Patrice Mancino is the kind of person who makes resolutions on New Year’s Day…and actually sticks to them! Since January 1, 2017, he’s been publishing a review of a French album on his French-o-rama site every single day. His goal is to review 365 albums this year. Come along with us and dive into the underground French music scene in all its diversity.
You have to be a little bit crazy to make an almanac of the underground French music scene, cataloguing a different artist every day of the year. Or maybe just extremely passionate about music. Patrice Mancino is definitely a little bit of both. He was 11 years old when French FM radio was no longer government-controlled in France. And he was 12 when the Swiss radio station Couleur 3 began. “Discovering FM radio made me so happy. At the time, before the internet, if you wanted to discover new music and you lived in Normandie with the English coast in view, you either had a big brother who brought you albums from London, or you listened to the radio,” he explains.
As a big fan of the radio, he created his own station, Graf’Hit, in 1992 with fellow students at the University of Compiègne in Northeast Paris, which is still on the air. Their radio show lasted about ten years, but his desire to tell people about the French music scene never left him. In 2005, he launched a series of showcases highlighting up-and-coming bands under the name French-o-rama before starting his own label – Quixote R.P.M. in 2007. Ten years later, French-o-rama emerged from the ashes as a website featuring stars of the French underground throughout the year. Meet the music fanatic and listen to his playlist below.
What made you decide to create the French-o-rama site?
I quit my job at the end of last year, so I had some free time. Quitting my job was more of an impulse than a rational decision. I had discovered an American blog online called One Record Per Day, who published one review per day throughout the year 2013, and they were very meticulous about discovering unknown bands. That made me want to do the same for the French music scene and take advantage of 2017 to take stock of all the current bands, even if it was somewhat subjective. Too many bands die before really finding their audience. It’s probably a bit utopian and idealistic, but I wanted to help those bands get discovered.
It’s been about four months since you started the project. How are you holding up?
At the moment, it’s all kind of last-minute. I have a hard time getting ahead of myself! A lot of times, I don’t know what I’m going to publish the next day. But I have a long list of bands I still want to write about. And I’m constantly discovering new ones, or people tell me about bands I should add to my list. But I also have a few rules that make things more complicated: I don’t want to talk about the same band twice in the same year, so I tend to wait until they release an album. And at the end of the year, I want people to be able to listen to all the bands in order, and I want it to flow harmoniously, so I do think about how an artist relates to the one before and the one after. It would all be a lot easier without these rules, but they help to have some structure to my work.
From instrumental music to rock, reggae, hip-hop, and traditional French music, your selection is very eclectic. Is that intentional?
That’s what I took from my experience at Graf’Hit. Being on the radio helped me to expand my musical range. I discovered hip-hop, new wave, industrial music, metal… I like to listen to everything, except for maybe big band and hardtek, but even that I like sometimes! We have a tendency to put artists into specific categories when their culture actually goes far beyond the label. But I think things are moving in the right direction. I’m thinking of bands like Gablé, for example. Fifteen years ago, no one would have understood what they were doing.
What do you think makes the current French underground scene special?
Bands have finally learned to master the tools and language of their Anglo-Saxon influences. Some of them could probably even blow big international stars out of the water. I want concert organizers to know that it would cost them nothing to book these bands and the quality would definitely be there! French bands haven’t always been able to digest their influences properly, even though Thugs were signed to Sub Pop and Metal Urbain got a record deal in the U.S. in the 1970s. Belgians, Germans and Danes seemed to have less trouble integrating the Anglo-Saxon influences and their English accent wasn’t as bad. But that’s changing now.
What about bands who sing in French?
I have to admit, I’m a little more critical with bands who sing in French. It has to be really well-done. Just look at my selection on French-o-rama. Only about 10% of the albums I’ve reviewed have songs in French. I do place importance on the meaning of the lyrics. But I’m very open: from Diabologum (more literal) to Brigitte Fontaine (more abstract), I’ve encountered both extremes! Most recently, I discovered Askehoug, who kind of throws everything out the window by playing with the language to an extreme degree.
What do you have planned for French-o-rama over the next few months?
The blog has already started to evolve. As of February, you can access the archives thanks to a mosaic of album covers. And in late February, I added a feature where you can listen to a track by each artist in the order the reviews were published by clicking on the “Radio F-O-R” link. And I have to say: Deezer, Spotify, all these platforms are great, but none of them give you access to all of the artists I feature. Some of the tracks on my site can’t be found elsewhere. Another new feature: just recently I decided to reveal what the colored circles at the top of each review mean. I don’t like to classify bands according to genre – the categories seem too restricted. But the colored circles on my site give you a general idea of the musical style, which is more open. I also want to make an audio version of the project.
What’s your favorite French album right now?
My favorite album is the next one I discover! Recently, for example, I really liked Flavescences by l’Effondras.
What’s your favorite French album of all time?
#3 by Diabologum. It’s the album I started French-o-rama with on January 1st! And honestly, it’s not really a review, but a description of how blown away I was when I first pressed play to listen to this album.
Patrice Mancino’s 100% French playlist
Photo: Alexandra Lebon
Article translated by Andrea Perdue