Listening to the music of the late Lizzy Mercier Descloux in 2015 can be a thrilling, disorienting experience. You can simultaneously hear the scene in which she made music (she was a contemporary of Patti Smith and Richard Hell) and detect notes that elude easy temporal classification. With a new reissue of her debut album Press Color out in the world, we talked with Michel Esteban of ZE Records via email about the album’s genesis, recording, and influence.
Vol.1 Brooklyn: Due to the recent release of a number of books set there, the late-70s downtown New York scene has been in the spotlight a lot lately. How would you say that Press Color fits in?
Michel Esteban: Press Color, to my point of view is the perfect reflection of what the music was about in NY at the end of the 70’s. You have that so called No Wave movement from places like CBGBs, Max’s or the Mudd Club and on the other hand the Underground Disco from Paradise Garage or the Loft. The Downtown NY scene was a very creative place at that time which became cult period for it’s freedom and inventive spirit. Press color reflect this to me.
V1B: In the liner notes for the reissue, you’re quoted about the speed in which Press Color was recorded. Over how many days was the album recorded?
ME: Exactly 15 days, and most of the songs were written in the studio.
V1B: How was the group of musicians assembled for the record?
ME: Originally it was Lizzy and my bother Didier on guitar, who had formed the “band” Rosa Yemen, then Eric Fitoussi from the French band Marie et les Garçons, who were recording their debut album at Blank tape joined, that was the main force. Then lots of the musicians who were also recording at Blank tapes joined under the supervision of Bob Blank who knew everybody, so some great studio musicians joined and had lots of fun in these unconventional sessions!
V1B: How would you describe Press Color as it relates to the rest of Mercier Descloux’s discography?
ME: Obviously it is her debut album, all of Lizzy’s albums reflect a place, city, country and time ( and of course Lizzy’s mood) where it was recorded. So Press Color is the origin of the trip!
V1B: Do you revisit this album at all? Over thirty years later, what stands out the most to you?
ME: I still love most of the songs, I think this album aged pretty well considering the urgency with which it was created, it was true, free and honest, no marketing plans just what we wanted to do at that time. I am amazed that 36 years ago it still stand but most of the albums I loved in my youth still stand too.
V1B: As a producer, did your work on Press Color have any effect on your subsequent work?
ME: Well it was one of the first album I ever produced, and I was not a professional music producer (still not, comparing to people like Quincy Jones, Phil Spector or Dr Dre) and obviously I learned a lot from people like Bob Blank who was a genius in his studio. I was also amazed by the availableness, the kindness and the professionalism of the American Studio musicians who treated us as equal without any condescension regarding our lack of professional knowledge. Even if we had the craziest idea, they always said: yes, let’s try that! It was a great experience.