Q Have you ever been awe struck? How did you handle it?
A I have been awestruck, much to my eternal shame. Elvis Costello, my all time hero, was playing a gig in Southend, and afterwards Dr Feelgood had a bit of a party in their house on Canvey Island to which I was invited. Elvis had done a two hour gig and was truly brilliant. I wanted to tell him so and having built up my courage to say hello – instead of expressing the genuine love and admiration I had of his performance, the words that I, horrified, heard trip from my lips were ‘You dragged that out a bit didn’t you’. I got my coat and determined never to be sociable again. It took me many years for that to stop hurting.
Q I know you aren’t a big fan of remixes of songs you write, although I guess every now and then one may blow you away…but…on the whole how do you truly feel when someone “covers” one of your songs, do you consider it a compliment, do you wish they wouldn’t, or does it really not bother you one way or the other?
A I always get excited at the prospect of hearing re mixes. I like the surprise. I like too that someone is intrigued enough in your song or voice to want to play with it. Unfortunately, more often than not you are disappointed, usually in the lack of musicality.
I hate it when their fidelity to their initial ideas push the vocal into to silly key-less places, or the beat is so at odds with the material they are working on that it makes no mathematical sense. Where there is a real synergy it is thrilling.
I love my songs being covered, even when the result is a bit of a dog’s dinner in which case I think they are mental but am touched nonetheless. I believe songs are for anyone to put their voices to and with all the music that is out there, for someone to be affected by what you have done is flattering in the extreme.
Q What is your favorite music memory and why?
A Unfortunately, me and my memory are not on speaking terms. I find it hard to remember specifics. Some people speak to me of things I have done and I find it impossible to conjure up an image of my ever having been there. My greatest pleasure musically speaking is in live performance. Some gigs you feel as though you are trudging through treacle but when it comes together, and thankfully these days that happens far more often than not, it is a wonderful experience. Connecting with an audience on stage is a pretty wonderful thing.
Q Hi Alison, my friend recently read an article about you, it mentioned that you have experienced anxiety and phobias. How did you manage to overcome them? Also I would just like to say my friend said you look absolutely amazing
A Thank you. When you are young you imagine that someone, somebody is going to gather you up and organise you, tend to your ills, solve your problems, find you a solution. The truth is in most cases that everyone has their own shit going on and it is as much as they can do to get by themselves. We are islands. Depression is a parasitic malaise. Action the only distraction. That sounds like a soundbite. Unintentional. I don’t know that you are ever rid of the ability to close down. You just chose not to and count your blessings.
Q Is there a question that you would like to be asked but, in all the years, haven’t been? And of course what is the answer?
A Alison Moyet, Would you like to be a Member of the Empire? Yes, thank you muchly!
Q Perhaps its a personal question – hope not – but I love the track Dorothy. Could you tell me anything about the inspiration for the song?
A Dorothy was written about my maternal grandmother who died on my nineteenth birthday. It was a time in my life when I was looking inwards, was unaware of time and had not experienced loss before in a meaningful way. She had very little and I wanted to give her something.
Q You’ve had a long career with some great peaks and some valleys, as well as points where you’ve had total artistic control and others where you’ve evidently lacked some of that control. Time spent in the public eye and time spent avoiding it. If you had your life to live over, would you do anything differently, and what advice would you give to aspiring artists? What to you is the most frustrating part of being an artist, and what is the most rewarding?
A Those answers will have been different at different stages of my life. I regretted leaving Mute but there is no saying what would have happened had I stayed. I regretted having hits but am sure without them I would not have had the freedom to make some of the choices I did. In truth, I am tired of contemplating regrets, they stop us dealing with the here and now. I am sure I would have done things differently but unsure the results would have left me with any fewer questions. I don’t have advice, we are all swimming upstream. All I can say is that if you find pleasure in music, make it without seeking reward greater than your own satisfaction. If more comes, you are lucky. If it is joy alone, you are still lucky.
Q What a wonderful performance you gave at the Michel Legrand concerts this year – would you consider recording some of the songs you sung (apart from Windmills and What are you doing of course ) – those songs seem to have been written especially for you.
A It never fails to interest me, looking for other genres to shape my mouth around. It was a great experience working with Michel, also a great challenge – which is no bad thing. Of his songs that I sang in concert it is Nobody Knows that is my favourite. I like his work with the Bergmans. I would like to record that and Between Yesterday And Tomorrow, should the opportunity ever arise.
Q A few years back you touched on the idea of trying your hand at producing other artists, is this still a passion and are there any plans afoot, would be interesting to have your take on how you would shape their sound.
A Did I ? LOL. I have no recollection of it. I am not made to be a producer. I am too distractable. Too busy trying to figure out my own sound to dabble my hand elsewhere.
Q There are many, many people who utterly adore you and your voice, your incredible down-to-earth persona; you only have to read the comments under your videos on YouTube to realise with how much the world holds you dear with incredible affection; my question is ‘How do you feel about your fans love for you?’ Is it fulfilling; can you really FEEL the love towards you from your fans or is it just part of the business of the music industry?
A Thank you x. Sometimes, when you are cosseted away somewhere for a time, it is easy to forget anyone considers you. I don’t think about it too much because it doesn’t come through my front door and I always expect it to be gone next time I look… and then you see something written or you meet someone for whom you have made an impact and it’s quite breathtaking. I don’t feel able to express it because it feels like a vanity. We have something.
Q Really loved the recent Waiting track with My Robot Friend and was wondering how it came about and how you worked on it? Would you be up for doing more of these? Is that two questions? If so, perhaps I can drop some of the punctuation and make it one really long sentence?
A He had approached me a couple of times but it was when this idea came through that I was up for it. I wanted to work with electronica again and it was at the right time for me. He sent me the track and I went to a studio when he was in town and sang it a couple of times. Simples. I would certainly like to do more.
Q My passion is photography and mainly photographing people. Therefore, I would like to ask if there has been a particular photo shoot during your career that you have enjoyed the most? (I’m a big fan of the platinum blonde and black suit styling of the Getting Into Something Vinyl cover)
A Thanks again
Ha! I remember when we did the shoot for the Alf album, I was asked to look at the proofs and to choose my favourite. I was still a truculent, smacked-arsed-faced youth and found the choosing of an image of myself far too embarrassing. I left it to someone else to choose, not realising how long that face would be around. I remember the photographer had a new technique where he used an extremely slow shutter speed and lit me as like a paint brush, with a torch. I had to be still for an inordinate amount of time. Hence the gob on me. I like better the pictures from Hoodoo onwards. I liked the work of the Douglas Brothers. I approved my own shots from then onwards. The blonde hair was unintentional. I was time I stripped out the Hoodoo black and the woman turned my hair green. That had to be bleached out, cut short, and begun again. A wig was used on occasion during that period.
Q Do you think you will ever write a autobiography like Dawn French sometime in the near future?
A The question is there but for me, the knowledge that my story involves the privacy of others who may not choose to divulge theirs, prohibits me. I would not want to alter truths but not all truths are mine to offer. That and the fact that what I saw is not always going to be the only picture is a selfishness. As for detailing professional events…I refer you to the void that is my geographical recollection.
Q Any plans to make a French speaking album? I do love the sounds you make when you sing in French, your voice sounds so mellifluous and wonderful, perhaps a Jacques Brel album I’m sure there are a lot of people who would love such a thing.
A I love singing in French. In a way, it not being my first language and not understanding its intricacies, it frees me from the hang ups I have as a writer with words. It allows you to concentrate on the sound and the emotions they suggest. I would like to do more singing in French but don’t know when or how that might be.
Q Having just watched one of my favourite films yet again, The Matrix, an idea for a question came to mind…You have a choice of 2 pills – a Blue or a Red. Take the Blue pill and everything continues as normal. Take the Red pill and you get the chance to change everything. Which pill would you choose?
A Reminds me of the Alan partridge sketch. Water. Still or sparkling? Oh…half and half.
Q I was excited to hear that you are thinking in terms of a blues direction and also writing just now. Are you toying with the idea of a blues covers album or original material with a blues bent?
A I think the blues record should have a combination of the 2. Too early to speak about my next album. We are still trying to figure the shape of it.
Q You are looking stunning just now, really better than ever! Is the slinky with heels and non sandal encumbered styling down to overcoming your shopping phobia or have you found a nice stylist / personal shopper?
A Shopping still is the bore it ever was. This music business malarkey has changed. It was a marvel when Sony gave me a budget for TV clothes and introduced me to Milena Mihic who went trawling to bring me myriad things to choose from. I wasn’t about to suggest doing it myself. How fab is that.
Q You said in the past that some of your lyrics are biographical. Given your status as (sometime) Queen of Misery, we can assume that some of the people and situations you have written about are painful or sad. Is the process of writing a kind of catharsis for you? Also when you sing these songs live, how do you deal with the underlying emotions that inspire them? That’s a cheery one for you. Alternatively, ignore that and here’s another Qs: Can you recommend any good hills to climb as a birthday/anniversary treat?
Yes, there are many people and personal stories hidden in my songs and not always where you’d expect them. I have on occasion become overwhelmed on stage, not so much by the memories of sorrows which as you say have been diluted by the writing of them away, more from the stinging little truths of the human condition that come to mind when you inhabit a song. I know that sounds wank. It’s hard trying to articulate what happens when you are singing. As soon as you try you sound unpleasantly pretentious. Sometimes sadness catches in your throat when you sing a song like you believe it.
My favourite holiday hills are to be found along the canals of Amsterdam.
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