At the turn of the century the name Alison Goldfrapp would have been more synonymous with the work of Tricky and Massive Attack than as an artist in her own right, but if her debut album Felt Mountain was a mere cobblestone on the horizon, then last year’s Black Cherry cemented Ms. Goldfrapp’s position as one of the UK’s most inspiring and innovative talents.
2004 may only be in its infant stages but Goldfrapp have already been nominated for a Brit Award for Best Dance Act, and are about to embark on their first ever Arena tour as one of the main support acts for “lifetime achievers” Duran Duran.
“Well it should be fun. As well as being scary. It will be interesting to see how we cope with such big venues, and particularly playing to an audience where the majority might not have heard of us. I would imagine that Duran Duran will pull in such a broad age group, so hopefully we will fit in well, both ourselves and The Scissor Sisters (who are doing the 2nd half of the tour), as we’re both doing a sort of glamorous pop thing at the moment.”
Being in a band - particularly when it's YOUR own band - must be such a dream job. You get to live in the life of luxury 24/7, never have to worry about taking an extra five minutes on your dinner break and above all get to meet and perform with your heroes. I mean, DURAN DURAN!
“You’ll probably find this hard to believe but I was never a huge fan during their heyday. It’s like what you get with today’s pop stars and so-called ‘happening’ bands. If something is constantly shoved down your throat you tend to go against it. It was only later on after I heard their Greatest Hits that I started to appreciate just what talented songwriters Duran Duran really are.”
So moving onto the Brit Awards, it must have been a huge honour to have been nominated, even if it was for Best Dance Act, which seems an odd choice as your music couldn’t really be categorised as being 100% Dance.
“That’s right. I hate all this genre classification of music anyway. At the end of the day music is good or bad and you either like it or you don’t. I was watching a documentary on Johnny Cash the other day and for the first part he came through as being a real bastard, leaving his wife to raise a young child, but then as the programme continued he emerged as a thoughtful bloke who came across quite well, and the main thing about his music was that it didn’t matter whether the origins were in country and western, his lyrics were so sensitive that they touched all kinds of people from so many different backgrounds. I’d like to think that we could be like that one day.”
There must have been some “interesting” sights at the Brits though. Dominic Mohan snorting saltpetre off one of the 3am Girls’ bulky thighs perhaps?
“Actually, it was really dull. It’s like a massive business convention where all of the tables are set out as if it were a boardroom meeting, with the whole charade being just too geared for television, so you don’t ever get the chance to just sit back and relax because it’s all stop-start-stop-start and nothing flows properly. It was quite hilarious but at the same time quite sad watching all these women in ‘Footballers’ Wives’-style hideous dresses rushing in and out of the toilets snorting coke…”
Anyone we might have heard of?
“No one I recognised. The MTV Awards in Edinburgh were so much more fun. It was more of a celebration of music and artists were allowed to mix with other artists from different record labels and you’d see all these famous people in the loos and…in fact I kept bumping into the girl from the White Stripes every time I went to the toilet. It’s quite refreshing to know that her teeth are even more yellow than mine!”
This week sees the release of the title track and fourth single from your album. After the lukewarm sales of ‘Felt Mountain’, did it come as a surprise that ‘Black Cherry’ and the singles lifted from it have achieved so much both critically and commercially?
“I don’t know really. I mean ‘Black Cherry’ is such a big change from ‘Felt Mountain’ both musically and lyrically. I think it took people a while to get into ‘Felt Mountain’ because there were a lot of experimental sounds going on, whereas on this album we used a much more straightforward, in your face kind of approach. I think it was actually a relief when ‘Black Cherry’ came out the way it did because we’d taken so long in actually making it, and the fact that people have bought it means that we must be doing something that other people can understand as well. It’s had a knock on effect with ‘Felt Mountain’ as well because the sales for that record have also grown steadily over the past year or so as a result of ‘Black Cherry’s’ success.”
Certainly ‘Black Cherry’ is a record most artists would probably class as their nadir. A landmark for future releases to aspire to perhaps?
“I’m proud of it but I wouldn’t call it a perfect album. I mean ‘Strict Machine’ and ‘Forever’ are probably two of the best songs I’ve ever written, and maybe ever likely to, but if I felt this was the perfect record I’d just stop now. I mean, there’d be no point in doing anything else would there?”
From the imagery of the videos (‘Train’ and ‘Strict Machine’ being particularly engrossing) to the dark, sexual content of the lyrics, would it be fair to say that ‘Black Cherry’ is a major progression from ‘Felt Mountain’, which was almost “folky” by comparison?
“There’s definitely more stuff about my personal life on ‘Black Cherry’. I tried to make the album into a dramatisation of certain aspects of things that had happened to me, mixed with a combination of science fiction, sexual fantasies and such. It’s the same with our videos really. A good piece of imagery when accompanied by the music should have the ability to take you into another world.”
And the next album?
“We’ve hardly been able to get anything written for it yet, as we just seem to be permanently touring. After the Duran Duran dates we’re playing some shows around Europe and then we’re back here doing some of the summer festivals. I’d like to keep the same band together because we’ve grown together as friends more than band colleagues now, and we’ve lots of new ideas but it’s just a case of finding the time to get near a studio and start laying a few of them down really.”
Finally, I’m led to believe that ‘Black Cherry’ won’t be the final single from the album.
“No, we’re re-releasing ‘Strict Machine’ on 26th April. I feel that it should’ve been a much bigger hit the first time round, and because of a lack of radio play people missed out on it so we’re hopeful that when it’s released this time everyone who wants it gets a chance to hear and get hold of a copy.”