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A lot of the songs on Innocence Is Kinky have lyrical sections that are spoken or whispered. Did you have a specific intent in using that sort of delivery, rather than just singing all out? Do you think a song whispering to you has a distinct affect?
I love doing that. I find that, going back to the pop concert and people demanding that you speak, it has something to do with that, hearing the spoken voice. There’s something in the spoken voice that’s a different kind of being personal than the sung voice. I’ve always been super interested in speaking voices. The number of voices from films that I remember, how people say this and that word, is kind of a very nerdy archive in my head. I really love hearing spoken voices. I’ve also listened a lot to recordings of poetry, not necessarily spoken word, but kind of just recordings of poets reading. It’s a very intimate thing.
When we recorded this album there was this specific microphone that you couldn’t scream into because it could only take really soft volumes. I was kind of forced into whispering into it, and whispering into that mic was a very interesting way to work. It just sounded really nice. I thought, “Ooh, more of that.” It brings that intimacy, I think. When you hear music it’s a very emotional response. You just get all these emotional responses to different sounds. I think that with the whisper-y, spoken word-y vocal, you get a different response to that than from different types of singing. That’s definitely one of the biggest reasons why I do different types of voices. A full emotional register, I guess.
Was this your first time making a record in a traditional studio?
I did make my first album in a studio, but it was almost a makeshift studio. Nothing was sort of set up properly and it was just recorded very fast. I really did feel like this was the first time I recorded something in a studio. It was great!
I know you worked with John Parish, who’s been a collaborator of PJ Harvey’s for a very long time. Were those old PJ Harvey records, or even the new PJ Harvey records, a big touchstone for you?
Yeah, very. But also the collaboration they did together came out at a lucky, lucky time for me. I was learning to play guitar. I borrowed this horrible electric guitar from the music school, and then the Dance Hall at Louse Point album came out and I was just so fascinated with the very strange structures of the songs. I just couldn’t get over it and its strange chords. So it was kind of that combination for me, learning what music was about from guitar, and then trying very badly to play some of those songs that John Parish made. They were kind of a big moment for me back in the day. But that wasn’t the reason why I contacted him, to say “Hey do you want to do my album?” It was because we have a mutual friend and I heard so many nice things about him that I had to try to get a hold of this man, this nice man, who turned out to be as nice as I heard he was. What an incredible person to work with in the studio! Kind of old-fashioned, which was great.