Deux Filles \ Biography
The short, mysterious career of aptly named French female duo Deux Filles is bookended by tragedy. Gemini Forque and Claudine Coule met as teenagers on a holiday pilgrimage to Lourdes, during which Coule's mother died of an incurable lung disease and Forque's mother was killed and her father paralyzed in a grisly auto accident. The two teens bonded over their shared grief and worked through their bereavement with music. However, after recording two critically acclaimed albums and playing throughout Europe and North America, Forque and Coule disappeared without a trace during a trip to Algiers in 1984, where Forque had lived from birth to the age of five. In the ensuing years, not a trace of the duo has surfaced, except for a mysterious letter purportedly written by Coule claiming that the pair journeyed to India on a spiritual quest, only to meet with further hardships. Indeed, the short and terribly unhappy lives of Forque and Coule are at the root of the small but fervent cult following the mysterious duo have gained since their disappearance, not least because the placid, largely instrumental music on the duo's albums betrays no hint of the sorrow that framed their personal lives.
The above would be a terribly sad story if a word of it were true. In reality, Deux Filles were Simon Fisher Turner, former child star/teen idol and future soundtrack composer, and songwriter/technician Colin Lloyd Tucker. Turner and Tucker left an early incarnation of The The in 1981 to pursue a different musical direction. Turner claims that the idea of Deux Filles came to him in a dream, and he and Tucker strictly maintained the fiction throughout the duo's career. Not only did they pose in drag for the album covers, the duo once even played live without the audience realizing that the girls on-stage were actually a pair of blokes from south London having a giggle. Deux Filles released two highly collectable albums: Silence & Wisdom (1982) and Double Happiness (1983), both of which are included in this deluxe digipack double CD edition.
Colin Lloyd Tucker interview
How did you meet? What lead you to start collaborating? My friend Matt Johnson came into the studio one day and said that he had met an interesting feller in a club the previous night. Shortly after that Matt and I were visiting the offices of Cherry Red Records and Simon was there, so Matt introduced us. I liked him straight away, I like anyone who isn't 'normal'. I think we all went to an old pub, after which we were chums.
How came the idea to perform dressed up as two girls under the Deux Filles moniker? It was Simon's idea to present it as two girls. That may have been before we had recorded a note, but it was just a loose concept. The story grew over time probably fueled by the sounds we came out of the studio with. I knew that if people thought that the music was coming from two French girls it would change the way they perceived the music.
The sound of Deux Filles is hard to classify - a kind of ethereal free pop. Some of the reviews talk about Brian Eno and the 4AD sound. Which projects influenced you at that time? I think the biggest influence on the Deux Filles sound was the fact that we had this idea that it wasn't us, we became Claudine and Gemini. I recall having to rein myself in at times (in the studio) thinking, "I might play it that way, but Gemini wouldn't."
We both loved to sing but, of course there was no place for male vocals on the record. Simon's hollow bodied Telecaster guitar and his playing style is a huge part of the Deux Filles sound. Also, the instruments that they had in the studio at the time, the acoustic piano, an upright bass, the Fender Rhodes electric piano were all utilized. We liked to use 'happy accidents' to. There is a track on the Silence album where Matt is playing a little Casio keyboard but the batteries were running very low, consequently when he held a key down too long the note swooped down in pitch and died. We loved it and no one said, "let's put some new batteries in it."
Another important aspect of the Deux Filles sound is the use of reverb and tape delay. That's perhaps what gives it some mystery. These were pre-digital days, at least in the studio we used.
The story on the cover of Silence & Wisdom puts one in mind of tragic poets' lives from the late 19th/early 20th century. Traveling in North Africa and then disappearing reminds me of the last tumultuous years of Rimbaud; the run of bad luck that accompanies Gemini and Claudine seems like a sexless version of The Misfortunes of Virtue by the Marquis de Sade. Were you influenced by literature too? Of course, everything you read is stored. I think we both liked Huxley's work at the time but everything really. I recall that my character (Gemini) was going to be a kind of Alice in Wonderland figure, young, naive and a bit spaced out in contrast to Simon's Claudine who was cosmopolitan, sophisticated and smart. There is also a Charlie Dickens element to their story.
How do you imagine the girls lived after Claudine sent her last letter and then disappeared? If they would have reached their goal and still alive, how their music would sound like? I think that their sound now would be even sparser, slower with more complex structures.
I heard tell that you performed live once, and that nobody realized you were two guys dressed up as two girls. How was the live set arranged? Which instruments did you play? We played guitars. Claudine played the Telecaster and Gemini a Watkins Rapier through a Binson echo unit. There was a real girl on the stage dancing and having a picnic, and a percussionist dressed as a Chinese man. Plus a film and a stuffed horse. This show was at The Venue in London on 2 November 1982, supporting The Monochrome Set.
Fiction behind artistic projects is really interesting. It's almost the opposite of ego and self-exhibition. So was hiding your identity linked to the fact that Deux Filles was playful and unpretentious, or was there something more behind the artifice? It was certainly playful. We would go out in character, shopping in Harrods, drinking at a bar. We had a lot of fun with it. Many musicians will confirm that the hardest thing when making music is keeping one's self out of the way. With Deux Filles we were able to do this, because it wasn't really us.
Simon Fisher Turner interview
How did you meet? We met in an old fashioned inn near Mayfair, London. We had mutual friends and both had a love of music, ranging from Ivor Cutler to The Beatles via the Clangers and Robert Fripp. We also loved animation and Disney films and felt close as friends. We had the music in us and I had a Revox. Colin was an experienced engineer already and I learnt everything from him, but also taught him a little too.
What led you to start collaborating? Our mutual love of singing and harmonics. Neither of us really wanted to be a frontman, so we thought how perhaps the music touched our female side. It's fun to dress up. Kids do it all the time. We've a lot to learn from our children. They are the pure, innocent artists. I've always felt strongly about womens' rights and issues and it just seemed logical that the music should be represented by two French girls. We would never have been Swedish.
I just had a dream once that if we dressed up as two French girls and people really thought that they were watching and listening to these girls, then that would be best, because people probably wouldn't throw things at us and we could just get on and play the music without being spat at and called names.
Did you compose the music first? The girls came first, then the music. It just seemed such a simple way of presenting gentle music like this. I'd been trying for years to try to get deals and go in to studios to make slow, quiet, simple music. Colin had the keys to a treasure trove in Soho. Once we knew we said the music was by two French girls, that's what people believed.
Was the music spontaneous? Silence & Wisdom wasn't really spontaneous. Lots of work went into the original backing tracks, then Claudine and Gemini improvised in the studio. It's what musicians do. "Ethereal free-pop?" Its music. It's only pop if its popular, and Deux Filles music has never been popular. I can't remember the music of the time. It's not important. The date isn't in my memory. What we made was what we listened too. Between us we've loved so much music, but we weren't trying to copy anyone. William Burroughs was an influence too. The life story of the girls is like novella, nothing more. A compressed life of two innocent wandering girls. I'm writing a screenplay as we type about their lives and travels.
So were you influenced by literature too? I've a feeling we are always influenced by literature. It would be a shame not to be. There is the beauty of language and sound, and the constant possibilities of discovery on every level. This is just a level of life which some call listening. Claudine loves poetry and Dickens and Vonnegut. Diversity is such a sweet world. It's always good to eat your vegetables and learn a little. Keep passing the open window and move on.
How the girls lived is a question I can't answer. They went looking for the truth within, I suspect. Lots of artists like to make up stories. If believed, they can be so much more interesting than the truth.
What about the live performance at The Venue? We played for 20 minutes or so to a backing track made of unmixed versions of songs from Silence & Wisdom. We played guitars, with Clive Bell on percussion and pipes, and also a dancer who really was a woman. She had a large basket on stage and kept making things appear. We were like a female Pink Floyd. We looked beautiful with our wigs and dresses from the Kings Road. Full make up, long scarves like Russian Princesses. A very Biba gypsy look. Gorgeous.