Thursday, December 4, 2008

Interview with Roisin Murphy - pre Dolan's gig

SHE’S Irish but you probably wouldn’t know it until you actually talk to her. It has taken nearly three weeks of wrangling to get to this point, but finally, Roisin Murphy is on the phone from somewhere in central Europe, gearing up to play a tour that includes a Belgian gig that has sold 8,000 tickets. It also includes a Tuesday night gig in Dolan’s Warehouse.Roisin could - and should - be one of the biggest pop stars this country has ever produced, so why don't we vociferously claim her as our own? The former lead singer of Moloko - which came together after she approached Mark Brydon with the line ‘do you like my tight sweater?’ - who had a string of top ten hits such as Sing It Back and The Time Is Now before going solo, hails from Arklow. Yes, that’s right, Arklow.

Yet, because she left Ireland when she was still a teenager, she seems to have escaped under the fence, a fact that high-profile British publications have noticed, who have attempted to claim her as their own. Safe to say then, she enjoys something of a love-hate relationship with the country of her birth.“It's a shame the Irish don't know as much about me as they do,” she says of the Belgians, who will gather en masse to see her perform in the coming week. “I'm delighted to have a couple of more dates in Ireland coming up, because I do feel like I have to pay my dues a bit, maybe I haven't spent as much time there playing live, and I know how much audiences appreciate and understand live music, so the more I can play there the better for my sake.”
Murphy is a playful character, one you are never sure is being quite serious or not. But in her strange, mixed-up accent, you can tell she is being serious when she refers to Ireland, where she owns a house and lives (“I just work everywhere else”).
After going solo from Moloko, Murphy released debut album Ruby Blue, but it was last year’s follow-up Overpowered that marked her out from the pack. More akin to a musical maverick than pop-princess, Overpowered was a triumph, the title track from which, in particular, was a dance-pop revelation, full of thumping bass lines and edgy vocals.Put together with dance impressarios such as Groove Armada’s Andy Cato, Jimmy Douglass, Richard X and Dean Homer - it marked a different way of working for the singer.
“It was a very different experience,” she says. “I've never worked in that way, with lots of different people on hand, different aspects of recording and production, because in Moloko and on Ruby Blue I only worked with one guy, that was everything done together. This time I could record a song in Miami and take it to Sheffield and go to New York and whatever - all options were open to me and it was a fantastic learning curve, it was fabulous.”
Murphy has said in the past that she is “consumed by the process” of making an album, and never completely satisfied. She still feels that way today.“Definitely yes,” she agrees. “I think anybody creative making anything would say that, if they really care about it. I am totally consumed by it, and this was particularly a heavy load of responsibility on me, more than any other record I'd made, because at the end of the day it was my call every time. Sometimes you worry, and you overworry, but I certainly think if I could make a record like that in that way again, I could certainly make it quicker and I wouldn't make as many mistakes again.”
Overpowered also marked Murphy’s first official release with monolith EMI, who apparently, so legend has it, signed her because she reminded them of Robbie Williams.“That is true,” she laughs. “They saw me play live and they thought I had something special, so that was when they really decided - we'd been talking about maybe doing something together and then they came to a gig, and they were like "oh god, she's like Robbie Williams live" - little did they know.”The obvious question begs to be asked, and Murphy is incredibly forthright about her current relationship with EMI.
“It's not great, I'll have to tell you that, and I don't know if it's going to go on in the future. That is part of the reason I haven't started the next record. I know that if I wanted to make another record with them I could, no problem. I know that if I wanted to make it with a record company, I could pretty much take a good pick, there are people interested in me.
EMI are really in a transitional period and they want to do everything differently, and I don't know anybody there anymore, and ideally they would let me go to be honest. I really don't know anyone, if I wanted to speak to someone there I wouldn't know who to ask for if I picked up the phone to call them today. So, the ideal thing is I'll go make a record some other way.”
That is not to say she didn’t enjoy the large budget she was given to make the record, and she pauses on that thought.“Well, I need money, because I like spending it,” she laughs. “I'm really good at spending money on videos, images and records. I really enjoyed spending their money I have to tell you. I shot four record sleeves in two days last year for the album and the three singles and the price of that was £125,000.
You know, I loved spending - hair, make-up, dresses, locations, whatever. I've had that with EMI but I don't know if they are going to offer me that again. If they don't and are not willing to do that I won't go forward with them and they will probably let me go, I hope, I doubt they will just sit on me and be bastards, because I worked my arse off for them for two years.”
In the meantime Roisin is touring and is promising a “show and a half” in Dolan’s. We recommend you buy tickets early. With that we attempt to sign off, and say we will see her when she comes to Limerick.“Oh will you please come and see me? I'm one of your own for crying out loud,” she laughs.
She is ours and we’re not letting her go.


Nick said...

Ah the lovely Roisin cuddles up to Al over the phone - I like it. You're absolutely bang on about Overpowered - it's so good when you go out for a run listening to it, you go very fast, picking up sticks and assorted debris to clatter across the railings in time to beats, that are enough to turn straight bald men into pink boa floucing style icons...

Nick said...

Yeah meant to say flouncing: spot the non-journalist (where's my sub-editor, huh?!) Thought 'The Time is Now' was possibly the best pure pop track ever made until I scrunched up my wee earholes to 'You Know Me Better'. Missed her at Olympia as am skint, but am pleased to be able to say that our HTS comedy of pain played the same glorious Dolans venue (OK, even if we were upstairs and Ms. Majestic was in the super-sized airport hanger below...) Still she would've felt our attentions and shivered. (with pleasure, of course..)