Soundtrack Of My Life: Jehnny Beth

French punk, Savages singer, not impressed by leather trousers

The first song I remember hearing

Nina Simone – ‘To Be Young, Gifted And Black’

“She really intrigued me because when I heard her, I couldn’t tell whether she was a man or a woman. And even when I looked at the jacket of the album, I still couldn’t tell. I was very attracted to that and I remember it was the first time I felt that way about a singer. I can still picture the jacket now: she’s sitting at the piano, all covered in gold like the queen that she is.”

The first song I fell in love with

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Le Tigre – ‘Deceptacon’

“I remember putting on the first Le Tigre album at a friend’s house when I was about 14 or 15 and this song literally blew my mind. I’d never heard anything like it in my life. It was a song that felt so out of context for me as a teenager living in a small French city. It just sounded completely liberated. Kathleen Hanna’s voice was so free and the song had all this female power, though I didn’t know what that was at the time. I think, sometimes, a song can change someone’s life more than any discourse or conversation.”

The first gig I went to

Alain Bashung – Bataclan, Paris, 1992

“He was a really big star in France and for good reason – he made some great records. My mother was a big fan and when we walked past the venue in Paris, there were still some tickets left. So we bought some on the spot and came back for the show three hours later. I remember my mother was so happy about the gig, but I left feeling a little disappointed because he was just sitting on a chair the whole way through and didn’t really move. When we left I heard a woman from the audience say, ‘Did you see his leather trousers? He was so rock!’ But I remember thinking: ‘That’s not rock, he didn’t do anything!'”

The first album I bought

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Portishead – ‘Dummy’

“I bought it because their song ‘Glory Box’ was featured in the very end scene of a French film called Chacun cherche son chat. It’s a beautiful scene where the main character – a girl living in Paris who’s kind of lost in her life – starts running because, for the first time, she’s met someone she thinks she can have a relationship with. At this point the Portishead song comes in with: ‘Give me a reason to be a woman’ and it’s just very moving. It made a big impact on me at the time.”

The song I can’t get out of my head

J. Cole – ‘No Role Modelz’

“I play it every day when I train for boxing – it’s a great song, and the hook of the intro is just perfect. It’s the kind of hip-hop that I love where it sounds like there’s a band playing and there’s a real group mentality, though I don’t actually know how he makes his records. I’ve been listening to a live recording of this song as well, which is a bit of a painful experience at the moment because we can’t go to gigs. But this song is so perfect that I inflict it on myself anyway.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Kid Cudi – ‘Tequila Shots’

“I was talking to Atticus Ross on the phone the other day and he said I should listen to the Kid Cudi record. He’s more into vocoder and on the electronic side than J. Cole, but I really like his style and the lyrics are great. I’ve tried to learn all the lyrics to get the flow right, but it’s too fast for me. I just do my shit version at home, you know.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Any post-punk record

“It’s because I’ve listened to them so much. When I was 20, I was so into all those great records by Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and Siouxsie and the Banshees. But now, they seem so dusty to me. They’re amazing records and I still love and respect them, but it feels like they’re from an old time in my life. What’s changed is that I did a Beats 1 radio show for two years and now I make a TV show in France called Echoes, so I feel like I’m very connected to what’s going on now. Back then, when I was listening only to post-punk records, I really had no idea what was going on.”

The song I do at karaoke

Beyoncé – ‘Haunted’

“I definitely don’t do karaoke, but I did work on a cover of this Beyoncé song a little while ago. It wasn’t the easiest, because I definitely do not have the range of the queen! But in an imaginary world where I would agree to do karaoke, I would pick this song because I know I can sing it. When this album [2013’s ‘Beyoncé’] came out, it was a real bombshell moment for me. At the time I was really into punk and hadn’t been into pop culture since I was a kid, but that album really made me step back into pop culture again. It’s definitely an important album for me.”

The song I want played at my funeral

Mozart – ‘Requiem’

“This piece of music will make everyone cry. I don’t listen to a lot of classical music, but I’ve had a strong connection to this record ever since I was a kid, when I heard it in the movie Amadeus. It has a real pop vibe because there are bits you can sing, but at the same time it’s so deep and literally tears your soul apart. It’s a journey to the land of death, really, and it’s incredibly beautiful.”

Jehnny Beth’s debut solo album ‘To Love Is To Live‘ is out now

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