Thursday 18 April 2024

Renaud Hantson,
a rocker’s emotions

Leather jacket, rings on the fingers and tattoos on the skin. After a 40-year career, the rock spirit still guides Hantson's life. Four decades during which he enriched his repertoire: from metal to rock opera, via pop. This musical diversity earned him the support of Michel Berger, a famous french singer and songwriter, in the 80's. But his ascent was to be short-lived, broken by drugs. Starts a never-ending struggle against addiction, as strong as his fight for music. At the end of May, the artist will release a new solo album. Here is the testimony of a repentant rocker.

You’re releasing a new album called Tatoués à jamais. What are we going to discover?

Sixteen new songs written by a guy who has not released a solo album in eight years. He had a lot to say, a lot of things to tell. Tatoués à jamais is a portrait of the artist I became: straightforward, uncompromising, a musician with a rock culture who is also fond of good pop music.

It’s not a conceptual album with a unique theme. The song called Tatoués à jamais is about what is on my skin. L’évidence is dedicated to my wife. In Tout roule, a song which is about being in your fifties, Axel Bauer plays the guitar. His participation, as well as that of Jean-Félix Lalanne and Sarah Jad, is the icing on the cake!

Cover of the album Tatoués à jamais on a drawing by Isabelle Klancar, Renaud Hantson’s tattoo artist (left) / Cover of one of the singles from the album (right)

This project marks my reunion with the guitarist Frantz Fagot whom I have known since high school. I expressed my desire to make a new solo album on social media and we reconnected. It all happened quickly and naturally.

You launched a crowdfunding campaign four months ago, was it difficult to finance your album?

I could afford it but the public’s help, its approval in a way, allowed me to produce it in better conditions. We raised 20,000 euros with just over 150 people. It is a lot. Nowadays, the problem is not financing an album, but not knowing how many records we are going to sell. Thus, we minimized the risks thanks to the Internet users’ money.

I’m lucky my public is following me. They made my life, the man I have become. I have never lost anyone on my journey by admitting my problems and what I have written has sometimes been useful to others. My fans are my main source of energy… Without them, I would be nothing.

Speaking of admitting your problems, in 2012, you wrote the book called: Poudre aux yeux : Sexe & drogues & show-business. Did it help you to start over?

No, it was too soon. When I started writing, I was finishing my therapy with an addictologist psychiatrist because I had been addicted to cocaine for seventeen years. I thought writing was going to be a relief. But you reveal all the shit you feel inside instead of putting it aside, it reawakens your demons. There have been dozens of relapses and dozens of missteps.

Today, I am trying to do as much prevention as possible. I will never stop since this problem is not manageable. You have to be iron-willed. It is very complicated when you face moments of doubt, loneliness, boredom. So, I make sure my schedule is overbooked. Substance is stronger than a human being.

In 1982, Renaud Hantson created the hard rock band Satan Jokers.
Their first album, Les fils du métal, sold over
80,000 copies.

Photo by Philippe Wagner

How do you explain this dark period of your life?

Michel Berger was supposed to write me a solo album at the time. He was a mentor and a spiritual father to me. He had so much confidence in my abilities. Two years after his death, I had to accept the fact that he was gone and that this record would never be released.

I was very successful thanks to the song called Apprendre à vivre sans toi. This song was dedicated to France Gall, after Michel’s passing. At that time, my record company hired a new general manager. He put me out of work. He told me: “Let’s take a one-year break, so you’ll come back stronger with a new album.” I trusted him. But the one-year break turned into a two-year break. I felt such a sense of abandonment that I started going out every night. That’s when I started doing cocaine.

What memories do you have from the two rock operas you did with Michel Berger?

For Starmania, it was a challenge to take over a show that owed its success to legends such as Daniel Balavoine, France Gall, Fabienne Thibeault… I was interested in something stupid: I wanted to stand out and be part of a team. When Michel auditioned me, I intended to explode Ziggy’s character. To me, they had failed his creation in the first version. He had not been put forward even though he is a very human and touching character… As the song says, he is a boy like no other!

Renaud Hantson during the final of La Légende
de Jimmy.

Photo by Philippe Wagner

Then, I performed in La Légende de Jimmy in 1990. It was a source of pride for Michel Berger and Luc Plamondon to put their trust in me once again and offer me the lead role, Jimmy’s. His story is linked with James Dean’s, the incarnation of a rebellious youth. The symbol was important, besides, I stayed on stage for two hours, it is unforgettable! *laughs*

Ten years later, you created your own music school. Why did you go from stage to classroom?

I like the idea of transmitting an art, trying to master it. One does not become a good singer by miracle. You can be successful because of luck, but you have to work to have talent or vocal qualities. Since 2002, I have been giving group singing and drum lessons. This year, we have about forty students. I like to see them learn! Gainsbourg said that music is a minor art. I disagree. For me, it is a major art since it helps people to live.

Translated by Cindy Hurtaud

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