The Pythons are always being asked, "Who's this André chap that keeps appearing on your credits?"
Well, André Jacquemin is the co-owner of Redwood Studios with Michael Palin, and is undoubtedly one of the unsung members of the Monty Python team.
I have myself worked alongside André on 'A Fish Called Wanda' for John Cleese and numerous films for Terry Gilliam.
So, I popped in to see André at his studios in Great Chapel Street, to find out how he got involved with the Python team in the very beginning?
André recalls, "Back in the early 70s, I had been working as a tea boy at a studio in Wardour Street, Soho, under chief engineer Alan Bailey. One day, one of the engineers was ill and I was asked to the session even though I was only a few weeks into the new job. Although it was a lot simpler then, I didn't know too much. It turned out I handled it quite well and I had a natural talent for it."
He went on to say, "Then one day shortly after, I was looking after reception. I went to nip-out and get a sandwich and as I was walking out, Michael Palin walked in. It was the year their first Python TV series came out, but I didn't know who Michael was or who Monty Python were. So I went back upstairs to see what this guy wanted. He said, I want to do a voice over demo reel for a friend of mine. Well, my mentor Alan Bailey, who had worked with everyone from The Beatles to Frank Sinatra, was busy in another session the day Michael wanted to record. But I said, I could do that and we had a studio free, so I booked him in with me to start working on the voice reel."
"When I got the scripts for Michael's friend, I thought they were really funny, but I still didn't realise that they were extracts from Python scripts!
In the end, the voice demo took about a year to do, as Michael was always out filming whenever I wanted to play the sketches back for him to listen too. During this year, in my spare time I would work on the sketches by adding sound effects, putting music on and so on. At the end Michael said... André this is amazing work you have done here... Would you like to work on an album I'll be recording soon?"
André continued "Still not knowing who Michael was and in the same week, I was also offered a job on a Wild West show, running the sound department, creating live show tapes etc... Michael then rung me back in the same week and said, come down and meet the rest of the guys.
I had a decision to make. Do I want to go with this Wild West roadshow which was going to go around the world and seemed like a good opportunity? But at the time I was also in a band which was going well and I was also happy in London. None of these things were at that time more important than each other, but in the end I decided to go and see Michael and stay in London.
So I went down to Michael's house for a meeting. I walked in and got introduced to Eric, the two Terrys and Graham. The doorbell then rung and in walked John Cleese. It was then the penny dropped and I realised who they were! I thought, oh my god I'm in big trouble here. There were all these Oxford / Cambridge people and there was me having left school with a swimming and bicycle certificate, I wondered if they had one of them as well! Michael then showed me a two foot high pile of scripts on a table and said, go through that and see which ones you think we should do? I was only 19 at the time... can you imagine?"
Since then André has gone on to be involved on countless tv shows, radio commercials, movies and the production of hit singles and albums. He has accumulated over 130 major awards, including 2 BAFTA nominations as composer with fellow writer, life long friend and band member Dave Howman, for Monty Python's 'Every Sperm is Sacred' from the film 'The Meaning of Life'.
André says "My band is still going. I remember when we first started out, I was playing guitar at the time... the bass player had left and nobody we knew wanted to play an instrument with four strings, so I picked it up. I do a bit of keyboards too. We compose our own music and Dave and I do all our writing together still after all these years. Dave is defiantly a more talented composer than I am and a brilliant guitar player as well and still can play a mean solo behind his back! But I tend to do the creative studio side of things these days, we have been working together since I was about 14. So it was only natural that Dave and I worked on the Python stuff when asked to come up with the odd ditty."
Now André has just finished working on Graham Chapman's 'A Liar's Autobiography', as supervising sound editor and sound engineer. The animated 3D movie based on the book of the memoir of the late Python member, who died in 1989 at the age of 48. Produced by Bill and Ben Productions, the film is not a Monty Python movie as such, although the Pythons did do the voice over, apart from Eric.
I will also be working with André again on another feature called 'Theatre of Dreams', over the next coming weeks. We will post an update about this later.
To read more about André, you can visit his website by clicking here at www.redwoodstudios.co.uk