Tennishero on Roland Garros and The French

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By Johnny Ray Huston

With this year's French Open entering its last few dramatic days, the time is right to consult the Swedish duo Tennishero for their thoughts about the event. Alexander Berg and Jens Andersson have the qualifications. They hail from Sweden, the home country of six-time French Open champ Bjorn Borg. On MySpace, they initially described their music as "Roland Garros techno," though that witty tag has since been joined by others such as "snowjogger acid," as well as the wise declaration that they want to "sound like a David Hockney picture." They're off to a good start at that with "Alone," their first single, one version of which features Chelonis R. Jones on vocals and a Lego fragment of the two-handed great Monica Seles on the sleeve art. According to Andersson, Tennishero has left 2006's "Alone" behind to explore new realms of melody.

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Tennishero's Alexander Berg and Jens Andersson shake hands

I have to genuflect for days to Andersson for telling me about a tennis movie by the great William Klein, one of my all-time favorite photographers, who is experiencing a resurgence of sorts as of late. I have to argue with his assertion below that there are no tennis players today with the good-bad taste and intellect to enjoy Serge Gainsbourg, though. I once saw some Gainsbourg albums in the background of an at-home picture of the devilishly handsome and somewhat mad Marat Safin, whose kid sister Dinara is the story of this year's tournament so far. You could say Dinara's 4th-round match with Maria Sharapova was a "requiem pour un con" -- especially since Sharapova, no wilting lily, mouthed some hilariously off-color words during the defeat.

SFBG: Who is your pick to win the French Open this year on the men's side?
Jens Andersson: I don't really know. The Swedes aren't at the top of their game right now so I have to go with (Roger) Federer. Has he ever won Roland Garros? Tennis players today are boring and mundane. Hopefully there will be some new guy with the headband over -- not under -- his hair and the attitude of Serge Gainsbourg, but we doubt it. Now, you only see players like Nadal -- I mean, come on.

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The sleeve art for Tennishero and Chelonis R. Jones's "Alone"

SFBG: Do you have any favorite and least favorite tennis players, past and present? (I ask this since older or vintage tennis styles have had an influence on your look.)
JA: Actually, we are more fascinated by the atmosphere surrounding tennis in the past – for example the culture around old French tennis clubs, like in the Truffaut movie La femme d'a cote. Another great film is William Klein's The French, a documentary about Roland Garros in 1983 that captures this old charming atmosphere in a fantastic way. Back then, it was all about personality. McEnroe and Yannick Noah were inspiring in their own ways.

SFBG: What was it like to work with the great Chelonis R. Jones on the vocal version of “Alone”? When did you first hear him and decide to seek him out?
JA: We were living in Paris at the time and heard one of his songs out at a club and thought his voice would fit that 80's vibe that we were into back then. He recorded everything in Germany and we have not yet met him. He seems like an interesting fellow though.

SFBG: On an unreleased Tennishero track, Popnoname provides vocals. How did that collabo come about?
JA: He has his own way of doing music that feels like pop songs although it's really more of a techno or ambient song.
We're also working on remixing one of his original tracks, called "Touch".

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Alexander Berg of Tennishero
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Jens Andersson of Tennishero

SFBG: I know you like Arthur Russell (so do I -- there's a great new documentary about him made by Matt Wolf). What do you like about his music?
JA: Arthur Russell was a true genius, there's an originality to everything he did, and his way of doing electronic music differs from what the rest were doing at that time -- happy disco that was very superficial and boring.

SFBG: Your MySpace page has a generous number of tracks, while your official website is very cryptic, visually interesting but impossible to enter. What are the current and future plans of Tennishero?
JA: We've kept everything a bit low profile lately because none of those above platforms have been the right place for us to represent our current ideas. But 2008 will see the result of a summer, a studio, a piano, an organ, handclaps, flutes, a drum machine and tambourines.
By the end of this summer we will re-record all our old tracks and work on some new ones as well, which will result in the first Tennishero album. The sound will be a lot different from the tracks on our MySpace page. We did those three years ago and a lot has happened since then.
One important influence has always been old folk music, especially American folk. And I think that Arthur Russell really inspired us to make connections between folk and electronic music. Before, we were kind of stuck in that 80's sound. Now, we sound more like the Beach Boys with a 909 drum machine.
I've never thought of it before, but our influences are actually very American: we love ‘60s and ‘70s folk, but what really gets us moving is old US house and techno, like Frankie Knuckles, Tyree Cooper and Carl Craig -- you get the picture.
I hope our album will sound like something in between those two eras, but you never know - it might end up being a total replica of the first Ace of Base album instead.

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