Interview: Laetitia Sadier
Published on July 25th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Erstwhile Stereolab and Monade front lady Laetitia Sadier is back with her gorgeous and poignant second solo album Silencio, recently the recipient of this glowing review on these very pages. Rocksucker was honoured and thrilled to get the chance to fire some questions over to Sadier, and even more so to receive back the following typically literate, thoughtful and humane set of replies. First, though, check out this magical cut from the LP, and bear in mind that she shall be playing a Rough Trade East in-store at 6.30pm this Friday…
Congratulations on another beautiful album. How did you go about writing the songs: on guitar? Were they all written close together in time, or do some of the songs date back further than others?
Most songs on Silencio were written as a body of work, close in time together; although I had collected ideas, mostly chord sequences, throughout the months leading to the writing of the album.
Did Emmaneul Mario and/or Richard Swift work on this album at all? What do Tim Gane, James Elkington and Sam Prekop each do on the album? Why did you decide to work with James and Sam?
Emma did work on this album as he mixed the Toulouse session. I think I will work with Richard again on the next album, but he didn’t take part in this one. Tim wrote me a song which was recorded under my own direction, he said to have been surprised by how it turned out. James wrote two songs for the album: “There’s a Price to Pay for Freedom” and “Fragment pour le Future de l’Homme”. His input was great both qualitatively and quantitatively. Sam features briefly at the end of “Auscultation to the Nation” with his divine analog electronics. There is even a press roll by John McEntire on “Between Earth and Heaven”, see if you can spot it!
A lot of the lyrical content seems to be about political oppression and disenfranchisement. Is this based on any personal experience, or more to do with what you see going on around the world? And were these themes behind your decision to title the album Silencio?
I speak from both personal experience and observations of what is going on around me, knowing that if it’s going on around me it is affecting me more or less directly, because of knock-on effects. Silencio refers to the difficulty imparted by the systems in which we live, to establish a connection with our inner life, to create and cultivate it. Not by opposition to the outer life: on the contrary, to make it even better and more meaningful.
This weekend I was invited to play at a beautiful festival in the woods, by the water. It was a very big festival and rarely have I seen such spiteful and incompetent security; the whole affair had absurd rules which made no sense at all given the realities at hand, and basically locked people up in a prison which they had bought tickets for! One had to show their wrist band on entry AND on exiting the place, and that alone was telling of how the whole thing is based on no trust, coercion, contempt for people who are merely out for a bit of fun.
That is of course a small example but I find this trend generalising: on a parking lot of the town we were staying in up the road a big moving CCTV camera was searching in vain where the trouble was – there was none – and the hotel window was equipped with a restrictor cable “For Your Security”. That’s just for the small personal stuff, but in the UK surveillance and lack of trust are daily constraints one has to put up with and leading a normal, paranoia-free life is more and more difficult. I would like to see more respect and trust in people so that we are given a chance to assert our own capacities and sense of responsibility. Civil freedom is being chipped at everyday and I get a sense of that depreciation as time goes on. CCTV creates a more vulnerable society not a stronger one.
The other thing of concern is the fact that entire societies have been screwed over not only by financiers and traders, but by political classes that promoted financialisation of our economy for short-term gain.
There is enough in there to inspire many albums, Silencio is one of them!
Whose idea was the kind of sound collage at the end of “Auscultation to the Nation”? And have you ever come across another song with ‘auscultation’ in the title?
Well it was my idea. The song is a cry of alarm for the demise of Democracy; there is doubt as to the direction our societies are going to take, it’s time to be aware of the forces at work, who’s deciding – not the people yet, they are just paying at the moment for a crisis they are not responsible for. But we are responsible for the way our society will organise. So at the end I wanted the music to reflect this doubt, the fact that if we let our elites – ie financial markets, goverments, G20, IMF to name but the most famous ones – then increased oppression and pauperization will ensue.
What inspired you to try something like “Invitation au silence”?
I have realised with some years of experience(!) that it is always better to be clear in my intent and explain it, rather than be obscure. I thought that a title like Silencio would bring about a lot of confusion and wanted to avoid being asked: “Since it is music, why did you call your album Silencio??” So I carefully explain on “Invitation au Silence” why I chose to call my album this way, and that in fact the title chose what ever was going to be my next album. The title informed, inspired and gave a whole raison d’être to this new album, so I owed it to the listener to not be in the dark regarding this rather paradoxical title.
Qui est le Zach du “Moi Sans Zach”? Zach Condon?
At what point in the songwriting process do you decide if the lyrics will be in English or French? Do your lyrics come before the melodies, or vice versa?
I tend to sing more in English these days as it is more internationally understood. There isn’t a rule I can really talk about in terms of when I use one or the other language. It is played more on an intuitive level.
I prefer to write the lyrics first and a melody to it, but sometimes I relinquish art sensitivity to gain more control by writing the melody first…
Has another Stereolab album been discussed? If so, could you say roughly when it might happen, and what kind of direction it might take?
Have you ever thought about doing one of those gigs where you play a whole album in its entirety? If you did do one, which Stereolab album would you want to do?
My mind or desire isn’t really on playing shows with the Lab at the moment, but if there was one record that would be nice to perform in it’s entirety…it could be the Amorphous Body Study Center, or Dots and Loops.
We did work together for a super tour – Greece and Italy! Indeed some tracks came out of this collaboration but nothing we ever bothered to meet up and put down to tape. Yet again the intent was never to record those tracks but merely to present them to the audiences at the time of performing them.
Have you heard Mouse on Mars’s new album Parastrophics? If so, what do you think about it?
Yes I’ve heard it, and think it’s great ground-breaking music as usual. I particularly like their video of “Polaroyced”. Just what great videos are made of. Their live show also makes me forever tremendously happy!
Based on another thing you said in that interview, did Richard Hawley ever get in touch about collaborating? What do you think of his new album?
He hasnt yet but I’m sure he’s getting ready to do so…
You mentioned in this old interview that you had to write a jingle for BBC6. What was that jingle for? And have you done any more since?
Indeed I wrote a couple of jingles for the Cerys Matthews show on Sunday morning.
I love your cover of “By the Sea” from your first solo album The Trip. How did you come across this song? I know it because it was used by Super Furry Animals in their song “Hello Sunshine” – have you heard this?
Tim and I are big fans of Wendy and Bonnie‘s Genesis album. Wendy is a good friend and has never missed a Lab or Monade/Laetitia Sadier show in SF all these last years. I thought “By the Sea” would make a good little pop song if speeded up…
By any chance have Blur asked you to perform “To the End” with them for their Olympics closing show at Hyde Park in August?
They haven’t yet but I’m sure they soon will!
Are there any up-and-coming and/or obscure musical artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
and many more…
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your life with just the entire back catalogues of five different musical artists, whose would you choose?
John Cage, Jorge Ben Jor, This Heat, XTC and Pauline Oliveros.
Laetitia Sadier, thank you.
Laetitia Sadier Tour Dates
- 7/27/12 – London
- 9/15/12 – Chicago, IL
- 9/16/12 – Pontiac, MI
- 9/18/12 – Toronto, ON
- 9/19/12 – Montreal, QC
- 9/20/12 – Boston, MA
- 9/21/12 – New York, NY
- 9/22/12 – Brooklyn, NY
- 9/23/12 – Philadelphia, PA
- 9/25/12 – Washington, DC
- 9/26/12 – Pittsburgh, PA
- 9/27/12 – Cincinnati, OH
- 9/28/12 – Champaign-Urbana, IL
- 9/29/12 – Madison, WI
- 9/30/12 – Minneapolis, MN
- 10/3/12 – Seattle, WA
- 10/4/12 – Portland, OR
- 10/5/12 – San Francisco, CA
- 10/6/12 – Los Angeles, CA
- 10/10/12 – Denver, CO
- 10/11/12 – Lincoln, NE