Charlotte Hatherley

A Blue Conversation with Charlotte Hatherley

Surely one of the most surprising reinventions of 2007 so far was that of Charlotte Hatherley’s excellent “The Deep Blue” album. Thankfully she doesn’t LOOK too different – she’s still a foxy rock chick – but musically she’s gained a much sharper edge than U2 are ever likely to have.
I had a ball talking to the erstwhile best looking member of Ash for half an hour or so. Edgar Wright, you’re a lucky bastard…

CH: (sounding rather over-excited) Hellooooo!!

AD: Er….helloooooo!

CH: Oh, sorry, I’m a little over-excited at the moment…

AD: No shit…

CH: Ha-ha, I just had an email from David Bowie’s people telling me that he’s heard my new album and really likes it! I’m on a bit of a high at the moment.

AD: I can understand exactly why he likes it too. It’s rather a drastic departure from the style of “Grey Will Fade”…

CH: Well, that’s probably because, although I was 24 when “Grey Will Fade” was being made, I’d written all the songs on it when I was 18 or 19. As you know I left Ash last year and it was like I woke up after pretty much being drunk for 5 years. I wrote all the songs for “The Deep Blue” shortly after I left the band, so I had a whole year to hone them and work on them. Basically I was a little bit older and a little bit wiser.
This time around I wanted there to be a marriage of the pop sound of my first album with stuff like the Beach Boys, and Eric (Drew Feldman) was getting into Captain Beefheart, so I probably drew some influence from there. XTC were a major reference point too…

AD: and you worked with Andy Partridge on “Dawn Treader”, didn’t you?

CH: Oh that was an amazing experience. I just couldn’t believe I was in his front room with the acoustic guitar going through all this stuff. He was full of advice for me – a really lovely guy – it’s a pity XTC were treated so badly by the music industry because he’s one of the nicest guys you could wish to meet, and so funny too! A proper British eccentric. I’d love to get him to do something live with me, but I doubt if I’ll be able to persuade him.

AD: Were you apprehensive about setting up your own label to release this album?

CH: I did feel quite nervous about it at first, but I didn’t think I was going to be doing it completely independently; I just presumed I’d get a label, and it was so disheartening when I realised it wasn’t going to be as easy as that, but then when I met with Vital, everything became really exciting. They were like “OK, we get it” and I didn’t feel like I had to convince anyone. That lifted the pressure off the situation,

AD: What made you decide to write the album in Italy?

CH: Rob Ellis had been in loads of Italian bands in the past, and he knew of this studio which Steve Albini had previously been the only non-Italian to use, so we thought that would be really cool. I did the demos while I was still there with Ash, and there were some beautiful restaurants there by the sea as well, so the whole thing just seemed so laid back. There was no sense of urgency and the only pressure I was getting was from myself. It was all very casual and I work better in that kind of situation.

AD: A lot of the songs on the album seem to deal with the breakdown of relationships…

CH: Yeah, that IS a recurring theme, now you come to mention it. I think it’s more difficult to write love songs without sounding overly sentimental. It’s much easier to write about devolving. That’s happened to me a lot over the years and most of those songs are from experience. And I was apart from my boyfriend (cult UK film director Edgar Wright) for most of last year so you can kind of draw on that feeling of loneliness sometimes…

AD: So then, if the songs are based on previous boyfriends, here’s your ideal opportunity to dish the dirt on them…

CH: (laughs) I’m not doing that…

AD: Ah come on, “Very Young” seems rather bitter and twisted to me…

CH: Well ok then, you’re right – that was based on the experience I had when I lost my virginity to a guy much older than me…he was in his forties – when I was sixteen!
It didn’t seem strange to me at the time, but when I got older and looked back, it seemed really quite creepy.

AD: Ah, but was he a nice bloke?

CH: (laughs) No, he was a complete arsehole!

AD: Someone who evidently is NOT an arsehole is Eric Drew Feldman, who you worked with once again on the new album. What do you think he brings to your recordings?

CH: Oh he’s just brilliant at arrangement. I’ll maybe do a rough demo at home and I always need someone like Eric to come in and say “You don’t need that bit there”, or “You could do with an extra whatever there”. He also writes amazing string and piano parts – Rob does as well – between the two of them they’re so talented that my guitar took a backseat really. Kate Bush is our benchmark – she’s my ultimate musical idol – and the pair of them are always open to the pop aspect of her work as well as the more creative side. I think that comes across in “The Deep Blue”.

AD: Tell me then…what DO you have to do to behave?

CH: Ha ha. I think I need to take a cold shower…(NB This is not an unpleasant image that Charlotte has put in my mind, to be fair…)

AD: I always think those lyrics make you sound like a real “bad girl”, so what’s the maddest, baddest thing you’ve ever done?

CH: Oh I couldn’t possibly divulge that! I’ve done lots of really bad things that I shouldn’t divulge.

AD: Worse than shagging a 45 year old bloke when you were sixteen?

CH: (laughs) Um…yeah, probably. I’ll let you use your imagination…


(Charlotte laughs a very dirty sounding laugh – and I apologise here, readers, if my mind has wandered off somewhat…)

CH: That song, “Behave”, was inspired by the film “Secretary”. I really loved that because it was such an unlikely story about wanting to reach out and touch somebody you could never really have. And James Spader was so sexy in it, and at the same time so vulnerable.

AD: So is that your favourite track on the album then?

CH: It’s one of them, but I love “Again” and “Siberia”. That one was a complete pain in the arse to record, because it was the last one we did and we only had three days left. Then the engineer’s back was in agony with sciatica, Rob hurt his leg, we had loads of hold ups and we just didn’t think we were going to get it finished in time. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but, in a perverse way, because it was so difficult, it became one of my favourites.

AD: Ok, I am your genie. I will grant you three wishes. What are they?

CH: Oh ok, firstly I wish that the risk I took will pay off this year. Second, I wish for Bowie to take me out on tour with him, and finally I wish that next year I’ll do something that’s produced by Nigel Godrich.

AD: Blimey that was quick! A girl who knows exactly what she wants! Now then, last time I interviewed you, I asked how you fend off over amorous male groupies, and you replied that you didn’t have any. Has this changed now you’ve gone solo?

CH: Ooh it might do, mightn’t it? I think when I went on tour last time, a lot of my audience were intimidated by me – a girl up on stage with a guitar. I think there’s a common misconception that I’m an ice cold rock chick, and I’m really not like that at all…

AD: I’m not scared of ya…

CH: Good! Anyway, hopefully my audience will be a bit older this time. Not TOO old though. I’m not going down THAT route again!

Damn. Not only is she smart, sexy, multi-talented and funny, she also appears to be able to read my mind. Oh well, all that’s left to say is that if you don’t pick up Charlotte’s recent album, there is a gaping hole in your CD collection that needs to be filled sooner than later. Otherwise you’ll be feeling deeply blue. Oh dear.

Inquisitor: Tone E

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