TRACEY THORN: THE COOLEST MUM IN POP

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

The Ev­ery­thing But The Girl woman is back with a fab new dance record called Record.

How­ever well they think they know their par­ents, for a gay teenager there is al­ways that mo­ment of think­ing, ‘Are mum and dad go­ing to be cool with this?’

“Miss­ing” for years as a stayat-home mum, Ev­ery­thing But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn re­turns tri­umphantly as queen of the dance­floor, writes Marc An­drews.

Tracey Thorn has been mak­ing mu­sic for the bet­ter part of four decades. She’s best known as half of Ev­ery­thing But The Girl with part­ner, and later hus­band, Ben Watt.

This year, af­ter a seven-year break to es­cort her kids through ado­les­cence, Tracey re­turns with a new solo al­bum ti­tled Record. Even bet­ter news, it’s a re­turn to the “melan­choly on the dance­floor” vibe that has kept Ev­ery­thing But The Girl’s Miss­ing and sub­se­quent hits like Tracey In My Room as peren­nial club clas­sics.

Record, led by killer an­them Queen, is eas­ily her gayest al­bum yet, pos­si­bly in­spired by Tracey hav­ing a gay daugh­ter. She launched the al­bum at OTT gay Lon­don party night, Duckie with host­ess Amy Lamé and, af­ter­wards, guest DJ-ed, spin­ning a few of her own dance­floor faves.

In Lon­don, shar­ing cook­ies and girlie gig­gles, DNA met up with the af­fa­ble and ar­tic­u­late Ms Thorn to talk about her ca­reer-best new Record, her daugh­ter’s com­ing out, and bump­ing into Ge­orge Michael on the school run! DNA: This is prob­a­bly the gayest record you’ve ever made.

Tracey: [Laugh­ing]. Now that’s say­ing some­thing! The al­bum’s track list­ing looks like a drag queen put it to­gether – Queen, Sis­ter, Face, Dance­floor…

True. When I started writ­ing the songs I had a page in my note­book where I was writ­ing down sin­gle words that would map out a woman’s life – it might be me, it might be another woman. A real woman?

[Gig­gles]. Yeah! It wasn’t like I was do­ing a con­cept al­bum but there was a sense that, maybe, there would be this through line. It gives it a kind of clar­ity.

You have de­scribed this al­bum as “9 fem­i­nist bangers”.

[Gig­gles]. Yes. I’ve done this in the past, too – writ­ten songs about things that don’t usu­ally get writ­ten about in songs.

You’ve talked, in the past, about never tour­ing again. Has that changed?

No. I still don’t have any de­sire to. In the past I strug­gled but I was mo­ti­vated to over­come stage fright. I wanted to be in a band and prove I could do it. I forced my­self through it. I did it for years and don’t feel [now] that I need to prove any­thing to any­one. Given that I don’t en­joy it, I think I can let my­self off the hook. You once said you found per­form­ing as Ev­ery­thing But The Girl rather boring be­cause it was like a recital. With this al­bum you could re­ally un­leash your in­ner-drag queen on stage!

You could do a full dance­floor num­ber, but then half the au­di­ence would be a bit cross think­ing, “Oh, I just want to sit down and lis­ten to a bal­lad!” You can’t please ev­ery­one. EBTG’s 1996 megahit Miss­ing must have paid your mort­gage and still be pay­ing roy­al­ties. [Nods]. Yeah. What hap­pened to it was com­pletely un­ex­pected to ev­ery­one, even af­ter we had the Todd Terry remix. Then it went to #1 in the US dance charts and all this hap­pened af­ter our la­bel had just dropped us. It just goes to show that any­thing can hap­pen in pop mu­sic. It proves that there are no rules and you can’t con­trol a hit record; it’s out of your hands. Of all your back cat­a­logue, why was Miss­ing such a mega hit?

[Shrugs]. The lyrics re­ally hit home with peo­ple. It’s melan­choly on the dance­floor. It’s very

po­tent and in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful. Peo­ple just took it to their hearts.

You must be very proud of that.

If you can achieve that once in your life, it’s amaz­ing. We had long since given up think­ing we’d ever have a hit sin­gle. We thought be­ing an al­bums band was lovely. To have a hit, when you have stopped look­ing for one, is prob­a­bly even more fun.

And then you went on to work with Mas­sive At­tack on the hit Pro­tec­tion.

Ac­tu­ally, I’d done the Mas­sive At­tack thing be­fore Miss­ing was a hit. We did Walk­ing Wounded as the fol­low-up be­cause we thought it was new and ex­cit­ing.

It be­came the first drum-and-bass track to make it into the UK top ten.

It was, yeah. No one ex­pected us to be the ones to do that, so never take any­one for granted. [Laughs].

Af­ter EBTG, your part­ner (and hus­band) Ben Watt went on to be­come a big-name DJ. You didn’t want to fol­low him in that?

He took that on, pretty much, be­cause I’d re­treated into be­ing at home with the kids. That was all-ab­sorb­ing to me. I went through my über-do­mes­tic phase and didn’t want any­thing else. For Ben it meant Ev­ery­thing But The Girl re­tir­ing at the peak of their ca­reer. In­stead of moan­ing about it, he started a dance la­bel and im­mersed him­self in that scene. It was ac­tu­ally a bril­liant time be­cause, apart from when he was off trav­el­ling as a DJ, he was run­ning the la­bel at home. We had lit­tle kids run­ning around on the floor and 12” sin­gles ev­ery­where and pumping dance mu­sic through­out the day. It was good fun.

Weren’t you and Ben also good friends with Ge­orge Michael?

He was some­one we bumped into and he was al­ways lovely. With other artists you, maybe, don’t even get the time of day, but Ge­orge was al­ways re­ally friendly. Once, when I was push­ing a pushchair, he came past in his Range Rover. The tinted win­dow came down and he called out, “Hi Tracey!” I turned around and said, “Who’s that? Oh, it’s Ge­orge.” I got a lot of ku­dos with the mums, as you can imag­ine. You’ve writ­ten two au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal books. Any plans for more?

I’m just fin­ish­ing book three. It’s the bit preBed­sit Disco Queen [her first book] about grow­ing up in sub­ur­bia in the weird­ness of small town 1970s and how to es­cape it.

Are you aware EBTG had a big gay fol­low­ing? Yeah, and from quite early on, too, pre-dat­ing our dance era. The gay fol­low­ing was al­ways a part of it. When I met fans or read let­ters from fans, I be­gan to see that there was a pat­tern emerg­ing. [Laughs]. I could see where we were ap­peal­ing, which was great.

Are there many gay peo­ple in your cir­cle? [Laughs]. Yeah. One of my daugh­ters came out in her mid-teens. She runs the LGBT so­ci­ety at her uni. Does that mean we’ll see you at Pride Events with PFLAG (Par­ents And Friends Of Les­bian And Gays)?

My daugh­ter hasn’t let me go with her… or doesn’t want me there! She went to her first Pride a few years ago and that was an amaz­ing mo­ment as she went off with her friends and a rain­bow flag.

Was it easy for you, as a mum, when she came out? How­ever well they think they know their par­ents, for a gay teenager there is al­ways that mo­ment of think­ing, “Are mum and dad go­ing to be cool with this?” Of course, it was cool with us! [Laughs]. There’s lots of clues dot­ted through our mu­sic and our group of friends, like Ge­orge Michael. Around the time of the Or­lando night­club shoot­ing I wrote a col­umn in The New Statesman about her com­ing out. I wrote it from the per­spec­tive that, when it comes down to your own flesh and blood, you feel it in your blood.

What do your kids think of your mu­si­cal ca­reer now?

They are very sweet. They are old enough now that their friends are in­ter­ested and it’s a bit more ex­cit­ing. There’s a bit of ca­chet now in say­ing, “My mum’s on Spo­tify!” [Laughs].

The beauty of your new al­bum is you can dance and lis­ten to it.

I’ve al­ways liked records that do both. I’ve never be­lieved that as soon as you put a beat on some­thing it [au­to­mat­i­cally be­comes] bland or generic. Peo­ple can dance and think at the same time, mirac­u­lously, and peo­ple can also dance at the same time as it’s sad. It’s that thing, again, of melan­choly on the dance­floor. I like that com­bi­na­tion.

Do you have any melan­choly dance­floor favourites?

Well, Pet Shop Boys ob­vi­ously en­cap­su­late that. There’s some­thing, even in their most up­lift­ing songs, about Neil Ten­nant’s voice.

You never wanted to work with them?

I’ve been wait­ing 20 years to be asked! [Laughs]. Have you ever danced to Miss­ing, or one of your own songs, in a club?

I ac­tu­ally have. [Laughs]. Ben was DJ-ing and af­ter­wards some­one else came on and played Miss­ing or Tracey In My Room and I was with a lit­tle group of friends. Then I ended up in the mid­dle of this throng. It’s very eu­phoric and cel­e­bra­tory. Quite fun.

Any plans to go out danc­ing with this record? I am do­ing my launch event at Duckie with Amy Lamé. I’m go­ing to play a few records. It’s pretty much any­thing goes at Duckie, which is good. The first one I play might be Gyp­sies, Tramps And Thieves by Cher. That’s a good one to start off with. Speak­ing of grand mu­sic di­vas, it’s nice to have you back.

Thank you very much.

TRACEY SAYS… “PEO­PLE CAN DANCE AND THINK AT THE SAME TIME… I LIKE MELAN­CHOLY ON THE DANCE­FLOOR.”

ONE OF TRACEY’S THREE AU­TO­BI­OGRA­PHIES.

RECORD.

(ABOVE) TRACEY’S NEW AL­BUM

(ABOVE) TRACEY WITH BEN WATT, AKA EV­ERY­THING BUT THE GIRL.

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