Kiddy Smile: 'People in France were upset I was black, gay â" and proud'
Dance music Interview Kiddy Smile: âPeople in France were upset I was black, gay â" and proudâ Michael Hann
When he got a surprise invite to perform for President Emmanuel Macron, the musician, DJ and dancer faced down his critics with a bold and provocative statement
Kiddy Smile towers over me. I am 6ft 3in, and feel petite next to him. He is relatively svelte at the moment, having been ill during the past year with phlebitis and âthe beginning of a pulmonary embolismâ, but he has always been defined by being, in his own words, âfat and tallâ. But this is, in part, what led Pierre Hache from being a kid from the Paris banlieues becoming a charismatic house artist, whose debut album One Trick Pony is a celebration of his identity as a black, gay man. It is enormously sexual, at times squelchingly acidic, and huge fun â" energy he also parlays into his appearance in Gaspar NoÃ©âs new dance-troupe movie, Climax.
In June, Kiddy Smile was invited to DJ at an event at the ElysÃ©e. He agreed, assuming it was at ElysÃ©e Montmartre, a club everyone refers to by the first part of its name. Then his manager called to say President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte wanted to do something with him. âI laughed. âMacron isnât going there!â My manager said: âNo, weâre going to the presidential palace. Iâve just been doing your security clearance.ââ
Some fans were furious. âA lot of queer people were sending messages about being very disappointed about me going there. But all of them were white. And all of them were trying to tell me to find the way to fight oppression. I understand that somehow they feel I represent them, but not all the time. People were insulting me and telling me I would have had a great career in 1943, collaborating with Nazis.â
He went because he felt he was representing an invisible community . âEven though thereâs a risk that people are going to think I agree with his politics, itâs much bigger for people like me to be seen there. And my mum said: âYou need to go. You donât see people like yourself over there.â OK, Iâm from the LGBT community, but Iâm also black and Iâm also an immigrantâs son. So itâs different. I donât get to feel disgusted [about Macron]. I have to feel proud, for my parents and their journey.â
He made the right furious, too. He knew portrayals of the event would be controlled by Macronâs team â" look, hereâs the president and black people and gay people, all being smiley â" so he wanted to make a statement that could not be misinterpreted 10 years down the line. Instead of wearing his usual peacock colours, he put on a simple black T-shirt with the slogan: âFils dâimmigrÃ©s, noir et pÃ©dÃ©.â He translates: âImmigrantsâ son, black and faggot.â
âThat shirt and the way the dancers were dancing upset a lot of people in France,â he says. âMostly racist people. But it got a conversation started. Some people didnât even know there were people who are black and gay. They were upset about me being black and gay and not being apologetic about it. They were upset I was proud.â
Some people didnât even know there were people who are black and gay
Kiddy Smile recalls being young and seeing Madonnaâs Like a Prayer video, in whichJesus is portrayed as a black man. âSomething felt right to me about that.â He had learned to dance â" appearing in the video for George Michaelâs An Easier Affair in 2006 â" and wanted more than anything to dance for Madonna. Then the call came to try out.
âIt was a one-week audition. She does workshops where she puts people into different situations so she can see how they work together,. At the end of that I was released,â he says. Then he heard from the Madonna camp that they had really liked him: but his size made it very hard to partner him with anyone. He was elated by the praise, but realised âshe told a truth about people who look like me. I had to be honest. I had always loved music, and I loved to sing. So I thought: âDo your musical project and see how it goes.ââ
It didnât go all that well until summer 2016, when the video for Let a Bitch Know â" five minutes of gay sexuality, burning cars, vogueing and gangs â" blew up. âI really wanted to start a conversation in places where they donât talk about stuff,â he says. âI wished I had known growing up [more] about my sexuality, that I wasnât the only one. That it wasnât just something that happened to white people. All the information I had about my sexuality was always centrin g on somebody who was white. I really wanted it to be about me and my community: we all came from places that would never allow us to be ourselves. What if it was possible?â
That question â" what if it was possible to live freely? â" is central in everything Kiddy Smile does, just as it was the central question in disco, and the other musical movements that have thrived as celebrations of LGBT sexuality. And, as he explains to me, it is impossible for a straight white man to understand what it is like to be black, to be the child of immigrants, to be gay. In the eyes of society, he says: âMy crime is homicide: homicide is being black. And homicide with premeditation is being black and gay.â He puts it in practical terms: âI know you donât get followed when you go into a store. Could you imagine the effect it would have on you if every time you went into a store someone was following you? Every single time. I know all the security peopleâs tricks. They have thing s that will set off the alarms in their shoe â" so they can say they just want to check whatâs in the bag. Try to live like that for 15 years, when you have to open your bag once a week for no reason. It has to mess with the way you live.â
While he doesnât think his album is conventionally political in any way â" âbut I get why someone who doesnât look like me would see it as politicalâ â" he agrees there is a statement in making music that represents people like him. âMy track Dark Knight is about finding a way to love yourself when you are never represented as somebody who could be loved. Thatâs powerful. I had to look at American literature in order to find a representation of myself. Thatâs not normal. Where are the books in French that talk about me? Why canât I see myself?â
It is important to remember that the event at the ElysÃ©e was a party â" and that Kiddy Smile makes party music. In June last year, I watched him play a set on the b each in Cannes, in front of the Croisette. As feet shuffled on the sand, and 4/4 beats disappeared across the water, there were no questions about identity. There was just ecstatic, electrified dancing.
One Trick Pony is out on Neverbeener RecordsTopics
- Dance music
- Pop and rock
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share via Email
- Share on LinkedIn
- Share on Pinterest
- Share on Google+
- Share on WhatsApp
- Share on Messenger
- Reuse this content