1983 – aujourd'hui (35 ans)
- Philippe Almosnino (1991 – aujourd'hui)
Les Wampas sont un groupe de rock alternatif français, se réclamant plus précisément du mouvement qu'ils nomment eux-même Yéyé-punk. Formé en 1983 en région parisienne, le groupe repose aujourd'hui essentiellement sur son chanteur, le charismatique Didier Wampas (de son vrai nom Didier Chappedelaine). Il comprend également Jean-Mi (basse, ex-Satellites), Phil Almosnino (guitare, ex-Dogs/Wanderers), Niko (batterie) et Tony Truant (guitare,ex-Dogs).
Les Wampas sont surtout connus pour les textes humoristico-trash ou faussement juvéniles de Didier Wampas, qu'il chante d'une voix volontairement fausse. Sur scène, Didier Wampas communique son énergie débridée, parcourant en plein concert la salle, et n'hésitant pas à monter sur une chaise portée par le public. Cette communion avec le public est illustrée par la chanson Kiss, depuis 2000. Souvent pendant les concerts, Didier Wampas descend dans la foule et parcourt la salle en embrassant son public, ponctué d'un « Kiss » à chaque bise. Le public des concerts des Wampas s'est pris au jeu du chanteur : il réclame régulièrement le groupe en chantant « Didier Wampas est le roi », paroles tirées de la chanson « Oï ».
Longtemps méconnus du grand public et ignorés des médias de masse, les Wampas on vu leur notoriété s'accroître en 2003 après leur signature avec une filiale d'Universal. Le simple Manu Chao est alors diffusé sur les radios musicales nationales comme Europe 2 et NRJ, et Didier Wampas multiplie ses interventions à la télé et à la radio. Le groupe est nommé, lors des Victoires de la musique 2004, dans la catégorie « Groupe/Artiste révélation scène de l'année ». Leur prestation déjantée ce soir-là leur permet alors de se faire connaître du « grand public » pour lequel le groupe multiplie les apparitions. // English biography :
Alternative rock band Les Wampas are hardcore survivors of the punk/indie movement that surfaced on the French music scene in the early 80s. The group, led by wild frontman Didier Wampas, scored an unexpected mainstream hit in 2003. But as their latest album, "Never Trust A Guy Who After Being A Punk Is Now Playing Electro" shows, the band have lost none of their indie spirit!
The story of the Wampas began back in 1983 under the instigation of Didier Chappedelaine, better known by his stage name Didier Wampas. Didier was born at the "Clinique des Métallos", in Paris, on 19 February 1962 and raised by free-thinking Communist parents. Growing up to be something of a young radical himself, Didier went on to discover punk in 1977. He was just 15 years old at the time and, up until that point, his biggest musical hero had been French pop idol Mike Brant. Fired by his new-found passion for punk, Didier went on to form Les Wampas, who were all major fans of British psychobilly band The Meteors. The Wampas' aim as a rock band was to present a parody of “trashbilly” and establish themselves as the missing link between French 60s band Les Chats Sauvages and The Ramones. In other words, Les Wampas set out on a mission to do to French rock what The Cramps had done to rockabilly!
Like all true punks, The Wampas could not actually play their instruments when they launched their career. But they rapidly mastered them as they went along. They enlisted one of their friends, who could more or less play drums, and then, one day, by chance, they met a pair of punk guitarists at the Lac d'Enghien and the group gradually began to take shape. Didier Wampas had just turned 21 at this stage and the group's post-adolescent years were largely spent rehearsing in various basements in the Paris suburbs of Epinay and Villeneuve-la-Garenne, where Didier had spent his formative years. The Wampas liked to publicise themselves at that point as "the inventors of rock'n'roll" or, alternatively, "the greatest rock band in the world."
The group's first live performance dates back to the "Fête de la Musique," 21 June 1983, when they played at the Square Bobillot in Paris's 13th arrondissement alongside a group called the Tolbiac Toads. Following this gig, the Wampas became a regular fixture on the indie scene. They went on to release their debut single, "Creepy Crawley", in 1984. The single exploded onto the French music scene with the force of a Molotov cocktail. Before long, the Wampas had built up a firm following of fans thanks to their speed-style of psycho-billy and their mad lyrics. (One of their most famous lines at the time was "My girlfriend is a Nazi/ What's my mother going to say?")
In 1985, the Wampas ratcheted up their crazy psychobilly sound a decibel further, recruiting Marc Police, a six-string virtuoso of "surf-rock'n'roll" (formerly known for his work with Vince Taylor and Jezebel Rock). The band soon embarked upon a hectic tour schedule, playing in bars and clubs across France and appearing at numerous music festivals, both at home and abroad. The Wampas were soon sharing the stage with other leading indie stars such as Les Coronados, Hots Pants, Les Satellites, La Mano Negra, The Washington Dead Cats, Parabellum, Les Béruriers Noirs and Ludwig Von 88. The band's name soon featured on the credits of countless indie compilations, too.
Following the release of a debut EP, simply entitled "Wampas" (in 1986), the group went on to take part in “Paris Bar Rock”, a series of concerts organised at venues such as Le Jimmy and L'Auvergne (bar-bistros in the 19th and 20th arrondissements, which proved to be veritable hotbeds of the city’s burgeoning independent scene). The Golden Age of the French ‘alternative’ movement proved to be a productive time for the Wampas who released three albums on independent labels.
In their early years, Les Wampas went through countless line-up changes, but the group finally began to settle into a permanent formation in 1986. Ironically, after reaching a climax between 1986 and 1990, the ‘alternative’ movement died out in the early 90s as fans witnessed the demise of a number of leading indie players such as Les Garçons Bouchers, Mano Negra and Les Satellites. The Wampas kept on pscho-billying away, however. In 1987, the group released their debut album "Tutti Frutti" (distributed on the New Rose label). Following the departure of slappy double-bass player Alain Wampas (who left to join The Happy Drivers, via Los Carayos and Mano Negra), the Wampas reorganised themselves into their final line-up: Didier Wampas, Marc Police, Niko (formerly of the group WDC) on drums and Ben Sam on bass.
In 1988, the group exploded back into the music news with "Chauds, Sales et Humides" (released on New Rose). The following year, they appeared on the alternative compilation "Sang neuf pour 89," celebrating the bicentenary of the French Revolution with their mega-decibel track "Wha wha hou!"
Life after the Indies?
Having played over 350 concerts in the space of seven years, Les Wampas rocketed back into the recording news on 30 April 1990 with "Les Wampas Vous Aiment" (The Wampas Love You). And, for the first time in their career, the group did not have to finance the production of the album themselves! "Les Wampas Vous Aiment" was released on Eurobond, a label later bought out by Fnac which gave the band ‘carte blanche’ on their new opus. The latter was recorded under excellent conditions, the band spending thirteen days mixing in the legendary Pathé studios in Boulogne-Billancourt with British producer Andy Lydon at the controls.
However, "Les Wampas Vous Aiment" did not garner the commercial success it deserved. The album fell victim to office politics following Fnac’s buy-out of Eurobond and was badly promoted and poorly distributed. The video to "Petite Fille" (directed by Pierre Bitoune) was nevertheless given extensive coverage on the French TV channel M6. Disillusioned with record sales, Les Wampas abandoned the indie circuit and started touting their demo tapes round the major labels. In 1991 they appeared to be on the verge of signing a major deal with RCA (a subsidiary of BMG), but this fell through at the last minute.
In 1991, Les Wampas triggered audience madness at the "Printemps de Bourges" festival where they followed the Finnish band 22 Pistepirkko up on stage. Compared to Didier Wampas’s wildman antics, the poor Finns appeared to be an introverted bunch, indeed! Screaming out his lyrics accompanied by the screeching guitar of Palmer (temporarily on loan from the singer Bijou), Didier roused the crowd to fever pitch. Only a few songs into the set, fans started ripping out rows of seats and hurling them on stage. Fired by the collective on-stage hysteria, drummer Nikko decided to take a crowd-dive. He threw himself off stage into the audience – who promptly cleared out of his way, leaving the drummer in a crumpled heap. Nikko gamely clambered back up on stage and finished the song he had started, then collapsed behind his drumkit. He was then rushed to hospital and treated for fractured ribs. The rest of the group’s tour dates that year were slightly less eventful, but attracted huge turn-outs nevertheless. After playing at Le Bataclan in January, the group went on to support La Mano Negra in Tokyo in November 1991.
The end of that year was marked by a tragic event when guitarist Marc Police committed suicide on 21 December. The group’s future appeared to hang in the balance for a while, but then former Dogs guitarist Tony Truant and Wanderers star Philippe Almosnino were drafted in to replace him.
Les Wampas finally sign to a major
After making a series of new demo tapes and re-recording some of their earlier material, Les Wampas finally concluded a deal with BMG in 1992. The band were all set to head off across the Channel in the summer of ‘92 to record at the Black Barn Studio in Ripley. But bass-player Ben Sam announced he was leaving the group (for personal reasons). Chris Black (from U.S. band The Shoulders) was called in as a last-minute replacement.
Les Wampas proved their alternative spirit and mega-volt energy was still firmly intact on their new album, "Simple et Tendre." The album, which hit record stores on 25 January 1993, was their first release on a major label. It was produced by Mark Wallis (renowned for his work with U2, The Silencers and The Rubettes) and recorded in the English countryside – apart from the track "Les Iles au Soleil" for which the string sections (!) were recorded at the legendary EMI studios in Abbey Road.
Shortly after the release of this new album, bass-player Chris Black quit the group to return to his native Texas. Les Wampas replaced him with Christophe (a former member of La Marabounta and Les Soucoupes Violentes). In February of that year, the group took their wild trashbilly sound into the classroom, taking part in a national event called "Rock au Lycée." This event involved Les Wampas playing a dozen free concerts in schools across northern France, Brittany, the Rhône-Alpes and the Paris region. The group ended up playing under execrable conditions, performing in school gyms with appalling acoustics. What’s more, their audiences consisted of bored schoolkids who appeared to be more interested in skipping off their usual lessons than paying any serious kind of attention to the music.
On 29 April 1993, Les Wampas played their first concert at the legendary Parisian venue, L’Olympia. The concert included its fair share of surprises, an unexpected burst of violins accompanying Didier, Philippe, Niko & Co during the finale, "Iles au Soleil." In November of that year, the group kicked off a major tour.
For their next album, "Trop Précieux," released on 18 March 1996, the band spent an intensive three months working in studios between the Porte de Montreuil (just outside Paris) and Austin, Texas. The album was finely honed in Willy Nelson’s studio under the watchful eye of Dick Rivers’s producer Patrick Coutin (who had scored his own hit with the memorable "J'Aime Regarder les Filles.") Didier, Niko, Philippe and Jean-Mi (the group’s new bass-player recruited from Les Satellites) recorded fifteen new tracks together. As Les Wampas prepared to celebrate fifteen years in the music business, they could pride themselves on having sold 150,000 records.
On 6 December 1995, Les Wampas released a special collector’s EP featuring "C'est l'Amour" (the first single release from "Trop Précieux") accompanied by three special bonus tracks. The group provoked mass hysteria in their audience when they appeared in Paris at the Olympia on 22 May that year. The album "Toutafonlive" (recorded at two different concerts at La Clef / L'Eclipse in Saint-Germain en Laye) captured the frenetic ambience of Les Wampas doing their stuff on stage. The album, released on 25 November 1996, featured 22 songs and over an hour of music.
On 9 November 1998, the group went on to record their loud punk studio album, "Chicoutimi" (financed by their music publisher FKO). Meanwhile, the group’s line-up expanded with the recruitment of their second guitarist, Jo Dahan (from La Mano Negra).
Les Wampas marked Saint Valentine’s Day 1999 with a special ‘love’ concert, distributing free tickets to the female fans who had written them the best love letters! On 20 March 2000, their next album, Kiss, was released on ASAP Productions (the label set up by the group’s drummer Nikko, originally with the intention of re-releasing the group’s earlier albums, but ASAP rapidly established itself as a real label). Kiss was recorded at the Black Box studio in the middle of the French countryside. After four days’ mixing, Les Wampas fired their producer for creating too polished a sound!
In 2002, Les Wampas appeared on "Les Fils du Coupeur de Joint," a tribute album to French singer-songwriter Hubert Félix Thiéfaine. (The compilation featured contributions from Mickey 3D, Bénabar, Sanseverino and other rising talents on the French music scene). On 4 May 2002, the eve of the second round of the French presidential elections, Les Wampas took to the stage of Paris venue Le Bataclan with other singers and rock bands to encourage music fans to vote against the far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen.
2003: "Never Trust A Guy Who After Being A Punk Is Now Playing Electro!"
On 25 February 2003, Les Wampas exploded back into the music news with an album boasting the hilarious title "Never Trust A Guy Who After Being A Punk Is Now Playing Electro!" For the first time in their career, the group scored a massive chart hit with the single "Manu Chao." The group went on to play a massively successful gig at La Cigale in Paris in June 2003, then proceeded to set the festival circuit alight. The group continued touring up and down the country up until November 2003.
The Wampas stormed back into the music news on 6 January 2004 with "Never Trust a Live", an album featuring a live recording of a concert the band had performed at La Cigale, in Paris, the previous year. The album came with a special bonus CD of three previously unreleased songs. On "Never Trust a Live", fans were regaled with wild – and at times totally delirious – covers of an eclectic selection of hits including Patrick Juvet’s "Où sont les femmes?", Faudel’s Rai classic "Tellement je t'aime" and "Je pense à toi" – by the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam! At the end of January, the Wampas headed off to India on their "Tandori Tour", playing at French cultural institutes in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Bangalore and Bombay.
Not surprisingly, following their wild, unbridled stage shows, Didier Wampas and his cohorts were nominated for a "Victoire de la Musique" award in February 2004 for "Best Live Group/Artist of the Year." The Wampas put in another high-energy performance at the Awards ceremony, but the award ended up going to the group Kyo instead – at which point Didier Wampas leapt back on stage, screaming "The Wampas hate Kyo! The Wampas hate shitty mainstream music!” This brought the group a whole new following of fans who turned out in force to watch the band get up to their usual antics on a major French tour (that lasted until mid-2004).
In April 2005, the Wampas headed out to the Indian Ocean to play a series of concerts on the islands of Réunion and Mayotte. Later that year, on 7 November, David Vallet’s documentary "Les Wampas for the Rock" hit the screens. The 52-minute film gave an interesting insight into the Wampas’ life on the road, capturing the atmosphere back stage and the band’s explosive performances out front.
On 4 December 2005, the Wampas recruited a new member: Antoine Massy-Perrier (a former guitarist with Les Dogs), brought in to replace Jo.
2006: "Rock N'Roll Part"
On 6 March 2006 – carrying on with their famous “Never Trust” series – the Wampas released "Never Trust a DVD!" featuring their notorious gig at La Cigale in 2003 and concert footage of some 30 songs. This date also marked the release of the band’s new album, "Rock N'Roll Part", which included a controversial track about the French president "Chirac en Prison" (Chirac in Jail!) The song provoked a national outcry - which instantly boosted the Wampas’ album sales – and was banned from television and radio the moment it was released. The Wampas and a number of other leading artists protested at this censorship and two radio stations ended up playing the song, while political satire show "Les Guignols de l'Info" (broadcast on Canal +) made its own video clip of it.
"Rock N'Roll Part" was an album completely in keeping with the Wampas’ anarchic philosophy – which basically means functioning with no philosophy at all! Delirious, hilarious and resolutely funny and upbeat, this new album certainly fuelled the Wampas’ claim on their website that they are the real inventors of rock!
The Wampas went on to hit the road again on a new tour that included gigs in obscure local venues as well as major concert-halls such as Le Zénith in Paris (11 May 2006). Meanwhile, the band put in a non-stop series of appearances on television and live radio shows, promoting "Rock N'Roll Part." The single releases from the album – including "Rimini" (released on 10 July 2006) - fared well in the charts as the band continued their tour of the summer festival circuit in France, Belgium and Switzerland.
Didier Wampas also found time to collaborate with Nicola Sirkis on the new Indochine album, penning the lyrics to "Harry Poppers" (which he performed as a duet with Sirkis).
February 2007 saw the publication of The Wampas’ first official biography, "Le Dictionnaire bordélique", written by Philippe Martinot (who played guitar with the band in 1984 and 1985.) The biography, packed with personal anecdotes, backstage reports, rare interviews and previously unpublished photos, proved to be as zany and off-the-wall as The Wampas themselves. May 2007 saw the release of the Wampas’ DVD "For the Rock 2, les portes du futur" produced in the same vein as the biography and featuring snippets of concerts, mud baths and other madcap Wampas’ antics on the road between France and Quebec. The release of the DVD was followed by a series of concerts including a memorable performance at La Cigale, in Paris, on 29 May.
Later that same year, The Wampas were chosen as part of France’s preselection for the Eurovision Song Contest. The band recorded a special song for the occasion entitled "Faut voter pour nous" (You Have to Vote for Us!) French music fans were unimpressed by the band’s offering, however, and The Wampas were eliminated in the first round of the voting process.
In 2008, the Parisian punk fivesome hit the road again for another non-stop bout of touring in France.
2009: "Les Wampas sont la preuve que Dieu existe"
The Wampas made a comeback on the recording front in January 2009 with their tenth album which bore the tongue-in-cheek title "Les Wampas sont la preuve que Dieu existe" (The Wampas are proof that God exists!) The album featured basic punk chords and zany songs which covered everything from girls to Georges Marchais (the leader of the French Communist party between 1972 and 1994) and also contained a thinly veiled attack on their new record company, Universal (which signed the band from their previous label, Atmosphériques.) On a song entitled "U.N.I.V.E.R.S.A.L", Didier Wampas satirised the major record label’s marketing methods, revealing that the band had come under considerable pressure to record a single with “a mainstream singer.” Despite this antagonistic stance, the band’s signing to Universal gave them the opportunity to work in the Stockholm studio owned by Pelle Gunnerfeldt (the producer renowned for inventing The Hives’ ‘garage’ sound.)
The Wampas kicked off a new French tour performing at Le Casino de Paris on 30 March 2009. The band went on to put in an appearance at a number of leading summer festivals including Les Eurockéennes, the Dour festival and Les Francofolies in Spa, Belgium.
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