Gunshot

Un matin, une chambre d’hôtel dans un pays chaud. Un état écartelé par la guerre. Il est tôt, tout est calme. La lumière est belle et dorée. Elle se réveille et regarde son compagnon assis à la table de leur chambre écrire une carte postale. Il est photographe, ou journaliste, peu importe, mais il est là pour son travail.  Il la regarde et esquisse un sourire. Le coup retentit, la fenêtre est ouverte, il tombe de sa chaise. Un bruit sourd, et les oreilles se mettent à siffler. Puis plus rien.
C’est lui, le mort, qui raconte.

J’ai écrit ce titre pour mon nouvel album que j’ai terminé en août, et comme souvent, le texte s’est articulé autour d’images que j’avais en tête quand j’ai fredonné la mélodie.
Vendredi, trois heures après avoir posté le teaser de la vidéo que j’annonçais depuis une semaine, des assassins ont terrorisé Paris et volé la vie de centaines de personnes; une exécution planifiée et incompréhensible.
Ce titre est apparu comme une affreuse prémonition, non parce qu’il parle de terrorisme précisément, mais parce qu’il parle de la balle qui fauche. Avant elle il y a la vie et l’insouciance. Le mouvement et le langage. Puis en un instant il n’y a plus rien, juste le silence, l’absence, et le vide.

Lorsque j’étais à New York cet été j’ai beaucoup marché. J’habitais à Harlem près de l’université de Columbia. Lors d’un de mes périples, je me suis arrêtée dans un petit café, à l’angle de Broadway et de la 97e. J’ai bu un thé glacé en rêvassant, mon Olympus argentique vissé autour du cou. Un jeune garçon est venu m’aborder pour parler photo. Il s’est présenté comme photographe, monteur et vidéaste, et alors que je lui disais que j’étais française il m’a répondu dans un français parfait que lui-même était haïtien. La conversation n’a pas duré et je suis rentrée chez moi en me disant que je voulais qu’il fasse des images de New York pour ‘Gunshot’. Je l’ai contacté le soir même et nous avons décidé de filmer, sans véritable objectif, une longue balade mélancolique dans la ville. Je ne savais pas ce que j’allais en faire, mais j’étais là-bas et je voulais me souvenir. Cette ville est si belle en noir et blanc.

J’ai donc passé les jours suivants à marcher avec lui, un peu partout dans la ville, et naturellement, nous avons beaucoup parlé. Gaël vient d’une famille catholique haïtienne, sa famille habite en Floride mais lui est venu à NY il y a quinze ans. Il a servi en Iraq et s’est converti à l’Islam il y a peu.
Alors que nous partagions un avocado burger un soir, je me souviens lorsqu’il m’a dit, les yeux brillants, « I converted to Islam and I love it ».

On a tourné des images, puis je suis rentrée à Paris. Nous n’avions pas vraiment parlé depuis. Je lui avais juste envoyé le montage du lyrics une fois terminé. Le jour des attentats, dans l’heure qui a suivi les horribles événements, Gaël m’a envoyé un message sur instagram pour me demander comment j’allais. Nous avons échangé brièvement, dans la panique, et il a écrit cette phrase « Ok. Be strong! Keep G’d close. Help others keep their spirit high. Broken spirit would be victory for them. I fought against people like that. They lust over broken spirits. Keep the Faith and stay strong».

Si les mots de Gaël sont ceux d’un sage, c’est un ensemble de symboles qui se regroupent autour de cette chanson. Alors il y a ce thème, comme prémonitoire, cette mélancolie sourde, et Gaël, un musulman croyant et pratiquant, qui m’a aidé à faire ce petit film.

J’aurais pu être là-bas, avec tous ces gens. Je pense à eux, tout le temps.

One morning. A hotel room in a hot country. A state torn apart by war. It’s very early, everything is silent and the light is golden and beautiful. As she wakes up, she watches her lover sitting at the table accross their bedroom, writing a postcard. He is a photographer or a journalist, either way, he is there for work. He looks at her too and almost smiles. The shot blasts, the window is opened, he falls from his chair. A dull noise and the ears ringing. It’s over.
It’s him, the dead boy, who is speaking.

I wrote this track for the upcoming record I finished last August. As it’s usually the case, the text was built according to images and visual sequences I had in my head when I sang the melody for the first time.  And friday, three hours after I posted the teaser for the release of the video I planned weeks ago, murderers terrorized Paris and stole the life of hundreds of people : a planified and unbearable execution.
This song appeared like a terrible premonition. It doesn’t specifically talk about terrorism, but it talks about that one shot that takes life away. Before there is  innocence, movement and language. And in a glimpse, it’s all over and what’s left is absence, silence, and emptiness.

When I was in New York this summer I walked a lot. I was staying in Harlem near the Columbia University. One afternoon, I took a break in a little coffee shop at the corner of Boroadway and 97th st. I ordered an iced tea, all lost in my thoughts, my Olympus Camera hanging around my neck. A young man showed up, sat next to me and we exchanged about photography. He said he was a photographer, film editor and film maker. As I was mentionning the fact that I was coming from Paris, he answered in a perfect french that he was from Haiti. We didn’t speak much longer but as I was walking back home I thought it would be great if he could shoot images of New York for the track ‘Gunshot’. I reached out that same night and we agreed on making a video, guided by the idea that it would look like a long melancolic walk in the city. I had no idea what I would do with it, but I was out there and wanted to remember. New York is so beautiful in black and white.

So here is how I spent the following days wandering around the city with my new friend. Naturally, we ended up talking a lot : Gaël comes from a catholic family in Haïti and they now all live in Florida. He arrived in NY fifteen years ago, served in Iraq, and converted to Islam recently. I remember one night, as we were sharing an Avocado burger, he told me, with sparkles in his eyes « I converted to Islam and I love it ».

We shot the images, and I flew back to Paris. We didn’t really talk I left, only I sent him the final cut of the video when it was finished.
The day of the attacks, an hour after the awful events, Gaël sent me a message on instagram asking how I was doing. We briefly talked, as I was rushed by panic, and he wrote those words : « Ok. Be strong! Keep G’d close. Help others keep their spirit high. Broken spirit would be victory for them. I fought against people like that. They lust over broken spirits. Keep the Faith and stay strong».

Gaël’s words sound wonderfully wise, and everything about this song is symbolic. There is the theme, the heavy melancholy and Gaël himself, a convinced muslim, that helped me make this video.

I could have been there, with all those people. I think about them all the time.

Wake up
can you feel the world outside
Can you see me writing postcards
while the sun is bright
In bed, you are staring at the window
You can hear me fall, low
There’s a gunshot outside

In the papers, you never saw his face
And maybe it’s a nightmare,
Anyway it’s too late

Stand up, cause the world is still humming
It could a beginning
As the sun still shines
In bed, you’re still staring at that window
And your ears are ringing low
There’s a gunshot outside

In the papers, you never saw his face
And maybe it’s a nightmare,
Anyway it’s too late

Montage of Kurt

I finally got a chance to watch the new Kurt Cobain documentary everybody has been talking about : ‘Montage of Heck ‘. Reading Buzz Osborne interview on the Talkhouse this morning made me jump ahead. If this documentary is 99% bullshit, I had to see for myself.

Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t like it. I haven’t learned anything, and I thought it was just a collection of sounds and images, but couldn’t see any insightful purpose behind it all.

I read Kurt’s dairy and Charles R. Cross book “Cobain Unseen” a few years ago and I knew almost everything already : how the divorce of his parents affected him deeply, the fear of humiliation, how music and the development of Nirvana structured his life for a while, his influences and surroundings, how sudden was the exposure to massive media, as well as his struggle with heroin, the fake stomach issues to justify drug medication, the shady influence of Courtney, and of course the awful ending.
What else is there to say?

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This being said, I did enjoy how the documentary was built. The animations are really great, the footage from his childhood, and some demos we can hear in the backround turned out being really inspiring. Unfortunately, the final result is nothing but a montage, and there is no convincing thread holding the images together.
Footages of Kurt and Courtney totally high while taking care of Frances Bean Cobain are terrible, and make you want to shut the whole thing down. What’s the point of showing this anyway?

It is obvious that Kurt was a smart yet fragile fellow, with a huge talent, and I do believe he is one of the finest songwriters ever. But as many others, he got crushed by success and mass exposure, and he couldn’t cope with being the leader of an entire generation. That’s basically all there is to know. There were many others like him. Celebrity and money often lead to bad influences, bad surroundings and bad people, all of this combined with drugs…well, it also usually leads to a bad ending.

Save two hours of your life for something else, you obviously don’t need to see ‘Montage of Heck’.
So there.