ROISIN MURPHY: Interview with the former Moloko songstress

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Photography by Lara Antonelli

Mention the name Roisin Murphy and you may have to endure some quizzical looks from those unbeknownst. Yet, mention the name Moloko and their eyes sharpen with the understanding that she was the sassy minx from the highly successful group. Roisin Murphy is one of the most fashionable, dynamic, unique and mesmerising performers on the planet and Lara Antonelli caught up with her whilst she was in Australia for the V Festival that was happening around the country last week.

Let’s talk new album – tell me about the inspiration behind it.

The first time I felt I was going to write a disco record was a year and a half ago when I went to New York to sing for a DJ named Danny Krivit, who is one of my heroes. He asked me to come out and sing for him at his party, and I felt I had kind of come full circle – it was the same crowd and the same DJ’s as ‘Body & Soul’, which I had been to a few years ago. I wrote ‘Sing It Back’ there because they used to turn down the music and the whole audience would sing the songs back to the DJ’s. So [playing Danny’s party] solidified this thought – ‘I would like to make music for this environment’ – so that was the beginning of the record.

The new album is entitled ‘Overpowered’. Would you say that it was an overpowering and all consuming process to create a second solo album?

It was certainly all consuming. I don’t think in the end it overpowered me. It was quite a scary thing to start to do because I had never worked with the people I was beginning to work with. I was used to a very intimate environment in the studio usually working with only one person [with her first album, Ruby Blue, it was with Matthew Herbert]. So this time I was walking into different environments every week and writing songs with different people. But once I got stuck into it I really enjoyed it.

How was it working with such talented people like Andy Cato from Groove Armada and Ill Factor, did they bring a lot to the creative process?

Every time you go to a new session you learn something else and you take that learning with you to the next session. In Miami, Jimmy Douglas who is an older producer, worked with me on writing and also really pushed me to sing in different registers that he thought suited my voice. He demanded I sing the songs from top to bottom so that he could get a lateral thread of my vocal performance and I then took that with me to another session in Barcelona. You get something different from each producer, each writer, each mixer – you’re learning all the time, it’s really quite amazing.

I know it’s like picking between children, yet do you have a favourite track on the album?

I don’t have a favourite, but there is a track that made me ‘feel the best’. It was at the end of ‘Let Me Know’. It ticked all the boxes – I had done the disco track I had wanted to do. It’s tracks like ‘Let Me Know’ and ‘Overpowered’ that were done with Seiji [producer/ remixer/ DJ] that are the backbone of this album.

It seems like you have been endlessly travelling the globe touring or making albums. What has been your most rewarding trip of late?

Well, to be honest it has been the most amazing trip to come all the way over here to Australia, the other side of the world, and perform tracks to people who appreciate and enjoy my music as much as those back in the UK. It’s crazy over here, I love it.

Where do you most love to travel to?

I have travelled to a lot of cities but it’s usually whilst working or touring, so it’s not much of a vacation. I haven’t been to Africa or India, which I would love to visit. But a favourite city of mine is Istanbul – it’s so lively, there is so much life on the streets and the people are great.

Which artist are you most excited to see at V Festival?

I’ve seen them before, but I just can’t get enough of Queens of the Stone Age. As my Aussie tour manager says [adopting a terrific Aussie accent], ‘They f*cking rock!’

You performed in Melbourne at V Festival a few years back as part of Moloko. You delivered an utterly vigorous and entertaining performance that included stomping on a bouquet of roses. What do you love most about performing on stage?

There are so many things to be aware of – words, arrangements, vague choreography and I’m constantly changing things. You just have to be careful you don’t fall over anything and have to get stitches on your eyebrow like I did in Moscow the other week. I think it’s a case of all things flowing easily and you not having to think too hard. When this happens it’s a feeling of ‘rightness’. It’s not a matter of egotism but you’re like a juggler or a tight rope walker. If it all works, it just feels right.

What is the most outrageous thing you have ever done on stage?

Oh, that’s not like me to do anything outrageous [laughs]. I don’t get my fanny out or anything…..

First Hollywood crush?

Elvis Presley

If you could be any profession in the world, what would you be?

Movie director

Favourite fashion designer?

Vivienne Westwood

Who is iconic to you?

Grace Jones

Favourite movie?

The Night of the Hunter (directed by Charles Laughton – 1955)

Lucky last, your favourite Moloko song to perform live?

Forever More

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