Rick Wharton talks with the man, the legend - Jean-Marc Pisapia of The Box
Lead singer Jean-Marc Pisapia of The Box performs for the crowd during the annual Musicfest Summer Concert Series on Saturday July 23, 2016 at Del Crary Park in Peterborough, Ont. The Box is a Canadian new wave group from Montreal. Founded in 1981, they achieved commercial success in Canada, recording four charting albums and 10 charting singles between 1984 and 1990. The group broke up in 1992, but a new lineup of the band was founded in 2005. This iteration of the group has released two further albums. The band was formed in 1981 by Jean-Marc Pisapia, an early member of Men Without Hats. He recruited guitarist Guy Florent and bassist Jean-Pierre Brie for the band, who were known as Checkpoint Charlie before settling on the name The Box. Whitehorse takes to the Fred Anderson Stage on Wednesday, July 27 starting at 8 p.m. Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network
EDITOR'S NOTE: Rick Wharton, actor, comedian, radio personality, The Conspiracy Guy, and Festival Hall director, brings The Daily Observer readers exclusive interviews with some of the acts coming to Festival Hall. Instead of traditional story format, these pieces are brought to you in the question and answer format in the same way the interviews took place. So let's be a fly on the wall and hear what Canadian singer-songwriter Jean-Marc Pisapia of The Box had to say during his '10 minutes with Rick.'
* * *
Background, bio and buzz
The Box is one of Canada's finest bands. Hailing from Montreal and founded in1981, the band achieved commercial success in Canada, recording four charting albums and 10 charting singles between 1984 and 1990. The group broke up in 1992, but a new lineup of the band was founded in 2005. Their live shows this year have brought rave reviews. The band was formed in 1981 by Jean-Marc Pisapia, an early member of Men without Hats. Some of The Box’s hits include Walk Away, Must I Always Remember, Dancing on the Grave, L'Affaire Dumoutier (Say to Me), My Dreams of You, Closer Together, Ordinary People and Crying Out Loud for Love.
* * *
Rick: This one is on my bucket list. I have loved the band forever but have never seen you live. Thank you for coming to Festival Hall. I hear from fans and industry people this live show is killer and not to be missed. Feels good to be on the road?
Jean-Marc: Oh absolutely! Being on the road today is all fun and no pressure. And we carry that vibe on stage. We start off with more recent material from albums released in '05, '09 and '14. Then it's party time as we proceed to do all the Box hits from the '80s even adding bonus track "The Safety Dance" from Men Without Hats, my very first band before starting The Box.
Rick: The band released its first record in 1984. You were busy before that with another band. (Winks) What was it like to get the whole package going? What was the scene like then in Montreal and in the Canadian music business?
Jean-Marc: Men Without Hats were hitting it big worldwide when The Box started and since we had the same management people, the road was already paved for us so to speak. Also, the '80s music scene in Québec had been deserted by French acts not to be populated again until the early '90s. So we were filling the gap at the right time.
Rick: Not only did the province of Quebec embrace the music so did Much Music television and all of Canada. How did that resonate with you as an artist?
Jean-Marc: To my great surprise, Toronto caught on to The Box and became our "hometown" way sooner than Montreal which was our real hometown! I think Much Music had a lot to do with it since it had been on air a few months before Musique Plus, its Québec equivalent. We toured Ontario a lot more than we did Québec back then. It was just one of a long series of strange twists the music business was about to throw at us...but the artist in me thought we were very lucky indeed to be catching on so easily!
Rick: I have to thank you big time. Your song was one of the songs ( Must I Always Remember) I used for my demo trying to get into Ryerson's Radio and Televison Arts program in Toronto. I have to thank you...cool, cool tune. What inspired the lyrics here?
Jean-Marc: Prior to joining Men Without Hats, I was studying architecture at University of Montreal and I just knew I wasn't in the right place. Then I travelled Europe by train for a while and it struck me that life was just like a journey from station to station. The possibility of getting off and heading on a different heading could be done without looking back. Which is exactly what I ended up doing. Hence the line: "There's that train, it's headed my way... Yet I don't know where I'm going...."
Rick: Was Sass Jordan and Julie Masse in the band 1987 for the Closer Together release?
Jean-Marc: Julie Masse was never in the band. Actually, the female vocals on the album were performed by Sass and Sylvie Daviau, our regular hired guns on tour at the time. However, Closer Together - the song - was sung by Martine St. Clair, a famous French artist at the time who became involved with us following a Stanley Cup party at the Montreal Forum in 1986 where we shared the stage alongside a dozen other Québécois artists and the Montreal Canadians. But Sass and Sylvie were both in that song's video, Martine having declined to travel down south with us to shoot said video.
Rick: You are versatile artist. Not only a singer songwriter but you are a painter. You paint a lot of themes and images. How did this come to be?
Jean-Marc: I started painting eight years ago when I moved from Montreal to the country, my daughters being grown-ups having stayed behind in town. The peace and quiet of the farmlands around here just lent themselves to this new activity perfectly. I soon joined a collective of artists, mostly expats from Montreal like me, and we opened two galleries which I help run in Mont Tremblant. That being said, I paint everything and anything in every possible style! Whatever hits my fancy...I post everything I do on Facebook so people just have to punch my name in and scroll down my wall to see what it's all about. I even take commissions from fans and other Facebook acquaintances alike!
Rick: Is there a favourite song you love doing live where you really feel that ‘this is me, I love it, this is me and what want I wanted to do.’
Jean-Marc: Yes! L'Affaire Dumoutier is just such a "once in a career" song which I completely relate to - what with the odd subject and story telling (a murder investigation taking place in France) with the cinematic lyric exchanges between the characters being in French and all. The video is particularly telling with it's "film noir" ambiance where each member of the band is cast in a role be it the inspector, the lawyer, the reporter etc.... All of these attributes very much influenced by my progressive rock musical diet of the '70s!
Rick: I know you are a big fan of progressive music - Genesis, Yes, Floyd, Gentle Giant, and for different sensibilities, The Police. What a buzz that must have been for you opening for Marillion and Jethro Tull in Quebec. As a fan does it not get better than that? We are fans of The Box. Thanks for coming to Pembroke and giving us a great show.
Jean -Marc: Indeed, opening for acts such as Jethro Tull and Chris De Burgh in arenas all across the country was quite an experience. Headling large venues such as the Montreal Forum was quite a buzz too! But nothing compares to being face to face with your audience in a theatre such as the Festival Hall. See you all there and bring your smiles along!
Rick: November 11th is going to be an amazing show, thank you.
The Box takes to the stage at Festival Hall Centre For The Arts in Pembroke on Nov. 11 beginning at 7:30 p.m. with special guest, opening act Sam Steel.
Box office: 613-735-2182