interviews

Rising star: 3 Beat's Sophie Alexander

The biz's brightest new talents tell their stories - this week it's the turn of Sophie Alexander, 3 Beat's digital marketing & visual product manager. How did you break into the industry? I had volunteered at festivals and industry events ...

The Aftershow: Paul Heaton

On tour with Jacqui Abbott and riding high in the charts with his new compilation, The Last King Of Pop, Paul Heaton is one of Britain’s finest songwriters. Here, the renowned football fanatic and former Housemartins and Beautiful South tunesmith shares a few secrets of the trade… I realised I could write songs when… “I was about 14 or 15. I would write [lyrics] down in a book and I started thinking I should try and complete that process and go from lyrics to melody. Professionally though, it was when [The Housemartins’] Flag Day got played by John Peel in 1985.” Writing songs is like a crossword in that… “As it goes on, the more clues you get, the easier it becomes. I write the lyrics first, in general, and then the melody after that.” The problem with making music videos is... “It’s probably the furthest from the roots of your original reason for forming a band. It’s a long day, but if I find somebody I like to work with then I stay with them because they’ve usually got a good team around them.” I hit it off with Jacqui Abbott... “For a variety of reasons. I think people get a bit sick of me singing all the songs and I noticed how the whole room lit up when she first came back. She has a voice that’s really close to mine, it’s got similar diction. I’ve struggled to get other people to sing in harmony with me so closely and she’s an absolute expert at that. Also, her voice sounds great on the radio and you can lose yourself in it.” I seem to have gained a reputation for disliking the music business but... “I’ve always had a good relationship with 99% of the people I’ve worked with, and that goes right to the top. I had a good relationship with people at Go! Discs, followed by several strong ones when we were unfortunately moved around a lot because Go! Discs was sold to Polygram. For a while we were jumping from label to label without any choice, but I always got on with most individuals in the music industry. I have a really good relationship with Ted [Cockle] at Virgin EMI where he seems to understand me totally. He’s never said, ‘You shouldn’t be doing this or that,’ and most people have been like that.” It’s OK to mix music with politics because… “Folk music has a long tradition of protest songs, so it’s part of who we are. It’s like those people who say, ‘Keep politics out of pubs’. You can’t! It’s like saying, ‘Don’t talk about football or music’. I quite like listening to people coming out with shit in pubs, I’d rather them do that than on Twitter or Facebook, where it escalates into death threats within about five seconds. What you say in your lyrics says a little bit about you anyway: it can say how greedy you are, how much you’re enjoying life, how observant you are and maybe how ignorant you are.” I like collecting things… “I’ve got six different football toothbrushes, which is pretty stupid. Just in case you wanted to know – Southend United, Dundee United, Port Vale, Hibernian, Borussia Dortmund, Heart Of Midlothian. Oh and Schalke. I also collect football badges, maps and crisp wrappers. So yeah, all sorts of crap.” If I had to give up either music or football… “I would choose football, but if you’d have asked me 20 years ago the answer would probably have been different. I packed in playing football when I was 42 and I quit managing five years ago so, apart from watching my team occasionally or watching it on telly, I wouldn’t miss it that much, whereas music is still central to my life.”

Hitmakers: The songwriting secrets of The Cardigans' My Favourite Game

The Cardigans’ 1998 smash My Favourite Game debuted a tougher, more electronic sound and broke the super Swedes in America. Singer and co-writer Nina Persson remembers an alternative rock classic – and an iconic video… I wasn’t a very happy person when I wrote My Favourite Game, but it was an exciting time. We were recording Gran Turismo in a big studio in the countryside packed with Pro Tools gear, computers and keyboards. We’d never worked with that before, so we just started to make a record with Pro Tools, having no fucking clue how to use it! The whole production of the record was just Pro Tools abuse, which was pretty fun. We had to hire somebody to come in and clean the files at the end. It took months because we had messed things up so badly – but the results were good! The move into darker and harder atmospheres was definitely conscious, but we wouldn’t have done such an electronic sounding record if it hadn’t been for the equipment being there. Peter [Svensson, Cardigans guitarist/co-writer] had just started to be inspired by Depeche Mode. I had my own room in the attic, where I sat and recorded vocals. When it came to My Favourite Game I remember sitting up there writing the lyrics and having quite a good flow. All the songs of ours that were most successful, the hits of any kind, were all quite easy to write. That’s the character of the songs, they’re more natural or something, they come easy. I think I was single then, so it wasn’t [written about] a real life situation. Most of the songs that I’ve written about relationships are fictional. I’m not sure where the ‘Losing my favourite game’ phrase came from. I was listening to a lot of Sheryl Crow, her song My Favourite Mistake came out around that time so maybe that was ringing somewhere in my mind. Or Peter would sing random words that sounded good musically with the melody he was writing. So it could be left over from what I overheard him singing when he introduced the melody. I never really thought it would be a hit when we wrote it. It was only when I was on the set for the video that we shot for the song, standing there in the Mojave Desert with helicopters filming above and car crashes and stuff, I realised, ‘People must be believing in this song’. At the time I think there were only two videos that had been more costly or something: one Bush video and one Michael Jackson one. After that, I think budgets went down, people realised you can’t blow that much fucking money on a rock video! Filming it was actually really hard work. It was so hot, people were feeding me these anti-dehydration tablets. I was sort of the only one working, because all the guys had to do was sit in a van and be hit by the car driven by me! But it was also really fun because it was such a crazy set. I had this stuntwoman driving the car around so it was fun to have that experience. The video got banned in Europe – because I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt! I also had my head chopped off in some versions at the end, so that’s really funny that that’s what MTV didn’t like! I’m very proud of it as a record, I like it very much. We’ve been playing it live again recently and it makes me feel sympathetic with the young me and the young us. We’re all in a way better place now, life tends to get a little better. It was a hard time when we made the record but it’s nice to play it again, just because all these colours and emotions still exist in me. That’s not the case for all our old songs. When we play [1995 single] Carnival, I’ve matured enough that I can do it and not feel ridiculous, but it really feels like I’m doing a cover version of someone else’s song. But My Favourite Game is a song where I felt like myself when I wrote it, and I still recognise myself in it. Writer’s Notes Publishers Stockholm Songs/Universal Music Publishing Group Writers Nina Persson, Peter Svensson Release Date 05.10.98 Record Label Stockholm/Polydor Total UK Sales (OCC) 343,094

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