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    sad to see an obituary in the guardian a couple of days ago of colin's old collaborator alain bashung. i did pick up the colin/alan album a few years back , but he never really had much profile outside the francophone world and i never heard much more than that.. over there i think he was huge , in a johnny halliday kinda way. p
    I did an interview for a book to be written about Alain by Pierre Mikaïloff last week. Might as well share my comments here as it will only be published in French..

    Were you surprised when Alain Bashung asked you to work with him on Novice ?

    Can't really say how i felt. The offer came via Gareth Jones, I think during the recording of Wire's "A Bell is A Cup..." Alain's producer (Nick Patrick) needed someone to step in to help with arrangements on the album and Gareth recommended me. Amazingly the studio (ICP) where the album was being recorded was just 5 minutes walk from where i was living in Bruxelles at the time. It was all very convenient!

    Did you know his work well ?

    Even though i was living in the French speaking world I was a typical Brit in many respects and of course very ignorant in in French culture. Anyway, i would never work with anyone if A- i didn't think I had anything to give and B- I didn't like what I had to work on, so reputation doesn't mean so much to me. As it was I liked him too.

    Was his approach in studio original ?

    Various people have said that he worked a bit like Bowie. The original sketches were very rough but then it gave complete freedom to re-imagine everything around the voice. I was given complete freedom to do whatever I felt worked with the voice. Some stuff he liked, some stuff he didn't. Because of my circumstance (we had a very young baby) I did a lot of the work in my own studio and then brought it in to present it. In that way I worked pretty independently of Alain, his role was more executive I guess.

    How your two musical universes mixed ?

    I wanted the work to go in a direction that was very un-rock. it was kind of where I was at that time. The ideas I had he liked less were much more in the "dance-pop" area, something that was quite contemporary at the time in UK & USA. I wasn't employed to make a record that was exclusively for a French audience for sure. If they wanted that then they would have got someone else! I haven't really heard the record for a while but listening back some of it is quite "electro" :) - On some of the tracks I did pretty much everything apart from the voice, on some tracks much less. In the end it was his record, he chose from what I had to offer stuff that fitted his aesthetic. Had we made the record 10, 15 years later it would have been totally different.

    Do you remember how was the mood in studio ? Something noticeable ?

    Because of the way the work was done i actually saw him very little. I did my work totally separate to anyone else. If we met it was mainly social, hang about a bit in the studio, discuss the arrangements etc.

    Did you communicate a lot ? I mean by words : Bashung had the reputation to be a silent man ?

    Not a lot. As I said, I liked him but certainly didn't know him well enough to offer any insights.

    What do you think you brought to him ?

    What i tried to bring was an International perspective. It was very much stated at the outset that he wanted to make a record that had at least elements of (what was then) a very un-French aesthetic. Of course by now the French became the kings & queens of many kinds of dance pop but this wasn't the case in the late 80's AFAIK and Alain was considered very much a "rock" star. I hope that "Novice" contributed a little to broadening his reputation.

    What did you learn from this experience ?

    Hard to know because I never did that particular role with anyone else. I remember quite soon after being told by someone from "Les Inrockuptibles" that I had dis-respected French culture by helping Alain make this record (as if we wasn't capable about making his own choices!!) I think more recently I got some respect in France for being involved with this project. For me it's always about the people involved and there are as many ways to make a record as there are ways to cook a meal so there's not a lot you can directly apply but in the end i am very glad to have been involved in a small part of Alain's life. I am also gladdened that in the end he got to be a "national treasure" in France because I'm not sure he was in the late 80's...

    Do you know others french musicians you’d like to work with ?

    How long have you got? :)

    French music became so strong on the international scene there's loads I'd love to be involved in from mainstream stuff like - Air, Sebastien Tellier, Justice to stuff that's really obscure like The Brians (who probably don't exist any more) or Le Plus Simple Appareil (who only play in people's front rooms) or stuff that's a bit less obscure like Laudanum or Bogart and the Addictives or CELLULOIDE or even Lesbians on Exctacy (who are actually French Canadian) or Stereolab (who British people regard as a French band!) and i'm sure there's tons more I never heard of!


    I am very delighted to have read this. Since Alain Bashung passed away, I was looking for a sign on pinkflag… It may seem strange, but I was expecting something.

    I have had the chance to attend an Alain Bashung concert in a very small venue just before he went sick. The motto of the tour (without any commercial purposes – no new LP was out) was Alain Bashung’s friends and you cannot imagine how happy I had been when he performed songs out novice.

    You both – I mean Wire and him, are highlights of my teenage years. There is, in my opinion, a lot of common between your two musical experiences. Lyrics are the most obvious. I feel the same poetry even if poetry is something one cannot translate.

    Last week-end, I had the idea to play novice between a bell is a cup and life in the manscape. It seemed to me that, musically, novice was filling the gap between your two albums.
    Well, it remains what it is, a personal point of view.

    Thank you for your words Colin.