How the actress-musician ended up working with the ''Odelay'' rocker on her third album
The daughter of French pop legend Serge Gainsbourg and British actress Jane Birkin recently teamed up with Beck to concoct her third album, IRM (which hits stores Jan. 26). We sat down with the very skinny pair to get all of the scoop on their new project.
How They Met
The two shared a friend in Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, who worked on both Gainsbourg’s second record, 5:55, and Beck’s The Information in 2006. When Gainsbourg swung by Beck’s studio one day to talk to Godrich, the idea of a collaboration was born over a cup of tea.
How It Worked
”I’d build the track, and then I’d get it to the point where it needed vocals,” says Beck. ”Then I’d write a few things really quickly and she’d go and sing it, and we’d listen back and see if it was any good, and if it was good, we’d keep it. We threw away a lot.” Gainsbourg loved the process. ”For me, just to see gradually how it was built was incredible,” she says.
What Inspired Them
The title track uses the pulsating sounds of an MRI machine as a backdrop, something Gainsbourg got to know all too well after having a cerebral hemorrhage in 2007. ”It’s disturbing, but there’s something so weird about it,” she says of getting scans. ”I did enjoy them in the end.”
The Ghost of Serge
”Her father covered so many genres,” says Beck of Gainsbourg’s famous dad, who died in 1991. ”It was important to me that these songs have a separate identity.” But Gainsbourg doesn’t always mind referencing him: ”It’s a mixture of feeling very close and at the same time not wanting to be thinking about it all the time. Sometimes it’s just an echo that maybe I’m the only one who hears. It can be a word. That’s why I think writing in French would be very hard for me. Because it’s too heavy. The words are too strong.”