Interview With…Antigone!

It’s been a year since I last interviewed a red-headed diva. Seems time for another, now doesn’t it?

Meet Antigone.

The saucy Sydney-born songstress has been flying just below the radar for months now, delivering a solid UK dancefloor hit last year with “More Man Than Man,” and gearing up for what could very well be another in “Promiscuity.”

Garnering a countless amount of comparisons (from Róisín Murphy to Allison Goldfrapp), Antigone’s now hoping to establish her own musical mark with her debut release, AntigoneLand. The album has been heralded by the privileged few who’ve already been made privy to the album’s contents as a noteworthy blend of sophisticated, quirky dance-pop delights.

The dancefloor darling was gracious enough to allow me some time to grill her for what proved to be a rather comprehensive onslaught of questions. I think you’ll be able to see that, in no time at all, Antigone starts to unwind and slip into something much more comfortable. Quite the minx, this one!

Read on, Muusers!

Hey Antigone! Thank you so much for speaking with MuuMuse today!

I’ve been reading up on your past accomplishments, and it appears you’ve got a history almost as colorful as the video for “More Man Than Man”! Your big break first came with a featured performance and co-write on a single called “The Bass Has Got Me Movin’” by Sydney dance group, [love] tattoo. How did that collaboration first come about?

I was pulled in as a session singer to sing a song that hadn’t been written yet. Ended up co-writing it in the session, and then spent a series of unfortunate months wrangling with the artist to make that official. What a break though, ‘twas fun.

And then the track became ARIA nominated!

Yeah, as did the album (I contributed 3 tracks).

Now, you’re originally from Sydney. I recently offended a handful of proud Aussies in a recent review for jokingly suggesting Australia to be good for only two things: Kangaroos and Dannii Minogue. Evidently, not everyone shares in my sense of humor.
What do you love and miss most about your old stomping grounds down under?

Well clearly you’ve never visited darling! Look, Australia has so many merits: great lifestyle, incredible landscape and fantastic oddball fauna (as you point out). It also has a burgeoning metropolitan culture and an incredible indigenous history. At the point where Australians realise that they can be proud of their culture rather than just import others they will be a serious force to be reckoned with. I love and miss my ‘framily’ the most. That and the bush.

But seriously, if it came down to it–Dannii or Kylie?

Dannii fo’ sure, flaws and all. She seems to possess an honesty and transparency that is oddly missing from her sister.

So the collaboration happened with love [tattoo] and then, all of a sudden, you were off to Mumbai, learning Hindustani vocal technique and dubbing foreign films—I love it! Can you reflect upon the experience a bit? What did you learn from your journeys?

It was just the most amazing trip. I won a scholarship to study at the Jazz India Vocal Institute and spent 3 months studying, performing, touring and singing for my supper at a 5 star hotel with (wait for it…) ‘Georgie and the Soft Rock Revolution’! It was a place where anything could and did happen – it felt like there were no boundaries. Of course the contrast of the hotel and the slums outside was rich for writing and I wrote incessantly. India teaches you many things, but mainly it demonstrates that the Western notion that money leads to happiness is fatally flawed.

After returning from your travels, you ended up doing a fair share of writing for various dance outfits, including Shapeshifters. Judging by the bits and pieces I’ve heard from you already, it seems that you inject a certain degree of sophistication into your lyrics, or what I like to refer to as “smart pop”—which is rather rare in the narrow confines of “dance.” It’s quite refreshing to hear something other than “got all my girls, going out to the club” every now and then! What inspires you to write your lyrics?

I’ve always hoped that my lyrics were what stood me apart from the general dance malaise because I detest so many pop/dance lyrics for their oversimplistic clichés. It’s not enough to have a great voice or even construct hooky melodies if you want to be a ‘real artist’ – you must be able to pen a mean lyric on your own. My own experiences inspire me to write, but as I mature I want to build on the piquancy of the personal and tap into a perspective that resonates with people at a universal level. Without resorting to oversimplistic clichés!

After completing more tracks with [love] tattoo, you branched out into your first solo effort under the name Etherfox with the help of producer, Justin Shave, yielding two more dancefloor smashes in the early ‘00’s. Why then have you chosen to go the way of Antigone as opposed to Etherfox? Is it a different persona?

Absolutely. See, Etherfox was actually born out of a frustration with the [love] tattoo situation. We felt we needed to prove ourselves independently so it made sense to stick within the genre. But even as we were getting that stuff out there, we were writing a whole lot of other darker, jazzier and more underground stuff, which was much closer to my roots than poppy house music. When we moved to London I felt inspired to split the projects and finally go solo. Antigone’s persona is much more complex and diverse than her foxy Etherfox – she’s intense, sensual and intellectual, and more of a demanding bitch.

You also supported one of my all-time favorite male pop stars, Darren Hayes, on his brilliant 2007 tour, The Time Machine Tour. Did you ever interact with him? Is he fun?

Darren is super funny and very generous – he’s a true entertainer on and off stage.

Your live performances have often been described as greatly “theatrical.” For those of us who haven’t been fortunate enough to catch you live in the act, can you describe what a night’s show might entail?

First I am carried onto stage by 3 very handsome Greek men in scanty clothing. Then I sing 3 songs, seductively being stripped by my assistants. Then I have a bath on stage. Hmmm. Well, recently it’s been about catsuits, flamboyant attitude and serious seduction. I’m very direct and I thrive on audience interaction. My performance this Friday 6th will be shot, so I’ll post it on youtube next week and you can see for yourself, m’kay?

“More Man Than Man” enjoyed a Top 10 entry into the UK Charts in 2008, an incredible debut charting, especially considering the fact that you’ve been releasing music under your own label, Yoctopus. Congratulations! Why did you choose to start your own label, and is there any significance to its cute name?

It’s just a mechanism to put music out there really – I’m certainly not interested in signing anyone else. I’m working on licensing/getting signed because running and promoting a label is a hell of a lot of work, but the upside is that you’re in control and only have yourself to blame for mistakes. The cute name was invited by Shavenstein – a yocti is a scientific index number and basically means ‘very small’ (it’s 10 to the minus 24) ‘cause we’re a small label. The octopus and puss continues our relationship with animals, as with Etherfox. We heart animals.

We find ourselves now in 2009. “Promiscuity” is the fantastic new single from the album, set to be released in just a few weeks. I’ve had it on repeat for days now! What inspired you to record this one?

It’s about the notion that if you meet your soulmate too early in life you face the inevitable difficulty of knowing that you still need to independently grow. How do you reconcile the ‘side-effects’ of that? If you survive your ‘growth spurt’ (ahem) then great, but even so it can be an insipid dynamic at times because if you’re jealous then it’s difficult to forget the past. Yet the past is what has allowed you to become who you are and to ultimately commit. So Promiscuity is this haunting sexy girl who both satiates and torments.

Do you ever have a hand in the music production, or are you more centered around the lyrics and melody construction?

I tend to leave the production to Shave because I trust him and he’s brilliant. I do feed influences through though. We arrange together, and I will always give critical feedback when I don’t like something.

I completely adore your voice—especially on this track. I think it’s a nice cross between Kate Havnevik and a more traditional pop standard crooner…like Liza, perhaps! Who would you credit as your main musical influences?

Well thank you. It began for me with obsessive imitation. First it was Sinead O’Connor, then Sarah Vaughan and Bjork. Annie Lennox, Moloko (more for lyrical style) and Syreeta Wright have also been major. To really find my own voice I have to restrict who I listen to because my voice is like an actress and I can be too impressionable.

A bit off-topic, but not really: How do you feel about Lady Gaga? I go back and forth on her all the time. I truly can’t tell whether she’s revitalizing the influence of our iconic legends (Grace Jones, David Bowie, Madonna) or simply cheapening the genre. Thoughts?

I’m not entirely sure either, but I haven’t paid much attention. Image seems less sexy than slutty but it’s strong. She is clearly a solid performer but I’m a little scared of her leotard fetish (especially that outfit at the Brits – what was that?!)

Your upcoming debut, AntigoneLand, has been a work in progress since 2007 with Justin Shave. I know I’ve seen promotion for years now, anyway! Why such a long wait? Building up the suspense?!

I had a couple of management jokers in the mix who delayed it, but when you’re putting it out yourself it just takes longer. The key thing is I know it still sounds really fresh and I think that’s because neither Shave nor I are ‘fashion musicians’, we just do our thing.

Well, no worries…It’s finally here. What should we expect to hear with this record? Should we expect to hear any of that Hindustani vocal technique utilized on the upcoming debut?

It’s a real mixed bag but there is continuity too as its all the same team throughout. The production is heavily electronic. But because a lot of it has been made with Shave’s own electronic instrument, the Okkam 01 (he’s now working for Native Instruments), it just sounds different. The playlist makes AntigoneLand a metaphor for a night out – it starts as you get ready at home with some cocktails, moves to the bar for some chair dancing, escalates into some serious shape throwing, becomes horizontal as you seduce your favourite dancer and winds up with snuggles into the morning light. It’s about women, men, sex, growth, the world.

It seems as though every proper pop media outlet has heard this album, and the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive! Before the rest of the world has a chance to get their hands on the album, is there anything you’d like to say regarding AntigoneLand?

Try making love to it – apparently its good in bed (I wouldn’t know by the way – I’m not that much of a ego maniac!)

Any last words for the fans?

It’s so exciting to have the direct contact that we do through the various channels. That’s one of the best things about being so independent – you are at the frontline and you process and engage with the fans direct. Come play and thank you!

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me today, Antigone. I cannot WAIT to hear the new album—I expect great things for you, and wish you MUCH success in the very near future!

Snaps to you Monsieur Muse for a great interview.

Click here to visit Antigone’s website, here for her MySpace, and below to hear more from Antigone!

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