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L Epee - Diabolique - cd -

Price per Unit (stuk): €15.95


She’s a French film star. He’s rock’s mercurial madman. Together they’re l’Épée, as seductive as Serge Gainsbourg and as druggily alluring as the Velvet Underground.
It may be the hottest day on record in Paris, but no one appears to have told Emmanuelle Seigner. Striding through the lobby of the Royal Hotel on the Champs Elysées in black jeans, a David Bowie T-shirt and leather boots – a gift from her husband, the film director Roman Polanski – she is the personification of French cool. Heads turn, newspapers twitch, bellhops sweat a little more profusely. Is the star of Frantic and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly aware of the effect she still has on people?

“People see me that way because, when I was very young, I played those type of roles,” says the 53-year-old, with a shrug. “But it’s not the way I am. I feel more like a tomboy.”

Seigner may not see herself as a femme fatale, but Diabolique, the debut album by her new band, l’Épée (the Sword), certainly does. A heady combination of 60s psych, yé-yé, lounge and drone rock, over which she purrs lyrics such as “I’m the Queen of Furs/The Earthquake Lady”, it’s as seductive as Serge Gainsbourg and as druggily alluring as the Velvet Underground. It also comes with the obsessive eye for detail you would expect from her collaborators on the project — Anton Newcombe from the Brian Jonestown Massacre and French garage rock duo the Limiñanas.

The title is a nod to Mario Bava’s 1968 cult movie classic Danger: Diabolik, while the lyrics – mostly by Lionel Limiñana – were written as musical short stories in the spirit of Italian film director Dino Risi.
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“I come from a theatre background, but I grew up loving Lou Reed, the Stooges and the Rolling Stones,” she says. “I always wanted to be in a band like this, but I started modelling at 14 and my life took a different path.”

Throughout her film career, Seigner has released commercially successful pop albums – with French outfit Ultra Orange in 2007 and her own solo records (Dingue in 2010 and Distant Lover in 2014). But it was only in 2016, when she heard the Limiñanas’ track Down Underground while watching an episode of Gossip Girl with her daughter Morgane, that she realised her musical ambitions might still be fulfilled. She got on a plane to meet Limiñana and his wife, Marie, who plays drums, at their studio in Cabestany in the south of France. They recorded a song for the band’s album Shadow People, with Newcombe producing. “The result was so good that he suggested we should all form a band together.”

If Seigner supplies l’Épée with Hollywood star wattage, Newcombe provides the rock’n’roll credentials. As the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s charismatic leader during the 90s, he operated as, effectively, a one-man Rolling Stones. His status as rock’s most mercurial madman was captured in Ondi Timoner’s classic 2004 rockumentary, Dig!. Fifteen years on, Newcombe has yet to watch it.

“There are more interesting versions of the film, but a lot of the industry people didn’t sign off on it,” he says. “When people say there’s a crime element to the entertainment industry, they’re not kidding. When [the record companies] were trying to sign us, it was essentially Swiss hookers coming to see us with bags of cocaine. And I never even liked sniffs, particularly.”

Now clean for a decade and living contentedly in Berlin, he enthuses about European culture and music’s ability to expand the mind – he reveals that he recently gave his techno-loving six-year-old, Wolfgang, a copy of Radiohead’s Amnesiac. “We are living in very culturally insular times, so it feels really good to be swimming against the tide,” he says of l’Épée’s collaborative, bilingual approach.

Perched next to each other on a sofa in the hotel lounge, Newcombe and Seigner have the look of a hopelessly mismatched couple on First Dates. While Newcombe – with his straggly hair, shades and beads – still has a frazzled air, the teetotal Seigner takes pride in abstinence. “It wasn’t difficult for me to avoid [drink and drugs] because I was never attracted to it,” she explains. “It doesn’t mean I’m conservative. I’d rather go running.”

What unites them is a refusal to compromise. Having waged a one-man war on the music industry, Newcombe now produces records at his Cobra studio and runs the label A Recordings, which has put out more than 180 releases.

Seigner, meanwhile, turned down the chance of international stardom at 19, having starred opposite Harrison Ford in Frantic. “The head of Warner Bros really liked me and wanted me to go to Hollywood and sign a contract to do three movies,” she says. “I knew they were going to use me as the sexy French girl. That’s not interesting to me. So I left and I lived in Ibiza for five years. I was always a rebel. I was never licking anybody’s ass to make movies.”

L’Épée’s first single, Dreams, tells the story of a woman who responds to being harassed by a man by eating him alive. Is this Seigner’s comment on the #MeToo movement?

“It’s a complicated subject,” she says. That’s quite an understatement, given that, in 1978, her husband was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in the US. Just this week, the Venice film festival was criticised for including Polanksi’s latest movie. Even the president of the festival’s international jury said she would not be congratulating him.

“I’m a feminist,” Seigner says, “and I think it is very important that women have power and are paid as much as men and have the same chances and choices. I have always fought for that. But, at the same time, I don’t like it when we slide into puritanism. That’s a bit silly, I think, and not good for women. Of course, there has been a lot of abuse – too much – and maybe it has to go all this way to be right. I don’t know.”

Seigner explains that she had her own experiences of sexual impropriety, having been cast by Jean-Luc Godard in Détective at 18. “I remember, on the first day, he said: ‘Take off your T-shirt.’ So I said: ‘Yeah, OK.’ On the second day, he said: ‘You go naked.’ I said: ‘No, I’m not going to go naked,’ and I left. Then after I came back, a week later, he said: ‘You won your panties.’”

What was her response to that? “It’s life, you know. Men were always like that.”

Did she often find herself having to stand up for herself? “I was always a warrior. I never took any shit from anyone, even when I was 14. Unless somebody had a knife on my neck, which never happened, thank God, I never had problems. But I guess not everybody is the same. I can’t talk about other people.”

Having been married to Polanski for 30 years – the couple have two children together, Morgane and Elvis – she is frustrated by the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, based on events surrounding the death of her husband’s first wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969.

“I’m not very happy about this movie because it is very disturbing for my children,” she says with a sigh. “But what can I do? Nothing.”

Last year, Seigner’s loyalty to her husband saw her reject an invitation to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the awards body behind the Oscars – following its decision to expel Polanski.

“For my career, it would have been much easier for me to accept it,” she says. “But I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror [if I had].”

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