AlisonFINS_TM-9“We all need a looooove resurrection,” sang Alison Moyet on her one of her most famous hits – and the 52-year-old Essexwoman still has a voice that could make even the loneliest soul believe that one might just be possible. Last year Alison returned to her electro-pop roots with the minutes, a brilliant, stylish and idiosyncratic album produced by Guy Sigsworth (Madonna’s What It Feels Like For A Girl, Britney’s Everytime). It quickly became one of Attitude‘s favourite records of 2013 so I leapt at the chance to catch up with the legendary “Alf” as she prepares for a UK tour this spring.

Were you surprised by the really positive reception the album received?
No I wasn’t, but then at the same time I wasn’t expecting the opposite. With those kind of things, you know, you can’t judge it. You can’t judge it because there can be all those different elements… Sorry, I’m really talking bollocks. Started well this morning, haven’t I! It’s one of those things where I don’t expect anything, and that suits me fine, but I loved the reception that it got.

It feels like there’s a real renewed interest in you again, doesn’t it?
Yeah, but you can’t maintain that kind of high-level attention all the time so it doesn’t surprise me that there was a period where I dropped through the floor-boards. I think there’s an interest in me [again] because I’ve gone back to electronica and I’ve worked with an interesting producer.

What made you want to go back to electronica?
Well I wanted to for a long time, like a really long time, but I was slightly put off come the ’90s when it was largely taken over by the technologists, you know? There was a lack of musicality to it. I really hated all those remixes you used to get where the voice was in a different key, sped up, to the point that you wished they’d just take it off and make the track an instrumental. Guy Sigsworth, who produced my new album, is brilliant for me to work with because not only is he really inventive, a guy that really likes to explore sonically, but he started life as a Cambridge University harpsichordist and has a real understanding of music. He’s a really fantastic melange.

How did you and Guy meet?
He was suggested to me by someone in the office. I didn’t know his work – I’ve always been a bit out there in the sense that I’ve never been particularly connected to what’s going on, my brain doesn’t work that way, I’m not particularly interested. I’m someone who on the wrong day can be prone to say no a lot, but I said I’d go and meet him. My hopes weren’t really high because there’s this modern trend with female solo singers where you just put them in with ten or 12 different songwriters and it’s a load of bollocks. That’s not what I’m about. As it transpired we clicked the minute we met each other. He’s not motivated by constantly elevating his star. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like success, obviously he does, but working with someone like me, you know, a middle-aged act who’s been around a long time, it’s not a natural quick route into making a hit album. The fact that he worked with me is purely down to the fact that he got me as a musician, as an artist, as opposed to just cynically attaching himself to the latest big thing.

Is it true you had trouble for a while getting a record deal?
Yeah, exactly that. Nobody wanted to take meetings with me. It’s really quite interesting. A few of the big labels were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll have you, but we only want you to do covers’. That’s not to say I don’t like singing other people’s songs – obviously I’ve done that in the past. But it has to be because I feel like doing it, not because I think, ‘If I don’t do this then I cease to be a “pop star”‘.

What sort of covers did they want you to do?
Oh, Etta James. They always want me to do stuff that’s going to be released on Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. It’s that kind of cuntish bollocks. I just find it so cynical and short-sighted. Maybe it’s this whole X Factor thing that’s buggered stuff up, in the sense that audiences really do expect to know really well every single track they hear if it’s a part of the pop world. They deemed me to be part of the pop world as opposed to an artist.

You’re not a fan of The X Factor then?
It’s remarkable. Everything’s become a karaoke. There’s an area of the audience that wants quick reward. For someone like me that’s quite difficult because I’m one of those acts where you’ve either followed me for a long time, in which case you get the nuance of what I do, or you’re one of those casual fans that heard a song 30 years ago and says, ‘Oh yeah I like her singing’ and go to a show and just expect karaoke. That’s why I hate being called an ’80s act and it’s got fuck all to do with my age. I’m middle-aged: 52 years old and I’m very happy about that. But I hate this assumption that you have no wandering spirit left in you; that you’re just fixed in a time and all about nostalgia. I’m probably the least nostalgic person you’ll come across, certainly when it comes to work.

The music on the album is often quite surprising, and the lyrics are really unusual too. Where did you draw inspiration from?
Well, I’d written from the romantic perspective for such a long time, but it does get to the point where you actually think, ‘I’m turning it out now because I’m not motivated by a romantic narrative any more’. I’m quite an old cynic, you know? There’s only so long you can keep bleating about men before it’s just, ‘Oh, fuck off’. So I started being more observational and looking at things around me. Rung by the Tide, for example, was inspired by a friend showing me a photograph of a bell, which made me start imagining what it would be like to be a bell personified blah blah blah… Horizon Flame is about that peaceful place you come to when you understand quite how insignificant and irrelevant you are. That’s actually quite liberating. Filigreeis about an experience I had when I went to the cinema and everyone was leaving because they didn’t like the film and missed the very bit that was worth staying for. So it’s mainly observations now, really.

Do you feel totally in control of your career now?
To be honest I’ve always been in control of it. It’s just sometimes I’ve surrendered that control. Sometimes the fuck-ups have been me just not being arsed. And that’s the truth of it. I think it’s very easy to lay everything at somebody else’s door. Sometimes the things that other people run with are things that you’ve given away. So it’s just easier to pretend that you’ve been mugged. I feel in control in my career now because I know what it is that I want. I know what’s not important to me. I have no illusions of taking over the world and no desire to. And I have no desire to make everybody love me in that way that you kind of want when you’re young. I’m motivated by my craft. Sometimes people get it; sometimes people don’t.

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Why do you think you’ve always had such strong support from your gay fans?
I don’t know. But I can make an assumption. I think it’s still slightly different for the gay community – yes, there have been changes but outside of the more cosmopolitan areas, people still face prejudices. Certainly when I was starting out it was still quite a hostile environment, and I think when you come across people on stage or on television who survived their otherness, you know, there’s a connection. You want to have a cry with people you feel assimilated to. But it’s kind of funny, again, the assumptions and the stereotypes – I mean, I’ve been asked before what the gayest thing I’ve ever done is, and I find that a really strange question. There was a time when perhaps there was more badge-wearing in terms of what choices the gay community made, but I think a lot of that has been dissipated. You can’t assume about anyone’s sexuality and nor should you have the right to.

And young people’s sexuality is so much more fluid these days.
It is. And also, with my kids and their attitudes towards their gay friends, there’s absolutely no difference in the way they talk about going out for the night and who they hope to pull, all that kind of stuff. It’s not like when I was when I was at school when you just assumed there were no gay people because you never saw any – until you left school and branched out and realised how many gay people there had been the whole time.

Recently you tweeted this: “All those bonkers ‘I’m totally mad, me’ costumes as a backdrop to generic pop is a bit baffling, no? Am I alone?” What did you mean exactly?
I mean that in the 80s – as much as I wasn’t particularly fond of that period musically – when you came across a freak, you knew that person was a freak. I was a freak, Boy George was a freak. We were oddities and you could see that. And there was some representation of that in the music that we were making when we started out, which came from our punk roots. Now you’ll see certain acts wearing the most fantastic outlandish costumes that would seem to indicate a leftfield sensibility, but actually the music is as mainstream as you like. It gives the impression that the artist is changing boundaries, but they’re not – they just have fantastic costume designers. It’s superficial. That’s not to say that it’s wrong; I just don’t get it. Or rather I do get it and it’s just really clever marketing: make the most mainstream records you could possibly make and allow people to think that when they’re buying into that, they’ve actually got a bit of edge to themselves. So actually it’s a very clever conceit, but I don’t understand how people are still getting caught by that.

What do you think of today’s more overtly sexual female stars?
Well I’m a ’60s child – I grew up during feminism – and it breaks my heart. When I’m driving in my car and I see a five-year-old girl walking down the street pushing her clothes off her shoulders, it breaks my heart. And I know a lot of people think it’s fabulous and it’s glorious and it’s sexy, but I don’t see it as sexy. I think young women imagine they are empowering themselves and they’re just playing the same game. Someone’s going, ‘yeah fuck me, you’re a strong woman… now turn around and let me see your arse’. If these girls want to do this stuff, let them do it, but I don’t want to look at it.

You’re one of Essex’s most famous daughters, so I have to ask… what do you think of TOWIE?
I’ve never seen it. That kind of TV is not for me – same as Only Way is Chelsea or whatever it is, it’s not my kind of format. The Essex things that seem to get portrayed [in the media] don’t relate to the Essex that I grew up in. The Basildon I hear talked about now is not the Basildon I grew up in; I thought it was a really great place to grow up in. Yeah, we didn’t get a great education but in terms of the council’s policy, I grew up in a big council estate which was very green and well thought out, and that was actually a really nice environment to grow up in.

There was a gap of nearly six years between the minutes and your previous album, The Turn. Should we expect such a long wait for the next album?
Well, I want to carry on touring because that is my favourite thing. But the intention is to start pulling it together, to start writing. This current album, in terms of how long it took Guy and me to make, was actually pretty quick. The length of time was incurred because we didn’t have a record label and therefore there was no funding. So Guy and I were working in his downtime and between projects. That was the element of it that made it protracted. Now that I’m with [my label] Cooking Vinyl that’s not going to be such a great issue. Obviously we still need to get the writing time together, but I don’t see it taking so long.

Finally, why do you think you’ve managed to last so long in this industry? It’s been over 30 years since the first Yazoo album now.
The fact that it’s my vocation. People say to me, ‘How do you become a singer?’ Well, how you become a singer is you learn a song and you sing it. That’s how you become a singer. If you ask me how to sing in front of 50,000 people, I couldn’t tell you. I was motivated by music and writing songs and singing. I love the physical act of singing, I love the way it makes my body feel. The fact that I sold loads of records in the early days meant that I made a bit of money, so I’ve never had to make records for the sake of it. Or do those ‘Here and Now’ tours. It’s different for some of my cohorts who really did live the life and got used to having a lot of money – they need to work now if they want to maintain that lifestyle. I was never in that situation. I’m certainly not judgemental of those people- for some people just having a party is a good enough excuse to go out there and do it, but it’s never been enough for me.

the minutes by Alison Moyet is out now. Tour dates listed at alisonmoyet.com