Monday, 26 December 2011

Our Exclusive Preview of A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman

A scene from A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham ChapmanPhoto:
Ever since first hearing the Python albums in my teens, I have been in awe of the sound engineer who recorded them. The sound effects and editing on those albums; such excellence! I never thought, then, that I would ever meet the famous André Jacquemin. In fact, for some reason, I was convinced that it was never going to happen. However, at the premier of Julian Doyle and Bruce Dickenson's Chemical Wedding, it did, and I have been in touch with André ever since. My questions to him are usually about how he made this or that sound effect on one of the Python albums.

Then I saw him again at Not the Messiah, Monty Python's 40th Anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall. He was given the ultimate Python accolade of being one of the Mounties in the finale of the show; the Lumberjack Song. We had a chat at the stage door.

Then it occurred to me that since André recorded all of the Python albums (such as Another Monty Python Record, Monty Python's Previous Record, Matching Tie and Handkerchief, The Album Of The Soundtrack Of The Trailer Of The Film Of Monty Python And The Holy Grail and Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, there must have been some out-takes of those albums. So I asked him if he still had any on file. He said he had. Realising how special these out-takes are and how probably very few people outside of the Python inner sanctum will ever have heard them, (and because I'm getting pretty good at inviting myself to things in my middle age), I asked André if I, plus a few friends, could pop in to his studio to have a listen.

Not only did he say yes, but he also asked if we would like to see a preview of the 3d animated movie, A Liar's Autobiography, as he was currently adding the sound effects to it etc before its general release sometime in the new year.

2pm Sunday 27th November finally arrived and three of my Python-fan friends, Ennis Thompson, Larry Lloyd and Annie Terzoglou, trundled along to André's Redwood Studios in Great Chapel Street, Soho, London (only a stone's throw from the Nellie Dean Pub where I first met Terry Jones and Michael Palin in 1975). We were greeted by a very welcoming André Jacquemin who, generously, ended up spending two and a half hours with us!

He played us the first approx 8 minutes that he had already worked on of the film (looks amazing!), as well as all sorts of audio clips including some out-takes from the 1970s and 80s (the Pythons clearing their throats and asking André if he'd like them to read that again) as well as the complete opening song for The Meaning of Life movie, sung my Terry Jones, that was never used in the end. Similarly, we heard The unused and ridiculous Audition sketch that was only recorded because there was some studio time to kill, and we saw some very silly animated sequences from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that were also never used, but are included on the forthcoming Blu-ray version of the film.

He also regaled us with tales of how, aged only around 18, he got to work with the Pythons and the moment when it dawned on him exactly who these people were that were asking him to record albums for them! He also told us about the live Python shows he worked on such as Live at the Hollywood Bowl and Live at Drury Lane and how, during the 2002 Memorial Concert for George Harrison, a CD malfunctioned at a crucial moment where the lights come up and music is supposed to play. Miraculously, he got it working again just in time - so much so that afterwards, people congratulated him for getting the timing spot on!

Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Neil Innes singing "Sit On My Face" at the Memorial Concert for George Harrison. 0:19 into this video: the moment when, by the skin of his teeth, André Jacquemin's career didn't end!

Python fan extraordinaire and Beatle, George Harrison, even used to call him and ask for his help when he needed sound effects!

It was a fascinating day and we are very grateful to you André for giving us such an extremely special, once-in-a-lifetime Pythonesque experience! Thank you so much!

André at Redwood Studios talking to Larry and Annie

André with his pre-digital little black book of sound effects

André's little black book that listed sound effects and on which tape each could be found. I wish I had taken a photo of a page inside. It included every sound you could have imagined, including, of course, loads of door handle noises.

Gold records and movie posters like this one of Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits adorn the walls of Redwood Studios.

A Gilliam CD and a poster of Chemical Wedding

Sound engineer André Jacquemin, a master of his craft
André showing us the rope he uses, unsurprisingly, to make rope noises with, as featured in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. All the sound for that movie was done at Redwood Studios with Gilliam sitting next to André, going through every frame together.

A source of sound effects: door handles, door bells, switches and locks, plus one of the three actual microphones used to record the Python albums (top left)!

André with the other two actual microphones used to record the Python albums!

André, me, Larry and Ennis at Redwood Studios on that never-to-be-forgotten very special day

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