The meeting

Bernard Pichon


The destinies of Catherine Ringer and Fred Chichin crossed in the Spring of 1979. Fred was gigging as a guitarist with the performance troop, "Le fond de l'air est rock", in a production of "Flashes rouges" a Situationist play by Marc'O, starring Catherine. They talked & couldn't leave each other's side, finishing their discussion at Fred's studio. They decide to form a rock group. Renting a studio in the 19th district, Avenue Jean-Jaures, in a courtyard. Guitars, basses, synths and a four-track recorder fill the room.

Catherine and Fred formed a modern, egalitarian couple. Catherine writes the lyrics, but she also co-composes the music with Fred and plays the synth, bass, trumpet, and other assorted instruments. They debut at the Gibus as Spratz, with Catherine on the organ and Fred on guitar, accompanied by pre-recorded rhythm tracks. At one point, Fred and Catherine think of forming a band with Jean Neplin, and play several shows at the Gibus with Catherine on bass, Ricky Darling and Fred on Guitars, and Fred's brother Hugues on drums.

The Ringer-Neplin-Chichin trio never totally separated as a song co-written by Fred, "Resurected Humans", appears on "Happening", Jean Neplin's debut lp. A clip is made for this song that features Fred and Catherine as well. A bit later, each Les Rita Mitsouko album will feature a song co-written by Neplin: "Le futur No 4", "Tonite", "Perfect eyes", "La belle vie", "Dis-moi des mots".

The osmosis between Catherine and Fred is so strong that they soon opt to work as a duo, as other musicians were often 'derailed' by their musical eclecticism. Catherine and Fred create their own genre melange from elements of jazz, rock, latin, egyptian, indian, and other diverse sources, influenced somewhat by Roxy Music, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Sparks. Their new name, "Rita Mitsouko", is meant as an homage to the faux japanese of Sparks' "Kimono My House": "Rita" evokes a latin sensibility, and "Mitsouko", japanese for "Mystery", is also a Guerlain perfume.

Perfectionists, the duo sequesters themselves to compose music and play several nights a week in small rooms and restaurants with a four track and rhythm box. They are seen in various European clubs, notably in Amsterdam and Italy.

In 1980 theatrical playwright Armando Llamas writes Catherine Daste, "Aux Limites De La Mer", played in Sartrouville, Rome and Turin with Serge Maggiani, Les Rita Mitsouko, and Marcia Moretto. Catherine and Fred start composing accompaniment for Moretto's choreography, but this collaboration is cut short by Moretto's death of cancer at age 32.

Their first concerts as Rita Mitsouko was at Gibus, the 4th to the 8th of November 1980. From the beginning, the audience discovers that they are an exceptional group. Each concert is unique-even their absurd costumes change with each show. Concerts quickly follow at Rose Bonbon, Bobino, and the Palikao factory.