Today the media were welcomed to festival founder Claude Nobs’ garage, next to the home he grew up in, to see the kick-off this year’s Montreux Jazz Festival and to celebrate its 50th birthday.
Sadly, Claude passed away unexpectedly in 2013 after a skiing accident, so this event under the leadership of its new boss, was both nostalgic and upbeat.
Le News was fortunate to spend time chatting with Mathieu Jaton, the festival’s new leading light, to get some insights into the event’s past, present and future.
So why are we in Claude’s garage?
The festival is 50 this year, a milestone that Claude mentioned on numerous occasions Mathieu told us. We chose this location for this year’s launch as a homage to Claude.
There were many reminders of the festival’s founder: numerous people who were close to him, the car he used to collect Ella Fitzgerald from Geneva airport in 1969 (see RTS footage here), and of course the house he was born in. According to Mathieu, Claude was born on a marble table in one of the rooms.
The house included a bakery, which was the family’s business. Claude himself became a baker before music became his life. The house was later used as the festival’s office until 2011, and was for a period, an office of Warner Music.
Why did Claude chose you as his successor? What did he see in you?
Mathieu’s answer to this question was enigmatic. After a trip to see a long-time mentor in the mountains of Graubunden, Claude returned and told Mathieu he was capable of things that he himself wasn’t, adding that Mathieu would understand what he meant in the future.
One advantage of being last in line for interviews behind RTS, 20 Minutes and all the other big media is that it gives you a chance to observe people. One thing that was clear watching Mathieu is how universal, genuine and natural his fellowship is. He really is by nature all about the team. And always quick to remind people of this.
Perhaps this is what Claude saw in him.
What would you be doing if you hadn’t met Claude?
I really don’t know! Only this. I’m always thinking about the festival. It’s my life.
It’s difficult to get Mathieu away from talking about the artists, the team and Claude, to talk about himself, so the discussion moves back to the Festival.
How is Montreux Jazz different to other music festivals?
It’s the story, the setting, the acoustic quality of the venues, the intimate size of the auditoria, and the absence of curfews. Artists are often blown away by the acoustics. The ones that come here love it. They feel they can relax and hang out. This comes through in some of the performances. It’s a place where they can breathe and recharge a bit.
Going back to this year’s line up, Deep Purple are on the bill. Their song Smoke on the Water, which contains one of the most well-known guitar riffs in rock, was inspired by the fire that destroyed Montreux Casino in 1971. Frank Zappa was performing in Montreux when it happened and one line of the song’s lyrics “Funky Claude was running in and out, pulling kids out the ground” is about Claude Nobs evacuating people from the casino. Having Deep Purple perform at the festival’s 50th is a fine tribute.
Tickets for the festival go on sale tomorrow, 15 April 2016. The line up includes too many artists to list: Muse, Simply Red, Frank Zappa, Deep Purple, Neil Young, Jean-Michel Jarre, Beirut, Lana Del Ray, PJ Harvey, ZZ Top and Quincey Jones to name a few.