My Music DNA: Philippe Cohen Solal

Philippe Cohen Solal and Mike Lindsay are set to release the brand-new album Outsider on Friday 5th February 2021 on ¡Ya Basta! Records. Inspired by America’s most celebrated Outsider artist Henry Darger the album promises lush, twisted 1950s/60s Americana with stunning, vintage analogue instrumentation transporting the listener into panoramic realms.

The album is a musical and visual extrapolation of Darger, his obsession with the weather, his tormented Christian faith, deceptively naive paintings and lyrics to songs, that were never before set to music.

Philippe Cohen Solal and Mike Lindsay release Outsider on Friday 5th February 2021 on ¡Ya Basta! Records

Outsider has been five years in the making and the brainchild of Philippe Cohen Solal, the million-selling artist, producer and composer who co-founded Gotan Project. Solal has been given exclusive, unprecedented access to Henry Darger’s estate comprising lyrics, poems and visual art and has brought together an epic collaboration with Mike Lindsay from acid folk group Tunng, Hannah Peel and the vocals of Adam Glover.

Darger was a reclusive hospital janitor, whose epic fantasy novels and visual artwork set the art world aflame upon its posthumous discovery. Darger’s work now exhibits around the world, changes hands for close to a million dollars and has admirers among artists including Grayson Perry, the Chapman brothers and musicians like Nick Cave, David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart.

Here, Philippe Cohen Solal talks to Andy Howells about music inspirations.

What was the first song that made an impact on you?

Raindrops keep falling on my head by Burt Bacharach, sung by B.J Thomas. It was the theme song of the western Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. A magnificent melody and a fantastic message about recklessness.

What was the first single you bought?

It is precisely this 7” vinyl single. I was 8 years old, coming out of the cinema where we had just watched this film, I begged my mother to go straight to the record store to buy it. I still have it in my record collection.

What was the first album you owned?

Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev. A symphonic fairy tale for children and a good introduction to learn about the music instruments. But also, it’s a great combination of music and storytelling, which is a pattern in my work.

What’s your constant go to track?

What’s going on by Marvin Gaye. When I listen to this song, I almost believe in God. Besides, one day in an interview Marvin said that while recording it he had felt that he was the instrument of a higher force that inhabited him. And that he hadn’t felt this way during other recordings. I readily believe it.

What’s your constant go to album?

I could name several, like Hunky Dory by David Bowie, Ram by Paul McCartney, Something else by The Kinks, Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones and Channel Orange by Frank Ocean. They’re albums that I’ve bored my friends and family with by listening to them on repeat 😉

Who’s your latest music discovery?

SAULT fascinates me as much by his music as by the mystery that surrounds them. Nowadays, where we are all overexposed through social media, the mystery remains the sexiest thing in the world.

What’s your own track that best defines you as an artist?

What goes around, which is an original melody that sounds like an classic pop standard. This song is a strange mixture of 80s Daisy Age rap and 50s crooning, Sinatra style. Bringing together the old and the new seems to be my trademark.

What’s the track that best defines you as a person?

In our new album Outsider, I really find myself in the song Can a boy forget his mother. It is intimate and melancholy. It speaks of the child that is within us throughout our lives.

When the world is back to normal where would you like to tour, and why?

I don’t miss travelling too much, but I am really excited to present this project, Outsider, as I know that it will be a very special show. Musically, visually and narratively.

If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?

A few years ago, I would have responded Santa Maria (del Buen Ayre) by the Gotan Project. Today, I would say Scattering the Fierce Foeman, which closes the Outsider album, because it is full of positive energy.

What ambitions do you have for the record?

I would love for the word of mouth to make this album the one you hear in all the right places. A “coffee table album” that is played at people’s houses and in cool shops. This has already happened for me with the Gotan Project and it’s a marvellous feeling, to feel in vibration with the world around us.

Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?

See you there!

  • Philippe and Mike artwork by Gabriel Jacquel

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