Interview by Richard Mason
Viv Albertine is of course known to many as the former guitarist for The Slits. But Viv Albertine should also now be known as a contemporary recording artist. After many years away from music, she has recorded an EP entitled Flesh, released by the U.S. label Ecstatic Peace. It's a wondrous collection of 4 singular songs, brimming with passion, subtlety and surprises, with a rich yet intimate sound, featuring Viv's cunning, understated guitar and natural, emotive singing voice. Viv was kind enough to grant me an interview via e-mail in early February 2011, which is reproduced below. It clearly illustrates her passion for her music and for honesty and integrity in life.
PSF: How pleased are you with Flesh? Has it attracted much media attention, including in the U.S. seeing as it's on a U.S. label?
I recorded Flesh about 18 months ago. I had not been in a studio for 25 years. I loved every minute of recording. It all came back to me. And even though I had not thought about music in that way for so long, I could do it. I could think of parts and harmonies and funny little things to put in and interpret the songs. Every night when I went home I looked up at the sky and thanked the universe for guiding me back to this. It sounds wanky, but I had not expressed myself for so long, I was high as a kite.
PSF: Dennis Bovell was credited with mixes on Flesh. Was this the first time you'd worked with him since The Slits?
I can't remember when Dennis and I last worked together, It probably was in The Slits, We have stayed in touch over the years as friends so it wasn't awkward or anything working together again. I had already recorded the tracks with Dylan Howe producing, Dennis mixed them in a different studio. We just slipped back into our mode of taking the piss out of each other and groaning at his terrible jokes.
PSF: Are you still in touch with Keith Levene at all? Do you still think about "guitar depression"?
Keith and I have known each other since we were kids and I can honestly say that no one on the planet winds me up as much as him. I often think of him, of his patience, generosity and inspiration in teaching me how to approach playing the guitar. We do see each other or talk occasionally but we drive each other mad.
PSF: Your singing sounds very confident and polished. Did you have lessons or any other preparation for singing lead vocals?
I never sang much as a child, I was excruciatingly shy and would mime at school assemblies. Not like kids now, all singing their heads off and wanting to be on X Factor from the age of 3. I didn't start singing until 18 months ago when I started writing songs again. I just couldn't find anyone to sing them. I didn't know anyone any more in music. I sing like I talk. I can't stand it when singers put on affected voices or accents. Especially when girls go all baby voiced, or English people put on U.S. accents.
PSF: Your songs appear [to me, at least] as extremely personal, at times verging on confessional. Do you see them that way?
Yes, they are very personal and people advised me not to sing them in case I upset people around me. But I couldn't water them down, not even for the sake of my daughter. I thought, she'll just have to know me for who I am, the good and the bad, but at least not a lie. I was sick of not being myself. I think a lot of people live their lives not being themselves.
PSF: What make of guitar, amplifier and effects [if any] do you use now? And what guitar sounds do you search for?
I use a Fender twin amp and an old Fender Telecaster. A really basic combination. I like a clean trebley sound. Again unadorned, like my voice. Sometimes I add chorus and delay pedals to make it more chimey and ringing.
PSF: How far away is the full-length CD? Will it sound similar or different to Flesh?
Don't know at the moment.
Flesh is available from, among other sources, Picadilly Records, Manchester:
Viv has recorded material for a full-length release. Please see the link below to help her get it released:
Here she says:
"After playing guitar, songwriting and singing with The Slits I am making music again. I have recorded ten tracks at a little studio in Hoxton, East London. The songs are very personal and truthful. They have a distinct personality and sound of their own. I have had an extremely difficult couple of years, my whole life has been blown apart since I picked up my Telecaster but I am compelled to make this music and get it out into the world. The money you pledge will pay for an engineer, a mixer and the tracks to be mastered."
According to Viv's Facebook page, 100% of the money required has so far been raised for recording but she's still looking to raise more for artwork and pressing.
Also see our earlier Slits tribute, our article on their reunion album and our other article about the Slits reunion.
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