Dans cette conférence publique organisée lors de la seconde édition du Red Bull Music Academy Festival Paris, Charlotte Gainsbourg partage avec Géraldine Sarratia et le public les morceaux qui ont marqué son parcours, de son éducation musicale au côté de son père à ses diverses collaborations auprès de musiciens comme AIR, Beck, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo et SebastiAn, à la réalisation de son dernier album, Rest.
Les chansons sélectionnées par Charlotte Gainsbourg :
- Ian Dury – “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”
- Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
- Bonnie Tyler – “It’s a Heartache”
- Charles Aznavour – “Emmenez Moi”
- Bob Dylan – “Lay Lady Lay”
- JS Bach – “Aria (Glenn Gould – Goldberg variations)”
- Serge Gainsbourg – “Melody Nelson”
- Serge Gainsbourg – “Lemon Incest”
- Portishead – “Glory Box”
- Radiohead – “You and Whose Army?”
- Blood Orange – “Best To You”
- Judy Garland – “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
- John Williams – “Theme from Jaws”
- Ricchi e Poveri – “Sarà Perchè Ti Amo”
- Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Hey Joe”
- Charlotte Gainsbourg – “IRM”
- Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Les Oxalis”
- Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Lying With You”
Transcript / Translation :
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Hello, thank you all for coming to the Red Bull Music Academy Festival Paris. There, I managed to say it! Could everyone please turn off their phones because this will all be recorded and filmed.
We are here today for a lecture with Charlotte Gainsbourg. Charlotte, thank you for coming
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Thank you, thank you all for coming.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Just a reminder what this lecture is about, we’ll be exploring the relationship Charlotte has with music. It’s been put together like a playlist that delves into key moments of her life and work. You all know Charlotte but to introduce her briefly. I feel like I’ve always known her. The first time I saw her was in 1984 in “Lemon Incest” then in cinemas in 1986 in Love Songs, then in L’Effrontée and as your career went on music and film continued to intertwine and in our lives as well. To this day, Charlotte has done over 50 films. With so many different directors I couldn’t possible name them all: Todd Haynes, Arnaud Desplechin. Who else would you like to mention?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Lars von Trier.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Ah yes, very important.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yvan Attal.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Yvan Attal, Claude Berri, there are so many. We’ll talk about that at the end of this conversation. And her latest album Rest, that will be released on 17th November. Two songs have already been released, “Rest” and “Deadly Valentine.” You filmed the music video, that just came out.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, a few days ago.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Before we start, could I ask how you define your relationship with music? You say cinema is something you like to lose yourself in, or get caught in the action and that you find that easy to do. Is it the same for your music? What can you tell us about that?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: No. Music requires me to be more willful. I started acting and singing the same way, in my father’s footsteps. It always made my father happy. It was natural for me, but I wasn’t in control. And… With film it carried on like this. I was happy to not be in control and be at the director’s service. Music, without my father has become, not necessarily my music, my relationship has become very complicated because everything had become a bit painful. It evoked the memory of my father. I still missed him too much. It took me 20 years between recording Charlotte for Ever and 5:55 with Air. It took me 20 years, to realize I wanted to do it. That maybe I was allowed to express myself through music. Then I started looking around me and started wondering with whom I could work. I never thought of doing it alone. I didn’t want to. I was not capable of it. I needed to admire different artists like I had admired my father. So it was obvious to me with Air, then with Beck it was another kind of evidence. But I really needed to be able to move forward and I had trouble coming to terms with it.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: We will come back to your music, at the end of this conversation. Let’s start with this playlist. Starting with your childhood. The music you listened to. I’m going to play the first track. It is a rather amusing choice for a little girl.
Ian Dury – “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”
(music: Ian Dury – “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”)
So that was Ian Dury, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. So this was a record you enjoyed as a child?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I don’t remember when this came out, I should have checked. I know I was living at Rue de Verneuil with my father. My sister and I shared the same bedroom. She was 4 years older than me. So I was subject to her musical taste. But this time I really felt like the album was mine. I remember perfectly the 7″, our record player was actually 12″, not 7″ but… I was such a fan of his voice, the rhythm. I didn’t realize the trashy element to it.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: How old were you?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I was 6 or 7 years old I think. There is a comical side to it which is what I understood.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Do you remember how old… No, did you even buy records?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: When I was young, no. Actually my parents would come back… I’m not sure what they were doing there, they were signed with Philips. That then became Universal, right?
GERALDINE SARRATIA: I think so.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes I believe so. They came back from their meetings with these 7″ vinyls with no cover. Things people would just give to them. There was a bit of everything. Some were really good. And some were awful. They didn’t ban us from listening to anything. They allowed us to listen to things they brought back. And at the same time, we weren’t allowed to listen to Annie Cordy, I wasn’t allowed to listen to Dorothée, I wasn’t allowed to listen to… Wait what’s her name… Chantal Goya! That was completely forbidden. But Carlos for example wasn’t. It’s mean but…
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Did you buy records yourself then? Or were they all given to you?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It was mainly things I was given. My sister had more refined musical tastes. She loved… Well I loved Grease too. I was a huge fan. But for her it was all about Blondie and the whole disco era. I followed the movement but I was a lot younger. I started buying records quite late actually, when I was a teenager.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: When you were a teenager there is another record you liked. Many of us here did too actually.
Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
We all recognized Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Do you have any particular memory linked to this record?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes. Memories from Rue de Verneuil again. Because… My father discovered this when I did. He was as blown away by it as we all were. I remember really well. He had a big TV screen at home. And we’d watch the video that went with this song. I think that alongside “Billy Jean” it’s one of the most powerful music videos. They are the first major music videos I’d seen.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Prince also did long music videos at that time. On Michel Drucker’s show. The release was like an event, it was quite something. When you were a teenager you also listened to this.
Bonnie Tyler – “It’s a Heartache”
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: That is one of the records I bought myself, I’m completely responsible for it. It’s from the year I left for boarding school. I had decided I wanted to go myself. And Walkman players had just come out. It was a certain way of listening that was really new, it was an isolated way of listening. This voice stuck so well with all the things you go through as a teenager, that very lonely feeling, ever so sad. And I’d make a big deal of this.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Listening on your Walkman.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: On the train, as the scenery passed me by.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: There were also French artists that influenced you as a teenager. Aznavour for example.
Charles Aznavour – “Emmenez Moi”
Charles Aznavour, any particular memory for this song?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, well I find it hard taking responsibility for my choices. Since my childhood it’s always been easier to say it was my father, or my sister. Aznavour is completely my choice. It really hurt my father because he was very jealous of him.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Oh really?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes. Because Aznavour really is somebody. And I really was quite obsessed by this musical universe because it was more about the lyrics than the music. Nowadays in any case it’s more about the lyrics. But it really preoccupied me for quite some time.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: You also mentioned what influenced you, how musical taste is created by things we choose. And by things from our family. A very important singer, one of the first singers your father recommended, and I believe he still is a very important singer to you. It’s Bob Dylan.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes.
Bob Dylan – “Lay Lady Lay”
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Dylan was in the last Desplechin film. A wonderful scene with one of his songs. You were saying that your father recommended listening to Dylan?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I recall asking him if there was one record I needed to have, or a song. Because he told me that exact song, saying it was one of the greats. He said that one and another song that I really remember that is “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland. But for Dylan if I regret one thing, I probably got a greatest hits album. I didn’t instinctively listen to each album and discover him that way, I went straight to that one song. But ever since it has stuck with me. I did a film recently called I’m Not There, Which retraced his different lives. He is someone who is very important to me, that I never tire of. Sometimes at dinner parties, if you play it too much it can get on people’s nerves.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Yes it can be provocative. Some people can’t stand his voice
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I can listen to him for hours on end.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Is it his writing style you like the best? He is an amazing writer.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, his texts are wonderful. But it is also the sound of his voice, his personality, his persona.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Another important influence from your father is a more classical choice. Classical music was also very important to him.
JS Bach – “Aria”
It’s very melancholic, so I won’t leave it on too long. Don’t you think so?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Not at all. I find it very soothing and I’m always in a good mood when I listen to it. It’s reassuring to come back to it. I just remembered that my father had this album, of course, but my stepfather, Lou’s father, also had a copy. Bach and the variations played by Glenn Gould. At that same moment in time the album was in both my homes.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Did your father play a lot of music at home?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: On the piano? No. He would play in bars, at the end of a night out. I think he had been quite traumatized as a youngster playing for his father who was very strict. He got away from that. I’d see him play mainly when he was composing. He had a piano that he could record himself on. The keys played on their own, it was a mechanical piano. Every time he did an album he let us listen to melodic ideas. So that we could grade him with little stars. My mother, myself and Philippe Lerichomme I believe. And he was very receptive to what we said. So we’d just see him at work.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Did you all agree?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes I think so, we usually agreed. And on a last album he should have done he started to use sounds that were very Russian and very melancholic, it was really beautiful. He would play like that. Otherwise I hardly ever saw him on his grand piano. But a lot of his songs come from Chopin. So I did discover Chopin with him. Yes, classical music was very important.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: What kind of music did your mother listen to?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: My mother listened to a lot of [George] Brassens when she was young. She listened to The Beatles, Elvis… And so did my father, a lot. Then she listened to more French artists, she liked [Alain] Souchon. She went on tour with him, but had a big Souchon phase before.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Was there a lot of music played at home?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: No, not at all. My father did, he did so very loudly, the neighbors complained all the time. Because he would only listen loudly, very very loudly. I find that is such an amazing way to listen. It is so powerful. It’s not just elevator music.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Background music?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes. He listened to his own music a lot. I found that to be pretentious at the time. As a teenager, I didn’t understand why he had to listen to himself so loudly. Now I realize that back then, you didn’t come home with a sample of your work. You had nothing to show for what you just did in the studio. So he did need to listen to himself, it was part of his job. So yes, he listened to his music a lot.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: You talked about the grades you would give his new melodies. What kind of relationship did you have with his music? Is there a period you prefer? One you don’t like at all? Which record is your favorite?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: The first song of his I ever liked, he was very ashamed of this, it was “L’Ami Caouette.”
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Why was he ashamed?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I’m not sure how old I was when it came out. Because it’s the worst song he ever wrote. And the fact his daughter loved it, I would sing it, it didn’t go unnoticed. Since, I’ve listened to everything he did. He didn’t like his voice early on, where it sounds more like he’s singing. I really liked it. And I have seen his entire filmography.
I find it strange that my children never listen to my music. They wouldn’t even think to. I lived with my parents music and listening to them was a real delight. It wasn’t just dumb admiration. It was part of my life. On holiday, with him, and with Bambou, we’d listen to Initials B.B. all the time. Not just a little bit, a lot.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Here is one you chose when we made this playlist.
Serge Gainsbourg – “Melody Nelson”
“Melody.” Why did you choose this one?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I find it hard to listen to. I held back from listening to it for 26 years. But this song has an influence on me without even listening to it. It really is a part of me. Melody might just be the album I’ve listened to the most. I really like these conceptual albums that tell a story. It’s a short album. There is something magical about this album.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: The album cover?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, I’m on it! And it brought both my parents together, which is important. I saw my mother live recently. She has been doing this concept with a symphony orchestra for quite some time. But her choice of songs in my eyes talk about her love story with him. It focuses on… I feel like I’m seeing my parents and their story together. Which is even more touching for me. And she adds a symphony orchestra to it, which gives it a certain magnitude.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Isn’t Melody Nelson an album that producers you’ve worked with talk about? Beck must be a fan of that album.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, but every time I worked with Air, Beck or SebastiAn we don’t talk about it. We don’t speak of it, but we all know about it. But with Beck, I spoke to him about the percussion albums my father did. Because that was the rhythm I was looking for. I know he is a fan of my father. Melody is probably one of his favourite albums. But… I was the one to talk about it, they were sensitive enough to not force it on me.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: There are your father’s albums. Then you started singing with your father, in 1984. We mentioned it earlier, “Lemon Incest.”
Serge Gainsbourg – “Lemon Incest”
Can you tell us about Lemon Incest? It’s still a very important song for you?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, for me it’s the most important. From the experiences I have had with my father in music in any case. It was the first time he put me behind a microphone. I took part in this adventure without realizing what the subject matter was. It didn’t shock me. I wasn’t aware of the scandal surrounding it because I was 12 when we recorded it. And the year after I left for boarding school. I wasn’t there for the release. When we recorded it, I was young enough to not care about it at all. Yet I understood the pleasure he got from making it. Hearing me hit those high notes and my voice breaking a bit. And those were things he was aiming at. And seeing me achieve this little thing. Then I forgot about it the minute I’d finished. And that’s fine, it wasn’t a big deal. In any case, it’s a very precious memory for me.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Do you remember how it came about? Did you tell him you’d like to sing?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I don’t remember.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Ah you don’t remember.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I think it’s thanks to my mother, because my father had talked to her about it. And she bumped into Catherine Deneuve in the street and asked for her advice. Asking her if she thought it was dangerous for me to sing with him. I believe Catherine said to her that first I should do something on my own, for myself. Then I did Love Songs, which was with Catherine. I mean I auditioned, I wasn’t just given the part. She was right. I managed to do something great with him and be able to exist on my own. With a promising acting career in tow, not that I could have known that. But it was important for me to have my own personality and my own thing.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: So now we have come to the records you enjoy as an adult. The first one to really affect you.
Portishead – “Glory Box”
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It really was important, I remember its release. I mean it affected many people like it did me. A new sound, a new personality. Even on stage, she was different. I think it’s at that point I started to ask myself what if I wanted to start making music again? It really motivated me.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: How old were you then? Do you remember?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I was with Yvan, I was 20 years old maybe. Yes, yes.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Another one of your choices, this time a band. I believe it’s a band you really love. And you worked with their producer after. It’s Radiohead.
Radiohead – “You and Whose Army?”
So, Radiohead, what can you tell us about that?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I tried to find my favorite song of theirs, but there are so many. It’s like with Dylan and Bowie. They have so many albums I can just listen to all the way through. For 10-15 years I think, I loved them non-stop. It’s also, I saw what it feels like to be completely absorbed by music seeing them live. Through Thom Yorke, because he is the one I look at. I can see something almost animal-like, that I have rarely seen. Another way of making music.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: And you chose another song even more contemporary than Radiohead, Blood Orange, from New York, where you live now, who performs with you in the “Deadly Valentine” music video. Here is a short sample.
Blood Orange – “Best To You”
Tell us a bit about this musician, Blood Orange.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Meeting him didn’t happen by accident, I asked to meet him. I didn’t know much about his work. He actually advised me… He then became a friend and I asked him for a lot of advice about my lyrics. In English. Just to be sure if I was going in the right direction. In French I have enough perspective and knowledge. In English, I fumble a bit more. My mother helped me, but he comforted me, telling me I was going in the right direction. Then, I knew he is a great dancer, and asked him to take part in a music video. All of that was new to me, being behind the video camera. It really was a new adventure. And he played along with it. And since then I saw him live, I saw him in Tokyo. He has become a close friend. I’m happy that we… It’s not necessarily coincidental, but there was a certain affinity, which gave way to friendship.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Another important chapter of your playlist which is linked to your new album is film soundtracks. Which is very important to you. It has influenced your music and you have been in a lot of films with music in them. So we are going to listen to a few samples from film soundtracks. Firstly, the ones that count a lot for you. One of the first ones. I think your father recommended this music.
Judy Garland – “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
Judy Garland, it’s not the movie’s version but we’ll pretend. Do you remember this?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes. I really was brought up with a lot of musicals, which was more my mother’s doing. But at my father’s house, once they had separated, we watched a lot of films and The Wizard of Oz was one of them. And he always said… That song was, in his opinion, one of the most beautiful songs ever made. It was Judy Garland’s voice, obviously…
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Did you also see this at your father’s house?
John Williams – “Theme from Jaws”
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: That one’s my mother’s fault. She took me to London when I was 4 I think. When it came out I was 4 I think. She took Kate and I to London where the film wasn’t banned. I saw this film and it traumatized me.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Jaws for those of you who didn’t recognize it.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It’s incredible, the soundtrack has haunted me ever since. I remember everything. Of course I saw the film again. I listened to it again, with great pleasure. It is a very prominent memory.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Now we’re going to move on to soundtracks from films you have played in. This one I really like. That’s from the soundtrack of L’Éffrontée.
Ricchi e Poveri – “Sarà Perchè Ti Amo”
What memories come to mind hearing that?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It was the first film after Love Songs where I had a main role. I spent 2 months filming, alone with the team. With Claude Miller, who I did a film with afterwards. I think it’s my fondest memory from the film set. This song already existed when we started filming. They would put it on during the scene where everyone was walking, with Julie. The music from films is not necessarily something you remember from the film set. It’s not necessarily very present. This song really followed me through my first acting experience.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Here is another song from a film you must remember because it was with Lars Von Trier, a major director you’ve worked with. And you were actually the one who performed this song. An extract from Nymphomaniac…
Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Hey Joe”
“Hey Joe,” a Jimi Hendrix cover.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It was done quite late on, once we had finished the film with Lars. He actually wanted me to ask Beck. I wasn’t sure that Beck would accept but he was really up for it. Even though we had already made an album together this time we recorded our parts alone. He made the music, heavily influenced by my father’s work and I sung my parts alone in a studio. So it wasn’t a project we came together for but I was really happy that Lars asked me to do it. Until that point, it was our third film together, and I didn’t think he thought of me as a singer. I don’t even know which of my films he’s seen other than his own, so I could be perceived by him in a new way. The final product was less important than the fact he asked me to do it.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: You spoke about Beck who you worked with on this track. Now we are going to talk about your albums, you did Charlotte For Ever in 1986. Then, 20 years later you did 5:55 that you recorded with Air, Jarvis Cocker and Neil Godrich. Then you did two albums with Beck, especially IRM.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: IRM, then we did a live performance.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Stage Whisper.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It wasn’t an album, it was live recordings. We added extra songs we already had done with Beck and some other collaborations.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: We’re going to listen to a song from the album IRM, well it’s actually the song “IRM.”
Charlotte Gainsbourg – “IRM”
“IRM,” with Beck.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I really love his writing style. I really respect his work so when I asked him I didn’t expect him to say yes. We met up in the studio and he said, for the both of us, we’d have to see if it worked well together. We did three songs together, “Heaven Can Wait” was one of the first ones. We realized that we had good musical chemistry Then I went back, and the album was made bit by bit at his house in Los Angeles. And at each stage, it took a new direction. I went to see him and I had just had a serious accident and had to do some MRI scans. I had done a lot of them. So I felt like the best way for me to personally involve myself in the album was to speak about that and make music about it. There wasn’t a negative side to it because MRIs are reassuring now. So I really wanted to find a musical element to it. And Beck’s response was that he couldn’t think of something more exciting. Because he would start off with the rhythm and that’s why the percussion album was important. The beginning of every song originated from a rhythm he had either recorded before and I saw the tracks being created with him and it really was magical understanding how he composed songs and how he wrote. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t really try to write at that point. It was so easy for him, he’d go away with his notebook and come up with stuff just like that.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: I recall there being some parts of Apolinaire’s poems sampled in “La Collectionneuse.”
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, because when he was writing he managed to put into words exactly what I meant. So I tried to find other sources of inspiration and direct him on other songs to make the album more personal. And Apollinaire was an easy one to delve into.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: So we talked about your new album Rest, we’ve already heard two tracks. This time you worked with SebastiAn, a well-known producer in the French electronic sphere. He started off at Ed Banger Records and has done many projects since. He’s worked with Philippe Katerine, Frank Ocean. How was it working with him? We’re going to listen to two new tracks, not the two last releases though.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: When I did the live performance, well the second one with Connan Mockasin, we got to know each other with Connan and he was convinced I had to write in French and he wanted to help me. So we started doing work sessions together, he was on the guitar. I had less inhibitions because he doesn’t understand French. So I started trying to put words to his music. I left with a few songs I liked. But I knew, I mean not “but,” just after that I started thinking about a new album. And electronic music had already become a vital element a long time ago. It’s a style of music I love. And listening to SebastiAn and discovering his work, I realised that all the violence, brutality and orchestration in his songs, the very broad and brutal element to it, was what I wanted. And I wanted to see if my voice, that isn’t very strong, would mix with that kind of universe. And some of my inspiration came from film soundtracks, that were all horror films with very heavy atmospheres.
I went to see him, no, he came to my house. And our first meeting wasn’t very promising. It’s a shame he isn’t here because we laugh about it now. He was very sure of himself and he was right in saying that I needed to sing in French that I should sing more like I did in my first album that I did with my father. You might say he was lecturing me. But I found him to be very charming in spite of that.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: A bit arrogant?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes. He was playing a part, like all shy people do. I found that touching. Anyway, not a lot happened after that. I gave him a list of film soundtracks, there was some Georges Delerue in there too. There was a lot of music that people in the electronic sphere know about, like [Giorgio] Moroder. That kind of style. But there was also Psycho, more orchestrated pieces. And some classical music. There was also Béla Bartók that inspired me. My ambition was chaotic. He replied with, I think, five demos which were exactly what I was hoping for. It was all I had dreamt for. So I replied but… You know SebastiAn, he’s really tough! He’s really hard to catch, so we met several times. We had several work sessions, which weren’t because we didn’t get any results, and by that time I had recorded with Guy-Man[uel de homem-christo] the song “Rest,” Which was just a side project, an encounter because I admire him a lot. He had a loop he wanted to show me. I started to write with Guy-Man, I used my personal notes, diaries.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Your notebooks.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: My sister had just passed away, so we shortened it down and tried to abridge what I wanted to say. Looking back we did it in quite a naive way but it was very spontaneous. So that was done. After that I needed to leave Paris. I moved to New York. At that point SebastiAn finally understood we had to do the album then, and that he had to come. So he came and it finally took shape.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Here is a snippet of one of the more electronic tracks.
(music: Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Les Oxalis”)
So to hear the rest you’ll have to wait till the 17th of November. “Les Oxalis,” a song in French.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It’s one of the last ones we recorded. Not necessarily the last one, but… We wanted to make something more uptempo. And I really wanted to use that text with this song. And SebastiAn wasn’t…
GERALDINE SARRATIA: It’s quite a sad text, right? Visiting a cemetery.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: He was scared I wouldn’t take responsibility for it afterwards. And for me that’s what the album was about. There are texts, they aren’t all painful but… With some very personal and intimate content. And I wanted there to be a contrast with the music. Given the shamelessness of my texts I needed there to be a bit of modesty in the music. And I believe that SebastiAn really understood that and he made me understand that loss and grief could pass through violence and not just by indulging in one’s own misfortune. And that’s what I wanted to express with this album. That’s the last song of the album. And after that the style is nearly, I would say disco. There is what you might call an antithesis Nut that’s what I was hoping for.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Here’s another extract.
(music: Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Lying With You”)
Another one where here you aren’t particularly gentle with yourself. It’s “Lying With You.” So “Lying With You” is about your father’s death.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, it’s one of the first texts I wrote. It is what it is. My memory of him is torn between my childhood memories and that moment when I saw him dead. It is… I think I wanted to speak about him in a blunt way. And for it to be… It is a declaration of love but, I’m tougher in French than in English. And in English I’m a lot more affectionate, in the English choruses. So by speaking in English I could distance myself and embrace him and I used French to be a bit more vindictive. It was very important to me to be able to talk about that. There are some songs I wrote before my sister passed away. It became compulsive, I could only write about her. But I had tried to do so before, I had started this record beforehand. Yes, as if the necessity demands you to do certain things which gave rise to this record. Along with the trip to New York that enabled me to write because, even if I wrote this text in Paris, after that, I allowed myself to be shameless, self-critical yet still constructive. It’s precisely because I was in an unknown place, completely isolated. I could rediscover myself and go through a sort of rebirth. I had to push myself into this new life. It’s a mix of… It is a moment of my life as well. Even if it took 3 or 4 years it is still a moment of my life.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: It’s an excellent record in any case. We have reached the end of this lecture, we have finished our playlist. So now is the time if you have any questions, please let us know. Are we going to give the microphone to the audience or is there an extra one?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Firstly, thank you very much for this conversation. There is a song that really touched me in the IRM album that my father got me for my birthday, it was a few years ago, I was very young and at the time, there was a song I didn’t understand. Since I now have the opportunity to ask, “Le Chat du Café des Artistes,” it’s a song that delves into a very particular atmosphere. I believe the lyrics go… “If you won’t bury me…” I can’t remember properly now I’m caught in the moment.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I’m not going to remember either.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I wanted to know if you remember the way you recorded it?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: It’s not a song I knew of before, Beck made me listen to it. And I translated it for him. The lyrics are very strange. Mysterious yet trashy at the same time. I met the original artist, whose name is Jean-Pierre Ferland I think. In any case, I met him in Montréal. He is a Canadian artist. It was magical, but I love the original, you should give it a listen. There are children singing on it, it’s quite lovely.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: If you wouldn’t mind could I read you a poem I wrote for you?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Oh really?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I don’t know if I should read it?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Of course you should! It’s very brave of you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It doesn’t have a title yet. “A rasping cough, Along the cords, A vocal snack, a bitumen snack, On my tongue while yours, Naked in a surgical fog, Nothing left, over a drink, Not one bubble left, To rip the blindfold from my eyes. You fit me like a glove. You are here yet absent. Like the last sigh of a child, You absorb me. A sofa in the decor. The decor of my soul. A lie in a few sounds. A nightmare in a few gestures. I only have a few memories left. Don’t steal them from me, Before my tears can avoid it.” That’s it.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Well done!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Can I give it to you?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Definitely. Can you tell me more about it? Thank you very much.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I wrote it just before I got here whilst listening to IRM, which is a really important album to me. And thank you very much for the new album.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. I think your next album comes out late November?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: November 17th, yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Are you going to do a live concert?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I would like to. I’m counting on SebastiAn, but today he didn’t come when he was supposed to. I hope he’ll be there when we are supposed to play together. I’d like to do it with him. And maybe one other artist. I’m hoping to find… I find that, I need more than just my own presence behind a microphone. It’s not enough. I like there to be something more visual, for it to cost me. I like there to be an effort so I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but I’m working on it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. There are so many questions I’ve been meaning to ask you but I’ve just chosen one. I’ve seen you live a few times. You sang “Couleur Café” and L’Hôtel Particulier. I’m disappointed because Hôtel Particulier is sublime and isn’t on Stage Whisper.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, but, everything I performed live was rubbish, I didn’t like it. I forced myself to do this record that I liked a lot less.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ok. So my question is why did you choose a cheerful song like “Couleur Café” from your father’s work?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Because it was a percussion track, which made sense with the album with Beck. That’s why. And maybe it was because it was a more cheerful… It was a pleasure to… I think my mother does that song too. Maybe before I did. Maybe I copied her. That’s all, it’s not my favorite song of his but it made sense when making this album and the way we made it with Beck.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question about the music video for “Deadly Valentine,” that I really like. I was wondering why you didn’t ask your mother to play the old lady?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I know, I know.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It would have been…
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, it would have been good. But I didn’t dare ask because it was in New York, she was busy with her concerts. If I film my mother, I have filmed her since, I went to Japan, I started filming on my own, and I’ll be able to do six video clips. It was a real challenge to begin with. I pushed myself and thanks to my friend Nathalie Canguilhem who pushed me too. Who assisted me throughout the whole project. Ever since, I have realised if there is one person I want to film, it’s my mother. I went to Japan and followed her. I want to do something with it but it’s not finished yet. There you have it. It would have been ideal to have her, but there you go. I didn’t even talk to her about doing it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Oh yes?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: No. I was too reserved, I didn’t dare.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello Charlotte
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Hello.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Was “Couleur Café” an allusion to your father? He finished his shows with “Couleur Café.”
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Ok.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: He would finish on “Couleur Café.”
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I think my mother ended one of her concerts with “Couleur Café.”
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes she did.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Well, there you go, I’m not very original.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Could you bring out your album a bit earlier perhaps?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: I want it to be released too! I’ve been living with it for a long time now. But I’m happy because we need to do the visual part and I have been taking photos for it too. I have a much more active role for the first time. We have finalized the music and now we are finalizing the images. And November is the time necessary to achieve that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Perfect, thank you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello Charlotte, I have a question. This time you wrote all the texts for the album. Could we hope that you make the music next time? That you play a bit of piano?
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Yes, I don’t play the piano on this album.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, I mean on the next one. The 6th one.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: The problem is that I started off playing classical music, at the age of 9. I only know how to play classical music, I lacked the dexterity to try doing jazz and improvise. It’s something I lack. Of course I’m tempted I’m tempted to just try some melodies. I’d love to be able to. I’d hope to one day, maybe not the next one. I do love collaborating, I love what emerges from an encounter. I feel like this album really is my album. But SebastiAn played along with me and lent me his personality because that is really a part of it too. There is his sense of humour. I mean, it’s not a comedy album. There really is his personal touch to it. And I like using other people’s personal touch.
GERALDINE SARRATIA: Ok guys, time’s up, thank you to you all.
CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG: Thank you everyone and for the warm welcome.