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From comics to poetry: the creator of Titeuf releases a musical album with his wife

Between drawing and guitar.

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From comics to poetry: the creator of Titeuf releases a musical album with his wife

Between drawing and guitar. More than 30 years after creating the famous comic book character Titeuf, Zep makes his entry into “poetry” to explore his other passion, music, in the pop-folk album Automatic Songs. More than a hobby, music “has become a bit of a second profession,” says Zep during a recent interview.

A love that dates. Philippe Chappuis took his pseudonym from a fanzine created at age 12 when he was a fan of the legendary British rock group Led Zeppelin. Music, his “favorite theme”, was never far away. He has notably drawn for music festivals, published the comic book L'Enfer des concerts and illustrated album covers by Jean-Jacques Goldman and Renaud.

In his vast Geneva workshop, on the top floor of his house, pencils and brushes rub shoulders with guitars of all types. “I have always mixed music and drawing,” explains the man who has played in numerous groups since his youth, when he was a fan of rock and hard rock, especially Kiss, with his superhero appearance. Comics. “Comics have become my profession and music has always been my hobby and in recent years it has taken up more space”, with the group The Woohoo which he created with his partner, the singer Valérie Martinez, says the Swiss designer , 56 years old.

“I’m around the musical side because I’ve been drawing it for a very long time too. It was the opportunity to, suddenly, move on to the other side,” observes the designer, whose vast career is being honored in an exhibition in Switzerland, at the Château de St-Maurice. Released a few weeks ago, the album in which Zep - a great admirer of Bob Dylan - swaps his pencils for the guitar and the ukulele but also sings a little, in English, is according to him close to Anglo-Saxon folk pop, far from its past “parody rock and humorous song”.

“On this new musical project, I want to go for something more dreamlike or more poetic. I don’t want to sing Titeuf,” he says. But he admits that he never tires of the adventures of the little blond with the feather-shaped powder puff, which earned him the Grand Prix at the Angoulême comic strip festival in 2004 and international notoriety with The Guide to Sexual Zizi which he illustrated. The book was then strongly criticized by former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

Neither a simple designer nor a musician, he above all has “the impression of being an artist who uses the tools he has at hand”: “If I were on a desert island with a hammer and a gouge, I think that I will learn sculpture!” His hand constantly swinging between the pencil and the guitar, he recounts his musical adventure every week on the website of the French edition of Rolling Stone magazine, with a lot of humor and self-deprecation. “We live in a world that takes itself very seriously. Even as adults, we need to maintain, or learn, this self-deprecation. This is also what I want to convey through Titeuf,” he says, emphasizing the importance of humor to ease tensions.

He thus remembers a drawing he made at 8 years old which made two rival gangs laugh at school, and avoid a fight: “I said to myself, there is still a power incredible with drawing, with the possibility of making people laugh. Even today, this power helps him tackle serious subjects, as he did with war or harassment. The ultraviolence of young people is another subject that he would like to address in the next Titeuf which he hopes to start “soon”.

If humor must soothe, it must also open debates, in the face of current “reactionary movements”: “We must put our foot in the door, always force a little to open a debate” but “we must not shock for the sake of shocking ".

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