This month I have the pleasure of interviewing Ivan Rougny, the Bassist for French Band Mörglbl.
Bass Musician Magazine (BMM): Thank you so much Ivan for making yourself available to talk about your career as a bassist, as well as your upcoming U.S. tour with your band Mörglbl. I look forward to your concert at Reggie’s in Chicago. I’ll start from the beginning by asking you what made you choose to play the bass?
Ivan Rougny (IR): Hi Vuyani, Thank you very much to you and Bass Musician Magazine for your interest. It is a great pleasure to be interviewed by you.
When I was young, I was very interested in the rhythmic side of music. There was always music at home. I listened to a lot of English Pop. My older brother was a drummer and he listened to a lot of jazz-rock from the 70’s. And it was with him that I really discovered the bass.
One day he made me listen to Marcus Miller (with Miles Davis) and Alain Caron (Uzeb), and it was a real revelation for me. I said to myself, “This is great! This instrument is the perfect mix between rhythm and harmony.” Then I begged my parents to buy my first bass. They surprised me with my first bass for Christmas in 1984. That was the beginning!
BMM: What was your music education? Did you attend a music school or are you self-taught?
IR: I started with music when I was nine years old in a small school of classical music. My first instrument was the clarinet, and I have to say that I was very bad! But it allowed me to learn the basics of music theory, and it helped me a lot. I stopped the clarinet when I started bass.
I learned the bass on my own because there were no teachers where I lived. So I began to reproduce by ear the bass lines of everything I listened to. And I had the great opportunity to perform very quickly in a lot of local bands playing a lot of different styles of music. My apprenticeship was done like that. The only lessons I took were lessons to learn harmony at a jazz school in Paris years later.
BMM: In the early years of being a bass player, which bass players were you listening to? In other words, who were your influences?
IR: My first two idols were Mark King from Level 42 and Alain Caron of Uzeb. Mark King was really impressive, and he is still. He had a fantastic groove. He slapped like crazy and while singing in Level 42. I loved that band.
I discovered Alain Caron with the album “Fast Emotion”. He was great! He grooved terribly well, slapped, played fretless bass, and played beautiful solos. In addition, he played the double bass. Amazing bass player! This was my first “shock” as a young bassist!
Then there was a French bassist, Michel Alibo, from the band “ Ixun”. It’s an Afro Jazz band with Paco Sery on drums. He’s probably the bass player I listened to the most and saw the most in concert. I’m an ultra fan of his.
But there are plenty of others. I can’t mention everyone but I loved and still love bass players who have a big sound and a sound identity. These are players who have a real culture of bass and who have the ability to play behind artists to support them and also be in the spotlight. Artists like Tony Levin (King Crimson), Gary Willis (Tribal Tech), Pino Paladino, Anthony Jackson, Francis “Rocco” Prestia, Marcus Miller, Chris Squire, Verdine White, Flea, Less Claypool, John Deacon, etc.
BMM: That is an impressive list of bass players! That explains why you groove so hard. What kinds of music were you listening to as you were developing as a player? Other than your brother, were any of your family members musicians?
IR: As I said at the beginning of this interview, there was a lot of music at home. My father was quite a music lover. He listened to classical music, jazz, Dixieland, etc. He loved Supertramp, Chic, Earth Wind and Fire, and many different things in fact. My mother listened to French singers like Jacques Brel, George Brassens, and Edith Piaf.
My maternal grandfather was a musician. I did not know him, but he played violin and accordion in orchestras in Paris. My brother was playing drums and one of my sisters was playing Saxophone. I am the last of the family, so even before I started bass I was immersed in music.
Then, when I started bass, I immediately listened to many styles of music. And I tried to reproduce everything I could but still trying to play the bass lines my way. It went from Rock to Pop through funk and Hard Rock. I had a very long period of Jazz-Rock, ethnic music, Latin music, etc. I never set limits and I was very curious.
I was listening to the Police, Queen, Level 42, Uzeb, Weather Report, Sixun, Supertramp, The Cure, Bob Marley, The Beatles, James Brown, The Headhunters, Joe Zawinul, Stanley Clarke, Gilberto Gil, Whitesnake, Winger, AC/DC, U2 , YES, Genesis, Prefab SProot, Peter Gabriel..etc. What amused me the most was to be able to do many different styles and mix all that to try to make my way of playing and to create my own sound.
BMM: It sounds like you had a great music education from just listening to a wide variety of music with your family. That prepared you very well to play with Mörglbl, the band you are touring the United States with. How did you become the bass player for Mörglbl and how long have you been in the band?
IR: Christophe Godin, Mörglbl’s guitar player, and I have known each other for almost 28 years. We met in Annecy, Christophe’s hometown, when I settled there. He was already the local “phenomenon” and I regularly went see him in concerts. And he came to see me play too. We quickly wanted to play together.
Our first group together was “Future Primitive”. It was Prog-Rock music, a mix of covers and original compositions. Then Christophe participated in a compilation that brought together many French guitarists, and when we had to do the concert to promote this album, we formed a trio (bass / Guitar / Drums). It was the beginning of Mörglbl. The group celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018.
BMM: Celebrating your 20th Anniversary as a band is incredible! You and the band must be doing all the right things to stay together that long. Congratulations to all of you!
Your band Mörglbl has a U.S. tour coming up. Is this the first tour of the United States with the band? What are you most looking forward to during this tour?
IR: Yes we will be on tour between August 28 and September 13, it will be I think the 7th tour of the United States.
It is always a pleasure to go on tour with Mörglbl. We love it, helping people discover our music around the world. It’s just great. So that’s the purpose of this tour.
Whenever we have been to the United States, we have had a great reception. We are assimilated to the Metal/Prog-Rock scene, and we’ve had the chance to play on several festivals, like Prog Day, Near Fest, Summercamp, and the pre-show for Prog Power. And the audience was fantastic every time. The idea is to make our music known to as many people as possible.
But all of that would not be possible without Julie and Rodney Cord from Blue Mouth Promotions, LLC and Ken Golden from The Laser’s Edge Music record company. It is thanks to them that we were able to come and make all that happen here. 1000 thanks to them.
BMM: Your band has a great support team in those companies. What bass equipment do you use on tour?
IR: For the bass, I use the 5-string Passion model from Vigier. My amps is the Laney Nexus SL head and an N410 cabinet. I have worked with these two brands for many years. I use a lot of effects pedals as well – chorus and other modulations that I generate with two Zoom pedals, two octavers from T-Rex, a Big Muff from Electro-Harmonix and two Delays from Digitech.
BMM: Mörglbl is a great gig for you because it requires you to use a lot of technique and it sounds like you have a lot of creative freedom as a bass player. What is the most important advice you can give to developing bass players?
IR: Yes I have a lot of space in Mörglbl. I do all the sound architecture, and it allows me to use many different techniques in the development of bass lines or in the search for sounds. I give bass lessons in a school in Geneva, Switzerland called ETM. I also teach masters classes, and what I say all the time to my students is to be as versatile as possible, listen to many different styles of music and “feed” on that. Work on the necessary techniques to be able to do as many things as possible, but especially to play as much as possible with bands, and try to develop your own style of play, your own personality. I think the best results are when people recognize you by your sound identity and the way you play.
BMM: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your career, your band, and your upcoming U.S. tour. I am sure you will meet many of our readers at your various shows around the United States. Have a successful tour!
Mörglbl U.S. Tour Dates
(Please check with your local venue for show times)
Friday, August 30
Local Motive Brewing
123 North Dargan Street
Florence, SC 29506
Saturday, August 31
Living Room Florence
Sunday, September 1
Prog Day Festival
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Monday, September 2 (Labor Day)
410 Elizabeth St.
Charleston, West Virginia 25311
Tuesday, September 3
107 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana 46901
Wednesday, September 4
Reggie’s – Music Joint
2105 South State Street
Chicago, Illinois 60616
Friday, September 6
New Jersey Proghouse
At Roxy and Dukes
w/Jimmy Robinson and Ad Astra
745 Boundbrook Road
Dunellen, New Jersey 08812
Saturday, September 7
2903 Whittington Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Sunday, September 8
w/Ethan Meixsell and Ad Astra
281 West Main Street
Smithtown, New York 11787
Thursday, September 12
Francis Marion University
Florence, South Carolina
Visit online at morglblmusic.com