Lhasa de Sela

Interview : version Française | American version    
Interview #3  (2003)
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Cédric : Many people have asked me for news of you since the creation of this website in 1998, because there has been no news of you in the media for the last few years. In a few words, can you say what you were up to during this period ?

Lhasa : In January 1999 I went to France, to work on creating a show with my three sisters who are circus performers, and three other friends, in the company called " Pocheros ". There is a whole movement of " new circus " that is especially strong in France, circuses that combine traditional circus skills with theatre and do not use animals.

We worked like crazy for six months to prepare the show and then went on tour with it, with a circus tent and caravans and children and dogs ! It's a life that is very different from the touring life of a musician - your family is with you, travelling is slow, setting up camp, putting up the circus tent, bleachers, lights, makes you set down roots in every place you play. You can be sipping tea in your home five minutes before the show !

The show ended up being kind of slow and contemplative, one of my sisters danced on the tight wire in high heeled shoes, another did contortion on a ladder, another flew accross the ring in a strange boat with one wheel and there was a dog that sang and an act with dangerous balancing and cups of tea and a man who ate his own brains and a man who juggled while conversing with himself in Danish. I sang in this show, I didn't perform any acrobatics or contortion !

Then I lived in Marseille for a while and disappeared into normal, personal stuff.
And wrote songs .

C : Your album is distributed in France by the label " Tôt ou Tard " (of the Warner group) which has signed several quality artists, all of whom demand great artistic independence. Have any other changes occurred in the makeup of your team, on the prodution or distribution level ?

L : My record company is still Audiogram, an independent label in Montreal, and we have found companies in Europe and America to distribute our albums; Tôt ou Tard in France, Warner for the rest of Europe, Atlantic for the U.S. and Latin America, although these multinationals have people in each country who decide to release an album on their territory or not, and I think that for the time being "La Llorona" has been distributed in South America and in Mexico, and in England and Spain and many other countries, only as an import, and is even hard to find in the States. The best distribution is in Canada and in France I think.

C : The sucess of " La Llorona " must have had many consequences in your daily life, in your relationship with the media and cultural structures. Is all of this pressure hard to handle ?

L : Everybody has stress in their lives. And just the way that someone can live in a small village their whole life, and go through some kind of disgrace, and commit suicide because they feel their life is ruined, without ever realising that there's a whole world out there, or without realising that after a while people will forget all about their disgrace, in the same way, someone who is even a little bit " famous " (like me !) can be tormented day and night by all kinds of worries and unbearable pressure. It happens when you lose perspective, and that happens very easily. It's hard to have peace of mind.

C : Concerning the tour you did in 1998, you seemed extremely sensitive and to have a very intimate relationship with the audience during the concerts for " La Llorona ", do you have any particular memories or impressions ?

L : A tour is a very intense and demanding experience…I found most of my energy was needed just to stay more or less sane and do good shows. The show was the most important thing, the center of everything when I was on tour, and so my memories of touring are of a peculiar kind of concentration, all the time, keeping my energy for the show, always. Creating a little greenhouse around me to protect myself. That made me pretty inaccessible to other experiences, meetings, even seeing the beauty of the country I was in. I don't know if that's the way it will always be for me, but in the past it was. So the intimacy and intensity of the shows came from that intense concentration I think…

C : In the concerts for " La Llorona ", several of the songs you played onstage were new to your audience. Will any of them be on your next album ?

L : Some of the songs were covers, like the song about Pancho Villa which I first heard sung by Victor Jara, or " Volver a los 17 " by Violeta Parra, or the russian gypsy song " Nie Bouditie " that I sang in a duet with Yves, or " La pistola y el corazon " which I learned from a Los Lobos album. These we will not record, at least, not for this album. But the two songs I wrote in French and performed during that tour will probably be on the album.

C : Was your meeting and collaboration with Arthur H., which included your participation in several of his concerts, an influence on your creative process ?

L : Arthur is a friend and an artist that I love and admire, and it's very inspiring to know that there are people out in the world doing beautiful music RIGHT NOW. But my creative process, such as it is, hasn't really been influenced by anyone, even by Yves whom I worked with for so long. The creative process is a very very personal thing, a mixture of perseverance and despair, happy and unhappy accidents, memories, and instinct, and something else, inspiration ?

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