To conclude the build -up to Friday’s Something Going On promotion at Beat Generator Live in Dundee on Friday (4th), Andy Wood talks to headliner, Viv Albertine.
Viv Albertine is probably best remembered for her central role in the punk / post-band band The Slits who released two astounding albums, the legendary Cut and the equally wonderful Return Of The Giant Slits. After The Slits called it a day in 1981 Viv pretty much retired from music, concentrating her focus on film making.
Several years ago she played a peripheral role in the reformed line-up of The Slits but after playing two shows she quickly realised she felt more enthusiastic playing her own material than attempting to recapture past glories, stating that she felt that while the ‘songs were great’ she didn’t feel comfortable singing ‘something I wrote that long ago, because it’s just not relevant now to me’. While being immensely proud of what she achieved with The Slits, Viv felt a renewed enthusiasm in writing and performing both solo and in collaboration with other artists and kindred spirits, literally begininng all over again with performances in small venues and at open mic nights.
Last year she released her debut solo record, the gorgeous Flesh e.p. which was released by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore on his own Ecstatic Peace label. Moore has described her in glowing terms, saying ‘Viv Albertine doesn’t so much turn back time as stop the clock all together!’.
The four songs on the e.p. are simply stunning; gorgeous tunes and lyrics that have a wit and bite that sticks in your head for ages after you’ve played them. My favourite song on the record ‘I Don’t Believe In Love’ is equal parts warmth and lushness countered by a really edgy sound and lyric as Viv sings ‘I Believe in granite / I Believe in mud / I believe in mountains / I don’t believe in love’ while the catchy, infectious ‘If Love’ sees Viv informing us that ‘Love is a temporary madness / Love erases all your sadness’. Equally it is also ‘filling up your holes’.
There’s a real exuberance to Viv’s performance, a maturity and naivety vying with each other, resulting in some utterly brilliant songs. I’d thoroughly recommend buying this exceptional record as soon as you can.
Viv Albertine will release her debut solo album in Spring 2012 and a book is also planned for the time of release. Never one to play it safe, she will also be supporting The Damned on their U.K. tour this December. Catch her in a more intimate setting this Friday at Beat Generator Live!
Viv kindly took time to answer a few questions ahead of Friday’s gig.
I believe these dates will be your first solo dates in Scotland. How are you feeling about touring and what can audiences expect from these dates?
I can’t wait to play Scotland, I always really enjoyed it with The Slits. A totally different type of audience, very warm. As to what the audience can expect, to quote Luis Bunuel ‘I’m not here to entertain you, I’m here to make you feel uncomfortable’.
How has the response been to your solo shows and recordings so far?
The responses have been interesting, people seem to really focus in on the lyrics and listen, which I am pleased about as I love lyrics and take great care writing them.
You ‘retired’ from music after the demise of The Slits for quite a long period. What inspired/motivated you to start writing and performing again after such a long hiatus?
The timing was right, for me personally and the way the world had developed, with the internet, young people embracing all genres of music, it all became much more open.
How do you feel about the continued interest in The Slits? You’ve previously said that they were very much of a time and place and only played a small part in the reformation yet I think the songs and image still really stand-out, are timeless even.
Yes I am very proud of The (original) Slits, our music and our attitude. We always knew we were something special and aimed to make music that would last. It’s just that not many other people could see it at the time.
The new songs are a real joy to hear. How did the ‘Flesh’ e.p. come to be on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace imprint?
I met Thurston back stage at a Sonic Youth gig, 2 years ago. Gina from The Raincoats took me. I told him about these songs I’d recorded and he asked to hear them, he loved The Slits, when he heard them he said I must release them as a document of my progress. I wasn’t sure but he insisted.
Currently you’re working on a new album. How far along are you with that? When can we expect to see it released?
Well at last I can see an end in sight for my album! I’ve raised some money through pledgemusic and Strummerville gave me some too. I’ve still had to beg and borrow to get it done because I’ve used live set ups and musicians and instruments instead of computers it was tricky to organise and fund. Also I don’t have a regular band so sometimes I only found a musician the night before! It all worked out well though. It will be released next spring.
The debut album is being funded through Pledge Music. Can you tell me a little bit about how that works?
People who believe in you and want to help pledge what they can afford and in return they get not just the record (in advance) but other bits and pieces too.
I recently read Zoe Street Howe’s Typical Girls? The Story Of The Slits, a book that I enjoyed a lot. It seems that your experiences of the music industry was quite tumultuous. How do you feel that these experiences in the late 70s/early 80s compare with the current scene? Have things changed at all and in what ways?
Well, young girls (including Zoe) tell me it hasn’t changed that much which is shocking. I have a little more connfidence now, not in my work necessarily but in myself. That goes a long way and saves you time. There are still loads of idiots out ther with huge insecurites trying to manipulate me but now I have the self belief and attitude to tell them to fuck off when I realise what’s going on. We had the attitude back in The Slits days but were more naïve, it took us longer to see what was going on. It was nice being in a group though, it’s very lonely and difficult navigating this industry on my own.
You’ve recorded two Christmas singles. Can you tell me a little about them. Do you have any plans to release one this year?
I did it for a laugh. I want to do one this year but am broke so I’ll have to see what I can rustle up. I usually choose one of my songs and rewrite the lyrics wth a christmassy theme. Apparently The Beach Boys used to do that too.
When you’re not doing music what do you do? Do you find it difficult to find time for writing and recording?
Since I started making music again I can’t believe how many times I say to myself in a day, ‘I’m so happy’, and I am not a naturally happy type of person, more melancholic. I try and play every day partly because I really enjoy it, especially monotonous scale type exercises, and partly because I need to as I stopped playing for so long I can lose my flow very quickly. Keith Levene always said to me, ‘never ever go more than 3 days without playing’.