Betty Boo

Marking her first single in three decades with the ‘Love Action’-sampling ‘Get Me To The Weekend’, Betty Boo reveals her formative influences

SYNTHING FOR THE WEEKEND

“I was a massive fan of The Human League. ‘Dare’ was one of my treasured albums when I was a kid. I still listen to it all the time, but back in the day I’d fold out the album and study it, touch it, and it felt like something really special. And so I was familiar with ‘Love Action’ anyway when my writing partner and co-producer Andy Wright suggested the sample on ‘Get Me To The Weekend’.

“It was already a really great, dancey, upbeat track which we wrote during lockdown, and when we finally got back into the studio he said, ‘You know, ‘Love Action’ would sound really good in there’. I said, ‘Sure, plonk it in, see what happens!’. And it really worked. We tweaked it a bit to make it fit, and that just took it up a notch. It’s nice to make a piece that sounds retro but modern at the same time.”

DIG YOUR OWN ROLL

“I used to go crate digging when I lived in Chiswick back in the 90s. There was a record shop near me which was tiny, and I would go there and randomly buy stuff to see if there was anything interesting to discover. I was always drawn to different records that had breakbeats in them – Led Zeppelin, Julian Cope’s ‘World Shut Your Mouth’, or an old soul track.

“As rappers, we used to hang around with lots of DJs who would experiment with various breakbeats, or try to find textures in the records to make the music sound more interesting. That’s how I got into sampling. You take an obscure 70s Shirley Bassey live album, and then you find something really exciting in there. You could see a bright beat in the vinyl just by looking at the grooves. If the grooves were wide, you knew that there was probably a massive break.

“We didn’t have the internet back in the day. Now you’d probably look online or check out a Spotify playlist, but I used to have decks in my studio. Those were my inspiration. When I started my own studio in my bedroom at home, that was a dream for me because I was able to experiment by recording and listening back to my voice. I could sample beats and loop them, whereas in the past, I’d had to rely on somebody with a drum machine… I was able just to play around suddenly and audition my own ideas. That’s really how I evolved.”

OLD SKOOL TIES

“When I was in She Rockers, we toured with Public Enemy who definitely influenced me. They showed me that you have to have a strong image if you’re going to be an artist. You can’t be ordinary, you have to find a way to stand out, and I think I took that advice. 

“As a young Betty Boo, I just wanted to be larger than life, dress in a certain way and be cartoony with out-there outfits, so I had spacesuits made and things like that. The 90s have come back in a big way, and I’m very lucky because I’ve got lots of bomber jackets and trainers!

“De La Soul’s album ‘3 Feet High And Rising’ definitely helped me to believe that I could do what I was doing. Making rap sound interesting is quite an art form – anyone can do a bit of talking over a song, but rapping takes time to master, and the fact that they used a lot of samples as well added loads of flavours.

“Salt ‘N’ Pepa were another big influence, and I don’t mean ‘Push It’ – I’m talking about the ‘Hot Cool Vicious’ era around 1986. I loved every one of the songs on that album, and they had nice, complicated bars to practise along to. Then there was Big Daddy Kane, Eric B & Rakim… Run-DMC as well, because although they were quite simple raps, the timing on them was so great. You’ve got to master your trade, so I’d put these records on my hi-fi and think, ‘That doesn’t sound too bad’ or, ‘That sounds rubbish’.”

HEAR IN MY CAR

“I like writing songs in my car. It can feel like being in a trance, which I know sounds a bit dangerous if you’re driving, but let me put that in context. When I’ve been working at home quite a lot, I like to get out and listen to what I’ve been doing on my car speaker. Then, ideas can just come quite naturally because you’re not trying too hard. It’s almost like singing along to the radio… you might ad-lib something and think, ‘Oh, that’s quite good’.

“During lockdown when you were only allowed one person in the supermarket and there were massive queues, I’d say to my husband, ‘You queue up and I’ll wait here’. So I’d be in the car for an hour and would use the time wisely. It’s how I came up with some of the ideas for songs on my forthcoming album. Often I’d be able to find that last little piece of the puzzle, and I can only put it down to being in that trance really. Our garden’s nice, too. When you don’t have any ideas it’s sort of like a blank page, so I’m able to take myself off and think in another way.”

40-LOVE ACTION

“I play tennis every day, sometimes twice a day. I love it. Hitting balls really helps my mental health, and if I don’t play, it affects how I carry on throughout the day. I’m on court at 9am every morning, and sometimes I’m back in the afternoon with a coach. I’ve been doing it for 25 years or so, and my club in Wiltshire is a very nice, normal club. It’s not particularly posh, but it’s got lovely courts, lovely coaches and lovely people.

“Everyone has something that makes them feel better – it might be cake for some people. I just like being outside, getting some fresh air and knocking balls around, and then I feel I can take on the day.”

‘Get Me To The Weekend’ is out on Betty Boo Records. 

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