“I love the train for writing lyrics, the Eurostar in particular seems very inspirational. Driving a car is more appropriate for experimenting with vocals and melody, no one can hear me and I can sing as loud as I want without anyone complaining…” In a musical landscape where women seem to be successful only if they look like models, it is all too probable that a girl who has a very expressive and wonderful voice, is a true talent in playing various instruments and — moreover — beautiful, may not be quite as popular as Amy Winehouse (whom I appreciate, by the way). Maybe it’s because she’s not into drugs (or maybe so, but she doesn’t show it); she doesn’t play cheeky music, or maybe because she hasn’t had the best luck. Or perhaps the reason is that since 1999 she’s hung around with such a strange group of mutants as Glen Johnson’s Piano Magic. She loves Lambrusco sparkling wine, and she shares with her post-rocker friends a passion for melancholy music and sincere spontaneity.With her last record as Klima (with Philippe Lenzini on guitar and Jerome Tcherneyan also from Piano Magic on drums, percussion and programming), Angèle David Guillou gave us one of the brightest jewels of 2007, a release that harnesses new wave influences, taps into the roots of French song tradition and boasts other, very modern sounds and arrangements that could be appreciated by Thom Yorke (of whom she’s a huge fan).We interviewed her and discovered that, on the whole, she’s also very cool and kind. I think we can’t ask for more.
Chain D.L.K.: From what I’ve seen in your live gigs, it seems that you really enjoy yourself playing live. Has it always been like that? For instance, you weren’t with Piano Magic in most of the tours. Was it a question of time or shyness?
Klima: I have a strange status within Piano Magic. I am a recurrent collaborator but I am a not a permanent member per se. My touring with Piano Magic depends on whether I am free, of course, but mostly what kind of concerts they wish to perform. The songs I sing for PM are mostly quiet and suit a certain kind of venue and atmosphere. My presence makes more sense if Piano Magic decide to play in smaller, more intimate theatres than on massive stages at outdoor festivals. At the end of the day I think it is very enjoyable for the audience not to know what to expect when they go and see Piano Magic.Otherwise I love playing live, and I particularly enjoyed our last tour with Klima and Piano Magic.
Chain D.L.K.: So you think that your voice is “chosen” for mainly quiet songs? It does not depend on the lyrics?
Klima: The lyrics are very important indeed but they can sometimes be “adapted” if we decide that I’m going to be singing a precise song. Quiet, not quiet? There’s not any planning involved, as a matter of fact. All of it comes along as the songs are being worked on. And I like to rock too, but I most often do it with other projects like Ginger Ale, for instance. With PM, when the song are being written sometimes I will say “I want to sing this song” — this was the case with “Disaffected,” for instance, which Glen was originally singing for the demo version. Sometimes, too, songs are written with my voice in mind or especially for me, which is very pleasant.
Chain D.L.K.: How do you feel about singing someone else’s worlds?
Klima: Glen’s lyrics are beautiful so it’s a real pleasure to sing them. Obviously I have a strong connection with the music of PM and with the people in the band, some of whom I’ve known for almost ten years now, so I guess I understand their emotions very well. I do not feel like their world is separate from mine, either.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you somehow need to “feel” the PM song, as an actress feels the part she has to interpret/play?
Klima: I agree, singing a song is a bit like acting in the sense that when you sing you seek emotions that you have inside you in order to transmit them through words. But it is not acting in the sense that it is not fake (at least it shouldn’t be), otherwise it doesn’t work. I do not have to play a role when I sing Glen’s lyrics; through his words, I look for emotions that I’ve been through myself, I guess.
Chain D.L.K.: This is a question I also asked Glen: one of the things that I really appreciated about seeing you live (both Klima and Piano Magic, but I saw the same in other great artists, for instance like Robin of Sofia/God Machine…) is your style, the behaviour on stage. In spite of the melancholic music and sometimes “blue” lyrics, you really look like cool and very ironic persons.
Klima: Human beings are complex animals, we are rarely unidimensional…. Thank God I am not (or Glen is not) fully the person that I/we express through songs. That would be terrible!My music certainly reflects a certain part of my personality but far from it all. If people who come to see me play live can be surprised that I can actually smile and laugh… my friends are often similarly surprised at how sad some of my songs are. And anyway, what is depressing about playing live in front of a nice audience in beautiful Italy?
Chain D.L.K.: What about your own lyrics? They seem so personal and deep, but the thing I mostly like is the big sense of hope that shines through them (from [SONG HERE]: “…there’s always a second chance…”).
Klima: I am certainly no pessimist. I always think there is a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dim.
Chain D.L.K.: How are your songs usually written?
Klima: There is no real rule. Sometimes I start with a simple vocal melody, sometimes a bass line, a guitar part, piano part or just a rhythm. Sometimes I have an idea for the lyrics first. Most of the time, though, the lyrics come after the music and especially after I’ve laid the basis for a vocal melody. I love the train for writing lyrics, the Eurostar in particular seems very inspirational. Driving a car is more appropriate for experimenting with vocals and melody, no one can hear me and I can sing as loud as I want without anyone complaning….
Chain D.L.K.: I heard of your intention of making a CD as Klima a long time before it was realized. Why did it take so much time?
Klima: The project had been on my mind since 2000 but I’d been very busy indeed with the French band Ginger Ale (tours and two albums) and then with Piano Magic. I needed a label, too, which is not always that easy to find. I tried to get signed in France first before finally meeting the people at Peacefrog in 2004. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, too, which made the process of recording and mixing longer than expected. You don’t record your first album every day, and I wanted to be involved at every stage, to feel it was fully mine. For the next record I want to go much faster, though! Hopefully it will be out early next year.
Chain D.L.K.: In your debut CD I enjoyed the sounds and the production a lot. I know that Jerome is really important in Piano Magic on this side, is it the same for Klima? You seem to have a good rapport with him, also on stage, even if it’s funny that you are smiling very often and he seems really serious while he plays!
Klima: Oh, yes, Jerome takes his job in Klima very seriously indeed. He tells me off when I tell too many jokes on stage, too! Jerome played an essential part in the production of that first record. He worked long hours with me at turning my demos into more structured and arranged pieces. It wouldn’t have been possible without him.
Chain D.L.K.: You play various instruments and you’re a great singer… did you study music for a long time?
Klima: I went to a music school from the age of 5 to 15 and learned classical piano and music theory… sounds serious like this, but I’ve forgotten almost everything I learned there! I just love musical instruments, whether to look at them or play them. As soon as I see one I’ve not seen before I wish I could buy it. It’s just really exciting to play an instrument. It’s like learning a new foreign language. I wish I could play strings, but I’m thinking of learning.
Chain D.L.K.: I never saw any video of Klima… are you planning to do one? Or do you not like to be photographed and filmed, like Glen?
Klima: No, I’m not like Glen, although I want to have some control over my image, and do not see the worth of a crap recording of a concert on the internet. Strangely, I wish some people would have filmed our last tour with PM, but no one did. I’ve worked on several projects for videos but none are finished yet. [You] should see some online before the summer, though.
Chain D.L.K.: I know that one of your songs was used for a TV spot! How did that happen? Do you feel like making a soundtrack for a film, like PM did time ago?
Klima: No, not at all, it’s not like a soundtrack to a film! I would never put film and commercial[ism] on the same level! And I didn’t write the song for the ad, they used a song of mine that already existed. I think the ad looks good, and it doesn’t destroy my song. Also it doesn’t sell washing powder but posh perfume, which I prefer. When a song is used for an ad, there’s a chance that it will become successful because it’s being heard a lot — there’s also a chance that it will forever be associated with an ad in people’s minds. In my case, the clip is so short that it doesn’t do either!! So in that respect I’m very satisfied with it.
Chain D.L.K.: Which are your personal tastes in music and films? Are you a fan of 4AD/eighties new wave heroes like Glen is? Listening to Ginger Ale, it seems that you are infuenced by la chanson française and by melodic pop…
Klima: I’m French so I guess somewhere I must be influenced by French music and tastes, but in general I’m not a fan of French chanson, although I recognize value in some of it. I was brought up listening to American and British music only, as well as classical music. I like 4AD and eighties music very much but the music that “made” me, I think, is more ’60s and ’70s music, from people like Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Simon and Garfunkel, and rock bands like Sonic Youth. I love electronic and ambient music too, the likes of Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, etc… the list is long.
Chain D.L.K.: What are your hobbies outside your musical life? Gardening, cooking…?
Klima: I love cooking, and I wish I could do gardening too but without a garden it’s a bit difficult…. Anything DIY, like building some Ikea shelves, repairing a toaster or painting a wall will make me happy for the day.
Chain D.L.K.: Here is the most common question for the end of the interview: plans for the future?
Klima: I hope to be releasing the next Klima album in 2009. I’m working on it at the moment. There will be further collaborations with Piano Magic in 2008, possibly a next Ginger Ale [album] but that will be next year. For now that’s it and that’s not bad.
Chain D.L.K.: About collaboration, is there someone you would like to collaborate with? Neil Young? Art Garfunkel? Aphex Twin? Robbie Williams?
Klima: Strange list…. Robbie Williams is probably in rehab as we speak. I’ve always preferred Paul Simon to Art Garfunkel…. Well, I wouldn’t mind a duet with Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave and if everyone in Radiohead were desperate to play on my next record I would be delighted.
Chain D.L.K.: Ok, so if some day I interview Thom Yorke, I’ll tell him that you want to play with him….
Klima: Yes, if you do so I’ll be grateful to you for all my life!
Visit Klima on the web at:
In collaboration with: www.sands-zine.com
[interviewed by Matteo Uggeri] [proofreading by Benjamin Pike]