Our new favourite synth convert, Charlotte Hatherley faces the rat-a-tat of quick questions
What’s the stupidest question you’ve ever been asked?
“‘Which member of Ash would you sleep with if you had a gun held to your head?’…”
See, they should have asked about sci-fi. You’re big into sci-fi, right?
“Uh-huh. My dad was a huge Philip K Dick fan, so as a teenager I got into sci-fi literature and developed a love of 70s and 80s sci-fi cinema.”
Is there a question you always wanted to be asked but never were?
“What are you favourite soundtracks from the 70s/80s?”
We’ll bear it in mind. Musically, you’ve found the synthy goodness…
“I was inspired by touring with Bat For Lashes and seeing Natasha Khan making electronics work with magical stringed instruments, bells and harmoniums. My aim was to capture the weird and wonky sounds of 70s John Carpenter and ‘Low’ era Bowie, where dark and woozy out-of-tune synths slip in and out of time.”
You dabbled a while back with Sylver Tongue, what happened to that?
“Ah yes, well, the Sylver Tongue record will probably never be heard! I recorded 12 songs then I was asked to score Gavin Rothery’s dystopian sci-fi short ‘The Last Man’, and when I finally revisited the record I decided to start again.”
You just trashed the lot?
“I was fired up by the soundtrack experience and thought I could do better. I re-shaped some unused soundtrack material into two instrumental tracks, ‘Lonely Waltz’ and ‘True Love’, and enlisted Michael Lovett from NZCA Lines to co-write four new songs. I also collaborated with Max Tundra and [Scritti Politti’s] Green Gartside. The only songs that survived were ‘Hook You Up’ and ‘Forgive’. By the time it was finished I decided to release it under my own name.”
The ‘The Last Man’ score saw you revisiting soundtracks for inspiration…wait for it… what are you favourite soundtracks from the 70s/80s?
“Finally! I really love the early experiments with synths like Eduard Artemyev’s soundtrack for Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’. ‘Blade Runner’ is peak 80s soundtrack, it doesn’t get much better in terms of melodic beauty. Electronics aside, Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Alien’ score and Bernard Herrmann’s ‘Taxi Driver’ are both personal favourites.”
So the new album’s a “cinematic, sci-fi-inspired break-up record”, right?
“Between writing the music and the lyrics to ‘Hook You Up’, I broke up with someone, which lead to an emotional state that I mined exhaustively. I’d already been playing around with 80s sci-fi imagery for Sylver Tongue, primarily ‘Mad Max’ fake fur and leather, but as the songs became more personal, the album aesthetic became less outlandish. I wanted it to be about a lonely, heartbroken alien in exile, which matched my mental state!”
We love your recent ‘Night Vision’ EP. Is it hard choosing songs to cover?
“It wasn’t hard at all. I knew I wanted to cover ‘Absolute Beginners’ and ‘Rejoice In The Sun’. I was searching for songs in sci-fi films and found ‘Repo Man’, which is a killer Iggy Pop song. And my boyfriend suggested ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, which I’d never have thought of doing, but that turned into my favourite one of all.”