March, what can we expect from your set?

Well, as usual, a lot of theatrics. Throughout the years I’ve developed a visual universe that gives life to the songs. I always tend to think that being a good band is necessary but not sufficient. Otherwise, fans are better off listening to the music comfortably from home.  If they’re gonna get out and pay for a ticket, I feel the need to give them more than just the music. I’ve always been a fan of artists who use great visual effects to illustrate the music, like Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Genesis or Pink Floyd.
Of course, we don’t have the same means as these famous bands but we’re very resourceful 🙂

What plans do you have for 2020?

We will start “The Answer” European tour in March, including a 2 weeks tour in the UK (Brexit allowing!) where we’ll play all kinds of clubs throughout the country and will finish in London’s Shepherd Bush Empire for the HRH Prog festival on March 29.
We’ll also play in France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands this spring. We’ve got a half new lineup that we called “The Fantastic Squad” so that’s gonna be very interesting and fresh!
More dates will be added later on for the end of the year.

[Editors note – Franck has sadly had to shelve plans for his 2020 tour, including an appearance at HRH Prog IX.  Keep an eye out for revised dates!]

Do you have a wish list of artists alive that you’ve yet to share a stage with, what have been your performance highlights so far?

I have to say Alice Cooper first, because in 2018, we almost played a support act for him in my hometown of Lyon, and it was cancelled last minute. Very disappointing!
I’d love to play with Slash because he’s one of my favorite guitar players and he’s so charismatic that we’d have to feature him in a crazy music video 😛
Of course, I could tell you that I’d love to support Roger Waters, Elton John or Paul McCartney but I guess that wouldn’t be very realistic!
I wouldn’t say no to featuring with David Gilmour either 🙂
Performance highlights would be at Loreley, in Germany, for “Night of the Prog” festival 2017, and at Cambridge Rock Festival in 2018 and 2019.

Thank you for speaking with me today, any last words?
Thanks for having me, and I hope it will raise curiosity for the readers to discover my music, and maybe come and see us on tour, hopefully at HRH Prog festival in March.