Hello Sian, let us start with some questions about Kosheen. The band was labelled as trip hop which it was. And of course there’s Bristol. What was that: trip hop and Bristol. Was that a scene created by the press or was in a sudden the whole city involved in trip hop?
Bristol has always been a culturally diverse city. The music has reflected that diversity. We were immersed in art food and music from all corners of the world and where I lived in St Pauls we rubbed along in harmony. Hip hop, reggae and soul blasted from windows and corner sound systems and bhangra voices and tabla coloured the streets. These sounds seemed to fuse in the early free Party and rave scene, hypnotic beats and acid noise entranced a generation of people who were open and familiar with the colourful sounds of the Bristol multiculture. We were pioneers and architects of a sound that wouldn’t see race color or class and which defined us and became our voice in our endeavors to be recognized and counted as part of the populace. We were making waves in reaction to the recent introduction of massive taxes, criminal justice bill, cuts in benefits and other forms of control inflicted on us from a government who seemed to vilify us. I don’t think we really set out to be a trip hop act, or a drum and bass act we were just taking from our experiences in this musical revolution and making our interpretation of it.
We must be honest, suddenly there were hundreds of Massive Attack-copycats, but Kosheen made the genius combination with Euro dance. Was the rave culture a big influence?
After the success of Resist we toured relentlessly for 2 years, often only home to swap bags kiss my 10 year old son and dash out the door! The pressure was one thing, but horrendous management from within the band left us all out and exhausted. We wrote on the bus and the second album reflected the travel and the shows with a saddness and homesickness to see my boy. There is greater pressure these days on young artists to stay in the game. We made 3 albums before we were dropped, now you would be lucky to release a second single if the first were not a massive hit. I was grateful for the guidance BMG gave us in the early days and the faith my family had in me and the support they offered. I am lucky to still be writing and performing and to be respected in an industry that has become so quick and hard.
Almost every Kosheen-single was a guarantee fort he charts. Wasn’t there any big pressure from the labels and how do you handle that?
There were wild days and nights, after parties and pent house debauchery. As I said we weren’t managed and it got to us all. I realised fast that I couldn’t do show after show with equal performance if I continued that lifestyle. A singers instrument is physical and my body was suffering so I chilled out! I adored performing, but the travel was exhausting so I learned to unwind. I was a child of Glastonbury festival so the pinnacle of that time for me was headlining the new world stage in front of 70k people .Some kids I used to look after in my traveling days were up front and for them to see me up there made them realize it was possible for them to achieve theyre dreams too. I count that as a highlight of my life.
But after the band split up, you kept on playing solo, and you even do some Kosheen-songs...
Since the breakdown of Kosheen I have been re-imagining the songs I wrote whilst in the band and playing them in a different form. They are strong melodic compositions and work as well with strings and piano as they did with programming. A lot of the songs on Resist and Kokopelli were originally written on a guitar anyway ,and it is beautiful to hear them again in original form. From here I have written more with this new format in mind and have been slowly bringing a taste of technology back into the fold. The sound is developing and the shows are growing and audiences have responded wonderfully.
In fact you still play the Kosheen-songs, can we say in some way that Sian is Kosheen?
I am not Kosheen, but it was very important to my development as an artist. I often get called Kosheen! That is what happens when you front a band, I guess it happened to Debbie Harry in Blondie.
You recently flirt with jazz and blues. That’s a whole distance away from your dance roots. A new Sian was born, or were you always in these sounds?
I am a lover of melody harmony and emotive vocabulary. Jazz and Blues have always been in my record box, feamale voices like Ella Sarah Vaughn and Joni Mitchel have inspired my vocal and my writing. I am also blown away by the young jazz musicians I have had the privilege to work with Tim Thornton, Chris Draper and James Gardener Bateman have supported my transition to where I am now and helped me complete a cycle and move forward in the development of my music. I could not do this without Ron McElroy who has stood beside me musically and spiritually always gently pushing me to continue to follow my heart.
Last year you were one of the main artists on W-Fest, this year you’re back. It looks like you’re really keen on the concept of W-Fest, not?
We are all looking forward to W-Fest. Erik has shown a lot of love for me and for what I am doing. He is a great ally to have. We have stepped up a bit since last year and have been working on a slightly more electronic vibe. We will make you dance, but also we want you to feel and respond emotionally. We have new songs and musicians who have brought new light to the show. I have bumped into Human League a few times over the years and they are great, Peter Hook and the Light are superb live and lovely people so we will have a great time together. People forget that the show is only a part of what it takes to get us all up there and the crew, domestic and touring are essential to the festival family. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and laughing for old times and new.
What do you prefer on a festival : ice cream, beer or French fries ?
I don’t like beer, I shouldnt eat fries and ice cream is my nemesis, but to be honest salted caramel is my fave and if I do well I will indulge!
What is your favourite record of all time and please state why.
I have a record for every occasion: Joni Mitchell’s Blue is a gentle soothing space and Jeff Buckley’s Grace is a sing along uplifting anthem of tracks. Honestly there are so many.... Steely Dan....Carol King.....and the beautiful Neil Young Harvest Moon has got to be the one .
With who would you want to be alone in an elevator for 8 hours and what would you do then?
Being stuck in a lift would be terrifying as I am claustrophobic so whoever I am with will have to be professional ! I would love to have met Bob Marley so he may be perfect and be able to calm me down somehow!!!!! lolololol
The last words are yours...
As for the last words ... they are yet to be written xxx
Artist Interview by DIDIER BECU - Luminous Dash