Released in the week of the Scottish Independence Referendum, Marnie's "Wolves" was an appropriately soaring synth propelled anthem "for anyone that doesn’t believe in sticking with the status quo, for anyone who has the heart to try and make a difference".
Certainly, the positive response she received for her debut long player Crystal World and a return to her homeland has no doubt inspired her own independence. But with Marnie due to release a second solo album in 2015, what does this all mean for Ladytron?
Helen Marnie selected 10 of her favourite songs. I made a Spotify playlist with all these tunes.
Madonna - La Isla Bonita
There are so many songs that take me back to childhood, some good, some bad (think Star Trekking, by The Firm), but Madonna back then could do no wrong. Before I got my first yellow Walkman which would constantly play the Like a Prayer album, my dad used to take me to the local video shop in Milngavie where I'd buy my 7″ records. It was a ritual that I loved. La Isla Bonita cost about 50p of my pocket money, but it was more than worth it.
Michael Jackson - Dirty Diana
I couldn't compile a top 10 without including Michael Jackson. I was completely in love with him for quite some time. I was a fan club member and used to write him letters and draw pictures for him. Obviously, I was not the coolest of kids, but it made me pretty happy. In 1992 my Dad got tickets for me and a friend to see his Dangerous Tour at Glasgow Green, my first proper gig. It was a breathtaking experience and I feel pretty lucky having seen him. I remember I was sitting outside The Pierhouse at Port Appin when I heard the news of his death.
Justin Hayward - Forever Autumn
I don't come from a particularly musical family, but some influences did creep through. My dad had The War of the Worlds on vinyl and the standout track "Forever Autumn" featured heavily in our house, sometimes even being played whilst I warmed my tights up on the radiator getting ready for primary school. I always loved this song, in particular the narrated part by Richard Burton. In 2006 I was more than happy when we (Ladytron) used it as our entrance music on tour. Loved the vibe it created.
Tori Amos - The Waitress
When was a young 17 when I first attempted to go to University. Being a bit of a dreamer, I was never really sure what it was I should commit to. Glasgow Uni gave me a place, but my choices were all wrong and after about 6 months I knew I had to make the decision to leave. It was so hard, but my family were behind me and I quit. While I was there I was staying in a private flat on Woodlands Drive. Nothing was right about it. I wanted to just have fun, but that was near impossible when the owner was knocking at my door at 11pm asking me to be quiet – I was just getting ready to go out. My friend had made me a tape of Tori Amos' Under the Pink. Having studied the piano for many years I was really drawn to her music. She was weird and wonderful and angsty, and I think of this song when I look back to that time.
The Bluetones - Slight Return
1995 brought my first indie boy band crush. The Bluetones, in particular lead singer Mark Morriss, they were my idea of perfection. I think I loved them all the more because I found them myself, no one directed me to them. I saw them shuffling in duffle coats on Top of the Pops and I was hooked. In the Spring of 1996 I took myself from Aberfoyle to Paris on a bus just to see them support Radiohead at La Cigale in Paris. It should be noted that I appreciated Radiohead too, but The Bluetones were most definitely the main attraction for me.
Lamb - Gorecki
It was in Liverpool that I became more interested in more varied types of music. I bought Gorecki on CD from Penny Lane Records and played it over and over in my room in Derby & Rathbone halls of residence. A year older, I was much happier with my choices, having taken time out. Never one to plan too much though, I was offered a last minute place at Liverpool University one day and being driven there a few days later. It didn't worry me that I was leaving home. It didn't worry me that there were no rooms left in halls so had to be put in a guest room initially. I just went with it. Sometimes things just happen for a reason. I firmly believe that.
Air - Sexy Boy
I had a partner in crime whilst I was at Liverpool University. Cat. She was my everything, and we were rarely seen without each other. I think people thought we were crazy. All baby doll dresses, flares, and bright purple and blue glitter eyeshadow pasted to our lids. But we were having the best time. Our work suffered, of course, but I wouldn't change a thing. We were young and silly, shy, naive, but ultimately out for fun, and we found it in droves in Liverpool. We would pull some dramatic moves to Sexy Boy, both in private and in public. Air were our new electro love.
Joni Mitchell - River
My 2nd year at University makes me think of Joni Mitchell. Blue as an album is pretty much close to perfection. I love the "Jingle Bells" intro of "River", which immediately makes you think of cold nights and the coming of winter. I was sharing a house with 2 friends, one of them Cat. We managed to pick up an old piano super cheap for the house and River was one of our faves to play. Me on vocals, Cat on keys and harmonies, washed down with some Lambrini.
Death in Vegas - Dirge
I'm calling this my make out song. Not much explanation required. You get the picture.
Frederic Chopin - Nocturne No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Op. 9
My Grandma (who I was very close to) died in Spring last year. She had been struggling for many years, but somehow I never thought she would leave us. From around the age of 8 I started to learn piano and in later years I used to have to practice for 1-2 hours every day. Nocturne was a piece I always enjoyed playing, and my Grandma (one of my biggest fans) would always listen and champion me, shouting from the other room for more! When she died I was in charge of making sure the funeral directors were given the correct music. I wrote everything down and handed it over. At the funeral I remember waiting with anticipation for Nocturne, but they played the wrong song. I was absolutely gutted. Was it my fault? I'll never know.
Following the release of her acclaimed debut solo album Crystal World in 2013, Marnie has unveiled a brand new single 'Wolves', a taster for her new album due for 2015. Released to coincide with the Scottish Independence Referendum, it has been described as "a soaring anthem for anyone that doesn't believe in sticking with the status quo".
Meanwhile, the lead singer of Ladytron has been seeking her own path of independence since relocating back to her hometown of Glasgow. Featuring marvellous synthpop songs such as 'The Hunter', 'Sugarland', 'Hearts On Fire' and 'High Road', while a solo effort, Crystal World did not venture too far away from the Ladytron camp as it was co-produced by band mate Daniel Hunt. However, 'Wolves' is the fruit of her first collaboration with Jonny Scott of The Kills and Olympic Swimmers fame.
Marnie kindly spoke to The Electricity Club about her new venture and her thoughts on the result of the Scottish Independence Referendum…
The Electricity Club wasn't expecting news of a second solo album so soon, so how has this come about?
I guess I'm just not finished yet! I really enjoyed writing for myself and have been writing on and off for the past 8 months, and will continue to do so. I like the freedom that it gives me. I'm hoping by early next year I should have a complete album. That is my plan anyway.
You're not working with Daniel Hunt on this new album?
No. I was happy to work with Danny on my first solo record, but it's always been important to me to work with different people. Having moved to Glasgow, I really wanted to be more involved with the scene there. I was introduced to producer and drummer Jonny Scott through Iain from Chvrches and we just kind of clicked. He's been busy with The Kills for a while, but we still managed to work on a couple of tracks, one of them being 'Wolves'. Looking forward to doing more later in the year.
'Wolves' has been inspired by the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign?
Yes, I wrote the song in January, before everything began to fizz and boil over. The sentiment of the song is basically that change is needed. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, I'm sure everyone can agree on that. People power can do a lot, and people are tired of a Westminster that is looking out for itself.
What are your thoughts about the referendum result and your hopes / fears for the future of Scotland?
I am desperately disappointed with the result, having been firmly in the yes camp. It's such a foreign feeling. One you can't quite pinpoint, but is ultimately loss. However, I've had a few days now to re-evaluate things and think on the positive. I still think good will come from the referendum, and that change will come. If it doesn't, then all hell could break loose from both yes and no voters. I do hope that Scotland gets another chance, but in the meantime I just plan to get on with things. One thing though, Scotland is politically mobile now, like it's never been before. There has been so much passion here with regards to the debate, coming from both sides. People actually care… which is a great feat.
How did you feel about the warm reception for your first solo album Crystal World?
I'm really happy with the way Crystal World was received. People really got behind my Pledge campaign and I was lucky to have the support of Ladytron fans. Without them I doubt I would've made my target.
What of the songs on Crystal World have you been most proud of and why?
I'm pretty much proud of them all as I never really believed I was capable!! But I guess if I had to pick one or two I would choose 'Submariner' and 'Gold'. 'Submariner' reminds me of a sad time, but also makes me smile. I envisage the sea and the coastline of the North East of Scotland and golden light over fields when I listen to it. 'Gold' was the last song to be written and I flew back to Iceland in December 2012 specifically to record it. Although the song is associated with reminiscing, it has a sense of closure for me.
Is there anything that you wished you'd approached slightly differently on Crystal World?
There are always things that could've been done differently, but there is no point dwelling on something you cannot change. I feel lucky to have got the album out. There were times when I thought that might not happen.
After the Pledge campaign, Crystal World secured a wider release on the prestigious Les Disques Du Crépuscule label. How will you be going about issuing your second long player?
I'm still at the writing stage at the moment, so to discuss something else so far down the line makes no sense to me. I just want to concentrate on getting all the songs together, being happy with them, and then I can take it from there.
People are going to ask, what's the state of play with Ladytron at the moment?
Ladytron are fine. Everyone's still doing their own thing, but we are also all writing.
With two albums of solo material, live dates must be closer to being a possibility?
I'm hoping to start rehearsing with a band later this year. Fingers crossed that all goes to plan. Which will mean I am open to bookings. Any takers?
Ladytron is an electro-super-synth-pop band that hails from, among other cities, Liverpool. We spoke with Mira Aroyo, a founding member and songwriter, about the newest album, Witching Hour, and sing-songing in Bulgarian.
Chief Magazine: What were you listening to when you were a kid?
Mira Aroyo of Ladytron: Well, in my teens? A lot of Nick Cave and Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. These were things that were past on from my parents, so it was kind of a nice first point of reference. And I was into Nirvana, Sonic Youth, the Pixies, things like that... My Bloody Valentine.
Then I got into sort krauty music and that's kind of how I got into electronic music. I used to go to a lot of krautrock. That's how I got into dance music, sort of, even though it's not dance music at all. I kind of missed out on the rave thing the first time around. I was listening to Sonic Youth, and then I ran into it after it actually finished, sort of in the mid-nineties. But a lot of sixties stuff, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, all sorts of Phil Spector stuff, Serge Gainsbourg, a lot of country.
I was actually looking at your MySpace page. I think MySpace is becoming a new kind of forum for bands to promote but also to actually see their fan's faces, to develop a more intimate connection.
Yeah, definitely. The four of us do it. There's no record label or anyone or anything like that. We spend a lot of our time reading messages and answering messages and stuff like that. People realize that something is not being organized properly or not working and will write a letter saying, oh, I don't know, "There's a problem with the pictures here or there". And you say "Oh, I'm sorry", and then you fix it. There's a hands-on effect.
Do you guys trade off work on the MySpace page?
We all do it as we feel. Sometimes, you know, we just all do it as we feel but we all, it takes quite a bit of time.
Where are you based?
Helen [Marnie] and I live in London. Reuben [Wu] and Dan [Hunt], when we see them, are in Liverpool, though Dan lives in Milan. We recorded Witching Hour in and we have a studio down there. So, I guess in between London and Liverpool, really.
You sing a lot of your songs in Bulgarian. How did that develop?
It started one night when we were recording a long time before "Evil" was out. We were doing a song called "Commodore Rock" and we were just drunk, you know. We'd been out and we got back and it was just like, "Oh, so should we try it", because the rhythm is a lot more staccato. It's got a different diction and different rhythm than English. So it started off as a drunken idea and I just started mashing up loads of lyrics from Bulgarian songs, the national anthem and stuff like that. But it kind of worked and we did another few things on 604 in Bulgarian because of the rhythm of it and I just kept on doing that when the song came up with a similar rhythm. I wouldn't be able to do rhythmically what I do in Bulgarian in English. It's just so very different. It's not patriotic thing or something like that.
So, when you're writing the lyrics are you collaging Bulgarian lyrics from other songs?
Yeah, yeah. Well, "Commodore Rock" was pasted together from all sorts of sort national kinds of songs but the rest of the songs, they're all my own lyrics. Like "Discotraxx" from the fifth record and the other stuff are usually the same type of lyrics in English but in Bulgarian.
Does the band plan to meet in London and Liverpool to rehearse and write?
Yeah. We rehearse before tours and then we all write separately at home and then we get together, like in pairs or as a band, and then we end up in a proper commercial studio record stuff. We're quite concentrated when we work.
Are the lyrics written before you head in to the studio?
The songs are pretty much written before we go into the studio. The songs are written in our home studio, sometimes away from any kind of equipment, but some may be semi-developed, and then you work on it from there. They'll be 80 percent developed and then you build it up. It's different from song to song.
Do you guys show up to the studios with most of the ideas for the weirder effects developed?
Yeah. I mean, we do come up with a lot of the stuff that's on the way to getting produced, just done in home studios. We have an idea, but on the other hand, some songs take up a little bit of time but other songs completely develop in ways we wouldn't have imagined before going into the studio. Like in the case of Witching Hour, with Jim Abbiss. Jim Abbiss really helped us realize a lot of stuff that we wanted to do but we weren't articulating.
Was there a concept in mind when you put together Witching Hour? Do you think about that or does it sort of happen organically?
We'd been touring Light & Magic and 604 for the two years prior to Witching Hour, that I think the sound really built up because we were playing live so much. I mean, before Light and Magic, we hadn't really been a touring band. We played a few gigs but we were never really happy with the live shows. When Light & Magic came out we went on the road properly and we turned into a proper, viable sort of touring band and we learned quite a lot of dynamics. We were working with a drummer we found it a lot more organic because everything was being played live. Songs from Light & Magic and 604 were developing and taking on a new energy, so a lot of that went into Witching Hour.
We realized what we wanted to achieve, and we were kind of happiest with this sound.
Are you guys writing now?
We wrote a whole lot of stuff during the summer and then we started touring again and we've been on a big U.S. and Canada and Mexico tour in the autumn. Now we've come back from South America and a couple of more dates in the U.S. I think we're going to stop the touring a little bit, have a few shows here and there, maybe more so in Europe, but concentrate on the next record. We're hoping to finish it by the end of April. We've got about 20, 25 songs or so written but it doesn't really, you know, sound as an album. It hasn't taken shape yet. So, we've gotta work on that the next couple of months.
Do you get out to see music at all or are you too burnt out from touring?
Oh, I go to shows all the time. I love going to gigs, maybe a little bit less though than I did, maybe, five years ago because we're away a lot and then when I come home... sometimes I like being at home. But I do go and try to see a lot of bands and I go record shopping a lot. We DJ as well, so we kind of have to stay on top of it, really.
What recent show have you seen that you had fun at?
I'm really looking forward to seeing this English band called Circulus and they're playing together with another English band called Crimson. They're kind of prog rock. When [Crimson] plays a live show, they've got, a brass section and the whole show is kind of, like, contagious and a lot of it is very disco.
I've seen you get charged up by a good audience before. What gets you going at a live show?
When someone is jumping or throws something in the front. It's always great to see people dancing all the way to the back. The last time we played New York this boy came up on stage. He got kicked off, but first he said "I lost my virginity to 'Seventeen!'" We were touring with CSS in the United States this autumn and they had a lot of energy. We'd watch their show and they were just so much fun to watch. By the end of their show we'd be playing and they'd go into the crowd wrapped with toilet paper, kind of dressed as mummies and body surfing and stuff like that. Sometimes people don't realize how much we get out of a crowd.
What about any movies? Have you see the new James Bond film yet?
No, I haven't gotten a chance yet. I haven't seen Borat. I think I want to see Borat, too.
Borat is good.
I've haven't had the chance to go to the cinema. I've just seem films on airplanes and they've all been really bad.