Les tilleuls sentent bon dans les bons soirs de juin !
There are no reasonable people at seventeen!
“Pas un jour sans ligne” was the name of the famous book by Yuri Olesha, which is a series of miniature sketches created on biographical material. Our guest, Matthieu Motte, who many people know from the role of Lazare de Peyrolles in the musical “1789 les amants de la Bastille”, also can not live a day without a line. Every day he writes something new, and not only for his magazine, but also for other publications. What does a rock singer – turned-teacher do now? Let’s find out!
Hello, Matthieu! How is your self-isolation going? In China, everything has already returned to normal, no?
Are you talking about Covid? In General, I work as a teacher, teaching French literature. I also give singing and guitar lessons. I already taught many of my lessons on Zoom, so I already knew how to do it. Now we are still closed and in a kind of vise, so this is a very difficult time.
I’m used to being in front of my students. Of course, live training is always better and very different from what you teach on the computer and Zoom, because when you do something on the computer, you have to make double efforts.
At the beginning of the pandemic, because it happened in China, a lot of my students, French, Australian, British, went to Europe. But it didn’t turn out to be a very good idea, because a month later the same thing started there, so they came back (slip and back – kind of faded), huh, and now they’re not afraid. This is incredible, because no matter what country they were born in, and no matter what knowledge they have, they have to adapt in Hong Kong. And each of them studies a lot of subjects in Hong Kong, not just in France…
So, let’s introduce you to our readers! Many of them know you as Lazare from the musical “1789 les amants de la Bastille“. How did your life change after the musical was released?
After? Wow…My life has changed cardinally! The musical was a great opportunity for me. At that time I was living in Grenoble, I had a rock band, you know, Caravage. And the casting Director just contacted me through my colleagues. So I was given a role in a musical, and day after day, month after month, everything started to add up. It was a dream, and very exciting. Just at the moment I took it, agreed, accepted it and said: “Yeah, it’s cool. Let’s continue.“. We began to explore the character, his voice. type… I started training because it was a game for me, you know? Before that time, that is, before the musical, I was not a professional singer, I was not a professional actor, I was just a journalist. I worked as a journalist from my youth, from the age of 20, spending time mainly in the office, but when I got into a musical and found myself among actors, dancers, singers – it was life. I lived in Paris and it was then that I realized that my life should be connected with singing – both in musicals and with my compositions.
And like I said, I had my band, Caravage. We continued to perform after the musical in France and in Europe. We also had songs in English, because Simon-my best friend, almost my brother-wrote very beautiful lyrics.
I learned a lot from the musical, but it was just an episode of my life. It was just crazy, and all the memories of it are incredible. They are associated with the troupe, with the singers. We continue to communicate with each other. We have sung, traveled, and lived many wonderful moments together… But do you know how it ended? The terrible incident with Marcus, when the equipment exploded, so it was a different story after that…(note: on November 8, 2013, an accidental explosion of pyrotechnic warehouses during a maintenance operation behind the scenes injured about fifteen people. One of them, Marcus Toledano, the show’s technical Director, did not survive, and a tribute for him organized by fans took place on November 10 of that year. In addition, there was material damage (several costumes were damaged, as well as computer equipment and a sound system), and several performances were canceled. Pyrotechnic effects were replaced with sound and light effects).
We returned to France, and in January 2014, everything stopped. And that moment was sad, winter-like, and the feeling that we no longer had anything. Life stopped. Everyone thought that we would continue to play in the musical, but no, it stopped. So at this point, I decided that I could continue performing with Caravage, but to be honest, it was very difficult because we didn’t have a producer. We didn’t have any production or anyone to help us and promote the music, the band. We did everything ourselves. And if you want to live your music in France or in Europe, you can’t do it without some help.
So we did a couple of shows, released a second album, and after that, I think in November, I said to the guys, “I just want to enjoy it, not live my life looking for a concert agent.” It was very tiring, you know?
So I decided to stop everything, take a plane ticket and go after a girl… At the time, I had a girl in Hong Kong and I said “ Bye, Paris. Bye, France”
I came to Hong Kong 5 years ago. I didn’t have much money, but I didn’t want to go back to Grenoble. I wanted to live a little differently, so I decided to build everything here in Hong Kong, and you know, it’s cool. I’m a teacher, but I Wake up in the morning, pick up my guitar, play a little and sing. After that, I go to my teenage students. And it’s great to give them my passion for words, for poetry, for literature. Just yesterday I thought that Mathieu, who is now, and Matthieu, who is from the past, are very different. Today I run my own magazine, and I’m the only one who does it, so 10 years later, I’m doing what I want: music, poetry, literature, and it’s a real cool life. I hope I answered your question.
Yes, thank you! It was really interesting! Who do you look more like-Lazare the revolutionary or Lazare the officer?
Who do I look more like? I don’t know…you tell me. Haha. When I was a teenager, it was the time of the Matrix movie, and many people said I looked like Keanu Reeves because of my eyes…
I mean, you played the two roles of Lazare the revolutionary and Lazare the officer, and that’s who you look more like?
*laughs* Maybe both. I told you it was crazy in the beginning, because, to be honest, I didn’t sing very well. I learned how to sing properly during a musical with professional singers in Paris. I think I was able to play a little bit, because I did it in school and I was good at it. During the casting, I thought that when I played Comedy, and when I played Lazare, in ” Lovers of the Bastille” I was still very young, and I was looking for rock and roll. I think that I was taken into the project because of my timbre. I think that was the main reason why this happened. But it was still very weak and fragile for a two-hour performance. A heavy burden fell on my shoulders, and so, in just 3 days, a new role of officer Lazar de Peyrol was written. It was great, and I immediately thought “ Wow! This looks like a rock star.”
When we started putting on numbers, step by step, we realized that the most beautiful thing in a musical is a moment with soldiers. Very impressive. Have you seen dancers who repeat one of Michael Jackson’s most difficult moves? This is an episode in Paris when everything was already lost, the army was shooting people, and these guys were going crazy. It was really exciting to be on stage every day and become one of these crazy guys… It was really cool. So both, because I have the energy of a revolutionary who wants justice, and the mad side of the character of Lazare the officer.
A few years ago, you went to China to create your own magazine. How did this idea come about and what are you writing about now?
So, to begin with, I didn’t go to China to print my magazine. That’s not the only reason. I tried to do what everyone does when they come to a new country – find a job. So French lessons were all I could earn, because Hong Kong is a very expensive city, maybe as expensive as Moscow. I taught the kids French and everything I earned was spent on rent or on some drinks or food. It is difficult. So until that time, I started doing a little singing. I sang every day, I taught, but I wanted to go back to the lyrics. I missed writing them, I missed reading books, so when I came to Hong Kong, I only had one place before I started making my magazine. It was a school where I taught poetry, a bit of acting, and photography. Sometimes also literature. But when I came to Hong Kong and saw this beautiful and crazy city, I wanted to make a small blog, which then moved to a magazine, and in the beginning it was crazy. You know, Hong Kong is a very financial city, where every second person is a banker. So when I arrived five years ago, and I was like, ” Hey, I’m organizing a poetry reading!“everyone just laughed. It was a little crazy, but it was cool, because everyone only knew me in that way. And my business became Sauves par le Kong. This little magazine I made first on the Internet in collaboration with the French community of teachers, numbering about 20,000 people. Everyone knew and supported each other, but at the same time there were some difficulties. Can you look at it or have you already seen my site? There are many covers, many publishers, and poetry.
So it was time to write. I had time. I had a lot of time because I didn’t have a job. Initially, I gave guitar lessons and I also had 2 or 3 students who studied French. But I walked around the city, wrote, and watched… But it was very expensive to publish the magazine, so after 2.5 years I went the other way and publish the magazine only online and in social networks.social networks (Facebook, Instagram), and this is enough.
Now I have a lot of students, and I work every day. I give some lessons: history, French, philosophy. Have you ever seen a poetry competition? “Alchimie du Verbe” – as the name of a poem by Arthur Rimbaud. Many publishers gather there and the Le French mouse festival is also Considered the greatest cultural event in Asia. So when I arrived 5 years ago, this festival was huge, you know? Concerts, drama theater. Meanwhile, I had a little magazine and I was saying to everyone, “Hey, guys, I’m organizing a poetry competition.” Yes, you can laugh at me.
And these competitions were called “Sauves par le poesie”, right?
Yes, that’s what they were called. I like this little play on words. For me, this is a way to prove that we can give people something native. Native To Hong Kong. These are actually very small meetings, but when there are only 10 or 15 of you and one of you wins prizes in a French poetry competition because they are in French — it’s productive for them, because that’s how they learn French. And when they win a lot of these competitions, they get happy, and that’s cool. I give what this city gives me. I Wake up and ask myself, ” Whoa, what should I do?”. I play guitar, write an article, and just plan philosophy and literature classes. Many of my students are about 14 years old. Our lessons usually take place on the screen through a camera, but there are classes in the classrooms. I give them exercises in grammar, dictation, etc. But it’s boring. And so when I work, I realize that, “ Okay, this student doesn’t understand the material and he’s not interested,” and my job is to prove to him that it CAN be interesting, just find an approach. Every student, every lesson is different. When you are a teacher in a class of 25 or 30 people, you do not know each other, and the lesson can be very difficult. I wonder how I can explain this or that point to them. This is a very interesting and wonderful work. You can really think about what you give to children.
Will you reveal a couple of ” behind-the-scenes moments” of the magazine’s publishing process? And in General-what difficulties did you have to face as an editor?
Well, behind-the-scenes moments? So I wasn’t alone in the beginning. I was helped by 6 or 7 people, but they all left Hong Kong. We didn’t have many collaborations, and they sometimes sent me articles. We were looking for something to write about… In the beginning it was a column of street art, speakers, poetry and photography. There were also articles about music and ”impossible life“. They were called Le roi de Kong-the king of Hong Kong. It was a play on words. Kong is translated from French as Idiot. These were the articles about the French idiot, and he was an idiot because he admired everything he saw in the city. It was a kind of introduction to articles about Hong Kong culture and its daily life.
Now I am the only one who writes this magazine, it has no other publishers. And I will continue to write it, because now I have a lot of time. Yes, I have more than 50 students, so I work every day from Monday to Sunday in the morning. But I continue to write for other magazines. For example, I wrote an article for the magazine Trait d’union. I also write poems – you can see them on the website.
I take a photo and then I just write a text on this photo. There are also some magazines where I write texts on literature and music. There were texts about Victor Hugo, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Leopold Cedar.And the next article will be about albert Camus. Title “Albert Camus-the stranger”. So the literature articles are related to my work. I am also going to write another article – the Director of the French almanac asked me to write an article on the topic that I myself would like. For their blog and French audience.
I also have a “ le carnet magique”, in honor of Mathieu Mott’s article-Le carnet magique. So, the name is funny, because ” carnet magique” means “magic notebook” in French. This is a notebook that I have been writing in for more than 20 years. I write down various words here: rare, literary, sometimes related to color or music… In fact, it is very large and may not be very interesting, but each of my students has the same magic notebook in which they write all the words, literary concepts, and then we talk about it. This helps them learn French very much.
I started running it when I was 16 or 17. At that time, I didn’t have a computer, but I had a small notebook that my parents bought. And when there was a fire in my apartment, all I saved was my guitar and my notebook. Many people ask, “why don’t you keep it online“? Because it’s big and it’s not interesting. But they gave me the idea to make a small post with 4-5 sentences, which makes a small story about this world. How I use it, how I see it. And the Director of the French almanac said: “Wow! This is a cool idea, let’s use it. This is interesting because there are only 5 words with small sentences about what they mean. And this is interesting.“
What would you like to convey to this world through your magazine?
You can take this as a joke, but what I want to write! Honestly, when you come to Hong Kong, you see skyscrapers, all these rich people and bankers in the metropolis, but you don’t see poetry at the moment. It was fun for me. When I lived in Grenoble, I became a journalist, and this was the best decision I made. I knew all the news of the city, tried different jobs…
It was similar with my magazine. Because when I arrived in Hong Kong, I didn’t know anyone, so I started writing this magazine. I created a Facebook page and organized poetry competitions. It was only for people who knew me and people from work. It was cool to introduce a new, poetic view of things in this city, and write some lyrics for the French almanac. And I wrote about what I wanted – poetry and literature. So the answer is to give people a little fun, a little poetry, a little music and a smile.
You know that our magazine is Russian, and you have already been to Russia. What do you know about her?
About Russia? I love Russia. This is an interesting country. Did I tell you that I studied Russian for 2 years? I love it,and I like Russian very much.
I also love writers: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, of course Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol. I’ve read them, and I like all your stories and novels. I love your architecture.
I came to Russia only once, as you know, to Moscow and Saint Petersburg, because my friend Fabrizio worked in Russia, in Samara, but at that time he was passing through Moscow, so in 2010 I came. It was a crazy experience. I saw white nights in St. Petersburg, and Moscow and its river were just huge! This caused an incredible sensation… Do you get strange feelings when you don’t know the city? Have you been to Paris?
-No, but I would like to.
-So, when you arrive in France, get off at the airport and what will you see first? It is very gray, dirty, very noisy, and it seems much smaller than Moscow. So Paris is not so impressive… Maybe that’s why Moscow and Saint Petersburg left me with good impressions. Very good impression.
You have realized yourself as a musician, actor, publisher… And what else would you like to test yourself in?
Actually, I told you that I’m very happy as it is, but sometimes I’m a retired man. He’s a tired old guy who digs into himself. Now it’s June, then it will be July and August, and what am I going to do in the summer while the students are on vacation? I will read, I will play the guitar, write articles, and that’s all I do in my life right now…
However, I managed to meet creative people who gave me the opportunity to play on stage. In Hong Kong, I played in a play called Prenom, based on the French film of the same name with Patrick Bruel. I played the same character that Bruel played. And this role was very different from the role of Lazare de Peyroles. Because Lazar has only a couple of lines, they are short and strict, and in this role I had to learn a lot of text. I really wanted to try it out, test my memory.
Also, we are still in contact with David -David Banks, who played Danton in the musical. With Camille – Camille Lou, which was Olympia. Rod, who played Camille, we don’t see each other, but we also continue to communicate. And if one day “1789” returns to the big stage, it will be great, and I would definitely return to the role of Lazare.
But to be honest with you, I can’t say more about my life plans, because when you’re 40, you’re just happy with your motorcycle, your guitar, your girlfriend. And if my life continues this way, I don’t know… Maybe I’ll continue my book… But I don’t like to talk about it, because when you say “I will write or read a book”, you usually never do it.
Thank you for your frankness! And a classic ending for our interviews… What would you wish our readers?
I wish you, Anastasia, to be successful with your magazine. I hope that you will connect your life with your passion. And I wish all readers to live their passion, do what they want and love. I think this is the formula for happiness!
The interview was prepared specifically for the author’s publication ” IZKULIS.RU…”
Interview author: Anastasia Starostina
Editors: Ekaterina Svergun, Anastasia Starostina