Since we started our online CD store One World, I have been deluged with requests for Daničle Pascal CDs from her many fans all over the globe, especially Europe. Her Leonard Cohen covers CD ‘Dance Me To The End of Time’ is a particular favourite among Cohen fans, many of whom prefer it to the Jennifer Warnes collection. Sometimes called “the hardest-working songstress in South African show-biz”, Daničle’s boundless energy and enthusiasm has seen her performing non-stop all around South Africa and overseas. We met for a brief chat at our offices in Cape Town. Later, when I managed to regain my equilibrium, I was able to scrawl down the following interview:
DP: My new album is called ‘Broken Dreams’, which includes my versions of songs by Jacques Brel, Tracy Chapman and Marianne Faithfull. I just did a rock opera on the life and music of Marianne Faithfull at the Baxter last November (1997). It became a cult thing because it was so different to anything I had done before. We are now taking this production into the schools with the drug squad because there is a huge drug problem in this country. I am going to compress the ‘Fallen Angel’ show into a one-hour show for the schools. If one person says to me that the show influenced them against drugs, then I’ve succeeded.
SS: What drug squad? Will you have Sgt v/d Westhuizen giving a speech before and after?
DP: No, I am going to do Sister Morphine. These kids understand music far quicker than lectures. Piaf and Faithfull were both heroin addicts but for different reasons. Piaf became a drug addict because of illness. Marianne Faithfull began with LSD and graduated to heroin. She once took 200 Tuinol tablets; she is very drug-ravaged. When she did ‘Broken English’ (in about 1979) she made a lot of money. Two years later she was living in the streets of New York City. She goes on stage with her hair over her face and a cigarette and the lyrics in front of her. Faithfull is hard rock: songs like ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ and ‘Broken English’. She is the English Piaf -- but I prefer doing Piaf.
(What follows are excerpts from Daničle Pascal’s replies to various questions from Stephen Segerman.)
I am also doing Laurie Anderson music but also a new production on Piaf called ‘Edith’. I don’t want to do a play about Piaf when she was dying because that is so predictable. I already spent eight months getting into character for the Faithfull production. I put on ten kilos and started smoking. My hair changed to a white colour and I generally acted like a slob. The Piaf production goes up to the period of her life when she was with the boxer Marcel Cerdan, who was the big love of her life. I don’t want to do Piaf the whore. I want to do Piaf the woman, showing the effect she had on her audiences, her charisma. All her life Piaf had love affairs. She loved sex -- nothing wrong with that. Because she was born on the street she took sex for warmth and tenderness. She was not pretty like Marlene Dietrich but she was more loved. Dietrich was beautiful but the men didn’t like her because she was cold in bed. She couldn’t make anyone come; even Yul Brynner didn’t want her.
Piaf died in the ‘60s. I just came back from Paris and I went to Piaf’s grave. I went to see (Jim) Morrison’s grave, with all the writing and the restrictions on how long you can stay at his grave, and Piaf’s grave, which is covered in flowers. People are sitting there crying even now. Not so at Chopin’s or Sarah Bernhardt’s grave.
This production is created, written and directed by Pluto Panoussis, who is from the 31st Century and not the 21st Century. His productions are like movies. Very trippy. Pluto didn’t want to direct Piaf because he knew I would manipulate him so he got me to do the Marianne Faithfull so that he could manipulate me. A performer without a script and without a director is nothing. I can’t write so I need someone who can write for me. These writers are the true geniuses of the world.