She says she draws influence from “Eastern European children’s cinema, Germanic kunstmärchen, 70s television music and early murmurs of 80s synth-pop”. Tuff Life Boogie’s contribution to Ladyfest the night also includes acts from her Bird Records label of femme folk and beyond, including Paper Dollhouse, Magpahi and Emma Tricca. DJ Andy Votel will be DJing throughout the evening. Tickets are £8 and doors open at 7pm.
You were in a band in the 90s called ‘Kill Laura’, who were signed to a big record label at the height of the CD sales-funded industry boom. What was the biggest gratuitious waste of money you came across during that time? Do you have any tales of Baccahanalian excess you can share with us?
The main thing we spent money on was recording costs. We were a hard working band and rehearsed almost every day and recorded a lot too. We spent some time recording in Parr St Studios in Liverpool and that cost a lot of money per day, and although it was a good experience recording in a nice studio, we did seem to fritter money, when I then received my first publishing advance I did not spend it wisely either, I’d never had access to thousands of pounds, so I went out a lot, went on holiday, bought a campervan.... that kind of thing.
Now you’re putting your music out through your own label, Bird Records, do you prefer it now you have less money but more control?
Whatever situation I’ve been in it’s never stopped me writing or wanting to create music. Control always becomes an issue when there’s more money and people involved, there are more opinions and you end up having massive rows about what you believe because it’s your music, I felt because I was I girl too I had to shout louder for people to listen, there were lots band versus management versus industry arguments. I’ve fallen out with people along the way, and had to sack people and stuff and there’s been tears, usually mine. I love the cameraderie of being in a band, it can be the best laugh ever, but it’s also hard work keeping a happy ship. Doing stuff through Bird is very creatively liberating, the best thing about it is that it allows me to take no notice of the world outside the one I’m trying to create, I’ve tucked myself away into a very different land where it can take longer to record, but my records come out quicker which is good.
Who are the women featured in the pictures on your website and what influence have they had on your music?
Emma Tricca, Lights, Bonnie Dobson, me, Magpahi, Cate Le Bon; Heather Jones, Selda, Lispector, Brigitte Fontaine, Wendy and Bonnie, Turid, Speck Mountain, Susan Christie, Heaven and Earth...basically most of the people off the Bird Compilation ‘Bearded Ladies ‘ . I take note of stuff past and present, I never dismiss something because it’s not ‘on trend’, I’ve learned to appreciate that ‘new’ music can be from any era. Initially Bird wasn’t like a political thing, but how could it not be? There’s still massive gender imbalance within the music industry and I feel compelled to contribute and bring music to people’s attention which may in the past been dismissed because of industry reasons. It’s amazing how competitive women have to be against each other in order to go forward, I’m into sisterhood and trying to work together.
There are some trippy psychedelic tracks on your last album, ‘The Fallen By Watchbird’ and I have heard that you were a teenage metal-head. How far did you take this? When did you manage to integrate back into society and was it painful?
I’ve seen Hawkwind quite a few times...along with many,many other bands under the ‘Metal/Rock’ umberella .When I got into metal and psychedelic rock all my friends were into the beginnings of ‘Madchester’, I remember watching The Stone Roses at Spike Island and thinking ‘this is very boring’. I would have much prefered to be at Donnington, trying to get off with Metallica. I eventually stopped dyeing my hair blue and starting dressing like Julie Christie and going to 60s clubnights, my Mum and Dad said ‘Thank God you stopped wearing that nosering!’..but I still love Bikers and METAL.
People who’ve seen you live marvel at the way you present the music from ‘Watchbird’, which is quite complex at times, on your lonesome. Can you give any techy readers out there a quick run through of your set-up and what’s going to happen on stage? Is it a conscious decision not to rely on a laptop?
The combination is a closely guarded secret recipe It comprises of instruments I’ve cullated/aquired over the years accidently plus analogue backing. I’m not against using laptops, I’m just not brilliant at that and its not as interactive as the audience seeing what I’m doing. There’s also the chance of batteries running out on stuff, I like to make a few of the tracks sound different each time I play them otherwise I get bored.
You DJ regularly too, what are your most popular dance-floor tunes and biggest floor-clearing failures?
I mainly DJ rock and pop, I will play Def Leppard along with Racey, songs that people secretly like, the truth always comes out after a few drinks! If you want to clear a dance floor play Golden Brown by The Stranglers..a great song but not many people can dance to it, same goes for Prince Charming by Adam Ant.... if you can’t remember the dance routine, forget it. I also do a room at Guilty Pleasures Manchester so popular tunes that I play are soft rock/ AOR like Cher, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, I can honestly say people always dance all night at GP.
Watchbird was turned into a film, a children’s book and a tote bag. Are there any more spin-offs in the pipeline?
As part of the next album I intend to do a short film, something that covers 3 of the tracks.. like an epic video. I’ve been writing and story boarding some ideas so hopefully it will happen in conjunction with the release.
You last played Preston in Jan 2012, what have you and Bird Records been up to since then?
I’ve been writing and recording my next album, its taking ages so far but now the end is in sight, I recorded a few tracks in L.A at the very start which was an amazing experience, but majorly its been recorded down the road from my house in Stockport, I’m very lucky to have a great studio on my doorstep. Bird Records last releases included The ERC album featuring Maxine Peake ‘1612 Underture’ , and Suzanne Cianni ‘Seventh Wave’. New releases will include Emma Tricca’s new album, and mine when its finished! Next year has a few surprises in store old and new, in fact just got hold of something yesterday which will be an awesome release if it happens.
This show is part of Preston Ladyfest. Have you played any Ladyfests before and what did you think of them?
I played one in London a few years back, I was very enthused to be part of it, and met some lovely people some of whom I still know now. I’m a feminist and have always championed and promoted female music, the music industry is still very much oddly unbalanced. You shouldn’t be constricted by your gender if you want to be creative and work.
Apart from Bird Records artists, who would you include if you were asked to curate a Ladyfest yourself, with an unlimited budget?
Yoko Ono headlining, I’d also have Carrie Fisher on stage doing ‘What a bastard the world is’ Carly Simon with Todd Rungren, Agnetha from Abba, Yvonne Elliman singing songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, Gong, Baccara, I’d also reform/ resurrect the GTO’s
Is Andy Votel going to be doing anything special for Ladyfest, eg: trouser suit, unobtrusive make-up, trip to hairdressers, matching accessories?
Feminists have many guises...
There’s a big debate in Preston at the moment over the future of the brutalist-designed 60s Bus Station, which was recently listed but may still be demolished by the council. What would you do, keep it or knock it down?
There used to be a concrete housing estate in Runcorn called Southgate, it was attched to Runcorn Shopping City which was also amazing, it was a futuristic design like something from Space 1999 or Eastern Europe and became quite run down, people used to only go there in the end to party and buy drugs, but I always think they shouldn’t have knocked it down as it was so unique. On the basis of this I’d probably just do a refurb.. keeping the design but modernising the interior if it’s possible?
We know you played the Belle and Sebastian ATP festival in Minehead last year, and you must be in demand for the more boutique summer festivals like Green Man or End of The Road, but would you attend in a tent or cop out and get a B&B?
At the minute I’m doing a festival in Paris in May, maybe another in Spain. I’ve just returned from L.A. were I did some songs with David Holmes who is also a friend so it was a great experience, plan is to spend the summer recording my next album. If any festivals in the UK come up I’ve still got my campervan so it’s perfect for that, but if the weather is rubbish a B+B is a must.