Laetitia Sadier

Laetitia Sadier

interview by Claudio Fabretti

Hello, Laetitia. How are you?
I’m great, thanks. And you?

I’m fine and I'm very happy that we do this interview in the end!
Thank you. Well, we haven't done it yet, but we're getting closer now. Much closer!

Yes! So I would start with a question about Françoise Hardy, who passed away a few days ago. What did she represent for you, as a French singer, and for French music in general? Did she influence you in any way?
Not at first. As a youth I found myself into France Gall much more. And then it was Brigitte Fontaine in a big way! Françoise Hardy is much more subtle, much more ethereal, not as grounded I must say. She got into some real depth of what it is to be a woman, but at that time I felt it was too romantic for my punk sensibility. But she was a great singer. I especially love the album “La Question” she wrote with the Brazilian singer Tuca. It’s absolutely beautiful. I could not only identify with it, but on some subtle level it was nourishing me, and my womanly nature. So overall I do feel that she was very important for me.

I think we should always point out that she wasn't just the yé-yé girl of the 60’s, as many media define her…
Yeah, absolutely. I don't know why the media always want to reduce people to just one thing, just “Tous les garçons et les filles” (singing the song) but she's much more than this. That's almost insignificant compared to what happened, what she went on to do and went on to write and how she developed herself as a poet, as a songwriter. A very accomplished songwriter and very powerful. She's not this soft little thing, like women are often presented as insignificant little things.

Yes, even though she released beautiful songs in the 60’s too…
Yes, of course, but later she asserted herself, and often society suppresses such positive female affirmation.

Let's talk about your latest album, “Rooting For Love”. It came out six years after the previous one. Why did you wait so long and what have you done meanwhile before this new record?
Well, there was a two year lockdown in that time period I could have released an album but I couldn't have toured it. Maybe in later years, I will release an album and not tour it, but now for me it's really important. It's a big part of releasing a record. So I didn't want to be releasing anything in that time. I also got quite sick with Covid and I didn't really have the energy to release a record. And besides I'm in no rush to release any record, I need some time to work on it. And we were also in the middle of doing a lot of touring with Stereolab…

Yes, I saw you playing near Rome, in Ciampino, in 2022... Do you remember that picture?
Oh yeah, that place near Rome, yes. I remember the picture too!

On our OndaRock review we describe “Rooting For Love” as a courageous album because there is a lot of experimentation in it, especially on pop music. Have your recent collaborations had an impact in it? And can you tell us something about your working with Giorgio Tuma and Marker Starling?
I don't know how specifically an album is influenced… Everything influences and informs my work, but Giorgio Tuma and Marker Starling are very good songwriters and composers. They have a sort of more classical way of approaching music, they're not what I call experimental, but they're exploratory in their songwriting. But of course, everything impacts my writing and my own exploration, and it's true that I like to break boundaries. I like to do it in my own very humble way, but I want to feel invincible! I'm not John Cage, I don’t have that approach, but I'm very sensitive too it as well and how it connects directly to reality, the immediate surroundings. My approach would be to let the music guide me, not me dictating what the music ought to be. Because I've noticed that when I do that, when I try to control the music, absolutely and every aspect of it, it doesn't sound as good. And when I'm just led by the music, it’s very different. And now I'm old enough to know that: just allow it to guide me. So that's what I do. It becomes a sort of guided unconscious process. Not sure who guides who! And that isn’t the point. The point is to be guided.

“Rooting For Love” also features a vocal group, The Choir. How did they influence your singing style?
It's not new that I love vocals. I love The Choir. I mean, I've sung in The Choir.. And to me, there is a power in a collective voice that I want to feature on my album and be quite dominant: I'm very attached to this idea. And I think it's important at this time to have human voices that are singing together as one. Also a big theme on the record is unity, is the oneness that constitutes humanity. If it wants to function, in future days, it's going to have to embrace its oneness, its collectivity, as opposed to obey to the divisive nature of capitalism, of this kind of 3D illusion that everything is separate, because that's not true. All it does is create wars. And look at where we're at now. We're right on track for a war, we're already living a war and we're gonna get deeper and deeper into this, because we are hypnotized to think that we're separate, that we are in competition and the other is some kind of enemy. And that simply isn't true. We're one. Different manifestations that are the same one, so the choir is representing that.

It’s the perfect demonstration of it…
Yes, but it also harmonizes, you can hear different voices in there, because everybody's different, everybody's unique.

Everybody's different, but the result is a collective voice.
Exactly. But it's not a fascist voice. The fascist is just “everybody obey this one format” and I don't want to promote that. I want to promote the idea that everybody's unique. Everybody has something unique to them to contribute to the collective.

Knowing your political ideas, I didn't have any doubt on it…
I need to make this clear because, you know… look at the recent European election results in France...

Yes, I know. Are you worried about this?
I had just arrived in Paris from London on that Sunday when we had the results and it hit me. It hit me in the belly and in the face. For about a week I was shocked, because I had seen it coming… You've had a similar scenario in Italy and we're going to get it. I'm pretty sure that that Bardella guy is gonna get in.

He's going to win the elections…
He has no agenda. No, he has an agenda but no political ideas. And so we have to brace ourselves for more chaos as a result of the state abandoning the public sphere and leaving it to the private companies who are going to further destroy the social tissue. So, yeah, it's concerning, but I don't want to be defeatist and be depressed about it, which I could easily be. I don't want that because I want to be confident that we're going through this. There is also an interesting result about the left, the ecologist parties, the communist party, socialists, the more left wing La France Insoumise… they're like “Ok, well, we're gonna have to join forces now”. So what are they doing? Yeah, they're becoming a collective.

It's always very difficult to get together in the left wing, in Italy too. It's a big problem for the left in general, around the world.
Yeah, because they have petty ego battles and lose sight of the unifying priorities. It's all about ego. And that’s also a big theme of my album in trying to see through and beyond the ego, because the ego is like an impediment to discover our true self. Basically, there's more to us than what the ego leads us to believe. And the ego is manipulable by the media. You know something? If you strip out the ego and you are in your own true sovereignty, you are less likely to be impacted by what others think of you. And you're less likely to be manipulated by the mediatic horror show that we’re being hammered with.

In your album you make an appeal to the traumatized populations of the planet, you say, so that they can finally evolve beyond millennials, suffering and alienation. Which specific realities are you referring to? And how do you think it is possible to succeed in accomplishing this mission?
It may sound strange, but that's what I've been going through in recent months and years. I've had some information coming from my body, from my cells, from my Dna. Yes, some information of past lives knocking on my door and saying that there's trauma here and there’s trauma there. So the French Revolution went on for 10 years, the last five of which were known as “La Terreur”. I have clear past life memories of “la Terreur”, particularly as a handicapped child, and in which I was absolutely crushed. The information was very specific, a 5 year old kid who could not move his legs and was left behind by his family who had to run away in great urgency and left me there to die of hunger, thirst and fright. That's terrorizing. So that's just one example of those years, and I know the French have been utterly terrorized, betrayed and made so angry. You know, it's so infuriating when you're treated like shit on purpose so that someone can assert power and have full authority over you. So, it's a time in history where we looked for our sovereignty as a people and what we got instead was “La Terreur”, something opposite to what we believed was possible. We did away with the monarchy, but we replaced it with another form of crushing exterior authority, not our own. So we tried and we failed. And I think we never did the work around this collective wound, looking deeper into how that created a collective malaise.

A collective wound for all the French people…
There's a collective wound. I mean, I'm talking about the French. I'm talking about my experience here. But it's just an example because I see the Irish are completely traumatized, and the Italians have deep wounds to heal too. We all do.

What’s the cure?
We have the cure. We are the cure. When you do the work, all you need to do is go within and feel it and communicate with it and say: hello, it's me from the future. How are you? Where are you in my body? What do you need? Just interrogate it gently and see how it's feeling, see how that wound is. It may have things to communicate, you need to listen, sit with it with your full attention.  All you need to do is go within. Everything out there is made for you to go without, to look at your phone, to be always engaged externally so that you don't go within. And if you don't go within, you can't do the healing. Everything, all the shit, all the good, all the bad, all the hurt, the pleasures too, feel it, feel it and own it. Because when you don't do that, feeling it and owning it, particularly all the things you don’t want to see about yourself, you'll project onto others. And this is exactly how you start wars. Look at the Jewish with the Palestinians right now. It's all anger, projected shadow that hasn’t been owned and integrated. It results in wars and makes a lot of money for a very lucrative industry…

Let's go back to the music. Your solo songs moved away from the original “kraut-pop” of Stereolab and explores lounge pop, bossa nova and film music: can you tell us how your interest in these genres was born and who are the artists you refer to?
I don't know. I'm not good at archiving. But for me, Brigitte Fontaine was really important. And indeed Brazilian music was important as well as the fact that it was a response, a creative response to a fascist regime at the time of the dictatorship in Brazil in the late 60s and 70s.

Yes, are you referring to the Tropicalia movement?
Yeah, it really resonates and that's why I was a big fan of McCarthy as well, because there was this kind of really jingly, beautiful pop music, beautiful songs, melodies. It was amazing. And it had at its heart something tackling the darkness of the human psyche and expose some of its complexities and how that would translate in the political sphere. Because Malcolm (Eden, the singer) was not really into feeling, but I really loved that, that it interrogated the political response of people or the lack thereof. So, yeah, I thought that was a really fascinating group. And the power, the transformative power of music was such a friend to me. I was quite lonesome and music meant so much to me, if there hadn't been music, I don't think I would have lived very long.

Instead, is Tim Gane “the Velvet Underground soul” of Stereolab?
Sure he loves them, but me too…I'm a total Velvet fan. Like a foundation: Velvet, Young Marble Giants. For me McCarthy was foundational too. I thought The Residents were very cool, really fascinating. My Bloody Valentine was foundational. Tropicalia was foundational. Things like that. And the Velvet was definitely foundational. Once they had happened, you couldn't look back. And just as you couldn't unsee it, you could not  unhear it.

Talking about Stereolab, it was beautiful to see the band again live in Rome, Ciampino. And there any projects coming up for Stereolab?
Maybe there are, but I can't discuss them.

Can you reveal something to us?
No, it's too soon, I can't discuss.

Which Sterolab albums you think are the best or which ones you feel most connected to?
I don’t know. “Not Music”, maybe, the last one.

Oh, I didn’t expect it... And about the old records?
I don't know. I don't really want to discuss Stereolab old records to be honest. Maybe we will talk about some new records someday. In the meanwhile I have a new album out, I have eight albums of my own out to discuss! But, yes, I am in Stereolab. I’m also in Isidora, in the Source Ensemble, in Modern Cosmology, plenty to be talking about!

You also released three albums with Monade. Can you tell us something about that project? Is it definitely over?
No, I don't really think like this in terms of one thing being over. I think they’re a continuum. I started it because Tim didn't want me to be musically involved, only with the lyrics and sing them. This was very frustrating to me because music is my form of expression as well. But he wanted to control it completely. But my desire to create my own music was so strong. That's the power of creativity, it's gonna surge, no matter what, no matter how much you try to suppress it.

You had so many ideas in the drawer and you were finally able to bring them out.
I would have dreams, like wet dreams and songs that would pop out in my dreams. So Monade was born of that. And it's funny because I'd heard of the term “monad” which means a unit, something that cannot be divided. And thought that what a cool word… it took me a few years to realize that I was in a band with my boyfriend called Stereolab and I had created my own solo thing and called it Monade. So “mono” and “stereo”. It took me 3 years to realize the unconscious aspect of my choice of name.

I had never thought about the “mono-stereo” word game… So you felt definitely free with Monade.
Basically Monade was like my playground, because I couldn't play the guitar very well. I couldn't measure myself up to Tim Gane, like as a songwriter and he had so much more experience. I had no experience and was at my beginning. It was my playground, where I was safe. There were no stakes. I was not trying to go off and do my solo career and overtake Stereolab. There was no agenda other than opening up a space where I felt safe and where I felt joyful and I could allow this music to happen. Voilà. And hopefully I could associate with people who were not necessarily like “oh, I'm the greatest songwriter on Earth!” People who just had the desire of doing, of enjoying the process and doing it in its own time and letting it unfold rather than forcing it. I didn't want to force things, I just wanted things to emerge in their own time.

I can understand how you felt. But I actually believe that the role of the singer in a band is underrated: for me, it has almost equal importance to the author of the songs. I mean, I love Stereolab also and above all because of your voice, your way of singing…
Thank you. It's also the hardest thing to do, you know, because singing it's directly connected to your emotions. So you’re directly exposing yourself.  And particularly when you’re not a trained singer as in my case. I didn't go to opera school, so I don't have the technique to hide my emotions.

So your style is very natural, instinctive…
Yes, it is. Writing lyrics is very hard too, again very exposing and a big responsibility! You have to have the poetic or evocative words without saying things too much on the nose and have the ability to open up the doors of imagination of the sensory and emotional field. It's an art and at first I was happy to do it, but, again, I was not trained. I did it all as we went along, and Tim would write 50 songs for one album, 35 of which we would record. So we had to act, we had to produce very quickly. And for me it's hard to write 35 songs, 35 texts like this “bam bam bam bam bam”.

Maybe the only flaw of Stereolab was an exaggeratedly prolific production of songs.
That's why we had to have all these switched on albums because we had so much material! And the lyric writing I think is the hardest thing that you can do. Writing a melody, it's easy, man. Tim is a very good songwriter undoubtedly, but he left me the most difficult parts of making a song. Alas it is true that the work of the singer may be under-appreciated, particularly if she's a woman. Her work is not going to have as much value as the work of a man and that's the result of millennia of patriarchy.

I agree. I think the patriarchal thinking is very widespread in music business.
We’re heavily impregnated by it, but it's not serving anyone in the end, this patriarchal programming, not even men. They think it’s to their advantage and privilege, but it’s not because a lot of their sensibility, sensitivity and heart capacity to feel and to be have been shut down. And that's dramatic. And I see a lot of men are completely lost in this day and age. And the old ways to self-medicated are not working any more. So, yeah, maybe they're going to go to war. Ok, go to war, kill people. If that's your programming, well, maybe you ought to change it. It’s not serving anyone and at this point it’s putting the life of the whole planet at risk.

However, in my case I adore female singers and on OndaRock I have always tried to give them the right emphasis.
That's great!

What are the latest albums you listen to with pleasure and what are the recent artists you would like to hear or also to collaborate with?
About the recent artists, there is this Zooey record… I'm terrible with names. Well, I played the new Broadcast album, I think it’s very beautiful. I'd love to collaborate with Ben LaMar Gay. Yes, let's see, what did I listen to? Oh yeah, Sofia Bolt. If you like female songwriters, you will love her work, and she has a big body of work that's interesting. What else... I like Susan James, she's gonna have an album out and it's coming out next month. I've heard her record already because she's my friend and she played it, but I do love her songwriting, she's pretty spectacular. And a Mauritanian singer, Noura Mint Seymali, her voice really goes straight to my soul, same with Maluma, also a North African singer. Very powerful artists, singers and music makers. Arto Lindsay has a new album out, I really love him, I'm a big fan of Arto. The Rrose album called “Please Touch” is interesting. And “Ahora” by the Melenas is a good album.. The new Oscar Mulero, “Drifting Northward Ep”. And lastly the new Aquaserge record called “La Fin de L’Economie” is a smasher.

What about your relationship with Italy? Do you like any Italian musicians?
Is it Mina?

Yes, Mina, the queen of Italian singers!
Yeah. “Parole parole parole” (singing). She's got it all, you know, the songs, the voice, the attitude, the passion, the guts and that's very remarkable. And also songwriting and a way of producing. There's of course a huge song tradition in Italy... Lucio Battisti ... I mean, these kind of songs. But then there's the new: I'm a big fan of Giorgio Tuma!

Yes, we appreciate him and we use to review his albums on OndaRock.
That's good. I'm glad that you know him, but it's not been enough. I think it's very sad that Italy could not recognize him and embrace his great talent. He should have had so much more recognition in his country.

Yes, he would deserve much more attention.
And you know what, in France, we do the same to our artists. We hate them because we're so self-loathing. We hate our own selves. So we take it out on our artists, like “hey, you, you little one”. And we prefer to love American artists, rather than love our own children, and we project our self-hatred onto our own artists.

We always used to think that France has a more nationalist approach...
France has had a bit confidence with the success of Air and Phoenix and Daft Punk. But before that, it was tragic, how we hated ourselves in the 90s. People were so judgmental of each other, you would get shot if you dared stick your neck out creatively…

I just saw Air in concert a few days ago in Rome... I like French music, in general.
We can safely say that we French have some kind of musical identity around being French. I think we really need to be reassured that it's ok, we can be ourselves. We don't have to hate ourselves. We can safely be creative and love what we do and embrace what we do anyway. It was hard for me to see what happened to Giorgio and particularly during a radio show we did on national radio, they treated him so badly, they wanted to punish him for daring presenting his creativity.

If you treat artists well, you encourage them. I think you should do it, if you're a national radio station. Instead, they treated him as if they wanted to demolished him. And it was heartbreaking to see this cruelty.

Considering Stereolab, another Italian music genre you could probably like is the lounge soundtracks features of the 60s and 70s... Composer such as Piccioni, Umiliani, Morricone, of course, and many others.
Yes, of course, I love this music too.

So, will we see you on tour in Italy?
Yes, I'm planning to come to Italy in November. I will go to Rome, Perugia, Milan and maybe more. Look out, I will announce.

Ok, the last answer is free. Is there something you would like to say to our readers?
Yes, I would like to finish with that... I realized from having conversations with people that they think that communism and fascism are the same thing. And it absolutely isn't the same thing and for a reason that I'm going to reiterate.

Maybe, the “regime thing” is the same, but of course not the ideology.
Yes, the ideology is fundamentally very different, because communism accepts and fully acknowledges that we are all different and we all have something different to bring to this world and that we should blossom as individuals within a collectivity, within a community. At the heart of the community one can blossom and make their own gifts come to fruition. Fascism is not that. Fascism is “everybody does and obeys to the same formatted authority”. There will be a rule for the people and another for the ruling elites…

It's the end of freedom, definitely.
Yes, voilà. It's not easy to achieve freedom for everyone because there's stuff that needs taking care of. So there's got to be some organization, you know, going on, and in I really liked Cornelius Castoriadis’s analysis which spoke of self-organization. We have to trust in our capacity to self-organize because we have to, in order to function, in order not to be drawn in chaos. You have to put a red light and a green light and people have to understand that red is stop, green is go. Otherwise it's chaos. The organizing force lies within nature. Wisdom lies within us. And we have to trust that it's there. Living from a place of fear will only yield bad results. Basically we should be much more trusting of our innate selves, much more trusting rather than distrusting. Yes, voilà.

Thank you very much, Laetitia, and good luck for everything, a bientot!
Ciao ciao!

 Super Electric (Ep, Too Pure, 1991)
 Switched On (antologia, Too Pure, 1991)
 Peng (Too Pure, 1992)
 Low-fi (Too Pure, 1992)
 Space Age Batchelor Pad Music (Too Pure, 1993)
 Jenny Ondioline (Ep, Duophonic, 1993)
Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements (Elektra, 1993)
Mars Audiac Quintet (Elektra, 1994)
 Music For The Amorphous Body Study Center (Duophonic, 1995)
 Refried Ectoplasm (antologia, Drag City, 1995)
 Cybele's Reverie (Ep, Duophonic, 1996)
Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Elektra, 1996)
Dots And Loops (Elektra, 1997)
 Alluminium Tunes (Drag City, 1998)
 Cobra And Phases Group Play Voltage In The Milky Night (Elektra, 2000)
 Sound-Dust (Elektra, 2001)
 Instant 0 In The Universe (Ep, Elektra, 2003)
 Margerine Eclipse (Elektra, 2004)
 Oscillons From The Anti-Sun (antologia, Too Pure, 2005)
 Fab Four Suture (Too Pure, 2006)
 Serene Velocity (antologia, Rhino, 2006)
 Chemical Chords (4AD, 2008)
 Not Music (Duophonic, 2010)
 Electrically Possessed, Switched On Volume 4 (Duophonic, 2021)
 Pulse Of The Early Brain, Switched On Volume 5 (Duophonic, 2022)
 The Trip (Drag City, 2010)
 Silencio (Drag City, 2012)
 Something Shines (Drag City, 2014)
 Find Me Finding You (Drag City, 2017)
Rooting For Love (Drag City, 2024)
 Socialisme ou Barbarie: The Bedroom Recordings (Duophonic, 2003)
 A Few Steps More (Too Pure, 2005)
 Monstre Cosmic (Too Pure, 2008)
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