French house musician St Germain has been completely silent for the last 15 years. No one knew whether St Germain, real name Ludovic Navarre, would ever release a follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2000 album Tourist. Well, he’s back, and he's even playing at our very own WOMAD Festival next month! In this St Germain Interview with Remix writer Isabelle Truman he talks about plans to visit New Zealand, the influences on his new self-titled record and why he took such a long musical hiatus...
Who were your musical idols as a teenager?
I didn’t really have any idols to speak of. It would really be more of a musical style that influenced me. I listened to a lot of reggae and soul and then I sort of veered towards jazz, hip-hop, funky kind of music and then onto house music.
You haven’t released a full-length album in 15 years since the huge success of your second album, Tourist. Why the break? What have you been up to?
I took a little break from the touring and concerts. And then in 2004 I produced and made a trumpet player’s album before doing a concert in China the next year. Around about 2006 I decided to get started on a new album and between then and 2007 I made Tourist 2 but I didn’t like it so didn’t end up keeping it. Then I started experimenting a little bit with music in Nigeria and some mixes with that. Then in 2008 and 2009 I was mixing a bit of music from Ghana, but that wasn’t very conclusive. It was 2010 when I started working on mixing music with Malians and just tried a lot of things that ended up working for me.
So why was it the African music that resonated so well with you?
I just really like African music. I’ve been listening to it and loving it for a long time. But I just started experimenting a little bit and the time seemed right for when I wanted to mix those sounds.
What can fans of your previous work look forward to with the new album?
The connection and meeting of African and American blues.
Do you have a favourite song from the album or one that has more meaning than the rest? Or one that you think fans will respond to the most?
I don’t really have a favourite. The third one on the album, ‘Hanky Panky’ is one that always keeps surprising me; it was one of the first ones I got right. It’s a little bit like my baby.
When you play live on tours is it just you by yourself? Or do the other artists you collaborate with come along?
There are eight people on stage when I’m playing live. There’s a kora player, an ngoni player, a bass player, a percussionist, a keyboard player, a saxophone player, a guitar player, and myself.
After spending so long writing the album are you nervous for the world to hear it?
It’s not that I’m nervous or worried I just wish I could have started the live shows earlier. I wish I had started those in May. I’m just impatient to get started with the concerts; I’m really looking forward to those. Even when I was making some of the album, I was thinking about what some of the tracks would be like on stage. I was saying to the musicians ‘This is going to be so great live!’, so I’m just really anxious to get going with it.
Since you first started out, popular music must have changed a lot – do you keep up with the pop music trends or stay within your realm?
I do kind of keep up, but the only thing that has really resonated with me has been deep house from South Africa.
Do you have artists that you’ve been listening to that have inspired your work? Or any artists that you’d like to work with in the future?
Not really because what I’ve done on this album is really traditional music from the Malian hunters and the kamele ngoni instruments. It’s really just that sort of traditional thing so there’s not many artists outside that that I’d want to work with.
Now that you’ve finally finished this album are there plans to write another one in the future? Are you already thinking of ideas?
Well I’ll just get through the tours first [laughs]. That’s my main focus though, preparing for the tour. I want to do another album but right now I’m just going to focus on the tour. I’ve got a few ideas for tracks but I’ll work on them later when the tour quiets down. I definitely want to. And you won’t have to wait 15 years for it.
See St. Germain live - get your WOMAD tickets here.