Alfa Cologne is an under-the-radar gem in the Coachella Valley music scene—perhaps because all that Alfa Cologne does was, at first, not meant to be taken that seriously, nor did he intend to become a musician.
It just sort of happened.
During a recent interview, when I asked about the moniker “Alfa Cologne,” he joked with me and said: “If you want to interview him, I can arrange it. He’s a good guy.” He also talked about his love for music videos and mentioned skipping school to watch Daft Punk videos when they were due to premiere; eventually, he began making music videos of his own. Originally from Algeria, Alfa Cologne spent some of his childhood in Paris before moving to the Coachella Valley.
The music of Alfa Cologne is quirky—but in a fun, good way.
“I just disconnect myself from the musician part of it and go to a filmmaker part,” Alfa Cologne said after I asked him about his musical ideas. “Initially, I just wanted to be a filmmaker. I disconnect myself from making music and make the video for whatever song. The idea was to advertise my music-video skills.”
Part of the joke behind Alfa Cologne’s story is that he’s doing what he does to promote a fictional cologne line.
“That’s Alfa Cologne,” he said. “I’ve been playing music and attempting to write songs since high school in 2004 or 2005. I didn’t start writing songs until 2007 or 2008, when I started the whole persona. The original idea came from a character. When I started writing songs, I thought, ‘I could use that character, just singing songs and trying to sell cologne on top of it.’ I based it on one of my favorite perfume creators and stylists. He was born in the same town … as Yves Saint Laurent, in Oran, Algeria. I feel like Alfa Cologne has taken that spirit of that perfume-creator.”
Filmmaking has long been a love of his.
“As a child, I always loved commercials and music videos. I used to spend hours watching VHS tapes of music videos,” he said. “I would always just sit down and watch commercials. When my mother would take me to the market in Paris, my mom told me I was embarrassing her, because we were walking through the aisles, and I was singing the jingles of each product we would pass by. I also loved cameras. I would say being an artist to me is like being gay: It’s something that was in me that wanted to come out, and it did. I enjoy it, and I embrace it where I used to feel bad about it.
“I took a class at College of the Desert where I watched Federico Fellini films, who I always loved when I was a kid. … Fellini was like someone who was just talking to me and telling me to make films.”
What music videos and artists caught his attention?
“Michael Jackson was one of them. I really liked Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,’ which was also written by Prince originally. I also liked Queen’s ‘A Kind of Magic.’ When you watch that video when you’re a kid, you’re just blown away. I also liked bunch of videos by Michel Gondry, who did videos for the White Stripes, Björk, Daft Punk and Beck. Those videos sort of shaped my personality.”
He spent part of his childhood in the midst of a civil war in Algeria. However, Alfa Cologne said he didn’t feel like it left much of a mark on him.
“There were all these things that came with it, and I just got used to it,” he said of the civil war. “I think as a child, you don’t really pay attention to those things. But with the civil war, I wasn’t allowed to talk about my family. My family leaned more toward French culture, and Algeria used to be a French colony before they kicked the French out, and it became its own place, and they had a big hatred of the French. It was interesting, but nothing really bad. There were a couple instances where a bomb would explode, but it was fine, and it never really affected me.”
Alfa Cologne recently began recording his fifth music album.
“I started writing it based on my perspective of living through various different times, and for this one, it was me writing songs through people who were interacting with me,” he said. “I rarely write songs about what I’m feeling; I guess I just compare what people are throwing at me. For my album Ghost, it was about haters. … I was writing songs through them. I think that while that was happening, that was the energy around me, and for an artist to capture that, it’s raw. I think we have things around us, and if we capture that energy, it makes an album sound good.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/alfacologne.