Chatting to Ariana Grande about pop stress, being single and her brother Frankie.

We’re sat in the side room downstairs at Another Fancy London Hotel.  Ariana sits in front of me in a baggy sweater, no lippy, hair scraped back (obviously) in that pony tail. PR to the left of me, publicist/manager/pa to the right, here I am stuck in the middle while in the far corner it transpires that her childhood friend is waiting. She frequently tilts her head back and roars laughing at Ariana’s responses. Earlier I’d watched the obsessive fans - about 15 of them all aged about 15 - speculate about where she was in the freezing cold and previous wet downpour. Two of them tried and failed to sneak into the hotel, whereas Ariana spent the whole time with her back to a window out to the street. Should these teenage fans have walked past and jumped up, they could’ve got a glipse of that ponytail.


A long distance phonecall with Charli XCX

So this was a frustrating interview, purely from a technical point of view. I bloody love Charli XCX, and much like her career has just crept up on everyone, so has my love of her songs. I’ve often noted how I get obsessed with one singular track and put it on endless repeats, and the mid-album single SuperLove has taken a serious hammering chez Bob. The album Sucker is amazing, like all the best bits of Shampoo mixed in with my favourite elements of electronic pop. So my only frustration was that our phone connection - from San Francisco to Brixton - kept dropping out. I’d just spoken to Anne Rice in New Orleans just minutes before this chat with no problem, so I’ll blame her phone. Anyway here goes:

I’m gonna start with the first time I saw you play, which was in Munich at the Queerbeats festival, at the start of 2009...

In Munich? Oh yeah, wow. With Peaches?

Yeah! That was an amazing early show in terms of playing in a queer space, and one of your early “art rave” experiences. What’s it like thinking back to that time and how has it informed what you do now?

It’s crazy because I remember when I got that show, that was my first show out of the UK and one of my first proper shows ever, one where it wasn’t just ‘oh we’re having a houseparty in London’ or a friends house or whatever, it was like an actual show and I just remember I was so excited. ‘Cos Peaches had hit me up directly about that and it was cool. I remember being so excited to play that show and that kind of excitement it feels the same now, I guess it’s just I’ll get excited about different things. It’s weird looking back and it feels like I’ve been working on this for a very long time, so it’s cool that it’s happened. I’m happy that people are actually listening to my music now and actually seem to care.


An interview with Nicole Scherzinger

I met Nicole Scherzinger a few months ago in a swanky hotel for a chat about her then-unnamed and now-soon-to-be-released album Big Fat Lie. She needs no real introduction. All I will say is that she spoke in very hushed tones, was pensive and serious, and there was something melancholic about the way she answered my questions.

So your new single Your Love. It sounds as if there are three Nicoles singing, do you have different personas when you’re doing a song?

I think I do, depending on the music, depending on what I’m singing about, the context. Sometimes when I’m doing backgrounds I’ll say ‘I’m gonna do her’ and I have different voices in my head. But it all comes from the same place.

Who is your favourite persona to be?
Just full out, I think. The verses, I think it’s just the way that I sang them, the verses are very flirtatious and fun and sexy and then the pre-chorus reminds me of Michael [Jackson, presumably]. When I did the bridge it reminded me of Whitney Housten and Michael. Then the chorus reminds me of Etta James, ‘you’re love makes me feel like’, you know that song [she sings] Oh, oh, sometimes… I get a good feeling. I was inspired by that. And then the do’s remind me of MGMT or some indie rock band.

There’s one bit that sounds a bit like you’re in a cupboard
Yeah. Because it’s really intimate. [she whispers] It’s all about being intimate and being one of one with somebody.


Candi Staton The (almost) Uncut Interview

Original disco diva Candi Staton is back with a brand new album Life Happens, which is as good as (the only) reason to get on the phone with an icon. I think I even cut bits of this, but it's a pretty good chunk of what went down. One day I'll get the hang of editing audio so I can include bits like the interviewees laugh, for now you'll just have to use your imagination...

You’ve done a new album! How do you keep track of how many albums you’ve done? I was trying to pull it together…

Oh my goodness, I think I’ve done about almost 30.

That’s amazing

It is, it’s amazing! And I’m still doing it.


The Saturdays only London date for their Greatest Hits Live Tour

Otherwise known as their Farewell Tour... Before the gig I said “The Saturdays - they’re one of those groups that you’re surprised by how many of their songs you know”. Well, by the end of the show I was surprised by how many of their songs I didn’t know. They opened with about 5 banging electropop songs of the variety I love, and even spunked a couple of their hits into a medley. It’s not that I’ve forgotten how many hits they have - I just didn’t know them. My personal favourite was Ego, though in my post-gig-morning-after state I’ve had their singles VEVO channel on, and started to fall for all of them. Notorious was great too, though it was weird watching the two six-year-old girls infront of us singing along with conviction “I’m an outlaw, I’m the big boss, I’m the gangster…”
I spent quite a long time studying the backing dancers (not just the beardy one Jonny), particularly their outfits. I’m not saying they’re especially cheap but one of them was a Puma vest with tasseling sewn on, and rather than sequins they used that foil-y circles fabric that fancy dress hire costumes are made of. It went see-through when the dancers opened their legs and were backlit. ANYWAY, two things - 1.) Aaron Renfree, don’t think I didn’t see you. 2.) Next time I go to Vogue Fabrics, I’m wearing a jacket with the armpits cut out. Overall the staging was satisfactory, but distinctly lacking in the wow factor that you need from a stadium show. It doesn’t necessarily have to be big and flashy, it can just be clever. When they played All Fired Up, they had some fire... But they ended on some confetti canons, which I’ve said before and will say forever more, you simply cannot go wrong with.


Stuck On Repeat: Jessie Ware's Keep On Lying

Every now and then, a song comes along and I can't stop playing it. The past few weeks - more than I care to mention - I have been hammering the new Jessie Ware album track Keep On Lying. It's not obviously a banging hit, it's not even a tear inducing ballad, it's just a gentle, lulling, calypso-kinda-bossanova-kinda-keyboard-demo sounding pop song. It's simple and I can't explain why I keep listening to it in such a grotesquely obsessive way.

I'll be honest, I didn't get Jessie Ware before. I didn't really listen to her first album, and snootily dismissed her as hipster fodder. When certain people start swooning at new artists I instinctively, snobbishly have a knee-jerk reaction and decide that I can't possibly like them THAT much. I didn't give her a chance. I gave her new album a review spin - that is I put it on in the background while I picked up the dirty laundry off my bedroom floor, put a wash on, made some coffee and popped outside to collect the post. But I stopped what I was doing when this track was on and sat watching the uninformative interface of Play MPE.

Fellow journalists will shudder at the mention of this notoriously tricky music streaming service, personally I don't think it's that bad - even though I've had to keep skipping to the end of the album to listen to Keep On Lying. I would be ashamed to know the statistics of how many listens I've had. I always check out listening figures when I get sent a private link to a new album on Soundcloud, just to see if there are any obvious spikes in listening habits. Usually they just dwindle towards the end of an album as people/music journalists clearly lose interest and have already made their minds up about a record. I'm certainly guilty of doing that. Time is short. Rihanna has a new single coming out. Slow songs don't get the time of day.

Which makes my obsession with this ONE SONG even more baffling. I wish I could share it with you now, but it will creep online soon enough. The album is pretty good too, once (if) I get sick of this song, I'm sure that'll get my full attention too. I've listened to Champagne Kisses quite a lot too (similarly brilliant, if in a higher register and lacking the melancholy), just by the Play MPE default of not being able to have a track on repeat. Don't be put off by the black and white serious singer songwriter posing. Jessie Ware is a - what, treasure? dreamy? - I don't know. A friend of mine jokes that he can tell I'm on autopilot when I've written a review and used the word 'addictive'. But I'd say I'm hooked.


Ella Henderson: Scots, Squats and Sofas

Here’s some unpublished excerpts from my phone interview with Ella Henderson, a true X Factor survivor. People say the whole 'one to watch' thing with reckless abandon, but Ella will be denting the charts for years to come, as herself or as a songwriter. And we share a surname! Which is always a good opener. Well, it’s the only time I’ve opened with it, but still.


One for the Debbie Downers

The Drums - I Can't Pretend

I saw The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face last night, which has given me lots to think about the nature of what constitutes a piece of theatre (I had a long heated debate with a friend in a corridor of Green Park tube) but for now I'm putting this on repeat. I've never given The Drums much attention to be honest, but this song has grabbed it. And having heard their new album, there are atleast two more songs that are this good and full on teen-hormonal mopey. By which I mean brilliant.


The Pierces Creation album launch

I saw these two last night, it was all very lovely as is my write up over here. (I didn't see Greg James, but he's crept into the blog anyway.)


Bright Light Bright Light: a Skype chat with Rod Thomas

This is an interview I did for GT, which appeared in their July 2014 issue. It’s always funny chatting to Rod, because I sort of know him through mutual friends in a see-him-about-say-hi kind of way. Infact he suffered one of my karaoke Ke$ha performances the other night in the Joiners Arms and left pretty much straight after I’d performed. I’m sure he was just tired… anyway the day of our Skype chat, I’d been banging on about the last track on his new album, Happiness from Life Is Easy. And that’s where we kick off.


Basement Jaxx launch Junto the old fashioned way

Ah, an album launch party. There was a time in my life when I was going to really massive lavish parties several times a week, living off canapes and having a barely ironic obsession with Zoe Griffin. Halcyon nights those, and with the launch of Basement Jaxx's new album Junto, I got to relive them a little. Running late I missed the live sets (I can only assume the microphones were for that purpose, although there was a numerologist - maybe they had bingo too) but the party was a classic big old booze up, with a free bar, balloons personalised with the album logo, a big statue of said logo [pictured] and a venue that has consciously been kitted out to the theme with video projections and solar lights that look dangerously like ashtrays. The band were there having a ball, and possibly every singer who has ever worked on a Basement Jaxx record was there. It was fantastic eavesdropping, grabbing snatches of conversations about record deals, who was and wasn't at the party, what DJ was doing what soul funk reggae residency and have you been to that new pop-up gourmet hot-dog restaurant? Divine! And for the record, Junto is a great album but you can read some of my thoughts on that here.


PopJustice Deluxe Edition ft Ace Wilder, Indiana and Amelia Lily

I'm not a fan of The Basement venue, but PopJustice and co are still churning out amazing ('Amazing') line ups for these Deluxe Edition nights and I've got a feeling that my loyalty card will get stamped up before too long. I caught the last two songs of Rashelle, who teamed with the theme of her hot as hell guitarist in matching baseball caps. She's a working definition of hot mess, but in those few minutes I managed to regret not braving the humungous getting in queue. I was waiting outside for friends and managed to miss M.O, but I did see them last time at PJDE so don’t feel so bad. Which meant Ace Wilder, of (busy busy) Busy Doing Nothing (at all) Eurovision fame was next. Obviously the hit was the last thing they played to rapturous audience applause, but their short and sweet set including Do It and a dubious but fun track that went along this lines of “bitches like Friday” couldn't be ruined by the obtrusive camera man hell bent on capturing all of her well practised moves.

Then came on Amelia Lily. Oh my. It was an amazing performance, as one friend cruelly noted "a bit like watching one S Club 7 perform”, with the added grim audience participation of sing alongs and hands in the air. Opening with Shut Up And Give Me Whatever You Got (technical issues) she professionally battled through the sound issues which were rectified in time for a baffling karaoke rendition of We Found Love. What I really loved about Amelia Lily’s performance was her steely grim determination to keep things going and to entertain the crowd. She started riffing between songs “I’ve been awake 17 hours!” and in regards to her glittery gold hairdo, “Do you like my hair? It’s dead hard”. My favourite bit of the whole show was that bit in her new single California where the music cuts out and she brays “you're full of shit”. It's these moments of class that I love, and with that glitter she could be the UK's answer to Ke$ha one day. One day.

I'll be a bit honest, as reviewers aren't want to do about these things, and concede that I was getting a bit drunk by the time Indiana came on. And she was not there to get the party started, delivering sophisticated multi-instrumental electro pop, singing with a husky affectation that wavered between Lana Del Rey and Sinead O'Connor. After all the high-octane electro pop of the evening, it came as a bit of a wet slap, though I imagine I'm going to fall in love with Indiana in the sobering light of day.


The Last Month (or so) in One Blog.

I went on a day trip to Margate to enter a sandcastle competition. Didn't win, but did formulate plans to take it as seriously as everyone else next year.

I went to see My Night With Reg, which was "Funny, powerful and bleak" - Gay Times ****.

I did my first ever podcast, interviewing Jetta and standing in for Dylan on the Dylan & Jack podcast.

Talking of Jack, we went to Latitude as part of the Johnny Woo TRANSformer entourage. I had a ball, my phone died of wet, my body was ravished by midges and it was the first music festival I went to without making a timetable. Like a fantastically glamourous camping holiday, with a side of Lily Allen.

I went to London Fields Lido for the first time. S'alright, bit small, bit nippy. Could do with some nicer places to sit around and chat.

DJ'd quite a bit at my pop-up global pop night VOYAGE VOYAGE, at Koko and Dalston Superstore. Who knows where that will land next.

Went to Summer Rites Out On The Dock event, which was a surreal afternoon that felt like Vauxhall had been moved to a shopping centre, saved by some of London's best trash cabaret.

I saw Jane Badler. I saw Bianca Del Rio. I saw Neon Jungle. I saw Charles Aznavour. I saw Lindsey Stirling. I saw Kiesza. I saw Mumbai Science DJ in the mixmag offices on a friday afternoon and drank quite a lot.

I saw hot fresh n young Italian electro trio M+A play at the Bedroom Bar in Shoreditch.

I spoke to Neil from Clean Bandit on the phone, just before they flew out to shoot their Come Over video. That's in the new issue of GT.

I meant to go and see We Were Evergreen at Soho House, but ended up getting a last minute writing gig. We did however all go for breakfast the week before, and they were as lovely as their debut album.

I had a funny phone chat with a disco diva (adding to my Christian Disco list of Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor), I'll add the html link in here when that goes live.

I finished all the AM Homes, and have found a suitable replacement in Barbara Kingsolver. Loved the long slow read of The Lacuna, and getting stuck into Flight Behaviour which has started as well as any Homes.

I went to a lot of dinner parties, and held a few. It's the new going out.

I got sucked into watching The 100, which no amount of bad acting and corny one liners can stop me being compelled to watch.

I met Nicole Scherzinger in a hotel room. For an interview.

I did go out a bit. Sink The Pink's Summer Ball was kinda fun, though there was a lot of staggering around on the Troxy carpet.

I deleted my Facebook - not in a self-righteous shunning of social media (my twitter and instagram will get all the surplus attention) - but just because it because a source of anxiety, I was getting angry at myself for wasting time on there and with the other two I can take them or leave them. Besides, you can't ACTUALLY delete your Facebook.


Post-hype post-mortem of Sia and her 1,000 Forms of Fear

I wrote a lot about Sia in the last month or so, and none of it really got published, so excuse the self indulgence while I mop up on my own blog.

*puts on 'magazine' voice*


The ultimate, real diva, is the one who refuses all the trappings of celebrity and fame. Sia was on the cover of Billboard magazine in a paper bag way before Shia Labeouf tried to make it a thing. And her back to the audience performances and wig motifs are brilliant, splitting into the two following categories:

She's single* handedly reviving the art of interpretive dance. Forget your weak Wuthering Heights impressions, shit got real.
The way she’s taken Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler the star of her 25 million and counting youtube video for Chandelier, the way she got Lena Dunham to wave a bit of toilet roll around, the Jimmy Kimmel LIVE face-painted thing. I liked the song and indeed original video when I first heard it, but with every new incarnation comes a new way to love it.

She’s single** handedly reviving the blonde bob wig. Like we (*cough*, I) need an excuse. Forget the fact that you don’t need to add Furler to those three letters in her name - you can spot her by the outline of A WIG. There’s a thesis there on reproduction, imitation, Warhol, Cindy Sherman and intepollation.

Sia has the most sought after toplines in pop - if you haven’t had a Sia penned song on your album, you’re simply not on the pop radar. Beyonce, Rihanna, Britney, Katy - all desperately checking their emails (or not, Perry) for the Sia bat signal. She co-wrote Sexercise too, but you can’t win them all.

With all the emphasis on her penwomanship, you can easily forget what a beguiling voice she has. It’s at it’s huskiest on album track Hostage, her poppiest throwback to her We Are Born sensibility and growly to the point of indistinguishable.

Her new album is full of debbie downer moments as you’d expect from the opening taster tracks Eye Of The Needle, but there’s plenty of covert pop moments tucked inbetween her lushly orchestrated melancholia. The seemingly endless end track Dressed in Black has some glorious Xylophone bits, and there's a whole break of them in Fair Game.

Burn The Pages is a perfect example of how she does bleak, twisting a verse (that sounds like a chorus) into a minor key and back again that defies all traditional routes. It’s sad and beautifully innovative in a way that would need a PHD in composition to explain. I only have Grade 5 Music Theory, but there's something about an unexpected tiny minor twist that grabs my insides - there's a really great, almost unnoticeable 10 second one on the Clean Bandit album too on Telephone Banking.

I should probably slam down this namedrop here - I've met Sia twice. Once was for a few minutes a coffee shop in New York, where she was playing chess with her girlfriend of the time JD Samson. Without being patronising, it was SO CUTE (so patronising). Then I went on to interview her for DIVA magazine for the release of We Are Born. It was kind of sad actually, as she basically told me that doing press and interviews and all the attention was driving her crazy and she was on so much medication and that she never wanted to do an interview ever again. I've never wanted to hug someone more during an interview than then. She was lovely, anyway.

*it's a very collaborative process, obviously.
** Jessie J and more recently Sinead O'Connor have played their parts in the Smiffy's wig revival.


Dominika's Top Polish Pop Songs

If you followed the BBC Three show Hair, you will not have missed Polish hairdresser Dominika, or her incredible weekly hair creations. I've already put my love online in her Gay Times interview, which I'm sure you've read. Anyway, I DJ at the global pop night Voyage Voyage, and though I have the odd track in Polish, my knowledge of their music is scant. Of course I ask my favourite Pole, and Dominika blows me away with a selection of YouTube videos and some little translations. "I tried to translate what they are about but it sounds so random! I don't think Polish translates well..." Here's her pick of the Polish Pop.

"My Slowianie!" Poland's Eurovision contestant. There is also an English version which Dominika thinks is shit

Kayah - Supermenka 
"If I was a man I'd be superman! I know it all about women!"

Kasia Klich - Lepszy model 
"You broke down again ! I'll swap you for new model!"

Reni Jusis - Zakrecona 
"crazy /party girl!"

Brathanki polish folk 
"love me! any time ?! in bus! in cinema! in jumper!"

Czarno Czarni - Nogi! 
"I want to watch your  legs. keep wearing mini !"

Piersi - Caluj mnie 
"kiss me! its such a beautiful game"

Dziekuje Dominika! (I can't find the e accents). You can follow her on twitter and the next Voyage Voyage will be the guest room at Guilty Pleasures on 28 April, that upstairs bit in Koko.


DENA getting Flashy at Birthdays in Dalston

You - or rather the press in general - can't describe DENA without  a string of qualifying geographic specifics. I'm the same, even conversationally, calling her the Bulgarian-born, Berlin-based minimal electro rapper. What this description misses out is the massive 90s influence, that came into full effect last night at her live show in London, The United Kingdom.

The idea of 90s nostalgia usually has me running for the hills and in many ways DENA is a one woman Little Mix made for a Shoreditch palate. But it's all the good bits of girl rap like TLC, and it's co-opted with a loving ear. Listening to Boyfriend on record, it's almost a parody, but when you see her dancing in the vocal break it totally makes sense. I can't pinpoint exactly what it is, but her voice is much more expressive in the flesh, even when the expression is a kind of bored version of 'don't fuck with me'. She has one of these day-release personalities, the true bedroom creative who rarely sees daylight, finally let loose in public. She's not trying to be cool or win anyone over - and yet achieves both by simply loving what she does, and radiating that love with a childish grin.

I got exactly the same feeling of seeing Robyn play live, in that both artists really understand the difference between a karaoke PA - which many solo singers fall into - and the logistics of putting on a live show and making the songs stage ready. The Sweden-based songstress does this by having two drummers; DENA does it with a jazzy moustached synth player and a beat perfect drummer armed with samples. They don't just accompany a backing track, they create it.

Of course she's known for THE HIT, Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools, which she saves for the grand finale, complete with false ending and virtuoso synth soloing. It was preceded by the brilliant reworking of Skee Lo's I Wish, which took on a much darker grandiosity. I'm making grandiosity a thing. The whole show was simply packed with feel-good pop which is an anomaly in the otherwise trend-obsessed worlds of electro, rap and 90s nostalgia.


Stalking Dana International

Every now and then I get to do an interview that is so fist-gnawingly exciting, it’s surprising I still have any hands left. The prospect of interviewing Dana International was one such interview, and the fact that I happened to be going to Tel Aviv for a holiday made the prospect of meeting her even more tangible (should my hands remain). Sadly, it turns out that she was in Sweden when I was in town. The phone interview we arrange is put back, then she’s in the studio, then her assistant answers and tells me to call her manager. When I finally get through to her, she’s lovely and gets very excited when I mention that I have an Israeli boyfriend. I ask her if she’s in Sweden and she says “a little bit” before suggesting we meet the following day instead for coffee, as I’m staying literally five minutes from her house. Next day, as instructed I call 15 minutes before to be directed to the exact cafe for our interview. Nothing. A call to her manager and it turns out her phone “isn’t working”. Riiiiight. Everything up to this point has told me she is, by song, by nature, a bit of a diva. And so it continues. My hands remain very much intact, and in the end I just throw down an ultimatum for a phoner or nothing. It does, eventually, happen. Though I would’ve loved to hang out with her and her dogs.

It’s a funny phone interview, because everything comes across as very literal. I love the way she speaks in broken English, but half the time she didn’t hear my question and just plowed on with what she wanted to say. As one of the twelve people in the UK who went out and bought her last 2007 Hebrew-language album HaKol Ze LeTova, I’m pretty excited about the prospect of a new album, which we obviously talk about.


Dana: I’m doing things my way. Have you seen Loca?


I’m going to do things more of a this atmosphere and less you know average Israeli song for the radio to like me, and just to express myself in a very intimate way.

Is that a good sample of what’s on the new album?

I think it’s very exciting and I think it’s going to come out around May, June.

It’s a shame it won’t really get heard in the UK, we don’t really play anything that isn’t sung in English.

The British market is very unique, you have your own sound as far as dance music is concerned. The Israeli crowd is more about US kinds of music, New York house, electro and less modern music. Less Tinie Tempah you know?

Less who?

TINIE TEMPAH. Less things like that, less breakbeats, more house music, it’s very hard to come into the UK music because you have so many of your own talents trying to get some of the light. Foreigners are last in the line, I think - unless you have a lot of money and connections.


Anyway, my whole interview was about Dana’s status as a Gay/Eurovision Icon rather than her musical career, which you can read about in GT432.   


Christina Perri: And her 75-year-old alter ego, Judith

Christina Perri is Big In The States (like, insanely big - 415 million combined YouTube hits and counting) after one of her songs got used on So You Think You Can Dance. It was Twilight soundtracks and big emo ballads a go-go ever since. Her second album Head or Heart is out in a few weeks, and I met her what feels like a lifetime ago up in Atlantic Records Towers. She is, as her song states, only human and a very humane, friendly, chatty one at that. You can read my actual journalism in the next issue of GT, but here’s some fan-pleasing unpublished chit chat about her tats, my lack of tats and her alter-ego, who happens to be a 75-year-old woman called Judith.

I was gonna talk about your tattoos today, I know everyone does. But you’ve covered them up today…

Yeah today they’re kind of covered. You can almost see through the lace. I have about 70.

Oof. Thats a lot. What have the best fan copycat or tribute tattoos been?

I think the best ones are my lyrics, because that just always makes me happy. When I see people get my signature or my face, I get really freaked out. Because Ii’m like ‘you poor thing, please don’t do that’. Then again, I have Johnny Cash’s signature on my arm, so I do understand having a favourite but for me the ones that really really make me happy are the lyrics, ‘cos that’s my little piece of art that I did share with the world and I’m always honoured when i see anything like that. Then there’s girls that definitely have the same tattoo in the exact same place, which again is a form of flattery so that’s real sweet. There’s a couple of actual portraits of me and I’m like ‘awwww’ not my favourite but then again, whatever, I still think it’s cool but I just feel sorry for them.

Portrait tattoos are always amazing because they never quite look right.

Portraits are tricky. But seriously, all power to them, obviously I don’t think it’s awful. All power to them, everyone has their own free will. But yeah. I like the lyrics ones the best.

Do you have any of your lyrics on you?

Not of my own lyrics. I have Shakespeare, I have John Paul George and Ringo just their names, I have a couple of sayings like ‘Nothing is random’, ‘Bitten’ is my Twilight tattoo that’s in the font of the books. This one Jason Mraz drew of me and him and he put it in my car and wrote ‘me & you’. I’m trying to think - I have ‘head’ and ‘heart’ in Italian on my hands.

What are you going to do when you run out of space?

I don’t think I’ll run out of space. I’ve got a lot of skin. Here’s the thing, this cheeseburger that I got the other day, that’s small and so if I continue to get little tiny ones.... I can’t get massive ones because then I’ll ruin years worth of little ones. I’m sort of planning it out. Kinda.

Can I say you’re addicted then?

100% addicted yeah. There’s a line I crossed years ago. There’s an invisible line that’s like ‘hey, I can cover them!’ and I have two, now I have 70.

I find myself doodling on my skin but have never gone through with it.

Zero tattoos? I love people with none. Because I feel like you either have none of lots. People inbetween freak me out, like people with one…

Commit people, come on!

Please! I don’t enjoy people with one tattoo, and then I make fun of them. There’s no way. You’re going to get another one. Like Michael Buble I just saw him, he’s got ‘Noah’, his baby on his wrist. And I was like ‘cool, next time I see you, you’ll have two’. and he was like, ‘oh I do have...’ and I was like there you go. Everyone has got an idea. So people with no tattoos, I love that. Because that says something, it’s really good, I’m really spontaneous and don’t think before I do a lot of them, that’s why I don’t even have a list of ones I’m waiting to get, if i’m thinking about it I just go and do it.

I always wanted to get one to remind me of a time in my life and to actually regret it. You are with a tattoo for life and your feelings will change.

Yeah, there’s a lot that I wouldn’t get twice.

I almost got a cartoon panda, now I’m glad I went for the non-tattooed option.

Awww, oh my gosh. Well, one day. You know what, my dad got his first tattoo when he was 65. So you’ve got time. You could get your first one when you’re an old man. Never too late to start.

Since nothing is random, what’s the name of your penguin?

The one I carry around with? It doesn’t have a name! I called it Ceeps Penguin. It’s just Ceeps, c-e-e-p-s ‘cos that’s what everyone calls me, it’s my nickname. My band came up with it and now everyone calls me that. So it’s ceeps penguin pillow. I just call it penguin. I think the truth is, if I named it and I lost it, I would feel awful. This is my fourth one because I lose it on tour or I forget it at a hotel, one time I left it on the airplane, I was devastated. but if I lost it and it had a name, I would really really be sad.

It’s kind of amazing that there are three in the world out there.

I know, somebody has got my penguin pillows that’s for sure, they don’t know how loved and beloved they were. But now I learned that I can’t name them.

Did ceeps come out of nowhere?

Well I always sign my emails CP my initials, and I think at one point my drummer called me Ceeperoni, Ceepizzle and all these silly names, but Ceeps ended up sticking really well.

Is it useful to have that as an alter ego?

Well, I have other alter egos…. there’s this really old lady version of me we call Judith. Because I’m really dorky and sometimes I answer the phone like [adopts high pitched voice] ‘helloooooo' and that’s Judith. I also really love the vocal chords and reading science books about that. Actual medical books I like reading for fun, that’s Judith. When everyone goes out to drink on tour and I’m like ‘please be careful’, that’s Judith. So I wish I had a cooler alterego. I feel a bit lame now that my alter ego is 75 years old.

That’s amazing, you should do all your interviews as Judith.

Ahah! Easily. But Ceeps is a really good representation of me on tour, I’m very silly. So no, I don’t have a different one, I should come up with one.

Christina Perri dot com.


Angela Lansbury brings Madame Arcati back from the dead

As you can see from the billing and advertising, this is Angela Lansbury Presents... and clearly why everyone, myself included, bought tickets. The steep seating meant I could watch people's phones, and the gays infront of me were looking at Terry Richardson's photo of her. I'm not judging, it's the only copy of The Gentlewoman that I own and was tracked down for the same strange purpose of staring at Angela in those glasses.

Everyone duly claps when she first arrives on stage, but I was thrown by the microphones - it took me a while to work out that was what was happening. I wouldn't expect Angela to be able to project up to my seat, especially with a loud younger cast. But sat in the gods (there is no advantage buying cheap tickets early on, this is the second time in a row where I've ended up being sat as far as physically possible from the stage) you can't really see anyone's lips move or any subtle facial expression. The result was that to begin with, I was trying to work out if she was miming. MIMING! ON STAGE! But no, just the mic. Which you eventually get used to.

As it turns out, the already perfectly cast Lansbury played it to the hilt. Unless you have a microscopic knowledge of the text, there was no way of telling where the scatty fictional Coward creation began and where the encroaching senility, fluffed lines, off-script ad-libbing ended. But it was marvelous to watch, even some batshit crazy line picking up a dropped hanky could've been straight from the pen of Noel, or off the cuff of Angela. Who knows, and who cares.

It was kitsch, cute and a everything you want from seeing Jessica Fletcher turn into an eccentric elderly Brit.


Twenty One Pilots @ Heaven

Weirdly for a London gig, it was busy as I sauntered in to catch the last "thankyougoodnight!" of the first support band. The second, Prides (according to a flyer) were pleasant enough, something between early MGMT, Foster The People and a vague 80s soft rock vibe.

Much like Icona Pop at Electrowerkz last year, I felt exceedingly old. Between bands, a bunch of kids pose for a photo, all wearing white balaclavas. If they have some Pussy Riot style agenda, it only seems to be fighting for the right to post anonymous selfies, or promote their love and belonging to the Twenty One Pilots fan gang. They've managed to foster a tribal gathering, one that I don't get and probably aren't meant to.

They take to the stage in afrenzy of fan love, and the lights go mental. This above photo is the view from the back (I really need to start bringing a camera with me) a stunning, blinding visual work. They pull out all the stops, doing some crowd surfing drumming and zipping across the stage from side to side, launching themselves off the piano, glowing drum sticks, the works. It's everything you deserve to get for going out and seeing live music, it's alive.

Musically, they were fun. More fun than an elementary youtube viewing session before hand had lead me to believe. Part rap, part piano pop - A Great Big World sprang to mind at points, albeit a much, much cooler incarnation. I can't qualify this, but there is something deeply American about their brand of pop, that goes beyond them singing in their American accents. I'll get back to you on that one if I ever figure out what I mean by it.


Dear Diary: NME Awards 2014

This blog is kind of a diary (note to self: locate and delete Live Journal account) so I'm just going to make some notes for my own amusement really, rather than having any kind of intelligent input on this. It was car-crashy and incredible, a world that I'm somehow part of and excluded from at the same time. I've never been to the NME Awards and at 6pm last night I got an invite. Of course I went.

I was hanging around waiting to get in when Haim arrived to sign pictures, get papped and do their red carpet interviews. It's insane how pushy the autograph collectors are, aggressively shouting their names yet clearly ruthlessly and unpassionate about who they're getting to sign stuff - the girls sign their own images on a stuffed folder full of glossy pictures of all the stars arriving tonight. The real fans, if they're lucky, get a crappy obscured phone pic from the back.

The celebrities and nominees all get tables downstairs with the Very Important People, while readers, comp winners, ticket buyers (?) and sponors are in the upper circle. Things - eventually - got off to a great start with METRONOBABES. This was the first (and best) live act, and then Jarvis Cocker comes on to present an award. If the whole night was like this, it was going to be amazing.

Oof, it sounded much better on the night. And that was the highlight of the evening. I started compiling a Buzzfeed-style TOP TEN CRINGIEST MOMENTS in my head, but obviously I've forgotten them all. Some edited highlights:

* Fat White Family - what the hell was that, an introduction, an acceptance speech, the english language?

* Belle & Sebastian getting people onstage to "boogie". In a way, you've got to respect some shameless mum-n-dad-dancing, but it was painful to watch.

* Host Huw Stephens, bravely and gallantly filling time by going into the celeb filled tables and trying to conduct mini interviews. First woman he encounters, "so who's table are you sat at?" "Dunno" "So you just blagged it?" "...".

* Damon Albarn completely glossing over the existence of Melody Maker.

* PAUL MCCARTNEY. Get a grip people. The picture I've taken above is of everyone simultaneously standing up and taking pictures.

Pretty sure there were a few other points where I was murmuring no no no no... I can't even begin to expand on my growing hatred of Alex Turner, so will try being nice about someone else. Blondie headlined. Lily Allen was funny, and was by far the best at capturing the whole eyerolling self indulgence of the whole thing.

As I left, Jerry Hall (like an elegant giraffe) lollopped into a taxi. One solitary papparrazzi captured her departure into the night.


Brody Dalle @ Hoxton Bar 'And Grill' (or is it Kitchen, who knows)

We’re going to put our hands up and admit that before turning up to the show, we were not one of the many hardcore Distillers fans, loved them as we did. We barely followed Brody into the Spinnerette era. And as it turned out we didn’t even recognise the four or five Distillers songs that she played last night. But that, surely, doesn’t matter as she’s gone solo and it’s her - on her own terms - that we came to see.

Brody Dalle plays the kind of terse punk rock that has grown men who should know better scream “Oh, Em, Gee” before tearing through the crowd, liberally waving beer over Hoxtonites and doing some polite middle-class moshing down the front. It’s unlikely Brody noticed, as she barely acknowledged the crowd other than to ask the repeated and bizarre request for yellow socks. “where’s my yellow socks?” was the first thing she said to us. Third song, second address to the crowd was a repeat of the statement. Had we fortuitously been wearing yellow songs, in the spirit of punk rock, we would’ve been compelled to rip them from our sweaty feet and throw them at her.

Her latest single Meet The Foetus / Oh The Joy was dropped after a handful of songs, and was far more straightforward that the recorded version which you can only hear on noisey at the moment. No Shirely Manson or Emily Kokal from Warpaint, but just their combined ghost hovering in the vocal effects. Which leads us on to Brody’s unique vocal charms - though you can point to Courtney Love, it had the raw rasp of ripping denim. Didn’t make out a single lyric throughout the whole show, except something about masturbation. And yellow socks.

She was wearing a neon orange top, that we initial thought it said WI (an amazing thought) then another letter appeared and it was PWL. Again, wrong, but more proof that we were not in Kansas anymore. Glowing in the UV lights, her skin occasionally turning an Avatar blue, she had an amazing presence - snarling and screeching away behind her horror film hair, which served to frame her, unlike her bassist who simply hid behind his long locks. Without the singing, the songs were rock solid punk tunes, that stand up against any number of punk greats from The Ramones to (honestly) Elastica, as Dalle has honed her craft in the band line ups she once fronted. It’s tight, if abrupt like the brutal final chordgoodnightDJmusicexitstageleft.

This blog review was written for @gaytimesmag and can be found here.

We Built This City on (Soft) Rock and Roll

Every now and then an advert comes along, and before you reach the end of it, you're wondering what the hell it is and who the hell made it. The little girl peddling around a cul-de-sac singing Starship's We Built This City is one such ad and the twitter response by everyone and their kitten proves it. In fact the only bad thing about the ad is it's hashtag, #SingItKitty.

You only have to see the advert once and you'll be humming it in your subconscious for as long as 3/three decide to keep airing the ad. And I'm totally all for it, and *does Kathy Griffin voice* HERE'S WHY.

It goes further than simply thinking 'oh, kittens are cute, let's capitalise on that' which is the one trick pony Cushelle are trying to pull with a koala bear, albeit with the added twist of a computer game premise, or indeed what three/3 themselves did with the pug in a christmas hat poster campaign. Where #singitkitty works, is in marrying the cute with the cheesy anthemic song. It’s both nostalgic and thoroughly modern. The other day, when someone realised you could watch youtube videos on a tv via their mobile phone, we sat and watched cat videos. Then pop videos by Ke$ha and Die Antwoord. Then an episode of Kathy Griffin’s chat show. We are terrible human beings with horrendously low attention spans - and it's striking that this advert feels luxuriously long. It's a a few verses and choruses, not even the whole song.

The super clever bit is marrying all these cynical, traceable, viral, market research groups say type things - pink! - into a cheesy Guilty Pleasures anthem. It reminds me of the kind of rock my dad listened to when I was growing up, and I’m not exactly the young trendy target market here (my phone? a cheap imitation high powered android from Argos so I can check email, twitter, etc, but use my £10 pay-as-you-go sim card which covers all my calls texts and data).

I had to google the song to find out it was by Starship, but I knew the song. It in turn reminds me of another song that I was simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by: "Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, take. me. home." Even without a feminist vocabulary, or a full grasp of my sexual leanings, I knew there was something off about these lyrics. But they've attached themselves to my psyche, like it or not, like a hymn that I was forced to sing at school, popping into my consciousness at the most inopportune of moments. And if we’re taking that detour, the worst offender in this category is, surreally and unreligious, “Autumn leaves when the grass jeweled and the silk inside a chestnut shell”.

It’s the ultimate cheesy feelgood but slightly clever advert. It doesn’t make me want to change phone contract - or offer any insight into what services three/3 are offering - but whoever came up with the concept and everyone who made it a reality deserves the same warm fuzzy feeling inside. You might call it silly, which they point out everyone needs.


Mariam The Believer @ Electrowerkz

What will win you over with Mariam is not so much the songs, but the voice. It's one of those unique ones that hit on several others without mimicking anyone. For the first half of the gig I couldn't relax as my brain was struggling to make those links, that who-does-she-sound-like neat little comparison to make. I couldn't make a satisfactory one, but I could let go of my thoughts once I'd come up with "Shakira doing an Antony Hegarty impression". Something about her timbre for the former, and delivery in the latter (though nothing as shaky).

There's a po-faced seriousness that threatens to make you want to run away wailing yourself, but you only have to scratch the surface to see that it's a very thin facade. During the most intense moment of ululation, the crowd was utterly silent. Apart from the radio mic of the security guard who interupted, as did the smoke machine one song later, and Mariam's reaction was to simply laugh and let the laugh bleed into her vocals - rather than succumb to anything so British as embarrassment.

Not all the songs were immediate, but there was one that I could've listen to for hours more; an all-too-short interlude, introduction or half song that had lyrical content along the lines of "nothing and nobody stays the same". It was just Mariam and one of the many synth/organs playing a dark, funeral march. She does melancholy very well.

Final aside and to counter the stunning gig photography witnessed above, I was pretty jealous of Mariam's gold and silver combo outfit, glittery and ornate. Kind of like a one colour version of the decorative tissue boxes I've been eyeing up in poundshops in Dalston.