Bertrand Burgalat

Born : 1963 in Bastia (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Composer / DJ / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Electro / Pop

Tapping into the glamorous easy-listening groove of the 60s and mixing it with electro beats, Bertrand Burgalat has established a reputation as an avant-garde pioneer. The multi-talented Burgalat, whose inspiration ranges from the classical compositions of Ravel to the early electronica of Kraftwerk, has worked as an arranger, composer, producer, soundtrack writer and remixer. But one thing's for sure, whatever Burgalat's doing, you'll always find him at the cutting-edge!

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    Tapping into the glamorous easy-listening groove of the 60s and mixing it with electro beats, Bertrand Burgalat has established a reputation as an avant-garde pioneer. The multi-talented Burgalat, whose inspiration ranges from the classical compositions of Ravel to the early electronica of Kraftwerk, has worked as an arranger, composer, producer, soundtrack writer and remixer. But one thing's for sure, whatever Burgalat's doing, you'll always find him at the cutting-edge!

    Bertrand Burgalat was born in the Corsican town of Bastia in 1963. His father, a high-ranking civil servant, was the sub-prefect of the island at the time, but as often happens in this profession, the Burgalat family moved several times in the course of Burgalat senior's career so young Bertrand grew up in several different French towns.

    Coming from a well-to-do, bourgeois background, Bertrand was introduced to classical music at an early age and began taking piano lessons at the age of 6. A few years later his musical tastes would change dramatically, however. After seeing a Pink Floyd concert at the age of 10, Bertrand opened his mind to a whole range of other musical possibilities. The budding young musician went on to set up his own rock and jazz bands. But one of the most formative influences throughout Bertrand's teens in the 1970s was his discovery of the work of cult German electro pioneers Kraftwerk.

    The Early Years

    Burgalat went on to launch his own career in the music world in the 1980s, starting out as a producer and an arranger. Steering away from the musical mainstream, Burgalat marked himself out as a man with alternative interests, producing an album by Slovenian 'electro Goths', Laibach, when he was just 25. Burgalat then went on to work with a host of other major underground stars such as the German band Einstürzende Neubauten or Samir Birnbach (from Belgian outfit Minimal Compact).

    As the French electronic scene burgeoned in the early 90s, Burgalat became increasingly involved in the easy-listening movement. The vogue for easy-listening, which revived key sounds from the 60s and 70s, was perfectly suited to Burgalat's own interest in the aesthetic and music of the period, most notably theme tunes from kitsch TV series and the background electronica popularly referred to as "lift music".

    The French easy-listening movement fused the best of 60s and 90s electronica with layers of smooth, slick strings, revolving around a light, upbeat sound. And Burgalat went on to become a key name in this milieu, working with a variety of happening groups (although few of them ever made their way onto the French musical mainstream).

    A Finger in many different musical pies

    In the 90s Burgalat's career largely revolved around his production work for artists such as Dominique Dalcan ("Cannibale", 1994), Jad Wio ("Fleur de métal", 1992), Julien Baer and Japanese electro/pop diva Kahimi Karie. Meanwhile, Burgalat also continued a parallel career as a musical arranger, working with the likes of Ollano, UK musician Mick Harvey (notably on his Gainsbourg tribute album in '95), the Japanese group Pizzicato Five, up-and-coming French alternative Katerine and the Australian star Nick Cave.

    In 1992 Burgalat branched out in a new direction, working on the soundtrack of Cyril Collard's film "les Nuits fauves". Five years later Burgalat turned his hand to film composition once again, writing the entire soundtrack for Valérie Lemercier's movie "Quadrille". Meanwhile, advertising creatives also came knocking at Burgalat's door, asking him to compose the music for various ad campaigns for luxury brands such as Yves Saint-Laurent.

    Burgalat also found himself in demand on the remix front and went on to cook up a series of cutting-edge remixes for mainstream stars such as Jamiroquai, Soul II Soul, Depeche Mode ("Easy Going") and hip French electro outfit Air ("Sexy Boy"). Renowned as a brilliantly creative musical mastermind with a certain air of mystery about him, Burgalat soon found himself dubbed "the French Phil Spector."


    The event that really established Burgalat as a key player on the French music scene, however, was when "France's answer to Phil Spector" set up his own record label, Tricatel, in 1995. Positioning itself at the musical cutting-edge, Tricatel soon established itself as an innovative force, promoting original, up-and-coming talents from a broad range of musical backgrounds. Indeed, Tricatel's stable included everyone from alternative American diva April March, French singer Hélène (younger sister of Lio), legendary string arranger David Whitaker (who worked with the late Gainsbourg), German singer Ingrid Caven and André Popp (a famous composer and orchestrator in vogue in the 60s and 70s).

    Fired by an innate curiosity about music and a desire to exploit his different musical skills to the full, Burgalat went on to work with a lot of foreign labels, discovering and promoting unknown talents from Germany and Japan.

    Meanwhile, Burgalat was also extremely active on the home front. In 1996 he produced the album "Valérie Lemercier chante" for singer and French comedian Valérie Lemercier (also his partner in real life). Then in 2000 he went on to mastermind "Présence humaine", an album recorded by controversial French author Michel Houellebecq. These two albums – deemed exciting and original by fans, and dismissed as trendy and "snobbily intellectual" by critics – appeared to sum up Burgalat's image in the public eye.

    Straddling the divide between kitsch, old-fashioned "variété" sounds and avant-garde electro, Burgalat forged a reputation for top-quality production work, but his music was often considered overly elitist (a criticism which, incidentally, Burgalat was only too happy to have levelled at his work!) Burgalat also got something of a reputation for his extravagant parties, which he liked to organise in unusual, off-beat settings such as empty swimming pools and bowling alleys.

    2000: "The Ssssound of music"

    Finally, after decades of working for other people, Burgalat went into the studio on his own account. His debut solo album, "The Ssssound of music", was released in 2000 under the name Bertrand. This album, which Burgalat had, in fact, been working on since setting up his own label in '95, contained the usual Burgalat inspirations – i.e. a healthy dose of electronica, pop culture and psychedelia, soaring backing choruses and string sections and some beautifully-crafted melodies. Infused with a "private joke" sense of humour, "The Ssssound of music" made no attempt to win over fans on the musical mainstream, but brandished its difference loud and clear.

    Besides featuring numerous instrumental tracks, "The Ssssound of music" also found Burgalat trying his hand at vocals or inviting close friends such as Katerine and Michel Houellebecq to guest on certain songs (Katerine on "Ma rencontre" and "l'Observatoire" and Houellebecq on "Gris métal"). But it was Burgalat's group, A.S. Dragon, which lent musical coherence to the whole.

    Burgalat, the epitomy of "the trendy Parisian", took his band on the road at the end of 2000, taking his "Ssssound of music" to the French provinces. Burgalat's distinctive brand of electro/psychedelic pop seemed to go down a storm on the festival circuit when he and A.S. Dragon appeared at "Le Printemps de Bourges", the "Transmusicales" Festival in Rennes, ""Le Four Festival" in Belgium and "Les Francofolies" in La Rochelle.

    Meanwhile, Burgalat continued his work for Valérie Lemercier, helping his partner hone her texts and write a soundtrack for the "one-woman show" she staged at the end of 2000.

    The Genius of Bertrand Burgalat

    In June 2001 the German label Bungalow paid tribute to the French electro eccentric, bringing out a compilation of his work entitled "the Genius of Bertrand Burgalat".

    On 29 September 2001 Burgalat got to pay his own tribute, teaming up with French singer Alain Chamfort to perform a run-through of Chamfort's most famous classics at the Belgian festival "Les Nuits Botanique". The concert is so successful that a French version is staged in February 2002 at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, where a live album of the proceedings is recorded.

    Burgalat stormed back into the French music news in October 2001 when the live album he recorded during his tour hit record stores. "Bertrand Burgalat meets A.S. Dragon" featured two unexpected covers: an interesting version of jet-set disco star Amanda Lear's "Follow Me" and a Burgalat reworking of the Smokey Robinson classic "Tears of a Clown".

    Apart from his diverse activities with the Tricatel label, Burgalat also found time to contribute to singer Barbara Carlotti's album "Chansons" and the group Château Flight's album "The Meal" in 2004.

    2005: "Portrait-robot"

    Burgalat then turned his attention back to his own recording career once again, beginning work on material for a new album, "Portrait-robot", released in June 2005. The album, recorded in Paris in his own home studio, featured collaborations with Regina Janssen, renowned for her singing work with Donna Regina and Peter Van Poehl who also stepped in to play guitar on several tracks. Burgalat composed all the music for his new album himself, but invited a number of guest contributors to write lyrics. These included the novelist Elisabeth Barillé, the musician April March, the journalist Gregori Alexandre and Robert Wyatt’s girlfriend, Alfie, who penned four songs. (Burgalat penned just one song himself, writing the lyrics for "Vestibule d'ombre.") Burgalat’s quirky electro-pop opus proved to be just as eclectic and complex as its creator - and every bit as impossible to pin down in one particular music category!

    Following the release of "Portrait-robot", Burgalat embarked upon an extensive series of concerts across France. He also found time to compose the soundtrack to Valérie Lemercier’s film "Palais Royal" which hit French cinema screens later that year. Meanwhile, Burgalat continued to write music for TV advertisements. And he was also called in to give a composing hand on "Inventaire", the debut album by the new TV talent discovery Christophe Willem. (The album would be released in 2007). Burgalat also wrote material for a new album by former French pop Lolita Alizée (due to hit stores in November 2007).

    2007: "Cheri B.B."

    In May 2007, Burgalat continued his work as an innovator, releasing "Inédits" (a collection of fifteen songs and instrumentals) which was only made available for download via the Tricatel website. Burgalat's third studio album "Cheri B.B", released in August 2007, was made available in the same format. On it, the French 'avantgardiste' teamed up with two songwriters, Elisabeth Barillé and Matthias Debureaux, who wrote him a series of tailor-made lyrics to fit his creative pop arrangements. One of the highlights of Burgalat's new album was "This Summer Night" on which the French artist teamed up with the British singer-songwriter Robert Wyatt.

    In 2007 and 2008, Bertrand Burgalat gave a handful of concerts in France, but in 2009 his stage presence really got going, including a performance at the New Morning in Paris on 28 January 2009.

    He soon got back to producing, with a new project initiated by the Parisian female DJs, Tania Bruna-Rosso and Cécile Togni, otherwise known as the Putafranges. The idea was to get French actresses to sing a bunch of mega well-known titles by Niagara, Alain Bashung, Sylvie Vartan and Les Rita Mitsouko. Fourteen actresses, including Valérie Lemercier, Emma de Caunes, Isabelle Carré, Isabelle Huppert and Nathalie Baye, took part. Bertrand Burgalat did all the arrangements on the CD along with Philippe Uminski. The album, entitled “Madame aime”, came out on 6 April 2009. That month, the artist was awarded the insignia of “Chevalier” of the “Ordre des arts et des lettres” by French Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel.

    That same year, he also participated in composing albums for Christophe Willem and Marc Lavoine.

    In 2011, Burgalat created music for the film “Little Princess” by Eva Ionesco, starring Isabelle Huppert. His instrumental pieces featured on the film’s soundtrack, produced by his label, Tricatel.
    April 2012 saw Burgalat come back with a fourth album entitled "Toutes directions". The new opus was recorded in his house in the French Pyrenees and for once the pop craftsman chose to sing the words of others, including Charles Berling, Barbara Carlotti and Laurent Chalumeau. In the comfort of his home-designed studio, he honed the sound of fifteen songs to serve up a timeless, elegant pop sound.  
    He gave a few concerts in France and abroad, one of them at the Parisian venue Gaieté-Lyrique on 23 February 2013.
    March 2013

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