Dominique A, twenty years on
Complete collection and concert-happening
To celebrate two decades since he released his first album, La Fossette, Dominique A is pulling out the stoppers. Along with remastered editions of his eight albums and a new album due out in March, he’ll be re-creating his seminal minimalist pop opus on stage, in partnership with Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville. One of France’s most unusual singers shares his thoughts on past and present.
RFI Musique: Why did you choose this anniversary date to launch your retrospective?
Dominique A: It was important to go past the usual sell-by date for a CD, which is generally a couple of years. When the Théâtre de la Ville asked me to create a concert with a fresh interpretation of La Fossette, it was a perfect occasion to re-release the album and give it a dust down so that those outside my circle of fans could get to know it. And then there were all these albums still on my old record label that had pretty much gone dormant and I decided to revive them.
The retrospective angle is only interesting because it’s counterbalanced by something new. I knew that I was going to be working with new songs in parallel. My relationship with the present is always tied up with the past.
Listening to it again, there’s a freshness about la Fossette that just doesn’t seem possible nowadays.
I think that whole era sounds about as prehistoric now as the Beatles did to me in 1985 when I was 17! My first album was recorded on a cassette recorder at my parents’ without any career plans in view. That way of doing things is completely over. I’m impressed by how totally professional new artists are, but the innocence has gone. Young people coming along now already know all the ins and outs of the trade. Back in 1992, I didn’t know anything.
Do you feel like you belong to that particular generation (people like Miossec and Katerine, etc.), constantly sitting somewhere between underground and mega success?
I understood it afterwards, when I read an article saying that apart from Katerine’s late success, the scene never really took off with the general public. Actually, it concerns me even more than the others. Miossec has a broader audience than I have, and Katerine found some kind of glory with Louxor. But we never became neo-Souchon or neo-Lavilliers. The next generation got more coverage by laying a greater claim on French chanson. Ours was a much less unifying niche, singing Anglo-American indie pop in French.
Still, you had some success at the time of la Mémoire Neuve.
I dipped in my toes, but the water was cold! (Laughter) Things have opened up a bit more since La Musique (Ed’s note: his latest album). I can feel something happening out there, a new generation taking interest in my music. I see it in the ticket sales and the numbers at the concerts. The funny thing is, I get increasing recognition for my concerts, but that’s the side of my work that interests me the least. I much prefer writing and being in the studio, and feeling a song emerge.
Looking back, which record are you most proud of now? And are there any you can’t bear listening to?
Although I don’t have a particular favourite, I’d say the last two. I quite like L’Horizon, with its really spatial approach and discreet rhythm, and its two long songs L’Horizon and Rue des Marais, which are two of my best. I also like Auguri, which still sounds pretty fresh.
There are none that I can’t stand listening to. The weakest ones are probably Si je connais Harry, which doesn’t have a central thread, and Tout sera comme avant, because bits of it are turgid. There are even a few tracks on which I’m absent, it’s pretty odd.
All of the others work in their own ways. The most problematic is probably
Remué, which is a good album but I can’t bear the voice, or the memories of my personal life at the time I recorded it.
What kind of album are you planning on bringing out in March?
It will have the energy of Auguri, and the orchestral ambition of the best bits of Tout sera comme avant. Like Auguri, it’ll be a varied album, with a mix of some really rock numbers and more Motown tracks. In other words, it’s an open album that a bunch of different people will, I hope, enjoy.
Dominique A L’Intégrale (EMI/Cinq7) 2012
Playing live on 26 and 27 January at the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, and 12 April at Lieu Unique in Nantes