21/11/2008

Yorkshire Evening Post interview

Roisin is performing in Leeds this Wednesday. Reason for The Yorkshire Evening Post to have a little chat with her.

The alchemic soup that is Roisin Murphy's music has made her the darling of every cool young thing in Britain.
Part house, part soul, part electronica, this satisfying dovetail is clearly a carefully judged balance between commercial and underground – and yet, prior to her recent success, her life was completely random.

Born in Ireland and raised partly in Manchester, it was only because she moved to Sheffield with her lover that they created Moloko, the equally fashionable but initially directionless band from whence she came.

Now her solo career has burgeoned to the extent that she's now as much a style muse as she is a singer/songwriter, with a shiny mane of Greta Garbo-esque strawberry blonde hair often juxtaposed with the kind of avant garde outfits which could leave Grace Jones balking.

And at 35, she now finds herself looking back on two years in which her second album, Overpowered, became a modern classic adored by everyone from geeky musos to clubbers and the fashionati.

Forget the randomness of the past, the all new Project Murphy was launched with a distinct and independent trajectory. Now she's landed.

"When Moloko broke up I thought it all might get taken away from me," she said. "I got seriously panicked because I'd been doing it for so many years. It was then that I got serious and started being a bit less haphazard about everything.

"With Overpowered I set out to record an album with lots of different writers and producers that reference lots of different things and I did that, so now it makes me quite proud that I sometimes tell people who like my music about Moloko and they don't know who they were. They just know me.

"Now I like to walk a line with everything I do. It's about feeling as alive as possible, feeling vibrant. I mean the whole dressing up thing, it's about me wanting to tell stories, to complement sound with vision. It's just about MORE, you know?"

There are still delightful hints of the random about Murphy, still an air of tongue-in-cheek eccentricity. One minute she speaks softly and sweetly, the next she's mischievously effing and blinding like a navvy.

The accent, meanwhile, is a curious mix of Irish and the northern brogue that she undoubtedly picked up during the formative years in Yorkshire and Lancashire, formative years which also forged the independent musician she is today.

"I don't believe I'd be an artist at all if it weren't for Sheffield," Murphy said. "People who are serious about music are aware of Sheffield, I mean, from no other city could come Cabaret Voltaire and, on the other hand, Human League.

"I remember in Manchester you had every option on the scene, every nightclub – and I went to them all.

I used to often go up to Leeds as well, Back to Basics was the night we loved, very glamorous.

"By the early 1990s I'd moved to Sheffield and I found it was one of the places that everything had already happened, it had already morphed into much more of a fusion with DJs playing more rare groove mixed with house and industrial punk.

"It just seemed much more sophisticated than Manchester, but then it was also just fortuitous that I met this guy and fell in love."

The guy in question was Mark Brydon. Legend has it their relationship started in 1995 when she approached him at a party with the chat up line: "Do you like my tight sweater? See how it fits my body?" (A line which would eventually be looped to create the vocals on one of their first tracks.)

The union would last ten years and see them release four albums, most notably Things To Make and Do, plus the two hit singles which nudged them further into the commercial spotlight, Sing it Back and The Time is Now.

Murphy said: "We started making music with no intention whatsoever of becoming a real band so we started with things like me just repeating Do You Like My Tight Sweater? over and over again against a backing track.

"Initially the face of Moloko was just going to be these three dolls who featured in our first video but then curiosity got the better of us and we made a whole album which was quite punky and dubby and it turned out to be successful, people really liked it.

"I started making music by the default of getting into a relationship and, to be honest, I didn't take it very seriously for a number of years. I mean, I loved being creative but as far as a career was concerned it didn't dawn on me until we actually split up and I decided to go solo."

The result was a new record contract with EMI and her debut release Ruby Blue in 2005. Despite some acclaim it took 2007's slickly produced Overpowered to regain the ground she lost with the Moloko split.

It was the title track which really captured the public's imagination, not just by mixing a deep acid/electro track with a soulful song about lingering love but also by briefly introducing 'oxytoxins' into the national vocabulary.

Mainstream

The album as a whole initially saw her join forces with a team of producers and writers varying from Groove Armada's Andy Cato and Richard X to Calvin Harris and even ubiquitous pop maestro Cathy Dennis.

But interestingly the Harris/Dennis collaborations never made it onto the final tracklist – so does she have an aversion to anything too mainstream? Too close to the classic pop formula?

"Do you know I don't know if I do like pop music or not," she mused. "It depends what you call pop music I suppose. I could say I like Talking Heads therefore I like pop music but I'm not sure they qualify.

"I certainly wouldn't be fascinated by the formula of pop, put it that way.

It's upsetting when someone who could be a more serious artist might be buying a Girls Aloud album to dissect it and find out: 'How does this work?' I find that very cynical.

"Don't get me wrong I wouldn't mind having a top five hit, but Let Me Know from Overpowered was the closest I've come I think but even that referenced house and disco not really pop music.

"Early in her career Madonna, for example, must have had a massive influence on me 'cos I was a young girl and she was this bolshy, inspirational figure and I used to go around singing Like a Virgin, back when I was virgin.

"And my stuff references the era when she first came out surrounded by all that electronic music and disco, but these days the likes of Madonna and Kylie and the rest of it they all seem to reference the same stuff."

Outfits

Demanding almost equal attention to her music is Murphy's sense of style, an off-piste mix of fashion and art which, at different times, draws inspiration from just about every movement and era imaginable.

It began with the shimmering number which blinded watchers of the video for Moloko's 90s smash, Bring it Back, and reached its zenith with the bright red knitted number which adorned the cover of Overpowered.

"My outfits are all about the narrative, about telling stories," she explained. "It's about adding something to the narrative of the songs and being more complex than your average pop star or rock 'n' roller.

"God, I remember we did a shoot for the first record and there I was in this mental head piece with red leather boots and a hoop skirt," she recalls. "And in the 90s that was edgy, I mean, everyone was going around in Helmut Lang blazers being really serious but I've never been like that.

"I also remember going on the Album Chart Show last year along with all these Indie bands and 12 year olds in the audience. I was wearing this bright blue Louix XIV dress cut into a mini skirt with me legs stickin' out.

"And the reaction was palpable. You could see the look on their faces, it was like 'What the hell has she got on?! she's doing my head in!' But it's not about getting attention or hiding or anything like that, it's just about being truthful to who I am I guess."

Another selection of eyebrow-raising outfits are likely to be showcased next week when Murphy takes to the stage of Leeds Academy as part of a lengthy UK tour.

"There's talk of a third album but, to be honest, I've been so preoccupied with this show," she said. "It's been going on so long that we decided that this time round we had to do something different again.

"So we've completely revamped and renewed things and it will BLOW YOUR MIND, I promise ya. I actually love touring, maybe it's the tinker in me, and I tend to get quite carried away when I'm performing.

"Last year I split me eyebrow open headthrashing on stage when I headbutted the back of a chair. It was a right mess. But I've learned my lesson – I still thrash about but now I always check the chair's been removed first."

4 comments:

Violatrix said...

Once again..."Bring it Back"

SING IT BACK, people...SING IT BACK!

Oh god....and it was such a nice, well written piece...and they even referenced "Sing it Back" correctly earlier in the article.

I don't get it.

a. said...

haha i thought the same

& wasnt the infamous chat up line just "do you like my tight sweater?"

x

Anonymous said...

hey i wanna ask if someone has the piano notes for I WANT YOU?
i would really appreciate an answer, thanks xx

Anonymous said...

hey i wanna ask if someone has the piano notes for I WANT YOU?
i would really appreciate an answer, thanks xx