INTERVIEW – On November 25, Mylène Farmer releases a new album, entitled “L’Emprise”. Her word is rare. For the JDD, the singer lifts a corner of the veil and reveals herself like never before.
By Jerome Begle
11/19/2022 photo © Marcel Hartmann for the JDD
Mylène Farmer is a book of records on her own. In four decades of career, since the release of Mom is wrong in March 1984, she won eight diamond discs, five of which exceeded one million copies sold. 550,000 tickets have already been sold for his NeverMore tour, which begins on June 3 in Lille. She will be the only French-speaking artist to fill 13 stadiums in France, Belgium and Switzerland. Avant que l’ombre… À Bercy holds the record for music DVD sales: 500,000 copies. Finally – but we could multiply the examples – she is the only singer to have twice ranked all the singles from the same album at the top of the Top 50 with Point de suture, released in August 2008, and Bleu noir,released in December 2010, otherwise the most downloaded debut LP in a week of all time. Also the release on November 25 of L’Emprise, his first album since 2018, is an event. Her speech is rare, exceptional even, so reluctant is the young “sexygenaire” to talk about herself, to reveal her manufacturing secrets, to say who she really is. For the JDD, she lifts a corner of the veil and reveals herself like never before.
In the middle of the MeToo period, you released an album called L’Emprise (Influence). Is it a coincidence?
Yes. This theme imposed itself on me outside of any actuality. Who hasn’t crossed paths with a so-called narcissistic perverse person? Who has not once been under the influence of such a person? Feminine or masculine, it doesn’t matter. Beings that are ultra-sensitive or inhabited by doubts that gnaw at them are ideal prey… The important thing is to identify them and try to fight this grip. It’s a theme that upsets me and often makes me angry. I am of course very moved by the loneliness of the victims who, in the best of cases, only manage to make themselves heard after many years. I am angry because the victims isolate themselves and lock themselves up despite themselves by accepting what no human being should tolerate. More broadly, I find the theme of influence universal.
What new artists are you collaborating with? And what guided your choice?
What guides my choices is desire. It must come from me and those with whom I work. Woodkid came to me when I had long wanted to approach him. He’s gifted. An artist who never gives up, a friend today. He is also a humble man, cultured and curious about everything. I found myself in his symphonic orchestrations. We are actually quite twins, torn between shadow and light. We said to ourselves that it defined us well. Woodkid also took me to designing another me… an avatar. Who doesn’t at all give me the impression of a strange foreigner… All of Woodkid‘s titles are very cinematic. He is a man of images after all. What makes it unique. Yoann [Woodkid] wished the presence of Yvan Cassar, who magnificently played the pianos of Invisibles and Ode to weightlessness .
We also find the British from Archive, with whom you had already collaborated in 2010 for the album Bleu noir …
I had a lot of fun meeting Darius, the composer. He is also a friend today. The excellent bassist Jonathan Noyce is on stage with me in all the shows. It’s a joy. There is truly an Archive sound that you recognize at the first note.
Another collaboration that is dear to me: Moby. He recently invited me on one of his titles, asked me to pose a spoken voice: an excerpt from a poem. I myself had already asked him for titles for my new album. Everything about him enchants me. The artist, his sense of melody, of rhythm. He’s a Martian [laughs] and my musical friend.
Your album exudes even more seriousness than the previous ones. Is it your state of mind or the era that prompts you to such an inclination?
It’s hard not to be flabbergasted by this period when we are witnessing the end of a world… It creates a great void and mental chaos. A new world is looming, the outlines of which are not well known. The only certainty is that the passage from one world to another risks being violent. It’s very distressing. For some the “what’s the point” is predominant, for others it’s the desire for freedom, to free oneself from everything, and for many the cold and terrible fear of tomorrow. As for me, there is also introspection… With this essential question: “What is important in my life? »For a long time I was unable to write a single word…I thought I would stop everything. Then it happened all of a sudden. I was like the rising tide…
The life of an artist is divided between writing, recording and performing, which do you prefer?
These are three intimate moments. Writing is the moment when we weave words, emotions. Recording is the choice of interpretation that gives meaning to words. And the stage is the culmination, the sharing… Finally! in a word: the essential… the public.
Most Anglo-Saxon or French artists engage in societal or political causes. Not you. Is it a mark of disinterest in what surrounds you?
Honestly, do you think I might lack interest in things, events, and ultimately other people? It’s bad to know me. I chose the path of privacy. I don’t feel the need to let my commitments be known. They exist but remain anonymous. It is my choice and it is my right. My freedom. I completely understand the artists who are spokespersons, but that does not correspond to my personality. For those who listen to my songs, some of my texts have accompanied the defenders of certain causes for many years.
By dint of letting a learned mystery hover around you, never speaking or speaking very elliptically, one wonders if you don’t have a heavy secret to hide?
But certainly, yes. And since it’s a secret, let it rest in peace.
Dozens of books about you have been published. Have you read them?
No. I know, however, that there are quality ones, but also many so-called biographies that know nothing about me. Whatever.
Which one comes closest to the truth?
The one that hasn’t been written yet?
“Between life drive and death drive, men are a great source of inspiration in my texts.” You willingly sing Eros and Thanatos. What is your relationship to men?
Eros and Thanatos sum up my relationship with men very well. Between life drive and death drive, men are a great source of inspiration in my texts. They are both attractive for their sexuality, their ambition, their greatness of soul and destructive by their will to power, their regressive egocentrism, their cruelty. The tension they create between these two drives is a path that leads from love to hate and vice versa. It is the chaotic path of life and probably the origin of most works since the dawn of time.
As often, a word comes up very often in your album: “sky” . What inspires you?
The infinitely mysterious, the existence of a beyond… A poetic sky…. The divine. But it is also the possibility of an elsewhere for future generations. The sky is undoubtedly no longer synonymous with a purely spiritual journey, but in the future with a possible conquest… Reality will perhaps join science fiction.
We sense a part of mysticism in you. True or false ?
If we speak of feeling, of intuition, it is true. Most of my choices are intuitive. I sometimes need to be out of my comfort zone, to be carried away by a feeling. It’s exhilarating, it’s scary and that’s life.
Do you use prayer in your daily life?
It’s too personal, this question. I can nevertheless tell you that I often think of the life of Padre Pio, I read the life of Saint Thérèse of Avila or Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. That I love going into churches, whether small or large, because it’s a peaceful place, quite simply. The smell of incense is divine. We know that man is a wolf for man, but I also believe in the goodness, in the power of the spirit, of the egregores.
What are you reading? What are the last books you read?
The last one is L’Amour Suprême, by Villiers de L’Isle-Adam… I’ve had this book for so long, it’s moving with me and we’re happy to meet again.
Annie Ernaux was crowned with the Nobel Prize for Literature. Have you read it? Do you like his work?
I’m sorry but I don’t know his work. I’m going to take an interest in it since you mentioned it to me. I imagine his joy. It’s huge, a Nobel Prize.
You have struck up a friendship with Salman Rushdie , do you have any news about his health?
Yes, I hear from Salman Rushdie like everyone else. I’m glad he survived this barbaric act. The idea that a man free of his thought should be condemned to protect himself all his life for having exercised his work as a writer revolts me. It’s dizzying.
What does his literary and despite himself political career inspire in you?
It is an atypical course. A collision between an artist and History that engulfs all of his work. Salman Rushdie was not part of a political process, if I’m not mistaken… He is a victim of intolerance, he has become a political object in spite of himself.
Are you still drawing? Why don’t you organize an exhibition of your works?
I don’t feel ready for that… I do it for pleasure, a way for me to escape, to let my imagination travel… To let off steam, sometimes.
Your next tour is called Nevermore. Should the title be taken literally? Could this be the very last?
How to answer such a question? I live in the moment. I refuse to project myself, it is a source of terrible anxiety for me. The present remains my refuge. I can’t wait to get back to the public, even if I’m still very worried about not being up to their expectations.
How do you envision the continuation of your career?
By being free. Free to reinvent myself, to cross paths with talented people who enrich me intellectually, artistically or quite simply humanly. I don’t have the answer you expect, I imagine. You ask far too many questions for my taste. [Laughs.] That’s what I’m here for, I think…
What do you dream of doing in the years to come that you haven’t accomplished yet?
Ride in a flying saucer and fly to other galaxies.
Are you afraid of aging? And maybe to do the album or the tour too much?
I don’t have an answer to this question. But why not add the interview too, too… [Laughs.]
The debate on the end of life agitates France: do you have an opinion? Should euthanasia be legalized?
I have been sensitive to this for a very long time. A few years ago, I met Marie de Hennezel, an incredible woman, devoted to these people who need so much to be supported and accompanied. So yes, asking for “end-of-life assistance” is what I would like for me.
Who are the people, anonymous or famous, that you admire?
The doctors, the surgeons who save lives, the glassblowers, the simple people who put their heart into their work, Hélène Grimaud, bewitching pianist. And so many others…
Are there any encounters that have marked your life?
My dogs and my cats and their unconditional love.
Is Madonna a model, a source of inspiration, a friend?
She is an artist who has marked, innovated, and who has delighted her audience around the world. It’s impressive.
You never had children. Have you thought about what would become of your work and its exploitation?
No, but my family is everything to me. Thank you for reminding me of finitude. [Laughs.]
Who makes you laugh?
Pierre Desproges and the Minions.
What makes you cry?
Poetry… and onions.
Many artists leave France. Haven’t been tempted to settle abroad?
In the Arctic with the Inuits.