While he has just unveiled the joyful “Bad Demons”, a promising EP, the singer of the phenomenon group talks about his years in Therapy Taxi, his anxieties and his new projects.
At only 29 years old, Zaoui finds it hard to believe how far he has come. “Sometimes I turn around and say to myself ‘damn… that’s phew all I’ve been through'”, he slips, a mischievous smile stuck on his lips. Indeed, not everyone can claim to have led a group that filled the Olympia and the Zénith, resonated on all French-speaking radio stations and sold hundreds of thousands of records.
This phenomenal success, he experienced it with Thérapie Taxi, the training co-founded with Adélaïde Chabannes (known as Adé). The singing duo and their musicians exploded in 2018 with their insolent pop rock, made up of ultra-efficient melodies and shocking lyrics – the French charts remember the refrain “va bien te faire enculer, slut!”, single by platinum.
With an imaginary conjuring up disappointed loves and drunken evenings, they took loyal fans with them for three years before a surprise separation in 2021. A final EP, a final hit (Summer 90diamond single) and a farewell tour later, the therapy ended in front of a jam-packed Zénith de Paris last October.
A few months after this “complicated” end, by his own admission, Zaoui begins the second chapter of his career with his first solo EP, Evil Demons (3e Bureau), released last Friday. Six pieces that he thought of as a story: 24 hours in the Parisian night, which begin when the party is in full swing, continue with the spleen of dawn and end with the cockroach of the following evening. When he is dancing(Like on C the basisbelow), the record is joyful and catchy, moving when it leans towards folk.
With frankness, the singer returns for BFMTV.com to the triumph of recent years, to the difficulty of reinventing himself solo, and to his “bad demons”, which hurt him as much as they feed him.
Why did you end the Thérapie Taxi adventure after two successful albums?
I said to myself that we would make three albums and that we would stop. I don’t think it could have lasted longer than that. But Adé wanted to make his career solo, which is completely understandable. We put things flat, the last tour went really well and we parted in a super nice way. Both of us wish each other the best, and we want to see each other succeed.
Why were you considering an end after three albums?
We were a group: everyone would have wanted their own evolutions. And then for me, there was something very definite in time with Thérapie Taxi. I thought it went with the soul of the group to say ‘we arrive, we make three albums and we break up’. Already in the DNA of the group, there was something quite furtive.
What memories do you have of it?
It is difficult to answer this question, because it is very broad. Memories come flooding back. A lot of things happened over a period of four or five years. Adventures that happened to us, very strong feelings that crossed us… it’s very rich.
Were the months following the end of Therapy Taxi complicated?
Yes, but it was complicated for me because I had just become a dad at that time. There was the stopping of the group, the fact of entering into fatherhood and the Covid at the same time. Inevitably, the triptych was very hard to manage, emotionally. It took me six or seven months of hindsight to realize that it had been a difficult period for me. And at the same time, the complicated moments, it feeds. I always tell myself that what will make my music enriching is all that I will take in the face and that I will try to transform into something resilient.
Has becoming a father changed the way you work?
It hasn’t changed my relationship to music, nor what I want to say, but it has changed the way I work, yes. I was a very nocturnal person, I really liked to write at night. I went to bed around three or four in the morning whatever happened, and I slept until 10 or 11 o’clock. It must have changed, I no longer have that luxury (laughs). Today, I put my son in the nursery, I come home, I go to the studio and I work from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s more like working days.
What difference does it make to be alone at the helm?
Not much. Whether you’re in a group or solo, you write the songs and rework them with people. With Thérapie Taxi, the songs were written either by Adé or by me, and we reworked them together. So the process is kind of the same. It is rather on the rest, the communication, that it is different. You have to think of everything. And I raise something, there is more work to provide. But today I can say whatever I want in my name: this freedom is pleasant.
Your EP is called “Bad Demons”, in the plural. Who are these evil demons?
If we can summarize, I would say that my bad demons – which I like a lot, moreover – are my addictive behavior, my relationship to the drive, to the need to feel alive. It is like the image of the barrel which one tries to fill but which is always empty, because it is full of holes. The fact of being epicurean, of being in “always more”, and finally of realizing that these things have their limits. I think it concerns a lot of people of our generation, this question. We were taught to always be in the immediate pleasure and we sometimes find ourselves a little stupid in the face of that, when we say to ourselves ‘but there is something that I do not fulfill, inside me’.
Has fatherhood reshuffled the cards?
Completely. What is very cool, when you become a father, is that you become more anchored. It’s another form of happiness, which asks you to shoot in your freedoms. Having a child is the antithesis of partying, of not planning, and it refocuses you on other things. What is very pleasant for me today is that I have the impression of having found a form of balance which allows me to launch my project more serenely than I would have done two years ago. or three years. I have this family life which is at least as important as my career.
Listening to this EP, we assume that these bad demons go through the party a lot…
The party and all that it engenders. The fact of having a lot of fun, of being in the adventure all the time, in the improvisation. It’s all that hides behind the term party, which drains a lot of stuff.
Why launch your solo career with an EP instead of an album?
A first album is extremely significant in a career. I think I needed some time to settle down, I couldn’t come back right away after everything I had been through. An EP was a way of seeing how things are, what it’s like to be a solo artist. The small bath before the big one, to acclimatize.
And for now, are you comfortable in this little bath?
I tell myself that I did well to start with the EP. I do not have the ambition to find the level of Thérapie Taxi, but I have the ambition to be an artist who is listened to a little, to fill a few rooms. And that, you will have to go get it.
You thought it would be easier, after the success of Thérapie Taxi?
I would never have admitted it, but yes. I was wrong. I realize that there is a lot of competition, that you have to fight, that there are relatively few listeners for pop and that in the end, it’s not because I slammed two big hits that I will necessarily be able to slam a third. Especially without Adé’s voice, without the Thérapie Taxi dynamic. So I do five or six times more than before, I lay the first stones. But luckily life is made like that, otherwise it would be too simple.
In the EP’s intro, a voice is heard advising you “Maybe you should rap”; do you feel that doing pop on the French scene is particularly difficult today?
Trying to make pop while being a bit hip, trying to tell something quite current, I’m just saying that there’s less of an audience than before for that. In any case, it’s a style much less popular today than rap in the 15-35 age group.
How do you explain, in this case, the box of Thérapie Taxi?
It’s a question we ask ourselves for a lifetime… When we fill a room, we can’t know why. I think there is a matter of timing. Never ignore the luck factor. There was the fact that we were a duo formed by a guy and a girl, which still tells things. It speaks to people, it’s a game of ping-pong that works. And then there was the featuring with (the rapper) Roméo Elvis (Sur Hit Dirty, their first big hit, Ed) who was on the rise at that time. It was before his duet with Angèle, it was the first time he appeared on a pop format and everyone was waiting for that. Especially in Belgium, everyone adored this guy but there was no song to play with him on the radio yet. And then we had this kind of weird name… But I think where we managed well was that we worked our lives like crazy people, so when people came to see us on stage they didn’t were not disappointed. We had a big single, and rather than telling ourselves that we were going to chill the ass and try to make lots of other big singles, we thought we were going to do a live that smashes. It helped to retain our audience and fill a lot of rooms.
In a note of intent, you say you “hope to find a good part of the public that (you) left”. Is it scary, the idea of not being able to convince as much as before?
Yes, because it’s pride that’s at stake. I know what songs I’ve written, I know how well they’ve worked, some tell me: ‘You have nothing more to prove to yourself, why are you put pressure on you?’, but I have to put it on myself. Because if without Taxi Therapy people are no longer interested in me at all, there will be an injury to the ego. I will say to myself that it was not me who interested them in the end, or else that I am not capable of doing alone what I did in a group. What is certain, moreover, I know very well: I cannot redo Thérapie Taxi, because a lot of things in Thérapie Taxi did not come from me. So yes, there is the fear of saying to myself ‘finally, on my own, you are no longer interested in me’.
Listening to this disc, we imagine a guy who is totally into the party. However, you talk about your son, your family life, you take a lucid look at your success… Would you say that there is a gap between what you are and what you write?
Me, I would say it’s 3:55 p.m., and we’ll talk about it again at 2 a.m. (laughs)
Zaoui – “Bad demons” (3rd Office), available since June 17
Zaoui will be in concert across France from September