Fizzé

Fizzé was born in Basel, Switzerland on 4 September 1952. Seeing Errol Garner in concert and hearing jazz records at a young age made him curious about music and he was enrolled in the conservatory in Basel for classical flute. In his early teens Fizzé rented a Farfisa organ and set up a band with his friends. On his father’s Ultravox he recorded screeching doors and other noises to use as background sound while the band played. Fizzé then discovered Eddie Boyd, blues singer and pianist from Mississippi. He became acquainted with Boyd when he played in Basel. Later Boyd returned to stay with Fizzé’s family, visiting them for the next four years and fuelling Fizzé’s passion for the blues as he accompanied Boyd on tour.

A festival in Zürich in 1968 brought Fizzé new musical experiences: John Mayall’s Bluesbrakers, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burdon, Traffic and The Move. In 1971 Fizzé went to Neuchâtel to finish school. He joined the conservatory with André Pépin and graduated in 1973, as well as gaining a diploma in commerce. His first job was in the record department of a shop. Fizzé started playing the guitar and sax and, after being made redundant, began to organise concerts with groups such as Gentle Giant and The Stars of Faith. At that gig he became aquainted with organist Jerome Van Jones and yet more jazz. In 1976 Fizzé and the late jazz drummer Denis Progin opened the club/ record store Jazzland where Fizzé engineered and recorded all the concerts.

In 1978 Fizzé became an office clerk and then an advertising sales rep. He was sent to Hong Kong, New Delhi, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, Ecuador, Spain, Tunisa and other places and brought back many instruments, records and sounds. In 1981 Fizzé was asked to do the music for a local film. Working with drummer Gilles ‘Dizzi’ Rieder from the avant garde band Débile Menthol, they recorded tunes by designing instruments themselves or making tracks with kitchen utensils, canalisation tubes and drills. The age of sampling was not yet born, so they spliced and looped tapes.

Fizzé joined the band Code on keyboards in 1982. They took to the road and played 80 gigs in three months. In 1984 Fizzé joined Débile Menthol in Hungary as part of a cultural exchange. He continued to work as a sales rep and to experiment with tracks, ‘building’ instruments, playing sessions, programming synths and producing friends’ work. In 1986 Fizzé set up his first real studio, with a 16 track one inch recorder, a mixing board and a sampler. He also released his first LP and founded the Mensch Records label. He released his second LP Manoeuvres d’Automne a year later.

In 1987 Fizzé invited the reggae Heart Beat Band to record a maxi single with him, but they hesitated because they knew he had no reggae experience. Determined to do the recording, Fizzé flew to Jamaica and met the late producer W. ‘Jack Ruby’ Lindo who took him to Kingston’s Dynamics Studio to hear a Sly and Robbie session, to meet musicians, buy records and to learn. One evening in Oracabessa, Fizzé was mesmerised by the extraordinary phenomenon of thousands of fireflies. It was an inspiring moment that would be the start of a 12 year exploration of a myriad of cultures. Eventually Fizzé also met Rico Rodriguez who was to influence him greatly. Fizzé returned to Switzerland and recorded 3 tracks for Heart Beat Band, plus some of his impressions of Jamaica and its firefly, the Peeni Waali . Fizzé returned to Jamaica in 1988 and recorded more music and overdubbed the rhythms he had prepared, working with percussionist Leon ‘Scully’ Simms, Robbie Shakespeare, saxophonist Dean ‘Big D’ Frazer, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace and Felix ‘Deadly Headly’ Bennet . Fizzé was hooked on reggae, loving its parallels with the blues but also its freshness.

Fizzé returned to Switzerland and worked in advertising for another two years but Rodriguez often recorded for him. Jerome Van Jones visited and recorded Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll and Blue Moon to Fizzé’s reggae lines. In 1989 Fizzé contacted Linton Kwesi Johnson and Dennis Bovell and Beacon of Hope was born. Fizzé also met Lee Scratch Perry who voiced one of Fizzé’s tunes, rapping about Liecht (light) & Stein (Liechtenstein was just over the border). Peeni Waali the album was starting to take shape and it was released on his label in 1990, along with the Linton Kwesi Johnson album Tings An Times .

Fizzé returned to Jamaica to get inspiration for a second Peeni Waali. In 1994 Steve Gregory and John Kpiaye from the Dennis Bovell Dub Band put down some sessions, as did brass player Shirley A. Hofmann. Rainer Rohloff, Stefan Kling and Tobias Morgenstern also added their talents. Violinist Helmut Lipsky from Canada utilised his highly skilled classical training on one track whilst Swiss hackbrett player Roland Schiltknecht added his sounds to another. In 1995 Taj Mahal voiced on Fizzé’s tribute to Eddie Boyd. In 1996 Fizzé released the CD Kulu Hatha Mamnua, a re-release of his first two LPs. That year Georgie Fame played hammond organ on some of Fizzé’s tunes, along with Barbara Dennerlein. Qanun player Hossam Shaker from Cairo band Sharkiat did some improvisation and Bolot and Nohon from Altai added their throat vocals. 1996 was such a busy year for Fizzé that 6 CDs were released from the work in his studio. By 1997 The Return of Peeni Waali was ready for release. That year Fizzé also recorded the first solo album of accordion player Tobias Morgenstern and Linton Kwesi Johnson’s 20th anniversary album More Time .

Most of sessions at Fizzé’s studio included local friends: Cédric Vuille (ukulele, clarinet, bass and guitar);Gilles ‘Dizzi’ Rieder (percussion); Momo Rossel; Jean-Vincent Huguenin; Pascal Cuche’s (milkpots, cans and other kitchen utensils); Daniel Spahni (drums). All in all some 56 people accompanied Fizzé through Peeni Waali. The final additions to new Peeni Waali tracks came in 1999 with sessions from Eddie ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton, and violinist Johnny T., thus enabling Fizzé to put out the third and final The Eve of Peeni Waali CD. Fizzé is currently recording the first solo album of drummer Daniel Spahni and aiming to release Roland Schiltknecht’s album. Over the last 13 years, running Mensch Records independently has seen Fizzé spread his musical wings, giving him the freedom to record a great variety of original music. He is passionate to learn about all kinds of music and has recently started to work more and more with native Swiss instruments like the alphorn, hackbrett, acordion, hornussen and others.

The idea to Peeni Waali was born out of a series of chain reactions and coincidences. When Fizzé discovered reggae, its minimalist nature seemed at odds with the opulence of his own musical background music. The earliest roots of the project were in some of his compositions written during the 1980s after Fizzé returned from Saudi Arabia, but he wasn’t interested in the idea of ‘world music’, preferring to emphasise the differences in cultural styles. Fizzé wanted to bring people from different worlds – with apparently little in common – together within one project, uniting many communities in order to understand different visions, backgrounds, ethics; and together, leading the listener to the magic of a music with energy, flexibility and humour. Peeni Waali is intuitive, with collaborations that experiment and challenge. The sound of ‘real’ instruments is complimented by technical mastery at the other end. Peeni Waali is original, using reggae as a vehicle to travel on a voyage leading to unknown places, new people and breaking the musical cultural isolation of Switzerland.

Fizzé’s own recollection of his encounter with the firefly says it all: ‘When I saw the firefly first, I was puzzled by the phenomenom and kept asking people what it meant to them. I also realised that it was one of the few animals people would just leave in peace. I was told all kinds of pleasant stories how the Peeni Waali was a good omen, like hope. I’m puzzled that so little is known scientifically about that bug but fireflys exist all over the world. In Malaysia they call it clip-clip. Fireflys also exist in the warmer parts of our country. Yet, the species here doesn’t fly. We call it a glow-worm. However, it was useful in building a concept for a musical project around a wonderful experience.’

Mensch Records

Albums
The Peeni Waali Phenomenon
LKJ Records, 2000