Kiss This Grrrl: the Kate Nash interview
Last year's My Best Friend Is You saw Kate Nash embrace some of her formative influences to produce an album that retained her ear for a big tune while scaring the horses with a few noisier bits (and a spot of expletive-filled poetry). This perhaps had the desired effect of giving her the space to re-find her feet away from the media gaze, while taking a leftward step to the more considered indie sphere that inspired her in the first place.
These new freedoms have seen Nash pick up the baton for female musicians after she learned only 14% of the songwriting royalties administered by the Performing Rights Society go to women. In an attempt to redress the balance and encourage more girls and young women to participate in music, she hopes to oversee the creation of a series of Rock 'n Roll After-School Music Clubs For Girls where budding artists can try out for a life in rock and pop.
We spoke with Kate prior to her recent date at Carlisle’s Brickyard, where a pit-stop to look at some Spring lambs had left her running a little late. From behind a shocking red wig she talked to The Music Fix about where she takes her sound next, the current music scene and the myth of industry equality. Later that night, Nash and her new all-lady band performed an infectious set that drew grins from musicians and excitable crowd alike, the latter psyched-up by the hugely entertaining support Brigette Aphrodite whose ramshackle indie and Bromley John Cooper Clark-isms will soon be available on Nash's own Have 10p Records.
TMF: In terms of venue size this has been a slightly smaller tour than you’ve done for a while. Is this your way of putting 'My Best Friend Is You' to bed?
Kate Nash: Yeah, that’s kind of how I thought about it. I haven’t been to some of the places on this tour for about four years. Venues like The Cluny and The Sugarmill are really intimate and I haven’t played them since before the first record came out. So I thought it would be fun to do smaller gigs and connect with people. We’re coming to the end of the campaign and I didn’t get to tour in the UK as much as I would’ve liked so this is a longer tour in smaller venues.
Is that slightly ‘under the radar’ feel something you enjoy? - that ability to play with what you do aware from the glare of the magazines?
I never classed myself as a celebrity and while the first record was more commercial and successful it was really weird for me. A lot of good things came from it and it gave me a lot of opportunities but it wasn’t what I was initially looking for. So I am much happier in this position and I feel like I’ve got a lot more control in my life, creatively and playing live. I’m looking forward to writing the next record when I get the urge!
Do you have a sense of where your music might go next?
No idea! When it came to the second album I knew exactly what it was going to be like even before I wrote it but now I just have no idea so it’s a bit nerve-racking!
Is there a schedule?
I’ll just take it as it comes and see what happens.
So no pressure from the label?
Not that they’ve told me about! (laughs)
You’ve talked recently about your idea for after-school music clubs for girls and how you were hoping to fit in some school visits around the tour. Has that happened?
I’ve been to five schools on the tour and it’s been amazing. It’s interesting to hear what the kids have to say about the media and why there are fewer female songwriters than male. There seems to be a real issue around image, self-esteem and confidence. They feel like they’ve got to be perfect: perfect body, perfect face and if they don’t look like Cheryl Cole then they’re ugly. It’s really sad when you hear that so I’m looking forward to going back and helping to set up the clubs ‘cos they seem keen to get started!
When you first floated the idea, was that down to your own experience or things you saw happening to other women in the industry?
A bit. I’m actually fucking sick of the bullying in magazines more than anything. I’m going into schools and 14 year old girls are telling me they aren’t going into music because they’re ‘ugly’. How can you go up on stage when people are lining up to attack you like that?
I just want to do good stuff and be around positive people and I’ll talk about artists that I like rather than pick on people for no reason. And if I can do something to help change the statistics and encourage more girls to write music then I’ll do what I can.
There’s a Bikini Kill song that talks about how female artists are not taken seriously unless the conform to the Sylvia Plath model of tragedy. Does that still ring as true today?
Partly. Women still aren’t taken as seriously and have so much more to prove. Even the girls in my band who are studying at college and doing some session work - if they fuck up it’s because they’re a girl; if they get a job it’s only because they’re a girl. It’s still so political.
Did you ever worry about whether you audience would go with you when My Best Friend Is You took a darker turn?
I don’t think you can let that play on your mind too much. The sensibilities of both records were the same. I like pop and punk and indie music so I’m going to explore those different sonics as I grow up. If I worried about it I wouldn’t have been able to write so I locked myself away in a room and said ‘This is for me and these four walls and I’m just going to have fun.’ You can’t write for what someone thinks you should be doing.
Do you know who your audience is?
There are a lot of young girls - probably the majority. Younger girls and older guys! (laughs) I think the guys maybe see the influence of stuff like Buzzcocks, the storytelling and simplicity of what I’m doing. But it can change from country to country.
That private creative experience you touched on earlier - can you see yourself working with other people?
I’m not ready to collaborate with other people but am maybe getting closer to not freaking out about the idea. I used to be so self-conscious about my writing that I used to keep it to myself for a long time. But I also play bass in The Receders and that process of writing with other people has given me more confidence to share and not hold back or cower away from what you really want to say. I’m a writer and performer. For some reason I feel the need to ‘express myself’ and that’s how I deal with my problems.
You initially thought you might pursue acting so does what happens on stage scratch that itch to some extent?
A little … I’d really like to get back into acting at some point. It’s really internal and it’s another way of expressing and feeling things that you really can’t do in your own life. And if you have your own problems you can throw them into this messy character and it becomes a way of protecting yourself.
It’s all about storytelling. I wanted to do acting and I got shut down so I went back to songwriting which is another medium for dealing with stuff.
So is ‘Kate Nash’ a character that you play sometimes?
Not that I know of, although maybe the wig says different! I like pop melodies and punk simplicity and the honesty of both and people who are always trying to be interesting or creating characters - unless you’re David Bowie - are probably quite dull.
The real world provides enough inspiration?
I like using my imagination and creating other worlds and going to those places but I can be myself and do that. Being in an industry that’s so fake makes me want to be more real.
The industry is as fake as it ever was.
Especially when you’ve got people saying how great it is that there are so many women in the industry, but it’s guys selling them and writing their songs. We might as well be back in the 60s.
There are still a lot of cool people doing stuff - and there always will be - but who don’t appear in the mainstream. It’s confusing for me because I’m part of the mainstream culture but I never set out to be that and I don’t feel part of it.
Last updated: 14/06/2018 00:29:58