Photos: Tommy Ton/JakandJil.com
Róisín Murphy’s whirlwind front-row tour of fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris last month prompted one writer to declare that the pop singer had single-handedly “spearheaded her very own Fashion Week.” No stranger to flamboyance, the former Moloko front woman often appears on her record sleeves dressed in hilariously haute couture creations, and lately it seems there isn’t a hat on earth that she cannot work.
A year ago Murphy released her sophomore solo album Overpowered in Europe to much acclaim. Though many of the album’s stand-out tracks were inspired by the heady disco music that emerged from New York in the 1980s, she has yet to crossover in the United States. Next Friday, New Yorkers will finally get to hear those tunes live when she makes her much-anticipated US debut during the CMJ Music Marathon.
Ever the curious bloggers, we fired off a few questions to Ms. Murphy about disco, Lovers Rock, her upcoming tour and the sad state of the economy. “Times are changing fast,” she said. “What remains is my desire to make good work and to devote myself to creativity of any kind, whether that be images, performances, videos or music. People like me always find a way.”
Read the full interview after the jump.
What do you have planned for the upcoming shows in New York and Europe? What will you wear on stage?
It’s a seven piece band including me and my two beautiful backing singers. In New York the staging needs to be simple, in Europe the full production shows will go far beyond what audiences have seen from us previously. With a totally different set of songs will come a new narrative. I will wear what seems appropriate to me, not sure yet. New things are on the way to me any day soon. I can feel it.
On the night of a show, what do you do to prepare for a performance?
On the night I will run through the same boring routine of eating something full of juicy carbs, like pasta, to keep the engine running. But that must be at least three hours before show or I’ll be too full to shake my booty. Then I retreat to my dressing room and do my own hair and make-up – I would rather do that than be chit-chatting to any body. Then I get “The Bitch” out, so named by the drummer. She is a wonderfully loud portable sound system. I get almost dressed and sing and dance a lot. An hour before show I am ready and annoying the band.
Why now have you decided to bring your show to New York?
I am coming to New York now because some brilliant people who believed in me have worked hard to get me there. We had to find people outside of the usual system. My record label has been going through some changes. The show is going to be great. It is unfortunate it took so long to get there.
“Let Me Know”
Before you recorded Overpowered, you sang at a party for DJ Danny Krivit in New York and decided to do a disco record. Why was that performance so inspiring?
It was a pleasure to be invited to sing at Danny’s party. It was the same feeling I had gotten years before in Body and Soul – the same crowd. It was in Body and Soul that I wrote the lyric for “Sing It Back”. The crowd knew every word of these great rare records and when the DJ turned the music right down the crowd would sing it back. I love that rare-record culture, I find it romantic. Love and preservation. How nice that a Moloko record, “Forever More”, had to them become one of those treasures. Danny gave me lots of CDs containing lots of great stuff; I loaded it all into the computer and tried to reference it as closely as I could. The tracks “Let Me Know” and “You Know Me Better” perhaps most personify that influence on the record.
“Scarlett Ribbons” is the only slow jam on Overpowered. What’s the story behind that song?
The original “Scarlet Ribbons” is a song my father used to sing to me, it’s about a man who hears his little girl wish for some scarlet ribbons. My song is about the girl all grown up and thanking her father for all he tried to do for her. I recorded it over an electronic groove to begin with but then I felt the fragility of a live recording (with musicians) could work and that Lovers Rock, a style associated youth and innocence, was perfect. I recorded it with the band I tour with. Ideally I would make slow fast music: Music that feels fast but is slow, or feels slow but is incredibly fast.
“Scarlett Ribbons” live duet with Tony Christie
I read on the BBC’s website that you left EMI. Is that correct? What are your plans for releasing music in the future?
Well, I don’t know anything about that, though part of me hopes it’s true. The company needs to reinvent themselves following its take over and a massive cull of its staff around the world. Virtually all the people who worked on Overpowered are gone. Perhaps it will work itself out but for now, its panic and chaos.
When Morrissey signed his new deal with Polydor the NME asked him about Radiohead’s downloadable album and he said: “You can look at record companies and you can easily assess that they’ve been ripping people off for years and years and years. The whole process is a gigantic rip off. But then there are people like me who need to be institutionalized… and I don’t mean in an asylum!” Are you an artist who needs to be “institutionalized”?
If by institutionalized Morrissey means protected in someway, then I think it’s an illusion. Money is what any self-regarding artist should expect from a major record label. They have to take risk to make decent records and to promote you sufficiently, so that your music can be heard among the cacophony of other voices. They have to take a risk appropriate to future profits, as they take a very large chunk of those I can tell you. I had whatever I wanted in making Overpowered and the record is good; they invested in a good record, but then the company when into free fall. I would like plenty of backing on my next record but I am not sure a big label will be able to provide it in today’s climate of vast change. Not only is the music business malfunctioning, the world economy as a whole is morphing. Times are changing fast, what remains is my desire to make good work and to devote myself to creativity of any kind, whether that be images, performances, videos or music. People like me always find a way.
Why did you choose to cover Bryan Ferry’s “Slave to Love” for the Gucci ad? Has Roxy Music had a big influence on you?
Like some good things in life, I had no real choice in recording the song for the Gucci advert. Actually, they gave me a choice between “Slave” and a Blondie song, it was the only way to go. Then they gave me a musical reference of the theme tune to American Gigolo, it’s by Giorgio Moroder. I got [the producer] Seiji to knock up a backing track in that style. It worked; it was as simple as that. I love singing it because it’s somehow pure and dirty at the same time.
For evidence of an affinity with Roxy Music, please see the Moloko video for “Pure Pleasure Seekers”:
“Pure Pleasure Seekers”
Do you have plans to release more videos, singles or DVDs in the near future?
Well, “Slave To Love” will be in people’s living rooms across Europe this winter. I would like to make a video for that. I love the track and I think it could go.
Perhaps not a physical DVD, I would love to do an Internet-based thing, all my younger friends watch all their TV and movies on the net. Ideally it would be interactive and free. I am working on it.