It’s time for another pod-cast folks! After our triumphant appearance on BBC 6 Music it’s back to reality with the soothing, laconic, sensual (sic) some would say semi comatose tones of Mr Von Pip. In this episode we have special guest appearances from Emma Anderson of Lush, Ritzy from The Joy Formidable, Sarabeth Tucek, Paul from The Primitives, Sarah From The Good Natured and much, much more . We hope you enjoy .
Ever felt unappreciated, resigned to the fact that no matter what you do certain people will always be waiting to pour scorn upon your head? This was certainly how lead singer Miki Berenyi appeared to feel with regard to how the music press treated Lush. Despite her often feisty displays during interviews you sensed that, as the bands days were heading towards a tragic conclusion, this attitude was replaced by a miasma of beleaguered acceptance. Yet twenty years on since the bands seminal ‘Mad Love’ EP , Miki, whilst obviously not losing any sleep over it, still finds the bands treatment somewhat baffling. Their many fans will tell you they are one of the greatest bands ever, as fantastic live as they were on record, yet they were without doubt, after an initial flirtation with the music press, never really given their due by many critics. Maybe the problem was the fact that they were actually too nice to be in such a shark infested business, too open and honest and not as intensely po-faced as some bands who emerged from Britain’s burgeoning ‘Shoegaze’ scene . Maybe they committed the cardinal sin of initially appearing to actually enjoy what they did? Often seen at other bands gigs, members of Lush were deemed to be major players in part of a rather daft Melody Maker invention known somewhat sniffily as ‘the scene that celebrates its self’. Lush’s bassist Phil King (who replaced Steve Rippon after ‘Mad Love’ was recorded) put the media treatment Lush received into perspective when he told us “I think that maybe because we lived in London and would be seen at a lot of shows, the press kind of took us for granted. There was no mystery because we were so ubiquitous. Also because we were seen out I think they felt we never worked. I always found it funny in the US as the press there seemed fascinated by the English music press and would always quiz us on it.”
In our 2008 interview Miki also spoke about the capricious nature of the press thus “I remember the Melody Maker reviewing ‘Split’ and slagging us off because (apparently) all our songs were light, jangly things about fluffy clouds and fairies. Meanwhile, reviewing the same album, the NME complained that our lyrics were too depressing (covering child abuse and parental death) and didn’t fit the sparkly, light melodies. I guess what I’m saying is that we couldn’t do right for doing wrong.” Personally I’d always put this sort of fickle wankery down to the arsey hipster fellating London based music press, who combined old school misogyny and indie elitism with a good old fashioned “build ‘em up then knock em down” sensibility much loved by our more unsavoury tabloid newspapers.
I suppose the problem with journalists perpetuating unwarranted myths is that people start to believe in them, indeed myths that are believed tend to become accepted as truths. And whilst I don’t subscribe to Alan McGee’s view that My Bloody Valentine were a joke band, or that he used them as a piece of McLaren style situationalism to see just how far he could push hype, the fact remains that MBV’s legacy has been hugely overblown in much the same way that Lush’s musical contribution has been seriously underplayed. And that I’m afraid is down to the press.
It’s been 20 years since Lush released their Robin Guthrie produced ‘Mad Love’ EP and so maybe it’s time to re-evaluate Lush’s musical legacy. Let’s just hope any such re-appraisal won’t be peppered with tiresome elitist blather about Brit-pop or accusations of ‘selling out’ , a charge often levelled at the bands final album, ‘Lovelife’. As Miki said when discussing the album – “Is ‘Ladykillers’ more commercial than ‘Hypocrite?’ Is ‘Desire Lines’ more shadowy than ‘Last Night?’ Is ‘I’ve Been Here Before’ a throwaway exercise in jazz lite whereas ‘Lit Up’ is a trawl through the underbelly of discordance rivalling the darkest periods of Miles Davis?
The Quietus website has recently put forward a convincing case for Lush’s legacy to be given the credit it deserves and hopefully this may signal that people are finally coming around to the view, that actually Lush were rather f**king brilliant. And so with 2010, being ‘Mad Love’s’ anniversary we spoke to Emma, Miki and Steve about their memories surrounding the recording of the EP and asked the question many Lush fans have been desperate to put to them. . . what about a reunion?
VP: What do you recall about the period of time when you recorded ‘Mad Love’, was it an exciting time, full of wide-eyed optimism ?
EMMA: It was really enjoyable and a very easy session. We recorded it in The Church which was Dave Stewart’s studio and it was mixed at September Sound which was The Cocteau Twins’ one. Unlike when we did ‘Spooky’ with Robin, we completed it all quite quickly and without too much tinkering and, yes, things did seem to be going very well at that time.
STEVE: It was fun being a proper musician, but I think I’d read enough about the music biz not to be starry-eyed about it. Recording sessions were fun to begin with, learning how a real studio worked etc. Doing our first European tour in Jan-Feb 1990 was great, travelling around Holland, France & Germany and meeting all these foreigners who’d actually heard of us was a hoot. It was the closest I’ve come to being on holiday for a living.
VP: Did you enjoy working with Robin ? … How did he come to be involved?
EMMA: I had actually met Robin prior to our involvement with 4AD. I had worked for Jeff Barrett (who now runs Heavenly) and he knew Robin and told me to send a demo to him, which I did. We met up (with a pregnant Liz) in a pub on the Kilburn High Road and he said he loved the songs. So we asked him to produce ‘Mad Love’. You might think it was obvious as he was on 4AD too then but at the time but the relationship was quite strained between The Cocteau Twins and the label so actually Ivo trod carefully! Working with him on ‘Mad Love’ was pretty straightforward and Robin is a lovely guy with a very dry sense of humour. Unfortunately working on ‘Spooky’ wasn’t so easy but that’s another story!
VP: How did you decide which songs would be on the EP ?
EMMA:I think they were just the newest ones we had plus we thought ‘Thoughtforms’ should get the Robin Guthrie treatment. We weren’t that prolific but we were very economic with our songs so whenever we had songs to record, we did.
VP: Miki, Mad Love contains your song “Leaves Me Cold”, what’s the song about, I’ve had my own interpretation for years which is probably all wrong 😉
MIKI:I think it’s a bit of a shame telling people exactly what a song is about because, if it’s a song they like, they’ve invariably come up with a much better interpretation that is probably relevant to their own lives and therefore makes the song much more meaningful and personal to them.
However, I will satisfy your curiosity. BASICALLY I had a really filthy dream about someone who I never ever thought of ‘in that way’ and it freaked me out a bit because I just couldn’t get the dream out of my head and so every time I saw them it would make me shudder at the very thought but it had also made me fall a bit in love (lust) with them because I just couldn’t shake how passionate the dream had been.
VP: Do you feel “Mad Love” was the first time we heard what we might call the “Lush sound”
EMMA:No, I think ‘’Scar’ pretty much displayed that too but in a rawer state.
VP: Emma, you filmed two videos for “De-luxe” ….do bands find filming promo videos a rather dreary affair, or was it fun being one of your first ?
EMMA: Those 2 were OK – yes the first one in the tree was the first video we had ever done so it was quite exciting. It’s a very indie video but OK all the same. The second one was done for the USA and we really liked making it and the finished result was pretty good. It all depends on the director really and their ideas. The worst video we ever did was the US version of ‘500’ – bad day and BAD video.
VP: Steve, Miki told me that during the video shoot for Deluxe you’d had enough of precariously dangling on tree branches and disappeared ….! What are your recollections?
STEVE:I don’t remember that at all but it sounds like something I’d do, I was always prone to wandering off by myself and coming back to find people fretting about where I’d been. Usually looking for second-hand record shops, actually, and if I found one I’d be even later getting back. I do remember it was freezing cold doing that video out in the middle of nowhere in Kent in January, but I also remember someone told us it was where the Beatles did their Strawberry Fields Forever promo, so that was exciting for a lifelong Beatle fan like me.
VP: Steve, What are your abiding memories of being in Lush, any regrets about leaving when you did ?
STEVE: It was great fun, I loved it all really, and I only left because I’d have preferred to be doing my own songs, only nobody was interested in them, and I could see all the things we’d done that were exciting the first time round (making records, videos, radio sessions, touring Europe, Japan & the States etc) were going to get progressively less fun the more often we did them. Especially the amount of times they ended up touring America. So no, I think I left at the right time, although I do think I was probably a bit jealous of them still being in the band around 1995 when I’d started working in a computer firm in Dublin and they seemed to be living it up at the dawn of Britpop. But even if they’d asked me to re-join then I don’t think I would have, as it would’ve involved moving back to London, which I never wanted to do. But I have loads of great memories from that time, and I still think of Miki & Emma as my alternative sisters, even though I haven’t seen them for years (although I’m hoping to next month).
VP: You must get tired of answering this but Emma & Miki, you’ve mentioned previously that a Lush reunion was mooted but due to the “c**ntish flakiness” of some parties things didn’t really take off . Although you all have jobs and Emma’s a new mum now, do you think you’d ever consider it again if somebody genuinely made an offer.
EMMA: Erm – that was Miki’s quote and not the whole reason we didn’t reform (she was referring to one promoter). The money and offers just weren’t there that year and we couldn’t take the risk of the outlay without making that back and then some. At the time we were thinking about it I had a very stressful full-time job and would have had to do all the rehearsing and playing in my 4-week holiday allowance which I think would have left me as a nervous wreck! If the money was right then, yes, we would do it but I think promoters would have to come to us so we would be in the driving seat. Who knows what may happen in the future but, yes, for the time being a reformation looks unlikely.
MIKI: Yes, I’m afraid that the honest answer is not unless we were offered an awful lot of money. I have enough trouble finding the time to answer these questions let alone relearn the entire Lush back catalogue, rehearse with a new drummer and actually schedule time to play the gigs. So if we did it, I would have to stop work, and if I stop work, then how do I pay the bills?
To be fair to the c*nty flake, he wasn’t the only one who pissed us about (although he was the only one who deserves to have a resilient object booted up his backside). One agent after another (well, three) promised the world and then had to admit rather shamefacedly that it wasn’t really happening. They scratched their heads, they didn’t understand, but the promoters just weren’t that keen.
In the words of Les McQueen, “It’s a sh*t business”.
We conclude our Lush trilogy with an interview with Phil King, former bassist with Lush and member of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Phil replaced original Lush bassist Steve Rippon, who left the band in 1992 after developing a phobia of sitting in inordinately large trees playing “air bass” for video shoots. We asked Phil about his time in Lush, life with the Mary Chain, and found to our surprise that Ricky Gervais may well have based elements of “Extras” on Phil’s own life 😉
VP : Looking back what were your personal highlights of your time in Lush ?
PHIL: For me I guess it would have been the Spooky world tour in 1992: Over 120 shows in a year. Ireland, the UK, the USA, the Continent, Japan, Israel and Australia. In the past I´d played around the UK with various bands – The Servants, Felt, Biff BangPow!, See See Rider – and even been to the Continent on various Creation package tours, albeit crammed in a minibus and occasionally sharing beds; but this was on a whole different level..
Touring America that year was the most amazing thing for me. We had a tour bus, great audiences, and drove the length and breadth of the country. I could see why Lush had built up such a good following in such a short time as we worked hard doing any press,TV, radio or in-stores that came our way and always made a point of being friendly to the fans.
VP: The Story goes that your interview/meeting to join Lush was held in a pub. What were your first impressions of the band, and did an ability to drink copious amonts of alcohol play an factor in you joining ? 😉
PHIL: Miki called me up at work. I was a picture researcher at the NME at the time. I remember having read in the paper the story that Steve was leaving. The band had been recommended me by a mutual friend, Polly. I vaguely knew Emma as she used to come into the NME office delivering records when she was a press officer for Jeff Barrett and I had seen Lush play a few times. The first was quite early on at The Sausage Factory at The White Horse, West Hampstead. I just remember a darkened basement and lots of giggling in between songs. I then saw them again supporting Felt and The House Of Love and headline in Ladbroke Grove – when they played shows in North, South, West & East London – not long before I joined. We arranged to meet up in the not-that-famous-at-the-time pre-Britpop “The Good Mixer” in Camden Town. I lived just round the corner. At that time it was frequented by 50s rockers and their beehived girlfriends – who all hung around the pool table – and had a well stocked jukebox. I remember Miki and Chris being there – not sure where Emma was.- and a friend of theirs called, Johnny. He´d played in the first line-up of the band and had a memorable Link Wray tattoo on his arm. They were both very friendly and had no airs and graces about being in a pretty successful band. We of course all got very drunk ….and I was in the band. It was a bit of an eyebrow raiser – but also a bit of a relief really – that they didn´t even want me to do an audition. In retrospect it made sense, as the most important thing when you´re stuck together with someone 16 hours a day is that you get on pretty well.
VP: What was the first Lush song you played?
PHIL: The first song I ever played – well mimed – was for the video for “For Love. “It was so soon after I joined I didn´t even know where my fingers should go. Not that it mattered at that stage of course. I´ve checked with Emma about what was the first song I actually played in our first rehearsal and she seem to think it was “Tiny Smiles.” Prior to it I´d tried to work out some of the basslines. Miki´s weren’t so difficult, but I found that apart from “Sweetness & Light” and “Nothing Natural,” that Emma´s songs weren´t as easy as I´d first thought. She had a habit of not using root notes to make things a little more interesting. For example in “Monochrome” the guitar chords are the same for every verse, whereas the bass notes change each time round. She told me that when they recorded it in the studio, Robin Guthrie had asked how anybody was expected to be able to learn it. I had to have it all written down on a couple of sheets of paper, which I would have next to my set list onstage. We would play it for the encore. I remember at one show on the “Spooky” UK tour we came back onstage and somebody has stolen them and we had to ask for them back, which was pretty embarrassing. Luckily, after a few months of playing it every night I managed to memorise it.
VP: What are your favourite Lush songs?
PHIL: Sweetness & Light/Thoughtforms/Nothing Natural/For Love/Monochrome/Light From A Dead Star/Kiss Chase/Undertow/Lit Up/500/Ciao!
I’d Like to Walk Around In Your Mind/I Have The Moon/Love At First Sight
VP: What was your view of the music press’s treatment of Lush . I know Miki got a bit pissed off with them and said “We couldn’t do right for doing wrong”
PHIL: I think that maybe because we lived in London and would be seen at a lot of shows, the press kind of took us for granted. There was no mystery because we were so ubiquitous. Also because we were seen out I think they felt we never worked. I always found it funny in the US as the press there seemed fascinated by the English music press and would always quiz us on it.
VP: Did the final U.S. tour really take it out of you as a band. Emmas been quoted as saying she was fed up feeling like a “product”
PHIL: Yes, it did. After the initial thrill of the 1992 tour of the first album – not counting Gala of course – we then hit the difficult 2nd album syndrome with Split.and didn´t recover till our success in England with Single Girl, Hypocrite and 500 in 1996. By this time we had new management, who couldn´t believe the amount of goodwill we had in the US and decided that we needed to break into a new market there by supporting unsuitable acts like The Gin Blossoms and The Goo Goo Dolls. Unfortunately The Gin Blossoms had just released their difficult 2nd album and whereas their first had sold millions, the newest was a comparative flop in most markets in the US. We ended up either playing in large venues to audiences more interested in their popcorn and soft drinks than us, or the very same venues that we´d played a few months before, but now as a support act.. Also, because of the success of Lollapalooza a lot of the radio stations now hosted their own festivals. Part of the deal was that you played their festival and they would play your record – or else they might not. We would end up on unsuitable bills playing to audiences in the middle of nowhere. We also did radio sponsored shows on our own. We played one in Raleigh, Carolina to almost nobody and the next day while waiting for our plane, met some Lush fans who asked us what we were doing in Raleigh and when we told them, said they knew nothing about the show as it hadn´t been advertised.
The most frustrating thing was that we were having success in the UK – and thing were looking very positive – but had only played a warm-up tour of small clubs earlier on in the year. We also missed out on nearly all the UK festivals as we were in the US on inappropriate tours. There was a homecoming tour of the UK booked in the autumn, but that was not to be. Blur & Pulp had complained about the US being an alien place. For us in the past this had not being the case, but on our last tour there it certainly was.
VP: There are rumours you filmed a lot of behind the scenes video during the Lush years . Will it ever see the light of day ?
PHIL: Yes, it´s in the pipeline. I took my Super 8 camera on the 1994 Split tour and filmed a couple of hours of footage. Nearly all black and white – and all silent. The Split recording sessions; the UK, the Continent and the USA tours. I would have filmed our trip to Japan, but unfortunately my camera was broken in transit on a trip to Israel, although I did manage to film the 1992 trip there. On the 1996 tour I tried out a Russian clockwork camera, but the results were patchy, although I did manage to capture Chris´30th at The Fillmore when we hired a male and a female Elvis impersonator to both serenade him before the encore.
VP: When the decision was made for Lush to call it day, did you have plans in terms of what you wanted to do next ?
PHIL: I don´t think any of us had any plans as Chris´death took the wind out of all our sails. After six month – when the money ran out – I signed on, which as you can imagine was pretty demoralising. I did do a bit of office work here and there – Q, Vox, NME – and was even a film extra for a short period of time. The stand in for a singer in Sliding Doors, an IRA man in Titanic Town, a Paparazzi photographer in What Rat´s Won´t Do (bit nervous about that one as it was filmed at Heathrow Airport the Monday morning after Princess Di had died). I turned down more than I was offered. Hung, drawn and quartered for Elizabeth (They wanted to shave my head too) One of many jesters in Shakespeare In Love (don´t look good in tights). There was even talk of a part in Stanley Kubrick´s ´Eyes Wide Open, but he of course cancelled. ´The final straw was standing around in 70s man made fibres in the freezing cold at Pinewood Studios, waiting to do a scene as a photographer (getting typecast now too) for the British Spinal Tap film Still Crazy. I took refuge from the cold on the Albert R Brocolli soundstage and watched them film a scene where a storm hits a festival the band Bad Fruit are playing at and all their equipment gets blown over. I just remember a couple of poor extras standing behind a mountain of Marshall stacks trying to keep them from toppling over as two giant industrial sized fans created typhoon wind conditions. Another extra told me that he´d filmed a battle scene for Merlin on the soundstage a couple of weeks before and that it´d been horrible. Covered in mud, brandishing plastic swords, wet, bruised and frozen to the bone – all for £60 a day .When I got a call later on in the day from the NME saying did I want to come into their nice warm offices and work on the gig guide I jumped at the chance. It was while I was there that The Jesus & Mary Chain´s management rang asking if I wanted to play bass for them. I turned it down the first time, so disillusioned was I with the music industry; but then thought, “Don´t be stupid, it´s the Jesus & Mary Chain!” and called back.
VP: Have the Mary Chain’s famously feuding Reid brothers mellowed over the years. I hear they spent much of 1992’s Lollapalooza locked in a room arguing and fighting !
PHIL: Yes, but who could blame them. They had the worst spot on the bill – after Pearl Jam, who´d just sold a few million copies of their album – and played in the middle of the day. The audience came, went crazy for Pearl Jam and then dispersed to the sideshows. By comparison, being the opening act, we had an eager crowd ready and waiting.
Nowadays, with The Jesus & Mary Chain we fly in,do the show and then leave. No beer is spilt or tempers frayed. Jim & William are both now parents, don´t drink, or do drugs and also no longer have to endure weeks stuck on a tourbus together. Therefore it is all a lot more relaxed. It´s a lot of fun to be playing all the Mary Chain favourites.
VP : What sort of music do you listen to yourself, these days ?
PHIL: At the moment I´m into French space synth music from the 1970´s – Droids, Milkways, Space – and releases on Mike Always´s El reissues label – such as Hungarian jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo – and Johnny Trunk´s library and soundtrack label. I also like that Vampire Weekend album.
VP: Finally as somebody who has played in some of the finest bands from thelast 20 years such as Felt, See-See Rider Lush, Loop(?), Biff Bang Pow and The Servants (which featured Luke Haines) have you any “Spinal Tap moments to share?
PHIL: I saw that Loop mention in Wikepedia. Never did play with them, although I did work with the bass player from the band Neil in a sandwich bar in London Bridge in the late ‘80s and their drummer was in The Servants.
Here are a couple of Spinal Tap´moments.
We did only ever did one Radio One Roadshow, in Hunstanton in Norfolk. A rainy seaside town that Emma used to go to with her parents for her holidays. We were on the bill with Dodgy, Baby Bird, Ultra Nate and some long forgotten boy band, whose name escapes me It was in a local park down near the seafront and we played to an audience that seemed to be predominately mothers, with their babies positioned in front of them in pushchairs. I remember looking round and seeing DJ Simon Mayo on Emma´s side of the stage dancing to Single Girl – in a fat suit. Miki may have told him to fuck off. To add insult to injury we had to drive back the same day to London and sit waiting in a BBC dressing room for five hours for as Emma puts, it “30 seconds of humiliation” on All Rise For Julian Clary. He played a judge in a mock-courtroom setting doling out pithy putdowns. We had to come out holding a stack of music papers for a young Lush fan whose mother had thrown them away. Julian made some remark about Miki´s roots and we were ushered offstage again. No wonder everyone was so vague about what we would be doing. Ah, the magical world of light entertainment.
On the 1996 tour, on one of the before mentioned radio sponsored festival shows, we played on the same bill as Kiss. It was at Irvine Meadows in California and was the 4th Annual KROQ Weenie Roast. Each band – apart from the headliners – were only allowed to play four songs. We were on after The Fugees. For some reason they were 40 minutes late getting to the stage and when they did, launched into a jam which they didn´t seem to count as being a song per se. So when they launched into what they thought was their last song –which was at that time No. 1 in the US charts, ´Killing Me Softly With Your Song´– the stagehands looked at their watches and decided to rotate the revolving stage with us on the back of it. As The Fugees disappeared from view we appeared to a barrage of booing with Miki shouting “Give us a fuckin´chance!”. They didn´t.
Legends are like buses, you wait for one for ages then two come along at once!!! It may be apparent to anybody browsing the hallowed pages of the VPME that we are rather HUGE fans of Lush and just as our proprietor Mr VP had finally been retrieved from cloud nine after interviewing one of his hero’s, Miki Berenyi , he now finds he’s been given the opportunity to interview yet another hero, the other half of the song writing team and all round guitar genius from Lush, Emma Anderson. We wonder if the poor fellow will ever be the same.
Emma and Miki met at school both having a shared passion for music, so much so that they wrote fanzines and played in various bands. It wasn’t until 1988 that Emma and Miki formed Lush, and rapidly became one of the most talked about new bands in London . ( For more details on the Lush story go here ). Following the tragic events surrounding the disintegration of the band Miki disappeared from music scene (aside from the odd guest appearance,) however Emma returned to music forming a new band, Sing-Sing, with vocalist Lisa O’Neill. They released two albums – “The Joy of Sing-Sing” in 2001 and “Sing-Sing and I” in 2005, the latter being part financed by fans before officially disbanding on New Year’s Day 2008. In a perfect world Emma should have a huge record deal and be regularly appearing on shows like Jools Holland. Alas, unlike the music Lush produced, the world is far from perfect. We chatted to Emma about her time in Lush, Sing-Sing and the music biz.
VP: What are your favourite memories of your time spent in Lush?
EMMA: There are so many (probably too many to put here)! Signing to 4AD was definitely one (I had been a big fan of the label for years) but also lots of tour and recording memories. Lollapalooza in 1992 was fantastic fun for 2 months and we had a great time (which we didn’t expect). Playing ‘Cop Killer’ with various members of Soundgarden and Ministry dressed in a Charlie Chaplin suit was strange but fun! In 1996 it was also really satisfying getting in the charts and doing Top of the Pops all those years after we had formed. Obviously I have a lot of very fond memories of Chris too. He was a great person with an inimitable sense of humour. I still miss him. One of the funniest moments I recall was whilst we were in the rehearsal room he was talking about Candida from Pulp. I just said, apropos of nothing, ‘Candida Albicans’ and he seriously said, ‘Is that her surname?’. I nearly had an injury laughing.
VP: …and what are your weirdest recollections of your time with the band?
EMMA: Taking a ferry from Newcastle to Bergen, Norway with a load of geriatrics copping off with each other and a limbo dancer performing under a bar of fire on Chris’s birthday in 1994 was another strange event. Playing the Weenie Roast in 1996 in California and being on one side of a rotating stage with The Fugees on the other and being wheeled around, because they had been late and were running over, whilst they were playing ‘Killing Me Softly’ (which was Number One in the USA at the time) and having to take over the show was bizarre. There were so many – thing is people think Spinal Tap is funny but not really indicative of how it is to be in a band – people think it’s exaggerated . The fact of the matter is… Spinal Tap is actually brilliant because it’s not that far from the truth!
VP: You were quoted as saying towards the latter days of Lush that you were fed up with the industry that you felt like a “product”. So it would be safe to say that in the end you were fairly disillusioned with the music bizz?
EMMA: I was disillusioned with the way the band was being managed but not with the business in its entirety – I mean I went on to have jobs in the very same business (and I still work in it) and there are a lot of good things about the music industry and a lot of great people (but a lot of idiots too). I just felt the band was being steered in a direction that was wrong and morale became very low. I wanted out and that was even before Chris died.
VP : After Lush officially called it a day, did you have any idea what you wanted to do musically? Was finding somebody to collaborate with a plan or did Sing-Sing come about more by virtue of a “happy accident?”
EMMA: I just started writing songs not really knowing what was going to happen though I kind of knew I didn’t want to form another 4-piece indie band. I demoed those songs for 4AD with myself singing but was dropped but I wasn’t fazed. I then met Lisa O’Neill via a guy I was going out with at the time. She had worked with Mark Van Hoen whom funnily enough, someone I knew said, was looking for collaborators so it kind of all fell into place and Sing-Sing was born. The way Mark worked, i.e. lots of programming and working stuff out on a computer, was a really nice change for me.
VP: Sing-Sing’s sound was definitely different to Lush’s was this deliberate or just a natural progression in terms of where you were at that stage in life?
EMMA: Following on from the last answer, I really liked the programmed aspect of Sing-Sing’s music, not just the process but also the way it sounded. Yes, I had done the 4-piece indie band thing and wanted a change. It was great being able to use lots of different instruments like Moogs, trumpets, pianos, strings and samples with relative ease (as you didn’t need to hire big studios and spend ages with tapes etc). Also Lush’s records had been very expensive to make. It was a revelation that you could make something so much more cheaply, which still retained quality, due to computers.
VP: What are your fondest recollections of the “Sing-Sing” years?
EMMA: ‘Feels Like Summer’ appearing on ‘Now That’s What I Call Music 6’ in Poland was quite fun. Also making the first album, ‘The Joy of Sing-Sing’, was enjoyable. We were signed to Sanctuary at the time and were able to use their studio Nomis (which doesn’t exist anymore). We got in some great guests too – Audrey Riley, Tim Keegan, Vinny Miller, Mig Moreland and Poppy Gonzalez. Things got harder after we were dropped from Sanctuary and didn’t really get any easier until we set up our own label for the second album, ‘Sing-Sing and I’. Making and selling that ourselves was pretty satisfying. All-in-all though, Sing-Sing was pretty hard work but I am really glad we did it.
VP: There is talk that you may embark on a new musical project, are you in a position to enlighten us or is it top secret?
EMMA: It is just talk at the moment. There is nothing to report as yet. Day job taking up a lot of time at the moment! I would like to do something else though.
VP: Do you think the ex-members of Lush would or could ever collaborate on a musical project again?
EMMA: Who knows?
VP: What’s the weirdest piece of fan mail you’ve ever had?
EMMA: Erm, I had a lesbian one once which was quite weird. When people draw pictures of you and give them that can be quite odd too …..sweet but a little strange. I was also sent a ukulele once. I wish I knew how to play it!
VP: What sort of music do you listen to these days?
EMMA: Oh God – loads of different stuff as always. Trying to catch up on old stuff e.g. Gene Clark and Terry Callier but I also I like established current bands like Portishead, The Shins, Martina Topley-Bird, Goldfrapp, The Shortwave Set, The Foo Fighters and Ian Brown. Also, I love the Sam Sparro track ‘Black and Gold’. It’s genius.
VP: You have moved to Brighton after spending nearly all your life in London, what do you make of the music scene there?
EMMA: To be brutally honest, I am not THAT interested what’s going on musically down here. I moved here to have a more sedate/better pace of life and I don’t get very involved in the ‘scene’. My experience of it though is OK but I find it a bit inward looking but I think having lived in London all my life that is understandable. There are good venues and bands do visit here regularly but my days of regular gig going are over! Brighton is a great place to live though. I love it here. I prefer going for a nice meal in a country pub in The Downs than going to a gig! Not very rock and roll, I know but I don’t care.
VP: Ok time to get all “Desert Island Disc”, if you could take one album, one DVD and one book to this mythical Desert Island what would they be?
EMMA: Oh God, I hate this question but OK…
Album – Cocteau Twins ‘Heaven or Las Vegas’
DVD – Rear Window (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
Book – ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ by Milan Kundera
VP: What are your own personal favourite songs from both Lush and Sing-Sing?
EMMA: Lush – De-Luxe, Sweetness and Light, Kiss Chase, Dear Me, Fantasy, Scarlet, Desire Lines, I’d Like to Walk Around in Your Mind (Vashti Bunyan cover).
Sing-Sing – Far Away From Love, Panda Eyes, Command, Mister Kadali, Going Out Tonight, Ruby.
In the first of an occassional series, we get pop legends past and present to discuss some of their classic videos , the stories and ideas behind them, and what is it really like spending hours filming a 3 minute promo ?
What better way to start than with former Lush legend, the fantastic Miki Berenyi.
“Nothing Natural” By Lush
MIKI:“Nothing Natural video was an effing nightmare. Cannot for the life of me remember who made it but the guy some ludicrous idea of what he wanted us to look/act like in the video and it was nothing to do with how we are. I had to wear some ridiculous Barbarella-type sex-space outfit and had so much eye make-up on that my contact lenses were stinging my eyes. I seem to remember that the director wanted Chris to wear some translucent shirt with Michaelangelo cherubs on it that was so GAY. In the end, the boys were there as background. Thing is, to be fair, we had no ideas of our own at all, and back in the 90s the solution was to offer directors a shitload of money to come up with something fabulous that MTV would play. No wonder they just took the money and ran. Still, apparently Kurt Cobain saw the video and decided he liked Lush. So there’s a brush with a legend, if nowt else. And I may look like a rabbit mannequin caught in a headlight, but Emma really does look fantastic!”
“Hypocrite” By Lush
MIKI : “Hypocrite was great fun. Again, we had actors and a set and it all seemed really over the top! Funnily enough, I remember the actors had a bus to eat and chill out on and – it was like the opposite of that scene in Extras – we went on there to try and be friendly and say hi and were told that we weren’t allowed on that bus as it was specifically for the actors and equity members. FINE!
Me and Phil had a go on the Waltzer and we both nearly threw up because the bloke kept it going for about 15 minutes – backwards, forwards, backwards again, on and on until we both had our hands over our mouths. But a whole day at the funfair and never having to queue. Well, who would want more? And I like this one a lot because Chris is genuinely having an absolute ball and it’s so nice to look at film of him so happy!”
“500 (Shake Baby Shake) “By Lush
MIKI : It’s a song about a car – specifically the Fiat 500, which Emma coveted at the time, so much so she wrote a song about it! The idea of the video was to spoof car ads from the time – I’m afraid I can’t remember which cars they advertised but one had a priest in it in Italy driving around Rome or something, another one had a bloke who had lost everything at the casino but still had his car, another one had a woman walking down the street having left her fiancee – chucking away the ring and all that – but she still has her car so that’s ok (possibly from the same series of ads as the casino guy). Can’t for the life of me remember what ad Emma in the vintage vehicle referred to – answers on a postcard if you can come up with it!
The much-loved and beautifully looked-after vintage Fiat was supplied by its owner, a great big muscle-bound guy with a ponytail who looked a bit like Steven Seagal. I remember being really surprised that a macho muscle-man like that would own and love such a dinky little quirky car!
Despite having passed my driving test sometime during the recording of Lovelife, I’d never actually driven again since so consequently I was a total novice behind the wheel. The whole video was filmed at a racetrack (so we wouldn’t have to worry about traffic) but even so I could only manage driving around in 1st gear. At one point the director wanted me to reverse up a hill. The car immediately careered off the road and into a trench. Poor Steven Seagal nearly had a heart attack.
Meanwhile Chris got into a downer about having to play a priest and felt a total pillock. I think there was also an element of ‘How come Phil gets to play the suave, James Bond-type (again!) and I have to be a fecking PRIEST?!’ Meanwhile, I had to grin like a maniac in every shot and was smiling so hard the muscles in my face started to spasm.
Deluxe (original version) By Lush
Miki: I remember us going to some field in the middle of nowhere and spending an entire day up a tree freezing our collective nuts and tits off (it was February). We got hoiked up into the branches and had our instruments precariously balanced around us. It actually doesn’t look that high up in the video but I swear, it was pretty dizzying and we nearly toppled off on several occasions.
Sometime around teatime we got a break to get the feeling back in our limbs before they sent us back up again. Steve, however, was past the point of tolerance and went sprinting off like a rabbit from a trap muttering something about how there was no way they were getting him up that bloody tree again.
AT THIS POINT can I just say that each of these videos was a lot of fun to make and all the people involved were really, really nice so any moany tone is merely down to that fact that when I see myself on screen, nine times out of ten I just want to scream and cringe, I look so bloody stupid and contrived. There’s an art to looking good and convincing on celluloid, and I don’t have it!