Q and A section of above article. Transcribed to HTML 20th. October 1998.
Q. What inspires you? Do you have to achieve a particular mood or are songs triggered off by particular events? A. "I think it's incredibly elusive. I think I used to write in a more formulated way. When I was very young, I would sit there at the piano and just write a song -- I actually hadn't done that for a long time." "When I'm working, I'm continually hit by how you start off with something, and though it doesn't necessarily change in essence, there's this whole evolution that happens around it, little ideas that get pulled in. I think that may be one reason why the albums take so long. I feel very grateful, really, to have my work." Q. Do you escape from it? A. "Ummm... I don't know about escape -- I think it's inseparable, that's What it is. It's not that I'm running away into my work, it's more that my work moves headlong into my life. There's a lot of my very personal experiences that go into my work, and my work gives me a lot of very personal experiences." Q. If something traumatic occurs in your life, do you find it easy to express, or does it come out in some other form. A. "It depends on the trauma, it depends how heartbroken you are. Usually I can pull myself through things like feeling low or having problems by working that through. But I have been at points where I just couldn't work. I couldn't possibly sing -- it was beyond me, it just hurt too much. Sometimes you have to allow a bit of time to come between you and the experience in order to even touch it." "I think the biggest thing on this album is that I lost my mother. I haven't been able to write about any of it -- nevertheless, the experience is in there. It's something I couldn't possibly express in music, and yet it is being expressed through very subliminal things, like the quality of some of the performances." "I couldn't work for months, I couldn't go near the whole process. I had no desire to start, no desire to work at all." "It was a terrible shock for all of us. Really, I'm so grateful we had so much time together and we had such a good relationship. I had an incredibly good relationship with her, as did all my family. I often think how awful it must be for people who don't really get on with their parents -- or don't know them -- to lose them and be so bereft after having had nothing." Q. What happens if people want to interfere in your work? I take it you don't let them? A. "I don't think it's so much that I got interference at the start, but I was aware that things wouldn't be how I wanted them to be unless I was willing to fight. I think you have to fight for everything you want. Whether it's work or life, it's just that sort of thing of struggling; struggle is very important. It's how you grow and change and it also tests your intention -- if you really care about something, you won't let go." "I was 19 when it [the first album] came out, and my life completely changed. The big emphasis was that I was no longer allowed to work. My whole day used to be centered around work, in the most pleasurable way: I'd get up and play around on the piano, then I'd go up to London and see some friends, go dancing..." Q. Did you feel that you were manipulated. Were you ever encouraged to be bimbo-esque for pictures? A. "I think, on a couple of occasions, I was very naive and I was very young. It was all very new to me and, in the first year, I learnt so many lessons about how people wanted to manipulate me. I was always quite strong about what I didn't want to do, but nevertheless it doesn't take much." Q. Do you think of yourself as a feminist? A. "I think a lot of respect went for the feminist movement. I think its really wrong. A lot of women resent women who have pushed their energies, because it's kind of made feminine energy look stupid. I believe there is a way that feminine energy can stand strong and powerful without having to be something its not." Q. Qualities such as ambition and competitiveness are, are supposedly, traditionally male ones, but do you possess either? A. "I hate both words intensely. I suppose that's because, in a lot of ways, they represent to me an incredibly driven male energy that offends my feminine energy. But I do think I'm driven, and I don't know about this thing of ambition. I don't know because I think my ambition is creative. I don't think I'm ambitious to conquer the world, but I am ambitious to try out ideas and push things, to see if you can make it better. I'm certainly very driven in my work. I do think that for a lot of women, their creativity is quite masculinely driven -- it's quite a masculine trait to speed forward, I suppose." Q. How much time have you spent working on 'The Red Shoes'? A. "Well, I haven't spent that long. It went on over a long period of time -- about two years of solid work amongst three-and-a-half to four years." Q. Each album seems to take you longer to make than the last. Is this because you are a true perfectionist? A. "I think 'perfect' is... I have used that word in the past, and I used it wrongly because, in a way, what you are trying to do is make something that is basically imperfect as best as you can in the time you've got with the knowledge you have." Q. You don't normally release material unless you're totally satisfied... A. "That's right. That doesn't necessarily mean 'perfect', but it's to the best of my ability. I've tried to say what needed to be said through the songs, the right structure, the shape, the sounds, the vocal performance -- that is, the best I could do at the time." Q. When you've worked hard for something, you obviously don't want somebody interfering with it. In your cuttings, you've been described as the shyest megalomaniac on the planet, so how do you work out the balance between that and being an incredibly quiet, private person? A. "I think its quite true that most people are extreme contradictions. It's like this paradox that exists, and I think that on a lot of levels, I'm quite and shy, and a quite soul." "I like simple things in my life... I like gardening and things like that, but when it comes to my work, I am a creative megalomaniac again. I'm not after money or power but creative power. I just love playing with ideas and watching them come together, or what you learn from something not coming together." "I'm fascinated by the whole creative process -- I think you could probably say I was obsessed by it. I'm not as bad as I used to be, I'm a little more balanced now." Q. What's calmed you down? A. "Just Life, I think... Life gets to you, doesn't it? I also think there's a part of me that's got fed up with working. I've worked so much that I'm starting to feel... I felt I needed to re-balance, which I think I did a bit, just to get a little bit more emphasis on me and my life." Q. Where did you get the idea of 'Rubberband Girl'? A. "Well, it's playing with the idea of how putting up resistance... um... doesn't do any good, really. The whole thing is to sort of go with the flow." Q. What about the sexual content -- "He can be a woman at heart, and not only women bleed"? A. "It's not really sexual, it's more to do with the whole idea of opening people up -- not sexually, just revealing themselves. It's taking a man who is, on the outside, very macho, and you open him up and he has this beautiful feminine heart." Q. Have you found many of those? A. "I think I've seen a lot of them, yeah. I think there are a lot of men who are fantastically sensitive and gentle, and I think they are really scared to show it." Q. A father image often comes out in your work. Is that because you're particularly close to your father or does it merely represent somebody or something you respect?" A. "I think they're very archetypal images: the parents, the mother and the father... it's immediately symbolic of so many things. I'm very lucky to have had an extremely positive, loving and encouraging relationship with both my parents. And you know I feel very grateful... I feel very honoured, actually." Q. Who is the Douglas Fairbanks character in 'Moments Of Pleasure'? A. "Ah... I a lot of ways that song, er... well, it's going back to that thing of paying homage to people who aren't with us any more. I was very lucky to get to meet Michael (Powell, the film-maker who directed the original The Red shoes) in New York before he died, and he and his wife were extremely kind. I'd had a few conversations with him and I'd been dying to meet him. As we came out of the lift, he was standing outside with his walking stick and he was pretending to be someone like Douglas Fairbanks. He was completely adorable and just the most beautiful spirit, and it was a very profound experience for me. It had quite an inspirational effect on a couple of the songs." "There's a song called 'The Red Shoes'. It's not really to do with his film but rather the story from which he took his film. You have these red shoes that just want to dance and don't want to stop, and story that I'm aware of is that there's this girl who goes to sleep in the fairy story and they can't work out why she's so tired. Every morning, she's more pale and tired, so they follow her one night and what's happening is theses shoes... she's putting these shoes on at night before she goes to bed and they whisk her off to dance with the fairies." Q. Are you still as involved in the dancing as you were? A. "I've had a lot of periods off, unfortunately, because my music is so demanding and I went through a phase where I just had no desire to dance. The last couple of years, it really came back, and it's been very interesting working in an older body. your brain seems better at dealing with certain kinds of information. And I think there's something about trying too hard which takes the dynamics out of everything." "I think I've become less conscious through dancing, because it's very confrontational in a positive way -- standing in front of a mirror and looking at something that basically looks like a piece of you, and you've got to do something with it." Q. Does that mean looking like a piece of shit? A. "It does at nine in the morning. When I started dancing again, a couple of years ago, I hadn't done anything for about three or four years and although I had the desire to dance again, I really didn't know if I had the energy, or whether I could be bothered to go through all that and my body being so sore. But I was aware that, although it was difficult for me, I always felt better after the classes than I did before. I'd get up grumpy, then after I'd feel really good." Q. Is it true you once planned to be a psychologist or psychiatrist? A. "Yes I did. I really wanted to be a psychiatrist, I really did, but I knew I'd reached the point where I would never be able to do all the training. You have to train as a doctor, I think, and be good at chemistry, physics, etc. I was never any good at maths, I just knew I'd never make it." Q. Are there any parallels with what you do now? A. "I've never really thought of it, but I suppose I really like the idea of helping people and that I was really fascinated by people's minds and the way they work -- I still am. I don't think I've ever got into people's minds, but I've always been interested in how people think." "People think so differently from each other, people come to completely different conclusions from seeing or hearing the same thing... Now, how do they do that, other than there's all these internal processes going on? I think it's like anything in life -- you can never be sure. Sometimes I think you have to put complete trust in your feelings: this doesn't feel right, so I won't do it; logic says I should bury my feeling and say no, so I won't." "Also, in my position, you can't be naive. The chances are, there will be people who will approach me whose intentions are not pure, they're after something which is not necessarily kindly. Again, I think the whole process of allowing people to misrepresent you puts you in an extremely dodgy situation." "If you show someone something that's very honest and revealing, what are they going to do? Are they going to show themselves or are they going to hit you in the face?"