By Rosine Alleva, Journalist/Photographer – Rock At Night France, Switzerland
The French ZEPSET recalls the LED ZEPPELIN magic with more than 400 concerts since they began in 2003!
About a year ago Deborah BONHAM (sister of LED ZEPPELIN drummer John « Bonzo » BONHAM) shared the stage with them 2 days in a row! ZEPSET is composed of Franck FLACHEZ on lead vocals, Yann BOURHIS on guitar, an awesome rhythm section with Fred JULLIEN on bass, Thierry SCARLATTI on drums, and Fabrice RABOUTOT on keyboards. A very interesting bunch of musicians! In 2014, ZEPSET was accompanied by 40 musicians (Harmonie du Coteau), the rock repertoire was re-arranged by Jocelyn GUICHON, the conductor and Fabrice RABOUTOT who’s originally a classical musician, jazz piano teacher and arranger! I heard about ZEPSET before but it was the first time I met this “dream team” at Woodstock Guitares!!!
Before admiring their great performance on stage I had a chat with them backstage.
RAN– The band exists since 2003! Did you start with the actual line-up?
FRANCK– No, our drummer, Thierry, a joined us in 2012, the same year as Fabrice, our Keyboard player who joined the band a month later. The original trio, Yann, Fred and myself, exists since 2003.
RAN– Do you only tour in France?
FRANCK– No, we also have a few dates in Switzerland, but we mostly tour in France.
RAN– And quite much, I read you did about 400 concerts!
FRANCK– Yeah, even more. We make a bit more than 30 concerts each year.
RAN– Do you sometimes participate to specific Tribute festivals?
FRANCK– Yes, we do, absolutely. Well, we participate to bikers festivals where it’s mixed but mostly with other tribute bands. Like tonight with a tribute to AC/DC or a month ago in Nancy with a tribute to DEEP PURPLE.
RAN– Did you ever thought of writing your own music, with this band or did any of you during your music career?
FRANCK– Thierry, the drummer did. He was very known on the French hard rock market in the 80’s and made his own music. With Fred, the bass player we also had a band in the 80’s with our own music and Yann as well. Now, what I’m gonna say might be a bit hard to hear but today, if you really want to play, you realize it’s best not to do your own stuff!
FRED– And if you want to do your own music, you need to have a lot of talent!
THIERRY– We also play what we like, for pleasure!
FRANCK– Too many bands are trying to create their own stuff with very little musical knowledge. Nothing of what’s created is very exciting for the moment…I totally assume this!! To create your music, you need a demo, make an album, promote it to finally sell 12 albums to your family and friends and struggle making concerts where nobody is listening …No, we prefer to do this, there are 300 people tonight!! I don’t know if it’s true but this is a bit our truth…We use an easy product to sell, LED ZEPPELIN is easy to sell. It certainly ain’t easy to play but we have to chance to do this quite well and quite regularly now. We have the feeling they are our songs although they’re not. So why
get bothered doing our own music! All is there, all exists. Nothing is interesting anymore…
RAN– How do you explain this tribute fashion right now? I don’t think there were many when you started in 2003.
FRANCK– Nowadays there are too many tribute bands, some didn’t even know the bands 1 year or 5 years before starting a tribute, without knowing the soul of the band…just because it’s a fashion and they want to play concerts. I was listening to Led Zeppelin when I was 8 years old and we didn’t decide to make a tribute because of a fashion! We founded the band long before! We are an “old” tribute band.
THIERRY– This fashion grew so fast that you find tribute bands at every street corner today. Obviously among them, some are really good and others are really bad!!
RAN– Doesn’t this become a problem for the band?
FRANCK– No, quite the contrary! It’s like for companies, the more competition there is, the more interesting it is. And it’s s not like a sport trying to be the best but you have to do a good job! Cause there are people who decide to form a tribute band like they decide to go fishing.
FRED– Some tribute bands really think THEY are the stars! But they didn’t create anything! They tend to forget this! We didn’t invent anything!
RAN– ZEPSET won the springboard of the “Festival Grosses Guitares” last year.
FRANCK– Yes, and it gave us the opportunity to play at this big Festival with LAURA COX who played here lately which was cool.
RAN– How did you start ZEPSET?
FRANCK– It came from a simple idea. Fred and I thought about playing some Led Zeppelin, we talked about it to Yann -a Guitar master- and we did one or two rehearsals without having any specific idea. We made a concert for the fun, and then the fashion for tribute bands began to spread. All of a sudden it became very easy to get concert dates and it just went on. We never thought of making any business out of it, we did it for the pleasure and because it was our culture (mine particularly). I also stopped smoking when I turned 40, which made a huge difference! I could sing things I really wanted to, which I wasn’t able to sing before!!
RAN– Besides listening to Led Zeppelin, you have this French musical culture… What other kind of music do you listen to?
FRANCK– Actually everything, French variety, Jazz (this rather Fabrice), progressive rock like GENESIS, we listen to many things really. I love Francis Cabrel who wrote beautiful things, great french lyrics. We don’t denigrate artists who create music, known or less known like FRANCK CARDUCCI for example. He creates wonderful music but he struggles. And very often tribute bands are denigrated cause we take the place but it’s just a choice. The songs we play already exist and make people happy cause it reminds them the 70’s. We keep it alive. Write your own music requires a huge talent.
YANN– Listening to a concert with titles you hear for the first time, even if they’re known, requires to assimilate a lot of informations and it has to be extremely good to get yourself into the music. It’s easier if you know already the albums, you see it transposed on stage, you assist to a show but you’ve already the lyrics and the melodies in mind.
RAN– Rock isn’t the first music anymore…What do you think of the impact of social media on the music industry today?
FRANCK– We had 99% of our concerts through social media! Today on YouTube, everyone has super videos!
THIERRY– Social Media, YouTube are important today, everything functions with this. Everyone benefits and it works well! There is one-upmanship, too much of everything and obviously some aspects are more negative. But before these tools didn’t exist.
YANN– Today on Deezer you can find all the albums which wasn’t possible before. You don’t listen to the full song anymore. 40 years ago, you were taking your time to find “the“ Album, to listen to it and eventually try to play what you could on the guitar. Today you can find the music sheets after 2 days an album has been released. It’s great and people have a much higher musical level nowadays but when it comes to create, everyone does the same stuff. They all learn music the same way and very quickly but this is a problem in terms of creation. The one who might make the difference will maybe not reach the higher level but will accept to learn music his own way.
FRANCK– I often look at street musicians on YouTube. These people have nothing, not the best instruments but these are the real creative ones.
FRED– What is certain is that what makes the musical business today it’s young girls between 12 and 17 years old. And this was exactly our age when we were listening to Led Zeppelin! People who want to invest know where to go! It’s the Teenage market.
FRANCK– Today what works is TV reality shows and the music according to it. We’re still followed by a few young people but we may consider to be the last representatives of a music that will slowly disappear. Teenagers don’t know PETER GABRIEL and don’t care, it’s not their culture.
RAN– Rock is our culture!! Looking forward to seeing you on stage tonight! Thank you all for this interesting interview.
Lead vocals – Franck FLACHEZ
Guitar – Yann BOURHIS
Bass – Fred JULLIEN
Keyboards – Fabrice RABOUTOT
Drums – Thierry SCARLATTI