Interview: Charlotte Hatherley

By on Tuesday, 13th October 2009 at 12:00 pm

Charlotte HatherleyFollowing on from our review of Charlotte Hatherley‘s new album, we were fortunate enough to get the opportunity to speak with Charlotte…

Hello Charlotte. What are you up to today?

I’m in Bristol today playing with Bat For Lashes on the final UK tour. I’m waiting to soundcheck having a cup of tea, answering your questions.

This is your third album. Did you instinctively want to change direction from your previous two albums?

I wanted to make a record that wasn’t as labour intensive as the last. I spent a few months in Italy making the Deep Blue, and before that a month in San Francisco demoing and writing. This time I recorded it mostly live, in a week in London. I wanted to record music that was more spontaneous and direct, and I think I achieved that.

What was the inspiration behind the title and theme of “New Worlds”?

I was writing about searching for the truth. There’s so much information being thrown at us it’s hard to see through the bullshit. I wanted to strip away the layers and make something simple and honest. Also I was influenced by painters and colours, and wanted to create a vibrant and visceral world. New Worlds to me means a new start. I feel like I know what I’m doing now, I know what I’m about. I just turned 30, I have so much more that I want to do and this record is a starting point.

I heard “White” debut on Steve Lamacq’s 6music afternoon programme and was smitten. It’s just a gorgeous, gorgeous track. Is it based on something that happened to you in real life?

White is based upon a story I read about an artist who wanted to whitewash Paris and project colours onto walls and buildings and make a dark and dirty city beautiful. Of course such bold ideas would never happen! I thought of turning a cold and clinical white room into a place of beauty where only hair and skin decorate the room, natural colours. When rooms are cluttered ugly things can be hidden, but against the white all the shit really stands out, and the beautiful objects stand proud. It’s not based on something that happened to me no, it’s just an idea!

I think every girl can relate to the story in “Alexander”, about wanting to know more about someone because you think you could really get on well with him if you just knew what made him tick. How did you go about writing this one?

Alexander is the first honest song I’ve written about being in love and I’m glad people can relate. It’s about someone I was very much in love with, who I knew was hiding a side of himself from me that he probably thought was quite unpleasant…but of course I was desperate to find out! Again, it’s about searching for the truth underneath the layers that we create to protect ourselves. I wrote it on acoustic guitar and we put it together as a band in the studio, it happened quite quickly.

Continuing on the subject of songwriting – how does it start for you? Lyrical concept? A riff? A drug fuelled orgy?

I don’t find the orgies to be too creatively nourishing. I always start with the music and melody and the lyrics are often the last to be written.

This album is quite varied in tempo, instrumentation, and vocal style. Did you find certain songs easier to write than others? And if so, which ones and why?

The songs were mostly written in one month when I was in Sydney, they came out pretty quick and easy. 8 songs were recorded live in the studio in a similar style, and then Firebird and Wrong Notes were recorded at home so they have quite a different feel about them. Wrong Notes was originally a Leonard Bernstein cover but I wasn’t given approval so I re-recorded it with Adem. The songs all have their own personality, but they were recorded in the same spirit, with the aim of making a record that was spontaneous and fun.

What challenges were presented to you on recording this third album, compared to your previous recordings?

I am prone to throwing lots of ideas at a song. I like weaving vocal lines and lots of guitars, I like to layer. Luke Smith and I decided that we wouldn’t do that with New Worlds, we kept the overdubs at a minimum and kept the arrangements short and sharp. These methods suited the time limit we put on ourselves, with only a week you can’t spend to much time on each song, you throw down ideas and move on. It was a big challenge to work in that way but ever so rewarding. Previously I had a lot of time to analyse and tinker with songs once they were finished, but this time I went straight into mixing and mastering so the finished product is a very true to it’s original spirit.

Before going on stage, do you have any rituals?

I take an hour to get ready, put on music and have a vodka.

What’s it been like touring with Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes) in America? I caught the show in Washington D.C. and I only wished your bass playing could have been highlighted more!

It’s been wonderful touring with Bat for Lashes. There are three girls in the band, a female tour manager and lighting girl. I’ve never been on tour with so many women before! I’m loving it. The music is gorgeous and it’s been great fun playing guitar, bass, keyboards and bits of percussion. Natasha has given me a lot of creative freedom. I love playing the bass! I wish I could play it more.

What would be a cool location you’d like to do a gig at?

I’d like to play Coachella, out in the desert looking up at the stars.

Finally, what music, books and TV / films are you really enjoying at the moment?

On tour I’m watching a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’m reading a book about Bowie in Berlin which is fascinating, consequently I’m listening to a lot of Low, Heroes and Lodger, as well as Iggy Pops ‘The Idiot’ …what a productive bastard!

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