Thursday, 27 April 2017

Singer Ewa Zablocka on all things Radioactive Rats!!



Photo by Lee Wright.
Hard core punks Radioactive Rats are based in Nottingham which is where I travelled to last December as they were playing a benefit gig for local homeless charities. I had spent a few months making return trips to Youtube to listen to ‘Cyrk’, ‘Zero’, ‘Pojebany’ and a great cover of ‘Guns of Brixton’ after a mate tipped me off about how good they are. Online footage proved he was right but of course, as The Situationists insisted, mediated spectacles are a poor second best compared to direct participatory experience! In The Sumac Centre Radioactive Rats played a storming set of ferocious metal tinged punk with danceable riffs and rhythms which led to much leaping around and dancing! Definitely worth the journey! Fronted by singer Ewa Zablocka RR are gaining a reputation as a very good band indeed and it’s obvious why. Musically they are superb, coming across as really enjoying themselves and are expert at breaking down any sense of separation between the band and ‘the audience’ with, on this occasion, the two guitarists and vocalist all standing in with the crowd at various points. I’ve been able to see them a couple of times since and as they keep getting better it seemed like a good idea to ask Ewa more about the band.

Could you tell us about the origins of Radioactive Rats? Some of you were in a band together in Poland weren’t you?
All members of the first Radioactive Rats lineup came from same town in Poland – Namyslow so most of us had met before in different bands or shared a stage.
In 2003 when I was only 15 years old with Kubczak we created Potluczony Kaloryfer (which means Smashed Radiator). Later I also started to sing in an anarcho punk band called ZMT (Zgwalcili Mi Tate – They Have Raped My Dad) where I meet Joseph who was a guitarist there. In 2010 I started to sing in folk ska punk band Taumaturgia where I met and played with Jimmy our previous drummer. In 2013 we all ended up in UK and decided to reactivate PK. We changed the name to Radioactive Rats after the first two gigs in UK in October 2014. In 2015 Marek who in Poland played in Snowball Ambush with other guys from Namyslow, so we knew him from there, jumped on the second guitar and Bartek on the drums when Jimmy decided to leave.
What made you decide to re-start the band? Did it feel like a new start?
To be honest it was like it was re-born. We had a few years break from playing together, so it was nice to see each other after a few years and play old songs.
How did you get into punk?
I use to grow up listening to punk rock music (Polish and English). So punk rock was always in my veins. When you are a kid or a teenager and you open your eyes to the world you look around and see things that do not seem right to you, you want to talk about it or even scream. You want to express yourself. And it suits my character – I always wanted to change the world into a better place – and I found it in punk.
Is punk very established in Poland?  
Punk is not very popular in Poland now. It was most popular in 80’s. Then we had a very strong punk rock scene. Now it’s more commercial than riot/rebel.
You are also a tattooist, aren’t you? That’s a very interesting job! How did you get into it?
I became interested in tattoos when I was a 15 or 16. Kubczak made some tattoos on himself using a homemade tattoo machine and I wanted to get some tattoos as well but I had to wait till 18. So on my 18th birthday I got my first tattoo... and that's how it started. After a few years, when I gained some knowledge, I bought all the tattoo stuff needed for tattooing and started doing it. Now I'm still doing some tattoos for my friends from time to time but now this is only my hobby not my job. Now I'm the manager in Inkland Tattoo shop.
Most of us would struggle to pronounce Potłuczony Kaloryfer but what made you choose Radioactive Rats as a name instead?
Hah.... First of all I love rats. Rats are very cute and very smart but disliked and seen as a threat… a little bit like punk rockers!
Has your sound changed since you first started in 2003? In what ways?
Of course it changed. We rearranged some of our old songs and our new material will be slightly different. When we started our songs were really simple, now we’re trying to be more creative because musically we’ve grown up a little bit hopefully. New material will probably be a little bit heavier, more hard core or even some metal than punk, but the punk rock spirit will be kept.
You’ve started to put up tracks on Bandcamp with more tracks to come, what sort of things do you sing about?
Yes, two songs are already on Bandcamp, three more to come. Songs for that demo are about different topics like religion, politics, fake people, fighting system, etc.
Who does most of the songwriting in RR? Is it all of you or one main person?
Some old PK songs were written by Kubczak. A few of the songs that we are playing in the concerts are from other bands in which we played. All new songs have my lyrics and music written by RR.
Have the things you sing about changed over time?
I don't thinks so. I think that ‘the system’ or ‘people in power’ or other things that we are singing about over time just changed names or methods of brainwashing people but it is still same old shit. They can not trick us. We have our eyes wide open all the time.
When you write your songs what inspiration do you draw on, personal experiences, books, films?
All the world around me, my feelings, my thoughts, some situations that happened to me or what I saw. Everything can be inspiration – there are no rules.
And how is the punk scene doing around Nottingham? I know Eagle  puts on the
‘Punk 4 the Homeless’ gigs, are there lots of other opportunities to play?
Yes, Eagle is doing a great job with at least one gig every month! In general the punk scene is not bad in Nottingham so if you want you can always find some good gigs on during weekends.
There are opportunities to play small gigs, small venues or even completely DIY gigs and we are always happy to play but as we all working in different places with different working hours sometimes we struggle to find dates that suits as all. On top of that Kubczak just become a father and our drummer is not from Nottingham...
I saw Radioactive Rats at a Polish punk night in London a few weeks ago, are there many Polish language punk bands in Britain?
I don't know a lot of Polish bands in UK, but I'm sure there are few in London and around.
And what are your plans for next year? Are you hoping to have an album coming out?A
Yes! We are working on a demo as I mentioned before. We had many problems with an album but finally we’ve started to record a few song from the beginning and as I said before two songs are already on our Bandcamp page and three more songs hopefully will come out very soon. But these are old songs so straight after that we will start writing new songs and thinking of recording them. We’re really looking forward to releasing completely new stuff created by the present lineup. So hopefully we will avoid any personal changes which will allow us to focus on gigging and writing, recording and releasing new 100% Radioactive Rats album soon!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Sink Ya Teeth: Classy Danceable Post Punk Minimalism.

Photo by Joel Benjamin.
A friend of mine mentioned a few times how good Sink Ya Teeth are and then in December I got the chance to see them at an excellent Norwich venue, The Owl Sanctuary. Turned out my friend was spot on! Their set was full of sophisticated catchy 80s tinged pop rock laced with intriguing, evocative lyrics and delivered with relaxed style. Next thing I know they have a classy atmospheric single ‘If You See Me’ out on 1965 Records and are being played on Radio 6! Fortunately I was able to contact Maria and Gemma and arrange an interview for one Saturday lunch time...    
Hi Gemma and Maria! Could you tell us about Sink Ya Teeth? When did you get together, why did you get together?
Maria: We got together in July 2015. I was a solo artist and Gem played guitar in the band that then broke up and we wanted to continue doing something together and it’s a lot easier to organise two people than it is five!
Ah OK so you were in the same band were you…
Gemma: Maria was a solo artist and she wanted to do some stuff with a band and she got some people together to play her solo stuff and I was the guitarist. Really loved what she was doing and found we had similar visions and taste in music. So we decided to do something as a two piece. I’ve been in a few bands, the main one, years ago was called Kaito and a few other ones that didn’t really go anywhere. And Maria’s been in a punk band...
Maria: About ten years ago I was in a punk band called The Incidentals and then I became solo as Girl In A Thunderbolt.
Who would you cite as musical influences? The single ‘If You See Me’ reminded me of John Foxx and Grace Jones!
M: I think there is a lot of influence from the early 80s and from late 80s rave as well, not too heavy but that is there as well and I do love Grace Jones! I think the vocal are quite detached because I was feeling a little bit burnt out and down when I wrote it...self induced through too much partying!
Is there one main songwriter in the band? Is it a collaboration? What does the creative process look like in SYT?
G: Usually what happens is Maria will come up with the main bit of the song and then gives it to me and I’ll add a bass line if I feel it needs it and anything else I feel needs doing but usually it’s 70% done when it’s delivered but I just add the finishing touches. Or sometimes I don’t do anything to it because adding to it would ruin it! It’s also knowing when not to add as well, I think a lot of people can want to get themselves all over it when it’s fine as it is.
I listened to two or three of your songs online, what sort of subjects do you engage with lyrically?  ‘Circumstances’ seemed to end with a question about determinism versus free will…
M: I should find that quite easy to answer but I’m actually finding it quite difficult! It’s usually from personal experience but I don’t like lyrics that are really black and white I like to leave in a bit of ambiguity and leave things open to interpretation, so the listener might draw their own conclusions through their own life path and their own experiences. I know what I’m singing about in most cases and I might embellish that to create a bigger story but I’ll still leave an element of ambiguity there. No one wants you to lay everything on the line.
So what was ‘Circumstances’ about?
G: Not being able to find things in drawers haha
M: It’s not about anything, it’s about everything, it’s an amalgamation of different thought processes and different feelings that are all drawn together to make a sentence and making sure that the end of each line rhymes! Every line does mean something to me…one line reminds me of when I was a kid and my Mum used to buy us souvenirs and you’d have that bottom draw in your kitchen or sideboard or wherever that’s got loads of crap in it.  And then there are other lines like ”You think you’ve got a voice, you think you’ve got a choice” which is obviously a little bit more deep and a comment on the world today and governments and political systems. It’s just phrases, some carry weight, some don’t, it’s up to the listener to decide which is which.
I saw you last year with Peach Club and Skinny Girl Diet, do you think there has been an increase in female fronted feminist bands over the last few years?
M: I don’t know, there has always been loads of female fronted bands or girls in bands in Norwich in my experience so it’s never really felt like ‘a thing’.
G: Same with me, ever since I first got a guitar when I was thirteen there were plenty of women in bands then to inspire me like Elastica, Sleeper and The Breeders. So I don’t know it there has been an increase, possibly more of an awareness maybe now.
Obviously Skinny Girl Diet and Peach Club are overtly feminist, is that something you feel aligned with?
M: I think everyone who believes in equality is feminist to an extent but I don’t think we see ourselves as a feminist band, we’re just a band.
You seem to play live quite regularly, is that something you particularly enjoy?
G: It’s one of those things, you do enjoy it at the time and you enjoy it afterwards but on the day I go really quiet and get in the zone and think ‘Why do I do this to myself?’  and get really nervous, but I have to do it. I’m not the most extrovert on stage but I have to do it. And we like to have a little tipple, it’s like a night out!
And has Norwich been a good place to be a band? Are there quite a lot of opportunities to play?
M: Yeah I think so, there are some good venues and some good promoters. Norwich Art Centre is always our favourite.
You just signed with 1965 Records, how did that come about? Did you contact them or did they come to you?
G: We played the launch party of Norwich Sound and Vision and there was a guy in the audience who really loved us and wrote something on Facebook about us. It turned out he was friends with James Endeacott who runs 1965. This guy wrote ‘Sink Ya Teeth are amazing’ and tagged James in it and James said ‘Thanks I’ll check them out’ Turned out James was the guy who used to manage Tindersticks and discovered The Libertines and The Strokes. He asked us to send him some music and then they came to see us play in a little country pub in Diss, and it all went from there really!
You were recently played on Radio 6 as well is that right?
G: Steve Lamacq has played us 6 days in a row-and yesterday we got played 3 times in one day!
M: And Radio 1 the day before on Huw Stephens!
Are there any books, bands or writers that you’ve been influenced by?
G: I like David Lynch, the film director, and his music and art as well. He’s my hero.
M: I like Patti Smith, love her poetry and her performance and books. I like how she is just who she is, unapologetic.
Are there any bands around at the moment that you are particularly impressed by?
G: Pip Blom who we’re playing with tonight, she’s from Amsterdam, catchy indie punk pop. And Maria saw a band the other night that I missed...
M: Yeah, yeah, Yassassin. Really good 5 piece band they sort of reminded me of a cross between early Roxy Music and The Slits, really energetic on stage and really good!
Plans for 2017?
G: We’ve got Loud Women (in September) obviously and a couple of things in July. We’re going to write some stuff over summer and get our live set as good as we can get it! We’ve got a few gigs and we might get some more. And we’ve got another single lined up.

Big thanks to Maria and Gemma for their time.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Mindframe: 'punk is definitely still a positive force'


Photo by Lara Homaidan.
Sometimes you just stumble upon good things. Last year I went down to Stockwell to see Perma War and as per usual got there very early but on this occasion that was good. I got chatting to a guy called Ollie who turned out to be one of the gig organisers and also guitarist in a band who were also playing that night, Mindframe. Annoyingly due to train times I had to leave early and missed their set but not before an interview was agreed. In the following months I got to listen to their stuff on Bandcamp and caught a couple of videos and they’re really very good! Intelligent, well crafted, danceable old school punk. Check out ‘Slumped and Dumped’ from the EP of the same name and try to keep your head still!
Could you give us an overview of Mindframe? How did you meet? When did you start?
Tabi: I only joined the band in 2014, then Trev joined us later that year, so Ollie and Bruce are best to answer that!
Bruce: The original plan was to create something less distinctly DIY punk, concentrate on recording,  and play only a minimum number of live gigs. So much for that! We started at the end of 2012 and this line up has been together for about 2 years. Three recordings so far, two of which are available on Bandcamp and one about to be released on Grow Your Own Records.
Ollie: First gig probably end of 2013 but maybe Bruce can recall that better. Chris was the original drummer, we work at the same place and he asked if I wanted to start a dub band with Bruce, I knew of Bruce's other band Bug Central so it was a ‘Yes’, and I love dub....but as you noticed we aren't a dub band.....everyone brings their own influences into the band. I think it took us about 6 months to get our first gig with our original line up.......after a while Lukas our old drummer left and luckily Trev came to the rescue very quickly. So here we are in our current line-up.
What had you been doing before? Had any of you been in other bands together at all?
Ollie: I have been in a number of failed band attempts and only started playing guitar again probably a few months before Mindframe came together before that I stopped playing for about 10 years, moving constantly and not having a stable housing situation being the main reason. I had 2 bands in S.Africa Thingy which morphed into The Godhood...........many people were in and out of the later band.
Bruce: I’ve been in quite a few different bands and I think I’ve played in about 4 of those with Trev at various times. (Bug Central, Intensive Care, SLUG, Public Execution, any more?)
Tabi: I have been in  quite a few bands that have not necessarily materialized since I moved to London. I was in a Runaways cover band for 4 years playing drums, and a Riot Grrrl band called 'The Dirty Aprons', but that was up in Scotland.
Trev: I have mainly been looking after my cats.
Who would you list as musical influences?
Bruce: I think you would get a whole range from the band members and probably not that many we would all agree on, haha!
Ollie: Punk/ hardcore /ska is by far my favourite styles of music, but I definitely don't limit myself, if a band catches my attention it will have a hold on me. So dub, jazz, metal, rock.....even classical music has a place for me.
Tabi: Eh, I really like a huge variety of music. Anything from Luther Vandross to Municipal Waste. But mainly I have been impacted by the Riot Grrrl movement, The Runaways and female fronted bands such as Vice Squad, X-Ray Spex etc etc. I think also I am influenced differently musically and lyrics wise. But we all have different taste, that's what keeps things interesting!
Trev: I like a wide range of nice loud music, but mainly cats purring.
How did you decide on the name?
Tabi: It was already chosen when I joined.. think they flipped a coin..?
Bruce: It really came top of a huge list of not-so-shit names when we started.
Ollie: Oh we tried so many names. We had Frame of Mind and then it changed to Mindframe.
Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it evolved?
Ollie: Haha.....yeah a dub band.....well there you go.
Bruce: It's evolved, revolved and dissolved. Everyone has their own style and limitations so trying to plan the final product would be impossible.
Tabi: I think we just write what we want to, we are beginning to have some sort of sound but we've got no strict rules.
You released the 5 track Slumped and Dumped EP early last year. Could you talk us through the tracks, what sort of subject matter were you exploring?
Ollie: lyric wise Tabi would have to answer that. An interesting fact about this release is that we recorded and mixed all 5 in a day....and I also had a strained wrist, so quite a relief when it was done.
Tabi: Oh god well, I guess all the songs are meant to tell a story. (of some sort) or are just meant to make you think. Lots of topics were discussed in that, anything from sexual frustration to feminism to the shite state of affairs in the government.
Are you happy that it 'captures' where Mindframe are now musically and lyrically?
Ollie: Personally I think it could do with doubling the guitar and more bass, but otherwise pretty pleased with it.
Tabi: I think that we are still pretty young in the sense that we're still finding out sound, but to be honest I don't think we really think about it. As long we we all like playing a song and it makes sense it us. Now - I we have come on a lot recording and live-wise since we recorded Slumped and Dumped.
How does the creative process work in Mindframe? Is there one main songwriter or is it very collaborative?
Ollie: We all collaborate with ideas, bits of tunes.....it's a mish mash of sometimes just jamming a tune and Tabi going through lyrics that suit it or Tabi singing a song and one of us fitting a tune with it.
Tabi: We really just have a jam a lot of the time. Then we all go away and think about it and bring something else back to practice. I write most of the lyrics, but we're always working together.
What sources do you draw on in lyric writing? Personal experiences, books, films?
Ollie: Again this is for Tabi.
Tabi: There are a lot of things going on I guess. I like to think that most of the songs tell a story in one way or another. I think I like to write things that makes people have to listen to it a few times to understand, or that every time you listen you get something else from it. A lot of it draws from personal experience, but I have started writing some things based on creative influences so I guess films etc.
A lot of female musicians seem to experience a degree of sexism, an essentialist assumption that because they are a woman their musicianship will be less than a man's! What has your experience as a singer been in the punk/DIY scene? Is it a better place for women than other sub-cultures?
Tabi: I guess I have to answer this one! Well this really pisses me off, sexism is a huge problem that many woman like myself face everyday in music - but I think if anywhere is better for female musicians it would be the DIY scene (this covers a hug variety of genres though). Though there is prejudice everywhere in life. One of my few judgements of the scene would be that it is also ageist and small minded on occasion. There are a few people still living in the 70s... I was born in 94'! My view is that punk is still alive and well, you just need to find it. From a woman's perspective like I said I think it is one of the better environments to play in. I am very lucky that the SLPC collective we play in is really welcoming. But I know that there is still of sexism slyly going around. The important thing is to stamp out the casualness of sexism in music. Shouldn't matter who, or what you are or where you've come from, everyone should have a chance to express themselves in a comfortable and non-judgemental environment.
It seems to me that there has been a real upsurge in feminist punk bands and gigs over the last couple of years-is that true or was I just missing it!?
Ollie: Yes there has.
Tabi: I think there has been. But there STILL NEEDS TO BE. There is so much to be pissed off about, I don't understand why more people, especially women and young people aren’t taking a stand through the platform of punk! But there are lots doing it underground.
As a band and individually you are very involved with the grassroots punk 'scene' including SLPC. How do you think contemporary grassroots punk is doing, is it encouraging to be part of? Overall do you think the punk scene has developed in a positive way?
Ollie: I will shorten my very long version of answering this. I would say I'm very involved as I'm in a band, put on gigs with SLPC, with friends and sometimes almost alone, do a literature distro.......... I think punk is definitely still a positive force otherwise I wouldn't waste my time with it, a bit of a ghetto sometimes or in London ghettos and people still spend too much energy getting wasted, but you will find that loads of punks are involved in some amazing projects/ groups/movements/ collectives.
Bruce: The scene is largely the same as far as I can remember it. There has always been a collaboration of bands and individuals involved in putting on punk gigs. There is a lot of hard work being done by people to keep the scene going and that is respected by the majority but I don’t think it’s any smaller or weaker than it was years ago.
Tabi: I can't really comment much, but I always think more music is good. It's so important to keep the ideals alive of DIY movement, as well as move with the times.
Do you think the punk community with its ethos of DIY art and participation can still be a site of resistance to passive capitalist consumption? Do you think it is still an encourager of active creativity?
Ollie: Yes for sure, there is a big DIY, anti-capitalist, re-use, recycle ethos in the London scene. Tabi: Definitely, goes without saying. We need to use it more.
What are your plans for 2017 -are you going to be out playing live, do you have any plans for further releases?
Ollie: More gigs out of London hopefully, the release of our 4 track EP on Grow Your Own Records and getting into the studio again to record some of our upcoming new tracks
Bruce: As Ollie's said - Single coming out on Grow Your Own this year
What bands and writers have you been enjoying lately?
Ollie: I've turned into a bit of a vinyl junkie recently so hunting down records I had to sell to survive many years ago, So at the moment Sofahead, Social Unrest,, Primeval Soup, Spanner, Kalahari Surfers, 7 Seconds, Bad Brains, Anarchistwood, Beefeater are vinyl LPs I'm spinning at the moment....other music waaaaay too much to mention, I also read loads of graphic novels......too much heavy reading over the years.
Bruce: Too many to say really
Tabi: Pretty much a lot of what Ollie has said. I am also a massive fan of Rabies Babies, KBTDF, Pink Grip, Bus Station Loonies and loads and loads of others. I've been reading a lot of Haruki Murakami and feminist zines mainly recently.

Mindframe are Trev - drums, Tabi - vocals, Ollie - guitar, Bruce - bass.
https://mindframe.bandcamp.com/album/slumped-and-dumped-ep

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Madame So: War on Conformity.

Photo by Crawford Blair.

A while ago I was reviewing the compilation album Loud Women Vol.1 when I got to Track 15 by someone called Madame So, the song was ‘Black Is Beautiful’, and having listened to it a few times I wrote ‘this is really very good indeed! Multi layered pop rock, great languid vocals, chiming guitar, inventive, captivating’. Other people have written equally complimentary, though far more insightful, things about Madame So’s contribution. Checking out her music online it turns out that track is the tip of an iceberg which includes her recent release, a mesmerising version of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’
A while later at a social centre in North London I caught her live, performing as a two piece with drummer Giova, and again the quality of her song writing stood out in a set of scuzzy guitar rock/pop. Afterwards we chatted about punk, cultural expectations, The Tomboys and getting an interview together. Which we then did!    

Could you give us the backstory on Madame So? How long have you been making music? When did you 'become' Madame So?
Well, I used to write for various magazines, reviewing gigs and interviewing musicians...I thought that was the closest outlet there was for me to get exposed to as much music as possible. During that time, I got to hang out with some buzzing bands on the London scene at the time and I kind of developed an itch for performing my own stuff. I played my first ever gig circa 2011 and have played ever since. I recorded my first demos in the summer of 2012, then they developed into 'The Sell-by Date EP' which I put out in 2013 under the stage name of Madame So, even though, this is not so much a stage name as such as my parents have called me that since I was about three years old.

Who would you list as musical influences?  
Foundations in my musical make-up include Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Garland Jeffreys, Patti Smith , Billie Holliday, Fats Domino and all that cool indie stuff like The Replacements,  Liz Phair, The Lemonheads, L7 and Hole, as well as some French music (Serge Gainsbourg, Renaud, Christophe Miossec)


Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it evolved?  
Not really. When I was performing the acoustic circuit in London, my stuff was already branded "punk" by promoters and other bands who associate acoustic guitar solely with the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Nick Drake... While when writing a song I never had "punk" in mind: for me it was just me writing a song on the guitar. I like guitars. I did not have any particular "sound" in mind, I just wanted to flesh my songs out into a full -band performance, and I got to work with musicians (of the band Paintings of Ships)  who got my vibe  and  with whom I recorded 'The Sell-by Date EP'. On 'It's Not Even A Colour', my  second EP, I had the likes of Gang Four and Lush in mind.

Starting with 'The Sell-By Date' EP in 2013 you've had about 10 tracks out in various forms, what sort of subject matter do you explore in your music?  
The narrative of my songs tend to revolve around the themes of alienation, addiction and the war on conformity.

What inspires and influences your lyric writing? Books, films, your own experiences?
A mixture of these three. I'm a big daydreamer with a keen interest in words and poetry , so lyrics are something I  give high importance to in a song. I like to dig out the poetry in/from the grit, and a genius at that was my favourite-ever author, Charles Bukowski. I have just finished his book of poetry, 'On Love' : it's brilliant.

Your song 'Black is Beautiful' seems to explore the pressures to conform with expected cultural norms-is that what it's about?
Yes, that's one way of seeing it. Ultimately, it's a big shout out about the fact that being black doesn't have to be one-dimensional. Not every Black person is brought into this world as an all Beyonce/Rihanna/Tyler Perry's films loving package just because they are born Black. And that it's OK to be Black and choose guitars over beats and spits . As we speak, a pillar in Rock Music has died (Chuck Berry) and fair to say a lot of melanin ran in his blood!

Did you have to fight hard to resist those pressures? The conflating of culture and skin colour...!?
I don't see the combination of being Black  and liking guitars as a pressure or a contradiction per se at all - that again, is a mainstream concept . Yes, when it comes to being a musician today, I could have, like I have been suggested to by Black and White friends and acquaintances alike, have gone the easy, predictable and expected R'n'B/Hip Hop route; but I am a musician, not a poseur, so best make music I can genuinely express myself through instead of being a fraud to my own self. The only pressure, if we want to call it that, is being faced with people's narrow-mindedness and simplism.

Earlier this year you released a very interesting rearrangement of Bowie's 'Let's Dance'. How did you decide on that reinterpretation? Was your decision to release it as a single a kind of homage?  
I was playing a couple of shows in Paris in 2015, and wanted to stretch my set a little. I've always loved this song ever since I was little, and for me the best covers are the ones that go in opposite directions from the originals (a band like Nouvelle Vague is a master at that so much so they based their entire career on making covers) . For me, it would have been way too predictable to have recreated the saxophones and kept the song "danceable". I just wanted to focus on the brilliance and purity of Bowie's songwriting less the flashy production however great it is. When I recorded this cover in spring 2015, I had no idea what he was going through but my own mother was undergoing chemotherapy...  She passed four months before him. So it's an homage to both of them, really.
Photo by Lore Sabau.
Originally Riot Grrrl was a reaction to the US punk scene being predominantly straight white male, with all the attendant problems that brings. How have you experienced the UK DIY/punk scene, is it an easy space to be a (black) women?
Well, from my perspective the scene still is very white and very male. I played an Indie Rock all-dayer gig the other day and as expected I was the only woman and Black person on the line-up, and of course I had to open, just like girls are expected to, I suppose... I do indeed still occasionally, get the looks of surprise, intrigue and even discomfort from white boys territory pissing,  but it still hasn't fazed me.

A lot of female musicians seem to experience a degree of sexism, an essentialist assumption that because they are a woman their musicianship will be less than a man's! What's your experience as a musician in the grassroots DIY scene been like?
Yes, like I hinted earlier, it does still feel that being a female musician means that you're only owed to perform support slots, open for supposedly more worthy male acts. Plus, there always seems to be this air of surprise every time a female musician is actually proficient at their instrument...  this ancient idea that musicianship is the territory of the alpha-male ....  Or the patronising comments about my music being "sunny" just because it is melodic ... the usual nonsense.

It seems to me that there has been a real upsurge in feminist punk bands and Riot Grrrl over the last couple of years-is that true or was I just missing it!?
Yes, possibly. While it's great to see people being interested in seeing more women on stages, I feel these two terms are being overused, engraved in nostalgia and somewhat redundant, every time women pick up guitars and have something to say through songs they actually do write.  As an artist, I do not feel the need to brand myself as a feminist or a punk or a riot grrrl, really : I make music for people to listen to if they are so inclined-full stop, without the need to justify myself for it.

What are your plans for 2017 -are you going to be out playing live, what plans do you have for releases..an album?
Yes, I'll keep on performing live, currently with my drummer, Giova, and then we'll expand the line-up into a four piece for bigger gigs, hopefully festivals, and aim to have recorded that long-overdue debut album by the end of the year.

Big thanks to Solange. To find out/hear more go to http://www.madame-so.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/madamesomusic/