By Carlotta Morteo & Laurent Altier
Sebastien Tellier serves the role of prophet to his “Blue God” with religiously driven lyrics on top of a monumental orchestra, balancing classical sounds with modern electronic pop music.
The French music scene has been shaken by the actions of multi-faceted, extravagant, and controversial musician, Sebastien Tellier, with his new character-themed album, My God is Blue. When asked by the media where the concept of the album stemmed from, he answered that while on a trip to Los Angeles, he paid a visit to a shaman who made him realize the “true power” of the color blue through the use of psychedelic substances. It was during this trip where he developed the album title and the album’s symbolic character.
Imagine the western stereotype of Jesus Christ, with a pair of wide, dark sunglasses, singing in a dim-colored room full of people, dancing and essentially touching themselves–and eventually their neighbors. Welcome to what could be Tellier’s version of Paradise (or the biblical version of Hell) or just a good ol’ sexy party. After Sexuality and Love Songs, his album is setting the French electro pop music scene on fire again. To his surprise, a The GROUND editor met a humble and fragile Sebastien Tellier, far from the cinematographic, universal, and exuberant character he puts on display. His musical balance seems to lie somewhere between complete inner freedom and well-constructed imaginary narratives, at the crossroad of styles and influences. After a decade of musical experiments, he says he has reached his “spiritual maturity” and with it, his inner balance.
A younger Tellier decided on the path he wanted to follow in life. He now feels that sticking to that path has allowed him to flourish. He mentioned, “I wrote the book of my life when I was 20 years old. I was completely lost, really unhappy. I didn’t feel anything. I was empty. So to fill that void, I wrote the story of my life. It really framed me. It created a highway to my dreams and it worked. Every time I try to come out of my written destiny, it fails, so now I believe in this miracle, and I let it guide me.”
However, in music, Tellier allows himself to diverge from a singular road. “I have created different characters: seducer, cursed man… now spiri- tual guru, but it doesn’t require any particular effort. I follow my nature; strangely my inner soul tells me, ‘You have one life but you are made to live more than one.’ Getting old really scares me, time goes by and life flies away. I want to explore the most I can. Music is a door to serve my life–my lives. I would like to make a Brazilian or reggae album; maybe I will have dreadlocks one day.”
Elaborating on the idea of trying on different musical “hats,” he speaks of incorporating different genres and styles within his own work. “When I was young, there were different kinds of groups, a sort of musical segregation.
There were the hippies who loved Bob Marley, the hard-rockers, the Guns N’ Roses fans, and the disco fans. I wanted to reunite all these styles. I felt that and I think a lot of people did. We saw how white people integrated black music, how white pop uses R&B and vice versa. I think we are the first generation that wants to combine everything without limit because it’s the soul of any music that really counts. Everyone is eating from each other’s plate; it’s a big share, a tentacular experiment. What counts is the intensity, the will, the generosity, not the styles, not the singers. It’s global; it’s worldwide; it’s a phenomenal movement, but we’re getting close to real intimacy.”
While he has grand ideas about not limiting his music and not pigeonholing himself, Tellier does not have grand illusions about his place in musical history or comparing himself to “the big giants” that he lists: Stevie Wonder, George Michael, Wagner, and Chopin. However, he doesn’t believe public recognition detracts from the meaning of his output, because the “soul of the artist” is what counts. He also names Julian Casablancas, Snoop Dogg, Daft Punk, Sebastian, Kavinsky, and Chair Lift as artists that are apart of his “balanced inner world.”
As a musician, Tellier said that he is more inspired by cinema than by other musicians. Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Paul Verhoeven, and Brian De Palma are the cinematic heroes he describes as having taught him through their character portrayals. This is probably why he seems to enjoy creating a new character for each of his albums. He enjoyed creating music for films such as “Fantino” for the film, Lost in Translation, and “Look” in the film, Somewhere. “Music is like an ocean; when you are facing the piano, there are infinite possibilities,” he explained, “but when you work for a soundtrack, you have the images, the storyline, the directions–it’s reassuring. It makes me relax a lot, and in a way it’s empowering to have boundaries.”
It seems clear Sebastien Tellier’s craft goes beyond creating music; he actually lives through his characters that he creates for his record, taking music promotion to new heights. It takes a strong-willed artist to earn continuous attention from his audience. Out of the limitless genres of music that currently appeal to the public, Tellier manage to create impressive classical sounds with modern electronic pop music in his album, My God is Blue.
The GROUND Issue #03