Party en francais

Photo by Wes Davis

Chris Tafoya is perhaps better known as DJ Christophé, the city’s premier source of awesome French music. The former Tower Records employee of 15 years says he doesn’t quite recall how he got into French tunes, but says that his friends really dug the “eclectic mixes” he’d make back in the cassette era and encouraged him to start deejaying. Now Tafoya, 45, works for the Secretary of State, but he spends his spare time doing things such as costuming for films and photo shoots and crafting vintage cocktails. And mixing songs, of course. Catch DJ Christophé at this weekend’s third annual Serge Gainsbourg Birthday Party on Saturday, March 31, at 1630 I Street in Midtown. The soiree begins at 8 p.m., and the $5 admission benefits the 11th annual Sacramento French Film Festival and the Verge Center for the Arts.

You’re deejaying a party for French President Nicolas Sarkozy. What song do you play to get him dancing?

Sarkozy is kind of the George W. Bush of France. I would love to boycott him, but if I were forced to play in the interest of international relations, I’d play something by Carla Bruni. Since he’s married to her, he better get up and dance, in the interest of domestic relations.

There’s probably no danger of that, however, given that Sarkozy has a son, Pierre, who is a deejay and flies around in a private jet on the French taxpayers’ dime. Or Euro. I’m sure he’d get the gig.

You say, “1960s French pop.” Most people respond, “WTH?” Help them.

France Gall and Brigitte Bardot were the gateway drugs for me. Start with anything Gainsbourg wrote; he did hits for both ladies. “Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus” is a pretty great Serge tune. Or there’s the Bacharach-inspired Serge tune sung by the enigmatic Françoise Hardy, “Comment Te Dire Adieu?” Gainsbourg wrote in all styles: jazz, Latin, pop, classical, rock and reggae. You’re sure to find something you like.

When I think of Gainsbourg, I think of that TV interview when he said he wanted to have sex with Whitney Houston. What’s your Gainsbourg memory?

Personal memory? Visiting his grave in Montparnasse Cemetery. He died 20 years ago, and every day it is still covered with tributes, drawings, notes, plants, cigarettes and booze. He was a provocateur and troublemaker and general shit stirrer, but society needs that.

Parlez-vous francais?

I don’t, but it’s not from lack of trying. My comprehension is getting better, but what I really need is total immersion, like a year internship. Or a French lover. I’m open to suggestion.

Where does DJ Christophé deejay?

I used to have a regular weekly gig at the now-defunct Celestin’s. That’s where folks from the Sacramento French Film Festival approached me for their events. I’ve done guest appearances on KDVS, local openings and parties. I even did a gig for the Sacramento Ballet.

Where do you go to find music?

Ideally? France! Leave lots of room in your suitcase. Crocodisc, 40-42 Rue des Ecoles in Paris, is the best. They’re so cool, too. They let me go into their basement and dig through old boxes. I was in heaven.

Other Music in New York is pretty phenomenal, too. Amoeba Music in San Francisco is a favorite haunt. If you must do it virtually—it’s not really record shopping if your fingers don’t get dirty—there’s a great site for Magic Records, a never-fails-to-please label with no U.S. distributor. FNAC Music and Dusty Groove have great websites, too.

One might argue that ’60s French cinema was the best era of moviemaking ever. Would you argue the same about ’60s French music?

I wouldn’t argue it’s the best; that’s quite subjective. I even take issue with a lot of the misogyny of the Nouvelle Vague. But I think, for what it is, it’s quite perfect. It’s not overblown or ponderous music that takes itself too seriously. It’s fun, silly, catchy stuff that gives you a sophisticated wink.

Favorite French dish in Sacramento?

Well, since Daniel Pont is no longer at La Bonne Soupe [Café], I would have to say the duck confit at Magpie [Cafe]. It reminds me the most of France. My friend calls it “duck carnitas.”

What should American culture adopt from French culture?

Where to start? Decent, affordable public transportation. National health care. Decent bread or dogs in restaurants. How about this: simply the ability to slow down to really savor everything about life.

The song is played at your funeral?

As a cliché, “Comme d’Habitude.” It was given English lyrics later, and Sinatra had a hit with it as “My Way.” The original version was written in ’68 by Claude François. He wrote it about his breakup with France Gall. There’s a biopic about him playing in France right now, Cloclo. The previews look great. I really hope they can get it for the festival next year.