A few days before her unique concert with David Harrow in Athens at 30 October, Anne Clark talks to Lost Echoes.net about inspiration, plans, terrorism, computers & the colours of her music..
LE : Through all these years of your musical existence you have established your own unique way of expression based on spoken words accompanied by various instruments. How difficult has it been for you to remain in the music business and retain your uniqueness?
A. Clark : Well – sometimes it has been very difficult for me to stay in the music “business” and on a number of occasions over the past 25 years I have stopped. Sometimes this was because I totally lost the ability to deal with the “business” and other times because I knew there were other things I wanted and needed to do. But music and language and communication are vital to me and even if I could no longer work with them in the music business they would still be a major part of whatever I chose to do. Apart from all of my decisions of course, the main reason I have managed to have a career this long is due to the loyalty of the people who buy my CDs and come to my concerts…even if sometimes I don’t always give them what they expect or want. That’s a great relationship!!!!!
LE : A friend of mine once said: “The worst fear of an artist is to face the insecurity of his own emptiness and lack of inspiration”. Do you still have the same artistic flame that motivates you to write songs as you did when you first started? What do you think has changed or hasn’t changed in your creativity through the years?
A. Clark : Once upon a time I would have agreed with that sentiment and at times still do. However, in connection with my previous answer, I have also realized over the years that there are many many ways we can express ourselves and when I couldn’t work in one way I would find another. My way of writing has changed (ask Jeff – he’s trying to get me to do a new album!!!). It had to. Once I felt that my anger and energy could help in some way. Now I look at the world and see how far everything has gone. I look at the madness that is leading the world and I realize that my writing makes no difference. I feel total frustration and fury at the stupidity of it all. All any of us can do, until the whole global system changes, is to do what we can in our own small worlds. In the way we treat each other. Small acts equal great kindness.
LE : Speaking about uniqueness, your voice is one of the most distinctive in the music scene. Have you ever used it in projects other than your own?
A. Clark : Yes, a few things. I am currently working on a project with the Belgian band Implant. Using Science Fiction texts by other writers. That’s a new, nice and different experience for me!
LE : Have you ever considered or even been tempted to sing a song in your album than to recite the lyrics?
A. Clark : All the time!! But I know my limitations!
LE : You have collaborated with various -not to mention talented- artists: Dominic Appleton (in ‘This Sitting Room’), David Harrow (‘Changing Places’, ‘Joined Up Writing’, ‘Hopeless Cases’), John Foxx (Pressure Points), Charlie Morgan, the Norwegian Tov Ramstad, Paul Downing, Martyn Bates and Andy Bell (in ‘The Law is an Anagram of Wealth’) and many more. Which is your most memorable collaboration and why?
A. Clark : Oh – they are all very special and all very different. Each for different reasons. Obviously working with Dominic and the guys on The Sitting Room was special because it was my first real recording. It was very raw – in every way.
David Harrow and I had a special collaboration because I think we both knew that we were doing something quite unique together and the success of Sleeper In Metropolis and Our Darkness proved that.
John Foxx and Martyn Bates were both heroes of mine so it was very special to work with them…
But I have to say, working with Jeff Aug and the guys in the acoustic line-up is the most satisfying and special of all my collaborations. I hope we will continue to do many more projects over the years. It’s where I want to be.
LE : Are there any particular artists you would like to collaborate with in the future and who would they be?
A. Clark : Yes, possibly. There is a guy in Germany who goes under the name of Xabec. I’m very interested in working with him and incorporating acoustic elements too. Unfortunately Tim Buckley is no longer with us but I would have loved to do something with him. Brian Eno and David Bowie would be something too!!!
LE : What’s your “relationship” with music technology? Do you get along with computers etc. or is there someone taking care of the programming in the studio?
A. Clark : Ha! Ha! Me and computers!!!! Let’s not go there!! I love what they are capable of and I know what I want to achieve with them …but ……..
LE : In 1998, “Just After Sunset” was released; An acoustic, folk/classical album –a collaboration with Martyn Bates featuring translations of the poetry or Rainer Maria Rilke. Later, you formed an acoustic group, re-released ‘Just After Sunset’ and toured all over Europe. We also had the fortune to attend one of your live concerts here in Athens in 2003, which had an acoustic character. Do you ever feel divided between the electronic and the acoustic approach of music or do you consider them both as two sides of the same coin? Which side, from your experience, is more appealing to audience and critics?
A. Clark : This is a very interesting question (following on from the previous answer!). I have always had electronic and acoustic elements in my work. Right back at the beginning. However, with the movement of electronic music in the 80s and what David and I were doing, this obviously came to take the major role – or at least as far as the industry was concerned. In the 80s I loved what was happening with electronic music and I loved experimenting with it. However, gradually it came to get very stale and unexciting for me. Everything around seemed to be a derivative of something else and there was no longer any (or very few) fresh and exciting sounds going on. I didn’t want to get trapped in that and so moved right away into the acoustic element. I needed this for my head and my heart! Now however I am constantly discovering new and exciting areas of electronic music again and I hope in the future (as I have said above) to incorporate these with acoustic ideas.
As for the critics and audience…well, you are never going to please all of the people all of the time! I do know however that (usually!) my audience have very big hearts and very open minds and I like them to use them!
LE : Your recent collaboration with Blank and Jones showed a return to more electronic paths. How did this collaboration come about? ‘The hardest heart’ has been characterised “hard trance” (depending on its version). How do you feel about this music genre?
A. Clark : Trance. Hard Trance. House. Garage. (Kitchen?!) Lounge. Goa. EBM. Techno….I don’t know! It’s all just electronic music to me!
Basically, Blank and Jones asked me if they could re-mix , surprise surprise…Sleeper In Metropolis… but I thought it would be nice to try something new too!
LE : When listening to a song do you first notice the lyrics or the music? Which of these two elements is most important for a song to be considered as a “good song”?
A. Clark : Ooh! That’s difficult! There’s never a rule to that. I love lyrics and I love music. Great lyrics become music and music can become words. When they get lost in each other – that’s the best!
LE : Tracks such as ‘Our Darkness’, ‘Sleeper In Metropolis’, ‘Wallies’, and ‘Virtuality’ were re-mixed and released as a compilation, the ‘Wordprocessing”. What would you consider a successful re-mix and compilation. What were the ‘ingredients’ for the successful effect of that compilation.
A. Clarke : You know – by the time Wordprocessing was released, my cynicism with the music business was so strong that I saw it virtually as only a way to make money to do the projects I REALLY wanted to do! Martyn Bates and I had been working on the Rilke project “Just After Sunset” for so long and had even performed it live, getting great responses but not 1 record company wanted to know. All they wanted were endless re-mixes of Our Darkness and Sleeper etc etc… So for once in my life I made a good business decision and told them they could have a re-mix album but that I wanted enough money to make sure we could record JAS!
What makes a good re-mix album? Something that makes you sweat!!!
LE : We live in times where terrorism is probably the deadliest “disease” spreading around the world. How much do you feel affected by this every day madness when it comes to writing a song?
A. Clark : Please refer to my earlier answers.
We are now living World War 3.
All of us.
I have my opinions. I have my songs.
We have mad men in control everywhere.
LE : “People and politics and attitudes and you”(The Power Game [from ‘Pressure Points’]) There is a generalised criticism against political practices in some of your songs. Then “I have lost touch with the world/ where once I wasted much of my time”(Lost to the World [from ‘The Law is an Anagram of Wealth’] ). You seem to keep yourself at a distance in token of disappointment (?). Would you consider some of your songs as “political”? Would you ever write a song to openly express your criticism towards a political action?
A. Clark : Again – I think the answers lie in my earlier points. This is a very complex subject. Not only do we need to be clear by what is meant by “politics” (thank you Greece!!) but you and me and the readers all have our different backgrounds and then there is a cultural divide. I think it is very difficult for me in the UK to understand what politics means for somebody in Athens as it is for somebody in Athens to understand what politics means here in Norfolk. However, I do know how all of us are f**ked over by power maniacs, money and greed and I certainly have written about that!
LE : There are two songs from your album “To love and be loved” entitled “Athens” and “Acropolis”. Is there a special connection between you and Athens in some way?
A. Clark : Oh yes! A very special connection. Most of the time it is disconnected unfortunately!
My heart warms at the mention of Greece and I want to spend a lot more time travelling through your beautiful, wild and mysterious country! The islands, all the different mainland regions. I think I would really like to stay there for a lot longer time and learn.
LE : ‘You create the feeling/ I contain the need/ You sustain the rhythm/ I’ll maintain the beat’. What’s the place where you feel more like “homecoming”…and inspired!
A. Clark : That changes all the time…A very silent place. Probably the Scottish Highlands (or maybe Greece!!!)
LE : If your songs were paintings, in which basic colours would they be?
A. Clark : RED. BLUE. YELLOW!!!
Thanks a lot for the interview. Hope to see you in Athens.
Questions by Σωτηρία Σιγαλού & Ζίνα Αρβανιτίδη