[Interview] Róisín Murphy: “Nowadays, Good Times Are Something You Don’t Expect”
– conducted, transcribed & edited by Rick Heffernan
After releasing two critically acclaimed albums in recent years, Róisín Murphy returns with some of her most personal work to date. Self-producing the accompanying video’s and teaming up in the studio with cult DJ/producer Maurice Fulton, Murphy has crafted a four-part series of single releases away from the confines of a major label via indie music/arts label “The Vinyl Factory“.
No stranger to collaborating with some of the most prolific producers in the business like Matthew Herbert, Prince Paul, and more recently DJ Koze, Murphy lets her love of underground dance/disco shine through the tracks, making Maurice Fulton the obvious production choice for these releases. The Illusive Baltimore native, Fulton, lets a combination of his encyclopedic dancefloor knowledge, keen Paradise Garage/Loft influences, and love of a good song pour through the studio work. Murphy’s first two hedonistic instalments garnered a ton of industry attention with ALL MY DREAMS getting’s a full-on break-down washed with Larry Graham-esque baselines and the equally as danceable PLAYTHING arriving hot it’s on heels as the natural sequel to this exploration of pre-phone club-life.
With the next instalment “Jacuzzi Rollercoaster” due Sept 14th and ahead of her October 17th Paradiso/Amsterdam appearance, we sat down with the iconic artist to talk music videos, clubs, partying, creative processes and projects.
“Nowadays, good times are something you don’t expect”
With the new videos focused on going out and partying, what is your idea of a good time in 2018?
A couple of years ago there were hotel rooms being broken up which happened when touring with Moloko after a long weekend from Amsterdam to Istanbul as basically no sleep was factored in, we were a lot more rock n roll than other groups then and not the sweet little disco group that was anticipated. Nowadays, good times are something you don’t expect, I don’t really become aware of something until its happening, for example recently I performed in Croatia on-top of an ancient fort, you could see for miles which was phenomenal…you don’t really need to go out after that, its fun enough and special. Its great to just drop everything and do that, its lovely, and then other times things go wrong but that’s also lovely. The last big club night I went too was Harvey at Ministry of Sound which was amazing as I met people from every clubbing era of my life from London, Ibiza, Miami etc. It was a big reunion. I also went to Printworks in London which feels like a rave, it’s an old factory space, it’s stunning, Manchester has a space like this with Warehouse Project which is huge.
The videos also have a real emphasis on what would be regarded as pre-phone hedonistic dance-floors and authentic parties, do you feel this is something that’s harder to find in club-land these days?
To me it feels strange that people would stand there with phones and look at the DJ all night, I felt sorry for the DJ (at Printworks) as its awful pressure in that sense with the cameras. I’m doing a PA in Berghain in the Autumn, you’re not allowed the phone camera in there. I’m sure there is still proper clubs out there where young people are still making regular nights. I do bemoan what is a nightclub now, i.e the buildings, people re-appropriating industrial spaces which means dancing on concrete all-night, whereas many of the best clubs I’ve been too came from the 80’s nightclub era, where a promoter would come in and take it over and you’d have your good club night. Fitted seats, no daylight, completely removed, comfortable and womb-like…they were a bit tacky but I do miss these real nightclubs, purpose-built for dancing and to be hedonistic. Reappropriated spaces with glass, the sound bouncing all over the place and dancing on hard concrete floors is not that cool. We need more upholstery haha.
Having directed the videos yourself and having nearly gone down a visual art degree road before your first major record deal, how was the creative process and what do you want people to take away from them?
First thing for me is always the music, as far as I’m concerned the music for the new releases so far is perfect. My songs are visual, they give off visual vibes from the music, so starting from there its easy to come up with the video ideas. I find everything I work with close by, that’s almost my motto, i.e the people I worked with for the video were close by, they come to me by some form of magnetism. With the video’s, it might seem like I had 10 cameras in a nightclub, gave them to the people and told them to have a party but obviously, you can’t create that atmosphere. Each video had one camera. I studied, researched and created a lot of mood films beforehand to try and capture that vibe, those were some of the most complicated videos I’ve made. I’ve seen something on Facebook the other day about the top ten movies about club culture that should be watched, but none really capture that vibe. To make that work in feature films is really hard and the way I went about it was complicated, a lot of pre-editing etc. These videos are based on club-culture, Maurice had first tested the music for the video’s during his club gigs where they worked great, he said they were finished and I thought that’s its so and everything else came out of that, i.e visually, the art-work, to a degree what I’m wearing etc.
Would you say, All My Dreams gives off a coming off age or adolescent exploration of clubbing for the first time and Plaything maybe being the natural sequel a few years later?
Yes, definitely, I based All My Dream on my first “rave experience” which was at Shellys at Stoke on Trent, it had been a club in the 80’s and then all of a sudden it got packed with young people on E and an excellent sound system. There is loads of footage online which I based my first video on. It was also the start of the whole house music/club thing in the UK, the crystallization of it, it was very naïve. My second video Plaything, you can’t see a deejay at all, I feel the focus should always be on the people dancing. Its got a difference between the people dancing on stage and off stage, they are all doing their bit, it’s a more of a personal video for me and based on a girl who got heavily into the scene surrounding the party Thrash.
With two strong releases from the set of four singles out already and the records aimed at the broader dance audience, how did Maurice and yourself, both being electronica/disco/house aficionados, approach the pre-production?
I wanted to work with him years ago when I was making “Overpowered” and it didn’t happen for some reason, likely he wasn’t asked as he’s a maverick but likely he would have said no to EMI (label at the time) anyways, then years later I wanted him for a remix and he choose my track House Of Glass, which I loved and did the video for even though I didn’t have too, he was touched by that which progressed to a very relaxed place of me travelling up to Sheffield now and again to his house, record tunes and going home, which was weird at the time as Sheffield is where I started originally and made my biggest chunk of music, but it all oddly makes sense.
I’ve listened and enjoyed you’re new “Sync Sessions” interview series with Tom from Groove Armada, who will you interview next and what was the idea behind these?
There are six of these interviews and they’ll come out once a month with the next being with Little Dragon. The podcasts were made in Dublin, Ireland, and the idea was presented as a nice thing of me basically talking to artists, making playlists with them and opening peoples tastes, which is a direct response to the algorithmic feed you normally get from things like Spotify for example, and more so you can stumble across music you might not find normally.
How do you feel about streaming services like Spotify in general and as a business model for artists these days?
I think the key with things like Spotify is you have to interact with it correctly and create a place for people to come too beyond your own music, I think it’s a myth that they are so terrible towards being fair to artists, other streaming services are a lot worse for payment I’ve heard. Thinking positively, you can use these platforms well to take advantage of your content but it just takes time, patience and vision.
Given the instant platforms/apps/marketing tools available to artists these days, would you maintain it’s easier or harder for new artists to break through?
It’s hard to answer that as its completely different now these days, for example, there won’t be any pop-stars like Madonna again, where they meant everything to the whole world at the same time, its over, all that kind of phenomena, its more instant now with less perfectionism, even the artists images are all re-touched without any vision of how the artist might look or be in the future.
I guess there will always be positives and negatives when working outside the major label realm, having been a major label artist for many years, what would be the main differences of releasing on either?
Working on a major like EMI was a dream in terms of the level of commitment from the team, people working night and day, it was amazing. if I didn’t like how something was mixed down, I’d get it mixed it somewhere else, it was a dream as I had full the control of all aspects.
Working with an indie is more personal and with people who invest their own time as opposed to being paid a fortune up front, I went into collaboration or partnerships like that with Moloko, Matthew Herbert, Maurice Fulton etc. 50/50 partnerships, it doesn’t have to be perfect but it has to be close to perfect when working with others like this as much as possible so everyone is happy.
Lastly, how do you find new music these days? And who are you currently enjoying listening too?
I get given a lot of music all the time by various people whereas in the past I would have gone down to the record shops who were the original curators. Now I’m usually listening to other DJs and selectors, for example, Mark E, Mark Seven, Alexander Nut, Ivan Smagghe, Greg Wilson, stuff from the Robert Johnson club etc.