Catherine Ringer’s “Ring’ n’ Roll” uphold Les Rita Mitsouko famous pop-rock music
Catherine Ringer is one of those figures that only France seems to produce: artistic, eccentric, populist and controversial all at the same time. Her first solo album, Ring n’ Roll, will be released in the UK on 28th November 2011.
Ringer struck French stardom in the 1980s as the vocalist of famous French alternative-pop duo Les Rita Mitsouko. Since then, she has had an infamous televised run in with Serge Gainsbourg and made two generations of French dance on “Marcia Bella”, “Andy” and many, many more. More recently in 2009, Ringer wrote a love song to then French football manager Raymond Domenech, which became an Internet hit.
In her album Ring’ n’ Roll, it is Catherine Ringer the artist, rather than the eccentric, that steals the show, in a mix of the quirky and the profound set off by her unique voice.
Produced by Mark Plati, it is her first studio effort since the death of her musical and life partner Fred Chichin in 2007 to whom she dedicated a song, “Mahler”.
Opening track “Vive L’Amour” combines bluesy undertones with the album’s signature synthesised strings to provide the contrast that runs throughout the album.
Listening to it reminds one of those days when one is unsure of whether to laugh or to cry, indecisive as to whether to wistfully wander the streets or dive into the nearest bar and indulge in the joys of life.
“Z Bar” and “Yalala” showcase Ringer’s ability to produce upbeat songs giving the album its sense of slight recklessness and fun that makes it such a good listen.
Her collaboration with Red Hot Chilli Peppers ex-guitarist John Frusciante, Tru James and Wu Tang Clan’s RZA, “Prends Moi” adds a touch of humour on a stomping rhythm and Frusciante’s superb guitar work. A translation of some of the lyrics would be: “You are not going to take your car, for sure, you are going to take me!”
It is the album’s beautiful penultimate number “Mahler” which is the stands out though. Two parts film noir score and one part Edith Piaf, with mournful strings taken from Austrian romantic composer Gustav Mahler’s Adagietto, it is the moment where we descend into raw emotion.
Yet this haunting finish is made all the more poignant because of what has gone before: by making an album that explores different emotions, Ringer captures them all the more powerfully.
On stage, Ringer is the same as in Les Rita Mitsouko: creating funny but quite catchy choreographies and making jokes about every other song. Some will call her eccentric; others will say the show was the best time of their life.
After making the crowd sing and dance for almost two hours last Tuesday, at Bush Hall Shepherd’s Bush for her unique London show, Catherine Ringer kindly answered a few questions for The Upcoming.
How do you like London?
I love very much London, lots of French people here. We wanted to live here at some point because it’s very cute with lots of gardens, fresh air, and a lot of dynamic people who are not sad.
Is it better than Paris?
Paris…I love Paris, I’m from there. It’s true that at the moment it’s not the ‘gay’ Paris like…(laughs) one century ago!
Having your son, Raoul Chichin, on stage with you, is that your idea or his?
It was my idea. He is a brilliant musician, he is on fire. It’s a chance to have him.
What is being inspired, for you, Catherine Ringer?
Sometimes the idea comes like that…sometimes you have to dig into yourself, your work. Emotions, sensations, dance, all inspire me.
You said Les Rita Mitsouko was over, I was expecting to hear just your album tonight, you are actually singing lots of songs from Les Rita.
When I said it’s over, I meant the new Rita Mitsouko. But of course, we can play The Rita Mitsouko’s songs as any songs or any music. I want to keep that, it’s mine (Ed: Music) too.
You went to play in the US recently. What do you think of the US musically speaking?
I think it’s a great nation of musicians. It gave a lot of new stuff to the world such as geniuses like James Brown…or the Blues.
…And Missy Elliot! Whom you are dedicating a song on stage, “Menuet”.
(laughs) Yes! I wrote this song I had the idea of a dance at the same time, and I wanted to do it in a duet, so I thought of her and wrote the song.
Why are you singing in French and English in your album?
As you know we (Ed: the French) are listening to a lot of English music and now English is a chance to have a language that everybody understands in the world. So it’s cool. It’s like a second language for music. Remember two centuries ago when people were writing operas in Italian, it was the language to speak at the moment. It’s the same now with English.
Some French artists think that it is a difficult time to write in French, do you agree?
Right now in France, people are scared of everything. It’s a period of fragility. Not everybody is able to write in French but I don’t think the same as those people.
There is less freedom than before WWII; we lost something of our culture.
Have you ever thought of what you would have become if you didn’t get famous?
I think I would be a musician, even if I were not famous, because I was a singer and a musician before becoming famous. At 17, I started to sing but I wasn’t famous. Music is a living but also a passion. You can be poor and play music. It’s very recent that being a musician is an industry…like cheese…industrial cheese.
It’s natural for human beings to first breathe, then drink, then eat then…reproduce, and then tell stories, make music, dance! Music is an important activity, with or without money.
Did you accomplish your wildest dreams?
I could die now, but I have dreams of course.
Mark Worgan & Anne-Line Crochet
Photos: Denis Bourg