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RHODA DAKAR (THE BODYSNATCHERS) INTERVIEW [2015]

WHAT WAS THE PROCESS FOR PUTTING THE MUSIC TOGETHER FOR THIS ALBUM? DO YOU HAVE OLD TAPES AND THINGS OR DID YOU HAVE TO WATCH OLD BOOTLEGS AND LISTEN TO YOUR OLD PEEL SESSIONS AND THINGS TO BE REMINDED OF THOSE TRACKS AND THE WAY YOU PERFORMED THEM?

I have old recordings from shows and those, together with Peel Sessions and other recorded material, were what we learned the songs from.

IS IT A COMFORTABLE PROCESS FOR YOU, GOING BACK INTO THE PAST LIKE THAT? HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL TO BE FACE TO FACE WITH THE RHODA OF 1979 AGAIN?

I’m not a fan of looking back, I’ve always preferred to go on to the next thing. However, I haven’t listened to that old material for such a long time, I found I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t face to face with a former self, just some old recordings.

THE ALBUM SOUNDS VERY RELAXED, IT SOUNDS QUITE SPONTANEOUS AND LIVE AND LIKE YOU WERE HAVING FUN IN THE STUDIO. WHAT WERE THE RECORDING SESSIONS ACTUALLY LIKE?

It was relaxed, in a workman-like sort of way. We got on with it. We had to. Time was short. We weren’t reworking the songs, merely reanimating them.

YOU'VE PUT TOGETHER A GREAT CAST OF MUSICIANS FOR THE ALBUM - INCLUDING LYNVAL GOLDING AND HORACE PANTER FROM THE SPECIALS - AND IT SOUNDS GREAT BUT SKA IS A GENRE THAT SEEMS TO HAVE MORE OF ITS FAIR SHARE OF GREAT MUSICIANS SO WAS IT A DIFFICULT OR CHALLENGING PROCESS PUTTING A BAND TOGETHER FOR THIS PROJECT?

It was mostly down to one of the producers, Sean Flowerdew. I called Horace and I called Sean, but he called everyone else.

WERE YOU EVER TEMPTED TO TRY AND PULL IN ANY OF THE OTHER GIRLS FROM THE ORIGINAL LINE-UP OF THE BODYSNATCHERS, OR IS THAT A COMPLETE NO-GO AREA?

Women, dear, they’re women. Not girls. We are middle aged. As far as I know, I’m the only one still performing.

THERE'S A GREAT PIECE IN THE ALBUM SLEEVENOTES ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INTO MUSIC. IT'S REALLY INTERESTING THAT SO MANY PEOPLE WHO STARTED MAKING MUSIC AROUND THE SAME TIME AS YOU CITE DAVID BOWIE AS A PARTICULAR INFLUENCE, NO MATTER WHAT SORT OF MUSIC THEY ENDED UP MAKING THERE WAS A ROUTE TO IT THROUGH BOWIE. WHAT WAS HIS APPEAL FOR YOU, WAS IT MORE THE MUSIC OR THE VISUALS, OR THE SHOCK OF WHAT HE WAS DOING?

All of the above. Also, we banded together. It gave us an identity that everyone else hated, which was essential for teenagers back then. It’s probably the same now, really, it’s just we’re the parents and haven’t fully embraced our dotage.

IT SEEMS EXTRAORDINARY THAT THE BODYSNATCHERS ONLY EVER RELEASED TWO SINGLES AND SPLIT BEFORE YOU MADE AN ALBUM. I KNOW THAT YOUR DEAL WITH 2-TONE WAS ONLY FOR TWO SINGLES BUT SURELY THEY MUST HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN AN ALBUM, AND IF NOT 2-TONE THEN ANOTHER LABEL... WHY DID IT NEVER HAPPEN, OR WAS THE WRITING ALREADY ON THE WALL FOR THE GROUP?

2Tone the label was dealing with its own demons and break ups. We’d been offered an album deal with another label, but only if we didn’t do the 2Tone singles. If we didn’t do the singles, we didn’t get the tour. We were young, we only briefly had a manager, we worked really hard and were exhausted. That was what was written on the wall.

ACTUALLY WHAT SEEMS EVEN MORE EXTRAORDINARY IS THAT ALTHOUGH YOU ONLY RELEASED TWO SINGLES BUT WENT ON TO OCCUPY SUCH AN IMPORTANT POSITION IN THE MUSICAL STORY OF THOSE YEARS, SOMETHING THAT HAS KEPT YOUR MUSIC IN THE PUBLIC EYE EVER SINCE. IS IT EVER WEIRD TO YOU THAT THIS TINY CHAPTER IN YOUR LIFE HAS BECOME SO IMPORTANT?

Yes. But I didn’t stop there.

WHEN THE BODYSNATCHERS SPLIT IT FELT LIKE THE BELLE STARS WENT OFF TO BE ALL LIGHTWEIGHT AND POP AND YOU WENT OFF TO BE THE SERIOUS ONE WITH SPECIAL AKA AND RELEASED 'THE BOILER'. IS THAT HOW IT FELT TO YOU?

That’s how it was. It was what they wanted.

COMPLETELY BY COINCIDENCE I WAS RECENTLY GOING THROUGH OLD COPIES OF SOUNDS AND I FOUND A FEATURE ON THE BODYSNATCHERS FROM THE END OF 1979. IT SAID "BODYSNATCHERS COULD BE A LAZY A&R MAN'S IDENDIKIT DREAM. REGGAE. GIRLS. ALL THAT'S MISSING IS A SPEECH ABOUT HOW WE'RE ONLY HERE TO HAVE FUN." I'D NEVER THOUGHT OF THE BAND IN THOSE TERMS BEFORE, I WAS TOO YOUNG AT THAT TIME TO BE THAT CYNICAL AND JADED, BUT WAS THERE AN ELEMENT OF TRUTH IN IT?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Little Mix, Girls Aloud, Pussycat Dolls. It’s women as old men’s fantasies. It’s the music business.

IN THAT SAME FEATURE THEY ALSO TALKED ABOUT A VERY EARLY BODYSNATCHERS SHOW AT THE 101 CLUB IN CLAPHAM AND IT STRUCK ME THAT THE SONGS YOU WERE PLAYING THERE ARE PRETTY MUCH THE SONGS ON THIS ALBUM, A COUPLE OF YOUR OWN SONGS AND A LOT OF COVERS... HOW DID YOU PUT THAT CORE SETLIST TOGETHER? WAS IT A DEMOCRATIC PROCESS?

There are three covers on the album, not really the same. That was one of our earliest gigs. We only had one original song for our first outing – The Boiler. I was the last one in, so they already had a set put together.

YOU'VE BEEN PLAYING LIVE RECENTLY HAVEN'T YOU? I SAW THAT YOU WERE SUPPORTING PIL AT SOME OF THEIR RECENT SHOWS, HOW DID THAT GO AND DO YOU HAVE LIVE PLANS MOVING FORWARD?

Supporting PiL was fun. Some of the audience played hard to get…to start with, but we won them over! More shows in the pipeline next year, but for the rest of this year I’ll be DJing.

ANYTHING ELSE GOING ON FOR YOU AT THE MOMENT THAT WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT?

What do you feel you should be privy to? Still teaching vocals and performance and looking to do more. I’ve got a short story being published in an anthology next year.

RHODA DAKAR SINGS THE BODYSNATCHERS (2015)

'Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers' is available now.

NOVEMBER 2015

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