From the small town of Macon, near Lyon in France, the four musicians of the band Gran Kino bring out their first album in October. The name of the album? “1989”. The idea? To get back, in 10 songs, to this very special year. Their summer hit? “I love tennis” with the American rapper Juan Huevos. The chance for Robin, the guitarist, to explain how Michael Chang had a part in the fall of the wall…
Who's the best tennis player in the band?
Me. I took my first lesson at like 10 years old or something. I couldn't play football for health reasons so my parents sent to me to tennis and told me: “you'll see, it's nice, you won't have to run too much
”. So I ended up with a racket in my hand when all my mates were playing football. But then, I never did a competition so I can't say: “Me, I’ve got a ranking
You probably have the best backhand of the four...
No, that's Morgan. Here, you found my weakness. I hit them with two hands, like girls. I'm a bit from the Monica Seles' school…
Macon, is it a tennis city?
We have a big tennis club, a pretty cool one really. Then there’s a rumour growing, a crazy one. They say that we will host the BNP Paribas Fed Cup soon; I don't know if you know what it means... Right now, nothing happens here. To be really honest, we're more rugby persons in the area, music too. We're pretty cool people actually.
Tennis has a reputation for being a sport for middle-class kids. Pop music too. You’re racking up the clichés...
Guilty on both counts, it's true. My parents are going to be sad to read that you know. But it's true. Pop is probably what stands out the most in Gran Kino’s music. But be careful, when I say that I'm thinking of The Beatles, British music, all that. French pop, it's Etienne Daho (Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS2H2cBNFn8
You don't like it?
Actually I do. I have a lot of his records, but I can't really say it, shame on me!
Apart from “I Love Tennis”, what's the best song about the little yellow ball?
Tough one… Do you know the French singer Anaïs? I think she made a music video on a court, didn't she? If I remember well, it was a really good song (“Mon cœur, mon amour”, Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlU8pUVQwUw
, Editor's note). But it’s the only one that comes to mind. Compared to football, tennis doesn’t seem to inspire people. Except for Juan Huevos, probably the only rapper to be a fan of this sport. And fate made us meet him. A loser who, at the time, preferred Michael Chang over Michael Jordan…
Alright, a little honesty. Which one of you four had a poster of Chang in his bedroom?
No one I think. Me, I could have had one of Agassi. What a haircut! If with that, he didn’t get all the girls of the world at each tournament then I don’t understand anything. Pete Sampras too, classy in an American way, very eighties. The guy could have featured in « Dallas », but in a nicer way.
« The Rock’N’Roll side of McEnroe saved him »
For Agassi, there was the wig, but the jean shorts too …
They’re not for me; my legs are too big, unfortunately. But well, you’ve got to remember the context and the time; you can’t castigate him too much for that. When you look at everything that was done in fashion and music at the time, it wasn’t that bad.
Rebook pump against Nike Air Max, an electric blue headband and colourful sweat pants with a charming touch of purple, tennis in 1989, it’s above all a story of style…
Yes, but then, a style for no more than six months. We couldn’t seriously continue like that. At the time, I had pumps, because my mother doesn’t like Nike. I was really proud, I would pump them before going to school every morning. I was part of a small group who had them. They were definitely funny shoes them. Now I would wear them with a LC Waikiki Tee-shirt, a bowl haircut and I would be on top. Way cooler than these lads with their overpriced Nike Air Jordan.
Who, in 1989, could seriously like Ivan Lendl?
They must not have been many. When a guy like McEnroe, who was probably way more stupid, was much more popular. It’s his Rock’N’Roll side that saved him. Lendl, for his part, was like a robot. He’s from Czechoslovakia, it’s behind the iron curtain and you don’t mess with that. He was a bit like Murdoch, the enemy of MacGyver.
Chang against Lendl, the 5th of June 1989, It’s the Chinese student from Tiananmen against the communist tank?
Exactly, that’s it. The ultimate confrontation between the two blocs. Very dramatic.
Were you in front of your TV that day?
Yes, in my parents living room. I can still see myself there. Moreover because the room didn’t change much since then…
What would Nadal do against Chang’s service?
He will show him how it’s done, with strength, without shaking. He’s a machine, he never loses his focus. Which bores me to death. To win all the time he must be so boring. Personally, tennis today, it doesn’t make me dream. It’s too clean. There are no longer players smashing their rackets on the ground or pushing the chair umpire to his limits. And to be honest, I think it’s a shame.
The big advantage too, in 1989, is that Yannick Noah is still playing tennis…
It’s obvious. At the time, he was too busy to make reggae covers. Me, I’m ok with it, the guy is probably very nice, but you can’t go too far. First, he has to pay his taxes (Yannick Noah has been accused of being a tax evader in France, Editor’s note), and then he has to let Bob Marley rest in peace. It’s been thirty years that everybody’s covered his songs, it’s enough. Besides, « Redemption Song » is definitely his worst tune. So no, if I can give him an advice, he has to take back his job as French team captain, make us win another Davis Cup, and then ok, he might have the right to sing his hit song “Saga Africa”.
Interview by Vincent Berthe
To watch the video of ‘I love tennis’, this way: http://youtu.be/sR7lp8wdH6c
And for their website, that way: www.grankino.com