Interview – JD Beauvallet
French pop-star Etienne Daho has always been a very keen fan and champion of new music and an ambassador for young artists. He has kindly accepted to be the godfather of Music Europe Day out of pure pleasure in discovering even more new bands.
What has been your first experience of non-French music?
Actually, it was at a very young age because I would listen to my parents’ records. They listened to Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick and The Beach Boys. Also, there was a bar and restaurant at my house, and there was a jukebox. So they would take out the old singles and give them to me. So I had a pretty good collection of British and American pop, soul and rock.
Which was the first record that you bought with your pocket money?
I think the record was a single. It was Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks. Later as a teenager, when I was about 13, I went to the record shop and listened to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd and I loved it. I fell in love with that record so I bought it. It was quite expensive so it took me a while to be able to afford it.
Did music make you study English Language thoroughly ?
I think all the music I was listening to. I really wanted to understand what Syd Barrett, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and all the other artists I adored were saying. I really wanted to understand. So that’s what attracted me to the language.
What has been your first experience of travelling abroad ?
The first time I was about 15. I wanted to work during the summer so I could buy records. I sent many letters to England to find a summer job. The only reply I got was from a hotel in Manchester. I had lied about my age but when I arrived they kept me. The staff manager was a huge lady, and I think she liked me a lot, so that helped me. That was a big adventure and opening. It was in a pre-punk moment when everyone was listening to reggae. I wasn’t really into reggae, except some 60s reggae like Prince Buster, Derrick Harriott, Desmond Dekker and Jackie Mittoo, people like that. It was a really a pre-punk period and very interesting.
At the time, did you follow other European music scenes?
Not really. I really liked some bands like Can. It was mostly German bands like Can or Kraftwerk. For a period of time I also liked some Belgian pop like Telex and Antena, Polyphonic Size, people like that.
Did you build yourself on music?
Oh yes. Obviously, especially the UK. I build all my imaginary on records and record sleeves. I fantasised a lot about it, like many French teenagers did.
In which European countries have you lived?
I lived in Ibiza for a few years. I also lived in Lisbon, in Barcelona, in Rome for a short time and London for almost 15 years, by episodes in my city. I feel home really.
How European do you feel?
I was born in Algeria, so I had to move at a very young age. And in a certain way I learnt to adapt to a new country. So I feel like I’m a citizen of the world. Except Asia, I don’t know why but I don’t feel comfortable there. Usually in any country I feel at home, not European especially, but I think it’s wider than that.
What’s your vision of Europe in 2020?
It’s interesting especially now! It’s a beautiful idea but the Covid crisis has showed limit in the solidarity. It seems now that there’ only an economical bond and it’s very sad. I don’t feel like there is a real bond, I don’t feel the fraternity. It’s kind of disappointing.
You have been a kind of godfather, a mentor for many young bands. How do you feel about this role?
I don’t know if I like it, but I feel like it’s kind of normal for me. When I was a teenager, I was making cassettes and passing records to my friends, and this is the same. So now I’m doing the same but my voice is louder now. It’s very satisfying because when I meet people and they tell me they discovered bands through me, I’m proud of that. I like to share, I tihnk it’s part of my job to do that.
How do you feel about your involvement in Music Europe Day?
I feel honoured that they thought of me to be a kind of “Godfather”. Usually I feel so young inside and most of the time I don’t see the difference, so I’m honoured and happy. I feel quite close to all the new bands I meet.
How do you keep on discovering new music?
I’m very curious. It’s part of my personality. I’ve always been like that. I like to listen to a lot of music, I have a hunger for that. I’m very lucky in a way because when I feel that a record or a band is for me, it finds its way to me. I don’t know how to explain it! The way it happens.
You really feel that music will find you in the end?
How have you coped so far with the lockdown?
I’m fine with it. I personally needed that break to rest and prepare the next chapters. It’s so difficult to be in a rush all the time and it forces people to think about the craziness of the hurried and globalized man that we have become. It’s like we needed to have this shock to realise how stupid and crazy our lives have become. So I think it’s very positive. I hope it’s positive. And I hope people will think about it and not start living their crazy lives again, and being more aware of the way we live.
Do you feel it will generate new energies, new solidarities ?
I don’t know really. I’m very optimistic. So I hope the youth is going to rebel against the old world and create new boundaries and new solidarities. It’s their job to do it, it’s our job to do it anyway. The youth is very important, they’re the future. I hope they understand. I think this virus didn’t happen just like that. I think there is a reason and we have to learn something from that. We have to take the opportunity to learn something from that.
What makes you happy?
It’s a vast question! I love to perform. I like to finish an album or a song that I’m proud of. But most of all, what makes me happy is to feel that I’m in agreement with myself.
May 9, 2020 at 2pm!