Suzie Stapleton - Interview
With the announcement of a one-off show in Manchester, opening for Lydia Lunch Retrovirus, Manchester Rocks just had to have a chat with Suzie Stapleton having been enamoured with her music and performance when we caught her live last year.
Things must be very exciting for you at the moment, a big year. You have an album planned for release this summer, is it recorded yet? No, I haven't actually started recording but it's all written. I am just making plans to record at the moment, which includes talking to musicians to play on the record and where to record it. It will probably be in a couple of month’s time when we start recording it. There is no definite release date set yet, probably the end of summer. Stretching out the definition of summer? It always takes longer than you want it to for many factors she says.
You are clearly Australian, I am from Sydney originally but moved to Melbourne for the last 10 years and I came over to the UK last year. So why did you move to the UK? I've come over and toured Europe for a month each year over the last three years but it's really hard to gain any momentum coming from Australia and it is a big expense just to get over so it made sense to base myself over in this side of the world and I've just always loved London and I wanted to live here for a long time. And I think it's good to live somewhere else.
With your EP/single, Obladi Diablo, you featured a band albeit very subtly and your guitar was very prominent, which was great. Are the musicians you are going to use the ones who are featured in the video Bring Back The Night? Those guys are all in Australia and I've been playing solo for the past couple of years so it's kind of impossible to get them involved with this record. I am looking for a rhythm section at the moment, I'm speaking to a few people who play drums and bass and I will play guitar obviously. I might add some other bits like I did previously, like some piano or what-not, but that will be the base of it.
That video also shows you busking as well, do you still busk? Suzie laughs I’ve never busked, it was just part of the storyline of the video. I’ve always found busking very weird, just turning up on the street and saying ‘I’m here’. I find it weirder playing to one person than to 100. Actually, I almost busked last year. I needed some extra money and thought I’d try busking. So I went out one day to one of the marked busking pitches in central London out front of the Tate. I had a couple of friends for moral support - but on the way there, dragging all my stuff on the tube, it just felt wrong. When we arrived there was a queue of five buskers already ahead of me which would have meant a five-hour wait. There was no way I was waiting around for 5 hours so I said let’s go and have lunch and think about Plan B. We sat down for lunch and a glass of wine and I checked my emails and right at that moment there was a request to see if I was available to do the Jim Jones and The Righteous Mind tour as the support act. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t meant to busk and thus ended my busking career.
Manchester Rocks discovered you on that tour and both of us were mightily impressed with you at the time. How was the tour overall for you and working with Jim Jones? Fantastic! It was really great, that was my first time in Manchester, my first time in a lot of places in the UK apart from a few shows with Mick Harvey earlier in the year. Both tours were a very fine introduction to the UK. In the past when I’ve come over I’ve just played London. The crowds were great and The Righteous Mind are such an amazing band, it was a really wonderful experience all round.
I thought you and The Righteous Mind were very well matched, a great combination because sometimes you go to a concert and the support act is a complete mismatch for the main act. Yes, it was good she says agreeably.
How was it growing up in Australia? Was it all AC/DC and Kylie Minogue? Suzie laughs again I don't know really, AC/DC, everybody asks me about them! I was working in a bar called the Cherry Bar when I first got to Melbourne and they changed their name to AC/DC Lane so I heard a lot there.
How did you discover your influences and who are they? I can hear Patti Smith and Jeff Buckley quite clearly in the song Hit. She responds I wouldn't say they are main influences, Patti Smith I came to because people kept comparing me to her so I checked her out. But growing up I listened to grunge and heavier kind of music, and I like people like Nick Cave, Mark Lanegan, Elliott Smith, Kyuss, Pixies…
It must be good to work alongside some of the people who are influences of worked with those influences, are you referring to the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project? Yes, and I was going to ask you about that as well, how did that all come about? Quite bizarrely, I was over here 3 or 4 years ago and I played a very small show, a last-minute booking because my other show had fallen through. So I played at the 12 Bar Club in London and I got put at the beginning of a metal line up which was completely inappropriate and everyone was lovely, but musically it wasn't quite right. I played to about eight people and one of them was Cypress Grove, the driving force behind the project, and he asked if I could record whilst I was in London. So that is how that came about and we have continued to work together via email, sending files and things. And that's how I did some of the Lydia Lunch stuff as well.
Is that the Retrovirus project? No, Cypress Grove and Lydia Lunch release music together and I've just done some backing vocals on a couple of their recordings and some have been released and some not. There was one that came out at the end of 2014, it was a split record with an Italian band called Spiritual Front with a couple of songs each. Lydia and Cypress did a very unusual cover of Hotel California, a desert blues version so I was just doing backing vocals on that and there are some other bits coming up which will see the light of day at some point.
Once the album is released there is presumably going to need to be some serious touring to promote it in the UK and Europe, I imagine so she says. YouTube is a fantastic resource for researching where people have played and I noticed you had done some TV work for Fair Price Music. Ah yes, in the Czech Republic where I have been a few times, really lovely people, great crowds, a good place to go.
And the reaction to your work has been very positive too, you are obviously hitting the right strings with people at the moment. Yes, everything seems to be flowing nicely, I can't complain.
And with that I left Suzie to enjoy the rest of the day.
Suzie Stapleton will be playing at Islington Mill on Monday 7th March 2016, opening for all Lydia Lunch Retrovirus, a show which is likely to be very interesting - do not miss it!
Words: Anthony Firmin / Photos: Anthony Firmin and Steve Gullick