Through Joe Hue
One of the most unique figures of the contemporary French music scene is back with a new show, his first for children. The alien creature there are several characters in a singular vocal and choreographic performance. He granted to 76news an interview before his concert this weekend at Rouen (Seine Maritime).
Nosfell: “I play with these codes”
News: You define Cristaux as a fantastic oratorio. So is it a biblical drama, without staging, costumes or sets?
Ourfell: No, I play around with the term oratorio, I play with these codes. It is a hybrid musical proposal. Even if there is a mystical component and the tragic aspect is quite there, there is not the austerity expected of an oratorio. There is a decor and a scenography pushed on the idea of an imaginary territory which posed technical problems for us, a very pronounced costume side. I play different characters with multiple voices. Doing all the roles, this desire for permanent metamorphosis, brings a certain frenzy. And concerning the fantastic side, it is completely, with an epic and very baroque side.
This is your first show for children in particular. Does it change the way of approaching the public?
: I come with an imaginary world that has been present since my first album. I thought it might be interesting to see how to offer my universe to children, assuming the presence of death, a form of melancholy and injecting the joy of living that gives me the pleasure of singing and playing. Afterwards, I will be too old. This is not a “children’s” show, but “all audiences”. It is nevertheless recommended for people over 7 years old, because the presence of the mask can be scary and the chiaroscuro at the start of the show can be distressing for the little ones. During confinement, I read all of Roald Dahl to my daughter. I spent a lot of time there, to fight the screens. The children in front of whom I play in the orchestra version are curious, ask questions about the scenography or the costume. It allows us to talk about their imagination, their relationship to the show, to nature. What is our place as an artist in the city? You have to come down a bit from your perch. It takes an effort to go to schools to meet children. I want it to become my culture.
“I am not a careerist”
Your show takes place in the context of the sudden disappearance of salt in salt marshes. How did you work on this aspect?
: I went to practice this ancestral gesture by going to pull the salt with a salt worker (synonymous with salt worker, operator of a salt marsh or a saltworks, Editor’s note) in Noirmoutier to feel the earth, understand things, states luminous, certain movements… Something touched me in this expectation, in these places, the last frontier between the ocean and the land, a fragile land. The salinity must be precisely at 300 grams per litre. It contains a bacterium which is believed to be one of the very first that the world has known. It’s a poetics that changed things in the scenario that I had established. There is a form of reincarnation, like a break in parallel worlds found in science fiction, with time loops being created.
You remain a bit of a UFO in the French musical landscape. How to reconcile artistic requirement, independence and popularity?
: I come from an environment – record companies, turners… – where it’s very compartmentalised, where we’re managed. The artist is preserved, but is at the same time the object of a certain commercialism. This is something that I refused a long time ago. The majors had asked me, for example, to form a group with Calogero… For me, it was surreal, abstruse to form a group with variety singers. I left Polydor. I am not a careerist. I prefer to do fewer dates. I’m glad that there is a hard core of people who follow me and consider me lucky to be able to continue doing Nosfell after almost 20 years.
You still sing in this show in English, French and “klokobetz”. Is this fictitious language a way of culturally coexisting France and your Berber origins?
: There is a certain weight of the Republic, where the language of the country takes over. This imaginary language comes to me from my father, who was a violent man. It can be overwhelming. It is a suffering not to have received from our father his culture, his language, but his strangeness and his violence. I made a pilgrimage to Morocco this winter in the footsteps of my roots, after more than thirty years without going there. I investigated in particular my grandparents. I made funny discoveries there, my father was very special. The klokobetz are imaginary roots that replaced the roots that my father refused me. This language now has its own typography.
You’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression and your real name means ‘he who walks and heals’. For you, is the music cathartic and the stage an outlet?
: The one who walks and heals is a bit of wishful thinking. I have this disease, which fortunately can be treated well. I treat myself. I am lucky to be loved. I consider myself lucky to still have that gift, to be able to sing. I would like the verb to heal to go more and more towards a transitive form. My greatest victory would be that giving voice could bring me a form of healing.
Nosfell, “Crystals”, Saturday January 28 at 5 p.m. at 106, allée François Mitterrand, in Rouen. Prices: 6/8/11.5 euros
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Nosfell soon at 106 de Rouen: crystalline voice for a cracked show
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