Former Ash and Bats For Lashes guitarist turned synth Evangelist, Charlotte Hatherley shares a few of her formative influences
GROWING UP IN LONDON
“I was a posh girl from Chiswick and, when I was 15, I answered an ad in the back of the NME for a guitarist and met Ellyot Dragon, an Israeli hardcore lesbian riot girl feminist. She blew my mind. I went to her house in Plaistow, which she shared with all these women, and I auditioned in her bedroom. She was quite a lot older than me, in fact the whole band was. They were probably in their late-20s. I think I played Jimi Hendrix or something and that was the beginning of two or three years of playing with Nightnurse.
“Growing up in London, it’s just all there on a plate for you. All those venues, all those rehearsal spaces – you’re in the heart of everything. We’d rehearse at this studio in Angel, which was a major late night party place, probably the most drugs I ever did was there at that time and it’s where I met Tim Wheeler from Ash, which was another life changing meeting.”
MY DAD’S SCI-FI BOOKS
“So my dad is a huge influence on me. He’s Australian, lives in Sydney and he’s a film critic and screen writer. He was an enormous Philip K Dick fan and had every single book and they were very well organised on shelves. I remember looking through his books when I was a kid because the covers were so psychedelic and surrealist. They really burned into my mind as much as the weirdness of the writing. When he moved back to Sydney, I inherited his book collection.”
“When I was 25, I started to get rock and roll injuries from carrying guitars from the age of 15. Years of doing that has really fucked my shoulders up so I started doing yoga as a physical thing to help me. Last year I did a yoga teacher training course so I’m a qualified teacher. Yoga has been the one constant in my life. Wherever I am, in every single country I’ve traveled to I’ve done yoga every day. Not only has it completely helped me physically, but it’s really helped me through some quite tumultuous times. Not to sound like a massive hippy, or Sting, but it’s completely changed my life. It used to be a bottle of vodka before and after a gig, now it’s mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises. It’s what happens with age.”
BATS FOR LASHES
Meeting Natasha Khan was a big moment for me, it would change the course of the last 10 years. I’d become a tour and session musician and took a big break from writing, just playing with other people and when I came back to my own work that’s when I thought, ‘OK, well I’m just going to write in a completely different way and I’m going to use electronics’, all of which was Natasha’s influence. Just seeing how she mixes electronics with live instruments is wonderful. She does it in a really interesting way.
TRAVELLING THE WORLD
Touring has been such a huge part of my life. From the age of 18, I’ve always been away. It’s been wonderful because I’ve made friends in different parts of the world, but the flipside is I’ve always craved stability. I’ve just moved in with my boyfriend actually and there are fundamental things missing in my knowledge of how to live with someone… it’s quite embarrassing not knowing how ovens work.
NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES, PART ONE
I was a huge XTC fan and my label put me in touch with Andy Partridge after my first solo record. He called me up and said, ‘Come to Swindon and let’s write some songs’. It was very surreal. In my mind he was this post-punk dude he was so normal, just this guy in his quiet suburban surroundings. He was so lovely, and we did get some songs out of it.
“Afterwards we didn’t speak for a while and then he emailed me saying, ‘I’m very disappointed Charlotte, I can’t believe you would have said this’ and there was a link to an XTC forum. I clicked on it and someone had written something like, ‘XTC are so boring and Andy’s really lost it blah blah blah’ and they’d used my name and he thought it was me! I replied to him saying, ‘Oh my God Andy, I would never ever say anything like that, I love you’ and he never replied.
NEVER MEET YOUR HEROES, PART TWO
“I met David Bowie who truly is my hero and it was really quite strange. Ash were on Moby’s Area2 tour, two weeks around America in 2002 with Blue Man Group, Busta Rhymes, David Bowie and Moby. It was quite a strange bill. I found being backstage with Bowie sat in the corner having a dinner or wandering around smoking cigarettes and joking with his band incredibly stressful. Tim [Wheeler] was just like, ‘You should just go up and say hi, he’s really nice’ and I was like ‘I just can’t fucking do it’.
“I made friends with Sterling Campbell, his drummer, and he was lovely. He knew I was a superfan and I’d told him ‘Always Crashing In The Same Car’ is one of my favourite songs and he said, ‘Oh, we’ve rehearsed it, but we haven’t played it’. And then on the last gig he came up to me in the afternoon and said ‘Make sure you stay until the very end tonight’ and then walked off. So I stayed until the end and Bowie says, ‘We’re going to play a song that we’ve rehearsed, but we haven’t played live and this song is for… this song’s for… “ and he looks over at Sterling and then sort of shrugs his shoulders and goes, ‘Oh, let’s just play it’. I was so crushed.”