TAMPOPO: This Is My Soup And I Like It

Interview by Erkki Rautio / pHinnWeb

Add  Boiling  Water 26 November, 2001 - Tampopo, a.k.a. Philippe Bertrand from Toulouse, France, has just released his first single, 'Sumo Da House', for Munich's International Deejay Gigolos record label. pHinnWeb has known the Japanophile Monsieur Bertrand - or Tampopo-san - for some time now since he first bombed our mailbox with his announcements, and now Le Samourai has finally agreed to give an interview to the Nokialand's sleaziest.

- How did you get started with music?

Plugging a small piece of metal into a dark hole. Every good fairy tale should begin like this. It reminds me of Tetsuo, ah ah ah!

- Do you have any role models or other people who have influenced you?

Influences, yep. I cannot imagine someone isolated from external influences. J Saul Kane, Leatherface, Mark Stewart, Dexter (the small genius), Genesis P-Orridge, Chicago house music, Gene Simmons, Divine... DJ Hell opened my very own Pandora's Box, so I can say that he was a major influence and catalyst. But as you can see, my influences do not come from music only. Food, movies, books, art, comics, video games. Anything is leaving scars.

- And any current acts which would particularly impress you, or feel are on the same wavelength with you?

Felix Da Housecat. He's not "current" in terms of "fashionable", but this guy is one of the producers I respect the most, an amazing songwriter. And he was responsible for one of my favourite label ever: Radikal Fear. Miss Kittin has recorded her best tracks with him. Da Housecat is the one and only guy capable of making electro-pop tunes flavoured with an Eighties taste that do not sound crap. Some tried and failed, most of them failed! Filippo "Naughty" Moscatello is a brilliant producer too and would definitely need much more international exposure and attention than he has at the moment. And he's a fucking good DJ too.

I love Peaches. She rocks, yes, she rocks. I just played right after her during the festival Le Printemps de Septembre in Toulouse and the audience was hot as hell after her show. Be careful, this lady is crazy! And I have a total admiration for Curtis Jones (Green Velvet). He is a freak.

- How did you end up on Gigolo Records?

Once I talked to Mister [David] Carretta and he told me that DJ Hell was going to start Gigolo Records. I just sent some demo tracks on a plain cassette. And [the label's owner] DJ Hell called me back, telling me he was interested in some tracks. It is as simple as this.

- How about your previous live performances and tours? Best and worst experiences? Any interesting gig stories?

The last gig was really great. It was during the festival Le Printemps de Septembre in Toulouse at the beginning of October 2001. The festival is a very big cultural project concentrating mainly on contemporary photography art, and is organised by La Fondation Cartier (Paris), and for this edition (the first) they included in the global programme four nights of Les Soirées Nomades, which are focusing on music. The first weekend operations were cancelled due to the chemical plant explosion [that took place in Toulouse just some time before the festival] but thanks to the energy of the girls, who organised the Soirées Nomades, it happened on the second weekend, and I finally played on the Friday right after Peaches and just before Miss Kittin. And it was an open-air location on the banks of the river Garonne, the weather was summer-like, kind of perfect. The whole festival was a huge success and something new and fresh for Toulouse. Hopefully there will be a second edition next year!

Every time I play with other Gigolos is a good experience. There's something like a genetic link between Gigolo artists, and it is always the moment to have some good times together. Hell really created something unique with this whole Gigolo affair.

- How are the French and Toulouse scenes at the moment?

French electronic music, hhmm. There's plenty of good DJs and producers. Like everywhere else around the world. At last this French Touch thing has mutated into cheesy prout-prout disco-house shit and is now quite 'l'mode chez les bourgeois', so the magazines do not focus on this any more. Thank God! French people I like are The Micronauts, Miss Kittin, Jennifer, David Carretta, Rodeo Gay artists.

As for Toulouse, I've never heard of interesting acts except Dirty Ali and Funky Farid, who are producing tracks now for Diamond Traxx as the Eternals. But you should know that there's not even one club around here, where you could catch some good music on a decent sound system. No need to say more.

- The name Tampopo comes from Juzo Itami's (the unfortunate director who committed suicide because of tax problems, I've heard) film of that same title, which concerns Japanese food culture. Is this one your particular favourite of Japanese cinema, or are there others too?

You're right, pHinn! This is one of my favourite Japanese movies. It is quite unusual in the Japanese film history and context. That's why this movie is so special to me. Western Ramen A-Go-Go. Some scenes are hilarious, there are plenty of them and the Japanese sense of humour is sometimes really crazy. Everything you need to make a successful modern comedy is in this movie. No more, no less. It stands as a standard for me.

I love plenty of other Japanese (and Chinese too) movies and directors. The main problem is that the distribution of Japanese contemporary films is close to zero in the Western Europe and it is quite difficult to get those movies in theatres here. Things changed a bit with the huge success of Kitano's movies and we were lucky last year to see the horror tale Ring. A sequel was released in Japan and it is going to be developed as a TV series. But we do not have a chance to see it in France. DVDs should help a lot. And the editor HK in France does a very impressive job with an entire video collection dedicated to the Hong-Kong, Chinese and Japanese cinema.

SF Episode One: Samurai Fiction directed by Hiroyuki Nakano (1998) was really nice too. Very funny, very bloody. Black and white and red, should remind you of something. And we need to keep in mind that the Japanese film industry brought us Godzilla and its bunch of surrealistic monsters. This is a miracle, don't you think? Another miracle is the entire output of the Studio Ghibli. While in Tokyo we were lucky to be able to see the last movie of Hayao Miyazaki, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi which is a true masterpiece, setting up the new levels of excellency in animation. Far above anything done before.

- So, it's obvious you're a fan of Japanese and Asian culture in general? Would you like to tell more about that?

Can I say it all began with Vietnamese food? I was lucky enough to have parents, who loved Vietnamese and Chinese cooking. We went quite often to a very serious restaurant to enjoy splendid meals. I was really a kid, when I learned how to use chopsticks and that was good fun. The very beginning of a discovery and it never stopped.

Asian food, gastronomy, music, literature, the way of life, arts. This is something huge to handle and a whole lifetime is not enough. It's kind of difficult to talk about this in general, because there are so many things I like and also so many things I do not like at all. What I like, I pick it up; the rest, I don't give a damn.

- Your current/all time Top Ten?

all time top (xx)

Phuture 'Acid Trax'
Royal House 'Can You Party?'
Donna Summer 'I Feel Love'
Diana Ross 'Upside Down'
Throbbing Gristle 'Hamburger Lady'
Giorgio Moroder 'From Here To Eternity' (LP)
Kraftwerk 'Computer Love'
Whitehouse 'Great White Death'
James Brown 'Sex Machine'
Sylvester 'You Make Me Feel'
Inner City 'Good Life'

current: mission impossible... some clues for you...

Battle Royale (movie by Kinji Fukasaku). Any music by Angelo Badalamenti. Ravenous (movie by Antonia Bird). Texas Chainsaw Massacre (movie by Tobe Hooper). Female Trouble and Pink Flamingos (movies by John Waters). Michael Nyman's music for the movie Gattaca, The Blade (movie by Tsui Hark): there's a real villain in this film, a real one, as evil as the loveable Freddy from Elm Street. I love villains. Patrick Pulsinger's deejaying! (Hmm, he's not a villain. Is he???). Miss Kittin singing stupid stories. Gigi Galaxy (every single produced by Gary Martin). James Newton Howard score for the movie Unbreakable. Elbee Bad on da decks. Tim Burton's Mars Attacks. David Lynch's Twin Peaks of course. Blake Baxter's basslines. Kraftwerk live. Carl Craig's remixes. Cristopher Walken tapdancing! Bangkok City and Thai Food (South Asia cooking is definitely the best and Thai is above all). Jim Rose's Sideshow. Gon. Kevin Smith's movies. Everything with Cary Grant is magic. Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Jaws. Dexter's Laboratory. The TV series Action.

- The future of electronic dance music in your opinion?

Don't have a fucking idea! You'd better ask a psychic, he'll tell you! The only thing I'm afraid of is "what will be the next hype revival?". After all this 80's revival bullshit we can prepare ourselves for the worst.

- Your future plans?

To rule the Noodle World. And nominate Domokun as the Prime Minister. This is for my Noodle World domination plans. But I need to keep some details secret. As for the Real World, promote the 'Sumo da House' single first and starting recording new tracks for Gigolo. I hope to have some hot female vocals tracks soon. This is still a project, but I am re-writing the Osmond Brothers' classic 'Crazy Horses' turning it up into 'Crazy Ladies' and some more freaky tracks should receive the Tampopo's treatment soon. Stay tuned!

On the visual front the first video-anime clip of Tampopo's history was realised by Motomichi Nakamura (NYC) with a truely mind-blowing Flash animation, that can be seen on the Web. The clip 'Add Boiling Water' was premiered at the Paris Beaubourg Contemporary Art Center (September 2001) and has been selected recently for the next Sundance Online Film Festival (2002), and Motomichi is actually presenting a brand new animation package at the Korea Web Art Festival.

I was honoured, when Motomichi told me, that he was going to use some Tampopo's loops as sound illustrations (www.koreawebart.org/). Motomichi has other projects that will involve new Trans-Atlantic collaborations between us (www.juvenilemedia.com). And one huge piece of work now is setting up brand new animations and videos as a backing visual support for the forthcoming Tampopo live acts.

- Your favourite question no one ever asks in interviews?

Have you ever met Totoro for real?

Japanese Cuisine à la Tampopo

Copyright © (for the text) pHinnWeb 2001.

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