Caturday with Sébastien Tellier

Words:
Gemma Lacey

 Sébastien Tellier has been seduced by domesticity, eschewing his former party lifestyle. We find him swigging Stella and smoking cigarettes as he waxes lyrical on the perfect scent of dish soap, his love affair with LA and why structure is essential to his happiness.

GL: Your music has always had an epic sensibility to it, which is one of many reasons it lends itself so well to soundtracks, was that deliberate when you started to write?
ST: For me, I never have this in mind at the start, I have a story I want to tell and the music is there to share that. With soundtracks there’s more challenges, the story is already written so the music has a very specific way to go.
GL: Do you feel this new album gives a sense of your current lifestyle and what is it about domesticity that has inspired you so much?
ST: This all came about from a conversation with Sofia Coppola, we were speaking about my current life and she described me as a tamed wolf who had become domesticated. For me I love everything about this life, and the routine, when I’m washing dishes, even the perfume of the soap holds magic for me.
GL: Speaking of Sofia Coppola, you have a long term creative collaboration with her, can you tell us more about that?
ST: She heard my music and wanted me to create some songs for her movie and it really changed my life. I come from a suburb of Paris. It’s a sad suburb and totally without culture, there’s a movie theater that’s it.
GL: Was that the beginning of your love affair with Los Angeles, and can you tell us more about it?
ST: I discovered Los Angeles through the eyes of Sofia Coppola, it was really magic for me. When we started working together we would go out to drink or eat dinner, I discovered the city and in a way the whole US, so it was super exciting and super intense, for me it was a real dream. I was awake but wo!. I remember one day I went to her place and Nicholas Cage was there drinking beer in the kitchen. It was like “ Wow! I’m drinking a beer with Nick Cage!”  I told myself “Well done Seb!” It was exciting to talk with famous people, Hollywood stars. Sofia was someone who introduced me into a new world and that became important to my process, my life and my point of view in the world too. I discovered something so intense and new, and it cemented for me the need to be an international artist, not just French, I needed to see what could happen. It gave me a new perspective on my dream as an artist, suddenly big things I’d thought of were not so far that I couldn’t touch it. Sometimes Sofia would take some of my songs for her movies and she also married a friend of mine, Thomas and sometimes she works with Chanel so I can see her at the show. Our lives are very connected. She is fantastic, very intelligent and beautiful, she’s very cool.
GL: Both Paris and Los Angeles are romantic cities, do you feel their cultures mesh well because of this?
ST: Yes! It’s true, also my favourite flight in the world is  Paris to LA, it’s very comfortable. When I was young, I was always in front of the TV watching American movies, like other people of my age. American Culture shaped my vision of the world and shaped my taste in terms of stories, music and so on. To have this link between Paris which is very French, a lot of people here are from other places but it’s still very French and not such an international city. To have a link with Los Angeles, they really create something for people all over the world. When you’re in Los Angeles, you’re also kind of everywhere. It’s like an Octopus, and by comparison Paris is a bull.
GL: Another collaborator of yours is Dita Von Teese, what was special about creating the record with her?
ST: I take a lot of pleasure to work with her because she’s super sweet and super clever. When you see her in real life, she’s so very pale, her skin is super white, with very black hair. I was waiting for her in the parking lot in Los Angeles and she came in a very black Mercedes, dressed in all black, with her face radiating like a ghost. She likes to joke, to drink, and party, she’s very fun. It was cool to work with her, besides that crazy side. She has a very studious professional side, and serious about her work. It was fun to spend time together but in the studio, she was very focused. I’m very happy about the record and production, it’s silky and low fi but not too low fi,  it’s glamorous, which makes it very special.
GL: Speaking of your own record, you’ve said that looking at a toaster, gave you the inspiration to make it, can you tell us more?
ST: Domestication was not a choice for me, it took me! Since I’ve had kids, I am not the master of my life, I am a puppet. You try to follow and swim but the current is stronger than you, in this record I try to explain that. If you want to eat, you have to cook, you must bathe, there are all these rules and things to remember. For many people it could be a nightmare to be domesticated but what I explain is that for me, I found happiness in domesticated life, a kind of structure for myself. Before that I was partying and life had no shape.
GL: So you enjoy the structure?
ST: In a way when you’re an artist, you’re a kid forever but I need rules so I’m not totally lost. I need a way to follow, it’s important to have that for me to be happy and now I’m much happier, even as a slave than a totally free savage or young person.
GL: Before you had kids, how did you create structure for yourself? Or did that not exist.
ST: It was different, before I tried to have a different life between each album. Now I have two lives at the same time. I’m an artist in the studio and on stage and in front of journalists and besides that I have married life as a Dad and I just switch, like that between the two. It’s not painful, it’s easy.
I wear a more classy jacket, I do my hair, but during these five minutes I make a change. In one day I have two different days. In the morning, I’m making sure the kids have shoes and socks, but after I have eight hours and then at night I’m back as a dad. I find a good balance.
When you do music you have to think about yourself a lot and the record how you look and your style. Now my life is not just about that, I have to think about my family and I believe I find a good balance.
GL: Do your kids enjoy your music?
ST: Not really, maybe La Ritournelle, because it’s a very important song for me and they know a few songs from the last album. I did a few videos which are more like  cartoons which they love. 
When they say at the end of the day, did you have a good day papa? I say, yeah, I played some piano. If you want to test your music, the best way is to play it with kids but I drink whisky with my friends and play it to them. My son is seven and my daughter is three so they’re a little too young to bring to the studio.
GL: Before you had kids, how did you create structure for yourself? Or did that not exist.
ST: It was different, before I tried to have a different life between each album. Now I have two lives at the same time. I’m an artist in the studio and on stage and in front of journalists and besides that I have married life as a Dad and I just switch, like that between the two. It’s not painful, it’s easy. I wear a more classy jacket, I do my hair, but during these five minutes I make a change. In one day I have two different days. In the morning, I’m making sure the kids have shoes and socks, but after I have eight hours and then at night I’m back as a dad. I find a good balance. When you do music you have to think about yourself a lot and the record how you look and your style. Now my life is not just about that, I have to think about my family and I believe I find a good balance.
GL: Do your kids enjoy your music?
ST: Not really, maybe La Ritournelle, because it’s a very important song for me and they know a few songs from the last album. I did a few videos which are more like  cartoons which they love. When they say at the end of the day, did you have a good day papa? I say, yeah, I played some piano. If you want to test your music, the best way is to play it with kids but I drink whisky with my friends and play it to them. My son is seven and my daughter is three so they’re a little too young to bring to the studio.
GL: Do you have favourite songs?
ST: L’amour et la violence, because artists are always talking about love and to be generous but when you’re an artist, it’s really because you have a lot of hate and rage. To describe who you are, it’s better to say what you hate the most. All my friends and I hate the same things and after we establish that we can love different things, but if we hate the same things it creates a bond. The real basis of relationships is what you hate. This is why that song is important to me, it contains love and violence, the opposites, and how they coexist for me. It’s who I am and  a good definition of that, I’m not just someone with a beard making love songs, I have a lot of rage in me too.
GL: Do you have a vision for how you want people to enjoy the record live?
ST: I try to do something very natural, because the last record is very produced and electronic. My wish is to be very natural on stage, without a computer so I can choose the tempo of the song. When you tour with the computer, you’re it’s slave, it gives the tempo, the structure. Now I prefer to create on stage, a new version of my song, as a fan of music that’s how I would wish to experience it, to see an artist create a new version of the song on stage and so in that way the goal of my tour is that. 
GL: Are you very focused and calculated in how you work, or do you go more on instinct?
ST: I calculate a lot but it’s in the air, my best day in the studio is when I don’t rehearse. I’m much better when I’m spontaneous and natural. I calculate because my brain is that way but it’s never  a part of the result.  When I make the take, I prefer to forget everything and just do it. Sometimes I think maybe I follow my heart too much in my music and I could be more commercial, I may think that in the taxi on the way to the studio but in the studio I forget. It seems so important for a moment but then poof!
GL: You’re very known for how you express yourself through style too. Can you tell us more about that?
ST: There’s an overlap between fashion and my world for example when I played the Chanel show. In that way I collaborated with Karl to make a beautiful vision and the music was a complement to the art and beauty of the show and the outfits.
In terms of what I wear for this record, the green suit is Lanvin,I like it because it’s important to them to make a good suit, it’s fluid around the body.  I try to be beautiful in how I dress and this just drapes around the body and moves with you.
GL: Finally, You made a playlist for us, can you tell us about some of the choices on there?
ST: Some of this music was very formative for me, for example Robert Wyatt, I was listening to other music, then I heard this and it was like “Pow” it made such an impact on me and in some ways it’s too much emotion for me, so to listen to again it’s crazy. In terms of the other tracks, I was waiting for a long time for an artist like Travis Scott, because the music he creates is exactly what I like. You can take an RNB beat, with a country guitar and sing one part with a vocoder and another gospel style. If you think of music as a salad, Travis Scott makes a very tasty salad, in the way he mixes things together. He just does what he likes, what’s important is the song not the genre. Making a playlist can be quite difficult  for me, because when I listen to the radio, I say I love this song! But then it;s hard for me to remember which one it is. So it takes me a lot of work, it’s a real job to torture my brain. Even for my own songs I forget the title. It takes me maybe twenty minutes, ( he laughs) not one week, but I have to work on it, it’s not natural for me.
GL: What’s something that it would surprise people to know about you?
ST: I’m very lazy but doing a lot of things, but I always make an effort, if I listen to myself, I’d be on the sofa eating cookies, so I have to fight to make myself do things.

Listen to Sebastien’s playlist here

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