An au­di­ence with the icon of style and sound

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

Grace Jones strides into our agreed restau­rant ex­actly as ex­pected: tow­er­ing over the wait­ers, in sun­glasses and a flow­ing Issey Miyake coat, an hour late and full of apolo­gies be­cause of it.

“I’m ex­hausted,” the singer, ac­tor, model and all-around bound­ary pusher re­peats, the first of many times she seems to speaks in ac­tual ital­ics. Un­able to sleep the pre­vi­ous night, at 8am Jones found a shop that would sell her a bot­tle of wine to help, but it’s put her off-kil­ter all day.

She was re­cently in Dublin for two ex­tra­or­di­nary shows, and now she is com­ing back for a head­line ap­pear­ance at the Me­trop­o­lis fes­ti­val in the RDS.

“It’s go­ing to be quite dif­fer­ent, be­cause the Dublin shows were a one-time only thing, specif­i­cally for the doc­u­men­tary,” she says, re­fer­ring to the an­tic­i­pated biopic about her, di­rected by So­phie Fi­ennes and pro­duced by Dublin-based Blin­der Films. “It was an idea that So­phie had, to have a per­for­mance where we had com­plete con­trol of the cam­eras, so we knew if we had to stop and start, we’d have time to do that.”

In­deed, the stage de­sign was unique – imag­ined by the late de­signer Eiko Ish­ioka years ago, and res­ur­rected by Fi­ennes specif­i­cally for the doc­u­men­tary.

Cannes do

The aim is to pre­miere it at Cannes next May, a nat­u­ral move a year af­ter the re­lease of Jones’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy I’ll Never Write

MyMe­moirs, in which she chron­i­cled her 40 years as a pi­o­neer­ing artiste, draw­ing to­gether mu­sic, art and fash­ion, re­think­ing gen­der norms, and par­ty­ing with celebri­ties fromJerry Hall to Ti­mothy Leary.

Time has been Jones’s friend. She be­lies her 68 years, still hula-hoop­ing top­less in body paint dur­ing her shows, while the im­por­tance of the trail she blazed­be­comes ever more ap­par­ent. Without her, Lady Gaga’s Haus of Gaga may never have been as­sem­bled. Had she not helped cre­ate the sim­i­lar aes­thetic with her for­mer part­ner Jean-Paul Goude, then Kim Kar­dashian wouldn’t have (hash­tag) bro­ken the in­ter­net. The grow­ing rev­er­ence means the doc­u­men­tary will come at an op­ti­mal time.

“I guess [the doc­u­men­tary] is my ver­sion of re­al­ity TV in a sense. So­phie has been fol­low­ing me for 11 years, so there’s a lot of ma­te­rial,” she says, re­mov­ing her sun­glasses to re­veal her youth­ful eyes – once again, de­fy­ing the laws that ap­ply to the rest of us. “The con­cert was the fi­nal part: af­ter 11 years, there’s no more film­ing, so af­ter­wards was like a wrap party.”

In­deed, post-show, Jones hit the town at the nearby Work­man’s Club, much to the sur­prise of its reg­u­lars.

“I don’t even re­mem­ber how I got home,” she says, ac­com­pa­nied by a gen­er­ous laugh. “It was great. There was a re­ally good DJ and great mu­sic. I hardly go out be­cause when I do my con­certs, it’s like my party. I have some red wine on stage, and if it’s re­ally cold and I’m play­ing out­side in the cold, like a fes­ti­val in Scan­di­navia, I have some whisky. I got that from Pavarotti, ac­tu­ally.”

While in Ire­land, she be­came aware of the Re­peal move­ment, for which she’s promised to lend her sup­port. It’s an is­sue that has af­fected her; in her bi­og­ra­phy, she dis­cussed her own abor­tion, shortly be­fore she and Goude had their only son Paulo in 1979.

Need­ing an­tibi­otics for a se­ri­ously in­fected wound, she was told by doc­tors that the medicine meant her baby would be born without limbs if she didn’t abort. So if any­one un­der­stands the im­por­tance of choice, it’s her.

“It’s all based on re­li­gion, it’s all based on con­trol,” she says, con­sid­er­ing Ire­land’sstance. “Re­li­gion con­trols the women more than men, which is very un­fair.”

The anti-choicers would ar­gue it’s more to do with pro­tect­ing the rights of the foe­tus, I sug­gest.

“We know that’s bull­shit,” she says. “We know that is bull­shit. No, be­cause if I didn’t have an abor­tion, I would have had a child with no arms and legs. It’s got to be your choice, it has to be your choice. I think men are just afraid of women be­ing in con­trol of their bod­ies.”

Does she have any re­grets over her de­ci­sion? “Ab­so­lutely not. No way,” she says, shak­ing her head em­phat­i­cally. “That’s what the doc­tors ad­vised me. I wanted a healthy baby. I knew that it was 90 per cent pos­si­ble to have a child with no arms and no legs. That’s ridicu­lous.”

She opens an arm to­wards Paulo, din­ing in close dis­tance. “And here, that’s my re­sult.”

Per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal

With a mind un­con­cerned with daily life, it’s un­usual for Jones to be­come in­volved in po­lit­i­cal is-

sues. But now more than ever, the per­sonal has be­come po­lit­i­cal, proved again when con­ver­sa­tions turn to­wards Don­ald Trump.

“I can’t be­lieve he ac­tu­ally, pos­si­bly, could be­come pres­i­dent. That is in­sane,” she says. “I’ve met Don­ald Trump a few times and I just know when I look into some­body’s eyes, this guy is a re­ally, re­ally bad guy. I got that from Trump.”

Noth­ing un­to­ward hap­pened; merely a few photo op­por­tu­ni­ties when they shared the same pub­li­cist, John Car­men.

“He was rich but not fa­mous, so we were pho­tographed to­gether a few times be­cause he wanted to be seen with fa­mous peo­ple,” she says. “So he’s smart in that way, but to lis­ten to his rhetoric is just scary. And the peo­ple who are vot­ing for him are sense­less. It’s like things are go­ing back­wards.

“I don’t spend much time in the States even though I have a place in New York and am a US ci­ti­zen, but if Don­ald Trump be­comes pres­i­dent, I’m go­ing to change my cit­i­zen­ship. I know that’s ex­treme, but yes.”

Her mar­bled ac­cent, which also hints of her Parisi­enne past, is proof that she di­vides her time be­tween the US, Lon­don and Ja­maica, where she was raised and now has a part­ner. Given the high pro­file of some of her re­la­tion­ships– Jean-Paul, Dolph Lund­gren, Sven-Ole Thorsen – she’s cho­sen to keep this one out of the lime­light, and keep Ja­maica as a pri­vate place in which to recharge and find in­spi­ra­tion.

“Itry to go for four months ev­ery year, the win­ter months, but prob­a­bly I’ll try spend­ing half my time there soon,” she says. “It’s one of the rich­est places: the stan­dard of liv­ing, the out­doors, the food, the art. It keeps me sane. There’s lots of mu­sic there, a lot of orig­i­nal-think­ing peo­ple there, so it’s a life force.”

When it comes to pop­u­lar cul­ture else­where, she’s spo­ken out about artists who’ve bor­rowed her ideas, but has she lis­tened to any­one re­cently who she ad- mires? “I don’t have the time!” she says, so melo­dra­mat­i­cally we both end up laugh­ing.

“I like Adele, she has an amaz­ing voice, but at the same time, there’s no vi­su­als there. It’s just about the voice, which is fine.

“It’s in this pe­riod, when ev­ery­one is copy­ing, that it’s re­fresh­ing to have some­body fresh. Be­cause with me, there was Cyndi Lau­per, Deb­bie Harry, Talk­ing Heads, who were all a bit weird. It was a pe­riod of com­plete unique­ness in one’s ex­pres­sion, and I was lucky to have peo­ple like that around me.”

It’s sur­pris­ing to hear her speak so self-ef­fac­ingly, given the diva tag that’s fol­lowed her around since her in­fa­mous scuf­fle with chat show host Rus­sell Harty in 1980. Even when dis­cussing her pi­o­neer­ing mix of art and mu­sic, she sim­ply puts it down a re­sult of com­pany she kept: Andy Warhol, Hel­mut New­ton, Keith Har­ing. And far from will­fully try­ing to creat a sell­ing-ice-to-Eski­mos sit­u­a­tion by re­leas­ing a cover of Edith Piaf’s

La Vie en Rose to the French mar­ket back in 1977, it tran­spires that was done without mis­chief.

“I was ig­no­rant of Edith Piaf, I’d never lis­tened to her or heard

La Vie en Rose be­fore,” she says. “When I told peo­ple that I recorded it, they said ‘oh my god, aren’t you scared that peo­ple are go­ing to throw to­ma­toes at you?’ And then I did my home­work. I think in a way it was a good thing, be­cause I didn’t know she’s god to French peo­ple.”

With no plans to step away from the spot­light (“I think re­tire­ment means death, I’d be so bored,” she says) Jones is com­ing to the end of the al­bum she’s been record­ing for the past four years, with ideas for one af­ter that too. She also prom­ises to fol­low up her bi­og­ra­phy with a sec­ond in­stal­ment, de­tail­ing some of the sto­ries that re­main un­ex­plored.

And top­less hula-hoop­ing in body paint? Don’t ex­pect that to stop any­time soon.

“I don’t at­tach any stigma to nu­dity, I see my­self as an African wo­man in that sense,” she says. “I think it’s fine as long as you carry your­self with class.”

No one can ac­cuse her oth­er­wise.

Grace Jones plays the Me­trop­o­lis Fes­ti­val on Nov 5th. See metropol­is­fes­ti­

I’ve met Don­ald Trump a few times and I just know when I look into some­body’s eyes, this guy is a re­ally, re­ally bad guy. I got that from Trump. To lis­ten to his rhetoric is just scary

Grace Jones

“I don’t even re­mem­ber how I got home”

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