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News createt: 09-11-2010

Interview Erich Van Tourneau

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A Conversation with Erich Van Tourneau

Mike Ragogna: Erich, are you ready to talk about all things Viva Elvis?

Erich Van Tourneau: It would be my pleasure.

MR: So, these are basically revisits or remixes, with all sorts of fun stuff thrown in like new musicians and instruments in order to look at Elvis in a different way. It's kind of like The Beatles' LOVE album, but it's also celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday year as well as a reinterpretation of his music with a new Cirque Du Soleil show. Okay, your turn.

EVT: Frankly Mike, I think this is way different than LOVE because my mandate was to first, really contemporize the Elvis catalog and bring him into '10. The idea was to recreate the music as if Elvis were recording the song in '10, so I've created new beats, new chord changes, or new instrumental changes for each and every song. So, it was kind of like using the Technicolor technique that was used to contemporize old black and white movies--I painted some new colors around Elvis' voice, which was really the heart of the project, and a lot of the vocals are dating back from sixty years ago, so it was a major thing to really paint new colors around him.

MR: Now, you play on this record, and you mixed five of the tracks on here with Robert Meunier.

EVT: Exactly.

MR: Tell me a little bit about your music history.

EVT: I'm a composer, I have produced several records in Montreal for different labels, and I produce different styles. I'm a big fan of music, so it's almost like "from ABBA to Zappa." I produce a lot of music in Montreal, and I was in the Cirque Du Soleil bank of creators. So, they called me and explained the project that they had in mind, and they asked me to do a pitch and work on two songs, so I did that. I worked on "Hound Dog" and "One Night With You," and they flipped out, so it was a really cool beginning. After that, I had to work on the rest of the catalog.

MR: So, there are more tracks that have been revisited that are not on the CD?

EVT: Yeah.

MR: And this is just the first sampling with more coming?

EVT: Yeah, that's a good way to look at this. For me, it's really like a Volume One because, in the show that takes place in Las Vegas, there are about thirty songs that I have rearranged. The deadlines were really tight--I had like three months to produce the album. So, the way I approached the project was to do twelve songs, and to a good job on them, instead of trying to do all thirty-five at the same time.

MR: As you pointed out earlier, this is a different kind of project from the LOVE album because the LOVE album used samples from the other Beatles albums whereas Viva Elvis contains newly recorded music.

EVT: Exactly, exactly. It's a mix of the two schools, you know? I listened to everything Elvis did, and trust me, it was a gigantic task. I listened to over nine-hundred albums--stuff from the movies, unreleased home recordings, and live recordings. I was just trying to catch little bits and pieces of magic, you know? So, I was mixing that with new chord progressions and new music.

MR: Nice. Now, you oversaw the whole project, but you had other mixer/producers involved. What's your favorite result?

EVT: One of my personal favorites is "Blue Suede Shoes."

MR: What is it that was special about this record to you?

EVT: The record, for me, embodied a rock attitude. After all, Elvis was The King of Rock 'n' Roll, so I really wanted to focus more on an attitude than a style. Elvis was so eclectic in his taste of music, but one thing was for sure--he was the The King of Rock 'n' Roll, and the album really embodied that rock attitude.

MR: Right. Most of these songs are sort of an energized Elvis.

EVT: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, he was really eclectic. So, you have great songs like "King Creole" or "Bossa Nova, Baby," but Elvis is always dangerous in his songs. His vocals were totally amazing, he was rocking, and it's really rock, attitude-wise.

MR: When did you discover Elvis?

EVT: My parents were really hardcore fans of Elvis, so Elvis music was always playing around the house. I clearly remember that the '68 Comeback was playing in loop--I remember Elvis in his black leather suit. So, my parents are really behind that.

MR: Elvis is one of these characters who, once you get what he's doing, it doesn't matter what generation you are from because you do get hooked.

EVT: I think so. He was so charming on the '68 Comeback in the acoustic session--he had a great sense of humor. I think when you take the time to know him, you will absolutely like him because he was really charming and cool.

MR: Do you think that the appeal of Elvis is something that is unexplainable? Like I said, generation after generation is in love with this guy, which is not true of most artists. Was it just the charm? Was it his music? What do you think were Elvis' most seductive qualities?

EVT: It's a mixture of different things. But firstly, he was a musician. He was an amazing singer, and also a producer because he was behind all the songs in the studio calling the shots. He was absolutely living and breathing each word of each song he was singing--he could sell a song to anybody. I think that is a big part of it. But besides that, he was absolutely charming, of course, good looking, and he had a good vibe. So, it's a mixture of all that, but the music is first for sure.

MR: There you go.

EVT: Also, we have to remember that back in the day, Elvis was always working with the best songwriters of his time. When you have good songs, the rest takes care of itself. He was working with Leiber and Stoller, who wrote like the bible of rock, you know? He worked with Leiber and Stoller, Thomas Schumann, and Otis Blackwell, so he was intelligent enough to work with the best.

MR: What can you tell us about the Cirque Du Soleil interpretation?

EVT: I think what is really cool is the fact that the album is the soundtrack for the show. What's cool is that it's a Cirque Du Soleil show that really rocks. Instead of having an impersonator there singing the Elvis songs, you have the real Elvis voice singing. So, that is really something, you know, to have The King?

MR: Right. Do you think this is going to be one of the biggest Cirque Du Soleil shows? Do you think that this one is going to maybe surpass the popularity of even The Beatles' LOVE?

EVT: I don't know because the market is changing. I think the market is like forty percent down since the LOVE album came out, so we can't really compare, but I'm sure it will do well because at least my parents will buy the record. (laughs)

MR: (laughs) Erich, do you have any last thoughts on Viva Elvis?

EVT: Frankly, I feel so privileged, and it was an honor to work on that project every day with The King. It was an incredible experience, and it was almost like touching The Holy Grail of Rock 'n' roll, you know? I'm really happy, and I think that people will really be touched and surprised by this new Elvis. For me, it's like the Elvis from '54 that is coming back. So, I'm sure people will be touched and surprised.

MR: Do you have any advice for new artists?

EVT: I think that if you are an artist, you have to have your own thoughts and go for it, you know? Don't listen to other people around you. I come from Quebec, and a lot of people said to me that I should move to The United States, but inside me I didn't care. I did my things, and you can look at what happened with Cirque Du Soleil. So, I think you have to go with your own gut, you know?


1. Opening

2. Blue Suede Shoes

3. That's All Right

4. Heartbreak Hotel

5. Love Me Tender

6. King Creole

7. Bossa Nova Baby

8. Burning Love

9. Memories

10. Can't Help Falling In Love

11. You'll Never Walk Alone - Piano Interlude

12. Suspicious Minds

(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney - Huffington Post)