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||Beats & Lust
||? / Polly Borland
||Electropop doesn't get much decadent and mesmerizing than on Goldfrapp's most recent album Black Cherry. The British duo of vocalist Allison Goldfrapp and musician Will Gregory return with the follow-up to the acclaimed Felt Mountain from 2000. This new record is mainly dense, atmospheric, and moody with the usual blips, crackles, and quirks associated with electropop. Imagine the disco pop of Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder melded with Kraftwerk and a tinge of Goth, and this is the result.
Black Cherry is a Eurotrash make-out record that oozes sensuality and sex from the throb of "Crystalline Green" and the danceable "Strict Machine" to the lush balladry of the title song. Allison Goldfrapp's dramatic and luscious vocals provide a human element to the cold chilling background music.
In an interview, Allison Goldfrapp's explains the making of the record.
When you released your first album "Felt Mountain" in May 2000. Had you any idea that it would be so well received?
No, not really. I think we were just so pleased to be making an album and to have finished it and for it to be released. We didn't really know what to expect at all, I don't think anyone else did either really, so it was a great surprise.
Was it difficult to record a second album after the success of Felt Mountain?
I think everyone has fears about doing their second album, or doing any album. You always have fears about what you're going to do next, or whether you can do anything next, maybe that was it. We challenged ourselves by going somewhere else with what we were doing and I think that helped in a way, even though we were taking a risk at the same time. We felt it was important to move on with what we were doing creatively.
How does it work between you and Will in terms of writing the music and producing it?
It's kind of difficult to explain how Will and I work, but it's just to-ing and fro-ing between each others ideas and then he plays a bit, I play a bit, or I'll sing a melody, I mean I use my voice to write with as well, which I think probably quite a lot of singers do actually, and so, I might sing a melody, or have a melody that will end up as a synth line or a string line. So the easiest way to describe it is that I write the lyrics and everything else we do as a joint effort.
Is it important to be technically proficient?
I think technical musical proficiency can be really useful. Will's skills as a keyboard player and the fact that he has a lot of knowledge about strings in that he can read music, that's really enabled us to do things that, I definitely wouldn't have been able to do on my own. But also, improvisation and just using your own initiative and creativity is equally as valid as being able to read music. Some of the best musicians in the world don't know how to read a bloody note, or have never been taught how to play, so ultimately, I don't think it makes any difference.
Was it at all daunting to start working on the new album?
Starting the new album was really quite scary, especially as I definitely wanted to do something different, I felt this overwhelming urge that we had to do something very different to "Felt Mountain" in order to move ourselves on and that was really scary to start off with. Even though we had lots of little pointers and ideas and little things that we wanted to try out, we didn't have any material. We didn't write while we were on the road, so we were really starting from scratch, but at the same time that was kind of exciting as well, cause it felt like we could do anything.
I think we felt that we really didn't want to repeat what we had done, you know that was really important to us, we kind of wanted to do something that felt equally as fresh to us as the first one felt fresh to us, and we wanted to put more kind of "oomph" in it.
Why was the change in sound important to you?
For me, I was started to feel a bit claustrophobic about the music we had made, the immaculate-ness of it, playing live, specifically I'm talking about. It had an immaculateness that I really liked, but at the same time playing that live got really intense. There were points that I really wanted to , you know, scream and hit something, let go a little bit and for me, and Will, we wanted to do this on this album and play more ourselves, just jamming more, be more improvised with it, which has been the best, you know the bit that has been the most fun on this album.
What lead to the "dancier" edge?
Well, quite a few things really. I mean I've always kind of been into disco and it was something I'd talked about when people asked us what inspired us on the first album, although I think the inspiration was much more subtle, sort of bedded in there. One of the things that I like about disco, old disco music, was all those lush string arrangements, that inspiration is much more obvious on "Black Cherry".
You know, it was also touring for a year and a half, or however long we toured, I can't even remember now, and just a sort of longing for a more rhythmical emphasis on the music and more bass and just a more physical, less cerebral and more physical feel to the music.
Are there any specific disco artists that you really liked?
I think it's more individual songs that I like. I got into disco, Giorgio Moroder and Vangelis even, those kind of cheesy, well, I think they're kind of cheesy, epic keyboard lines and sort of early disco electro things like Laid Back. A bit of glam as well. Glam for me is the same, I'm drawn to it in the same way as I'm drawn to disco I suppose in that it's sort of opulence and dressing up and a kind of fantasy, decadence - the same as disco. I think glam and disco have a very similar thing there. So, I'm drawn to that kind of theatrical-ness in music, definitely
The album also has a strong electronic sound and lot of synthesiser sound, did that come about through you being interested in electronic music?
We've always used synths, in the last album we didn't use any guitars, and very few acoustic instruments apart from strings, you know that is something we've always had there but they've just been turned up and used a bit more aggressively and me using them a lot more. It wasn't really a conscious thing, it was more that we wanted to get another mood besides using lush string arrangements to create a mood. A different kind of mood and that mood couldn't come from a string arrangement, and at the same time we still wanted to use those elements.
Do you enjoy making videos?
Videos! Well, the last two videos that we've done, "Train" and "Pilots", I did really enjoy doing them. "Train" in particular, but I think that videos are such a strange thing, I used to be really excited about doing them, before we made this album I was so looking forward to making the video, because I just thought, it's the ultimate thing, making a visual to your music. I think it's very difficult because you have such a strong narrative and a song and then to put another narrative on top of that - I think it's kind of luck if you get a really good video. I think that's why there's so few really good videos and when they do happen everyone talks about them.
Tell us about the song "Twist"
It's a sort of sexual fantasy that I had about a boy who worked at the fairground, who I lusted after. He was in control and I wasn't cause I was sat on the waltzer and he was the one that was spinning it around and I don't know it's sort of lust, adolescent, awakening, smells and noise and dirt. That's what "Twist" is about.
What's "Train" about?
"Train" is about indulgence and obsession and overindulgence and a kind need for it and a sort of disgust of it as well. All those things really and inspired by being in LA I think, which seems to be quite a good place to do all those things, a bit of surgery, you know, money, drugs, sex. It's a sort of double edged sword, a sort of disgust of it and at the same time a sort of need to indulge in these things.
Why the title "Black Cherry"?
Black Cherry, it's a colour, it's, something that you can eat, and it sort of conjures up kind of dark, juicy, glossy images. It sort of reminds me of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, you know, that big, glossy apple that she bites into and it could be a bit dangerous, seductive and also it reminds me of glitter and 70's sort of camp, opulence and etc etc etc. So it just has all these multi-layers, I love things that have several kind of visual connotations to them. You know, something that works on lots of different levels.
When you're on stage, are you able to let the songs take you over, so you go into this separate place or are you always conscious of the fact that you're singing?
That's a difficult one. Sometimes I am and I hate that because, you know, I think you have to sort of almost be in a zen like state of mind. You know, that thing of at the same time you're completely aware of everything, but at the same time you loose yourself and that's when music really happens I think, when you reach that sort of place. That's quite difficult sometimes, once you get on stage and you've warmed up a little bit, then it sort of takes off and then you have fun with it and the audience, you know, you kind of feed off the audience. I think the audience are so important really to how you feel and how it goes and just the general vibe of a venue and, you know, there's so many little things that make a good gig.
Would you say "Black Cherry" was a darker or lighter album than "Felt Mountain"?
The thing about Felt Mountain for me was that it was much more reflective. Some things were written very spontaneously, including the lyrics, and there were other things that have been mulled over, certain sounds for years, you know and I have some lines that have been in my notebook and stuff like that for ages, whereas I think this album is much more a reaction to things that has been going on around us now, and is a lot lighter, a lot happier in many respects.