Q How do you choose the title of the album?
A I’m not sure. It pops up at you.
Upstairs… came about because my favourite club was a punk night we went to on a Basildon industrial estate. It was called Upstairs at Turkans. We had recorded the album at Eric Radcliffe’s studio (although it had no upstairs!) and it was a good way of getting his name in prominence..as he had put so much work into it… and phonetically, it sounded good.
You and Me Both…. suited the equal contribution we made to our cold war of the time.
Alf….was Columbia’s suggestion.
Raindancing was settled on after much to-ing and fro-ing and was edited down from something or other.
Hoodoo…taken from the song title.
Essex… I was homesick and had had the postage stamp idea.
Hometime… felt apt.
Voice…described the objective
Singles…because I didn’t want anything to be called Best Of…and hits might have been a misnomer.. ha ha
I’ll tell you about the new one soon xxxxx
Q As an artist both as a singer and a songwriter, you always seem to have a strong sense of what you want – a real care about how you think your music should and shouldn’t sound – and I can’t imagine that you would ever hold back on your opinions on such matters and yet you have pretty much always chosen to work collaboratively (Vince, Swain and Jolley, Pete, the Insects, Anne, musical directors etc.) whether it comes to writing, arrangements or production which must indicate you value the opinion and tastes of others. My question is how does the collaboration with a musical partner work on those occasions when you don’t agree? Are you and Pete for example naturally in sync? Would your preferences always prevail musically these days? Do musical differences ever get heated?
A Ha Ha
There was a day a couple of weeks ago where I came in with a pot plant and a prepared apology :-[
Ultimately, I collaborate because I am too flighty. I need the earth of someone else. I have organisation / concentration / distraction issues.
I am getting much better at focus now but my nature never allowed me to sit for hours with an instrument or an instruction manual. Hence, I have always needed practical help. I have played many instruments to a basic level. Never became good at any. Songs I write alone you can tell. Guitar songs thrash…piano songs are as slow as my fingers pick out the notes.
I have always been creative and like to make things for joy of making things.
I don’t know if I have had a strong sense of what I wanted. It has been a pain in the arse that I have not been able to articulate the way I read things. I have worked with people who want music described to them intellectually. Words, references, records.
I don’t do it like that and it has been a stumbling stone. Record companies want to know what record you want to make. Who it will sound like. That means nothing to me.
I feel it or I don’t.
I am influenced by everything and nothing.
I have collected nothing.
When I was younger, if something didn’t get in my way, it could stay.
When I lacked confidence and assumed someone knew better, I gave way.
Sometimes, I just couldn’t give a toss.
Words were always a sticking point though. It was our lyrical differences that caused the initial rift between Vince and me….that and my rude bluntness of yesteryear (..OH…and a couple of weeks ago )
These days my take on it is this:
You could be right, but it’s my album so bollocks to ya
Q I was wondering if any of your songs has been inspired by a phrase of a book you read, or a scene from a movie you watched? A lot of artists sometimes begin a creation from a reaction to somebody else work…has it already been the case in your work?
A What a timely question!!
It reminds me of an Alan Partridge sketch where Lynn is in the audience, primed to ask Alan if there are any blazer badge sets left for sale.
The answer is yes… and on this new album in particular.
The song I was working on only yesterday I’m On Fire, is written of Lyra, the lead character of His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.
Pete had an idea and the title. I liked it but was uncomfortable with the title and its connotations. Meter-wise it sat well, but I felt it to be a tired thing…the I’m on Fire stuff…ooh…kiss me kiss me..I’m a saucy minx and I want to rut.
I thought that being on fire was more likely to be unpleasant….that it would be betrayal, the more likely exponent. Loss.
It made me think of Lyra and the terrible ways she faced betrayal.
The mighty helplessness faced by one whose nature does not allow submission.
Q I have personally been ‘let down’ by someone (allegedly) famous and was wondering have you ever met someone you had admired but after meeting them were disappointed ?
A I know it was likely to be a hiding to nothing… so I have avoided contact.
This was spurred on more by my own shortcomings. Having met someone I loved and making a total arse of myself, I determined never to see that in someone else’s face again…LOL.
On the rare occasion I have met people they have mostly been pleasant.
I am an admirer of Damon Albarn. I buy the records…I passed him in a corridor once and smiled. Big filthy look came my way. Maybe he was having a bad day…that happens… maybe he didn’t see or register me.. maybe he was worried it would be followed up with a conversation if any encouragement was given…LOL..
Maybe he’s one of those cocks who thinks you could never like a person whose music you don’t get. Who knows. In those instances it makes me smile…it’s like…get over yourself…you think I’m a no mark? well guess what, I buy your records. I am your target audience, a pleb like me…how cool does that make you.
I forgive him because I like him…and can give him the benefit of the doubt. I know there have been dreadful days in my life when someone has wanted a simple exchange with me and I was unable to respond in the way they wanted. It is not always a slur.
As for Duran Duran… Tossers! ha ha.
They were very ill mannered back in the day when we were Yazoo. Jumped up beer boys in lipstick.
Interestingly enough, I saw an interview with Vince when he was asked what he’d send into room 101…and they were it. It made me smile…we had this in common and I wondered if he remembered that day abroad doing a TV show.
I have always avoided naming names… cretins.
LOL…I’ve always avoided naming anyone. You have just ‘outed me’ after 25 years of attempting good behaviour!
…but hell… I’ve read Le Bon’s take on me a few times. He never held back, so sod him.
One thing I remember…is him being asked to choose between me and Sade as vocalists.
He said I was no good and sang sharp…and that as he was a ‘muso’ ( he used that phrase about himself tee.hee) he would have to chose Sade…. I have to say Sade was a lovely woman…always friendly and natural…it is just the self importance of the geezer that used to get me. Maybe it was because he always looked like he was about to run to fat and I was all his scary tomorrows rolled into one that he had a problem with me…maybe he just didn’t like my singing…and that’s fair enough. Never liked his records either…although I have to say that I did like Ordinary World….he seemed more human then.
It’s a funny one though because I have read it of myself.
I noticed someone posted on YouTube saying how truly nasty I am and how I mistreat fans, when I know that means I stayed neutral in a bust up, one that I knew nothing about and couldn’t get into..
You can try and try and just one thing that doesn’t suit, and you’re a big bastard who loses all their browny points…and the love is off to Kim Wilde . LOL
See how grumpy I am getting in my old age… I am premenstrual
Still…the bonus is… that’ll all be done with soon.. lololololol
Q My question is about conquering demons….do you think you’ve slain quite a few these past few years? If so, is this an experience thing or some magic fear-reducing formula? And does this now mean you approach work offers differently than say 10 or 15 years ago? For example, if Smaller was going to now be made for TV or film – would you be up for it?
A Fear has stopped me doing so many things in my life I became tired of it.
Also, go through enough shaming, hurtful, mortifying moments and you come out of the end going….and?
It’s like going to the dentist or having an injection. You feel great when it’s over and it is never as bad as the build up.
My method these days which really works for me is projection.
I envisage myself comfortable and settled-in, a week after opening.
Or in my dressing room putting my things away and divvying out the brown booze (cognac) to my band members who have come round for the debrief after a gig feeling warm and excited.
I certainly do take more chances then I used to. When you get older you see chance as a wonderful thing as opposed to the certainty you think it to be in your youth.
I probably would do Smaller if required too, although it is not a burning desire and I’m not sure how it would translate…although thankfully, that wouldn’t be my job.
I love being with Dawn and it would be another challenge.
I have been asked to be seen for quite a few roles since then but have been prioritising my music this year. I would love to do something at some point. Something dark and gritty…..yeah…me and every other middle aged actress eh? LOL xxxx
Q With Pete Glenister back in the producers chair, I wondered why you ever chose another producer, while you co wrote most of your songs since Hoodoo with him?
A It is always a tough one.
What you win on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts.
After Hoodoo, we were both rinsed. Pete was knocked back by the reaction we had from the record company to Hoodoo. It was not the record they wanted and they needed a fall guy. I am a girl. The good creative things don’t get laid at your door. The moments of magic are not seen as being of your own design. It’s always the man that does it for you.
Shit album…producers fault. Great album, Producers magic.
It is not enough for them if it does not outsell or match the sales of its predecessor. Hoodoo didn’t and Pete felt that.
We recorded Essex together and it was rejected by Sony. I had to do it again with a producer of their choice. It was not a happy time for him or me.
It is not always a bad thing having a third party produce when you are the writers of your own material…I see Vince does it for Erasure when he is obviously more than capable himself, and no doubt Andy too. Sometimes you get too close to stuff. You can’t see the wood for the trees.
I have myself written BV parts for example that left to my own devices I would give a place of prominence to, because I love them so much…but its not always right for the record, and you need someone with a clear eye who can see from the required distance.
There are other times, and this album is an example, where understanding the structure of a song is paramount. That it does not serve the song to be playing with the chord structure.
I have found working with Pete, my co-writer, has been the better option in this instance.
Q If you could go back twenty five years and give your young self some personal or professional advice, what would it be? And imagine yourself twenty-five years from now, what advice would you imagine your crone-self imparting to you at the age you are now?
A Ah, but I am all wise and crone already.
I would tell myself that I am not responsible for all the anger.
To spend less time in other people’s heads.
Funny enough…I don’t think I can go there.
I was prepared to type but it’s a swamp.
Q I’d really love to know your opinion on TV shows like ‘Pop Idol’ and ‘American Idol’. Do you ever watch them? Ever secretly voted? Do you feel they’re a positive or negative influence on the music biz in general, the music buying public and especially those talented people who actually CREATE their OWN music…or are they just glorified karaoke contests won by the most popular vote?
A I have watched, when it was a novelty… but not for a long time. It’s all so tired.
I don’t know that these shows are ruining the music industry, but they are a reflection on how we see music today and the relevance it has in our lives.
One of my bug bears of a list too long to mention, are the voice coaches and the pony ways they get their acts to tie up a song.
Nah… dull. repetitive, standardising.
The Americans seem to turn out ‘better’ performers…but it’s all soulless, shiny, money notes. Leaves me cold. Us UK’ers, we love a sad case until it believes in itself or expects to hang around.
No. It strips me of empathy and compassion. I don’t care what happens to any of them and when they cry, I just want to be in range of them with a pea shooter…phmmph.
‘But I want it so bad!’….do you, do you, do you’
Q Ok my question. It’s 2012 and Southend are due to play AC Milan in the final of the Champions League. You have a ticket and are really looking forward to cheering The Shrimpers on to European glory when you get a phone call asking you to be at the BRITS on the same night to receive a life time achievement award. What do you do?
A Ok….now this may hurt…
I will always be a Southender. I am a blue soldier.
I have also come to the conclusion that I can never have loved football in the way a man does, or perhaps a modern girl who has grown up playing the game.
Going to Southend with my b’friend, now husband, has gifted me some of the happiest, most exciting, engaged and brilliant days of my life.
I was naïve though.
Something died in me when Barry Fry left for Birmingham.
When Sammy got dropped.
When Stanley wouldn’t hug his team mates
When foreign players flooded the leagues with diving and generally getting poncey (ooh controversial)
When Peter Taylor got spat at.
When the success chasers came and went and came again.
When the WAGS come to town.
I am a hopeless romantic who wants the goalies to be smoking woodbine.
Who wants someone to be Southend forever
Who doesn’t like turning on our own when they fail
Who can’t leave her kid alone every Saturday and doesn’t like making her go…unable to concentrate on the match, placating cold fidgeting child while old man talks formations with the other blokes.
I would happily avoid both outings
Q While I wouldn’t for a nanosecond suggest that you get all prog rock on us, I wonder whether you have ever considered the notion of a concept album. I don’t mean a musical but something that, together, tells a particular story or is held together by a narrative thread. If so, do you think it would be based on a book or folk story or something entirely new that you had generated yourself.
A Funnily enough… I had talked just after Hometime of writing an album based on Nursery Rhymes. Can’t remember the take I had on it but it had something to do with Mary Don’t Keep Me Waiting.
I would love to do something a bit off the wall.
Phillip Glass wanted to collaborate many years ago but unfortunately I was in a reclusive place and didn’t take him up.
I very much would like to work on something entirely without commercial consideration.
Q So, what’s your real feelings about ‘Love Res’ and will you ever perform it again? Also where was it filmed (The Video) and are the rumours true that you were asked to stay there by the locals (for reasons I won’t mention here in the name of public decency lol)
A I am in a much better place re my earlier works.
I don’t feel so defined by them or trapped by their success.
… and I do like Love Res. It’s just that you don’t really listen to your own music once you have made it.
It probably holds less significance to me than to someone who grew up with it as part of the sound track to their lives.
I hated the video. Although it was a great experience making it
The desert at sun set is beautiful. It was a remarkable place.
One of the wives did tell me I should marry her man as he had a big knob and had bought them jewellery ( I think they quite like fat birds and I did have fabulous skin in my youth)
I offended her though because I said I felt it preferable to forgo the gold and have a bloke who fetches his own sodding goats.
Q I’m a massive Alanis Morissette fan and in an interview it was asked if she sometimes found it difficult to sing such deeply personal songs on stage in front of thousands. Which makes me wonder do you have any songs that were emotional hard to write or are to sing??
A I have a great many songs that are written about personal events and experiences. Obviously I hide within them if I can.
I have cried a number of times on stage although I have attempted not to display that. It surprises me when it happens.
Coming from the kind of family I do, I am not disturbed by emotional displays.
There was always someone crying…either from a family altercation, listening to Brel and even to Red Sovine, God forbid.
Momma Momma gets me often. As did Smaller both in the writing and singing
It’s not a rare thing….miserable bastard that I am
Q I would like to ask, I believe you said that Voice was a big learning experience and challenge for you, and I was wondering if there was anything you had specifically learnt about your music and your instrument (by which I mean your voice, nothing naughty!!) through Voice and Hometime that you are applying to the new album?
A I think this coming album is quite a culmination of all information gathered.
Songwise, it is incredibly diverse. It has a writing finger in so many pots….does that make sense or am I already delirious?
It is more open than Hometime. Less stylised I suppose.
More energy than Voice and less polite.
Torch song continues to be a theme although I have tried in places to add an optimism.
It’s kind of Roy Orbison meets Bowie meets Scott walker meets Cilla meets Bach meets Cole Porter meets folk playing rock person meets whoever else comes in over the next month.
Yes… everything I have learnt.
(that is making me smile. It’s like those bands who offer up the most fantastic reference points and influences. All bookish and intellectual, and then you listen to it and it’s shite and you recognise nothing of their spiel in it….it would be great to do that now…… Maybe I have done Ha Ha)
Q My question is: what occupies your time at home apart from family and songwriting? I mean, do you enjoy cooking or gardening or is something else special to you in your own environment? The reason I ask is that you write many songs about home, Home, Hometime, This House, and more lyrics directed at your space, it must hold a special place in your heart and that’s nice as some people don’t ever find that safety.
A Hmmmm. Home has been a recurring theme.
Historically, as well as a haven it has been a prison.
It is safety, it is oppression. It rejuvenates and it sucks you of your sap. *It is a many faced beast.
It is a place you run to and from alternatively.
As for what I do in it.
I am not sure. It is a TARDIS and it swallows my time without telling me how.
I have no secretary. We have no child care…so our lives are probably not unlike most others…other than we don’t go out much.
I have worked more these last five years than at any other time – short of my world tour….and when I am off, I feel I should free David up from the daily grind while I can.
Glamour and escapism passed me by and I do not mind that at all.
When I am finally free of my voice and my duty, I will fill my days with paint and sculpture. This is my dream.
Q How close are you to your family… your Mum, Dad, etc? Is it a very close relationship, with you regularly in Basildon, or just the occasional birthday/Christmas phone duty?
A We are close in that we are tightly bound.
We are a tormented bunch who I think can only truly understand one another. We have never been like anyone else’s family that I have seen, but I suppose everyone feels that.
When I became overnight famous, it was an enormous shock. I needed to be with people who didn’t look at me that way people do when you have been on telly and you are not prepared or desirous of that kind of attention. Going home was the only place where it was almost as though nothing had changed.
I hate listening to myself talk like that because it gives the impression that I had no joy or gratitude. that I am a miserably, whiny ingrate. It’s just what happened then…not what I feel now.
I didn’t really allow my parents to be proud of me. I wouldn’t talk shop with them or let them share my victories. I had seen my mother be driven to tears by some of the negatives…some of the calls she got from the press. I felt I had to protect her. I felt restricted by the standards she still imposed upon me about my behaviour or the way I presented myself. I resented the way people tried to get to me through them. It was a huge pressure. Cope with my own experiences and protect them too.
As parents, they do what they can for you and you want to return that to them. Make up for the withholding years. Forgive and be forgiven.
We are close in that we can be ugly to one another one minute and raucous with laughter the next. We will never be estranged.
Q Can you tell me what inspired the Upstairs at Eric’s artwork, whose idea was it, where was it photographed and what are your thoughts about this iconic album cover? What sleeve artwork have you had a hand in? And finally what is your favourite single or album artwork of your own work?
A I love the artwork to UAE.
The credit is all due to the photographer whose idea it was. Obviously, it worked much better on the record cover as opposed to Cd. Never been the same since. I also preferred the UK artwork of it.
I had a hand in most other things.
Only You was done by a mate of mine from Bas who was unemployed and wanted to get into art. I put him up for it and had them buy him the materials he needed.
Don’t Go came from my love of nursery stories and the Pied Piper…although it was a brief. I wasn’t at the shoot.
Most of the rest were from briefs. Vince was happy to leave me to it.
YAMB was a photo I chose from a photographers book.
As for Solo.
I hated looking at photos of myself and for some bizarre reason…the record companies have always insisted on having a photo of me for the front cover… I have argued against it many a time.
First two albums, I wouldn’t look…certainly it was the case for Alf…so the record company did them.
I hated those covers enough to make an effort. And while the artwork on Hoodoo was not mine..I did approve the photo.
Essex was again my brief…having thought of the stamp and the postcode idea already.
Singles was all a bit non.
Hometime… I wanted dark and cheekbones and struck an appropriate pose.
Voice…it was a case of choosing a shot.
I don’t dislike any of the art work other than the first two solo albums…as for favourite, I have taken some better photos than others…but a head shot is a head shot…I’d rather it was something else.
Q Alison, how do you think you would feel if every single/ album you released was globally massive and sold by the bucket load, would you have jacked it in by now with that level of fame and are you content with how things are so far?
A Well….cos I’m a cheap date, I don’t really have to work for money. I am not covetous and do not harbour deep desires to own things.
I am content with what I have but it is always pleasant to hear yes more often. Enough fame to get my own way would be good..ha ha… My life is pretty good though. I sing when I want to and live a pretty ordinary life.
As it is though…the kids get grief for having a singer mother… I wouldn’t want more of that trouble for them.
I would not stop because a life without challenge is no life at all.
Q Have the use of metaphors and abstractions in your songwriting increased as part of your quest to change the nature/flavour of your storytelling, and do you feel more at home with expressing yourself in this way?
A I think you are always aware that there is no original thought. It becomes ever more important to find new ways of saying things. I do like the use of metaphors because there are so many patterns in life. Like numbers in nature. How one outcome can be predicted by the journey of something altogether different and yet whose parallels are remarkable.
For me though it started way back with Winter Kills and a love that dare not speak it’s name. Speaking about those things that abutted you without being seen to do it.
Battered by an unrequited passion, a coldness fell upon me and I took to observing even the things that were encroaching on my life.
From then things seemed to cease being direct. I was forever outside myself looking on.
A lyric of mine that is direct, is less likely to be speaking of me and mine. the voice I sing in has to be my own or it has to be poetry…at the very least, it has to try.
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