“I’ve al­ways had health prob­lems, and my bipo­lar ill­ness was a big fac­tor – but I was al­ways, al­ways writ­ing”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

Oh Bondage, Up

Kristin Hersh has spo­ken at length of how her own bipo­lar ex­pe­ri­ences are both a curse and a bless­ing for creativ­ity, and El­liott-Said feels sim­i­larly.

“She’s right. You get ups and downs. When I was in hos­pi­tal one nurse told me that be­ing bipo­lar was the ‘ge­nius ill­ness’ be­cause they treated so many cre­ative peo­ple. It’s pretty much un­der con­trol at the mo­ment, and af­ter this al­bum I feel a bit de­pleted on all fronts. I’m not ready for an­other one just yet. It’s too hard at the mo­ment. Not that what I do is so­cial com­men­tary, but I couldn’t cope with all that right now.”

The fizzing pop and reg­gae in­flu­ences on the tunes mask many of the themes tack­led. Her Kr­ishna faith, which she says is help­ing her through her ill­ness, is ex­plored in Elec­tric Blue Mon­soon. Poly Styrene is ve­he­ment that she’s not a protest singer, but is in­ter­ested in what’s go­ing on in the world around her. Code Pink Dub ex­am­ines the war in Iraq, while No Rock­e­feller ref­er­ences poverty in the re­ces­sion, but she echews the role of polemi­cist.

“I couldn’t help writ­ing about those sub­jects. I’m re­ally tuned in to cur­rent af­fairs, so I just chan­nelled what came through. These songs are just where my head was at at the time, but I’m glad I’m not writ­ing the al­bum now. Things are even worse. There are still wars, but now we have Libya, the disas­ter in Ja­pan . . . I can’t look at the news now.”

In spite of these themes, the mu­si­cal map here is very up­beat. I Luv Your Sneak­ers, a text-speak ode of disco-punk, demon­strates why ev­ery­one from Beth Ditto to Karen O cites her as an in­flu­ence. “I think of this as my first up­beat al­bum. It’s feel-good. To me – al­though it doesn’t sound like Translu­cence – there is some­thing about the two al­bums that’s sim­i­lar. I wrote the lyrics and melodies, but I wasn’t con­sciously try­ing to make it into any­thing spe­cific.”

Re­mark­ably, her voice still sounds very young, and it’s easy to imag­ine a Do­rian Gray fig­ure with age­ing vo­cal cords stuck in an at­tic some­where. Then there are the times – pos­si­bly due to a sim­i­lar pop pitch res­o­nance in their voices – when she sounds like Deb­bie Harry. “Re­ally? I wasn’t think­ing of her, but I re­ally like her voice.”

Gen­er­a­tion Indigo was pro­duced by Killing Joke’s Youth, and recorded in Spain. “He makes you work very hard and he’s a big fan of hooks, so he made me write more verses as we were work­ing. He pushes you, but that was quite good for me.”

Slits mem­ber Viv Al­ber­tine guests on the al­bum, as does El­liott-Said’s sis­ter and her 29-year-old daugh­ter, Ce­leste Bell Dos Santos, who is a mu­si­cian and teacher based in Madrid and pro­vided back­ing vo­cals. Mother and daugh­ter are very close. “She’s got a re­ally lovely voice. It was great to have her over to sing with me. I’ve al­ways liked her voice and she re­ally en­hanced songs like White Gold and Kitsch. There’s a real sense of her en­ergy in the songs, and she’s a re­ally lovely per­son.”

Bell is due to re­turn to Eng­land to help her mother with her mo­bil­ity and gen­eral health. I sug­gest that they should get hold of a por­ta­ble recorder and per­haps record some mu­sic to­gether. “We were think­ing that ac­tu­ally, even just in terms of writ­ing songs for other peo­ple, be­cause Youth also asked us if we’d like to write for other peo­ple. We may end up as a song­writ­ing team, but then she writes slightly more po­lit­i­cal songs than me.”

Record­ing and play­ing can be ar­du­ous at the best of times, and the singer is aware of what she can’t do at the mo­ment.

“I can hardly walk be­cause the cancer is in my spine. It caused frac­tures, but ap­par­ently it’s heal­ing. I’m not quite there with my mo­bil­ity, so I wouldn’t be able to stand on stage and I don’t want to ap­pear on stage in a wheel­chair.”

The in­ter­view is clearly tiring for the singer, but there is a spark in her voice when she talks of the songs. Our in­ter­view comes to a close when an am­bu­lance ar­rives to take her back to the hospice. It’s a dis­com­bob­u­lat­ing end to things, with staff au­di­ble in the back­ground, but Poly Styrene is up­beat and res­o­lute, even with her part­ing thoughts. “I’d re­ally like to per­form these songs live. We’ll just have to keep our fin­gers crossed and see how well I do.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.