Friday, 12 February 2010

He's a One Man Band...

Around the turn of the century I was editing an entertainment and lifestyle website for the student market. Most days I'd have a barrage of record company PRs calling me up and trying to sell me their latest big thing - which for the most part only proved to disappoint. But one midweek afternoon when one the few that I trusted to tell me if anything was any good or not - you know, really good - rang me to enthusuastically expouse the joys of one of his new charges, I thought it was time to pack up all this lark and get into plumbing.

"I got this act called Petit Vodo - you're going to love him!" Tell me more, I instructed. "Well, he's a French one-man band... but he's a lot better than I can make that sound. I'll send you a copy of the album." He wasn't wrong. Despite a description that held less promise than an old pair of damp socks, that album, Monom, rocked like a bastard.

Imagine the refuelled delta blues of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, without any of the ego or knowing irony, and steep it with an innocent gallic charm, some dynamite slide guitar and all kinds of bonkers-in-the-nut samples and you're part way there. "He's playing down Dingwalls with Gallon Drunk in a couple of weeks," explained my Vodo go between, "do you want to see him?" Heck yeah, I replied - if only to see if he could actually play any of this stuff live. Surely he had a band, or merely relied on overdubs and recording trickery on the album.

It would seem that he didn't.

Up in Camden, right by the canal, a tiny, unassuming man in spectacles and a flying helmet toddled speculatively onto the stage. With a massive guitar over his shoulder and a harmonica perched around his neck, he settled in behind the drumkit and started to play - everything. Strumming the open chords with his right hand and hammering the snare with his left, while hooting out all kinds of strangled vocalisms through his harmonica - and at the same time triggering scatter-shot sampled with his elbows. Once in a while he'd even take the stick and slide it up the fret like a bottleneck, while he still pounded out a beefy rhythm on the drums with his feet. The sounds he was making were glorious, unique and quite quite beautiful.

The partisan Gallon Drunk didn't seem too fussed by such a wonderful sideshow, serious souls that they were. But every now and again someone would walk into the room, stare hard at what was going on before them, and give that confused look that said "How the heck is HE making all THAT noise? On his own!!!"

The next album I got my hands on, Sixty-Nine Stereovox, held more of the same delights, and rarely left my stereo for a number years. Then for a while I kind of lost track of his exploits, until a recent websearch told me that he was still thriving, and still making his delectable swampy racket. Lately he's been accompanied by the glamorous Miss Caroline on drums, but it doesn't appear to have made him any less interesting or unhinged.

And you'll be pleased to hear that the good fellow is playing a few dates in the UK in March. So hunt him down like a dog and bathe in his magnificent otherness. You'll be pleased you did.

All photos © lays with the owners
Videos from YouTube. Underlying © lays with the owners of the clips.


  1. Fantastic!

    Making me pine for my one man band days.

    This is just wonderful; got a big grin on my face. Cheers Roy!

  2. Hey Roy, I didn't know that someone in this fucking world understood my life. Many thanks for your words. Be sure that I will never stop my job. Best from France.