September 19, 2001
“Happy To Know That Some People Are Mad”:
Mike Rivard and Club d’Elf

 In Press

One place where you might find jazz aficionados, electronica addicts, hip-hop enthusiasts and admirers of the avant-garde all congregated under one roof is at a Club d’Elf show—a rare and peculiar performance, featuring a revolving door of outlandish and well-versed musicians.

Since establishing Club d’Elf in 1998, Rivard has observed his collaborative effort mutate into 40 artists, who contribute their musical expertise to a consonant aberration within a greenhouse of bizarre and fresh symphonic germinations.

“I want the rhythms to come together,” said Rivard “A listener expects the song to continue a certain way but then we come out of left field and sneak up on the brain.”

Since its inception in the town of Cambridge, Mass., Club d’Elf’s reputation has unraveled among a handful of nearby cities along the East Coast. The group’s most recent album entitled, As Above (Live at the Lizard Lounge), was released in January of 2001. This double disc captures the live performances of Rivard and Company in a venue, home to Club d’Elf’s biweekly gig, beginning more than three years ago.

“The people at the club booked us for a night and that was how the band was born,” said Rivard. “I have a friend who books the gigs and he suggested putting together an evening of improv-trance and drum-n-bass. We tried it out on a Sunday night and have been playing there ever since.”

Aside from Rivard, Club d’Elf features Erik Kerr on drums, Jere Faison on dagomba drums and samples, Brahim Fribgane on oud, and Jerry Leake on tablas and percussion, Tom Hall on tenor saxophone. Guest musicians include drummer Kenwood Dennard, guitarists Reeves Gabrels, Duke Levine and Ian Kennedy, DJ Logic, DJ C, keyboardists John Medeski and Alain Mallet, and tenor saxophonists Joe Maneri and Eric Hipp, Tom Halter on trumpet, Mat Maneri on electric violin, Dr. Didg on didjeridoo and Roberto Cassan on accordion. “It’s really cool because we have so many different people involved and every show is different,” Rivard explained. “Every night we experience new things and we get a large audience because the people there are attracted to different personalities in the shows.”

In addition to playing the bass, Rivard also serves as the conductor of the group. As Above (Live at the Lizard Lounge)—a hypnotic representation of the mind’s interworkings. If both the biological and psychological functions of the brain: gushes of serotonin streaming through the blood; crackling synapse sparks linking one neuron to the next; nerve rhythms and human desires spawned in the hypothalamus; could be viewed against music—this album would serve as the soundtrack.

“People like the record except for one guy who said we were the worst band in the world,” said Rivard. “It’s important to know that we are pissing people off. I’m happy to know that some people are mad because that means I’m doing something right.”

Rivard’s many influences range from DJ Shadow, Fatboy Slim and Squarepusher to Dave Holland and Dave Douglass to Moroccan and North African rhythms. In fact, his most recent influences have come from both movies and television shows.

“I like the dark cutting-edge comedies like Mr. Show,” he said. “I would like to be the musical version of shows like Monty Python and The Simpsons and interpret those really fucked up, dark, twisted and surrealistic elements through Club d’Elf”

Rivard explained the group’s peculiar name was coined from various forms of inspiration; the psychedelic to the mythical to the musical.

“A man by the name of Terence McKenna who, is well-known figure in the psychedelic drug scene was involved with plant based compounds and elf entities in such hyperdementia,” he explained. “When said fast, Club d’Elf sounds like clubbed elf and so it has that dark and sinister Lord of the Rings element and as a bass player the word elf is commonly used as an acronym for extra low frequency. So as you can see, there are many elements involved in the name.”

Rivard continues to spread the word of Club d’Elf, focusing his publicity towards college students, who dig the “grooved-out” trademark sounds of Medeski, Martin and Wood; he also hopes to someday book a West Coast tour. “It’s hard to get the other musicians to come on tour with me because they are all in other bands,” he explained “It’s much easier to book gigs in unknown territory when you have someone like John Medeski with you because MMW is known all throughout the country.”

Club d’Elf is also nearing completion on a studio album—a 2-year project, while continuing to gig on a weekly basis at the Lizard Lounge. “It’s been slow getting the word out, we can’t really take out a half page ad in Rolling Stone,” Rivard concluded. “But soon enough, world dominion will be ours. Did I say that out loud?”

-Whitney Youngs

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