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Interview: Alison Moyet

8 min read

It is a truly difficult task to give an introduction to Alison Moyet that does her and her career the right amount of justice or without using words such as pioneer, icon or influential. The singer first rose to the challenge of conquering the music scene back in 1982 when she and Vince Clarke formed the hugely successful new wave duo, Yazoo (or Yaz as they are known in the States). The band were only together for two years before disbanding but what they created together in that time formed the template of synthpop bands that would follow long after them.

Following the disbanding of Yazoo, Alison went on to carve a solo career of her own and one that eclipsed many of her peers throughout the eighties. There isnt a music fan out there who doesn’t know the lyrics to the singers many signature hits – Love Resurrection, Is This Love, All Cried Out, Invisible – the list goes on.

AlisonMoyetTheMinutesHaving delivered some of the recording worlds finest releases over a career that has lasted over 30 years, Alison revisited her roots on her latest album, the minutes. With a nod to her retro early years, incorporating a much more synth oriented sound than her previous releases, the minutes is a phenomenal record that had already won over fans and critics when the records first single, When I Was Your Girl was released at the start of the year.

With the album in full speed and a tour on the horizon, we caught up with the multi-million selling, Grammy award nominated superstar to talk about her latest studio album and her lengthy career as one of the UK’s biggest selling exports. Here is what Alison had to tell us:

Brendon Veevers: How are you Alison?

Alison Moyet: I am very well indeed. Thank you.

BV: Where are you speaking with us from today?

AM: I am sitting in bed, not early enough to call it reasonable but morning nonetheless, contemplating a pile of admin and ruing my feckless, distractible ways.

BV: You recently released the minutes, your brand new record. How does it feel to have the album released?

AM: It’s been a bit of a trek. An album I have wanted to make for an age. That no label was gagging to release original material by me and having made it off my own bat, to have it so well received is more than I could expect and all I hoped for. It feels good.

BV: Did you do anything lavish or special to celebrate the album’s release?

AM: I tend not to make a thing of anything. Most cards come on the arrival of the first born. After that you’re expected to squeeze them out with out fanfare or pain killers and still get the dinner on. When it charted we had a management/label drinks do for a mutual back-patting huzzah. We all felt suitably pleased with ourselves.

BV: For anyone who hasn’t heard the minutes yet, can you tell us a little about the new collection and the inspiration behind the record?

I wanted to make an album with an electronic palette where the songs maintained their integrity and were not lead by demographics or target audiences.  I didn’t want to consider what is currently deemed au fait. I wanted it to be a project that was taken as a whole. An album in the old sense, to be listened to as a collective. the minutes I think of as prog-pop. That could just be me though. Lyricism is more significant here than vocal acrobatics. It is a more observational collection and I believe it to be my most cohesive set.

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BV: This is your first record in 6 years. Why has it been so long since an Alison Moyet release?

AM: It’s harder to get people on board when you are no longer considered a front line act and are no media darling’s darling. A middle-aged woman is not deemed an easy commodity when it comes to record-making and labels are reluctant to take on new material from one such as me.

I had any number of opportunities to record Etta James’ covers and whilst, as an instrument myself, I have no issue performing fine works by other composers, a covers album was not where I wanted to be for this project. I wanted it create an original work and so I had to hold out. Make a record alone and then present it as a fait accompli so that no one was mislead and no compromise requested. It took 3 years to write and record as I was working with Guy mostly in his down time and he is a busy fellow.

BV: You worked with Guy Sigsworth on the new album. What was that like?

AM: The record would not be without him. I would not have made this record without him, nor he without me. It was collaboration proper and I delighted in every minute of it. This album belongs to us both and working with him is a privilege.

Guy is that rare bloke who is motivated by the act alone, regardless of its commercial promise. He sees what is in front of him as well as the creative possibility that it presents. His energy and focus is tremendous. We are similar in that we are both a little socially awkward but got one another immediately. We speak the same English, albeit that mine is somewhat swearier. I felt understood by him. It really was the perfect partnership for me.

BV: Given your track record of penning such memorable and commercially successful releases over the past 30 years, did you approach the release of the minutes with any prior commercial or chart expectation?

AM: No. My expectations are few. The only thing I can hope to control is my output and that becomes a very freeing place when you recognize it. When you have fewer eyes upon you, you become less inhibited. It is like returning to the beginning. I loved that.

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BV: Is there any pressure on you to replicate previous successes or was this a release that you went into on your own terms?

AM: There is pressure in terms of combating what people expect of you when they think they have your number,  and I am aware how you can be seen as both vanguard and a twat at the same time. It’s not important.

BV: You have achieved a huge amount of success over the years as part of Yazoo, maintaining an incredible solo career for 30 years as well as appearing in the West End in Chicago and Smaller. What have been your personal career highlights so far?

AM: Every time you surface with something that you have had to battle for is rewarding. A brilliant audience. Someone connecting with your writing. Being understood. The reception I received for Hometime and the minutes – 2 albums that were not wanted by labels but were recognised as good works. These make for happy days.
BV: Given you have maintained such a prolific standing in the industry for so many years, what would you say your longevity could be credited to?

AM: Many assume I am without confidence because I speak freely about my failings. Hard to answer this without seeming full of hubris. I believe I have sustained because I have something to offer that is more than the sum total of my hits. I am not complacent. I don’t have a template. I am ALF (I just said that).

BV: The music industry has changed so rapidly over the past decade with the rise of the digital format and reality talent shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent becoming a leading platform for new artists to showcase themselves as well as to earn quick fame – what are your thoughts on music’s evolution and
do you believe the music industry is headed in a positive direction?

AM: I only think about it when I am asked and then stop immediately. I have never really been a natural receiver. Music for me was more about the act than consuming and I have never felt a part of the industry or its machinations. I don’t notice what doesn’t present itself to me as an issue.

The reality shows are light entertainment, not music programs. The immediate marketing possibilities and promotion opportunities it throws up for the contestants are a cheap and easy in for investors to exploit. There is no artist development. They don’t deal in artists. A new facsimile presents itself the following season. They are tired formats but who cares? The audiences turn over the same as the singers.  It feels as close to what I do as interior design.

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BV: You will be taking the minutes out on the road throughout 2013. What are you looking forward to the most about touring the new material?

AM: It is the first time I have worked live with an electronic backdrop outside of Yazoo. That I can include Yazoo material and approach it more as it was intended, as well as reworking the more organic material into electronica as opposed to the other way around is a bit thrilling.

The hardest thing to do after a 30 year career is include everything you want to. Whittling down a 60 song wish-list. Touring is my favourite part. Having a new spin on it is a welcome challenge. I have an energy for this.

BV: Are there any other projects in the pipeline for 2013?

AM: This year will mostly be taken up touring. I start rehearsals soon then that’s me ’til christmas. Unless some interesting out-of-left-field project presents itself, and I love it when that happens. I will be gigs-a-go-go.

BV: Thanks for your time Alison.

AM: You are very welcome. Thank you for having me.

Alison Moyet’s latest album the minutes is out now.