16th Aug2009

Charlotte Hatherley: The Interview

by Todd

Charlotte Hatherley

Whenever we put edit together one of these interviews, we always embed a view videos as a point of reference for people as they read the article. As we put together our interview with Charlotte Hatherley, the magnitude of her brilliance and versatility was renewed once again. Starting as the only woman in Ash, she began recording solo albums that referenced her “other band”, but truly thrust her into the limelight as a tremendous songwriter. After leaving Ash, she’s continued to cultivate an amazing career. Most recently, she’s been playing with Mercury Award nominee Bat For Lashes and preparing to release her newest solo effort, ‘New Worlds’. Frankly, our attempts to encapsulate her career in a few videos seems futile. With an interview and a smattering of videos, we barely scratch the surface of a supremely talented guitarist, songwriter and vocalist who took some time to speak to the puny mortals that we are.

TDOA: One of the things I found most intriguing about you, it that the music on your solo albums, as well as your work with Ash and Bat For Lashes always has a unique feel to it. Most musicians have a “sound” that they use on every project their involved with. Do you find that you get “bored” with a certain sound and are constantly looking for new ways to challenge yourself?

CH: I think I have a pretty unique sound, and it’s something that i have mostly been unaware of until quite recently. When you play with other musicians you pick up other influences and you adapt your ‘sound’ accordingly, but mostly i have a guitar style that is very…well, me! As i’ve got older and grown more confident my guitar playing has got much better and i’m more comfortable bringing my own musical ideas to other peoples projects. When i left Ash to go solo i could write more lead/solo guitar parts and also bass parts, so most of the first two solo records i was exploring the guitar and trying out different styles under a ‘alternative’ and quirky umbrella. The new record is much more ‘live’ and i’m letting the music breathe a bit more, it was a concerted effort to refrain from being too layered and complex. I do get bored very easily, i think every record and every project you are involved in you should be trying out something new, or learning about different ways to make music sound brilliant and exciting. I’m learning classical guitar at the moment as i’m on the road for ages and i’m getting really lazy!

TDOA: You’ve already recorded a new solo album and are releasing it in the fall. Your first solo effort had some great “pop” songs like Summer, while ‘The Deep Blue’ mixed pop, rock and some moodier pieces. Following up on the theme of the last question, what can we expect musically and thematically from the new record?

CH: The new record is about stripping away layers and trying to get to the heart of things. I wanted to get away from the elaborate and laborious studio record. I loved making The Deep Blue in Italy, i was there with Rob Ellis and Eric Drew Feldman for two months and it was a very ambitious and dense record that i think was quite underrated at the time. This time round i wanted something that would hit you in the face straight away, music that was instant and didn’t require repeated listens to get into. Lyrically it references colours, art and beauty. I think we all have a duty to leave behind beautiful things that are durable. Art should hold a mirror up to the horrors of the world, but also the wonderful things that are hidden in nature. Society favours the throwaway at the moment, the plastic X Factor pop that whilst trashy and fun, is kind of gross.

TDOA: You’ve referenced the title, New Worlds as being “a mission statement”. Can you elaborate on that, please?

CH: Well it’s a new start for me. I set up my own label Little Sister Records to release my records, and after a year of making and learning from mistakes, i now feel ready to take this new record on the road and bring it to the people who want to hear it. I’ve been constantly touring and playing with other artists, and i’m looking forward to making New Worlds my priority. The full lyrics to New Worlds include ‘we can make, such bright such great, new worlds’ and that’s exactly what i want to do through my music, create amazing, bright and inspiring New Worlds.

TDOA: Tell us about the process of making the video for the new single, White. Do you enjoy making videos?

CH: I had to learn White backwards, which was pretty time consuming! It sounded like an alien language. The budget was really small so i wanted to have a simple and striking idea that we could pull off. We filmed three takes, and the one we used was the last one. After each take i had to shower and change into an outfit that was exactly the same as everything got totally trashed with paint. The showers in the building were absoloutly freezing, which is typical for a video shoot! I do enjoy making videos, more so the idea hatching, working out the outifts and how it’s going to look than the actual filming as it can be long and very boring…but it’s always worth it.

TDOA: Can I ask questions about Ash? I enjoyed the bands’ work while you were a member. Can you talk about the experience and perhaps shed a little more light on your departure from the band?

CH: Well it’s hard to condense 9 years into a paragraph. I suppose all i can say is that it was a great education and gave me strength of character. Ash toured so much, i travelled the world and had an amazingly fantastic time from 18 through most of my 20s, and everything i’ve done after seems like a walk in the park as we did it so hardcore. When you’re young you don’t really think about how arduous touring/recording/touring can be, but i wanted to move on and make my own music whilst it was fresh in my head and i couldn’t see how i could remain with the boys and be creatively happy.

TDOA: Whenever someone changes jobs, their workplace inevitably has a different “environment”. When you first walked into a Bat For Lashes rehearsal, how different was it from working with Ash?

CH: Bat For Lashes is very different to working with Ash, mostly because their are three girls in the band, and the Tour Manager is also female. I was the only girl with Ash and it was hard at times, i sometimes had to be ‘one of the boys’ to get my voice heard. I was so young when i started out, insecure and shy, but trying to hide it by being a hardcore drinking teenager throwing up outside the tourbus. It took me a while to really get to know myself. I’m 30 now, much more confident. I know what i’m about. I’m absoloutly loving being around females who are all amazing musicians, and are great fun. The music is entirely different as well. I am playing bass, guitar and keyboards with BFL and it’s much more challenging musically. I suppose the punk rock aspect of touring has gone, but it’s more rewarding for me right now.

TDOA: The press accolades and Mercury prize nominations for BFL has to be gratifying. Ash went through a bizarre arc of media and public acceptance. How do you deal with the fickle nature of the media, record labels and the music-buying public?

CH: I feel quite removed from it all. I never felt part of Ash really as i was late to the party and i wasn’t signed to their record label. Now i have my own label and intentionally avoided being part of the industry which i think can be really creatively toxic. I have a great pocket of fans who i try to please as much as possible, i’m pretty active on facebook/Myspace…but really i draw the line at Twitter.

TDOA: How did you enjoy Lollapalooza? Get to meet or see anyone that you enjoyed?

CH: Lollapalooza was insanely hot, and i’m a delicate Brit so it was pretty intense!! The wild weather totally suited the BFL set though, the wind kicked up and it was very dramatic. We didn’t get to see many bands as we had to leave pretty much straight away but i would have loved to have seen Lou Reed. Dammit!

TDOA: How was the appearance on Jimmy Fallon? I know you spoke with Ashton Kutchner, but what did he talk about?

CH: TV studios are freezing cold. It was the same with David Lettermen. You have to hang around all day, mostly doing nothing, and then you perform for three minutes and it’s all over in a flash! It’s cool because you occasionally get to meet some of them famous people…i didn’t really chat with Ashton, he kindly said he liked the song…and then i ran away.

TDOA: What was it like working with Bryan Ferry? Was he every bit the gentleman and did you speak with him much?

CH: Working with Bryan was pretty amazing. It was a very bizarre experience, all private jets and exotic locations at a time in my life when i had just spent all my money making my record and was struggling to pay the rent. Playing the old, great Roxy Music songs like Virginia Plain and Love Is The Drug was extremely cool and Bryan was indeed a perfect gent! And damn does he scrub up well for a 62 year old!

Bat For Lashes will appear at The Loft in Dallas on August 20th. http://www.theloftdallas.com/

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