By: Kat Bein By: Kat Bein | February 17, 2022 |
This year’s Chanel runway at Paris Fashion Week was moving poetry.
There was everything you’d expect; stunning looks, delicate embroidery and lots of feminine power, but if you peek past the elegant silhouettes and curvaceous pastel forms of the runway’s magnificent set, you might have caught something very odd indeed—Sébastien Tellier manning a giant beige bass guitar.
The French singer-songwriter and electronic producer has long been a friend of Chanel, and he was tapped to create an original score for this year’s Haute Couture collection. Tellier worked with Chanel Creative Director Virginie Viard and set designer Xavier Veilhan to bring emotional dimension to the strong-yet-romantic looks, mirroring that poise with playful, classic style.
The music has since been released as a four-track EP titled Symphonic, along with a series of remixes from Soulwax, Planningtorock and Not Waving that also featured in the runway presentation.
We spoke to Tellier to learn more about his relationship with Chanel, these beautiful tracks, and what it felt like to play one of the rarest instruments in the world.
How did this project with Chanel come about?
Virginie Viard is the boss of Chanel studio. She creates all the outfits, and she's a very close friend of mine. One day she told me, "I would like to work with Xavier Veilhan.” He’s a French artist, and he's also a very close friend of mine. I was excited by this collaboration, because for me it was like family business. I guess in a natural way, they asked me to do the soundtrack of the fashion show, and so we met all together Xavier’s studio at the atelier, and they explained to me their vision of the show and what could be the ambiance. I started to compose after I saw the first drawing from Xavier, the decor of the fashion show. It was really curvy with a lot of wood; a modern '70s style. I came back to my studio at home, and everything came pretty quickly because it was a strong picture in my head.
It must have been very fun to get together and explore creatively with people that you already know and are comfortable with.
Yeah, it's really important to feel comfortable to create, because when you create, you become a child again. You have to feel safe, soft and in the cocoon. It's really important, and because I am 46, I'm older and I need more and more to feel confident and comfortable. It's really important to feel like that in order to create something good and to feel the free spirit of creativity.
With Virginie, you do what she wants, but you have a sensation of freedom. For her kind of job, you need to make so decisions and give so many directions. She has the perfect personality to do that, because everything is natural and you feel always like the bird [when collaborating with her], but not in the cage.
Tell me more about this incredible stage you and Xavier worked on. This giant guitar definitely steals the show a little bit. Was it working? Is that a real guitar?
Yeah, it's working, but I can play just five different notes with this giant guitar—but it's okay, because it's connected with a synthesizer. It's just like when you push on the drum machine, and you just push one one button and it makes something for you. It was the same with giant bass; you just push one string, but it gives to you a kind of sequence.
I worked on this giant guitar with Xavier and his son Antoine. It was a tough work, because it's so different from the lead instruments I know. It took me a really long time to feel comfortable with it. Also, it was so giant, so I felt so small. It's so weird, but in the end it was really fun to feel small.
So not only do you compose a score, you also have to learn how to create and learn to play this giant synthesizer guitar.
It was a really beautiful adventure for me, because the ambiance of the show was really great, and I was not in the middle but on the (podium) with a high view of everything. From my point of view on the set, it was so beautiful. I have very good memories of everything.
I met Xavier for the very first time, for Chanel. It was 20 years ago, and Chanel asked Xavier to make a movie, and he asked me to do the music, but we'd never talked before. It's a beautiful story. Chanel is a partnership of friendship. Our story starts with Chanel, so it's almost a family story more than a job.
You know [film composer] Ennio Morricone and [director] Sergio Leone from the Western movies? As a composer, I feel like a small Morricone and Chanel could be my Leone, because it's such a wonderful movie, and I'm very free to really grandiose music, or really crazy music. Now, the French movies are not so good for freedom, but with Chanel, I feel freedom. I feel like I can be eccentric and grandiose, and so I really enjoy that part of the work, for sure.
You explored so much mood and style on these four tracks; from more classical compositions to funky, disco-inspired sounds.
For me, it was important not to play music as a robot. I also like robot music of course, but for this show, my wish was to create something full of deep emotion—not sadness but deepness, something respectful of the tradition with piano or strings; something kind of noble.
Talk to me about this crystal baschet, this crystal organ. You play it with your wet fingers?
Yes! It's a really magic instrument, because to play it, you have to caress it with your wet finger. It's crazy because when you caress it, it's a very light sensation, but the sound is really loud. It's so strange to create so loud a sound with just a little carress. It's also very beautiful, and it's really rare. I think there are just 60 crystal baschet in the world. It's very exclusive. It reminds me of Chanel, because it's precious and exclusive. It fits very well with the spirit of Chanel.
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Lucky you, getting to play it.
It was magic, because I did parts of the rehearsal at the atelier. I love this place, because it's a place with a lot of tools, computers, paintings, plants. It's huge, and so I was with this wonderful giant bass guitar and this wonderful instrument, but it's in a very mysterious part of Paris. The place is really strange, and it was a pleasure to play with strange instruments in a strange and beautiful place.
Photography by: YouTube video; Courtesy of Chanel