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Yeyetronic, electropunky, kitsch & speed, sissilistening, bricolopop, Berliner juke-box, STEREO TOTAL was born the day Françoise Cactus met Brezel Göring. How did it happen ? Comment ? Warum ? From Villeneuve l'Archeveque to L'Amour a 3, here is the fantastik Stereostory.

 

CACTUS

It all begins somewhere in France, in a small town called Villeneuve l'Archeveque. Such a small town, it was actually a village of 1000 souls. Francoise Van Hove spends her time hanging around in the glass house behind her parents' home. That's how Cactus becomes her nickname. Meanwhile, Francoise writes down some songs ideas, and gets a little bit bored in the country of Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

LES LOLITAS

She moves away to Berlin in the mid 80's, and joins the Genius Dilektant mouvement. While teaching french lessons to make some pocket change, she creates her own band : THE LOLITAS, inspired by US garage rock and the french 60's YeYe. The Lolitas were Coco and Tutti Frutti on guitars, Olga on bass, and Françoise, the romantic bad girl in leather jacket, on drums and vocals (en francais).

They release their debut LP at the fall of 1986, then get a record contract with the french label New Rose. Three albums will follow : Series Americaines (19988), Fusee d'Amour (produced by Alex Chilton, 1989) and Rouge Baiser (with Chris Spedding, 1990).

But New Rose closes down in 1992. The Lolitas split up and Coco moves away to Guadeloupe, leaving Francoise broke and lonely in the new reunited Germany.

Les Lolitas : Olga, Coco, Françoise and Tutti Frutti

BREZEL

Then, one day, at the local supermarket, she meets this strange german guy who's living in the same neighborhood : Friedrich Von Finsterwalde, aka Brezel Göring. Brezel is a DIY conjurer, doing all kind of strange sounds collages in association with a bunch of noisy activists : the Sigmund Freud Experience. Britzkrieg love ! Francoise will be the frenchy singer and Brezel the electronic crooner. Together, they will be STEREO TOTAL.

Things are not easy at the beginning. They play small clubs, tiny art galleries. In 1994, they take part of the berliner Kitsch-A-Gogo exhibition, with 80 other freaks. Francoise sings and Brezel plays Bontempi organ. Finally, a 4 tracks EP is released in 1995 : ALLO J'ECOUTE, on Desert Records. It is followed by their first album, OH AH, on a little underground german label : Peace 95.

OH AH (1996)

This is Sissilistening ! The sticker claims. Several tracks might remind the Lolitas (A l'amour comme a la guerre, Dans le parc), but Francoise now sings also auf deutsch and in english, with a incredible strong accent francais. OH AH is full of brilliant yeye punky covers (Souvenir Souvenir, Comme un Garcon), weird disco hits (Push It), and smashing original songs (Dactylo Rock, Belami).

The multi-purpose Brezel plays guitars, keyboards, and sings as well, notably on Moviestar (Harpo's 70's swedish hit). Some more stereopeople figure on the album : Lesley Campbell (guitar, ex Camping Sex), Iznogood (bass, ex Burst Appendix) and a bunch of guests, among them Coco and Alex Chilton.

During the same year, Francoise publishes her own imaginary autobiography : AUTOBIGOPHONIE (auf deutsch only, sorry).

BUNGALOW

In Berlin, Holger Baier & Marcus Liesenfield, aka Le Hammond Inferno, offer Stereo Total to be signed on their brand new label : BUNGALOW. In the same "Trance-Cocktail" home will live together Peter Thomas, les Pop Tarts, Laila France, Dauerfisch, Andreas Dorau, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Bertrand Burgalat... and many other bands or DJs from Europe and Japan.

 

MONOKINI (1997)

My favorite stereodisc, of course. Francoise poses nude (or almost nude) on the cover, sitting on a stuffed dog carpet. A real dog pelt. The picture shocked people around, worrying about the poor little doggie...
Monokini sounds much more electronic. It opens with a germano-synthetic version of one of the very first Francoise Hardy's songs (Oh Oh Cherie). There's some trashy guitars tracks (Lunatique, LA, CA, USA), spacial balads (Cosmonaute), more 60's covers (Sylvie Vartan's rainy Dilindam) and several new great Stereosongs. Schon Von Hinten (beautiful from behind) will become a Stereo classic. Ushilo Sugata Ga Kilei is the japanese version. Six more remixes will be recorded on a CD single, with a wonderful The Other Side Of You, by Momus & Laila France. Furore (from Adriano Celentano) is Francoise first step in italiano. Lesley Campbell is gone and Angie Reed plays vibroguitarre instead. Self-proclaimed Grand Prix Eurovision 1997, Monokini is released in Japan (on L'appareil Photo) and in the USA (on Bobsled records).

 

JUKE-BOX ALARM (1998)

Fuzzy picture sleeve, bloody tittle and sixties references : JUKE-BOX ALARM is in some way a come-back to garage rock. "More Hard-listening", as Francoise said once. The awesome Holiday Innn will be released in 8 different mixes, on a double clear 7" EP. Other highlights are Nouvelle Vague, with Brezel singing like an over-excited Richard Anthony, and Supercool, hysterical cover version of a Plastic Bertrand B-side. Angie plays bass now and the new boy San Reimo is hired on keyboards. Juke-Box was mixed by Kurt Dahlke, from the 80's german band Der Plan, in the Düsseldorf Atatak studio. This time, a nice booklet includes all the lyrics and cute little drawings made in Stereoland.

Juke-Box Alarm photo session (Simgil)
MY MELODY (1999)

I hesitated a while before buying this one. That was because of the ugly cover. But I was wrong, of course. More electropop than Juke-Box, it features the soapy-sexy Sous la Douche, Discjokey (their techno manifesto) and Die Krise, a bizarre synthetic reggae, co-written by Wolfgang Müller, originally from the Tödliche Döris (another weird german 80's band). Joe le Taxi was originally a terrible Vanessa Paradis' hit in France. Brezel is playing all kind of strange electronic tricks here. A great album, with 2 more Serge Gainsbourg songs and a couple of japanese covers, borrowed from Pizzicato 5 and the Plastics. The title, My Melody, comes from a tiny little rabbit puppet Françoise found in Japan once.

Françoise & Brezel keep on touring all over the world : Europe, japan, Russia, USA... The Stockholm Fritz'Corner concert (6/3/99) is broadcasted on the club website. "Meinedamenundherrenladies andgentlemenfromvilleneuvel'archeveque, mademoisellefrançoisecactus !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". 26 tracks, including 4 unreleased cover songs. Angie Reed is still here, but she will soon leave, and Stereo Total will naturlich continue as a duo.

Françoise, Brezel & Angie Reed
Stereo shopping (Photo Momus)

 

MUSIQUE AUTOMATIQUE (2001)

After 4 albums and countless tours through 19 countries, Francoise & Brezel decide to move forward and ask Cem Oral (from the Köln band Air Liquide) to produce the next album. Before that, they give one of their very first concerts in Paris, at the Les Femmes s'en Melent festival (23/3/2001). It sounds strange, but at this point, Stereo Total was still almost unknown here. No gigs, no promotion, no records around... They seem kind of uptight that very first night, but give a fantastic performance the next day at the Pointe Lafayette cafe.

MUSIQUE AUTOMATIQUE is released in october 2001, in german, french, english and japanese versions. Well, I hate to say that, but I was a little bit disappointed with this album. In my opinion, the sound was much too cleaned and polished. And their 80's references seemed much too obvious this time : Lio (je suis une poupée), Kraftwerk (Ypsilon) and Les Tueurs de la Lune de Miel (Nationale 7)... French magazines discovered Stereo Total, pretending it was a New Wave revival band ! Even the picture sleeve has a cold glazed style that doesn't fit with them. (Sorry !...)

But MUSIQUE AUTOMATIQUE also contains some true masterpieces : the supraglamour L'Amour A 3 and the technoprussian Tanzen im 4-eck. The CD ends with a turkish version of Für Immer 16, before closing down on a small extract of These Boots Are made For Walking (Nancy Sinatra) and Cindarella (Lionel Ritchie), live in a camping, during a karaoke party!

Since then, they have been touring : America (from Philadelphia to Tijuana), Europe... In september 2002, the Fondation Cartier invites them at the Printemps de Septembre festival, in Toulouse (France), where they play a new live soundtracks on the Jean-Luc Godard's movie Week-end.

Stereo clubbing (photo Steven Halin)

One week later, they take part of the Tödliche Döris exhibition in Leipzig, before Françoise goes to the Frankfurt Book Fair for a reading (Burgundische Hochzeit) . It was about this time that the officiel site opens at last with a free MP3 CD as welcome gift : Trésors Cachés. The same month, Brezel releases his first solo LP, a split with the japanese band Barom One. On Oct 28th, Stereo Total fly away to New York for a full north American tour, where Musique Automatique has just been reissued by Killrockstars records...

To be continued................

Doro, 11/2002.
With Special Thanks to Françoise, Julian (Bungalow), Mathias (Powerline), MPB (pour la doc) and Dominique Forma for the translation.