Filles Sourires: Guuzbourg, the 'Gentil Garcon'
Guuzbourg is the Dutch blogger who catalogues his love of French female singers on his 'Filles Souries' blog. This has already spilled over into the 'Filles Fragiles' compilations, but now he's attending to the guys on 'Gentils Garçons'. Rockfort finds out about the origins of his obsession, and whether his wife ever gets jealous.
Rockfort: What’s your background – were you involved with music before starting the blog?
G: My mother still has pictures of me singing along (phonetically) to Middle of the Road's ‘Sacramento’. I was four at the time, but singing along to songs on the stereo is still a favourite pastime. My taste in music got better when I grew up, thanks to school friends, Belgian radio (I was born near the Belgian border, Dutch radio was unlistenable then, and besides a few shows on public radio still is) and music magazines. I started collecting 45s at an early age, and spent most of my allowance on albums and cd's later on. I studied journalism, not to become a music writer. But that's what I turned out to be, really.
Rockfort: What are the origins of your Francophilia, do you think?
Girls, of course. There was my French teacher, Miss Van de Corput. I was 14 at the time, and she looked like every schoolboy’s dream when it comes to French teachers. With her heavy makeup and tight-fitting clothes, she spoke a magical language that rattled my teen hormones in a very nice way. The language sounded exotic and sexy, and it fit to music really well. I found that out while on several holidays in France with my parents, listening to French radio in the car. Mind you, this was in the 80s, not the most fruitful period of French pop. But the way Princess Stephanie sang, and Vanessa Paradis, and Elli Medeiros
, the way they pronounced words, the atmosphere of their songs, it made a lasting impression.
Rockfort: How did the blog come about? Wasn’t it inspired by Coralie Clement?
G: I was already into Gainsbourg and the big chansonniers, but Coralie's first album made everything fall in it's place; the summer holidays, the French teacher, the French girls on the campsites my parents went to, the videos on RTBF-tv: this was French music the way I dreamed it to be. That album made me beg for more, I started digging and searching and buying and downloading... it only seemed fair to have her picture on top of my blog. I also should mention Mordi's blog Blow Up Doll, that was a big inspiration too.
Rockfort: What were your ambitions for it when it first began?
I had been making compilations on tape and CD for all my friends, neighbours, love-interests, teachers, colleagues and their family, so blogging about my favourite music was just a natural next step. I think 'the world' should know more about those special French sounds. Mordi
was focussing on the 60s and 70s, I heard a lot of new stuff that I wanted to share.
Rockfort: How did you get the opportunity to put together the first ‘Filles Fragiles’ compilation?
G: I had been in talks with several labels about a Filles-comp, but to no avail. By accident, I met Peter of Sonic Scenery (who also put out 4 fantastic jazz compilations by Dutch cult poet Jules Deelder, that I loved) who fell for the idea immediately, and within 6 months ‘FF’ number one was released.
Rockfort: How did you choose the music for the 'Gentils Garçons' compilation?
G: Listening to a huge stack of music, getting tracks pitched by labels, tips from friends and blog readers, and then keeping my fingers crossed that the labels involved would agree to licensing. If you've never experienced frustration, try compiling a CD with French music. Some labels never get back to you, others want a lot of money. But there are also Dutch reps of big majors who work their asses off to get their French colleagues to okay a track.
Rockfort: Do you feel that through Filles Sourires you’ve created a new label/genre for certain types of singers?
G: There are very few people in Holland who don't know what a 'zuchtmeisje' (a rough translation of ‘filles sourires’) is, but I'm not sure that the artists involved really like to be coined that way. I once read a French review of my CD saying that it represented the most clichéd view of French female music. That may be the case, but how come there are soooo many girls to choose from?
Rockfort: How does the blog work now – do you get artists fighting to be featured on the blog, or do you still have to do a lot of hunting yourself?
G: I'm offered a lot of music through PR people and labels - unfortunately almost never French music. I have some good contacts with French and Canadian labels, but most music is 'hunted' by me or my blog readers.
Rockfort: You faced some trouble from record labels for posting music – do labels largely see it as good PR now or do you still get problems like that?
Some reps from French or Canadian labels think it's good PR, but the copyright Gestapo think I'm pure evil. I had three threatening emails, my server was down for a few days, and every now and then posts are removed (DMCA
takedowns). But I can't be bothered, really. The good thing is that via Myspace or Facebook I can get in touch with the artists themselves, especially unsigned bands or those on small labels, who are really easy about me posting mp3s.
Rockfort: What has been the best thing that’s happened to you as a result of starting the blog?
I have been kissed by Carla Bruni, had Charlotte Gainsbourg sitting at my feet and I have the mobile number of Claire Denamur
. Plus I was able to compile three cds with my favourite music, and become virtual friends with French music fans from all over the world.
Rockfort: Does your wife mind you getting excited about all these attractive ladies?
G: She just says “You busy with your harem again?” But she knows she's the ultimate ‘fille’ for me (although she did not let me name my son after Serge Gainsbourg).
Rockfort: Do you ever get tired of listening to breathy-voiced chanteuses and crave some black metal or something?
G: After listening to a lot of breathy-voiced guys, I am ready to listen to breathy-voiced chanteuses again.
Interview by David McKenna