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Date Spring 2003
Type Mag
Source The Sentimentalist, volume III, issue XI
Title The eyes have it
Country US
Journalist/Photographer Madeline Virbasius Walsh/ Polly Borland
Text Upon hearing Gotdfrapp's newest release "Black Cherry" for the first few times, struck by its edgy mix of electro sass, sexy disco beats, nouveau ethereal and the always intoxicating purr that is singer Alison Goldfrapp's voice, it seemed almost a cruel irony that I was to meet Alison Goldfrapp in the Mute offices at the early hour of eleven a.m. With all the dark mysteries and potent beats surging throughout Goldfrapp's latest CD, it would have seemed far more appropriate to have sat down with Alison in a plum velvet booth at some lounge/nightclub or better yet, on the dancefloor of a discotheque. However, schedules are tight and appointments must made where they can, so Alison and I sat down in a Mute conference room at a long table under phlorescent lights.

Though the environment was not the most exotic, Alison herself looked quite divine at such an early hour, in large gold-tinted sunglasses and a full fur hat. She may seem the diva onstage, but in casual conversation, she comes across as a clever woman whose success hasn't spoiled her ability to keep a sense of humor as she works, even while doing such mundane jobs as interviews. It was a pleasure to finally meet the woman behind that tantalizing voice.

SENTIMENTALIST: Your new CD is quite a departure. Did you approach the writing for "Black Cherry" in a different way?
ALISON: I think it was more that we just wanted to give it a different mood ready. I like Felt Mountain, but after a year of touring with that, I found those songs sort of claustrophobic They are immaculate and quite intense. The thing is, we only had one album, so we had to play all those songs. It felt quite limiting after a while. l was desperate to get back writing, and just give it a different energy, not put all the emphasis on string arrangements and things like that. I was also just in a different frame of mind and mood. I think what's quite nice about Black Cherry is that it's
much more about me and Will, in a sense, as musicians. It's much more us sitting in a room, planning it out, jamming. That was actually liberating. It made us feel more independent in a way, and it was fun. And tun can get you a long way [laughs].

SENTIMENTALIST: So is that how you went about writing--you got together and hashed things out?
ALISON: We always did that anyway, but we tended to keep that element more. Before, we'd write something and then get someone else to come in and play it as a string line. We decided we wanted to keep the synths in there and just give it a different edge. I suppose.

SENTIMENTALIST: It's a lot more "upbeat" as well--
ALISON: Yeah. You just sort of have to break your own rules and in the rules we made for ourselves last time, we deliberately had avoided using any beats. This time, something l realty wanted to do was use them. Some of the tracks started from a rhythm base, working up from there. It changes all the time and I think that ultimately, Will and I want to challenge ourselves. You make rules and you break them, and that's how you move on. Also, it felt very natural to do that. We really didn't want to emulate something we'd already done. That would have been the safest option--to do what was expected [laughs]. Also, you know, it would have been very easy. We would have been guaranteed record sales and all the rest ot it, but it just didn't feel right.

SENTIMENTALIST: That makes sense.
ALISON: l sort of felt, in a way, that I didn't have much choice.

SENTIMENTALIST : And you probably loved disco way back when...
ALISON: That's something I've always said before that l was really interested in, which made people just sort of think, 'hmm ...what'? You've made this album, how could you be into disco?" But I'm into toads of things, I'm into music, whether it's good or it's bad, it doesn't matter. I have been involved in dance music anyway, so it's not like it's that alien, really. With certain pieces of disco and 80's dance music--what l liked about that stuff is that they are great songs that you can dance to--

SENTIMENTALIST: And a lot of it is timeless. You can still listen to it now in clubs and it will make you want to dance.
ALISON: It has all that sentiment and epicness and strings and it's all there.

SENTIMENTALIST: Exactly. Do you like some of the current electroclash stuff?
ALISON: Yeah. I like some of it. But again, I'm sort of listening to all these things and some of it can get really exciting and other things are just a pile ol rubbish, [laughs]

SENTIMENTALIST: Some of the songs on your new disc, like "Deep Honey", sound a bit Felt Mountain-ish, at least in that mood. So I don't think people will be totally shocked.
ALISON: No, but I think the thing is, that when you lirst listen to it, you probably do say "Oh my God, who's this?' But the more you listen to it, more and more, you do find those connections and ultimately, it's me and Will, so you can't run away from yourself.

SENTIMENTALIST: Did you guys hole yourself up in a country house again somewhere this time to record?
ALISON: No, no. We were in quite an ordinary studio and it was quite weird. We got this studio because we needed to get somewhere and put all the gear in it and start working. We'd always had this idea that we'd go somewhere else a bit more kind of scenic or inspiring. It did take us a long time to get back into the whole thing because we were literally sort of starting from scratch again. When we did get into it, we had this deep fear that if we moved, it would suddenly just all crumble. Once we got on a roll, we couldn't get out of there, even though actually, it was quite an uninspiring studio.

SENTIMENTALIST: Did you do anything to make it your own?
ALtSON: l drew a lot on the walls [laughs]

SENTIMENTALIST: Oh, okay [laughs]
ALISON: That was quite nice, actually, like a big sketchbook on the walls, just sort ot scribbling things and words and pictures. Something like when you move into a place and you gradually fill it up with rubbish, ultimately. That sort of weird thing, when you try to make somewhere feel comfortable, so you fill it up with little things. There were times that l actually hated that place, when it was just like "fuck, why are we here?' But I don't know, sometimes I think that's quite healthy as well. l have recorded in places that are much more luxurious, and you end up just getting kind of blasé about it.

SENTIMENTALIST: Yeah. Maybe the discomfort works on you in a good way then--
ALISON: --And lunches could last three hours instead of one hour.

SENTIMENTALIST: Who is it with the lower voice who sings on "Tiptoe"? It's not a guy, is it?
ALISON: A guy ? [laughs] You're talking about that realty low voice ? That's me. I can go very low [laughs]

SENTIMENTALIST: Okay. I was thinking that it couldn't be a man. I didn't think you'd bring someone like that in [laughs].
AllSON: But when we do it live, the two guys that play violin and keyboards are going to be helping me out on that .It's always really difficult singing such a low vocal live, because you've gol very little strength there to project.
The men will come in handy onthat one. [laughs]

SENTIMENTALIST: You might as well put them to some extra use [laughs]
ALISON: Exactly.

SENTIMENTALIST: The new website that goes along with your new disc is very cool too. Beautiful, actually.
ALISON: Oh. you like it ?

SENTIMENTALIST: Yeah. Those sort of commedia del'arte characters that you click on to make the video pop up and everything, very cool.
ALISON :Were pleased with that. It's nice to have somethinq a bit more exciting.

SENTIMENTALIST: Did you have a hand in the website then?
AUSON: Yes. I am always really involved in the visual side of i.t Steve and Neil are kind of friends and so they knew very well my aesthetic. It just felt like a really good choice to do it with them.

SENTIMENTALIST : And your ad for the upcoming UK Goldfrapp dates ties into that, the human figure with the horse's head.
AUSON: Yeah that's my obsession with animals.

SENTIMENTALIST: The photo with you and the wolves is also quite beautiful.
ALlSON: Oh yeah, thanks. There's some other good bits in that.

SENTIMENTALIST: What would you say your favorite song on the new CD is? Is there one that you feel is closest to your heart? Is it "Black Cherry"?
ALISON:I really like them all. [laughs] Since weve'been rehearsing now, it tends to change a lot when you play things live. You get into one thing, then you move away from that, and then another one becomes your favourite. They start taking on a life of their own, really. I'd say, yeah, that "Black Cherry" was probably...well, it's not the closest to my heart.
Because there are some of the other ones that are sort of much more overtly sexual and close to my heart. But "Black Cherry" seems like it's close to my heart because it's sad and it's directly about my personal life. [laughs]
Actually, the funny thing about this album is that it's all about my personal life in some sort or another. I think song writing is all about the personal and fancy, and that's where creating something comes from, by combining the two together. I would say that Black Cherry, as an album, is much more up front than Felt Mountain, which was ambiguous in a lot of ways. Even when I was talking about something personal, it wasn't necessarily that apparent [laughs]

SENTIMENTALIST :--You just kind of alluded to it instead.
ALISON: Yeah, and also I'd play something and didn't really want to give it all away. I think sometimes you say more when you don't say anything. There's that weird balance between me two.

SENTIMENTALIST: It's probably more interesting to let the listener read into it what they will--
ALISON:Yeah, I've always liked that, when you listened to a record, epecially when you're a kid, and for years you thought the lyrics said something completely diferent. Then you find out it's actually something else and it ruins it a bit. because it's nice that it had become yours.

SENTlMENTALIST: That's true. Are you going to bring the same band that you had on your last tour?
ALISON Yes with additions. This album's as actually a lot more going on. It's been quite complicated rehearsing it. There's a lot more technical stuff going on since it's so much more beat-orientated, with all the synthesizers. We've got the boys doing backing vocals, and we've also got a live bass player this time because that felt really important. Since it's so beat-orientated, it felt right to have a bass player.

SENTIMENTALIST: So there's a nice bottom layer to the music.
ALISON: Yeah, and also, its just really nice having somenone that's not behind a Keyboard, someone out front actually giving it that physical basis. I think that was really important to get Charlie. Charli used to play with Robert Plant, so he's a fantastic bass player. And we might have a girl in tjhe band, playing keyboards, and she can do some backing vocals as well. We were wondering how we could do some of these new songs because they've got so many backing vocals, which I've never done before ...

SENTIMENTALIST: Your shows in the UK are coming up soon, right?
ALISON: Yeah, as soon as I get back, March the 6th. We're playing in London, which is 'God, uhhhh...' First gig in London! Scary! It doesn't seem quite real. Everything' s been bumped up against each other. We' ve finished the album and it's straight into doing the artwork, straight into rehearsals. With the first album, things happened much more gradually. Then we'll be playing the festivals in the summer and then a proper tour in the autumn.

SENTIMENTALIST: That's when you'll be touring the U.S.?
ALISON: l guess so, yeah.

SENTIMENTALIST: But it seems this summer you'll be busy in Europe.
ALISON: Yeah. And we're supposed to go to Japan and Australia as well.

SENTIMENTALIST: Oh. But you've that before, haven't you?

SENTIMENTALIST: It seems like Japan would be especially great for you.
ALISON: !'m not sure what to figure out about that. Also, they have a completely diferent schedule as compared to everywhere else. Felt Mountain only came out there last year, so I don't know what they'll get out of it. [laughs]
The thing is, with the new album, there will be Felt Mountain fans who will hate this new album. Not all of them... and there will be people who didn't like Felt Mountain who will like this one.

SENTIMENTALIST: I think there's the age factor too. Some of the older people might have "got" Felt Mountain more easily, because it's more relaxing, whereas this one will bring in some of the younger people.
ALISON: it's really weird when we go to Germany, there's all these doctors and dentists and lawyers in the audience [laughs]

SENTIMENTALIST: Oh, really? [laughs] Well. I didn't notice them in your audience in New York.
ALISON: it's strange, isn't it? How in dfferent places, there's so many different kind of people.

SENTIMENTALIST: So you won't have any time to do any of your DJ stuff in the near future?
ALISON Not really. I feel a bit rusty on the DJ thing. I need to go out shopping and get some new records. But I think I am going to be DJinq in Paris, so that will be quite nice.

SENTlMENTALiST: Did any of the stuff you were spinning in clubs during your last excursions as a DJ influence you in any way?
ALISON: Yeah, definitely! And it was quite weird because the whole DJ thing was such suggested to me as a promotional thing. I thought, 'I can't do that. It's crazy. I've never DJ'd in my life.' But I did it with a girlfriend who can DJ, so she sort of taught me how to do it. And God! It was a completely liberating thing for me. Because after touring and before starting the album, it was just so nice to be just playing music, nothinq to do with me. Just putting records on. I was like, 'Bloody hell. This is brilliant fun.' It was about rediscovering things I had forgotten and also, people coming upand asking if I'd heard this, and being introduced to new things. It really changed my mood. I thought it was brilliant to be playinq music and remembering the fun of it all, rather than it all so tense and microscopic.

SENTIMENTALIST: I know that you are a pertectionist [laughs].
ALISON: Yeah, I am a bit of a perfectionist.

SENTIMENTALIST: Well, you kind of have to be, right?
ALISON: Yes, l suppose so. [laughs]

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