Clare Grogan

‘Mascara Streakz’, the first Altered Images album for 39 years, is stuffed with delicious synthpop nuggets. Clare Grogan would like to thank her Tom Courtenay-inspired fitness regime, F Scott Fitzgerald and Nancy Pelosi

LIFE IN A SCOTTISH SITTING ROOM

“I think where you grow up is really influential. You’re either running away from it, or you embrace it! Hanging onto my Glaswegian identity has meant so much to me. I grew up in a household of three generations, and I think a lot about how important it is to have some stability in life, particularly when you do a job like mine. I don’t think it has to be a traditional thing – grandparents, mum and dad – I just think it’s about the people that care about you remaining in your life.

“When my family had parties, those three generations were always there, and that’s stuck with me. I like the idea of everyone being in the room – whoever they are, and however they identify. And I think much of that has come from my upbringing. It wasn’t idyllic, but it taught me about keeping your feet on the ground and being good to the people around you.”

‘THE GREAT GATSBY’

“My dad gave me ‘The Great Gatsby’ when I was about 14, and I immediately engaged with it – the heartbreak of the disastrous romance between Jay and Daisy, but also the social comment. I probably read it every 10 years, and it’s sad that it still seems very relevant. The divisions between the haves and the have-nots, and how extreme they are, particularly now.

“I’m an absolute champagne socialist who has a really nice life, but I also come from a very working-class Glaswegian background, and it’s all too much. I don’t want to get too political about it, but I hate those divisions.”

BORN TO RUN

“I was the girl who hated PE at school. Possibly because we used to wear yellow Crimplene mini-dresses on the hockey field, no matter the weather! But I’ve always had a lot of nervous energy, and as soon as I left school I started running. I think ‘The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner’ inspired me. A phenomenal film.

“I started at 17, and everyone said, ‘She’ll never keep this up…’, but I have. I run five kilometres, five days a week. It’s when I do all my problem-solving. During the pandemic, I decided to revisit all of David Bowie’s albums, so I was the crazy lady running down an empty street bellowing out ‘Station To Station’! It’s my headspace – sometimes it’s the only time I have to myself. It’s really important to have moments in life when you can just… ignore people! [laughs].”

THIS FEAR OF GODS

“I used to watch Simple Minds in small clubs in Glasgow, and they really spoke to me. At a time when the bands on ‘Top Of The Pops’ seemed a million miles away from my reality, Simple Minds made me realise that it didn’t matter if you came from a housing scheme in Glasgow. You could still be part of it.

“They were incredibly kind to Altered Images when we started out. They would ask us to support them and made us feel part of their wee tribe. I still listen to their ‘Empires And Dance’ album a lot – I love it. Music is therapy. It just allows you to forget whatever is tricky for you, and that album still does it for me. I could cry just thinking about Simple Minds… [she wipes away genuine tears] sorry, I’m such a weird person, ignore me! But music has saved me so many times.”

SHIRLEY MACLAINE

“When I was a wee girl, I saw the film ‘Sweet Charity’. And the thing I loved about it was this funny woman, who was supremely talented and maybe not conventionally how you were meant to look as a film star. I instantly thought, ‘I want to be Shirley MacLaine!’. I got my hair cut exactly like hers and dyed it red. I once did a photoshoot inspired by ‘Sweet Charity’, too, wearing a black fringed dress, and dancing on a bar.

“I watch ‘The Apartment’, the comedy she made with Jack Lemmon, every New Year’s Eve. My husband says, ‘That’s just fucking weird, Clare. It’s a film about suicide’. But it’s really not! I just love her. She’s not afraid of the machine that sucks you in when you have that kind of fame.”

NANCY PELOSI

“I became fascinated by Nancy Pelosi during the whole Trump era. Things were in freefall, and she’d probably been up all night working, but she’d be there every day, looking immaculate. She’s an incredible politician with an incredible legacy, but she’d always appear in a snappy suit with her hair done.

“She reminds me a little of my mum, whose mantra was, ‘No matter how shit things get, you still put on an appearance’. In many ways, that shouldn’t apply, but for me putting on my sparkly platforms makes me feel invincible!”

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

“I love this generation of teenagers, they’re amazingly resilient. I have a 17-year-old daughter, and I love the fact that they want to save the world. And they’re really clear about acceptance of people. I was in a TV series called ‘Skins’, where I played a naughty mum, and journalists would ask, ‘What’s it like working with teenagers?’. I’d say, ‘I love it! I want to suck their blood!’. I just love their energy, although sometimes persuading my daughter to get out of bed is quite the challenge.

“That’s a big theme of the new album – trying to remember the young person I was. Because I think self-doubt has crept into my life. Being in this business for 40 years, it’s hard to avoid. But, as a teenager, I wouldn’t let anything get in my way. Not because I was ruthlessly ambitious, I just didn’t want to see the obstacles. And that’s what I love about teenagers, that, ‘Why not? Why can’t I do that?’, attitude. What a great mantra for life.”

‘Mascara Streakz’ is out on Cooking Vinyl

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