This past month, while laid up with that nasty flu bug, el-g’s recently re-issued “Tout Ploie” LP arrived in my mailbox from S-S Records and found its way to the turntable. What emerged from the speakers sent my already scattered mind reeling. Here was a record that was, at turns, soothing and sophisticated and, in other places, freakishly psychedelic, mixing French pop ballads with more contemporary acid-folk stylings. Post-illness listens have only deepened my appreciation for this album. So, in an attempt to seek some clarity about the origins of this album and its mastermind, I contacted el-g (a.k.a. Laurent Gerard) for an interview, to which he kindly agreed. Our series of e-mail exchanges, however, proved to be as mind-altering and as delightfully disorienting as the music itself. Welcome to el-g’s world, where everything is sprinkled with a little “schizo sugar”.
The sad news about Jack Rose really touched me, I think for the same reasons for other people who met him even just once as I did. By just spending a really nice and friendly moment with him, you got the feeling that you knew him for years.
Actually, years ago he did a show with Ignatz and Silvester Anfang in Paris and Maxime, the promoter, asked me if it was possible to have a couch for him and for Tommy who was the tour driver. Charlene welcomed them at her place and we had fun all night long: discussions around music, bands, family, and talking about life in warm diagonals. That was a really cozy, long night around a Jack Daniel’s bottle.
This story around Jack Rose and the Kraak record metamorphosed in many different forms. I think that would be stupid if I was to explain the exact truth, the exact story of what happened. So I let it go in different mutations...
Anyway, thank you Jack!
The trick is that 2/3 of the tracks on this album are all coming from independent cd-rs, mini-albums that had been released in small quantities in the past and which are rotting in a closet in my bedroom, waiting for reissues one day. The Kraak people choose what they thought were the best tracks for the album. The other 1/3 of the album was new material, which had been recorded in 2008. This album is a patchwork of old and new tracks, helped by good agency, making it sound almost like something new.
About the wide stylistic range, yes I think it's an obsession for me to always try to create something tentacular, a pop octopussy, a popctopussy maybe.
On this album, you can feel the variations of sounds during the years, the different approaches. But even when I work on something new, I always include my old friend "schizo sugar". Everything is spilt in a cocktail of many micro parts, including opposite waves, approaches, characters, comedy, cruelty, drama, sweet friendship, violence, cynicism, love, and desire of seafood and melted cheese. The all-life, theme park working 24/24.
That's typically my recording process: slow, touch-by-touch, like a cobweb, as a meticulous painter. I try to find in the mess different levels of listening, a main one plus many other microscopics, turning around, orbital style, that should easily vary and extend after many listens, depending on the mood and the drugs you take. Don't worry future listener, it works even if you're sober on tap water.
But all these tracks are not from different worlds; they're all part of the same actually, just expressed under a different angle. And what is this world? I don't know, sometimes he's my intimate friend; sometimes he's a black hole trap.
It's still mannered in a certain way; I hope that the future will bring just the essentials in the music...
Of course Gainsbourg, as many of my contemporaries and other generations, has been a big influence.
He was very popular in France. He used to be the “perverted” guest on TV sets, the dark side of human beings, the crow, and all the families in front of their TV had this vision of this extraterrestrial guy, loving or hating him. He was the yin of the stupid yang television background. Because he was always somewhere on TV, he had stopped doing gigs in the early seventies.
I remember when I was 8, my mother bought me a NRJ (French FM teenage radio) compilation cassette, including the hit that Gainsbourg was singing at this time, an Edith Piaf cover called "Mon Légionnaire"... funky synthetic beats, super clean, almost dead and desperate from inside, but really robotically funky. It had been my favorite track for months and I remember thinking "that's really strange, this nasty grandpa is not singing, he's almost TALKING!" I started to like his music from this point. After that, around 15 years old (13 years before kissin' a girl for the first time and that was a dog actually), I really started to get interested in his whole music career, producers with who he worked with and the very talented way he choose the good people around him for every record.
He was a kind of very intelligent and subtle opportunist. My favorite album stays "Vu de l'Exterieur". Simple, sensual, really pop, really cruel and sexist, but said in a funny/scatophile way and the drum sounds are like unfashionable!
I just saw the trailer of the biographic movie, which will be released next year with an actor who looks like Gainsbourg. Oh my god, what a piece of shit! Shame!
When I've had courage enough to record music, I had firstly this desire to record songs with a traditional point of departure by injecting other molecules around it. And, of course, when I thought about “songs”, I thought about French. It has been helped by discussions I've had with French singers around the time I freshly arrived in Paris. Although we were not doing the same music at all, the discussions we had around the French language, its complexity, its opaque side, the thick dust layer on its shoulders and the fact that it existed. Surely there were other ways to express it today by throwing it in a large musical specter. And to be honest, even though I learned to speak English, even if I've been raised on TV, music and cinema through American and Anglo-Saxon culture, for better or worse, it was a good and modest way for me to wave my middle finger in front of the English tsunami invading the world. It's really not chauvinistic, it's just a way to explore things that sometimes you have just there, under your hand and you ignore. And for foreign people, it sounds like Chinese exoticism.
About songs, in my other references of French singers or talkers, the list is really long, but you can find Marc Ogeret singing Jean Genet poetry, arranged by Helene Martin, Fontaine and Areski, and Alain Bashung. And, of course, French eighties new-wave music such as Mary Moor, Ellie et Jacno, Victor Hublot and Ruth.
What I like with French wave eighties pop songs is that they sing just simple words, which was different from the post war “rive gauche” over-written lyrics. Young musicians at that time just used simple syntax, simple words, and these words stuck on a binary cold electronic music were Enlightened under a new angle and it gave a new kind of poetry that fit very well with the French language. That was partially inspired by German robotic ways of singing. DAF for example.
It's good to quote Luc Ferrari too, with his “Presque Rien” classical piece. Once I read in an interview that he didn't trust a “singing” voice. This reflection continues to haunt me...
But strangely it's Robert Ashley, with his love of the French language and whispering, who made me aware of the possibility for this language to be sang in a semi-talked way. He "sings" in English in his musical pieces like "Private Parts" or "Automatic Writing" (there's also this woman talking in French), but it's directly inspired by the chaste and monotone way that French people speak, whispering opera. You can use your voice as a windy discreet instrument, a low pray, whispering sensed words but abstracts in final. This man is a great composer; he's been hidden by the shadow of other more famous composers whom the work was more easily readable...
Anyway, the list could continue until Jupiter.
Charlene and I are not together anymore, so the music has taken its distance. But she continues to make her beautiful and inspired music.
About Phil Todd, the track on the album is excerpted from the “L'échelle” cd he released on his label. He played the guitar solo on the second part of the song “Hé Gros!” We're not in contact anymore, but maybe in the future. Who knows?
Since I live in Brussels, Bram (aka Ignatz) is my neighbor and we meet from time-to-time to do Karaoke and drink Belgium beers (have you already tasted it?). We should try playing music too in the future.
But usually I record alone, like a 14-year-old teenage girl’s secret garden or diary, and sometimes I ask somebody to contribute, it's really open. If somebody has good ideas to bring to the music, they’re really welcome. As for Foxy de Man, she lives in Brussels. Once I heard her voice on a record of a friend of mine, she was so good, really into R’n’B music, like Beyoncé or M.I.A or soul music.
Not at all. I just did that during one year on Radio WNE, an internet radio station that was lead by LBB, a friend of mine, a great computer wizard.
I had a radio show that broadcast from my 10 meters square apartment where I lived in Paris. There was a new guest every two weeks, musician or not. Brian Baxter, a great record collector and old American friend, was the main musical consultant. We had whisky and we used to end the show really drunk, telling funny bullshit about everything. It was a good time.
Yes, our favorite game was having the most schizo playlists as possible and have jokes about, more or less, pretentious musicians as a “Wayne's World” show for mind- expanding musics. Usually these kinds of radio shows are really serious and boring, a desperate nerds parade...
Sometimes I dream about a new world.
Just imagine, you have Pierre Henry, Michel Chion, Phil Collins, William Burroughs, Paris Hilton, Peter Sotos, my mum, Barry White, Woody Allen, R. Stevie Moore, Jennifer Aniston, Smegma, Clipse, Eliane Radigue, Harry Potter, Bloody Minded and a Teletubbie around a table for dinner. How do you start the conversation? What if they all decide to record an album together? I want a copy.
Or imagine what a new Lester Bangs would write in The Wire magazine? There would be some good fight action! Not just the feeling of being invited to a polite Tupperware meeting.
I'd love to see bad reviews on websites and Myspace pages of bands. ”Don't buy this 9 pounds cd-r, it's just the 250,000th drone nap tunnel recorded this year!” I should start this new ritual with myself, good idea. If we assemble all the drone music made over these last few years into one single drone piece, I'm pretty sure we can rival in length the time since earth has been created. Should be a huge cd-box! 185525145852212544522145665 US dollars on ebay.
A world crossing Folke Rabe and Rick James... Sachiko M and Tokyo Hotel.
As I told you, my solo music is really only under a slow recording process. So I've always had the desire to play in live music projects and live recordings, something based only on listening, spontaneity, and direct flux. I started it with Duncan Pinhas, which was a great experience based around dark synthesizer crescendos, nightmare up and down sensuality.
And the meeting with Ghedalia was, of course, really important. Jo and I knew and were impressed by his music since college and Ghedalia was somebody accessible, as he worked in theater with a friend of ours. I invited him for a radio show and we had a lot of fun. He's a super inspired man. A year and half ago, I asked Jo to join us to play music. With the great help of Dylan Nyoukis, we really started this project by playing live at the Colour Out of Space festival in Brighton. Our band is inventing its own aesthetic slowly, from gig to gig. We work as a band and that's the main desire of Ghedalia; it's not him solo with two young assholes. It's just us, together. Sometimes people don't accept it, but that's the game.
Jo and I also have a duet called Opera Mort, based on damaged dance beats, harsh electronic trances, binary melodies, and frustration screams singing. It's totally different from Reines d'angleterre, the antithesis maybe. Jo runs this great label called Tanzprocesz, which is really into weird music. He used to live in Marseille before and was involved with projects around the Le Dernier Cri people, such as the Placenta Popeye band. So our two musical cultures and approaches resulted in Opera Mort.
And yes Islaja, Amon Dude, The Hoopo & Reines d'angleterre had recorded in a basement in Helsinki last March (under the name “Lö Jengi) and the results will be released as an EP on Fonal next year.
On one hand, I try to do what we can call the “songs” or more spacey tracks and, on the other hand, you have the “spoken word” cut-up recordings.
For the first hand, I'm working on a new record. At this time, I've been mostly inspired by more physical square hypnotic electronic genres such as techno, acid and dubstep. I think I'm partially under the influence of these styles. I try to understand old and new electronic devices (always wondering why people are always using old stuff; it's kind of systematic) and try to mix their different colors of sounds. I try to sync them too and try to get some 4/4 beats mixed into something without tempo. It's not really clear enough; I'm still a bit lost, but it’s finding its own form slowly. I'll see what the future will bring in my frog head.
I've been “angry” against acoustic and electric instruments like guitars, drums, bass and that entire rock package, so I need a break before making peace.
And for the “spoken word” hand, “Capitaine Présent # 5” has just been released on this very nice Egyptian label, Nashazphone. “Capitaine Présent” is a serial based on epileptic cut-ups more or less comedy/anxiogene. It's more spontaneous, more dirty, and directly done as a tap plugged into the synapses of the brain. I will start to work on the cp#6, as a movie, for dvd, as was the cp#4 based on google images. Actually, I come from cinema, so I try to keep the connection with it.
Usually for solo live shows (as I can't and I'm not interested in playing the songs off the records) I use to do French stand-up cosmical comedy, which more-or-less succeeded. That's a good adrenaline trip mixing jokes, improvised stories, and sound flux with the elasticity of a melted brain.
Comedy vibrations are usually saw as vulgar or useless, but in America you have so many great stand-up artists, performers such as Zach Galifianakis, Bill Hicks, or Mitch Hedberg (R.I.P). Same for TV shows, great stuff like “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job”, “Xavier: Renegade Angel”, “Wonder Showzen” or Ryan Trecartin videos. It reminds me of some of the best Residents videos. Something really happened for new fucked-up comedy during the 00's in the USA. All these popular artists mix very intelligent comedy with the main feeling of our times: anxiety and violence. The Henry Flynt performance last year in Brussels was really in that vein. I didn't like it in the moment; I thought it was just another “let's bring the grandpas on stage because it's cool, even if we don't know what kind of music they play now” ceremony. But when I think back on it again, this moment sounded like the most creative, surrealistic “Tim and Eric” episode, without any irony. Henry Flynt, with his guitar high on his chest, reading a score, kind of lost, but super concentrated behind his thick glasses. There was a kind of early nineties techno loop screaming around and he was playing these Blues notes on the guitar in front of an 80% drunk, young audience like everything was normal! That was brilliant actually. I still don't know if all of that theatrical posing was conscious or not, but that was heavily felt. I wonder if anybody filmed it.
I did a digression maybe.
So, Reines d'angleterre will have two new LP albums to be released next year. I won't say anymore for the moment.
For a 100% electronics approach there's also this 7” project, done, recorded with Unicorn-Hard-On, God willing, and Jo. I'm really excited about this one. The music had found a strange place between slow beats, psychedelic elasticity, Coilian atmosphere, a horror film feeling, and industrial background.
We'll go on tour in Europe with Opera Mort and besides shooting a moneyless Capitaine Présent film next year, I'll take time to work more on new solo performances and recordings and I would love to come to tour in the USA. Is it possible for a French dude? Would be exciting anyway...
-- David Perron (16 December, 2009)