Cover Songs In Inferno by don & françoiz (Prohibited Records)
Text: Emmanuel Dosda. Translation: Jason Whittaker.
Spirit, are you with us?
With Cover Songs In Inferno, Françoiz Breut and Don Nino summon the wild, pulsing spirits of Black Sabbath, Felt, The Cramps, Shocking Blue, Bonnie Dobson, Bonnie “Prince” Billie, Donovan, Jefferson Airplane and The Kinks. This is Breut/Nino’s first joint album, consisting exclusively of cover versions (including a certain Oh My Son written by… Don Nino), the fruit of two decades of friendship, shared travels (a joint tour in 2002 that took them as far as Andalusia) and artistic mutual respect.
The two francophones have also decided to make an album entirely sung in English – ten cover versions resonating in the shadows… For while Françoiz Breut & Nicolas Laureau – aka Don Nino – have known each other for quite some time, this is the first time the studio wiz and his favourite white witch have ever recorded an album together. The ten tracks have been chosen and sung by the spellbinding Françoiz Breut, with instrumentation and production by Don Nino, inspired by the crazy times we live in, motivated by the desire to double, double, toil, trouble, and push back the all-invading darkness.
Burn Baby BURN
The idea first formed in Nicolas’ head in 2020, during the initial surreal wave of Covid that swept through France and also Belgium, where Françoiz lives. “One sunny day in April, Nicolas called me to catch up, but also to check I was still alive after the beginning of the pandemic!” laughs Françoiz. “He suggested I chose tracks that I particularly love, and then went to work on them straight away in his studio.” The selection was born of Françoiz’s desire to tell certain stories, eventful moments through a repertoire of oldies like White Rabbit, Season of the Witch and Morning Dew. “Strangely, my instincts drew me to older tracks, classics that have been reprised many a time, and that I had recently started to learn to play on guitar, just for pleasure.”The subjects are wide-ranging: “There are a few ‘social songs’ like Bonnie “Prince” Billie’s track about the American south and the violence people inflict on each other. The Kinks sing of a so-called paradise on earth for the middle class and their comfortable little lives in comfortable little suburbs! Other tracks are more contemplative and set before or after the apocalypse…” Expect to encounter a few ghosts, the survivors of a nuclear catastrophe and even the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
The Devil Is Definitely In The Details
With their playlist decided, little by little things came together, with them initially working apart, then at Nicolas’ place in Pantin and finally in Normandy where he has recorded several records. “Generally, I start with the rhythm section, using a beatbox with additional drums, and some guitar or bass guitar. Everything else trickles down naturally from that, with other orchestration and details added during the recording sessions. Françoiz gave me regular feedback about the versions and how she felt they felt.” Musically, Nicolas stuck to what he knows (for those familiar with his oddball history), using vintage keyboards to give a krautrock feel to everything, his famous Akiko Japanese drumkit and vintage toms, plus a whole slew of electric guitars. Don & Françoiz were consumed by fear, angst and cold sweats, but also infused by the spirit of psychedelic mushroom benders and carefree adolescent fantasies. The (black) magic worked wonders with them, and listeners have no choice but to become subservient to the demonic duo’s intoxicating charm.
Nicolas Laureau (born in 1973, lives near Paris) has been in the world of independent music since the early 1990s, notably through his label, Prohibited Records (Mendelson, Herman Dune, The Berg Sans Nipple…) founded in 1995. Nicolas’ artistic activity oscillates between personal projects under the name of Don Nino – eight albums of emotional mille-feuilles, including Mentors Menteurs! in 2007, an album of cover versions that reveal his sources, and collaborative adventures as part of Prohibition and NLF3, both with his brother, Fabrice. NLF3 has produced eight albums of instrumental rock including Music for Que Viva Mexico! (2006), a reinvented soundtrack played live around the world for screenings of Eisenstein’s film. Nicolas Laureau regularly creates music for audiovisual, mixed media or choreographic projects, together with video producer Pierrick Sorin and dancer Yves Musard. His last solo album? A Beautiful Cloud (Prohibited Records, 2021). In 2022, Nicolas released the oddball Scaring The Mice For Revenge (Prohibited Records) with Shane Aspegren, Jérôme Lorichon and Quentin Rollet, resuscitating the Hindu-infused spiritual jazz of Pharoah Sanders or Alice Coltrane.
A singer and graphic artist (she designed the sleeve for Cover Songs In Inferno), Françoiz Breut recorded her first vocals in 1993 for French artist Dominique A’s second album, then released her own first record (soberly entitled ‘Françoiz Breut’) in 1997. Three years later, Françoiz brought together a number of artists for a remarkable project Vingt à trente mille jours (Twenty to Thirty Thousand Days), recorded and mixed by Fabrice Laureau, brother (in arms) of Nicolas. After another album produced by Nicolas in 2012, the observer of modern-day morals had lost none of her anger, curiosity or appetite. 2021’s Flux Flou de la Foule, the latest chapter in her already rich career, was born from the desire to sate her thirst for new musical experiences. With the successful collaboration between Neneh Cherry and Four Tet as a guide, Françoiz put her trust in her faithful electronic collaborators Roméo Poirier and Marc Melià, masters of mixing the organic with the electronic. Flux Flou de la Foule is Serge Gainsbourg’s Sea, Sex & Sun on the beach of Ostende, Je t’aime… Moi Non Plus in the industrial wastelands of Charleroi and Hiroshima Mon Amour on the harbour of Cherbourg. A laughing fit crossing a battlefield, an instant of ecstasy before the deluge, a nuclear love affair. Her latest work is a musical fairytale illustrated by Françoiz: Grand Déménagement (published by Le Label Dans La Forêt, 2022) with Mathieu Pierloot, Claire Vailler and Mocke.
Cover Songs In Inferno by don & françoiz
Planet Caravan (Black Sabbath) – 4:02
My Face Is On Fire (Felt) – 3:17
Oh My Son (Don Nino) – 4:06
Kizmiaz (The Cramps) – 4:33
Daemon Lover (Shocking Blue) – 4:28
Morning Dew (Bonnie Dobson) – 5:18
Southside Of The World (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) – 2:51
Season Of The Witch (Donovan) – 4:17
Shangri-La (The Kinks) – 6:10
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane) – 2:48
Vocals, song selection and artwork by Françoiz Breut
All instruments and backing vocals on 7 by Don Nino
Recorded and produced by Don Nino in Pantin, at Salon de Musique(s)
And in Lyons-la-Forêt, at Studio des Taisnières, France
Mixed by Don Nino & Fabrice Laureau
Mastered by JJ Golden at Golden mastering, USA. (Calexico, Devendra Banhart, Vetiver …)