"I wasn’t interested in being a pop star or appealing to everyone" - In conversation with Joan As Policewoman
Right in the middle of an extensive tour and fresh from the release of an epic career spanning four-disc anthology, we caught up with Joan As Policewoman. As she takes a breather between shows, she shares her almost pessimistic optimism with us.
Hey Joan, how’s your day so far?
So far? I woke up alive so that’s a good start. I've played the first 6 shows of the tour and no one’s angrily stormed the stage with a pickax so things are pretty great, I’d say.
What have you been up to recently?
I was recently in London doing an Africa Express event called “The Circus”, collaborating with the only all-female Malian band, with Tony Allen & Damon Albarn and then in Australia finishing up the touring with my band for Damned Devotion (released Feb 2018).
During a flash thunderstorm I somehow got hundreds of people to get on stage under the roof with us.
Why is now the right time to release Joanthology?
I’m doing a 6-month solo tour and am playing songs that span the seven records so figured I’d release a compilation including unreleased tracks, newly recorded songs and an entire record’s worth of Live at The BBC sessions from over the years. Folks seem to gravitate towards one record that hit them at the right time so this also provides a concise package to check it all out.
How hard was it to choose the tracks, was there anything you wish you had included that didn’t make the cut?
It was awful choosing the tracks and I had to ask for help. There were a lot of songs I couldn’t include but I try not to think about that now…. They are all available on the previously released albums so I can calm down about it all.
The album features new material, does this mean we can expect to hear more new music soon?
I’ve been working on my second covers record since the release of the first one in 2009; I’ll be finishing that up after this tour and continuing to work on my next album of JAPW originals.
You’ve worked with a lot of other artists over the years, who would be your dream collaboration and have you got anything currently in the pipeline?
Sade? Imagine that. I would actually die.
What’s your favourite venue to play and why?
I regularly play a wide variety of venues. They each bring out a different part of the music. I just played the most magical venue called De Roma in Antwerp; a cinema built in 1928 with style for miles.
I’ve enjoyed playing Royal Festival Hall, The Trade’s Club in Hebden Bridge, Spitz in London (RIP), Brudenell Social Club Leeds, Paradiso Amsterdam, Olympia in Paris with Lou Reed and Estate Sforzesca inside Piazza Castello, which was an open-air venue in a massive square inside a castle in Milano on my birthday last year when during a flash thunderstorm I somehow got hundreds of people to get on stage under the roof with us.
I was saved from any pressure to be a sex symbol or wear a bikini while performing.
The gender equality movement has gained a lot of momentum recently. Do you think being a female artist has ever set you back?
Big question. I’ve been playing and touring in bands since I was a teenager but thankfully I didn’t begin releasing my own music until my mid-30’s. I wasn’t interested in being a pop star or appealing to everyone so I was saved from any pressure to be a sex symbol or wear a bikini while performing.
There is a history of disregarding women songwriters. When you listen to interviews with Nina Simone or Joni Mitchell, it’s clear they didn’t get praise or notoriety from a wider audience until much later. It’s only time and communication that will change both men and women’s perceptions of gender and I’ll just keep writing songs through it all.
Do you think the industry has changed/is changing for women in music/how?
There are certainly more women in powerful positions in the industry and as performers. I see far more diversity in perspective, presentation, culture, class, race, shape, musical style and thought than I have previously. This is heartening.
What is your songwriting/music inspiration?
You name it. If it affects me emotionally, I could write a song about it.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Curtis Harding, Meshell Ndegeocello, Mdou Moctar, Alwyn Robinson, Moonchild Sanelly, Ravel’s solo piano played by Bertrand Chamayou, Van Hunt, Mulatu Astatke forever.
No one’s angrily stormed the stage with a pickax so things are pretty great
You’re currently on tour, what can people expect if they’ve not seen you yet?
I’m playing grand piano and electric guitar and I’ve got my Roland drum machine from 1973. It’s sparse, intimate arrangements of the songs. I’ve been told after every show that the experience has made people cry so I assume I’m doing my job.
What do you have planned for after you finish touring at the end of summer?
Working on new music, feeling the sun and swimming in the ocean- all readily available in Brooklyn.