Artist Interviews

Q&A: Viv Albertine

By | Published on Wednesday 2 February 2011

Viv Albertine

Original riot grrrl Viv Albertine joined seminal punk band The Slits in 1977, and the band then went on to release all-time classic album ‘Cut’ two years later. Since The Slits disbanded in 1982, reuniting only briefly in the mid-noughties, Albertine has taken on various projects, as well as becoming a mother, and undertaking a stint directing oddball 80s sci-fi series, ‘The Tomorrow People’.

Her first solo effort was four-track EP ‘Flesh’, released last year via Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace! label. This was followed by an alternative Christmas single, entitled ‘Home Sweet Home (At Christmas)’. Her debut solo album is currently a work in progress, for which she is raising money via Pledge Music.

As the fan-funding draws nearer to the target, Viv took some time out to answer our Same Six Questions.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
When I was seventeen, my granny died and left me £200. My family was very poor so this was something that would never happen to me again. I couldn’t decide whether to buy an old Norton motorbike or a guitar. I thought I would probably die quite quickly if I bought a bike so I got a Les Paul Junior, single cutaway. I’d never played an instrument in my life. Never had a music lesson. But I had seen the Sex Pistols play their first show and I thought ‘I want to do that’. Even though there were no girls I could think of as role models and I couldn’t play. It didn’t put me off. I was galvanised.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
I have an EP out called ‘Flesh’ released on Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace label. I hadn’t made music for 25 years. Not touched a guitar. Not written a song. Two years ago The Slits asked if I would consider rejoining them, so I said ‘give me a couple of months to see if I can relearn the guitar’. I bought a cheap Telecaster copy, a Squier, sat down at the kitchen table, to much ridicule from my family, and started to fumble around on it. One day a couple of weeks in, my fingers and my inhibitions let go and I went mental on that guitar. Songs started pouring out. I couldn’t stop. I still can’t. The Slits thing wasn’t for me but I am fired up again. Got to get it out.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
Sometimes I start with a guitar part and sometimes with lyrics. I always write on guitar. ‘Confessions Of A MILF’ started with a ten page rant that I refined and edited. It didn’t seem like it was going to be anything special. The guitar part was so simple I was embarrassed. But the thing about that song and all my songs is they come from deep inside me. Now that is the song that resonates mostly with people. I use the same principals in songwriting that we did in the punk days because that’s what I still believe in; absolute honesty in lyrics, absolute lack of self indulgence in music and absolute truth to yourself. This never fails. Because you cannot fail if you tell the truth. You only bring what is right for you and that may not be money or fame. It may be an interesting life.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
The English narrative poets which I learnt at school, I still like the meters and rhyming. ‘The Lady Of Shalott’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson, ‘Goblin Market’ by Christina Rosetti, ‘The Highwayman’ by Alfred Noyes, ‘The Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I love very English words and writers – The Kinks, John Lennon, Syd Barrett. Musically, I try not to be influenced. I just let the sounds come as I write. I’m totally self-taught so what comes out is just an amalgamation of years of sounds I’ve heard coming out. Not just music.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
“I am not here to entertain you. I am here to make you feel uncomfortable” – Luis Bunuel

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
I am in the process of recording an album track by track as I have no money. Musicians are playing on it for practically nothing. Strummerville have paid for some recording sessions. Bit by bit. Piece by piece. It’s my manifesto. The truth, undiluted by lovers, children, parents, record labels, managers. I’m free.