Sébastien Tellier continues on his way as an eccentric author with his latest album, “My God Is Blue”, based on ideas of religion and utopia. We spoke with him to find out more about his sound, a cross between Gainsbourg and Daft Punk.
Most mortals first heard of Sébastien Tellier in 2008, right when, of his own free will, he represented his native France in the oft-scorned Eurovision Festival. His scruffy beard and inseparable sunglasses were looked upon in amazement by millions of people on television. Nevertheless, he wasn’t just another of the freaks who swarm around contests of dubious repute, such as this one. Before transforming himself that same year into a carefree cult synth-pop performer, thanks to “Sexuality”, Tellier had left us two major works of French pop, “L’Incroyable Verité” (2001) and “Politics” (2004), alongside such glorious songs as “La Ritournelle” and “Fantino” (the latter even managed to find its way onto the soundtrack to “Lost In Translation”).
A few months ago, this gentleman of the new millennium released his latest title, “My God Is Blue” (Record Makers, 2012), a conceptual delirium that revolves around a fictitious “Alliance Bleue” where people are capable of finding happiness by seizing the day. This is the reason why we have decided to have a chat with him about his messianic mission, his songs, and the plans that are rolling around in his restless mind. Without letting go of his joint once during the 15-minute interview he gave us, Tellier once again shows us why he remains the same, one of those characters that the musical industry always needs.
"We’ve been slaves to ourselves for decades, losing both our freedom and our desire to enjoy ourselves"
Legend has it that the inspiration for “My God Is Blue” came to you after taking a sort of secret potion cooked up by a shaman in Los Angeles. As you can imagine, this sounds both bizarre and fascinating to us. What do you remember about that strange brew?
Let’s just say that my memories aren’t very clear. What that man gave me was a very strange greenish liquid. I would swear that it had some potato in it, but it tasted so horrible that it even upset my stomach. That was the negative part of the whole thing. Nevertheless, the best thing happened right away in my head. I felt free, as if I were surrounded by flowers in an indescribable place.
Was that the first time that you had experienced something like that?
Not exactly. When I was a teenager, I tried LSD and mushrooms. At the time I told myself that I didn’t need that sort of thing anymore because they’re drugs that are too strong for me. But that brew was really different, it was a great trip. I could never regret having tried something like that.
Are you still in contact with the shaman in question?
Well, no. To tell the truth, I don’t even remember how I ran into him [ laughs]. I was just relaxed looking around at guitars in some shops in Los Angeles and I ran into this sort of medicine man. It’s normal that we haven’t spoken since then because it was a very casual encounter and we really barely even know each other.
The album revolves around the concept of an imaginary world, christened as ‘L’Alliance Bleue’, in which freedom and hedonism go hand in hand in favour of happiness in a fictitious society. Do you think it would be possible to create a place like this in real life?
It would be very hard, although I would love for it to come true one day. We’ve been slaves to ourselves for decades, losing both our freedom and our desire to enjoy ourselves. The authorities might confuse ‘L’Alliance Bleue’ with some kind of sect, so you can imagine that both authorisation and grants would be hard to get. To be able to carry it out, it would take money, a lot of money. If someone wants to help me with this project, I would be thrilled.
With all of the disenchantment there is now in many European countries, I don’t think it would be very hard to get people to sign up for this sort of territorial carpe diem.
It would be very easy. But not only in Europe. I know a lot of people in Los Angeles or New York who feel like real outsiders of the system. Going out to eat at a restaurant or going dancing in a club is always good, but we need some more action in our lives. Sometimes I would love to take a Jaguar and crash it into a coffee shop. Just to do something unpredictable and senseless. Sometimes you just have to break the rules.
"I’m very clear: what I would like to do with the rest of my life is have sex, sing, and drink more"
Have you ever thought of going into politics so that your message can be heard by even more people?
I’m not at all interested in politics. I prefer philosophy, without a doubt. We have to learn to be happy without anyone imposing on us or telling us what to do. I’m very clear: what I would like to do with the rest of my life is have sex, sing, and drink more.
For your last sound project, you decided to do without Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, who you worked with on “Sexuality”, and to call on Mr. Flash for the production work. Has the change been for the better?
Mr. Flash has been a big help to me in moving the songs ahead, and besides that, he’s a great guy. He doesn’t impose his ideas, but he is just naturally able to give everything he touches a special light. Very few people can claim to have that gift for making songs greater. Artistically, it’s been a big step ahead for me.
Besides “ Magical Hurricane”, the latest synthetic Tellier that we are starting to get familiar with, after your pass through Eurovision with “ Divine”, predominates on the album. Have these last few years been when you’ve felt most at ease, creatively speaking?
I’m more aware of what I like and what I don’t, both in my career and in my personal life. All of this isn’t just a game to me, but something more. I dream a lot and I try to capture the ideas that come to me at that moment in the music. People may like what I do now or not, but I have never felt that I’ve deceived anyone with my work. I’m very proud of my present as an artist.
But I suppose that you understand that because of this sound metamorphosis that you undertook with “Sexuality”, your fans have become divided.
I am human and I make a living from my art. My music is one of the most important things in my life. So it’s logical that I feel a little bad when people don’t like what I do. But like I just said, I’m always honest about everything with everyone.
After talking about family in “L’Incroyable Verité”, politics in “Politics”, sex in “Sexuality” and religion in this last “My God Is Blue”, what is the next step?
I would love to share it with you, but I’d rather keep it secret so that when the time comes, it’s a big surprise. I can only tell you that I’ve started working on it and it’s going to be something very magical.
As far as your coming concerts in Spain go, on 9th and 10th November, what will people find?
It’s a real statement, in which I can express myself just as I am. I want to recreate that image of ‘L’Alliance Bleue’ through a lot of lights and effects. You’re going to love it.