St. Germain Interview: The French Maestro Returns With New Self-Titled Album

St. Germain's New Album Is Finally Here And We Caught Up With Him To Talk About It
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St. Germain's New Album Is Finally Here And We Caught Up With Him To Talk About It
St. Germain and His Mask New Album

(c) 2015 Benoit Peverelli

For those of you that remember, St. Germain's Tourist album was a game changer for the House and Downtempo genres. "Rose Rouge" was present on just about every chilled out House compilation and DJ-mix put out at the time and the infectious sample "I want you to get together" and horn riff became synonymous with urban chic. Then after some relentless touring and some DJ mix comps he seemingly disappeared into the ether from which he came, like some elegant French ghost.

That was it, he was gone. Was this some kind of JD Salinger-ish kind of stunt? We waited patiently and waited and nothing came. 

Then after a while the world moved on and we forgot about the smoky, silky grooves that changed everything, if only for a while. How they made us feel so effortlessly cool while we sipped our expensive cocktails. 

Well after all this waiting, St. Germain is finally back with a new self-titled album and the timing couldn't be better. As young American electronic music fans are graduating from the "big drops" and copycat producers they will be looking for this, something like St. Germain. Welcome back Ludovic Navarre, you were deeply missed. 

Starting with the biggest question that all your fans probably have for you, why such a long hiatus?

St Germain: Well, you know, during the years 2000 – 2002 when we did the Tourist tour, it was close to 300 live concerts that we did and that was really quite exhausting and I did need a rest after that, so I did take some time to rest. In 2004, I produced an album by Pascal Ohsé, who is my trumpet player, and in 2005, I went to China and I did a concert there. When I came back in 2006, I decided that it was perhaps time to do another album. I started thinking about doing one and I worked on one that was very much in the same style as Tourist and I realized, despite the fact that I spent about a year working on it, it wasn’t something that I really liked, either in the idea of it or in the way it had come out, and so I put that aside. And in 2007, I decided that perhaps what I really wanted to do was to do an album that would somehow incorporate traditional African instruments into the album. So this idea of mixing the African instruments in with the music was the genesis for the new album.

How has your work and sound changed over the last 15 years since the last record? Is your process different? Are you pulling from any drastically different inspirations than before?

St Germain: Actually, in terms of the process that I use, nothing has really changed. The only thing that really changed, in this particular case, is the use of different kinds of instruments. As far as my method goes, I record each of the artists individually or sometimes two together max and then once I have all those recordings, I start to cook up something and see what I have.

Are there any collaborations on the new record or guest appearances?

St Germain: Actually, on this particular disc, I did invite two Malian singers. One is a woman whose name is Nahawa Doumbia and a man whose name was Zoumana Téréta and I actually had them record it in a studio in Mali. I wasn’t present there, but I had them record it there and then I worked with their recordings. Then also, there was a sampling of Lightnin’ Hopkins and R. L. Burnside.

Did you use any analog gear on this album or did you evolve to an all digital production?

St Germain: Half and half.

Who are some current artists in electronic music that you are paying attention to? If any? What are your thoughts on the current electronic dance music explosion in the USA?

St Germain: Actually, I’m a little distant from the electro music scene so I can’t site too many specific names. But the one thing that I really have developed a liking for is South African house music. This is something that really, you know, it called to me, I really found something in it, I really liked it. And also Atjazz who did a remix.

Are there any other remixes planned for the new album that you can share?

St Germain: Just for the moment, that’s the only one.

What can fans expect from your live show this time around?

St Germain: There’s eight of us on stage. There’s someone playing the kora which is one of the Malian instruments, the nguni which is another string instrument, like a little guitar, a guitar player, a bass player, a keyboardist, a saxophone player, a percussionist, and me. And what should I say? There we are on stage. (Laughs) And there we start to pray the electrical current won’t get cut.

I think for the most part, basically it’s going to be all the stuff from the new album but there may be some old stuff, particularly “Rose Rouge” and “So Flute” because when you hear them played with these African instruments involved, it’s fabulous.

Will there be a North American tour?

St Germain: Yes, it’s in the process of being prepared. I’m the witness. (Laughs) I saw the draft list myself. We have a few dates already and it’s being worked on as we speak.