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Ever heard of Phil Collins?

Publié le 14 mars 2024 à 15:44 par Magazine En-Contact
Ever heard of Phil Collins?

The story of the recording of Dance into the light, Phil Collins. Between Annecy and Geneva. 

When the former Genesis drummer took up residence at the Château des Avenières and set up his drum kit outside, it was a bit like Dance In Front of the Mont-Blanc. The album was actually called Dance Into the Light.

While he and his young wife were concentrating on the major renovation work they had to undertake at the Château des Avenières, located between Annecy and Geneva, a phone call disrupted the plans of Nicolas Odin, the owner of the property. On the other end of the line, in English, he received an unusual request that he didn't take very seriously... But it was to leave an indelible mark on the history of this magical spot lost and perched in the woods, in the middle of which the Château would hear the snare drum and cymbals of the brilliant Genesis drummer echoing in the spring.

The year was 1996, and this magnificent residence, set in 60 hectares of parkland, offered an incredible view of Mont Blanc. Since it was built at the beginning of the century, the Château des Avenières has had a number of different fortunes, owned by eclectic congregations and housed a school, but for Nicolas Odin and his wife, it's a major programme of work ahead and the debts that go with it.

"So you can imagine that the person who asked me, in English, if we could help her because she was looking for a place for a group to stay and record, I didn't consider her too much of a priority. I was focused on my deadlines, the work on the restaurant and the date when I could open the establishment". Polite and fluent in his interlocutor's language, Nicolas replied vaguely but forgot the request as quickly as the phone was hung up. A few days later, this mysterious English intermediary called back and asked a few more specific questions. The owner of the property thought that this mysterious group might well be recording during the few days mentioned, without compromising the scheduling of the work. Curious, he continued the conversation and proposed a fairly high rental price for just one part of the premises, thinking that this would put an end to the discussions. But on the other end of the line, nobody coughs. Nothing had been done yet, and on reflection, the possibility of being embarrassed by the occupants was of little interest to the hotelier, who was about to decline the offer. As the interview drew to a close, out of sheer curiosity and having politely said no to this agent he had never met, Nicolas uttered the sentence that would lead to the answer he still remembers. "But who's that musician you're working for?

"Phil Collins, tu connais?" replied the caller in an incredible mix of English and French, as if in 1996 there was anyone who didn't know the former Genesis frontman. The interplanetary hit In the Air Tonight, which opened his 1st solo album, was still played thousands of times a month on the radio. From that moment on, one thing led to another: the production team went down to Haute-Savoie, finally approving the location as a place to record, after visiting and inspecting it, and in the meantime having fallen out with the first intermediary in the search for this residential studio, Mr Faradey. "Apparently, maybe he hadn't described everything very accurately, or maybe he'd taken too much commission on the price we'd agreed, which was getting expensive? I don't know. What's more, although the initial plan was to make only one floor and part of the château available to the team, which would allow us to open the restaurant section, nothing went according to plan. Phil Collins turned up one day, almost as a neighbour (he was living in the suburbs of Geneva at the time with his second wife); he took a quick look around and saw a piano lying in the hall, sat down and played a few notes. Nicolas then realised that Phil also wanted the piano and another adjoining room. The whole production team arrived a few days later and set up a real mobile studio on loan from Sting (ex-bassist with the Police), all under the supervision of Hugh Padgham, the meticulous engineer and co-producer of what was to become Dance Into the Light (the 6th album by the slightly bald and magical Genesis drummer, who became the band's singer after Peter Gabriel left).

Phil Collins' drums installed on the château terrace
For two months, the tapes and scraps of paper showing the production plan for the tracks were hung on the wall, Phil Collins' drums were sometimes set up outside on the castle grounds, and the entire team, mainly English production staff, who accompanied Phil, stayed on site, with the exception of Phil, who returned home every evening. "Some members of the team were more late-nighters than others, and appreciated being introduced to French cuisine or wines, but every morning, at the time scheduled for the start of the session, everyone was on duty and present. You could sense a kind of discipline and a real respect for what Phil Collins had decided. It's a wonderful memory," say the owners of the venue. "It happened at the very beginning of our move here, but to see this group and these musicians seeking inspiration, testing the premises, gradually taking over a large part of the château to work, left a lasting impression on us. I'd never have thought of it before that phone call. And we even had a visit from Georges Martin (the famous Beatles producer) who came to the Château". Martin was at the time in discussions with Phil Collins about a Disney soundtrack project, the one he would later compose for The Lion King.

What's left of the temporary studio at Les Avenières
If you take the winding road up through the forest towards the magical residence that is still the Château des Avenières, you should know that it was here that one of the most legendary rock stars of the 2000s recorded. A rock star who would later return and continue to send the Odin family tickets for his concerts in the region. However, not much remains of this two-month stay, a little-known story, with just a small article in the local newspaper (Le Dauphiné Libéré). The photos taken by the newspaper's official photographer (Thierry Laforets) disappeared and were destroyed in 2020, a few days before we found him and contacted him, as if nothing should remain. In Phil Collins' autobiography, an imperfect translation of this stay refers to "the house in Les Avenières where I stayed for a few weeks to record Dance Into The Light". It's as if the artist and his team felt so much at home there that he thinks of a house, not a hotel, when he recalls the period. But a few photos have escaped the ravages of time. Here they are.

Please note: in the credits and notes mentioned on the album, the artist indicates that no drum machine was used for the recording, only a real drum kit. This is the one you can see in the photos taken during the trip. Phil Collins returned to the Château during the promotional campaign for the album, as Le Dauphiné reports. He even played in town at a club one night, or was planning to before a chatterbox posted the story on the internet, causing a bit of a ruckus.

Manuel Jacquinet. 

Between two television appearances, the famous drummer-singer took a short break in Cruseilles, in all simplicity...
(...) So it was with great pleasure and a little nostalgia that Phil Collins returned to the site of his latest creation. I wanted to hand-deliver the CD to Laurence and Nicolas," says Phil Collins. I know that he took a big risk by closing down part of his hotel-restaurant for over two months to allow us to work in the best possible conditions. We somewhat disrupted the habits of the house and its customers, but today I'm very happy to see that everything is back to normal. Indeed, the Château des Avenières has returned to its usual pace, perhaps a little more 'monotonous' than during the months of May and June! But the setting is as enchanting as ever, perhaps even more so in this autumn season. Phil Collins has promised that he will return "as regularly as possible", if only to say hello to Laurence and Nicolas Odin and all his family, unless he decides to record a new album. But that's another story!

Source: Le Dauphiné.

Crédit photos : DR. Malpaso-RCM et Nicolas Odin. 

Studios de Légende, secrets et histoires de nos Abbey Road français 

Beautiful book with exclusive photographs. 352 pages. Weight: 1.3kg!
Published by Malpaso-Radio Caroline Média.
45 euros.




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