Having a cup of tea with Marina & The Diamonds.
At the very end of 2010 I was lucky enough to sit with Marina Diamandis to talk about her music, the future and the temptations of reality television at her hotel, right before her first Melbourne gig at the HiFi Bar. My first International face-to-face, Marina couldn’t have been sweeter to me. Genuinely amazing person to interview and a fantastic hugger.
Pop stars that hug are a win in my book.
Enjoy the Christmas related questions; it was only a few days later, after all.
First of all, welcome to Australia Marina!
You’re playing the festival circuit here in OZ over the silly season, how are you adjusting?
I have to admit it is strange, obviously we have our summer and you get rid of the festivals then and there, and I’ve just had Christmas at home and now I’m back in my Mickey Dungarees (laughs). But I am really looking forward to it, nice to get some sun again.
I saw on Twitter last night that on the flight over you had a woman sitting next to you with an electric blanket?
(Uproar of laughter) The flight attendants nearly had a fit, You do realise the Health & Safety issues with this, right? (Laughs) Fine, let’s blow up the plane!
“The Family Jewels” was my album of the year for 2010, largely for how personally relatable the themes within were, particularly for the loners and unlucky in love in the world. Do you get that kind of an intense reaction from people when they talk to you about it often?
Yeah definitely. It’s funny, obviously music reflects culture, and at the moment, because of people like Gaga – who is an Amazing artist – it’s suddenly become very cool to be on the outside. Whereas for me, I really was on the outside, y’know? It wasn’t about feeling cool, it was more about feeling isolated and putting that isolation on yourself in response to different things. It’s not too much about love, but it’s definitely an outsider record.
Being able to listen to artists such as yourself so honestly spill their heart and soul into a song, it’s quite refreshing, particularly with so many other females keeping the personal content of their music at arms length with their fans.
In a way it’s a very skilled way of writing for them, but for me it just feels so unnatural, I can’t censor myself. And that’s how I get everything out, through music, through writing. If I wasn’t somebody who couldn’t express themselves well I wouldn’t bother with music (laughs). I think, for pop music, it’s a prerequisite to write songs that aren’t too deep, or don’t go beyond the surface too much because it’s harder to relate. It’s definitely a skill with pop writing which I just can’t master because I don’t need to (laughs).
You’ve said in the past that “The Family Jewels” is an album about what not to be. How so?
It’s funny because, at the time I was challenging things like the notion of success and beauty standards, really, and I guess feminism a bit. And a lot of it was about succeeding, because I’m such an ambitious person and I really felt an instinctive drive that I was meant to be here. I want to be one of the greatest artists of my generation, and I won’t stop until I am. I really want that, I really want to have a good place in pop music. And I think The Family Jewels was kind of a way of getting past the obsession with success. And now my hunger for trash and celebrity has really gone away. I have become a self-fulfilled prophecy (laughs).
“TV taught my how to feel, now real life has no appeal” is my favourite Marina song lyric. Where did you pull that one from?
I always look at life like it’s a drama, or a movie. When I’m actually like, Marina, that’s not true – this is a real person with real feelings (laughs). But that’s the way I see life! There’s also this really good Andy Warhol quote about TV, I can’t remember what it is exactly, but it was something about the reality of TV, and he said that TV is actually more like real life than real life is. TV is quite boring but reality is so fucked up and weird… and it’s true!
During any of those moments of desperation as an unsigned artist, did you ever consider trying to make it on reality television yourself?
No, never. I think I was lucky that, when I was 18, 19, reality TV had started but it wasn’t all encompassing Pop Culture, but maybe a few years later I would have. But still, I can’t imaging going to those extremes.
“Obsessions.” The line about having a nervous breakdown picking out a pack of crackers. That really happened, didn’t it.
(Laughs very loudly) I love that you know that that’s a breakdown! (Laughs) Yeah that really did happen! I wouldn’t say it’s an OCD but I guess it probably is, in that, I would go into the supermarket and pick a packet of pasta and then go, Oh God, there’s something wrong with it (laughs). It felt like it was the wrong packet. HOW CAN A PACKET OF PASTA BE THE WRONG ONE?! Anyway, I rummaged and rummaged and that’s where that’s from.
Do you still speak to the person that inspired the song?
Yeah I do.
(Laughs) Yeah I do! He’s a really good friend now.
New album, expected October 2011. You’ve started writing it?
Yeah I have, I did realise though that it might not be October and may actually be 2012. I just really want it to be good, doesn’t really matter about the time. So sometime in the next year, year and a bit.
You’ll be doing the album on your own again?
Yes, yes definitely.
You’re not that keen on working with other people, are you?
(Laughs) Well no. On The Family Jewels, three-quarters I wrote and the other quarter I co-wrote. And it’s nothing to do with the co-writers, I think it’s just that the intricacies of songwriting and composition aren’t there when you co-write. ‘Robot’ took maybe two months of going back to it every now and then, and ‘Guilty’ took a day. So it’s obviously going to be different in the levels of depth.
So what sort of themes are you delving into for the second album?
Oh it’s hard-core. Honestly, it’s gonna be like a punch in the face (laughs). It really is! It’s so hard-core, I feel like some people are going to be like, “I fucking hate you.” Which, you know, I don’t give a shit about (laughs)! It’s, lyrically, the most abrasive pop record to come from a female, definitely, I firmly believe that. I’m not saying it in a simplistic way, I’m talking about things that would never fit into pop songs. So you’ll just have to wait and see!
Any truth to the story you’re going to do another two albums and then quit to solely write for others?
No that’s bullshit.
(Laughs) Yeah, bullshit. I don’t know what that was, I think I just had a panic (laughs)! I think I’m gonna be here for a long time.
And you’re about to tour with Katy Perry?
No! I don’t know where that came from! You know what, she has been so supportive, we’ve never met. She’s got good taste in music actually. We’re very different, stand for very different things, and it would be cool to combine my Burger Queen Tour with her California Dreams one (laughs), it’s like the total opposites! But it’s nothing to do with her, I think it’s just a bit too soon for me. At the moment, no, but you never know in the future. [It's since been revealed the rumour was, indeed, true, so there you go.]
What about moving to America?
No, that’s kind of a lie as well (laughs). I don’t know where all these rumours start. I think someone’s got bored that my album cycle has ended and they’re just churning them out! I’d really love to move to New York though, so I guess it’s half true.
Let’s discuss your video treatment process. Shampain and Mowglii’s Road are your best, fyi.
That’s very interesting!
There’s a lot going on in them.
There is (laughs). My mind is really abstract and random, I’ll pull stuff from anywhere because I don’t really have any real knowledge of the world (laughs). The only one I didn’t do anything for was Mowglii’s and I loved it.
Would you ever record a Christmas song?
Oh I would love to. I don’t know if I’ve got it in me to write a good Christmas song (laughs)!
Oh yes you have! You’ve heard the new HURTS one, yes?
Yeah I have! It’s really good.
You’ve just signed a deal with Max Factor. Please explain.
They have this Max Colour Range, and it’s apart of their Big Night Out, but it’s more about this range that’s encouraging girls to develop and experiment with make-up. For me, I always prefer natural beauty over cosmetic BUT (laughs), obviously, as you can see, I love colour. It’s a big part of my look. So I really wanted to do it. And also, over the next few months I’m going to be doing these blogs that chapters articles on beauty, sexuality and feminism, that I thought, it’s quite a good way to be a spokeswoman for that. People are going to listen to me more being an ambassador of a beauty company than they are me being an Indie Musician. And they’re a wonderful team as well.
What is the real reason you left the title track off The Family Jewels?
The real reason is because I didn’t have any time to record it properly (laughs rapturously). I’m such a dick! I really should have done it. The full track is actually really good, but it only got to demo stage, I just didn’t have time. I just so wish I’d swapped it for a co-write now, because that really explains everything, y’know? Everyone just thinks it’s called The Family Jewels because of some random, glitter shit, It’s Not!
Thank you very much Marina, before I let you go can you sign my CD?
Yeah absolutely, Adam yeah?
Yeah, Adem with an E: A-D-E-M.
Oh really? OH! I LOVE THAT!
And I love you. Thank you, Marina.