CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): So what you do think the definitive Slits recording would be?
VIV ALBERTINE (VA): Oh, definitely CUT, yeah.
CR: Because it seemed, by then, you had gelled as a band, and had a sympathetic producer [in Dennis Bovell], as well.
VA: Yeah, a fantastic and steady producer, who could go right out there mentally. That's just what we really needed: someone who not only could ground us, but could mentally flip out, as well.
CR: Right, somebody who could encourage you...
VA: Yeah. You know “Newtown?” He did a rhythm track in there, where he just laid out a box of matches, a glass, a spoon, and a few other bits and pieces. He would do wild things like that, which was fantastic. You'd hear the matchbox shaking, a match being lit, and a glass [clinking] – and he made a little rhythm track out of it, which is fantastic. He just improvised it, did it in one take.
CR: Well, it's a very Jamaican way of working, isn't it? So where did it all get unstuck, you think?
VA: Well, I think, the '80s appearing, really – like I said, the careerism of music. Suddenly, it was just about making money, you know: “Let's dress nice and neat, and turn up on time for things.” It just became like a career, like any other – and, if you want to express yourself, I mean, you don't do it in a career. You might as well work at a bank.
CR: Right. Or manage property...
VA: Yeah, exactly. It wasn't a means of expression anymore, it was just slick – it became slick. But England's so small, and so faddy, that it drops one thing, and turns to the next.
CR: Oh, sure, and, of course -- the music press had a lot more influence than it does now. That had a lot to do with it [the post-punk dropoff], didn't it?
VA: Yeah, I hadn't really thought of it, but it probably did, yeah.
CR: Well, because the country is so much smaller, whereas, here – if somebody writes a bad review, you just say [makes pffft! noise], “I'll just go where I'm king.” But, it seemed to me -- at least, in the scene of that time – you had a lot fewer options.
VA: Yeah, absolutely, much fewer options. So, it's like, you start going this '80s road, wearing a load of makeup, looking slick. Oh, God, no one wants to know if you were banging on about something personal, or alternative, really, or stretching your music to sound different and challenging. No one wanted to know. I did get into the improvised music scene, but it didn't really sustain me as much. It's much better now, actually – it's the most lively thing happening.
CR: Right – which brings us full circle, to where we started talking. We're back, doing what we like, when we like. There's no bigtime manager with his shirt open to his waist, and a big cigar...
VA: No...I'm here totally alone, through word of mouth – it's fantastic! To think, a year and a half ago – I couldn't play guitar. As you know, I was no virtuoso the first time around, so it's not like I had to re-learn what I knew – in a year and a half, I I taught myself guitar again, in my own way, and now, I'm doing six dates. And it's great.
CR: It is pretty amazing to think of it – so, where do we go from here?
VA: Well, I've got a band back in England – a really good band of great people, nice people, in the same mindspace as me. But I couldn't afford to bring them, 'cause, you know, have to put up hotels, and [you're] traveling...
CR: Well, by the time you do all that, you're basically paying to play...
VA: Well, I'm paying to play now, even on my own – it's still gonna cost me. But I'm hoping that, in a way, if I put in a bit at the beginning, maybe this will set me up to come back next time with my band...hopefully.
CR: Well, maybe we'll circle back to that again, hopefully, who knows? That's my own hope when I go out and play. So what is it you hope to accomplish, now that you have started back up again?
VA: My message is to work hard, and be myself. From that, I hope I can make some very honest communication and expression, which touches other people. There's no point at all to do it, if I'm just wanking off to myself.
If, after a few years, I find that it isn't touching other people, then I'll stop. It's meaningless just to do it in a bubble. I just hope to make very honest communication that somehow says something in a way that people haven't said it before, really – and that's it.
And anything else that comes from that, fine, you know. After that, it's a struggle to keep feeding yourself, be true to yourself – and it's a struggle, you know, to turn down the temptations that come, I think.
CR: Sure, because there are always going to be no lack of easy choices to make – that's just the whole thing of it.
VA: I mean, as soon as you do start getting what might be called “success,” because you're appealing to people, then the temptations come, to sell out – to just do things wrong, to not be so pure anymore. This time round, I don't want to do that.
CR: All right, and I guess that probably is a pretty good place to leave it for this afternoon.
VA: OK, brilliant.
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