Showing posts with label Marnie interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marnie interviews. Show all posts

02 September 2017

Fred Perry interview (2017)


Where are you from?
Glasgow, Scotland.

What do you do?

Describe your style in three words?
Prudish with ruffles.

You can make a record with anyone from history who would it be and why?
Michael Jackson, because I was somewhat obsessed and amazed by him. When I was a kid my next-door neighbours swore he was a robot. I kind of believed them.

What British music icons inspire your sound today?
My other band, Ladytron.

You can spend an hour with anyone from history?
I like divas, so this is a hard choice. But perhaps Maria Callas. She was opera's controversial star, unique in her singing style, beautiful, and scandalous. I reckon it would make for a good chat.

If you could share the bill with any British band in history?
I've been lucky enough to share bills with a lot of brilliant bands already, but probably Broadcast. Their record The Noise Made By People was a constant for me at university and their lead singer left this world far too soon.

What music did you listen to growing up?
I listened to pop and rock along the lines of Madonna, Guns N' Roses, Prince, and ABBA.

What was the first song you played on repeat?
"Joe Le Taxi" by Vanessa Paradis. I taped if off the chart show on the radio and used to prance around my room imagining I was a little French pixie like VP.

One record you would keep forever?
"Some Velvet Morning" by Nancy & Lee. I was introduced to this album towards the end of my university course, and I guess it was a game changer. I loved how the voices worked together.

A song from your favourite album?
"Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac. It's so easy to just lose yourself in this song and believe you're capable of anything.

A song you wish you had written?
"Video Games" by Lana Del Rey. It's so simple, it's brilliant.

A song that defines the teenage you?
"Slight Return" by The Bluetones. When I was 17 I discovered The Bluetones. When you find something yourself at that age, it feels like you own them. I got the bus from Aberfoyle in Stirling, to Paris with a friend, just to see them. It was my 18th birthday present.

What was the last piece of music you bought?
"Naive to the Bone" by Marie Davidson.

A song lyric that inspires you?
"We don't have to take our clothes off to have a good time." Jermaine Stewart.

Is there a song you like that people wouldn't expect?
I'm not sure what people expect really because the music I've made or been a part of has been quite diverse. "Maneater" by Nelly Furtado.

Best love song of all time?
"Tiny Dancer" by Elton John.

Best song to turn up loud?
"Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode.

Best song to bring people together?
"You Got the Love" by The Source & Candi Staton.

4 songs you can't stop listening to right now?
"Body" by Bossy Love
They are one of the best live bands in Glasgow right now and keep putting out tracks that are great fun.

"Familiar" by Agnes Obel
This song is beautiful and I was blissfully unaware that it was not a duet. Only later did I realise she has manipulated her own voice to create a deeper, male-like vocal.

"Stupid Face" by Haley Bonar
I've had on repeat in my car for months. I find Haley's voice so soothing against the indie guitar sound.

"Dust & Dirt" by HQFU
I happen to be friends with HQFU (Sarah J Stanley) and she also plays with my band, however, I am not biased. She makes brilliant electronic music and I love the juxtaposition of the music and her sad, soft, voice which sounds like Tracey Thorn's sister.


05 June 2017

Herald Scotland interview (2017)

For Helen Marnie's new album, Strange Words and Weird Wars, let's start not at the beginning or the end but firmly in the middle. Halfway through the Ladytron vocalist's sophomore solo release is "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night". Although not inspired by the 2014 Iranian vampire film of the same name, there's a shared sense of horror.

"It's a horrible song, about a nasty and harrowing experience," says Marnie, sitting in the far brighter surroundings of a Glasgow city centre coffee shop.

"It depicts a really dark scene of a girl being alone at night. It was one of those experiences where you think that you could have died, and what would have happened if you'd made a different decision. It's a creepy feeling, where you are lucky enough to be able to tell the story and write these lyrics, but at the same time even thinking about it makes your skin crawl.

"It was something that I think needed to get out there. I thought 'this makes my skin crawl – that's perfect writing material'."

The track is certainly a jarring piece of menacing, noisy synth pop but that isn't to say this is a dark, brooding record. Instead it is filled to the brim with pop music, from the Prince-inspired "Electric Youth" to the surging Bloom and throbbing electro of "Lost Maps". In short, it suggests a woman who has more confidence and a better understanding of what music she is wanting to make.

"Crystal World was quite soft, and I think it felt introspective, very personal and emotional," she says.

"I'd kind of had it with that. I think the album was great but I had to do something different. So it was a case of working with [producer] Jonny Scott on beats. I wanted something harder, that you could feel more, something more uptempo and danceable.

"When you use the word 'pop' people frown, as if 'that's rubbish', but if people have a problem with that then they can get over themselves because there's so much great pop out there – Prince and Bowie were pop at heart."

It is also pop music that has an emotional core. The record has a couple of recurring themes throughout, linked to getting older and reflecting on life, and the changes within it.

"I think the two big themes on there are love and mortality," she says.

"There's love affairs and things that don't work out, and obviously mortality comes into the record on a few occasions. I guess that relates to love as well. It's not just those two themes, there's a bit of harking back to lost friendships, when you don't really know why they were broken.

"You become aware of your own mortality and that of those around you, and that plays a part in what you write about, even if it's morbid."

Perhaps the album's confidence suggests that Marnie herself is more comfortable these days too. Her first solo record came not long after she had moved back to Scotland, following close to two decades in England, first in Liverpool and then London.

After a year or so living in Govanhill, she's now been settled in Pollokshields for the past few years.

"I was in London for a long time but I always knew I didn't want to end up in London. I'd planned to be there for a couple of years, and then suddenly realised I'd been there 11 years, and it was just too much.

"I really like Pollokshields as an area, because there's all these places opening up, bars and cafes and that. It's like a wee hub. I don't really think Glasgow has changed that much over the years to me – even somewhere like the Barras, it's now got things like the BAAD design centre, but that whole area still hasn't really changed in forever."

Things staying the same isn't always a good thing, of course. Despite a growing upsurge in women in the music industry, Marnie is still finding that many tired old attitudes won't shift.

"You still get people, and not just men but women can do this too, where they see a man in the band and automatically go to them, and act like they're in charge. You'll be like 'err, it's me you need to speak to here. Why on earth would you think that the man in the band is in charge – this is my band, so speak to me'.

"I guess people need to change their ways and really think a little outside the box. The more women that get involved in any position in music can encourage others to get involved, and they can relate to them."

That is a depressing state of affairs, considering the length of time Marnie has been making music. It was when she was living in Liverpool that she joined Ladytron, the futuristic synth-pop band ahead of their time, given the dominance of synths in the charts these days.

"Chart music is just full of it, and you can't get away from synths there now. I feel like, on the other hand, guitar music is now having a comeback with all the indie bands – there's a lot of girls with guitars in bands it feels like, and that's what is getting played a lot on 6 Music rather than electronic music.

"Electronic music as alternative music has changed quite a bit in the last few years because the charts have taken it on so much. I guess people's technical abilities to produce music have changed too, so these mass-produced chart records aren't that organic, it's more soft synths."

Despite all the earlier talk of broken friendships and facing up to mortality, Marnie herself seems to have plenty of that pop spirit in her. She's confident about Strange Words and Weird Wars and in an upbeat mood, even when the biscuit she's eating takes an impressive dive into her coffee at one point. Despite the record's lyrical themes, is she still an optimist, a romantic?

"I'm a romantic at heart," she says.

"I'm a Pisces so I'm a total dreamer and I had my head in the clouds when I was younger. I'm more realistic now but I was very carefree in my twenties and didn't think about repercussions. I just took risks.

"Then people start to get a bit more responsible, although I'm still not that realistic in how I think. I'm still a bit silly and that's the dreamer in me."

Let's stick with dreaming to finish things on, then. What does Helen Marnie dream of for Strange Words and Weird Wars?

"World domination is still there," she laughs.

"The whole thing about making music is that you hope people will listen to it. I feel I've made a great album and I want as many people to listen to it as possible. I don't want to be Beyonce or anything like that, but if I can get the music out there to as many people as possible then I'd be happy. Why else would you make music?"


31 March 2017

Playboy interview (2017)

Ladytron fans have been patiently waiting for a follow-up to the band's mesmerizing 2011 album Gravity the Seducer, and it seems they're going to have to wait a little bit longer. During the band's ongoing hiatus, creative juices are still flowing strong with lead vocalist Helen Marnie, who's been keeping busy with various solo efforts. First, there was 2013's Crystal World, a synth-filled dream-pop album, and next up is Strange Words and Weird Wars, yet another electro-fueled outing showcasing Marnie's signature brand of upbeat, melodic modern pop as well—as a few '80s inspired throwbacks. The new album doesn't drop until June 2, but we have the new video for her next single "Lost Maps," one of the album's few somber moments, premiering exclusively right here on

We also managed to have a chat with Marnie about the mysterious meaning behind the video's story, why it took so long to get this new record out and the big burning question: What exactly is going on with Ladytron?

I want to talk about this new video for "Lost Maps." You only show up for one scene. Who came up with the concept for the video?

I explained to the director [Tim Courtney] what the song was influenced and inspired by, initially. And then he decided to take it in that direction and use it as the theme for the video. I didn't mind not being in the video. It was deliberate. It just felt like, "Do I need to be the protagonist in the video?" For me, I'd rather have the story told by other people, but I would have a little cameo.

In your one scene, you appear to have a green arrow, pointing upward, painted on your face. Is there any significance to the makeup?

It's just silly, really. That was my idea. Just to refer to geography and maps. I was like, "Can we have a bit of color?" Because it's quite dark. In that tiny scene I am in, I just wanted there to be a little bit of light relief. And it does refer to the "Lost Maps," so that's why it's there.

You mentioned you told the director what the song was influenced by. Care to elaborate?

I don't like being so specific. It's hard, because then it becomes a thing. If I tell you what it was inspired by, then people can't make up their own minds and they won't see anything else in it. Do you want me to tell you what it's inspired by?

Well, I wouldn't mind hearing a little bit, but I do agree that it's nice to let viewers interpret it their own away.

When I wrote the lyrics, they were influenced by the refugee crisis, when the boats were up on the shores and that image of the child who drowned, so that is the essence of the song. That's the angle that the director took, but we wanted to be a bit more ambiguous, so you don't really know where she's come from, or what her situation is, but she's trying to get somewhere that's really important to her. So there is a story, a beginning and an end, but you're not sure what the situation is.

Crystal World came out in 2013, followed by a standalone single and video for "Wolves" which came out in 2014. "Wolves" was intended to be a part of this record, which is no longer the case. Is there a reason why there was such a long delay?

We had some problems during the making of the album. The album was probably ready last summer—completely mixed and finished in June. So there have been a little bit delays. It was timing as well—trying to time it right. I've got a label behind me now, so that gives a little bit of a push financially. If you don't have a label behind you, you have to do it all yourself.

Do you have a favorite track on this new record?

My favorite track at the moment is "Electric Youth." It's really fun to play it live. I look forward to playing it in front of people. It's kind of an '80s track—really '80s. [Laughs] Almost too '80s. It's fun and light, because there are some darker areas on the album. For me, this is the fun song. And compared to my last album, it's much more upbeat.

I'd say "G.I.R.L.S" is the most Ladytron-esque of the bunch. Because your voice is so recognizable, sometimes it's easy to say your solo music sounds like Ladytron. What do you think are the major differences between Ladytron and Marnie?

I'm really surprised when people say things like that. A song like "G.I.R.L.S" is so tongue-in-cheek. I don't know if Ladytron would make a track like that. Maybe that is because I've been in that band for over 16 years now. I really do think it's different. The instruments seem not so different but I think the way it's produced and mixed is different. In terms of my voice, it's a little different only because I am singing in a different way on some of the tracks. Some of it is kind of falsetto high and generally with Ladytron, I would stick to my lower register. It's also not as layered as Ladytron. In the mixing with Ladytron, my vocals tend to sit really far in the back so the music is upfront, which is great; I love that. But on this, I think it's the other way around.

Are you enjoying the creative freedom of being a solo artist? I would imagine there are fewer cooks in the kitchen, so the diplomatic process that comes with having bandmates is gone.

[Laughs] Solo is much easier. I'm in control. I can decide. If I've written something good and I think it's good, I don't need three other people to tell me if it's good or not good. Working with someone else outside the band, for me, is great because that brings in a different point of view. It's completely fresh. It's kind of liberating. It's just me, so there's no one else to fall back on. I'm putting new songs out there, so if people don't like it, there's no one I can hide behind.

Do you plan to tour the U.S. to support this new album?

I'm trying to work it out now. I would really love to come to the U.S. That's where Ladytron has had the best gigs in the past. I've never played any gigs just as Marnie there, so that's one of my ambitions this year. I'm due to be playing Mexico at some point this year, so I am hoping I can possibly tack on the U.S. after those dates. We'll have to wait and see.

Would you ever consider doing an anniversary tour for one of Ladytron's signature albums? A lot of bands seem to be doing that right now.

I think that can happen. I think it would probably have to be Witching Hour. I think that's the album people would request the most. If they offered us lots of money, we would do that.

Now I have to ask the big question. Ladytron's last album came out six years ago. Since then, you've done these two solo projects. When the lead singer of a band goes off and does a side project, it tends to raise eyebrows. But when they do a second one in a row, it raises alarms about what might be going on with the band. Can you clear the air for the fans on where you stand with Ladytron?

I know, I get this a lot. It's a little bit frustrating because I'll post something on my socials about Marnie. It'll be on my Marnie page, it's not on the Ladytron page, and they'll always respond with something like a sad face or "No Ladytron?" And I'm like, "Well, you know, this is the Marnie page." [Laughs] But Ladytron just isn't ready yet. Everyone's been doing their own thing. It gives me time to concentrate on this new album. I've been working on this record for two years, so that's my priority. The process of making a record takes quite a long time, so if I put two years of work into that, I want to do it justice. Although, we [Ladytron] have worked on a little bit together. That was just in November, I think. It's just not ready to go yet.

Okay, good to hear. I think some fans were starting to fear that Ladytron might be calling it quits. It reminds me of when Dave Gahan first started doing solo records and Depeche Mode fans got worried that the band was going to break up. But now he's done several solo albums and the fans got used to him going back and forth. I guess Ladytron fans needs to get used to you doing the same thing.

Fans of Ladytron don't need to worry. They just need to be patient.


22 February 2017

Fame Magazine interview (2017)

Hi Marnie, how are you today?

Good, thanks. Monday's take a bit longer to get into gear though.

Tell us about your latest track "Alphabet Block".

It's the first track from my new album Strange Words and Weird Wars, and it's a co-write with my producer Jonny Scott. I think it pretty well encapsulates a moment of fear and anxiety, with Glasgow as its backdrop.

The track is taken from your forthcoming album Strange Words and Weird Wars, what can people expect from the record?

I think they can expect a departure. I wanted to, at least on the surface, move away from the overly emotional feel I had with my previous album Crystal World. So SWWW, is much more upbeat and fun. It still has a lot of depth, but it's just a different approach.

What inspired you to pursue music full-time, did you always have a desire to write and perform?

It's all I've ever done, so it's all I know! As a child I did fancy myself as a bit of a performer, be it acting or music. Quickly though, I learnt I had zero acting talent. Music on the other hand, was always something that had come quite easily to me. In my late teens I did write lyrics (that would never be shown to anybody!) but it wasn't till my mid twenties that I started trying to write songs properly. When I hit my 30s I realised I was actually ok at songwriting. It's a confidence issue. I never thought I was any good. But now I know I can be. That's what keeps me going. I get a thrill when I know I've written something great.

When composing music how does the writing process work for you?

It all depends really. Sometimes I'll start with the music bed, sometimes just drums. Other times I'll have a lyrical idea in my head. On Strange Words and Weird Wars there are quite a few co-writes with Jonny Scott where he would start with the music bed and I would then write the melody/topline and then lyrics. It's all done pretty simply in my home studio. Just my laptop, mic, and a MIDI keyboard to start.

You spent a lot of time in Liverpool, how did your time their influence you musically?

My time spent at Liverpool was my University years. Much as I would love to say I was a good student, I wasn't. I was much more interested in going out, meeting people, and having fun. In that respect, Liverpool was great. There were so many clubs and bars back in the late 90's and you could always find music if you wanted it. Liverpool is where I met my band Ladytron, so I guess that played a massive part in forming my musical future.

How does it compare with the music scene back home in Glasgow?

I haven't been back to Liverpool for quite some time now so I'm not really up on the current scene. I played FestEvol last year, but it was such a flying visit that I had no time to hang out. Glasgow, on the other hand, is my home now and has been for the last 4 years so I have a much better grasp of that scene. I love it. It is literally brimming with music and I've met some super talented people since moving here. At the moment the Celtic Connections festival is on, and in one week I saw a gig by HQFU, which is melodic house, followed by Kirsty Law's quirky Scottish trad folk. That pretty much sums up Glasgow.

If you could play in any band or with any artist past or present who would that be and why?

Wow. It's hard to choose. I'd like to sing on a Prince track, just because. I don't think that needs any explanation. I also would've liked to play with Michael Jackson on his Dangerous tour because then I would've got to see him take off on his jet pack.

Describe your sound in 5 words.

Dark Wave Electro Pop Music


02 February 2017

Almost Predictable interview (2017)

Helen Marnie's solo work to date is a wonderful thing with her debut album Crystal World and standalone single "Wolves" both must haves in anyone's collection. Her new solo album Strange Words and Weird Wars, released under her solo guise Marnie, is due out on 25 March and it's been preceded by the gorgeous single "Alphabet Block". The track is as fine an examples of synthpop as you'll hear at the moment, showing the many artists who have been influenced by her solo work and, of course, her work with Ladytron, just how this type of music is done.

Mixing a new poppier direction with shoegaze and dream pop influenced electronics, "Alphabet Block" is a powerful, mesmerising track that demands repeated plays. The verses and the chorus juxtapose perfectly with the former's darker feel giving way to the shimmering space of the chorus magnificently. As you can hear below, "Alphabet Block" is a special track and one you're going to love. It's a great taster for the album too and that record is going to be one of the must hear releases this year. You don't want to miss it - once again, Glasgow proves itself to be the new home of electronic music.

I had a quick chat with Marnie to find out a bit more about "Alphabet Block".

Welcome back Marnie! "Alphabet Block" is quite a way to announce your return. Tell us a bit about the song.

Thank you. It's great to be back! The song is a co-write with producer Jonny Scott. He produced the album Strange Words and Weird Wars and I've been working with him since I wrote "Wolves" in 2014. I thought "Alphabet Block" would be a good album opener, a little sneak peak at what to expect. That being said, the album is quite different to "Alphabet Block". AB is a wordy little number, which I would describe as shoegaze electropop. I love all the swirling guitars and arpeggiators. Lyrically, it's actually really dark. I wrote it at a time of personal uncertainty. However, I think it does come across as warm and that is due to the instrumentation.

The song has a real classic synthpop feel to it. Does the song represent a move towards a poppier sound generally?

I would agree with that, yes. It's funny, when I did my last album Crystal World, a few people advised me not to move in that direction. As in, I'd be wrong to do that. So, this is basically my 'fuck you' to them. Nobody should ever tell me what kind of music I should make. I can make my own decisions and create whatever I want.

Were there any particular influences in mind when you wrote the track? The chorus has a real dream pop feel to it for example.

Because the verses are so lyrically full, it was important for me create some space and depth with the choruses. And I did that be introducing that dreamy vocal feel. Elongating the words. Creating more breath and layering the vocals. The guitars also give a sense of space. I like that the song enters like a club track, but then completely changes and transforms into something different.

Looking forward, your second solo album Strange Words and Weird Wars is out in March. Can we expect a similar, more pop focused approach?

I can't tell you how excited I am to finally have the album coming out. It will be over 2 years in the making. And, as seems is usual with me, not everything went as smoothly as I would've wished. It's definitely a pop effort, there is no denying that. But I think there's also a lot more to it than that. It's intelligent, it's melodic, it's not overly produced, it's guitars, it's synths, it's my voice, and it's a good ride. I'm hoping people will be pleasantly surprised.


Thanks very much to Marnie for taking the time to have a chat. As I've mentioned earlier, Strange Words and Weird Wars is destined to be an album that a lot of you are going to love this year. "Alphabet Block" is a wonderful way to reintroduce yourself to Marnie.


02 October 2016

Jute Fashion Magazine interview (2016)

A blaze of neon lights bejeweled by a spectrum of saturated hues from sold out world tours in Great Britain, Mexico, Indonesia and Singapore. Electrifying the electro pop scene since 1999, Ladytron has also produced remixes for Goldfrapp, Christina Aguilera and Nine Inch Nails. Modeled on the paradigm of British design group, Hypgnosis and inspired by the poignant sounds of Kate Bush and Serge Gainsbourg. Ladytron has reached critical acclaim with five baroque n'roll studio albums. Gravity the Seducer peaked at 72 from UK Albums chart and 112 on the Billboard 200.

Harmonizing on the wings of the horizon stretching to the temples of landmark architecture. A rotating Perlan glass dome and geothermal Blue Lagoon spa originating from Iceland - the dreamscape for Ladytron's vocalist, Helen Marnie's first solo album. A bespoke enchantment with commitment to analog synth legends, Solina String Synthesizer and Korg MS-10 - the transformative portal from Celtic charm of Glasgow based and celebrated songstress, Helen Marnie.

Tell me about your first meeting to develop your second album? What factors determined your artistic decisions as you were preparing songs the for new album in contrast to the dreamy arctic escapist fantasy of Crystal World? What tools and instruments did you experiment with during production of your second solo album?

Crystal World was a great success. It exceeded my expectations in terms of its reception. I was nervous about putting my own record out there, having had the cocoon of Ladytron. But eventually, post release, it gave me a lot more confidence. I thought 'I can actually do this'. So, soon I was writing again with the prospect of making another record. Having made Glasgow my home (4 years ago today, exactly) I was eager to meet people I could work and collaborate with. lain from Chvrches put me in touch with producer Jonny Scott, and after my initial email going into his spam folder, we eventually met and began making music together. He understood what I wanted to do. Album two will not be like Crystal World. Even before I started writing I knew the direction I wanted to go in. Crystal World took a lot out of me emotionally. There have been gigs I've done when I'd have to hold back tears mid song. So, while this new record has its moments of emotion, I think it deals with them in a very different way. Oh, and it's finished. Between Jonny and myself we managed to harvest quite a stash of vintage synths. The Juno 106 features heavily, along with newer instruments such as the Moog Sub Phatty. I think the record is a war between digital and analogue.

Crystal World debuted as your first solo album in partnership with Pledge Music since Ladytron. A Limited Edition 7" Vinyl, Screen Print Poster and a 1998 Mini Cooper were included in the music campaign. How has this music campaign shaped your future music endeavors? How would you characterize your relationship with fans of music campaign?

The music industry is ever changing so I think everyone is just trying to work out how to make things happen and get their music our there. It is no easy feat. Pledge was a success but it was not easy. Pretty much everyone who bought Crystal World was cool. They were in it for the music. The all loved what I'd done with Ladytron so were really interested to see where I went next and they wanted to be a part of that. I appreciate their loyalty and I hope I gave them back enough.

A Nordic island where fire and ice co-exist; characterized by massive glaciers; geothermal power and roaring volcanoes. Tell me about the role Iceland had in the development stage of your first solo album, Crystal World? What challenges did you encounter from your transition of electro band to soloist?

I absolutely love Iceland, and Reykjavik was an amazing place to record, however, much as I would like to say that it was a huge inspiration to me, the real inspiration was Scotland. The country I was born to, and the country I would be moving back to in 2012 after being away for 12 years. I was working with a producer in Iceland who had his studio there, and so that's where everything was recorded.

All the demo-ing had been done previous to that, so no new songs were actually written there. One of the things that got to me was that I did get some flack from people who thought my record was 'too' Ladytron, or not Ladytron 'enough'. There was also what seemed like criticism for working with my bandmate as producer. It was almost as if people thought that because I was working with another Ladytron member that it was all their work, not mine. But, as is often the case, more credit is given to male musicians than female artists. Like, there must be a man behind the music. I have no problem collaborating with people and giving credit where it's due.

A global phenomenon, Gravity the Seducer album toured the UK, Mexico and Singapore as seventy two on UK Albums Chart. How would you describe the collaborative process in the studio for Gravity the Seducer? Do you have special anecdotes from your extensive worldwide tours?

What goes on tour stays on tour. Ladytron have toured so hard and extensively there's just too much information to compute. Gravity the Seducer was recorded in a house studio in Sussex with lots of cats roaming the grounds, horses, and a ping pong table in the live room. When I wasn't singing I'd mainly just talk to animals for sanity. Recording can be a very intense experience. We normally write remotely, then possibly pass on for collaboration. The music really comes into its own in the studio though. Over the last couple of years, the only gigs I've done are Marnie solo gigs, and I have to say they have been the most fun ever! Chile & Peru were pretty wild, as was the boat from Sweden to Finland. It felt like I was a kid again, touring for the first time. It's a good feeling.

The band's fusion of glistening electro and melodic drama have had them described as cinematic according to an interview for ArtRocker. Collaborating with notable directors like Chino Moya and Neil Krug. How much creative freedom do you have in establishing the visual style of the music videos for solo albums and Ladytron? Did you also contribute to the artwork and packaging for solo albums and Ladytron?

Ladytron has always had a lot of creative control and we have lead the way with our own album art and videos. I think it's much easier for bands now to just do their own thing. There are no big advances, people are making the most with what they've got. Getting friends involved rather than going through labels. For Crystal World I knew where I wanted to shoot the cover and press shots. There is a disused swimming pool in Glasgow called Govanhill Baths. It's an amazing place. They are desperately trying to raise funds to refurb the pool and building, and I was living in Govanhill at the time, so I knew where I wanted to spend my small budget. My friend, Lisa Devine, who is a brilliant photographer came on board and the outcome was pretty great.

What are your forthcoming projects and what is next for Ladytron?

My main focus right now is getting my 2nd album out. It's finished now, but it will take time to be released. I'll get a single out first. I feel like I've had it under wraps for so long I'm literally bursting to get some music out. I've got some things tied in around the release, but nothing I can go into detail about yet. Ladytron will regroup again next year, with the intention of releasing new music.


23 June 2015

Backseat Mafia interview (2015)

Helen Marnie was studying classical piano in her native Glasgow before dropping out to take a degree in pop music at the University of Liverpool. There she met Daniel Hunt, Reuben Wu and Mira Aroyo forming Ladytron who have influenced a generation of British electronic acts.

With the band on hold Marnie is out on the road touring her solo album Crystal World and as she told Paul Clarke is playing two solo shows to promote it.

So what can people expect from these gigs?

I've been doing my solo project for a while now so the majority of songs are from my first solo album and I'll throw in a couple of Ladytron songs to mix it up a bit. It's a full band with three others, and we've done a few gigs lately which have gone really well.

So with Ladytron on hold it was the right time to go solo?

I wanted to keep making music so I thought it was just good timing. Now I've done the solo thing I really enjoyed it, and I am working on a second album right now, so I'm quite busy.

Will you be premiering any songs from the new album?

I'm afraid not because it's not quite there yet, and the songs are all at the demo stage, so it would take too much time to get them to up to scratch.

What are the new songs sounding like?

My solo stuff is pretty different as it's not as dancey as Ladytron, or as heavy in parts, so it's a bit more of an electro folk thing as my voice has taken centre stage.

And you've got a drummer in the band?

The drums give it the energy it needs, I like live drums onstage, and it feels like a proper band when you have a drummer. I feel really lucky to have found them as they are all really amazing musicians so it's really cool.

New Order legend Stephen Morris remixed your track "The Hunter" for Record Store Day.

That came about through the label that distributes my music as they have a connection to him so they got in touch and he was really up for it.

And were you pleased with the result?

It's always interesting with remixes as sometimes they can transform a song, which is what he did, and it was cool he was into it. But other times it's an odd situation as you've done the original so hearing it in another way can be hit and miss, but I was really happy with what Stephen did.

You grew up loving pop music so that is an influence on your solo stuff?

It's very song based, but when I was writing Crystal World I really wanted to concentrate on choruses, and I think I managed it so in that respect it is quite pop. But it's not commercial pop from a production point of view.

And your solo career isn't the end for Ladytron?

I'm going to get the second album done by the end of the summer then I'll be free to be work on Tron stuff. I don't know how long that will take and what form it will take. People mistakenly keep saying I'm ex-Ladytron, which is not true, so it will be nice to put that right and get back with the guys to write. It's a different beast from my solo stuff so it'll be interesting to see what we come up with.


17 January 2015

MTV Iggy interview (2015)

ICON: Ladytron's Helen Marnie Steps Out on Her Own

In late December, Helen Marnie, one-quarter of Ladytron and, as of recently, a solo artist recording under her last name, played her first solo gig in Glasgow. We met there in a pub to discuss her upcoming album and the fate of her famous band. "I think it went OK", she says modestly, then thinks for a moment. "Except no one told me my keyboard wasn't working for the entire show". The gig — a "not pretentious" benefit for TYCI, the Glasgow-based feminist collective founded by Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry — offered Marnie the chance to get a low-pressure solo show under her belt (and to iron out any kinks like malfunctioning keyboards) before the beginning of a year that will see her play overseas and release her second solo album. It was also a chance to reconnect with the community of her home city of Glasgow, where she returned, after 12 years living in London, two years ago.

With song titles like "High Road" (the name of '90s Scottish soap opera) and allusions to the sea, the influence of her return home is stamped over her first solo album, the warm and emotionally resonant Crystal World, released in 2013. "I think because it was my first solo album, things like my childhood and my influences were going to creep into it", she says. "Crystal World is very reflective and about looking back and reminiscing about things, so Scotland played a big part. It was recorded in Iceland, but Iceland didn't creep into it at all because the music and lyrics were already written".

Marnie went to Reykjavik to record at the studio of Barði Jóhannsson of Bang Gang and Starwalker. She brought on Johansson to co-produce with Ladytron bandmate Daniel Hunt so that the album would not be just a Ladytron project. Now she is working with Jonny Scott, known for his work with The Kills and Olympic Swimmers, who she describes as a "synth geek and quite pop-oriented".

For her next album, which will be out later this year, she plans to write and record with Scott. "I think it will probably go more electronic sounding than the previous one. I think Crystal World had a softer edge. It was electronic but had a folk tinge to it. The next one might be a bit weirder".

As a teaser, Marnie released the Scott-produced "Wolves", a track calling out the establishment and urging people to raise their voices, in September 2014 — pointedly right before the referendum. The chorus goes: "Raise all your voices / Gimme all your hands, take the chances / Don't be fooled, wolves in disguises / All your hands! All your hands! / Hail for better days!"

"I wrote the lyrics at the beginning of 2014 when there was so much information about [the referendum] being thrown at us". She says. "The referendum was part of my life for so long that it was natural that it fed into it. At the time, I realized what I was writing about, and I wanted it to be quite anthemic".

The solo work and return to Glasgow have had some worrying that Ladytron is no more, but that's not the case. In fact, in what will be an exceptionally busy year for Marnie, she expects the band to get started on a sixth album in the second half of this year.

Reflecting on Ladytron's place in and influence on the electronic music scene, she says: "A lot of the electronic music that's coming out now is more pop than Ladytron. I think that we were always more underground than the stuff you would hear in the mainstream. Then, it wasn't like it is now where there's so much electronic music, and a lot of people didn't know where to put us and how to label us".

As for the more immediate future, she has solo gigs lined up in Peru and Mexico this month. It seems natural for her to play in Latin America, which has always been good to Ladytron in comparison to the UK where they "never really took hold". When asked for career highlights, as well as a show in a Brian Eno-produced festival at the Sydney Opera House, she fondly remembers a gig in Mexico City where she could barely hear her own voice over the crowd. The response in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and North America has far surpassed that of Ladytron's home country where the band "never really got much radio play".

While the new album is still in the planning stages, one thing she's certain of is that she won't be repeating her last experience of funding it via Pledge Music — an experience she describes as "a lot of hard work" and "quite stressful". She also credits the crowdsourced method as a factor in the subdued reaction it received, although, the reviews it did get were highly positive. "The day the album was available, it went to the pledgers, so I felt that it didn't get much press because [by the time the media heard it] it was old news; it was already out there", she tells us. Neither will she be returning to Reykjavik to record. She says she is quite happy back in her hometown, a "good city" where "the people are good".

"When I make another album I am really looking forward to just staying in Glasgow and making it here", she declares. After more that 10 years in the business, it seems fair that Marnie gets to do it her own way.


03 October 2014

Podcart interview (2014)

Life Is Like a Box of Records: Helen Marnie

Helen Marnie selected 10 of her favourite songs.

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.


27 September 2014

The Electricity Club interview (2014)

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?


07 September 2014

Under the Radar interview (2014)

Read on as Marnie discusses her favorite Scottish albums, bands, and films, as well as her thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which in a few weeks the people of Scotland get to vote on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom and have Scotland become its own country.

What are your thoughts on the Scottish Independence referendum? Are you for or against independence? Could you explain why?

I have been a Yes supporter from the start. I don't necessarily see it as nationalism, that's not what this is about. It's about having control over your country's affairs and not being tied to a system that frankly does not work for Scotland, and hasn't worked for a long, long time. I have faith that we are a talented enough lot to be able to go it alone.

How do you think Scottish Independence might affect the arts and the Scottish music scene?

I hope that independence brings more investment for the arts, rather than cuts which are happening at present. I want us to be international in our outlook, and being a part of Europe will benefit Scotland. At the moment, it looks like the U.K. is trying to make an exit. Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, has always had a thriving music scene, so I don't see that changing. People are determined enough to go it alone and start creating music. If anything, independence will only inspire musicians more. I haven't met one artist/musician who is a no voter.

What is your favorite album by another Scottish artist and why?

There are lots of amazing Scottish artists, but at the moment I'm really enjoying Honeyblood's new album. I saw them in Glasgow last year and they were raw and fun, and I just knew they were going to take off. I love that it's just the two of them and they manage to create such a full sound.

Which Scottish musician/band most inspired you to start playing music?

I don't think any particular band got me into making or playing music. I started playing classical piano at quite a young age and worked hard at it for a long time. At university though, like a lot of people, I got into Belle and Sebastian.

Who is your favorite new Scottish band or solo artist?

A few months ago I went to see another female duo called Bdy_Prts. They had great melodies and beats. They're working on their debut album at present. The gig was great. Good on stage banter.

What is your favorite film that takes place in Scotland?

I saw Under the Skin this year and I absolutely LOVED IT! It was beautifully shot, and really captured the grittiness of Glasgow. The score was pretty amazing too.

What do you most love about Scotland and being Scottish and what do you most hate about Scotland and being Scottish?

I am very proud to be Scottish. I love Scotland to bits. Even though we are part of the U.K. at present, when I was living in Liverpool and then in London I always felt like a foreigner—like people thought I was some kind of novelty. I guess it's because we are such a small nation. I don't hate anything about Scotland or its people, but what I have found since living here again is that people often think they're not quite good enough. Which is not the case. I guess that sometimes happens when you have been ruled from afar, by an elite that don't really care about Scotland or its people.


06 March 2014

PopMatters interview (2014)

Helen Marnie might have made her name as the singer for the internationally acclaimed Ladytron, but in June 2013 she released a solo album, Crystal World, through Pledge Music. The album confounded expectation and quickly cultivated a passionate and devoted following, with many (including The VPME and Polari) giving it flawless reviews.

In contrast to her work in Ladytron work it's an album in which nature constantly pulses and throbs. In it Marnie undertakes a set of startlingly emotional journeys, drawing what some have described as "a map of the heart"—quite an achievement for such a pristine electro record.

I caught up with Helen to try and dig a little deeper into the record, in a conversation that took in everything from the Piscean gift for swimming to her striking choice of outfit for the video to "The Hunter".

In previous interviews you've talked about the state of transition you were in when you wrote the Crystal World. Did writing the album help to deal with that transition at all?

I think so, yes. In fact, I think writing the album helped me deal with quite a lot of things. It kind of sorted my head out a little and gave me focus and freedom to express myself. I guess I had a lot of ideas going round in my head at the time, and a lot of baggage too. It was the perfect release to write an album for myself.

You've mentioned in the past how the sea is a "particularly dominant and reoccurring" theme on the record. I wondered how the sea connected to this sense of transition for you?

When I think of the sea, I think of my childhood. I spent a lot of time by water, exploring and having fun. One side of my family hails from the east coast of Scotland, so that is the sea I am generally referring to. I relate to it, it was a big part of my life. I sometimes feel enclosed by cities, and so the sea is the getaway in my head. There was quite a lot on the horizon when I was writing, one thing being I was going to relocate back to Scotland, so it felt like anything was possible. I am a Pisces, I am a good swimmer, and when I write by water or the sea it feels like home.

Crystal World was greeted with very positive press. I was struck by how the record stretched the boundaries of where I expected it to go, emotionally. Is that just how it evolved?

It was an emotional time for me, and I knew that would be released into the record. It actually made me feel better knowing I had put it somewhere. That the emotion had a home once I let go. When I listen back it will always take me to a specific time, with vivid images and feelings.

In the Pledge promotional video for "Crystal World" you situate yourself very much amongst Reykjavik's scenery, and I wondered if there might have been a decision to reflect the natural environment more for that album?

I was in Reykjavik to record and I wanted to create a promo for the Pledge which was beautiful and also reflected where I was. It was natural for me to use Reykjavik landscapes and landmarks. I must admit though, this album has no connection with Reykjavik other than it was recorded there. All the writing was done before going to Iceland, bar half a song. Scotland is very much the country behind this album.

The video for "The Hunter" sees a real blend of the natural (the forest) with the synthetic (taking the form of a colourful catsuit). I wondered if this juxtaposition was part of making a certain statement?

I was doing quite a lot of running in "The Hunter" video, and so the catsuit was great for that. Not only did it look and feel amazing, but it also looked foreign to the setting, which I guess was deliberate. The designer, Rebecca Torres, made it especially for me so I am eternally grateful. I've always had a bit of a catsuit fetish. I feel good in them. I'm not really into exposing too much flesh, so this one was perfect for me. It was also really important for me to inject some colour into the video and what I was wearing. By doing a solo album I felt liberated, and I wanted that to come across in "The Hunter" video.

Which artists inspired the Crystal World? I thought I might have detected a touch of Kate Bush?

I'm never sure who inspires me when I write. Only later, when someone says it sounds like something or someone else, am I surprised. I'll take Kate Bush though. If it sounds like Kate Bush then it's a winner.

You use the synthesizer in much of your work. But what is it about the synthesizer that keeps drawing you to it?

I started out playing classical piano, and was introduced to synthesizers when Ladytron formed. The keyboard is what comes naturally to me, and synthesizers are able to create a lot of warmth and depth and dirt, so are extremely versatile. With Crystal World I wanted real piano on some of the tracks, I knew that from the beginning. On "Submariner" it is quite prevalent, along with "Gold".

There is a long British tradition of synthesizer music, from artists like David Bowie to The Human League. I wondered how much you consider yourself as part of a British tradition of synthpop music?

We were influenced by a lot of different music, not solely synthpop, but our sound was definitely electronic with the synth taking centre stage. In Liverpool at the time, we were quite different in terms of the music we were making, and having two female lead vocalists was also a change to the mainly male-fronted indie bands.

Do you have any future plans with Ladytron?

Right now we are all pursuing our own projects, however we plan to start getting songs together for a new Ladytron album later in the year...

6 March 2014


18 October 2013

Herald Scotland interview (2013)

That's how it starts. A wail and then a synth wash starts beneath it, martial and, yes, a little bit Knight Ridery, rising to the front of the mix as the voice is pushed back. Then the drums kick in and the vocals jump front and centre. What is this? This is pop. Or Helen Marnie's version of the word anyway.

It's also how The Hunter, the opening track on her new solo album Crystal World begins, a first step outside the electronic arms of Liverpool quartet Ladytron, the band she's been a member of throughout the 21st century. And an attempt, she says, to push herself into being "more pop, more pop than Ladytron".

"I would say I am the more pop part of Ladytron, so that was in my head", she tells me over coffee in a Glasgow hotel. "I wanted to write choruses. I'd never worked by hooks and choruses and I wanted to do that".

Marnie has been ringing the changes of late. Towards the end of last year she moved back to Scotland after more than a decade in London (before that she was in Liverpool, where she met the rest of the band). "It was pulling at my heart to come back to Scotland. I got married but he's a southerner and I had to drag him up here".

And before that, and with Ladytron on extended furlough, she had recorded Crystal World, a silvery dream machine of an album on which she sounds a little like Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry's big sister and calls herself by her surname only. "On this I just felt freer to do whatever I wanted. I'm definitely quite open on the record. I think the things I wanted to express are there in the lyrics and the music".

The result is an album with a sci-fi sheen. The cover too. How hard was it to get into those trousers Helen? "A friend of mine in Glasgow, Rebecca Torres, she made these catsuits especially for me. So I owe her big time. I did need help getting into it but the only part I needed help with was getting the leg over my foot. The rest is quite stretchy. It must be my big toes or something".

She looks at the cover lying in front of us. "I think that looks pop. It's quite glossy but also I wanted it to be quite feminine and girly. I'm like a woman who's free". It speaks to the music. "Yes, but without being too clinical".

Crystal World was funded originally by Pledge and is now getting a release on the newly revived Les Disques du Crepuscule label ("Someone said to me the other day 'that was so cool in the eighties' and I was like 'really, I've never heard of it'".)

She's still amazed at the response to her Pledge campaign to help fund the making of her album. It helped that Ladytron's decade as indie electronicists gave her some recognition. "That definitely helped and the reaction was great. It kind of took me offguard. I set a target and we reached the target within a few days, though I have to say the target was quite small.

"I can't say what it was but I have to say it wasn't enough. I think I made over 200% of my target. But it still wasn't quite enough".

That's the pragmatist in her speaking. The dreamer is surprised that anyone would be interested in the first place. "I was quite shocked. I was thinking 'you're going to pay this amount of money for my old bikini? Really'".

Helen Marnie's pop story is the story of an uncool kid who loved Kylie and ABBA and Michael Jackson ("I used to write him letters"), who listened to her brother's Metallica records and studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music and Drama (as was). She dropped out of university in Glasgow before going on to study music in Liverpool where she met the rest of Ladytron. The band named themselves after a Roxy Music track and former Roxy member Brian Eno has been effusive in his praises.

But with her bandmate Mira Aroyo having a baby, Daniel Hunt over in Brazil and Reuben Wu currently living in Chicago the band have been taking their first real break this last year. But it's a pause not an ending. "I think hopefully we'll make a record next year", Marnie says.

In the meantime she has her own record to promote. "I would like to do some live gigs but how to do it, I need to work that out".

This is the start then, not an ending.


10 October 2013

WARP Magazine interview (2013)

If something characterizes the musical industry in Great Britain it's its diversity. We can find cases of global success, bands like those that fill stadiums and are supported by the great international record companies. On the other hand, there's also the artists who make their way by the road of independence, focusing the majority of their efforts in making their music known and playing in as many places as they're able to.

In some place between these two points, interestingly, we have Helen Marnie, better known as the composer and vocalist of the electronic band Ladytron, who at the end of 2012 decided it was time to take advantage of the recess of her main project and dedicate herself to creating her first solo album.

Without the support of a record company to reach her goal, the artist decided to reach out to crowd funding, so popular nowadays, specifically, the website PledgeMusic, a way in which fans support the music and obtain directly from the creators.

The result is called Crystal World (2013) produced by her bandmate Daniel Hunt and completely recorded in the studio of Bardi Johannsson (Bang Gang), in Reikjavik, Iceland, which transports us to a very intimate and personal landscape of electronic and pop sounds, with certain airs of organic nostalgia, something that the singer never allowed us to listen on Ladytron.

WARP Magazine had a chat with Marnie, who from Glasgow, Scotland, exclusively shared the experience behind the creation, recording and release of her solo debut.

How did you find out that you wanted to do a solo record?

It was an idea that had been going around in my head since some time ago, something I had always wanted to do. Obviously, I had commitments with Ladytron, so it was a matter of finding the time to do it. That's why, as soon as we had a break from touring, I figured out it was the right time. I told myself... It's now or never!

What made you go all the way to Iceland to record?

Bardi Johannsson, the co-producer of the album, has his own studio in Iceland so it made sense to record there. It was very exciting to do it in a new place for me.

At what point in time did you realize you were going to have to go crowd funding to make this album?

It was when I first went to Reikjavik. Crowd funding got my attention last summer when I was writing the album. I had seen what artists could accomplish. I had heard extraordinary stories, like Amanda Palmer's, and in light that at the time I didn't have any financial backing, I decided it could be the way to go.

Was there a point in the campaign that you thought there was no way you could raise enough money to make the album?

Of course, even during the process of mixing and mastering, I was afraid something was going to happen and the album wouldn't come out. It wasn't until I pressed the button for "upload" on the campaign on PledgeMusic, that I took a deep breath and I felt relieved. When you don't have a record company behind you, all the weight falls on your shoulders and things that would normally be taken care of, now are your responsibility. Sometimes it's very stressful... when something goes wrong, it meant more delays for the campaign and I found it very difficult to explain to the members. However, I tried to maintain a positive attitude all the time, to not lose motivation. The best thing of doing a campaign like this was the support, it was like having this great channel behind you, where everyone wants for you to do well. It was great, especially when other things stressed you out.

Is it hard to give out the packages you promised during the campaign?

It has been very difficult to organize, but nothing I couldn't handle. Up to right now, I have given most of what I promised, although the 12 inch vinyls have still not gone out. I think the most difficult thing has been to go to the post office and have to deal with these long lines behind me. Have to deal with people looking at me ugly 'cause they have to wait, but I'm used to it already. I can even look at them ugly as well, if it's necessary.

In your experience, what are the pros and cons of getting out a record this way?

The pros: The fact that you have a platform that allows you to reach a very wide audience and that you can personalize the campaign as much as you want. To interact with the participants was comforting and they always were positive, which I'm very grateful for, they had a lot of faith in me and that helped me to do the same with them, to treat them almost like friends.

In the cons... on the other hand, I found that the people from Pledge take a good portion of the funding, which they don't give you until you fulfill your promises which can cause a lot of problems, because things have to be paid for and you don't have the money to do it. Another thing is that they ask you to establish a monetary goal before you start the campaign, however, when you have a delay or another problem, obviously it affects the amount of money you need to finish the record.

How was it to compose a complete album without the collaboration of a band?

I enjoyed the process. I wrote the majority of the songs in a period of 6 months, in my guest room in London. And, well, to write a solo album was very different than writing for Ladytron, not so much in the technical side of it, but in how you deal with it mentally. I suppose I felt more comfortable writing about more personal issues. I was a lot more free to say exactly what I wanted. Musically, I already knew what direction I wanted to take.

How was Daniel as a producer instead of a band member?

It wasn't very different, however, it was good to have him as a producer, he was someone who helped me to develop my ideas and take them a little more out there... like having a pair of extra hands. It was great working with him as well as Bardi.

While you were writing the record, did you consciously decide to get away from Ladytron' sound?

Let's say I saw the situation like a double edged sword. I basically did the record I wanted. The result is an album that, musically and lyrically, I don't think it sounds like Ladytron. On the other hand, my voice will always sound like Ladytron, there's no way to avoid it and there's some people who have trouble separating it.

Do you think that in Crystal World we will find more personal lyrics that you have written until now?

Definitely. It would have been really weird to make a solo record that wasn't so personal. I am me on this record. I loved having the freedom to take the lyrics where I wanted and I have received a bunch of messages from people who feel they can really relate, some have made me cry.

What is your perspective of the musical industry in the United Kingdom? Do you think there's a healthy environment for indie artists?

I think the musical scene in the United Kingdom is, right now, particularly vibrant. If you live in Scotland, like me, you will see a lot of bands that are doing well. Glasgow is really very well fortified musically. There's a ton of places in the city where bands play every night. I just hope that these artists choose to stay in the city instead of going to London, like it usually happens.

08 August 2013

The Double Negative interview (2013)

Years spent in the bosom of a band means a foray into solo material can often go either way. We caught up with Ladytron's Helen Marnie to talk about her first solo record, Crystal World…

What inspired the album?

I was inspired to write the album because I felt like the timing was spot on and it was a chance to just go for it. I have to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and write, I need to have direction. It's generally just a feeling that comes over me and I know it's time.

When I started working on my solo songs I really felt like I had a lot I needed to get off my chest. I was very productive over a short period. Over those few months a lot happened to inspire me and there was also change on the horizon. That really was the inspiration – looking forward into the unknown.

It was Pledge-funded. First of all, what was that like and do you think you'd prefer to go down a more traditional route in future?

Pledge definitely has its pros and cons. It's a great platform to get music out there, especially without any label assistance. The fun part is probably the interaction with the pledgers. It's like you've got a big family or support network behind you. However, the pledge model is not without fault. I think there needs to be some fine tuning.

The % cut is big, targets are set at the beginning which can be problematic as budgets often change along the way for various reasons. Pledge felt a little like a ticking clock, which I did find a bit stressful at times. In future, if I am lucky enough to make another solo album, I would prefer not to use such a platform though I am not ruling it out of course.

The industry is changing so fast right now. What pledge has taught me is that it doesn't hurt to interact with people. That's something I would do more of, even if I wasn't to release a future album via crowdfunding.

Were you concerned with going solo having been involved with Ladytron for so long?

I was aware of the comparisons that would be made, and that I wouldn't be able to please everyone, but in the end I just thought 'fuck it'. I've won in my eyes by just releasing a record. It's a pretty great feeling.

Was the process of working alone very different, and do you have a taste for it now?

Yes, I think I do have a taste for it. I can be a bit of a control freak in certain situations, and so writing for myself felt great. Being in a band and writing as a band is fun, but just making my own decisions on the record has been amazing. The process wasn't so different to writing for Ladytron. I began solitary and then the production [by Ladytron's Daniel Hunt] really helped take it to the next stage.

What's the audience for Crystal World?

You tell me. My aim was for a more pop record than Ladytron perhaps would've created. I think I've accomplished that. Saying that though, I still think Ladytron fans will get it. I also hoped to branch out a bit. Pull in a different crowd. Time will tell.

You've been attracting some favourable reviews – was it a relief or more like vindication?

I am happy with my record, I guess that is all that matters. It's nice to get a good review, it really is. But, there will always be people that want to knock you down. They will never be satisfied. They can't appreciate what you're trying to do, or the journey that you've been on. So, I just have to get on with it and keep believing.