After a week of celebrating her 28th birthday we caught up with singer/songwriter Charlotte Hatherley on a lazy afternoon.
R13: You played Glastonbury last week, how'd it go?
CH: It was good, I was just in and out really, I didn't stick around. I arrived at about 2pm, got stuck in the mud for an hour and then spent another hour trying to drive through the crowd who were all incredibly pissed off at all these dry, warm people in a van while they were outside. Then, I played at five and then I was out of there by seven. It was a very fleeting experience, it didn't look like much fun, I've done Glastonbury a few times and it's always been really good but it didn't look very enjoyable this time.
R13: Was it as muddy as people made out?
CH: It's was pretty grim (laughs). People go to Glastonbury for that sort of thing, so it's fine.
R13: How has your second album 'The Deep Blue' been doing?
CH: It's been alright, it's been ok, I've been plugging away because I released it independently I've been licensing it out in other countries, I've also done a bit of international touring with this album which is really good. I did a European tour, I did Japan now I'm doing the festivals and I've got 'Siberia' coming out.
R13: What can you tell us about 'Siberia'?
CH: Well, it's the final track on the album and on the album it's about six minutes long actually so the single is a very different version. It's one of my favourite songs, one of my more up-tempo songs on the album. Its turned out to be a bit of a Pixies/David Bowie thing, which I think is kind of cool. Yeah...don't ask me to talk about my songs (laughs) I don't know what to say.
R13:You recently completed a tour of Japan, how did that go?
CH: It was fantastic, I was only there for five days but being in such an exotic place I went extra mental, it was good and the label really look after you. They took us out every night, we had amazing food, karaoke, bars and gigs, it was really good. It was very satisfying for me to be able to go to Japan on my own. When I left the band I wasn't really sure if I was going to be able to go to Australia, Japan, Thailand, all those weird and wonderful places, so I was very pleased about that.
R13: Did you find your Japanese fans more fanatical?
CH: In some ways. They are very fanatical but polite, fans hear can be knobs (laughs). One thing I noticed was that there was lots of young Japanese boys and when you meet them they're really shaking and very nervous, it was quite sweet in a way. They give you lots of presents and they're generally very respectful and lovely, it's really nice. They take their collections very seriously, like they get everything imported so in that respect they are proper fans.
R13: Did you get any random presents while you were over there?
CH: No not this time... there was not enough presents for me! (laughs) I think before you go to Japan you have to make sure whatever interviews you do you say "It's my birthday and I like t-shirts and jeans, I'm a size 6 shoe" then you can make a list of all the stuff you would like (laughs) I didn't do that this time round, but next time.
R13: How did the Japan tour compare to the European tour you did in May?
CH: The Euro tour was good, it was much longer and for Europe I had a full band and for Japan I couldn't really afford to bring everyone over, so that was more of a four piece rock thing. They were fairly different tours really. Germany is fantastic, I absolutely love Germany and I have a real soft spot for Berlin. It was just nice because after doing so much touring there with Ash I kept on touch with a lot of people and its actually got to the stage where I can go and have lots of friends in various places all over the world, which is brilliant.
R13: Do you ever struggle with the language barrier while you're away?
CH: No because they all speak English which is incredibly embarrassing for us Brits (Laughs) It's amazing to go somewhere like Japan and they all speak perfect English, it's crazy.
R13:You've got the Blondie tour coming up.
CH: Yeah, I'm doing five gigs in July, I'm meant to be rehearsing tonight but I'm going to cancel it because I'm too tired (laughs). The first gig is at the Hammersmith Apollo which is terrifying, it's terrifying! They want us to be a bit more stripped down as well for whatever reason, so that's going to be interesting. I'm quite nervous about it.
R13: I was going to ask if you're nervous about performing with a legend like Debbie Harry?
CH: Yeah, I'm not so bothered about that to be honest, I'm more bothered about not many people knowing who I am, and I'm really paranoid about people coming to see me play acoustically and expecting it to be a horrible singer/songwriter chick, a really generic thing. I would much rather have a full band where it's really loud but for the Blondie shows I don't think I'm going to be able to do that. I really hope I can pull it off on a massive stage and then I'll worry about Debbie Harry and if she thinks I'm rubbish (laughs).
R13: How did you get involved in that tour?
CH: I don't know, I have absolutely no idea, I'm not sure whether they asked me to do it or whether my promoters sorted it out, I really don't know. I hope that they had some sort of input. Sometimes some of those bands have no idea who's playing with them, especially at that level, so you know, hopefully they have some sort of clue. We've done quite a few major supports with bands like Red Hot Chilli Peppers and they don't get involved at all, it's hilarious. I once did a gig with U2 and in an issue of MOJO it was song that have been chosen by the band, their favourite songs and one of them was 'Grey Will Fade' and I was at a bar after one of the gigs and Bono was there and he was talking away to Tim and I said "Oh, thank you so much for the MOJO thing" and he just looked at me like "I have absolutely know idea what you're talking about." It was so obvious they didn't chose it themselves, it was so embarrassing as well. (Laughs)
R13: Blame it on the wine!
CH: Yeah exactly! Maybe he just temporarily forgot, who knows.
R13: What festivals are you playing over the summer?
CH: I'm doing T in The Park, Oxygen which will be good, I'm looking forward to a Celtic crowd, I'm doing Latitude, Reading Festival, so a few bits and bobs coming up.
R13: How are you finding being an independent artist in comparison to having major label backing?
CH: It's completely different although I think these days being on a major label is more stress than it's worth. I'm glad I don't have to meet any expectations, my album went in at number 107, which for me is good but if Ash entered anywhere under the top 20 it was a big disaster. I don't have to deal with that anymore, when I think about all the stuff I've done I'm amazed because I'm sure that if I was on a major label I wouldn't be having any money thrown at me at all because I haven't sold enough records. It's fantastic to be free of that but it's quite difficult trying to be a musician and get involved in all the other stuff that comes with being in the music business, the stuff I'm not really interested in or good at, so it's quite time consuming, it doesn't leave me with much time to sit around and write the next album. It's good and it's bad. Eventually I hope the label will become a much more polished machine, the last year has been all about setting it up and figuring out how it works.
R13: Do you ever feel pressure to be a successful as a solo artist as you were in Ash?
CH: I'm a major indie kid at heart, I'm not really that bothered by it and you know the boys have never been that bothered by it. Ash are a strange band in that way, we had big singles but were never massive or really self sufficient. I'm happy doing it this way and there's still a lot I want to do. I still want to sell records but I'm very at ease with the idea that it may not happen, as long as I can pay my rent I'm alright.
R13: How do you feel about the state of the music industry at the moment? Lots of people think it's going down the pan
CH: The way I've noticed it is from friends who are working in the industry or in bands, I've never really known it to be so tough for people. People are having to get other jobs to keep themselves going, there's no security everyone's a bit on edge and looking over their shoulder worrying if they're going to have to get a regular job the next week. A lot of my friends are in bands that have gone back to being personal trainers, teachers to keep themselves going and I don't remember that being an issue ten years ago. It's quite sad really, it's a worrying time and you have to look for other ways of making money because people don't seem to be buying records that much.
R13: Do you think that's why more and more artists are releasing download only material?
CH: Yeah probably, I've done a few download things and I think you do it to generate a certain amount of interest. When people are looking for new music it's easy to do it through downloads but people don't follow it up by buying the full record. It's interesting that Ash have decided to do download only stuff, I can understand it to a certain degree. It's a weird situation really, it's the first time I've had to think about doing something else to help me out with paying for stuff. Maybe I could walk people's dogs (laughs), jumble sales, cupcake maker, sandwich maker, ice cream van, most musicians cant do anything else though that's the sad thing. We're all a bunch of simpletons.
R13: I think it's just where you all start so young, I mean you've been doing this since you were about 15, so it's the only thing you know.
CH: Yeah, when people start saying to you about being a session musician that's when you think 'Oh, fucking hell' that's just not what I want to do at all because I've been so spoilt by doing my own thing. It's not all doom and gloom, I'm fine but I've notice recently that people are worrying about the same things because it's not as stable as it used to be and I think there's a general panic running through the music industry that you can really feel, but perhaps the independent sector is really benefiting from that.
R13: Can you imagine going into a regular job now?
CH: If it all ended tomorrow I'd work in a record shop and be happy because I'd still have my music... that's bullshit really (laughs) I don't think I'd be happy with that after all this time.
R13: I can imagine it would be very bizarre and hard to adjust too.
CH: Yeah it would be, I found leaving Ash bizarre enough, it's like coming out of a relationship really, I couldn't imagine not being able to have music as my main thing. It's something a lot of my friends have had to do and it sucks, it's horrible.
R13: Do you miss being on the road with the Ash guys?
CH: I do sometimes, I don't enjoy doing the solo, me on my own thing but I have a nice new band around me with really nice people, I don't think of myself as a solo artist and I'm still a little bit embarrassed when people say they're my band, I don't like that, I'd rather be a proper band than just me, but I suppose it's too late for that (laughs). I'd like to do my next album with someone else, I don't want to be solo forever.
R13: Do you ever hear form the Ash guys or is that all in the past now?
CH: Occasionally, we haven't seen each other for over a year, we keep gigging at the same time but we're in touch. A lot of the people that work for me work with Ash, same agent, same press guy, there's no animosity but there's also no overwhelming need to see each, it's just like old school friends really (laughs).
R13: You've often said David Bowie was one of your influences, how did you feel when you found out he likes your music?
CH: That was incredible actually, it's funny because a friend of my friend Edgar had met a guy who worked for Bowie's website and he had forwarded the YouTube link for the 'Behave' video to Bowie. The character in the video is totally based on Bowie and I kind of grope him at the end, so I found it funny that Bowie had seen me sexually molester him in an animated form (laughs) then I got an email saying that Bowie was going to review the song for a Nokia thing. He eventually forwarded it to me and as soon as I read it I started crying, it was so incredible. I never imagined that would happen and I don't know why because he always champions new bands and has his ear to the ground. It was really nice and I had met him with Ash and he mentioned that he remembered me from that which was very funny and very nice. It was great, I was obsessed with David Bowie for most of my teenage years, I grew out of it, listened to other music but it bought back all those feelings of sheer admiration. It was an amazing thing for me.
R13: I guess that must have been a proud career moment for you.
CH: Yes, almost as good as meeting Mark Owen at Glastonbury! (laughs) I was like "Oh my god, it's Take That!" (laughs) not quite as cool as Bowie I know.
R13: Yeah, I would stick to the Bowie story
CH: (laughs) Ok I will...Mark Owen who?
R13: What do you still have left to achieve?
CH: I'm only just 28 so there must be lots of things but I don't know. I'm trying not to freak out about turning 28 actually because I set aims to do by the time I was 30. I want to get another album done, I'm taking August off with the exception of Reading to write and hopefully I'll get something recorded by the end of the year. I sort of got asked to join a couple of bands and it didn't really happen, one of which was Courtney Love but it clashed with all my touring, so I might do something like that if it came up. I don't intend to do a whole lot with the label, I'm not sure about signing other bands. I want to go storm chasing in the States and I'd like to move into a nicer flat (laughs) so we'll see.
R13:That's great, thank you for your time and good luck with everything
After a week of celebrating her 28th birthday we caught up with singer/songwriter Charlotte Hatherley on a lazy afternoon.