Alex Lekouid is French and has more than one string to his bow. He first was a jazz dance teacher. Then, he leaned American tap. He also works as an actor, a singer, a presenter, he wrote weekly columns in the Journal Toulousain [”Toulousain” = from the French city Toulouse, ed] during two years about philosophy, anecdotes or history. He’s also a trainer and a coach in public speaking and personal development areas for business and individuals.
Vinaya: Which term do you prefer to use relating to your activity that involves performing on stage other people’s songs? ”Singer”? ”performer?”, ”singer-impersonater”…?
Alex Lekouid: ”’Impersonator”, it seems to me that I’m not, even though people often reduce this to impersonation. But in reality, if I’m talking about my intention for Claude Nougaro [French singer, ed] for example, I’m going to learn his songs of course but I’m going to learn them in different dimensions. That is, the text, the melody, musical arrangements and even more. I listen to the voice to know where the breathings are, the way he accentuates a specific piece of sentence and I’m trying to transpose it. But, as for me, that’s never impersonation, I remain myself, I don’t modify neither my being nor my voice. What I modify is my intention. I try to transpose the singer’s intention. The term ”performer” suits me. And I’ll say that there is a difference between ”singer” and ”performer”. For me, ”singer” is to sing, even impersonate whereas the ”interpreter” is closer to comedy in that it is ”act something that was written” like an actor. I like the ”interpreter” and the ”performer” aspects to describe me. So, the term ”performer-interpreter” seems suitable to me.
Why did you choose to interprete Claude Nougaro’s songs?
There is always an instinctive part in me that prevails. I like my instinct to get the edge over me and show me the way. Nougaro is someone that I felt like singing. I’ve been listening to him for a very long time. Therefore, I never thought being able to sing his songs but not only that, because I know myself, I can learn. I thought he was someone with very strong messages and I felt I was out of my league to stand for what he had created. It’s as if I was asked to paint a Monet’s painting, that’s beyond my skills. When I was asked to sing Nougaro, I was surprised. In my life, I had several signs to sing Nougaro which are, for me, messages from my instinct telling me ”This is your way”. So, from then on, I really got involved in it trying to do my best.
So, it was rather other people, not yourself, who pushed you into singing Nougaro’s songs?
Yes. I have a friend who has a recording studio. At that time, it was the 10th anniversary of Nougaro’s death. They wanted to make a record so they organised a casting. And my friend told me the singers of that casting didn’t have this dimension that I just talked about. So he asked me to do a leading voice to guide them. There, Nougaro’s wife heared my voice and told ”Look no further, this is the voice that I want. He brings exactly what I need.” That’s how I joined the Plaisant’ Swing Band as a singer. And just before that, I’ve had another sign, a friend told me it was his wife’s birthday and he wanted me to sing two Nougaro’s songs for the occasion. It was my first experience singing Nougaro.
Do you have an anecdote to tell us about Nougaro?
Nougaro was still alive, and I use to go to a hairdresser, Françoise. Every single time, she was telling me ”Oh, Claude Nougaro just left”. She told me that 40 times and I never saw Nougaro. So, after a while, I thought ”She must be joking, she’s teasing me”. And one day, I gave her a videocassette with extracts from my show because she’s never seen me on stage. Years went by… (Nougaro was still alive), and I received a call from Sud Radio. I’m told I’m invited by Yvan Cujious. So, I went there and Yvan Cujious told me ”Do you know why you’re here? Claude Nougaro asked me to call you”. I told him ”I don’t know Claude Nougaro, I just saw him once”. He answered ”Well, he knows you well”. Actually, Françoise, the hairdresser, had given my videocassette to Nougaro. So, it was true, he really used to go to her hairdressing salon. My videocassette was on his chimney during years. Yves Cujious was often with Nougaro and when Nougaro was tired from writing, he used to say ”Play the funny guy”. So, he watched my videocassette hundreds of time and he used to say ”I love this guy, I don’t know who he is but I love the energy”. This is an anecdocte which bound me to him. So, all of my anecdotes with him created my strength and my desire to sing his songs.
Currently, you keep singing Nougaro but you also have a new show: Faut qu’on Henri [Pun: it’s written ”We have to Henri” but it sounds like ”We have to laugh about it”, ed] in tribute to Henri Salvador…
Yes, I wrote this new show. I also have an anecdote about it. Inevitably, I can’t shake the image of him. To be honest, that got on my nerves at the beginning. I didn’t want to be compared to a children’s singer. Then, I met him to the Casino de Paris in 1994. He offered me a song called La main au cul [‘textually meaning ‘The hand on the ass”, ed]. He composed the music, and the lyrics are from Bernard Dimey. I included this song very soon in my singing shows and one man shows. Then, I forgot about it for a while. And now this new show Faut qu’on Henri is the opportunity to sing it again. To get back to my meeting with Henri Salvador, we stayed in touch mainly on the phone. The journalists very soon nicknamed me ”Henri Salvador’s spiritual son”. Then, I ended up undertaking this role. In spite of me, when I’m on stage singing Salvador, I’m very close to him in my attitude, in my intention, in my laugh and in my physical aspect, of course. I don’t do any work to be like him, which is absolutely not the case with Nougaro. So, for Faut qu’on Henri, I have five musicians behind me. In this show, I’m using hats. Each hat corresponds to the big steps of his life and I’m explaining at the same time these different periods of time. I also included sketches, the context… Then of course, I’m telling about my meetings with him.
Your show Faut qu’on Henri which the first date was in March 2018 wasn’t your first try…
Yes but I have already done a first version few years ago with Tacinelli orchestra. Then, a second one with the same orchestra, there’s a video on YouTube [here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ky1p7tLGlQ] but it didn’t work because we never knew how to attract people. So, I gave up. And the pianist from Nougaro Plaisant’ Swing Band told me we had to do it again. Then, I had to change and things took a new dimension. The show is very appreciated.
What was the process about the creation of this show?
So, I wrote it. When I’m writing, I create what I want to be, what I want to do. The writing is decisive. Having doing two versions of this show helped me a lot. I saw things in a different way, in another energy. Once all of it written down, I talked to my pianist. We spend hours listening to the tracks in order to determine what we were going to do. We worked on the arrangements, we were testing, we made adjustments. Then, we worked with the other musicians. We rehearsed all of it around ten times before our first performance.
One last anecdote with Salvador?
The day I was in the Olympia to open for Emile & Image in 2000, Salvador’s production called me threatening to sue me because on the tickets was written ”Henri Salvador’s spiritual son”. So, I was overcome by panic and in the evening, Henri called me and said ”Honour me, don’t you worry, I sorted out the problem”.
What is your perception about the job of performer-interpreter?
My point of view is that things only can be done if they are in total consistency with who we are, what we want and what we want to do. Things can only become true if we ”dreamt” them in three dimensions. That is, we have to visualise them into images, into films ; then we have to talk about it to create details, to make it real ; and the third point is beginning to fabricate it in order for it to exist. I believe that nothing exists on this planet, except the sea, the earth and the trees, if men didn’t dream it. The slightest chair, the slightest rug, the slight curtain was first thought, talked about and made. I think everything works that way. So, my advice is to follow your instinct because it is a small torch light of our destiny. The instinct sheds light on the path we have to walk on professionally and on a daily basis. Eventually, a guy like me or a guy superior than me cannot give advice to others because each life is personal and attached to a story. We mustn’t wish to look like another person, we must be ourselves. It’s not because someone attended one specific school that he became a big star, that is not true. ”Star” is a way of being, it’s not a consequence.
Thank you Alex for giving me this interview.
Other information about Alex Lekouid:
– Successfully won the television programme Graine de Super Star on the French channel M6, 2 hours of live broadcast with an audience of 12-13 millions viewers.
– He was the protagonist of the play Le Clan des Divorcées during one year.
Links about Alex Lekouid:
Nougaro Plaisant’ Swing Band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXcR75Dyk8U
Faut qu’on Henri extract : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ky1p7tLGlQ
Next publication 09 october 2018: written interview Jean-Paul Joguin ACTOR
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