This interview was originally published in Issue #1, September 2007.
How did the album campaign go then? Was there a particular amount of money you were aiming for?
is a Barbados born, Scottish woman living in London. Knowing this alone proves that she’s far from dull, and her music carefully echoes her quirky background.
Her lyrics are beautiful strums and coos carved from a rock most artists choose to ignore. And, as it happens, so do record labels. Thankfully not one to give up, Kat’s bravely opted to take the independent route and her new album Dirty Birds
is due for release on her own label Idioglossia soon [As it transpired, a year later
- future Ed].
talks to Kat about the Album Rescue Plan, her influences and how she’s constructed the perfect album.
The only amount I had in mind was ‘enough’ - I had no idea how many people would be up for helping me out, or even f anyone
would... It was a bit nerve-wracking, but I had all sorts of back-up plans in my mind to fit my ambitions with my budget... or lack of. Originally, I’d secured some label funding, and I’d booked the recording time, so when the cash fell through I was in a bit of a mess. I guess I could have cancelled, but I’m too stubborn – I’d psyched myself up to make an album, and I was going to make it dagnammit! Hence asking random strangers for help... In two months I raised close to three grand. Someone offered me a thousand pounds to have lunch with them, but I politely declined that one... Still. It could have been four grand!! Damn my morals.
So you found it hard to get a signing you were happy with?
Starting my own label meant I got to name it! I’m easily pleased... So now I have ‘Idioglossia’, which means ‘a private, shared language’. Sums up the relationship between artist and audience pretty nicely, and if it works out, I’m potentially in a much better position than some signed artists. I’m not really one to wait for permission to do things, and aside from the financial/logistical side, that’s all a record deal really is – permission and validation from someone else to do what you want to be doing. If you’re prepared to put in the work, anyone can manufacture a CD, set up distribution, write press releases... the whole lot. It’s not an easy ride though.
When do you think the album will be officially released?
All top secret, until the album donors get their advance copies! As for the ‘proper’ release schedule, it’ll depend on lots of boring logistical things... but within the next few months, without a doubt.
Is it a similar sound to your debut EP “The Secret Boys Club”? Or are you following in the footsteps of recent solo artists and playing weird instruments like the ukulele and the accordion?
I’ve always played weird instruments! No ukelele, mind - I veer more towards boxes and suitcases and things I’ve made myself. Gingergreen built a Rhythm Engine, which was a bathroom shower rack adorned with random, noise-making things. We created an ace hi-hat-alike contraption from a scalpel and a handful of X-Men dog tags that came free with a box of cereal. Everything was held together with elastic bands... The album is like the EP, but more so. There are cellos and violins and trumpets and pianos and extra voices... and parcel tape. And scissors.
Your Scotland based band gingergreen are obviously still close to your heart…do Andrew Thompson and Robin Mogendorff appear on the album?
They’re there in spirit... Andrew on one shoulder going “Put some robots in! Put some squeaky, scrapey things in!” and Robin on the other shoulder going “Just...don’t...fuck with it...” Andrew made it down to London two days after the producer left the country, which was unfortunate, but he’s a big fancy doctor up in Edinburgh now, so I guess saving lives is a pretty good excuse for missing a recording session. I’ll let him off. This time.
Are you planning to release anything with them or are they going to remain a live performance only thing?
Funny you should ask – Andy was down playing me the final mixes of the Gingergreen album, which we’re finally going to release in an informal way. We recorded it in 2004 but never finished it because I moved to London all of a sudden, at a week’s notice... It’s a lot more lo-fi than my more recent stuff, all recorded in a week on borrowed equipment, in the living room of Andy’s flat. The vocals are raw and unpolished, and a lot of the time we only had one mic and an 8-track, but we excelled ourselves – I did a lot of standing on plant pots to bring me up to Andy’s height so we could double on vocals! It has a definite wonky charm, with giggles and coughs and the odd bum note. It’s very special to me.
The internet has really been picking up on you recently; you have nearly 3000 friends on MySpace! Would you say that websites like this have got you more fans than the notorious New Lyric Award you won last year?
Absolutely. The award sounds good, but has had very little effect in terms of fans – although it did allow me to spend a week in remote valley writing new material, so it was definitely worthwhile. My audience has been built up through constant gigging and via the internet – the album has been funded thanks to the internet, by people who stumbled across me on Myspace. It’s kinda cool. Next I need to conquer the music bloggers!
There was a massive demand for singer/songwriters only a few years ago, and now artists seem to have to have a quirk to gain a lot of attention. Do you think we exhausted the sound?
Ah... there was an influx of really dull people with enormous marketing budgets, and now the rest of us are paying the price! The cult of the songwriter is far from dead though – it’s not something that can be killed, because its roots run so deep. You can’t exhaust the telling of stories, so whilst people are tiring of slick, shiny, overproduced solo artists there will always be room for individuals. The folk renaissance is a very obvious example of that. It’s not about being ‘quirky’, but it is
about being interesting – whether you do it by dressing up, or making out that you were raised in the mountains, or just by having something unique to say, it all adds up to the same thing. Fads pass, and in the long run, music will be judged on its own merit – who cares if there’s one of you or five of you, or if you grew up in a kibbutz or smoke a pipe... it’s what you say that’s important.
What do you think of contemporary up and coming artists? Anyone we’re missing out on?
There’s so much talent kicking about and falling through the cracks, you could spend a lifetime trying to get through it all. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. Can I do a folktastic namecheck? All the musicians and singers I roped in to play on my album are ace: Jess Bryant, Nicholas Hirst, Revere, David Peters, It Hugs Back, Andy Raeburn, Rhys Marsh and the Autumn Ghost... Also Artisan. And Sam Carter. And Blue Rose Code. And Charlie Calleja.... Seriously – I could go on like this for hours. I love plenty of loud, leftfield stuff too, but I find that most of the acts the indie kids rave about are pretty disappointing. I’ve yet to figure out whether it’s them or me who’s missing the point.
Who would you most like to collaborate with in the future?
Mylo’s producer got in touch recently totally out of the blue, so there are tentative talks about working on something more dance-oriented, but who knows. For now I’m concentrating on getting a permanent collection of multi-instrumentalists together. I’d really
love to do something with a band like dEUS, because I envy the way they put together songs. Obviously this is me thinking big. Waaaaaay in the future.
Cheers for letting me interview you Kat, hope the album does really well, you deserve it!