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Email Interview With Pavel Cernocky

January 21, 2001 | People
Can you tell us something about Pavel, the person?

I am an „original“ Elvis fan almost right from the start. It was the Heartbreak Hotel EP (made in France) that turned me on ! I „defected“ from Uni in 1962 to start a musical career as a singer with a band. Then deejay‘ed in various clubs until 1990. Married for the second time in 2000, have a son of 23, named Petr Elvis. I‘m taking care of the Czech Elvis fanclub since 1996.

Are you an Elvis-fan yourself? And could you describe the type of fan you are?"

I believe from the above that this is quite clear I AM a dedicated Elvis fan……. a fan, but not a fanatic. Meaning - I don't believe everything Elvis ever sang was absolutely superb.

Can you tell us more on Elvis in Eastern Europe? What are the differences between the past (iron curtain) and present?

From the 50´s until the 90´s there was in fact nothing available over here. Well, a few LPs perhaps, long time after they were released in US, mainly on terrible quality LPs made in India, Bulgaria and Cuba. No films, no pictures, no nothing. But actually the situation is not so much better after 1989. Fortunately BMG CDs are available now and also we had some Elvis movies on TV (including the colour version of „Jailhouse Rock“!!) Some stuff was also available on video cassettes. ( I myself did the subtitles for the Czech versions of the newly remastered versions of „Loving you“ and „This Is Elvis“. Probably the main problem here is our country is not big enough to be a large market for Elvis product generally – and not a large portion of the population is capable of understanding English. Just imagine- no Elvis movie was on a general release in my country- ever.

Can you tell us something about Pavel, the record producer and what made you produce these series of Elvis CD's?

It all started by accident. We've been planning to produce, especially for our fans, on the occasion of the new millennium, a nice commemorative CD with NO MUSIC on it at all. Then we started to think of releasing in cooperation with BMG Czech Republic a compilation CD with one or two alternative versions on it. As our branch of BMG was not too enthusiastic, we decided to turn directly to Mr. Schmalenbach - the head of BMG in Munich. Many time we asked him by email if the would sell us rights for a few tracks, but unfortunately we never got any answer whatsoever ... and then – we stumbled on the information, that according to our law (valid from 1960 or so until now) we in fact didn't need any approval from BMG or RCA. All recordings prior to 1966 were qualified as public domain in the Czech Republic! That‘s how it all started. Unfortunately, in late November 2000 this old law has changed and as we always wanted to stay on the right side of the law, we had to stop producing any new CDs containing Elvis recordings. But it has to be said, if BMG would have let us do our first ever Czech CD, we would have gladly paid them for the rights – and the MEMORY series would never have seen the light of day… In some way, we feel very sorry that no one from BMG was willing to co-operate. Although we have offered our knowledge and services to them many times – free of charge.

Do you still have material what's not released because you had to stop the series?

We believe we've put out most of the things we wanted to. Of course there are still some bits and pieces that we have in our archives (enough for about 2 – 3 CDs), but most of the important work has been done. It was a very, very tight schedule at the end of year, as the last CDs were pressed just a couple of hours before the deadline!

What's the source you got the material from? Original tapes, first generation copies?

This unfortunately must remain a secret. We actually got a lot of material from various sources from friends and fans from all over the world after the first CD was released. Many of these want to remain anonymous. Sometimes more than one version of an outtake was available and we had to compare them. But the most important part of the work was the digital remastering.

Absolutely the most sophisticated equipment was used by Mr. Tomek and he is, believe me, a wonderful sound wizard. Some of our versions are actually sounding much better than RCA´s masters! We are positive you won´t find better sounding versions of some of the outtakes anywhere in the world right now. (Of course, better sources may turn up in the years to come….)

Can you release in any way another CD (legally) in your country like you did with the series the past time after January 2001?

No, we can‘t. Now the borderline has gone back to 1951, and that of course eliminates Elvis for at least another 5 years. But we still have some interesting projects in store for the Elvis fans. Of course we don't want to reveal any details too soon…..

How did you obtain the totally previously unreleased tracks, on Echoes of Love for instance ? How do they appear in Czechoslovakia ?

This material came from one of the major sources of bootleg material, who in turn obtained it from sources from within the company. At least, that‘s what I have been told. This bootlegger hadn‘t released some of the material that we released on ECHOES OF LOVE, so we were actually very proud to be able to deliver the fan some genuinely unreleased material - stuff that hadn‘t even appeared on any bootlegs.
Another project that I am personally very proud of, is the concluding mini-series "For Movie Fans Only". For the first time ever we give Elvis fans ORIGINAL movie soundtrack versions in the best possible sound quality. The work on it was really exhausting. First, it took ages to get all the available material together, then hours of listening and deciding what should be used and what to omit. We wanted to include only the really different versions because we did not want to bore fans with identical recordings, where they only added a few handclaps and things like that. Digital remastering demanded three times as much time as on any previous project and the bill for it was apocalyptic. I am quite sure the sales will in this case not even cover the expenses, but I don't mind. The first reactions from fans have been overwhelmingly positive. They all agree on the significant improvement in sound, compared to all previously released film versions on LPs and CDs. I also hope these CDs will boost an interest in old Elvis movies and help in some way film companies generally.

Did you experience any difficulties releasing these CD's regarding other BMG/RCA units in other countries? Did BMG ever tell you not to release these CD's?

To our big surprise we never heard from BMG until this January 2001, when the series was over! Well, BMG was well aware of the fact that these CDs that were made in Czech Republic were absolutely legal, with the royalties paid, etc. Now they have asked us not to produce any new ones or re-print any older titles of existing CDs. We have no intention to be in a state of war with BMG so we gladly accept any reasonable terms. So we will not put out any new titles, but also BMG lawyers are aware of the fact we can sell the rest of our stock (which is not very large, as usually only few hundreds of CDs were pressed) until the end of November 2002. This of course doesn't mean that we are authorized to for example open a shop in London and sell CDs over there! But for example, anyone visiting the Czech republic can buy the rest copies directly from us. The truth is, we in fact never intended to do a wholesale, that's actually why such a small amount of copies was pressed. All we wanted was to give the Elvis fans the rare recordings that they wanted to have. Our aim was to supply Elvis fanclub members only, not any large shops. Also we believe Elvis now, after nearly a quarter of a century after his death belongs primarily to his fans, and we also believe that RCA wasn‘t always very fair to Elvis fans. But of cours