Interview with Marina and the Diamonds
You know I’ve been smitten with Marina’s music over the last six months. From her Obsessions 7″ on Neon Gold to the tunes on her Myspace to her blog to the many remixes to her upcoming Crown Jewels EP. Here, Marina talks about her obsessions with regal things, leotards, Kate Bush and a whole lot more.
So you’re half Greek and half Welsh. How does each strand of you manifest itself in your music?
Greek music is beautiful and has the most incredible melodies. Greek people also have a real sense of tragedy and for whatever reason are a very dramatic/ passionate breed.. that characteristic has definitely manifested itself in the music. I’m a very up-and-down person. so perhaps that explains the sonic jumps/ differences between songs. I never stick to rules when songwriting. Just see what I feel like and whatever comes out, comes out.
What music did you listen to when you were growing up?
I listened to very little when I was growing up. The only music i remember making a connection with was No Doubt’s first record. Haha! And I remember standing by the fireplace and sining ‘Wonderwall’ and feeling very passionate/ dramatic. Haha!
What really inspired you to make music?
What inspired me was imagination and a great need to express something. I don’t think my life has been more/ less exciting than anyone elses but I have had a lot of different experiences and I felt that if I didn’t make music, I would definitely end up mentally ill. I still believe that.
What instruments did you learn and which is your favourite?
I learnt flute to grade 5 and violin to grade minus 2. I play piano now but only compose on it. Dont care about chord names etc. Just press chords until I feel buzzy about a progression.
What process do you go through to make your music? Is it just yourself or do you have other musical partners?
It has always been me. I’ve only recently started co-writing. I quite like it but it’s not the same as writing on your own and being able to be 100% honest. I always censor myself slighly in front of other people. It’s natural. It’s terrifying expressing yourself in a studio saying “why dont we make a song about jealousy, the worst emotion and character trait known to mankind?”
The songs you’ve shared thus far are quite dramatic and definitely have an air of Kate Bush which rings through more than other people in the last few years who have been compared to her. Do you mind? Are you a fan? What are your favourite Bush songs?
I don’t mind. I don’t give it much thought. Not to say I don’t appreciate it, I am very flattered. When people started comparing me to her about three years ago, I was like ‘Who’s Kate Bush?’. Can you imagine?! Anyway, I got mum to send me six songs of hers in the post. ‘Babooshka’, ‘Running Up That Hill’, ‘Wuthering Heights’.. I definitely fell in love instantly. An instant click, it felt like she was my sonic sister and in a very genuine way. Not because I had every tried to sound like her. I really can’t imagine doing anything worse.
You have said that you are inspired by Vivenne Westwood more than your musical influences. Why?
I’m not sure if i stand by the ‘more than’. I think I am equally inspired and stimulated by visuals as I am by sound. I LOVE aesthetic beauty. I always have done. I think the packaging is just as important as the content. If both are brilliant, you’re in a really strong position. Also…what would live performances be without something wonderful to look at? Imagine Madonna doing a show without her costumes. Rubbish.
What is your obsession with regal things? Did you buy a sceptre yet?
I have not bought a sceptre yet but I have been eyeing up a little silver number on ebay for quite a while now.
Is marrying music and fashion an important thing to you? You’ve also got a thing for leotards I understand?
I’m over the leotards now. Gaga stole my game. Plus I would never wear them in public. Too much skin is not something I am into. (unless I become like Britney circa 2002)
What requirements does one need to be in The Diamonds?
A good sense of self, a strong mind and a brain. I feel sad for people who are so easily controlled by what the media/ TV/ fashion says. Everything in moderation is all I’m saying.
What have you learned from Liam Howe about producing and arranging songs?
The arrangements don’t change that much. Liam is a great producer though – he has no ego and lets me try out various techniques/ ideas that sound odd. He also shares my love of textures, builiding up a song up to be much more than just a song. I purposefully write my lyrics to evoke vivid visual imagery. I want colours and textures and tastes and smells to leap out when I play one of my songs. LIAM HELPS ME DO THAT. 🙂
Do you Google yourself often?
I have stopped doing that. I am obsessed with anything to do with my career but it’s not very healthy and doesn’t help anything. All artists know that but we do it anyway. Ten hours on a tour bus to Scotland is hard..
How did you hook up with Neon Gold? it ‘s a great little label..
Derek wrote about me on Good Weather for Airstrikes Blog back in march 2008. Then in September he told me he was setting up a label. In October I got signed, then I asked if I could do the first single with him. And everyone thought it was lovely idea and we all lived happily ever after.
Apparently, there was a bidding war over signing you. Did you ask for anything ridiculous while that was going on? If you didn’t what would you have like to get, if it was a no-strings attached gift?
No, there was no bidding war. 679 where the only people to have the guts to offer a contract. Everyone else just wanted to look like they were about to offer. I met over 14 labels and only really took 2 seriously. I think everyone saw me as a project that had a lot of potential but also as someone very risky: I looked like a wild card to them. I had no manager, was doing all the meetings alone, was extremely confident and driven and knew exactly what i wanted. That scares some people.
Why did you go with 679/Warners in the end?
They had been there from the very beginning. 3 months before other labels even knew about me. Plus I genuinely trust and like the people I am working with. We are on exactly the same wave length.
Have you recorded the album? When can we expect it? Also, how would you describe it and what are the songs about?
It’ll be expected in october. I won’t say anything else.
What about touring? What is your live setup and do you enjoy it compared to recording?
I enjoy it WAY more than recording, though the results of recording are more rewarding. I am doing a lot of festivals over the summer. My live set up is 3 musicians- on bass, keys and drums-then me. I play piano or some songs if it takes my fancy.
What does your mother think of it all if you don’t mind me asking, still thinking you’re flightly?!
Hahaha. She loves it. She is my biggest fan!
Marina and the Diamonds – Shampain Sleeper
Marina and the Diamonds – Obsessions
The Crown Jewels EP is out on May 29th and Marina is playing Electric Picnic.