Over the last decades, Nathalie Noennec helps close and distant stars shine.
LET’ S START WITH THE END, THAT IS TO SAY, NOW, WITH ÉTIENNE DAHO
In majesty ! Soon, it will be 3 decades of near communion. The Daho l’aime Pop project (La Philharmonie de Paris, until the 29/04/18), took us through the history of pop music for a whole year. Etienne was associate curator with the brilliant Tristan Bera and then, I was co-co-curator. This exhibition draws and establishes the filiations according to Daho, his genealogy. It gives birth to a highlight of those artists whom I loved, who for me, were in a kind of darkness, without forgetting those who point and already embody the future. Seventy years of pop music, from Charles Trenet to Flavien Berger. A photographic journey inseparable from its sound counterpart, the fundamentals of Etienne’s record library. Famous strangers such as Dashiell Hedayat, alias Pierre-Alain Léger, alias Daniel Théron, alias Melmoth, alias Paul Smaïl, alias Eve Saint-Roch, French rock shooting star, (Gong movement, ndlr), or Isabelle (niece of) de Funès, model, photographer and singer. Artists who, to the eyes and ears of Etienne, have a value as fundamental as (Juliette) Greco, the Stinky Toys and others. Threads stretch between the members of his musical and aesthetic families. If you take Benjamin Biolay, on the same line, two decades earlier, you’ll meet Alain Bashung. This is our sound, visual and literary cartography, with, very far away, the coruscant Charles Trenet, invigorating and ennobling the ritornello. In three and a half minutes, we’re close to the haiku.
AT THE SAME TIME
BLITZ, Etienne releases his new album. Also the culmination of a year of collaboration. Since the original portrait by Pierre et Gilles, as the gentle sailor, each of the 13 studio albums is an opportunity for a renewal of his image that often takes place through and undoubtedly by virtue of the quasi virginity of his collaborators in the field of music, whether they are graphic designers, RVB BOOKS (Matthieu Charon and Rémi Faucheux) or photographers as Pari Dukovic, who worked on his new album.
AT THE SAME TIME 2
A new book entitled Avant la vague, published by RVB BOOKS (them again). In 1978, before Etienne signed with anyone, or even he himself emerged, Pierre-René Worms, a photographer – who knew Marquis de Sade and the (Stinky) Toys, all the young modern people of the time – began to follow this guy with his camera. This book is the testimony of the pre-Daho years, accompanied by a demented impressionist text written by Sylvie Coma, who was then living among this gang from Rennes. It is an infinitely precious privilege to have been able to work on these archives.
A THOUSAND PEOPLE
Etienne had this track that was very successful, Bleu comme toi, with this rather avant-garde music video directed by Zbigniew Rybczyski (Oscar-winner since 1983), and, icing on the cake, the cover was by Guy Pellaert, the painter of the rock scene, (Pravda La survireuse – exact negative of Françoise Hardy – Diamond dogs (Bowie), It’s only Rock’ n roll (Rolling Stones). Daho was no longer an underground artist at all, he also had this mega hit in 1984, Week-end à Rome, on which France danced for many years.
For the trivia, Etienne had never set foot in Rome. I already had a huge secret admiration for him. With Laurent, my best friend, we followed him with a great attention, I bought all his singles (Laurent stole them). Etienne always specifies that only a thousand people owned his first album, Mythomane, produced by Frank Darcel (Marquis de Sade) and Jacno. I’m one of these people. Buying an album was a feverish, almost militant act, there was a lot of tracking and reflection, then you had to finance or steal, depending on your culture. For Laurent, it was easy, he hid everything in his huge portfolio, as for me, I was too scared.
I was the first one/the pioneer. The position of image art director did not yet exist in France. Our first album was a live one, Daholympia. I introduced the photographer Antoine Legrand to Étienne, and it was the beginning of several years of collaboration. We also worked on some studio albums and then I left Virgin for Source – and finally came Les chansons de l’innocence, with Richard Dumas, we all remember his controversial photo showing Daho in this ideal and private garden, embraced to this young woman flaunting her immensely poetic body, then the last one (Blitz), which echoe each in his own way, the very first portrait by Pierre & Gilles.
Monument of French culture – he defends himself against it – and did not wait for me to exist. He has this natural and effortless elegance. When I met him, it was a very precious moment in my career. To discover this man and his fantasy, his jokes, he doesn’t especially want to be looked at, let alone photographed, but he approaches all that like a game, and it’s so rare.
Standing on a couch playing the clown, at his feet, some blurry girls wearing black evening dresses, that’s him. Alain, like Gainsbourg, is someone whose silhouette can be evoked simply. When Jean-Philippe Delhomme made his portrait, he drew him with a white shirt rolled up at the sleeves, wearing skinny jeans a bit like that, that’s him.
He calls it: his foam. No calculation or artifice with him, which always arouses the desire to bring him towards particular collaborations. I was lucky enough to listen to the demos of La vie Théodore, a tribute album to Théodore Monot, the explorer. The lyrics were pretty dark. We had the great honour of working with Paolo Roversi. The result, which I love, raised rather mixed reactions from the record company, some people thought the picture was too sad and feared the effects of this discrepancy with Alain’s usual fantasy. It is precisely my role to make sure that both contents and container are in harmony, or not. This image did not betray the message, on the contrary. With Alain, my mission is light and always funny. Each album is an opportunity to pass on to the public what’s so special about him, his elegance, his beauty; since he’s not there, he won’t contradict me, so here I repeat: The Beauty of Alain !
Almost nine years, it was the beginning of his career. Now, my pleasure, my pride in a way, is to have succeeded in introducing him to M&M, the graphic designers and to see the unfailing attachment that has resulted from it, they’ve been working together for over 12 years.
Benjamin finds it very difficult to see himself in a photo, and he didn’t want to be the centerpiece of his album covers. I managed, step by step, to make him understand that his music had to be embodied. There was this first picture by Craig McDean, a close-up portrait with his dark eyes deeply rooted in us. The Benjamin/M&M collaboration has evolved over the years, until, sometimes, Benjamin is absent from the cover, then back, and so on. The last one, from the album Volver, is once again perfect, it shows at its best their respective trademark. This very beautiful picture by Karim Sadli and this harmony with his musical fantasy. They’ve found a way to play with his image that fits them perfectly.
She already had a very powerful image, we know her sublime Parisienne silhouette like a Kiraz drawing. She approached a new continent: music. It was very important to think about how to transpose her into this world and try to approach Sandrine Kiberlain the author. I worked with Vincent Bergerat, ahem, (laughs), a very good art director, then we called Jan Welters, to whom we asked to do something very pure, very simple, in the line of what Steve Hiett would have done a few years earlier, a portrait of Sandrine as intimate as possible, like a close-up from a movie, or rather as an entire movie that would sum up in this image, with her hair floating, reproduced in various places on the cover in delicate graphics, it worked perfectly.
I had just joined Philippe Ascoli at Source. Unbelievable luck, I worked on the single Modulor, then Moon Safari, Air’s first album, totally unknown at this time, it was one of the label’s first signatures. One can imagine the energy given to this first project. Philippe was obsessed by the idea of working with Mike Mills (illustrator, photographer, director, author, among others, of graphic works for the Beastie Boys), it was a perfect understanding from beginning to end, the musicians, Jean-Benoît Dunkel and Nicolas Godin were extremely enthusiastic, and the album sold very well, (2M copies).
It was quite peculiar, these two boys from Versailles, they were not easy to show. Nicolas Godin is a great aesthete and Jean-Benoît is a dreamer. They have models and very strong references, the cover of Bob Dylan’s album by Milton Glaser (black profile / hair in vivid scrolls of color) for instance. I didn’t want to disappoint or betray them, nor their manager and friend, Marc Tessier-Ducros (Record Makers). He also had a very clear vision of what Air could and did become. It’s therefore listening, which can will bring all this small world to this image, the album cover, that will define them for a moment or forever.
Careful listening, this is undoubtedly where my know-how resides, I’ve been doing it for thirty years.
At Source: Raggasonic, Terry Moïse, Sourcelab 1 (illustrated by Jean-Paul Goude) and 2, China (Jean-Baptiste Mondino), 16 years old; today, all artists are 16 years old, but in 1995, it was special, her mother came to sign the contract for her.
94’/95’, our meeting, for Première consultation, Doc Gynéco’s first album. I started working on the artwork, then there was a short break when my daughter (Pauline Foussat, from Paulette Zoute) was born. Thierry Planelle, the artistic director with whom I worked at Virgin, knew exactly what he wanted for Bruno. Again, a perfect alchemy. Nicolas Hidiroglou’s pictures of Bruno in his teenager bedroom are very innocent, and reflect perfectly the hip hop aesthetics of the 90’s. It works in an irresistible way, the spontaneity of the place and the artist, with this typography inscribed without disturbances in the Zeitgeist; to the point that the record label used the exact same artwork, unchanged, 20 years later, when Doc came back.
NOUVELLE STAR (M6)
Starting a TV career at 52 is quite special. I relied on the other members of the jury (including Benjamin Biolay), who each have a direct relationship with music, my role was complementary. I hadn’t measured the amount of work involved in auditioning 400 candidates, singing several songs in several languages.
I can say that nowadays, the French sing much better in English than before. Everyone sings every day on their own Youtube channel, we’ve made good progress ! Two astonishments: excellence for some people and precocity for others, sometimes the same. Beni, 16, arrived in the semi-final, I was impressed.
On the other hand, Mozart was… 5 ?
Off the stage, I tried to explain them the harshness of the job, the scarcity of places at the top. My role was to be benevolent, which I managed to remain, while working hard on my curiosity and open-mindedness. A few unforgettable moments, in various ways: Les Démons de Minuit, sung with a piano; young girls playing Claude Nougaro, I have beheld a truly French music heritage parade. Rihanna remains, however, the queen of these auditions and Booba, the absolute boss of urban music.
There were some massacres too, musical murders, people singing very, very out of tune. I rely more on my emotion than on the look, speech or photogenic of a candidate; always keeping in mind the nuance brought by dear Dany Synthé:”Today, in the studio, we can (re)do or change anything, add vocoders, Pro Tools, whatever”. I learned a lot of new English words.
It’s very confusing to become a subject, to be filmed, to speak and live in live, with all kinds of risks and pitfalls. To protect myself, I wanted to be dressed (as Lady Gaga, and sometimes Nicky Minaj, ndlr) by my friend Véronique Leroy, her clothes were my armour, her talent protected me. Thank you, St Véro.
*Photography by Stéphane Sednaoui
*Classified in Les 100 albums essentiels du rap, by Olivier Cachin and Joeystarr.
Daho likes it Pop exhibition at La Philharmonie de Paris
Before the wave, DAHO 78-81, collector’s edition Pierre René-Worms, Sylvie Coma