Cascadeur: The Masked Stuntman
(Pictures: Vincent Idez/Franck Espositio)
He's a new, mysterious and masked music maker from France. Rockfort watched him live and spoke to the man behind the 'Walker' EP.
On 3 November, the day of its release in France, Cascadeur’s debut EP hit the top of the French iTunes chart. There’d been no press. This was word of mouth. Then über-hip label Kitsuné chose Cascadeur’s 'Walker' as the opening cut for its 10th 'Maison Kitsuné' compilation. The (French) world is smiling on Cascadeur, but it couldn’t have happened without this being intriguing and genuinely good.
Who Cascadeur actually is could probably be worked out, but for now his identity is secret. He is from Alsace Lorraine though. Hiding behind either a helmet or a Mexican wrestler’s mask, Cascadeur is for now as much a mystery as his music is affecting.
'Walker' – which also opens the EP – is a benchmark Cascadeur performance. Yearning, elegiac and stately, it evokes loss: “now I’m lost, I waste my life away”. With a vocal that places Cascadeur on a level with Antony Hegerty and Patrick Watson, its beauty haunts. 'Meaning' is another reflection, with echoes of Bartok. Cascadeur declares himself “like a monster” and asks “about the meaning of my life”. Another signature track from the EP is the utterly affecting “Bye Bye”. The atmosphere is of endings, doom even.
Live, Cascadeur is as affecting and keeps still, very rigid. Projections swamp the stage, with images of outer space, abstraction and amorphousness. There are hints of the freakier parts of 2001, A Space Odyssey. Stage left of the seated Cascadeur is an unmoving figure that looks like Gort, the robot from The Day The Earth Stood Still. During 'Walker', this figure walks - very slowly – through the audience. It’s unnerving. Some shows have been accompanied by a choir, which heightens the elegiac feel of the songs. The choral version of 'Meaning' from the EP hints at the power of this when seen live.
Asked why he’s cloaked his identity, Cascadeur says “I like to hide myself. I had some difficulties with the exposure of the music. I wrote of lot of songs closed in my house and it was difficult to expose myself and my songs.”
He explains that he was at an event organised by the magazine Les Inrockuptibles, was nervous about being recognised afterwards and that a nearby shop he ducked into sold Mexican wrestler’s masks. Hiding his identity was a spontaneous decision. “I was scared to expose myself,” he says. “It was the only solution at the time.”
As to his past, music can be found on CD but he won’t be drawn on what it is. He will, however, discuss his influences and the music he loves. “Depeche Mode - Martin Gore is very important. The Clash too, with their textures. Supertramp – interesting sounds and good songs. Joe Jackson and Neil Young too. I do love The Beatles’ ‘A Day In The Life’. Julien Clerc is very interesting, very sophisticated with harmonies. Michel Polnareff as well, I adore his voice. When I was young, I couldn’t understand Errol Garner. It was magic, I heard the tunes and it was a big mystery. My parents do love music. They had a lot of records and when I was a child and music was like travel.”
His music is composed at the piano, with “the melody of the song,” coming first. “At the end I write the lyrics. The atmosphere follows in the studio.”
Film is another important influence. “I have very big memories of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, it was a very big shock. So was Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. But I also like the cheap versions of 50s movies. Meliés, Chaplin and Buster Keaton are very important.”
Explaining 'Walker', he says “the walker is the narrator. It’s about the loss of identity.
I like to visit many things, it's ambivalent. It’s not religious, but perhaps the walker is a preacher.”
On his identity, he revels that Cascadeur is drawn from the 1952 film Casque d’or (Helmet of Gold), the story of a doomed love. It’s fitting. Asked whether he might reveal himself, he says “in the future, I think so.”
© Kieron Tyler