SAPPHIRE

Biography

SAPPHIRE was formed in 1974 by brothers Jean Pascal (vocals) and Benoît (guitar) Spreutels, together with friends Philippe Fondaire (bass) and Michel Bertrand (drums). In those days Benoît was only 13 years old and Michel was even only 12 … And the band was clearly influenced by the likes of BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, LED ZEPPELIN and URIAH HEEP in those early days.

In 1975 drummer Michel Bertrand was forced to leave SAPPHIRE, simply because his parents moved to a different town. He was replaced by Claude Voué. Around the same time Philippe Fondaire switched from bass to keyboards, and a new bassist was found in Benoît Sokay.

SAPPHIRE in 1975 - 1976 (L - R : Jean Pascal Spreutels, Benoît Spreutels, Claude Voué {hidden}, Benoît Sokay, Philippe Fondaire) (picture supplied by Jean Pascal Spreutels)

At the end of 1976 there was a great disagreement within the band, resulting in three members to quit SAPPHIRE. Philippe Fondaire joined a Punk band and Benoît Sokay founded JO LEMAIRE & FLOUZE. Claude Voué simply quit playing music. Their replacements were Pierre Hautenne (bass), Pierre Barré (drums) and Pierre André (keyboards). All three Pierre's attended the same school as Benoît Spreutels did at the time.

With this new line-up SAPPHIRE started to play more and more gigs, in Brussels as well as all over Wallonia. As a result the band became very popular in and around their hometown of Namur. In fact, in 1979 they played at Namur's Octave Henry Hall in front of almost 1,000 persons. In those days SAPPHIRE was also the only Belgian heavy metal outfit to be subsidized by the French Community Department.

SAPPHIRE in 1977 - mid 1980 (L - R : Pierre André, Pierre Barré, Jean Pascal Spreutels, Pierre Hautenne, Benoît Spreutels) (picture supplied by Jean Pascal Spreutels)

In September of 1980 Pierre André, Pierre Barré and Pierre Hautenne quit SAPPHIRE due to musical differences. Philippe Fondaire was soon asked to return to the old nest to fill the vacant bassist spot. An offer he gladly accepted … A new drummer was found in Eric Raes and eventually Patrick Bastin became SAPPHIRE's second guitarist.

With this new line-up (generally considered to be the most important one throughout the years) SAPPHIRE continued to play live, all over the country, thus also including the Flemish part from then on. The band went on to win plenty of Talent Contests (including one at the Verdur'Rock 1985 festival in Namur) and made a couple of TV appearances as well. In 1985 a 3-song 7" (limited to 500 copies) was recorded and released.

In late 1986 guitarist Patrick Bastin left SAPPHIRE. A while later drummer Eric Raes left as well, as he wasn't able to combine his Catamaran competitions with playing in a band any longer. Replacements were found in Eric Blanchart (guitar) and Jean-Christophe Duvivier (drums).

Once again SAPPHIRE continued to play live frequently with this new line-up, and in 1991 they recorded a 4-song demo at the I.A.D. studio in Louvain-la-Neuve.

In 1993 drummer Jean-Christophe Duvivier left Belgium in order to move to Japan for his job. As a matter of fact he even became the singer for a Japanese band in those days. Years later, after his return to Europe, he also became the singer for MOONCHILD and France's LIGHTSEEKERS.

Guitarist Eric Blanchard also left the band in 1993, in order to fulfill his military service. Former drummer Eric Raes returned to the band, and SAPPHIRE decided to continue as a quartet for a while. At least until 1997, when Patrick Bastin returned as well.

In those days all SAPPHIRE members were more busy with extra-musical activities (jobs, families, kids, building houses, …) than anything else. Nevertheless they kept rehearsing and writing new songs. But there simply was no time left for more studio recordings, nor live gigs.

In 2000 both of Jean Pascal's sons (drummer Nicolas and keyboard player Julien) together with Benoît's eldest son François (bass) started a power metal band called ETHERNITY. As a result their parents decided to reactivate SAPPHIRE as well.

Also in 2000 guitarist Patrick Bastin left the band and SAPPHIRE soldiered on as a quartet for a couple of years, until they welcomed Fabian Poloskei in 2003. The band started to rehearse intensively with this new line-up and new songs were soon created as well. In April of 2004 SAPPHIRE played in Oostende, and in March 2005 in Wartet.

SAPPHIRE live in Oostende, April 2004 (L - R : Fabian Poloskei, Jean Pascal Spreutels, Philippe Fondaire, Eric Raes, Benoît Spreutels) (picture supplied by Jean Pascal Spreutels)

In January of 2006 Julien Spreutels joined his dad and uncle in SAPPHIRE as well, becoming their keyboard player. Although it must be said that he's still a member of ETHERNITY as well. Besides, he's also part of MAGIC KINGDOM.

On July 24th 2006 bassist Philippe Fondaire died of an unexpected heart attack, at the age of only 48. To pay their respect to Philippe for his engagement in the band since 1974, the other musicians decided to continue with SAPPHIRE, although it did last months before they actually started to play music again together.

In December of 2006 former bassist Benoît Sokay was asked to return to SAPPHIRE. An offer he accepted without hesitation. As a matter of fact Benoît had always remained musically active and has been part of THE BREATH OF LIFE since 1985 up until today.

In May of 2007 this new sextet SAPPHIRE line-up recorded a 3-song demo. Besides, the band is considering to start playing live again as well.


Discography

1985 : Never Surrender (7", Sapphire) {Never Surrender, War To The Knife, The Mask}

1991 : Highway To Nowhere (demo) {Highway To Nowhere, The First Time, Singer, Make Me Go}

2007 : Man In Space (demoCD) {Man In Space, Scared, Miroir}


SAPPHIRE Never Surrender (frontcover)
Consulted people

Jean Pascal Spreutels


Related links

First posted

October 8th 2007


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