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SHAKESPEARS SISTER (SIOBHAN FAHEY) INTERVIEW [2009]

THE NEW SHAKESPEARS SISTER ALBUM 'SONGS FROM RED ROOM' HAS JUST COME OUT, IS THIS A POINT AT WHICH YOU BREATHE A SIGN OF RELIEF OR DOES THE RELEASE REPRESENT A WHOLE NEW JOURNEY AND A WHOLE NEW SET OF PRESSURES?

It's definitely time to exhale happily and celebrate the release of 'Songs From The Red Room'. It looks and sounds great so I'm really happy with it, and I think it sits proudly alongside the other Shakespears Sister records.

THE ALBUM HAS BEEN A WHILE IN THE MAKING HASN'T IT? WAS THAT THROUGH CHOICE OR THROUGH NECESSITY?

My organisational skills are pretty rubbish, so it's taken a lot longer than it should have as we've been juggling life and work in the Shakespears Sister team. In my case, for much of it I was still a single mother of two and a DJ to boot. My engineer/guitarist works on videos and films, and my bass player and drummer - Clare Kenny and The Wildcat - were often away on tour. In Clare's case Sinead O'Connor or Damien Dempsey or The Indigo Girls, and in Wildcat's case, Whitey. It has been a much interrupted labour of love!

YOU'RE RELEASING THE ALBUM YOURSELF ON YOUR OWN LABEL, IS THAT AN ENJOYABLE PROCESS FOR YOU? IT SEEMS THAT LOTS OF THE ARTISTS I TALK TO FIND IT VERY LIBERATING SITUATION TO BE IN...

Not being signed to a major frees you from negative and obstructive A&R-ing which can confuse, diffuse and ultimately destroy your own faith in your artistic vision so easily. However, the logistics of releasing on your own label means that no-one's taking care of the nuts and bolts organisation, and I fall down in that department. I think my attention span leaves a lot to be desired. Thank heavens for the support of devoted friends!

SOME OF THE 'SONGS FROM RED ROOM' TRACKS HAVE BEEN RELEASED AS SINGLES UNDER THE SIOBHAN FAHEY NAME HAVEN'T THEY, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO RETURN TO THE SHAKESPEAR SISTER NAME FOR THE ALBUM?

I have been mulling over using the Shakespears Sister name as opposed to my own for a while. I came up with Shakespears Sister back in 1988 as my artist identity and it feels perfectly appropriate. However by presenting the second album as a duo I'm aware that the wider public perception of the name is that. I was so keen to avoid any aggro because of that, that I reverted to my own personal name, but it didn't really feel right for many reasons, and it denied me my glorious back catalogue. This new album sits perfectly with my older work and it's a new chapter in that story. Now the live set is amazing as I have four great albums to choose from, not just the new one...

AM I RIGHT IN THINKING THAT I HEARD THAT ONE OF THE TRACKS, 'BITTER PILL', WAS COVERED OR SAMPLED BY PUSSYCAT DOLLS? IF SO, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

Yes, 'Bitter Pill' was covered by the Pussycat Dolls who, in actual fact, used our backing track too, so in effect we produced it without ever meeting them or their people!

It happened because one day a friend of mine - Assif who managed the Yeah Yeah Yeah's - was in Interscope having a meeting with Jimmy Iovine who was looking for songs for his new project and Assif played them the Droyds' remix of 'Bitter Pill'. They loved it and the next thing we knew there were emails requesting us to send them the parts. I was quite happy to let it go as I had spent quite a lot of money funding my recordings and needed to get it back from somewhere. It went on to sell seven million, so that was very handy!

Artistically it's a million miles from our version as they changed the chorus completely to the old Donna Summer song 'Hot Stuff'. A bit of a Frankenstein's monster! I think it's suffered from too much commercial second-guessing but that's what record companies do. Still, our version is still great, so good for the lucky people who bought it when it came out on The Droyds' electro label, God Made Me Hardcore!

DO YOU HAVE ANY PERSONAL FAVOURITES ON THE RECORD?

Personal faves... well they are all my babies so it's hard to choose. I love 'Pulsatron', 'Was It Worth It', 'Man In A Uniform', 'You're Alone' and 'Someone Else's Girl' best... oh, and 'Hot Room'. I LOVE that song!

WHO IS SHAKESPEARS SISTER FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS PROJECT? IS IT JUST YOU OR IS IT A PROPER BAND PROJECT?

I always said when I came up with the name and the concept of Shakespears Sister that it would be the name under which I would record, that I didn't want to be a solo artist but that I didn't know what form it would take. It could be anything from me and a male voice choir to a chamber orchestra. It's the vehicle for me to write and record, to express myself to the world live and on record.

As it's turned out Shakespears Sister is an electro-glam band the core members of which are myself, Clare Kenny on bass, Gully on guitar and Wildcat Will on drums. This is the nucleus with whom I wrote and recorded this album. Clare and Gully have played with me off and on in Shakespears Sister since 1991 and Will has been in my life now since 2001...

THE ALBUM ARTWORK IS VERY STRIKING, IN FACT THE WHOLE VISUAL SIDE OF SHAKESPEARS SISTER HAS ALWAYS BEEN INCREDIBLY STRONG. I ASSUME THAT COMES FROM YOU, IS THE MUSIC AND THE IMAGERY ENTWINED OR ARE THEY VERY SEPARATE PARTS OF WHAT YOU DO?

Of course the visual side of Shakespears Sister is down to me and my style but I don't have a visual image that I work towards while I'm making music. The two are very separate processes; they simply come from the same source.

ON THE SUBJECT OF CREATIVE OUTLETS, SOMEONE ASKED ME TO ASK YOU ABOUT A HISTORICAL NOVEL YOU'VE BEEN WORKING ON... IS THAT SOMETHING THAT'S STILL IN THE PIPELINE?

It's true. I did start writing an historical novel and I got three-quarters through it until I hit a wall and hated what I'd written. I will revisit it one day when I have the time as it's a project that I'm very attached to, but writing is a lonely business and right now I just want to play live again.

I TALKED TO KEREN AND SARA RECENTLY ABOUT THE NEW BANANARAMA ALBUM, THEY MENTIONED THAT YOU'VE RECENTLY BEEN IN LA A LOT SO I GUESS YOU'RE ALL IN TOUCH STILL, LOOSELY AT LEAST... DO YOU TRY TO KEEP UP WITH WHAT THEY'RE UP TO? HAVE YOU HEARD THEIR ALBUM AT ALL?

Sara, Keren and I usually meet up a couple of times a year for a catch up, but not a musical one. We're old friends so it's more about that and laughing over old memories!

AN INEVITABLE QUESTION I SUPPOSE, BUT IS THERE ANY CHANCE YOU'D RECORD OR PERFORM WITH BANANARAMA AGAIN IN THE FUTURE?

No, I really can't see any situation where I would perform with Sara and Keren again...

YOU'VE ALREADY PLAYED ONE SHOW AS SHAKESPEARS SISTER TO PROMOTE THE NEW ALBUM, YOUR FIRST LIVE PERFORMANCE FOR SOME TIME I THINK... IS THAT SIDE OF THINGS SOMETHING YOU'RE PARTICULARLY LOOKING FORWARD TO?

I'm very excited about the new Shakespears Sister live show. The set is great, the band are amazing and we've got a whole fantastic new look. It's my best band yet I reckon - glam swagger, grooves to get down to, songs laced with great melodies, ironic humour but real soul... I must admit that in rehearsals when we started running the set I was struck by just how good my songs actually are and I got very excited about sharing that with the world again!

DECEMBER 2009

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