Anna Calvi In Conversation
The world seems to have gone Anna Calvi nuts! Chris Lancaster is no exception, and we here at Artrocker, as cool as we are, get a little carried away. Chris met Anna for a little Q and A.
ARTROCKER: The track 'Moulinette' is one of my favourites of your live show, how come it didn't make the cut for the album, instead appearing as a B-side for the single?
ANNA: Well, when I was putting the album together it didn't fit the story I was trying to do and project.
ARTROCKER: I've seen your live show a few times and as you are a three piece without a bass guitar (rather just guitar, harmonium and drums) do you find this limiting and do you have to re-arrange the song structure to compensate the lack of bass being there?
ANNA: Yeah a little bit, Mally (Mally Harpez) plays bass pedals as well as harmonium though so when we do need that bass frequency we can get it, but I do like it without as it helps to create more space and dynamic, although it does mean I need to work harder as a guitarist.
ARTROCKER: What music do you listen to for your own pleasure?
ANNA: It varies really; I like David Bowie and Roy Orbison as well as classical music like Ravel and Debussy.
ARTROCKER: You've been getting some pretty high level plaudits from music luminaries such as Nick Cave and Brian Eno, had either of them been an influence on you and your music before you'd met them?
ANNA: Well I loved the work that Brian Eno had done with David Bowie and I really liked 'Music For Films'. Nick Cave I'm a definitely a fan of.
ARTROCKER: Talking about Brian Eno, is it true that he sings backing vocals on 'Desire'?
ANNA: Yes he does, he's funny when he sings because he'll sit down and read a book while he's doing the backing vocals, at the same time (laughs). I actually met him through a friend of his, he had come to my gig and then told Brian about me and he then contacted my management and we went for lunch. He's really into gospel music.
ARTROCKER: Are there currently any bands that you like? Maybe bands that you have gigged with or seen on the circuit?
ANNA: Well the band that supported me at the album launch called Alice And The Cool Dudes, they are amazing, I really like them.
ARTROCKER: 2011 is understandably going to be a really busy one for you with the album being released and live shows. With regard to the follow up, will you try and write on the road or do you need to shut yourself away and write separately?
ANNA: I think I'll try and write some of it on the road, although I like to write alone and shut myself away, so a bit of both really. Usually when I write I've been inspired by a piece of music or something and I record the song as I write it usually, the lyrics and the melody come all at once quite fully formed. Obviously I sculpt it but the initial lyrical ideal and melody idea are there throughout.
ARTROCKER: How did you find the recent Grinderman tour? How was the audience reaction?
ANNA: Really great, they were great shows and the audience seemed to like us.
ARTROCKER: Who influences your guitar playing?
ANNA: Well the guitarists I got into first were Django Reinhardt and Jimi Hendrix so they are constants, although now I like to imagine my guitar as something else, I imagine it as a piano or as an orchestra, that's how I keep it exciting to me. I like to imagine it as an extension of my voice.
ARTROCKER: What happened to your Telecaster (her battered Fender Telecaster Guitar)?
ANNA: Yeah I know (laughs), I used to hit it against the wall when I was angry and frustrated, I'm much nicer to it these days, I feel bad about it now.
ARTROCKER: When you first started with the guitar did you ever learn other people’s songs?
ANNA: No, not really, I mainly improvised. I played along to records but it was mainly my own music, I never really got into learning other artists songs.
ARTROCKER: Your voice is very expressive and powerful. I read that initially this wasn't something you were going to do, instead concentrating on guitar. Looking back do you feel you would have considered simply playing guitar and having a lead singer in the band handle the vocals?
ANNA: I don't think so, as I've always had a strong vision of what my music should be and sound like and you shouldn't have anyone else take control of that side of things if you can do it yourself. I had to do it myself.
ARTROCKER: So you couldn't have had Liam Gallagher or someone fill in?
ANNA: No (laughs)
Anna Calvi's debut album is out NOW on Domino Records annacalvi.com / myspace.com/annacalvi