Sebastien Tellier


Sebastien Teller. French? Yes. Hedonist? Yes. Sexual deity? No. Against all assumptions we are wrong about this man. The audience must not confuse sensuality for sexuality, no matter what the album may be titled, even if it has indeed been titled Sexuality, and is distributed in North America through the porno-appealing American Apparel. To really understand the his latest work of art, it is perhaps best absorbed proceding a period of heavy consumption, enwrapped in your new-found lovers arms, in a hammock, at 6am.

“Music for me is very much a question of pleasure, a hedonistic activity even. This is why I’m not always so serious when I perform on my records or in concert.”

Format: Tell me about your music. How do you define it?
Sebastien Tellier: My music is so fruity. Fruity and tasty, but always sad.

Format: How did you come up with this style?
Sebastien Tellier: Because for me, to find my balance, I always need two opposite ideas. I can go from serious to funny or from deep to superficial in the same song. Keeping this up is very important to me because it is the heart of my art work, it’s always a mix of half and half.

Format: Do you feel this message is this important to society?
Sebastien Tellier: Yes, of course. For me it is a vision of my own brain. I’m not a schizophrenic, but there are two people in my body. Sometimes, I have two different guys in me but not at the same time. Sometimes I am one guy, and sometimes I’m the other. But in my music, I want to make a sort of marriage between my two personalities. This is why my art and music is an imitation of myself.

Format: You mean like a parody?
Sebastien Tellier: Yeah sure why not? Usually, the music world is far too serious for me. A musician, or rock star, is really just a guy singing, or playing guitar, or whatever. Singing and playing guitar is essentially not a serious thing! We should just be having fun, playing around, or trying to feel some emotion. Music for me is very much a question of pleasure, a hedonistic activity even. This is why I’m not always so serious when I perform on my records or in concert. I try to explain this whenever I can. I hope that people can understand that just like anyone else, I get off on feelings and emotions. So you see, I want to kill the rock star system, this is the message of my art.

Format: Ok, I must admit I am a bit disappointed now, does this mean that you are not the sex god we all imagine you to be?
Sebastien Tellier: [Laughs] No, no no! I am not at all like that! When I work on an album, my role is to play the role of the singer on that album. Like on Sexuality, I am not the great seducer, but I play the role of one! I am in fact nothing special. A perfect day for me is to lie on the couch, watch TV, eat cake , and smoke cigarettes. You know, nothing special. When I do a record, I play a tasty role, and I become my new character.

Format: Can you tell me about your musical background?
Sebastien Tellier: My parents were fans of music. They listened to a lot of cinematic rock music like Pink Floyd or King Crimson. Progressive rock, conceptual album stuff. So that is my bedrock. I see a record as a book or movie. It has a story inside with a beginning, end, surprises, tears, and laughter. When I was very young I learned to play guitar and synths. I knew that I had to focus on the technical aspects of the instrument at first. But after that, step by step I became an artist. There is no point in just learning how to play guitar. You need a message to give through the guitar. I got to a point where I forgot the music, so I could learn to focus on the message of the music. I am a musician, but I don’t care about music at all. I just care about the message and philosophy that I can put in my record. My real job is no longer to play guitar, because I already know how to do that. My real job is to play the piano. Ok no, my real job is to lay on the sofa and sing live, and try to explain my understanding of life through my music.


Format: You just released a remix EP of “Kilometer.” How do you feel about it?
Sebastien Tellier: I feel very good about it. I like to take my time with things. The album came out a year ago, and there are new singles, like “Kilometer” and “Roche,” in France. I love records that have long lives with a sweet effect on the listener. To have a sweet effect on the mind of the listener, you have to give it time to be savoured. The songs are being released slowly because I want people to slowly digest my music. I don’t want to give out too much information too quickly. I must tell you something, the song “Kilometer” is actually about Justin Timberlake. In the song, I imagine him at the end of his career, nobody remembers him anymore. He is now a truck driver driving across Germany. While on his trip, he is reminiscing about the time when he was a big star.

Format: Does Justin know the song is about him?
Sebastien Tellier: No, I don’t know him personally. I don’t know if he even knows my music. I don’t think he does. I would be very surprised if he did.

Format: Do you have a favourite remix on the album?
Sebastien Tellier: Yeah, my favourite remix is the one by Sebastien, the French electronic musician. He did the first “Sexuality” remix. It has a very futuristic sound. Sebastien is the new sound of French electronic for me. He’s very good, full of good ideas and modernity. I also love the A-Trak remix. It is so full of North American power, but a refined power. Very powerful, and very tight, I really like it. I also like the Kavinski remix of “Roche.” It’s also very good.

Format: The orgy-themed music video for “Kilometer” is entertaining on so many levels. There is one point where a girl walks by and she has a big tattoo of your face on her ass. Was that real?
Sebastien Tellier: [Laughs] No, that was done in post-production on the computer. That would be really sad for the girl if she got a tattoo just for a music video. What is most important for me is the message of the record. Everything that follows, e.g. the singles or music videos, is just for fun. I love spending the day with my friends on set. To me, music videos are strictly self-indulgent.

Format: You have worked on a number of movie soundtracks. Are there any you would like to do yourself if you had the chance?
Sebastien Tellier: Well I do have some in the works but I can’t talk about those. However, I would like to try something like a John Woo movie or a Paul Verhoeven. I don’t know, I imagine something huge, like an American blockbuster but with very personal sounding music. Usually those kinds of big movies have big music, and it’s sad. It works very well to have sensitive music in a big picture production. They should try to have some small French sounds, like the tchtchtchtch rather than the TATATARATATARATA that we are so used to. I think that would be very interesting and the perfect mix.

Format: Very interesting! Can you tell us about future releases?
Sebastien Tellier: Well I am finishing my US tour, and after that, I’m taking a break. During that break, I will work on the soundtracks. It’s a real pleasure to work on them because you don’t have the big pressure that you do when you are doing an album.

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Jesse Ship
I'm currently Managing Editor of this little web mag here.
Jesse Ship

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  1. I don’t particularly enjoy “Kilometer” much (although the EP has some interesting remixes), but “Sexuality” is a fenomenal record. It builds up as the tracks go by, specially after “Divine” (which is about as good as “Kilometer” is) reaching a point with “Elle”, “Fingers of steel” & “Manty” which I would say compares to sexual climax.

    Sebastien has proven that he knows what he’s doing.. if you go back and play his old stuff back to back, it really all seems to be part of a ongoing tale, his music grows but also seems to maintain that level of sadness happiness & timelessness IMO.

    I wonder if he’ll be playing in Toronto any time soon. Does anyone know?

  2. Christie Smith says:

    Nothing to do with Kilometer, but have been really dying to know: in the video for ‘Devine’ which one is Sebastien????? Pleeeeease tell me!!!! <3

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