The end of June saw the release of a classy box set, Silhouettes & Statues, a five-disc compendium of goth music and its origins. A couple of the artists featured – such as the ones who answered a few questions here – would surprise many folks by their inclusion, as you wouldn’t necessarily associate them with the genre. Before you immerse your face in a bowl of flour and pierce both your nipples in protest, however, I should point out that the splendid booklet inside (a regular feature from the ever reliable Cherry Red) gives you all the info you need as to why they did find their way onto such a compilation.
THE LEGENDARY PINK DOTS
If we include your solo career as well as your band’s output, you have released approaching 100 studio albums since you started out! How do you continue to keep things fresh in this respect, and, given the staggeringly prolific nature of your work, how do you avoid repeating yourself?
Edward Ka-Spel: I guess I’m always trying to reach a place that remains perpetually just out of reach… yet I can almost stretch my arms out in the rarefied atmosphere. As long as this situation continues then I just have to keep chasing the dream.
Are you surprised to find yourselves on what is essentially a ‘Goth’ compilation?
We always did well in that particular scene even though we never affiliated ourselves with any movement. In fact, I cherish the openness and appreciate the sensitivity of the people I encountered who have been rather carelessly branded as Goths as if they were indistinct from one another.
You have one of the most loyal fanbases of any predominantly leftfield band, though 1991’s ‘The Maria Dimension‘ was (almost) a brief flirtation with widespread commercial acceptance. Was there ever a point where you were tempted to write something that you knew would be embraced by a mainstream audience?
If it had happened it would have been a happy accident… but the temptation was never there.
What, apart from your own, is your favourite track on the Silhouettes & Statues compilation, and why?
[Gasp] I haven’t seen a copy yet as I’m on tour (a project with Amanda Palmer), but do give me time…
I thought you were ahead of your time in the eighties and made some of my favourite records of that decade, but I never really considered you as “goth”…
Danielle Dax: You know, I have been thinking about this recently. At the time, I would have agreed with you and definitely said “no”, because my music was so different, and the bands I was going to see were friends like Specimen or Alien Sex Fiend. But thinking about it now, some of the clothing would fit, and some of the subject matter of the lyrics might fit too. To be honest, I’m not well versed with many of those bands (on the compilation) – I’ve really come from a background where I was influenced by things like Throbbing Gristle and film nights at The Scala. Films like Pasolini’s Salo were a huge influence on me.
Wow, that’s a pretty unpleasant film!
It is, but it was massively cut and stupid when it was screened. At that age though, anything that pushed boundaries appealed to me, and I’m still very interested in what isn’t immediately obvious now. Hidden agendas and things like that, although I’m talking about science, not paranoia! When I was very young, I lived with my granny, who was a medium, and she always encouraged me to try to see things in the crystal ball, and just embrace everything. I could never see anything, but I started reading about world religions and about the occult; there was a common thread, and these were all areas that informed the music that I made, though there were elements of humour there too. I hope people could see that.
What struck me was that Pop Eyes sounded nothing like Jesus Egg That Wept, and that, in turn, had little in common with, say, Inky Bloaters. Neither did any of those sound like your former band, The Lemon Kittens. Were you ever concerned that the contrast for your audience might be just a little too great?
Quite honestly, I didn’t really care. I’ve only ever made stuff for myself, otherwise, you’re on a hiding to madness. It’s a dangerous game to find a formula and stick to it, and plus it would be incredibly boring. I feel like an artist in a wider sense of the word and I keep trying to push things – challenge things, nature even – with what I create.
A lot of people will remember you primarily from ‘The Company Of Wolves‘ as the permanently unclothed Wolf Girl, which must have made you feel a bit vulnerable. How did that come about?
Steve Woolley, at that time, was considering setting up his own label, and he saw some of my photos with all the face paint, so he showed them to (the director) Neil Jordan. He must have seen something in me and I was invited to audition. I didn’t really find it daunting because I’d already done the naked gigs with The Lemon Kittens. It seemed irrelevant that I wasn’t going to be wearing anything, and you forget so quickly anyway. I was taken to beaches as a child, and I used to see these big burly people arrive in these constricting clothes, looking uncomfortable, but as soon as they were freed of those clothes, it was like they became a different person, and were so much more relaxed. I’ve always been comfortable with my own body anyway, so it wasn’t an issue.
You’ve had several careers away from music. Aside from that and the acting, you’ve done many types of design work and art. What do you regard as the most satisfying?
Whatever I’m doing at the time! At the moment I’ve just done an installation of a sculptural work, called Hymn To Pan. You can see that on YouTube.
Your career highlight? Must be that chat show with Steve Davis, surely?
[laughs] My grandfather was particularly pleased that I was on a show with Steve Davis. He was fantastic though! I was so shocked; he was such a nice guy, and he’s a huge music fan too, which really surprised me at the time. He phoned up once and spoke to my grandfather, so that really made his day.
Anything you’d like to do that you haven’t yet?
[thoughtful pause] I’d like to go up in a rocket. My father was a Spitfire pilot, and ever since I’ve been obsessed with old documentaries about their use in World War II, and space as well. The moon landings have always fascinated me. If you look at the moon maps on National Geographic, psychologically they’re so odd and interesting. When I was younger all the other girls wanted to be air stewardesses. And I just wanted to go to the moon!
Still no lack of ambition from Ms Dax then, clearly! And with that, my wife called me downstairs for tea, at which Danielle laughed and said it was one of the worst reasons anyone has ended a telephone call with her. Oops. No offence intended! Willing to have a chat any time, Danielle, let’s stay in touch, eh?
Silhouettes And Statues is out now on Cherry Red.