Interviews

The Quebec Summer Festival: A bass for Red Hot Chili Peppers

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

"It's gonna get played! - Flea »

How did you end up collaborating with Quebec City's summer music festival to make a bass for Flea?

Well, I'd always wanted to work with the festival. The event lights up and takes over Quebec City every summer for two weeks. I've been going since my teens and I've seen hundreds of shows, many of which are unforgettable. It's one of the best music festivals in the world but, unfortunately, I feel its visuals have always have a bit of a corporate look. And I had always wanted to change that. So a few years I asked to meet with the organizers.

I always found that their visual was a little corporate and I wanted to work to change it to something visually more interesting.

In 2015, we met to discuss my ideas for some of their posters.

They were interested and curious but nothing more. However, the year after, they called me up to create a concept and paint it on an actual guitar for one the artists at the festi-val. We talked about a bunch of scenarios and finally we decided we'd give the instru-ment to Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Why an instrument?

It was Louis Bellavance's idea, the festival's line-up director. He wanted to offer some musicians a personalized gift to mark their time at the festival, a sort of honorary award but not in the conventional trophy or statue format. Louis loves vintage guitars and he's friends with Pierre-Luc Asselin, an exceptional luthier/guitar-maker. He's the one who made the bass I illustrated. It was a great project except there was a short deadline, only a few weeks notice… you know, the usual!

We did talk about a more long term project using high quality instruments. We wanted to create a sort of collection of honorary gifts for musicians with original designs that would gain some notoriety over time. We thought that maybe word would get around to people in the music business and that these instruments would become sought after.

The Festival approached you in May and the bass was ready in July, right?

Yeah and I didn't know the luthier, Pierre-Luc, it was Louis who introduced us. I felt he was concerned about deadline because in order to have a nice finish on a guitar, you need lots of layers of lacquer and every coats takes time because it has to dry properly.

Pierre-Luc and I met and I figured that in order to have enough time get the finish right, I needed the bass the following week and I only had a few days to paint it. I'd never done anything like that before and I had some serious doubts about how the paint would re-act to the lacquer. I had to research and do some emergency tests to see what would and wouldn't work because we only had one shot to get it right.bodyFrom the bass the following week. I had to finish the painting in a few days. I had never done this and I had serious doubts about the tenacity of some pigments in reaction to the lacquer that is basically mixed in a solvent ... I had to do research and tests in emergency for see what would work or not.

I ended up speaking with specialists that make lacquers and who work with industrial chemicals and that helped me figure out the best products to use. It wasn't long before my sketches were ready to go and once I got the sculpted piece of wood, I got to work right away.

How did it go? Did you have to get your illustration approved by the festival?

Haha, no, we didn't have time for that.

They had to trust me and it worked out well that way! However, to add to the pressure, I was filmed during the whole project by a camera crew and it didn't start off well. To save time during the first day of filming, I had covered the bass in Mactac tape and I had cut out a pretty complicated stencil to add my base colours. It was pretty tedious work.

The problem was that the solvents in the lacquer absorbed the glue in the Mactac. So there I was being filmed as I peeled off this tape and all I could think about was, 'it's ru-ined'. The bass was so full of glue that I could actually lift it up just by sticking my hand to it. I should've removed the tape after a few hours in order to prevent that chemical reaction from happening, but I never could have known…bodyThe bass was so sticky that I could lift it by putting my open hand on it! It would have been necessary to remove the film after a maximum of two hours in order to avoid the chemical reaction. I could not know ...

So right away, I called Pierre-Luc to explain the disaster. He ended up dipping the base in paint thinner overnight to remove the glue and luckily it worked. I started all over the next day and this time, I had no room for mistakes. In the end, everything turned out great. Pierre-Luc and I worked non-stop. I remember him adding the strings and adjust-ing the bass just hours before we gave it to Flea.

Flea liked it?

Yes, we gave him backstage before Show.Yeah, we gave it to him backstage before the show. He really like it and did a bit of pop-ping with it in between two sips of matcha. He said,"It's gonna get played ! "

Mission accomplished !

In the drawing on the bass, I added all kinds of elements that have to do with Flea. The bees are a reference to his passion for beekeeping and the set of mechanical dentures with a gap between the two front teeth are a nod to his smile. We also built in a small chili pepper in the head of the bass,

The following year, in 2007, the festival approached Pierre-Luc and I to make a guitar for James Hetfield of Metallica. Unfortunately, the festival wasn't able to get the green light from the band. The project fell through but the guitar and the design were ready. One day, we might put it up for sale (laughs).

The concept for a guitar for Metallica must have been pretty different.

Yes! It was sculpted like a Flying V but the body was made to look like it was an M for Metallica. It was all black - the hardware, the pickups, everything - except for some white skulls that I had painted on it like they had been splashed on, like droplets of paint. It was simpler than Flea's bass but it was bad-ass.

I wasn't approached to make another instrument in 2018. I have the impression the bass for Flea will be only instrument ever made and that it was really a one-time project.

PHOTO CREDITS

Anthony Jourdain, Catherine Côté, Fred Jourdain, Martin Poulin, Martin Côté

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Ó The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the consent of the author


Interviews

The Quebec Summer Festival: A bass for Red Hot Chili Peppers

Fred Jourdain / Martin Parrot

"It's gonna get played! - Flea »

How did you end up collaborating with Quebec City's summer music festival to make a bass for Flea?

Well, I'd always wanted to work with the festival. The event lights up and takes over Quebec City every summer for two weeks. I've been going since my teens and I've seen hundreds of shows, many of which are unforgettable. It's one of the best music festivals in the world but, unfortunately, I feel its visuals have always have a bit of a corporate look. And I had always wanted to change that. So a few years I asked to meet with the organizers.

I always found that their visual was a little corporate and I wanted to work to change it to something visually more interesting.


In 2015, we met to discuss my ideas for some of their posters.

They were interested and curious but nothing more. However, the year after, they called me up to create a concept and paint it on an actual guitar for one the artists at the festi-val. We talked about a bunch of scenarios and finally we decided we'd give the instru-ment to Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Why an instrument?

It was Louis Bellavance's idea, the festival's line-up director. He wanted to offer some musicians a personalized gift to mark their time at the festival, a sort of honorary award but not in the conventional trophy or statue format. Louis loves vintage guitars and he's friends with Pierre-Luc Asselin, an exceptional luthier/guitar-maker. He's the one who made the bass I illustrated. It was a great project except there was a short deadline, only a few weeks notice… you know, the usual!

We did talk about a more long term project using high quality instruments. We wanted to create a sort of collection of honorary gifts for musicians with original designs that would gain some notoriety over time. We thought that maybe word would get around to people in the music business and that these instruments would become sought after.


The Festival approached you in May and the bass was ready in July, right?

Yeah and I didn't know the luthier, Pierre-Luc, it was Louis who introduced us. I felt he was concerned about deadline because in order to have a nice finish on a guitar, you need lots of layers of lacquer and every coats takes time because it has to dry properly.

Pierre-Luc and I met and I figured that in order to have enough time get the finish right, I needed the bass the following week and I only had a few days to paint it. I'd never done anything like that before and I had some serious doubts about how the paint would re-act to the lacquer. I had to research and do some emergency tests to see what would and wouldn't work because we only had one shot to get it right.bodyFrom the bass the following week. I had to finish the painting in a few days. I had never done this and I had serious doubts about the tenacity of some pigments in reaction to the lacquer that is basically mixed in a solvent ... I had to do research and tests in emergency for see what would work or not.


I ended up speaking with specialists that make lacquers and who work with industrial chemicals and that helped me figure out the best products to use. It wasn't long before my sketches were ready to go and once I got the sculpted piece of wood, I got to work right away.


How did it go? Did you have to get your illustration approved by the festival?

Haha, no, we didn't have time for that.

They had to trust me and it worked out well that way! However, to add to the pressure, I was filmed during the whole project by a camera crew and it didn't start off well. To save time during the first day of filming, I had covered the bass in Mactac tape and I had cut out a pretty complicated stencil to add my base colours. It was pretty tedious work.

The problem was that the solvents in the lacquer absorbed the glue in the Mactac. So there I was being filmed as I peeled off this tape and all I could think about was, 'it's ru-ined'. The bass was so full of glue that I could actually lift it up just by sticking my hand to it. I should've removed the tape after a few hours in order to prevent that chemical reaction from happening, but I never could have known…bodyThe bass was so sticky that I could lift it by putting my open hand on it! It would have been necessary to remove the film after a maximum of two hours in order to avoid the chemical reaction. I could not know ...


So right away, I called Pierre-Luc to explain the disaster. He ended up dipping the base in paint thinner overnight to remove the glue and luckily it worked. I started all over the next day and this time, I had no room for mistakes. In the end, everything turned out great. Pierre-Luc and I worked non-stop. I remember him adding the strings and adjust-ing the bass just hours before we gave it to Flea.


Flea liked it?

Yes, we gave him backstage before Show.Yeah, we gave it to him backstage before the show. He really like it and did a bit of pop-ping with it in between two sips of matcha. He said,"It's gonna get played ! "


Mission accomplished !

In the drawing on the bass, I added all kinds of elements that have to do with Flea. The bees are a reference to his passion for beekeeping and the set of mechanical dentures with a gap between the two front teeth are a nod to his smile. We also built in a small chili pepper in the head of the bass,

The following year, in 2007, the festival approached Pierre-Luc and I to make a guitar for James Hetfield of Metallica. Unfortunately, the festival wasn't able to get the green light from the band. The project fell through but the guitar and the design were ready. One day, we might put it up for sale (laughs).


The concept for a guitar for Metallica must have been pretty different.

Yes! It was sculpted like a Flying V but the body was made to look like it was an M for Metallica. It was all black - the hardware, the pickups, everything - except for some white skulls that I had painted on it like they had been splashed on, like droplets of paint. It was simpler than Flea's bass but it was bad-ass.

I wasn't approached to make another instrument in 2018. I have the impression the bass for Flea will be only instrument ever made and that it was really a one-time project.


PHOTO CREDITS

Anthony Jourdain, Catherine Côté, Fred Jourdain, Martin Poulin, Martin Côté

Share this article

Ó The contents of this publication may not be reproduced without the consent of the author