Singer-instrumentalist Francoise Cactus of the eclectic French-German duo Stereo Total may not be Mother Goose, but she’s got her share of enchanting tales.
Given the last name La Hove at birth, the performer says her adopted surname has a fabular origin: her obsessive-gardener mother, who brought outdoor plants in for the winter.
“She always put all the cactus in my room. I was really afraid when I was small, thinking, ‘Oh, no. If I move in my dream, I’ll be stabbed by all this cactus!’” she says in a charming Burgundy accent.
She also liked a famous French song called “Cactus” by Jacques Dutronc: “So I thought, ‘OK, this is a good name for me’ and I took it in the early ’80s.”
Back then, Cactus — who brings Stereo Total to San Francisco this week promoting its new album, “Cactus versus Brezel” — was fronting a garage-rock combo called Les Lolitas, singing in French.
Then she met German vocalist-guitarist Brezel Goring (born Friedrich Ziegler), and they became a couple, then a wildly inventive band that tapped into pop, punk, cabaret, electronica, new wave and France’s bubbly “yi-yi” style of the ’60s.
“Then I decided to sing in a lot of languages, to make it more international,” she says, noting “Versus” numbers such as the synth-fluffy “Die Frau in der Musik,” the Atari-blipping “Jaloux de Mon Succes” and a conversely funereal “We Don’t Wanna Dance.”
But the Berlin-based Cactus is known for her stories. By 1997, she had written an autobiography, “Autobigophonie,” in which she imagined her own future: “A crazy world with a women’s army, where the masters of the universe would be flies because they can stand all the pollution,” she says. “Also escargots — in my book, they are huge and everywhere. Because where I come from in France, we all love to eat snails!”
Cactus has penned several young-adult books, and she has almost finished two new tomes: a handbook for aspiring female musicians and an adult novel about three middle-aged female artists who solve a murder in the Canary Islands.
Her craziest creation? Wollita, a life-size rendition of a blow-up sex doll made from wool, which caused a national art-exhibit scandal in 2004 but spawned a Wollita book and CD. Currently, she’s knitting a giant Monster Girl for a Berlin show in fall.
Cactus enjoys living the “Little Prince” life. “Sometimes people are surprised when they meet me, because my voice sounds younger than I am, and the subjects of my songs are often little girls’ problems,” she says. “But I refuse to get older or to get more serious. I even wrote a song about it, called ‘Forever 16!’”