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Interview with French 79, credited on Emily in Paris' soundtrack !

The Netflix series, Emily in Paris, was a huge success, as was its soundtrack on which half of the titles were produced by the French label Alter K. One of the most credited artists in the soundtrack is none other than Simon Henner aka French 79! French Culture interviewed this surprising French pop-electro artist who is behind Kid Francescoli's hit song Moon which reached the October 2020 Billboard's Top TV Songs chart at No. 4 with 1.5 million streams and 1,000 downloads. 

French Culture: Originally a drummer and guitarist, you then developed several projects, from Husbands to the electro-rock group Nassar, and of course, French 79: what moments have stood out to you as the highlights of your career? 

French 79: The first important moment in my career was when we released our first EP with Nasser ten years ago. It was really well received by the people around me, then by the press, and then by concert venues. That was the beginning of my “professional career,” in the sense that I could begin to live off of it. Everything happened pretty fast since we had to do about a hundred concerts all over France as well as abroad in the first year. That’s the inevitable beginning of life as a musician. (Incidentally, we released “Live in Bogota” three years ago.)

The second important moment was the day that I was given access to a real studio where I was able to record drums, guitar and other instruments in a much more professional way than before. I started spending a lot of time with my machines, and most importantly, I began to love doing it. It was in the studio that I started to produce and compose a lot for Nasser, as well as for other artists. My encounters with artist in the studio led to the creation of Husbands with Kid Francescili and Oh! Tiger Mountain, as they both passed by on a regular basis. 

The third noteworthy moment was when I found myself with a great many drafts, loops and demos that didn’t fit well into the musical universe of Nasser or of Husbands. So, I started French 79 to give all of that material a place, and also out of a desire to try and do a live performance onstage alone. Between the Buttons was the first title that really sparked interest around me. It is kind of my ‘signature’ track, and a good point of entry into my universe. With French 79, there were several key moments, most notably big festival like Marsatac, Dour, or les Vieilles Charrues, which opened many doors for me, especially abroad. The synchronizations were also an important launching pad into the international scene. I can thank Alter K who’s done an amazing job with my songs, especially on Diamond Veins and Between the Buttons, which synthesize my work well! 

French Culture: Since 2009, you have composed a lot with images, which has also strengthened your collaboration with the Cauboyz who are a very active part of your visual universe. Could you tell us more about your interest in video? 

French 79: I have always needed to be a little lost in my thoughts, a little dreamy, to be immersed in another universe in order to compose. A film can be incredibly inspirational because it pulls you into a world that you don’t yet know. Music can do this as well, but when you unite the two, it is even more powerful. Additionally, I grew up on MTC video clips which left an impression on me, and perhaps also gave me a taste for the relationship between images and music. I love the power of music, the capacity that it has to take you into a universe that is completely different from reality, and I am lucky to be on the same wavelength as the director duo Cauboyz (who are also the creators of my album covers). The clip for Hometown was particularly successful and is well liked judging by the numbers of vues and comments on YouTube. 

Even though the Cauboyz didn’t direct all of the clips on "Joshua", I did try to maintain some coherence between all of the videos. Whether the video is an animation like for The Remedy, or something more documentary style like Code Zero. On my albums I also employ a musical palette that takes me back to the films of my adolescence: the sounds of the synth from "Rencontres du 3eme type", the long songs with weak rhythms and intense melodies from Cousteau's fascinating documentaries about the marine world, the melodies à la Francois de Roubaix, the themes that bring to mind the music of Tuesday night or Sunday night films (those by Verneuil, those with Belmondo, Depardieu, etc. ), and the ambience of S.F films like "Blade Runner" and "Wargames". On "Joshua", I wanted to pay homage to the period of time where I really built myself—the 80s and 90s will forever conger up deep nostalgia for me, even though I always try to look towards the future. 

French Culture: You are behind Kid Francescoli’s hit song Moon, which is part of the soundtrack of the popular show Emily in Paris and worked with him for a long time ( you’ve produced three of his albums, and he appeared on your song Lovin’ Feeling). Could you talk to us a little about your relationship, and your artistic collaboration?

French 79: I met Kid at the very beginning of Nassar via Nico (Nasser’s drummer and singer) who was also Kid’s drummer. We got along well from the start and quickly became friends. Naturally, we started to do things together. He opened my mind to the universe of pop, and I introduced him to more electro music. Today, we work in the same area, still in Marseille. Our studios are neighbors, so we see each other all the time… we have each other listen to everything, borrow instruments …etc. It’s really motivational to have our own place, to be able to exchange, to cross paths, to mix influences…. We also have the feeling of being independent and autonomous, and we want to keep it that way. We don’t rely on anyone, we can do everything from A to Z here in our corner, it’s comforting and exhilarating to think that we can touch people on the other side of the world by doing something so intimate and homemade. When I need to breath, I take a boat out for two or three days which always gives me enough inspiration to then lock myself up in the studio for a week when I get back. 

French Culture: Your music publishing, distribution and production company Alter K put forward 20  synchronized tracks for the series "Emily in Paris" and you are credited on 1/8th of the syncs. Additionally, your music is credited in series like "Gotham", and "New Apocalypse", and you have worked on the French series "Mytho" which has found success in the United States: do you have a particular connection with the American scene that would explain this recognition? Does make you want to develop your career on the other side of the Atlantic (you had a tour planned for 2020 that was cancelled due to the pandemic), or pursue other collaborations with American professionals? 

French 79: I grew up listen to Nirvana and the Bestie Boys. Anglo-Saxon music is part of who I am, and inevitably when I was asked to try my hand at it in the United States, I really went for it. French Electronic music is very popular in the US, it is one of the styles of music that we are envied for. Luckily, I’m following in the footsteps of artists of the original French touch who paved the way. I am very grateful: from the pioneers of the 70s to those who just preceded me, it is incredibly flattering to be associated with such a small and prestigious circle of musicians like Jean-Michel Jarre and Daft Punk. 

My American tour has been postponed several times, I had about 20 dates scheduled in January of 2021, which have obviously been cancelled, but I am hopeful to be able to come back quickly. All of the messages that I receive on a daily basis from the four corners of the world allow me to envision the future in a positive way, even if in the United States, the situation is not at all the same as for us, with many concert venues closing. My American booker is nevertheless confident that I will be able to realize my childhood dream when global health allows! In the meantime, I am preparing quite a few surprises!