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Har Mar Superstar

Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Photography — Charlotte Robin


Sitting with actor and singer Har Mar Superstar is always the promise of an enjoyable moment. The proof here with him talking about his relationship with Julian Casablancas, his part in Adam Green's upcoming Aladdin adaptation and the ease of being of an actor.

Hello Sean, every American artist has a special relationship with France. Tell us about yours.

I love the food, … and people here really like my record so I come to France regularly for shows or for promotion.

In your opinion, why do people like you in France ? Because of France’s vast soul music heritage ?

(Laughing) Yeah, we had a very good press, the TV and the radio responded positively. It all began when we did the Transmusicales Festival, there was a big audience and we did very well.




You have a really great voice for soul music. Did you go through any process to improve it before recording the album ?

No, I just figured out what chords on the guitar would fit my voice the best, so I can stay on my own range. So, it consisted mainly on discovering where my voice is at now.

In a recent interview, when you were asked about the influences that are present, you answered, among other names "early Michael Jackson"… And no Prince ?! Why is that ? A Minneapolis legend ...

Yeah, Prince is awesome ! No, definitely, I listen to a lot of Prince still. I learned all the dance moves to Purple rain, of course. (laughing) 

Your album is the second album released by Cult Records. How did you make it with Cult ? How have you met Julian Casablancas ?

I have known Julian and the rest of The Strokes guys for a long time. I did like a lot of the US tour for Is This It when that came out. They had seen me playing in New York and some time later, we met randomly in a party in Kansas. I was talking with Julian for a long time, I was wearing glasses so he didn’t recognize me and somebody came by – a Har Mar fan – and Julian said « I love Har Mar ». He was talking to me for half an hour and he didn’t recognize me. He asked me to come on tour with them in Europe, in America. Fab (Moretti) played with me a couple of years. They’re old friends. I knew he was starting a label but I didn’t know how soon. I sent him the demos to see if he had any ideas, and he was like « I’ll put it out ».

Total nepotism here… Why did you decide to have this alter ego in the first place? Is it a way for you to be more free ?

In the beginning, I played with indie bands. It was fun but nobody would let loose during the shows, people used to keep staring at their feet ; while the after parties were really insane, with people dancing on the couches and singing along to TLC. So I said to myself « this is what my shows should be like ». So I began playing this R. Kelly-like modern R&B and we put out awesome shows from then on.




Is Har Mar Superstar the alter ego of Sean Tillman, like Tony Clifton is the alter ego of Andy Kaufman : a wild character who doesn’t care about respecting social conventions ?

It kind of started like that. I used to be Har Mar to get away with things, but now I think I have enough confidence to just do it.

To what extent are Har Mar Superstar and Sean Tillman the same person today ? 

They’re pretty much the same now. I’m just more mellow offstage. There’s nothing too crazy that I wouldn’t do as just me. I’m just a little bit more energetic on stage …

I listened to the podcasts you made, Nocturnal emotions where you ask people to tell their most embarrassing moment. What about yours?

My whole thing is, I’m not really embarrassed by much so I can tell all that’s going on in my life. I’m trying to remember the worst thing than happened to me in my childhood … Maybe I’m blocking them out … All the stuff that pops up isn’t that bad : my older sister dressing me up with her friends and putting make-up on me … but I think that’s normal, just an excuse to hang out with girls. Well, let me think … Maybe shitting my snowsuit and not being able to go home. I was 9, it’s not like it was last year.

So you’re a musician, but you’re also an actor. If you had to chose between these two jobs, which one would you pick ?

I don’t know, man. I guess I’d keep doing both, that’s great because I love performing and writing songs but … actors make so much money by doing so little (laughing). This summer, I was supposed to do a movie but I can’t because I have so many festivals to play. It’s a little bit hard to have to say no to stuff. Luckily, I don’t have to go to auditions, people just ask me to play in their movie. But if I decided to make it full time, I think I’d have to go through this crushing part of the job.

Can you tell us about your upcoming cinema projects ?

I don’t know what’s coming up yet. The next thing I’m doing is Adam Green’s version of Aladdin. Adam is playing Aladdin of course, and Devonte Hynes (from Blood Orange) is playing the sultan. I’m going to do that in August. Now, Adam is building on the sets out of papier maché. It’s going to be like an Alejandro Jodorowsky sort of thing. I think it’s going to be very crazy.

Will it be a musical or something?

No, but Adam wrote the soundtrack, and it’s really good. He rented a warehouse in Brooklyn where he’s now creating hundreds of elements in papier maché.




I also saw on IMDB that you’re going to appear in a film called Live Nude Girls

Yeah, that’s a movie that I made but I don’t know if it’s going to find distribution. It’s an R-Rated comedy starring Dave Foley but who knows …

Every time we saw you in a movie, you had a comical part. Are you interested in playing something different ?

Yeah, serious roles would be cool. I’d like to try.

They announced the reboot of the Batman saga, man …

(Laughing) Yeah, If they wanted me in the next Batman, they would like me to be the Penguin!

No, I’m sure you’d be a great Batman … A very fierce Batman.

A very slow Batman. A very poor Batman.

No, you can’t afford to be a poor Batman, you'd get your ass kicked …

Yeah, THIS is unfair. If you’re poor, you can’t be Iron Man or Batman …

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