Marc Collin has made a remarkable career out of covering other people’s songs, largely because few people can contort a tune’s subtext in the diabolical way that he can.
Along with Olivier Libaux, Collin’s band Nouvelle Vague have achieved quite a bit of notoriety since their eponymous 2004 debut. By taking classic pop songs and redoing them in a unique bossa-nova style, Collin and his rotating cast of female vocalists were able to find surprising emotional underpinnings in tracks like the Dead Kennedy’s “Too Drunk to Fuck” and Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself”, leading all the way up to this year’s Nouvelle Vague 3, which serves as somewhat of a departure for the group.
This time out, instead of just covering Depeche Mode or Echo & the Bunnymen by their lonesome, Collin’s company actually brought in Martin Gore and Ian McCulloch to help add vocals to covers of their own songs, making for what is without a doubt the most meta covers album released this decade. Now, with three acclaimed discs under his belt, Collin has taken a bit of a break to tackle PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here talking about the brilliance of Radiohead’s Kid A, a special talent for classic video games, and how he may now transfer his love of music into a love of documentary filmmaking.
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
I must admit that I almost cried watching Mystic River on the plane recently. We got a rumor in the band that there’s something in the air when you are flying that makes you cry more easily!
2. The fictional character most like you?
Charlie in Charlie’s Angels or Monsieur Spock.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Difficult to say, maybe Kid A from Radiohead; I’m really impressed by this combination of experimental music (Alice Coltrane, electronica, etc.) and pop/rock. It seems this album have been made for me but actually it has sold a lot ...
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Trek. I never was into Star Wars, always thought it was for only kids. I saw the first two episodes when it was released when I was a kid, actually, and even at that time I didn’t like it. I’m more into THX 1138, the first movie made by George Lucas; that’s masterpiece.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Some good talks on a radio show or a documentary; the Wire magazine (the English one).
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Because its not easy to become a rock star! When I started making music in the late ‘80s in Versailles, I never thought that one day I’d be playing in front of 3,500 people in London with Barry Adamson, for example; it would have been impossible even to dream about it.
7. You want to be remembered for ...?
My work as a producer, discovering artists, producing music, my ideas about being into music business.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
The post-punk bands like The Cure, New Order, and also the labels like Factory, Crammed, Les Disques du Crepuscule. All these people that have created an attitude that makes other people discover artwork other than music.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
Persona from Ingmar Bergman, Mulholland Drive by David Lynch, Pierrot le Fou from Godard.
10. Your hidden talents… ?
I’m good in vintage electronics games like Space Invaders, Galaxian, etc.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
You can learn from the failures.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
A synthesizer: a Korg 8000! And each new piece of gear that inspired me to do some production.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
Armani, I don’t like sportswear or jeans. I’m a new people guy! I’ve been wearing black and grey clothes for more than 25 years now!
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
A beautiful and brilliant girl; could be an actress, a model, or a singer maybe ...
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
In the ‘60s probably, where everything was possible—or into the future: I always wanted to be the only survivor (haha) after a nuclear attack.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
Spa vacation, even if I never did it. but probably just few days under the sun will be OK.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or… ?
Vodka (especially Zubroska) and Italian food.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
Probably where it’s sunny. Paris is OK or in the countrysides: Provence, south of France for sure.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Keep cool, relax ...
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
A documentary/an album based on French post-punk bands from 1977-1984. To show that they was incredible artists also in France at that time and they weren’t only trying to copy the British or American bands and also it’s a good opportunity for me to produce a kind of movie! It’s a first step I hope!