DATES & FACTS
August 01, 1977: Birth at St-Jean-de-Maurienne
1981: Divorce of Damien's parents
September 1986: Damien enters the conservatory in Dijon
July 1991: Birth of Damien's first half brother
April 1994: Birth of Damien's second half brother
June 1995: Graduation ("Bac S")
April 1996: Damien moves to Paris
October 26, 1999: Release of Jours étranges
December 03, 2001: Publication of A ton nom
March 26, 2002: Release of God blesse/Katagena
August 31, 2004: Release of Debbie
April 21, 2008: Release of Varsovie - L'Alhambra - Paris
March 16, 2009: Release of A Lovers Prayer
March 29, 2010: Release of J'accuse
September 17, 2012: Release of Messina
March 18, 2013: Release of Miami
Born on August 01, 1977 in St-Jean-de-Maurienne, Damien Saez didn't know that some day he would be called "le petit prince du rock" - the little prince of rock. He was born when the Sex Pistols became successful and Elvis Presley said farewell - forever; when Dschibuti became independent and Angola suddenly was a member of the UNESCO.
Still, Damien Saez was nothing but a brown-eyed baby, the son of an Andalusian father, in parts of Italian origin, and a North-African mother, who emigrated from Algeria to France at the age of ten, nowadays working as an educator for criminal adolescents. Soon, however, his parents got divorced (1981) and thus, shortly after, Damien had a stepfather, a descendant of the pieds noirs - that is the former North-African settlers - who is of Spanish origin, too. He is a documentary director for the French channel France 3; Damien describes him as a very cultivated and intelligent person, with whom he liked to discuss all night long.
"The partner my mother met is a very cultivated and intelligent man. Someone who never had to choose between ski holiday and buying a piano. For him it was self-evident. That permits a lot of things."
Damien grew up in the warm and friendly, but rather poor surrounding of his family in the South of France, moving from town to town, finally settling in Marseille. One day he told his parents that he would like to play the piano - a few days later he got one, although they never had much money, but, as Damien says, it went without saying, with his mother setting great store by a classical education.
"They [scil. his parents] said 'we've got to ask'. 15 days later, when I just got home, I discovered a piano. Although they didn't have a single penny..."
When he was about eight years old, Damien Saez and his family left Marseille so he could attend the conservatory in Dijon, where he was taught by Boris Nedeltchev und which he left with a diploma at the age of 17.
During the last years of the lycée (French high school), Damien encountered a French teacher who recognized his talent for poetry and who made him discover the great poets and authors:
"She's the kind of person teaching you to love the words."
Henceforward, Saez began writing poems and lyrics; at the age of 17, he got his baccalauréat - his high school diploma - at the lycée Carnot in Dijon.
"I was born in the South. I spent my childhood down there, then I attended the collège and the lycée in Dijon. I'm a child of immigrants. I witnessed the paradox of the suburbs, where I lived, and the much more middle-class education in the schools where I learned. I saw those two aspects, contrary to other kids my age. I saw sons of advocates who were nuts."
Little by little, Damien Saez became the "tragic poet" that he is often referred to: The piano was replaced by a guitar, he got interested in bands and artists like Led Zeppelin, U2, Bob Dylan, The Doors and Pink Floyd (in fact, he was a member of a band covering their songs), then - in the 90s - there were Placebo, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead or Blur; due to his parents, he already knew the old chansons of Brel and Brassens, jazz and classical music.
By now, Saez is perfectly acquainted with lots of different genres: he likes the Beastie Boys and planned to record a rap song, he adores PJ Harvey and Lou Reed while he still loves to play the piano.
At the age of 18, Damien left his family - in the meantime he had two younger half brothers - and moved from the social housings, the HLMs, of Dijon - a town he had actually never liked, it made him want to run away - to Paris, equipped with nothing but a guitar and his slightly nasal voice, looking for someone who might support him in his wish to become a singer. Soon he met Marcus Bell and William Sheller; and three years later, he finally released his first album Jours étranges (Strange Days, an allusion to "Strange Days" by The Doors), which tended toward an almost ridiculous pessimism. The first single, "Jeune et con" (Young And Stupid), totally achieved its aim: the lyrics struck a chord with the French youth, it didn't fool them like the big politicians try to, wanting to convince young poeple of their outdated politics; no, this text was written by a young man who wasn't born in the postwar period, who knew the life in the dull high-risers only too well and who himself had been part of this generation, singing about sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.
"I went a little further than cocaine. Without taking heroine. I wouldn't have had the force to kick the habit. I saw people dying from drugs and a bad lifestyle. I, myself, am haunted by morbid thoughts."
There he was, Damien the poster rebel, accompanied by Franck Phan (guitar), Antoine Rogge (guitar, keyboard) - who he both knew from the school days in Dijon - as well as several other musicians. The latter, however, soon left Saez in order to take charge of different projects.
But this wasn't meant to be the end. In 2002, the second disc God blesse/Katagena was released, a double album. The first CD God blesse (God Hurts) is clearly affected by electronic music, whereas the second part Katagena (an allusion to Damien's Polish ex-girlfriend Katarzyna, the words catastrophe and géna, signifying birth) is more acoustic. God blesse shocks: The mix of pornographic lyrics ("Sexe") accompanied with techno beats, of instrumentals (e.g. "Thême 2 - Partie 1"), love songs ("So Gorgeous") and hypercritical rock ("Solution") is a little peculiar.
The album was produced by Teo Miller, who already worked with bands such as Placebo. Back then, Clive Deamer (drums; ex-Portishead), Franck Phan, Antoine Rogge, James Eller (bass) and Maxime Garoute (drums; Zazie, No One Is Innocent) were members of the band, to list only a few notable musicians.
Clive Deamer, on the contrary, didn't participate in the live shows. It was Patrik West, a British guitarist, who became part of the group.
FILS DE FRANCE
2002 was also the year, Le Pen - a French right-wing politician of the Front national - surprisingly qualified for the second ballots of the presidential elections. Damien Saez, being the child of Algerian and Spanish immigrants, was shocked to hear this. That's why the song "Fils de France", written in only two days, was put on the internet for free.
"You would have to recreate the vocabulary. I cannot say I'm far left, because when I hear someone talking of 'workers', I can't relate to it only due to this term. For me, the best system would be the one of division, maybe not as extreme as in the Eastern Bloc. I feel left, even extreme left - in my lyrics, I tend to say 'communist' - and still I know you would have to change the word. An expression with the same basic idea but employing today's vocabulary."
It was during the presidential elections in 2007 that Damien Saez once again quoted those popular verses: at a speech of Ségolène Royal - candidate of the French socialist party PS and Nicolas Sarkozy's former rival - he performed, just like a great deal of other French bands, at the Stade Charléty in Paris, in order to express his dislike of the soon-to-be president Sarkozy in a peaceful way.
In 2004, Debbie (named after a Canadian stripper Damein Saez once met) was released. It was, once again, Damien, Franck, Antoine, Maxime, James, Patrik and several studio musicians who recorded this album. Unfortunately, Antoine Rogge couldn't take part in the following tour and was replaced by the Dane Johan Dalgaard. It was only during the acoustic autumn concerts in 2005 that Antoine was seen on stage again.
While "Debbie" and "Marie ou Marilyn" are clearly influenced by punkrock, songs like "Céleste", "En travers les néons" or especially "Marta" show an absolutely new side in Saez' development. They're more mature, calmer and afflicted with an unusual darkness and a sort of melancholia. In fact, this album was often criticized and could never measure up to the success of Jours étranges.
There's also a limited edition of Debbie, including a bonus DVD with short extracts from the making-of of Debbie and some concerts.
VARSOVIE - L'ALHAMBRA - PARIS
After four long years, Saez returned on April 21, 2008 with a new opus: Varsovie - L'Alhambra - Paris, released at the indie-label cinq7.
Obviously, Damien didn't waste his time: instead of only one album, this time there were three of them, recoreded with musicians such as Franck Phan or Clive Deamer. The triple album includes 29 tracks, written in about 15 days, more intimate than ever before: throughout all of the three parts, the main subject is the breakup with his girlfriend Kasia/Katarzyna. Even the cover, for the first time in his career, shows Damien's face.
By the way, the third album Paris is also sold stand-alone.
"All those lyrics are like a long letter, sung without a break, a short moment of my life, telling of the painful breakup I have been through."
A LOVERS PRAYER
At the end of 2006, Saez celebrated their comeback on MySpace with three new English tracks, no longer under contract at Universal. Then, in 2007, some happy fans were able to see Damien live in concert, where he presented a bunch of new English songs.
But it was only nn March 16, 2009 that A Lovers Prayer was released at cinq7, including the songs from MySpace and the concerts in 2007 as well as some unknown tracks - all of them composed in English. According to Damien, the lyrics of those 12 songs were written in cooperation with a professional translator; in studio, it was once again people like Franck Phan, Pat West, James Eller and Clive Deamer recording the songs.
Just one year later, on March 29, 2010 J'accuse came on the market. Even before its release, this album made the headlines: the cover, a naked woman sitting in a caddy, was banned from French metro stations and kiosks.
But not only the photograph caused quite a stir; the music and lyrics had changed.
This album is what one might call real rock music - screechy guitars, booming drums. All in all, the subjects aren't uncommon when looking at Saez's career - politics, sometimes slightly politically incorrect, and love. It's the way Damien sings about them that is different; J'accuse offers us the possibility to glance at this twisted society, at times the lyrics seem almost indifferent, then again they're full of despair. Within only one song, Saez passes from a quite general description to the most intimate feelings (e.g. "Cigarette"). The love he depicts is no longer romanticized, but sexualized. As a result, the language seems less poetic, it has become more vulgar, more banal.
Of course, that's only one aspect. Songs like "Les Printemps", "Tricycle jaune" and "Marguerite" only partially fit into the description above.
In places, and that is what Damien Saez himself said, this album is the successor of Jours étranges, only 11 years later.
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