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Tying Tiffany - interview

Tying Tiffany comes from Padua, Italy, but she's heading your way at a rate of knots.  Her new album, People's Temple, mashes slinky electronics with ripped-up post-punk guitar, and the result is an insistent new wave slamdance with an unashamed pop sensibility stashed in its back pocket. Tying Tiffany was the unexpected hit of  the 2011 Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig, and later lit her own cool fire in London. You'll find those live sets reviewed elsewhere in this issue - but now, let's talk to Tiffany...

The Summer Darkness festival website described you as 'Iggy Pop meets Kraftwerk'  - which I thought was rather good! - but how would you describe yourself to people who may never have heard your music or seen you on stage? How would Tying Tiffany introduce Tying Tiiffany?

I'm not really great at introducing myself - it's always difficult speaking about myself. I have many sides that at times even escape my own understanding. This aspect is certainly present in my music. From the roots of what I've listened to up until today, it's all come out into my personal sound. I played for while in other projects, but then I decided to speak for myself through music. From there my own solo project was born: Tying Tiffany.

I could describe my music as post-punk, but it would be limiting. Maybe post-pop. Or maybe post, and that's all. The interesting thing is that whoever listens finds a different inspiration or derives a different meaning, probably based on their own journey. Tying Tiffany is a mix of my being, certainly restless, for sure imperfect.

  Tying Tiffany performs 'Show Me What you Got'. Is gonzoid bubblegum punk rock techno a genre? It is now.

How did you discover this strange thing called music in the first place? For me, it was sitting up in bed listening to John Peel's late-night radio show. He was the first radio DJ to play punk - and everything that came after. Did you have a similar entry point?

Luckily, I grew up in a family that loved music. When I was a kid I used to listen to my parent's records: Brian Eno, Velvet Underground, Can, Kraftwerk.

As I got older I started to become attracted to those small record shops (now almost all gone) that smelled of lives old and lived, like a junk shop, where many other music people were browsing through the shelves. It’s actually from then and there that I started to look at other music, mainly underground artists such as Cabaret Voltaire, The Cramps, Lydia Lunch, Sonic Youth, Suicide, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, Psychic TV, and many others... Music is one of my main reasons of life and love it totally, all kinds.

Tying TiffanyWhen did you decide that you had to make your own music? Did you pick up a guitar at an early age? When did you start out as a musician yourself?

I was given a guitar as a present by a family guest who spent a night at our house when I was a kid. The guitar had only four strings because the others were broken, so I started playing it like a bass.

Then during high school, after having taken part in different musical projects, I decided that too many compromises weren’t doing it for me and I wanted to develop my own ideas.

With the help of a computer I started to bring new musical ideas to life. I refined my technique working at night in a recording studio in my home town.

Are you a totally solo artist, and then get a band together to play live? Or do you have collaborators who work with you in the studio - or is the music put together by you and a computer, alone in a room?

The music I create, I create alone, spontaneously. In the recording phase I add some basslines, and guitars are recorded by the guitarist who plays with me live, Lorenzo Montanà.

During rehearsals for concerts I like to change the arrangements to bring the sound closer to its essence, then often the line-up changes, sometimes drums, bass, guitar, other times synth and two guitars.

I've been listening to your three albums, and the interesting thing there's a lot of variety in the music. The albums themselves are all distinctly different, and there are all sorts of musical tangents on each one. But the new album, People's Temple, it seems things have got a bit darker - and more rock 'n' roll. Was that always the plan, or did the music just naturally drift in that direction? What made you give 'People's Temple' that flavour?

Tying TiffanyEven though the earlier albums seem different at first listen, I believe there’s a common thread in the melodicism that I like to transmit even in the hardest parts.

I think it’s my distinctive trait to create songs that one can sing, with a feel that’s dreamlike and disturbing at the same time.

I like to experiment, and as a passionate collector of music it doesn’t come easy to me to focus in only one direction.

But with People’s Temple, I managed to find a sense of belonging. My path. And it's on this that I'll continue to work, not losing however my curiosity. Nothing is planned out, I do what I like and feel.

It seems to me that at the heart of everything you do, there's a punk rock attitude. And that doesn't necessarily mean loud guitars -  if the attitude is still there, it always comes across. Is that your philosophy - the punk attitude, full speed ahead, and take no shit?

Tying TiffanyYes, it’s one of the philosophies I live by. It doesn’t have anything to do with the clothes you see me wear, and above all far from the battles of of whoever’s the most transgressive. It’s a choice that allows me to live every day as I wish, free without trampling on anyone, like an unleashed dog.

Some of the songs on People's Temple seem to take influences from the darker side of the 80s...

'One Breath' sounds like a cross between Joy Division and UK Decay, while 'Still In My Head' has that speedfreak drum machine and high-tension guitar that reminds me of early Sisters Of Mercy stuff - the really early stuff, the music they made when they were still a bunch of punks in Leeds.

Is the post-punk period of the early 1980s a particular influence? Did you listen to music from that time and think, 'Let's bring this into the twenty-first century?'

That period of the 80s and all of the post punk was fundamental for my musical growth, as I said I’m a collector of music and I have tons of vinyl from that era - even 'Body Electric' by the Sisters of Mercy, that I got as a gift from a friend who didn’t love the genre and didn’t realize what a gem she had in her hands!

I can’t stand whoever copies from the past but I believe it’s inevitable that the influences of what one listens to especially in life’s formative moments, remain.

What’s new is in the reinterpretation of the spirit of that period from one’s own point of view - putting your own personality and experience into it.

Then again, I hear contemporary electronica in the music, too. If I were a DJ, I think I'd try a mix with 'Miracle' and 'Seventeen' by Ladytron - I think those tracks would work well together, and that mix would fill the dancefloor. Do you think this area is your musical territory, too?

I don’t think that with my music one can speak of specific territories. 'Miracle', for example - if I was doing my DJ set I could mix it with Ladytron, or 'Your Love' by Frankie Knuckles, or 'Buffalo Gals' by Malcolm McLaren...

  The official video for Tying Tiffany's 'Miracle'. Impressionistic imagery, no Tiffany. But New Order would be proud of that groove. If you're a DJ, try a mix or two...

In the video for 'Show Me What You Want', which we saw at the top of this page, you're wearing a PiL T-shirt. I hope we see John Lydon wearing a Tying Tiffany T-shirt in his next video! But Pil are a good example of the punk attitude thing I was talking about: the band took the attitude and did something new with it. Are Pil an influence - in terms of music, or just the way the band re-invented the idea of what a band was all about?

I’d say both of those things. The attitude of the band translates into music, and from there often icons are born. PIL succeeded perfectly, they represented the end of traditional punk , but they still had the original punk attitude, linked purely to communication that music is not an end in itself.

If ever in my life I happen to meet John Lydon I will definitely ask him what size he wears!

I thought your performance at the WGT in Leipzig was the best thing about the festival. The WGT this year seemed to be dominated by so many acts that seemed to be the usual bunch of black-clad blokes being very Traditionally Gothic. I felt we really needed someone to come on and kick the festival up the arse. And then you came on and did it. So...thank you for doing that!

Tying TiffanyThank you - I thought the WGT were courageous to include me in their programming. I know the scene well and I know how often it's linked to the usual cliches. I prefer to stay out of the scene because everyone has some rules and regulations to follow. To cut across for me is simply what I like to do.

But here's the qustion - did you feel at home at the WGT? Did you feel that you fitted in with all those traditional Goth men and their traditional goth bands? Or did you see yourself as the wild card at the festival?

I felt at home, because being in a different context, I was welcomed enthusiastically and warmly by the audience. And the organization of the festival was impeccable - that's very rare.

I found it constructive to divide the parts, those who consider me a novelty and a breath of fresh air in the surroundings and the purists who consider me out of place.

It was interesting to see the women in the WGT crowd really seemed to get into your music - even the traditionally gothic girls in their corsets and crinolines, who didn't look like they'd be into any artist with a punk rock attitude.

But they were all dancing and cheering, and I wondered if that was because they liked the way a strong, take-no-shit female artist could throw down a challenge to all those blokes' bands. Do you feel you are in some way fighting a battle for women in a male-dominated music world?

It's certainly difficult for a woman to insert herself into the music scene. It's dominated by men and their stupid rules, treating women with superficiality and the usual demeaning adjectives and a lot of skepticism. I also find however that it has served me well to be the girl who defends the rights of other girls - because the moment’s arrived to act like equals and not play victims of the system. When a male colleague or industry insider speaks to me only to make a move on me I always respond to him in a professional manner, making him feel miserable for his narrow minded and outdated views.

If the tightly corseted girls at WGT perceived this I’m happy with them, because I think that they also had the desire to hear and see something different than the usual testosterone fuelled male bands. And I’m also happy when men realize, watching their own sex, how limited it is - to still think that whoever listens to music produced by women is considered less masculine...it's incredible.

And finally....what next, where next? Do you have a plan, or do you prefer to just let the future happen?

I’m finishing work on my new record, this is the only plan at the moment. For the rest, I don’t put limits on myself or make plans. I prefer to make my choices day by day.  

Tying Tiffany performs 'Lost Way'. Crystal balls, black nail varnish, dancing girls...and Tiffany's own glowering presence.  

 

Tying Tiffany: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Find a Tying Tiffany album review here, two live reviews (London and the WGT in Leipzig) here, and photos from the live shows here.

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