INTERVIEW WITH JACQUES FRED PETRUS
By Sandro Baroni and Nicola Ticozzi
This unique interview from 1979 gives a good picture of Petrus' musical background, how he built his music empire and the feelings around his and Mauro Malavasi's first two successful years with their studio projects of Macho and Peter Jacques band. Petrus are both thrilled and enthusiastic over the recognition they reached but still unaware about what to come with the even more successful creations of Change and B. B. & Q. band. In that perspective this is a rare historical document that highlights the very birth of a new era both on the Italian and the rest of the worlds dance scenes, it is the birth of global success of Goody Music/Little Macho productions!
Interviewer: When and how did the Disco Music arrive in Italy?
Petrus: I would like to retrace my "evolution" in relation to the world of Disco Music. As a young boy I was a record collector and I owned all the released rhythm & blues and soul music productions. Then I decided to exploit my music knowledge and ten years ago I began to work as a DJ at the "Good Mood" in Milan, a very good discotheque at that time. As soon as I realized I could not keep on doing that kind of job for the rest of my life, I started by importing records for discotheques from the U.S.A., where I found a specialized firm. At first the quantities were confined to a couple of packages per week, mainly due to limited capital to be invested. The records were just enough for me and a couple of DJ friends of mine and the "commerce" was limited to a few discotheques (Nepentha, Charly Max...), but it increased through the time. I also began to sell records to a few discotheque fans, that were thinking it should be snobbish to have at home such exclusive records just released in the U.S.A. and known by a couple of DJs only. Approximately six years ago I created the "Goody Music" firm, the first one specialized in selling Disco Music records. Two importers were already operating in Italy, Carù and Ronchini in Parma, but they were not interested in this genre, because it was such a difficult field. It was necessary to be constantly informed about and knew the DJs tendency and musical demands, then be able to choose and import the only few good productions in a market flowing just like the magma. At that time discotheques came back to an important role and their interest in this initiative was remarkable, because the DJs had not to be entrusted to the Italian record companies any more but they finally could play the same records that the U.S.A. "mythical" DJs used to.
Interviewer: Which are the reasons why the Disco Music took root so well in Italy?
Petrus: In the beginning most people used to snub the Disco Music both the record companies, that were sceptical about it, and the young people, that enjoyed the pop/rock genre. Afterwards it became much more important because the discotheques as well as the private radio stations, were good advertising veichles and effective introductory means. Young people went to dance and listened to this kind of music for hours. As we knew the recording market and the most effective promotional means very well, when the first free radio station was born in Milan we immediately supported it, by sponsoring some Disco Music broadcasts. Other radio stations were born inspiring themselves to those already existing. So the Disco Music broadcasts covered up and overflowed the entire nation and the people began to know and appreciate it. A genre of pure amusement as the Disco Music has found a fruitful land, because young people seemed to have less and less interests towards the society problems. At the present time the lyrics of songwriter-singers and rock bands talk about things of little interest. When a young boy listens to a record or goes to a concert he wants only to have fun and forget the every day problems.
Interviewer: Why did you first concentrate your attention upon records import and after upon Disco Music productions?
Petrus: Even when we used to import records only, we had a professional and "industrial" working method. We first used to supply records to our friends and then to radio stations and discotheques of the whole Italy. Starting from a single record shop, we finally built up a chain of shops. But we needed a "quality jump", because it is in our intention to improve ourselves continuously. In the beginning we totally controlled the market, then competitors followed our footsteps, just like it happened with the jeans production. A lot of little firms were born, so the first ones, the best valued, began to realize other clothing items, taking advantage of their experience and fame. Now we have an inflation of records import and this activity has taken a handicraft turn, because only few money is required to open up a little shop where to sell records. To put into practice this quality jump we needed solid foundations, so we preferred to wait that all the elements could satisfy us. We were looking for the musicians, the recording and mixing studios, the producer and the most skilled technicians, because we did not want to fail. We were not interested in a cheap success, limited to our country only. We wanted to conquer the international market. Finally, one year ago we started our Goody Music productions with Macho (editor's note: "I'm a man").
Interviewer: Macho and Peter Jacques Band are well known all around the world. How did it happen?
Petrus: To be sincere we were waiting for a positive feedback from the market. The album "I'm a man" performed by the group "Macho" has been the first record production all made by Italians, with Italian musicians, that got an intercontinental success. The album reached the fifth position in the "U.S.A. Disco Charts" and the first positions in Japan, Europe, Brazil and Argentina. We had focused our attention on all the elements and carefully pursued Mauro Malavasi, that seemed to possess all the characteristics to become one of the best valued producers in the world. He needed the means and we gave them to him, regardless of the expense. The mixing were made in the best Disco Music studios in the world: the mythical "Sigma Sound Studio" in New York. "Fire Night Dance" performed by the Peter Jacques Band was another smash hit. It was our intention to demonstrate to the international scene that our successes were not casual but they were the result of accurate and serious record policies. The U.S.A. recording managers were shocked by two records in the chart produced by a little record company. Two records made by Italian musicians, co-ordinated by an Italian producer! There is still scepticism abroad with regard to the "made in Italy".
Interviewer: In the Disco Music market it is really important the time range elapsing between the record release and the beginning of its eventual charts scaling. How things went for your records?
Petrus: Our two record productions immediately reached the top of the charts. Macho was quite an incredible phenomenon: three weeks later the release it reached the fifth position, whereas Donna Summer, for example, reached the fifth position too, but she took more than twice the time. At the moment Peter Jacques Band has reached the sixth position. The point is that the first twenty records are very good productions, so variations are a little bit slower and with "suffering".
Interviewer: Which is the working method used at Goody Music?
Petrus: In our record productions you may find the experience of an import firm that has been in touch with the world-wide Disco Music productions for many years. We know the music for discotheques deeply as well as the DJs demands. A continuous contact with the record buyers taught us what people enjoy more: if the melody, the lyrics or the rhythm. So we knew exactly what the audience was looking for and we made it. We have not the spirit of the musician asserting: "I want to make a record according to my own musical taste. I have the right ideas and the others do not understand anything". Three hundred millions lire (editor's note: the "lira" is the obsolete Italian guilder) can also be spent to make a record. You imagine it as a masterpiece, but the audience refuses it because the record has not been made according to his taste.
Interviewer: Which are the peculiar characteristics of a Disco Music hit?
Petrus: At the present time the rhythm alone cannot give the success. The market is in a continuous development and an incredible amount of records is released. You just have to think that Billboard made its Disco Chart longer by adding twenty positions, because we have lots of smash hits and it is necessary to be different in this sea of vinyl. People, right now, want the melodies, wish to listen to "beautiful" things that can be easily remembered. They must be able to whistle the music heard at the discotheque or on the radio. The audience wants to be more participating. At the moment the melodies, more than the rhythm, are necessary to the Disco Music, because words and catchy tunes first of all affect people's mind.
from the Italian booklet Disco Music
thanks to Paolo Caroselli for supplying and translating the JFP