Interview: Michel Gaubert on Chloë Sevigny

published on 15 March 2016

Acclaimed DJ Michel Gaubert talks to Lou Stoppard about his relationship with Chloe Sevigny and the interplay between fashion and music.

Acclaimed DJ Michel Gaubert talks to Lou Stoppard about his relationship with Chloe Sevigny and the interplay between fashion and music.

Lou Stoppard: You have this real obsession with Chloe Sevigny - you post pictures of her on your Instagram frequently. Where does that come from?

Michel Gaubert: I would say that fascinated is maybe a better word than obsessed. A lot of people say 'obsessed', especially in America–I’m obsessed with that phone, I’m obsessed with that food, I’m obsessed with that person. But maybe it’s fascination. I think she’s a very special person, she understands what image making is all about and I think she’s using it a lot to broadcast her image. She’s one of those people who really like to use image, clothes–every artefact–to project herself. So, it’s always imbued with clothes and style and it always has some impact. She’s always there at the right moment. I guess she’s also an image addict and l like that about her. I think she’s also 'obsessed'! I mean, she’s a part of that cycle of people: ‘I’m obsessed, I’m obsessed.’ I think she’s obsessed with image making. I’m the same way and you’re the same way too–SHOWstudio is obsessed! In the beginning, I was finding pictures of her on Tumblr and she was doing basically anything you could think of and that’s why I started the 'When I...' series on Instagram - ‘when I sat on the chair,’ ‘when I smoked a cigarette,’ and so on. With her, there’s always a sense of humour about it. You don’t know if she’s serious or if she’s joking. She’s always at that borderline.

LS: When you post, you write it like you’re her. ‘When I sat on the chair’, ‘When I did this.’ It’s funny. What made you want to do it like that?

MG: Because it’s a part of Tumblr culture. So many kids write, ‘when I did this’, ‘when I did that’ or ‘when your mother comes into your room and you’re fucking your boyfriend.’ I like all that kind of stuff. I get inspired by that. 

LS: It’s that language.

MG: Yeah, I like that language because I think it’s people exploring their fantasies a little bit. You need other images to say what they feel like. I like that language. It’s all a part of the Internet language.

LS: With Chloe, you feel that she has a lot of control over her own image. Which, if you think of a lot of young women, particularly famous young women, they don’t have that control. It feels like she’s really taken ownership of it. I think it’s because she does play with it so much and you get the sense that she is in charge, which I find really interesting. 

MG: She’s in charge because I think she understands it. I know Chloe, she loves fashion. She always liked it, from day one. From the movies she’s in, from the way she speaks, to everything, she’s completely aware of it. I think a lot of people, a lot of actresses, they’re good actresses but to communicate the image, they need so many stylists, so many designers. You see that at the Oscars - there’s not much fashion culture or much style culture. It seems like they went shopping, someone gave them a big curtain and they wear it to go to the ceremony and they think they look great. Chloe is one of those few people who pushes the envelope a bit further. 

LS: Definitely. Chloe is such a symbol within Internet culture. People are obsessed with her on Tumblr, they love her, and you see her on Instagram all the time. She’s interesting because she’s ‘pre-internet’ in some ways. When she first appeared, it was before the web or in the very, very early days of the Internet and that’s what I find really interesting about her. She’s not that archetypal Internet girl who rose to fame online. She found her fame before. 

MG: She has a realness to her. She’s the pre-internet generation as a matter of fact. I think the Internet started to get big around 2000. What happened before 2000 on the Internet was truly the prémices. She’s not using it to promote herself shamelessly, which is also something I like about her. She has the best of both worlds. She knows the real and she knows the Internet. So it’s very about just using the Internet to be who she is. Like a lot of others.

LS: You’ve said before you’re fascinated by what she represents. What do you mean by that?

MG: Well, what she represents is what she stands for - it's what she stood for for many people, and still does. It's this dedication to image and personal style - always representing herself in such a way. Her attitude, her certain type of coolness, like the Ice Queen in a way; ‘don’t touch me because I’m too cold.’ This little ‘je ne sais quoi.’ She always shoots with cool people. She’s always in Purple. All the kids like her. She’s got all these attributes to her but at the same time she's...she’s not Hollywood royalty, but she is a Duchess. Or something like that. She’s a part of that true family of actors. That’s what I like about her. She touches everything and she’s obsessed with things I’m obsessed with. 

LS: What makes a great Chloe look or a great Chloe image?

MG: I think most of the time it’s attitude and maybe it’s a certain type of behaviour. Whether it’s intentional or not. I like the way she seems detached from it and then completely into it. 

LS: How did the collaboration come about? Did you approach Régime des Fleurs or did they approach you? And did you always want to do something with Chloe?

MG: Regime des Fleur approached us. I met Alia Raza and Ezra Woods [founders] two and a half years ago and they were just starting to do the project. Since Alia is also a filmmaker and had worked with Chloe before, they had a good relationship. They wrote the poem and they recorded it with Chloe and then they sent it over to me in November and said, ‘what do you think of this? We’d like to make a song with this. It would be a very nice thing.’ I thought the material was so good and so sharp, so rather than just have me do it, we decided to push it a bit further and do something else with more people.

If Chloe was a song, what would she be? I truly don’t know! What about If You Don’t Know Me By Now?

LS: Have you done a score for a poem before?

MG: No, never. Ever since I started working on fashion soundtracks, I’ve always been very fond of using spoken word. At the first show I ever did for Karl Lagerfeld, back in 1991, I used a lot of spoken word. We took some operators, French operators, that we laid beats and music on and then since then I was always searching in films, taking dialogues from different movies and putting them together to make a story. Recently for Loewe, we used the sound bite of a hypnotherapist doctor who teaches you how to quit smoking. It’s a different thing, it’s not a poem, but it’s someone telling a story.

LS: I think that because of you, that has become something that’s quite popular at fashion shows. Other people have picked up on it. But you’ve done it a lot. I remember when you used Big Hard Excellent Fish at J.W. Anderson - that's a song, but it’s spoken word. And when you did Fran Lebowitz for him, as well. Do you think it’s more political somehow when you use words alongside music?

MG: Yes - political. It makes people react in a different way. The last track for Loewe was very, very good because the set for the show was almost like an apartment. The ceiling was not too high, there was carpeting on the floor, people were sitting on nice stools. There were bonsais and yuccas in the rooms. It felt like you were in someone’s living room. So when that voice came on, people believed it. It was like, ‘oh my God, it could be like we’re really listening to this.’ It was about three minutes, ‘you’re going to relax now, you’re going to change your life.’ And after three and a half minutes, ‘you’re now going to turn into a non-smoker.’ And people just started giggling because they didn’t expect that at all and it really worked. So I liked the fact that people really relate to these words because it sometimes has more impact than music itself. And the Fran Lebowitz thing we used at J.W. Anderson, everyone picked up. Why was she saying that? A word or maybe two words, not even the whole thing, can have more impact than just a song. It’s up to what you see and hear and what you take from it.

LS: How does your work for fashion shows differ to this project?

MG: It’s different because the soundtrack for a fashion show is something you play for 500, 600 people. They’re all there in the same room at the same time and they’re all watching the same thing, at the same time. The reaction is more unified. People react to the same thing together. Something like this is more individual. Everyone listens to it when they can or if they like it, and how they like. People have their own reaction. You’re not in a theatre watching a movie or at a fashion show watching girls come by. You make the whole story yourself. Therefore, I think the music is also very different. It’s not a montage, or anything like that. It’s a track. It’s very individual. 

LS: You worked with lots of different artists and musicians on this project. How did you choose who you wanted to be involved?

MG: All the artists involved in the project are friends. People we know, people we like - we like their music and they’re all people we’ve met before. There’s no one we don’t know. There's usually been some kind of collaboration at some point, like with Io Echo, who we worked with on the Louis Vuitton soundtrack. Johnny Jewel was performing live once for Chanel and I really liked that. Peaking Lights - we saw them a few times live and we cast their music for shows. And also Paolo Di Nola and Mac Folkes, of The Love And Trust Collective, DJ-ed for us for a party. Everyone is really different - that's why we like them.

LS: What did you hope the music would represent? Were you trying to make the music almost capture a sense of Chloe’s identity and personality?

MG: In a way, yes. But we mainly wanted to capture the spirit of Saint Therese and Chloe singing the prayer to Saint Therese. It was more about icons. It was more about saying something to Saint Therese.

LS: Fashion and music, they’re so entwined and they bounce so well off each other. A huge question, but why? Why is there that constant relationship?

MG: For me, it’s super easy to reply to this. From the beginning I started to be aware of musicians because I was always fascinated by the way they looked. I grew up with T-Rex, with David Bowie, with The Rolling Stones and all those people. I noticed that they weren’t dressed like me or my neighbour. And I loved that. It was a part of the thing. At that age, I wanted to be a rockstar because that’s what I liked - making a look for myself. I liked the way they expressed themselves using fashion, hair, stage set. At that point, in the mid-seventies or late seventies, music was music and fashion was fashion. They didn’t mix. A lot of musicians would say, ‘I hate fashion, I don’t like it, it’s such crap.’ But they loved style. Music needs image in order to convey a message. When people find the link between the two, it’s truly amazing. There are a few people who would choose to have no style and no fashion because it’s a part of their work. It’s a part of what they want. But it’s like fashion people saying they don’t dress like ‘fashion' - they all wear the ‘non-fashion uniform.’ It’s also a part of style. People who wear jeans, New Balance and a GAP t-shirt - there’s a whole bunch of them - are still saying something.

LS: I have one last question, which is tricky. If Chloe was a song, what would she be?

MG: I truly don’t know! What about If You Don’t Know Me By Now?

LS: That’s a really good one!

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