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Anais Mittchell - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 14 / 12 / 2013

Anais Mittchell - Interview


John Clarkson chats to 'V' and 'Mission: Impossible' actress Jane Badler about her new career as a singer, new single 'Nursery Rhyme' and forthcoming third album

Jane Badler’s striking video for her new single ‘Nursery Rhyme’ tells of great sorrow. A large house is being packed up. Sheets lie across the massive dining room table, the two cars in the twin garage, across a huge couch. Painting frames sit on the floor with their fronts against the wall, and packing cases litter the otherwise empty living room, kitchen and hallway. The camera slowly pans across these and other objects. In the bedroom rumpled bed clothes hang across the king-sized bed, and in front of the bed stands the beautiful 59-year old singer and actress, whisky glass dangling from her hand, eye make-up smudged, her face drawn and pinched with hurt and sadness. The lyrics, which are set against a backdrop of brooding, mournful cello, tell all: “Wounds leave a scar/Every time I see your face/I see her laughing in your car.” Badler is best known for playing the role of Diana, the villainous leader of the Visitors, in the mid 1980’s sci-fi mini-series ‘V’, which – a thinly veiled account of the Nazis rise to power – told of a group of humanoid aliens who arrived on Earth proclaiming peace and who then proceed to take over it. In one infamous sequence, much beloved on ‘You Tube’ and science-fiction websites, Diana, revealing her treacherous intentions for the first time, swallowed a ‘live’ rat. Jane Badler, who was born in New York but moved as a child, first came to public attention when as an eighteen year old in 1972 she won the Miss New Hampshire beauty contest and then competed the following year at the Miss America Pageant. Her acting career took off when in 1979 she won a role on daytime American soap ‘One Life to Live’. As well as ‘V’, which extended to two mini-series and then a television series, she also played regular roles on other American series such as ‘Falcon Crest’ and the late 80’s revival of ‘Mission: Impossible’. Badler moved to Melbourne in Australia in 1990 after meeting and marrying local businessman Stephen Hains. She has recently appeared in a four month guest slot in the Australian soap ‘Neighbours’, and also as another character also called Diana in a remake of ‘V’. While she started out by playing and fronting bands, Badler stopped singing shortly after she won the Miss New Hampshire title, and only took it up again towards the middle of the last decade. She started out as a jazz singer, before switching her attentions to pop after being invited to front by their songwriter Jesse Jackson Shepherd the Melbourne-based band SIR. She has now recorded two albums both with SIR. The first, the starker ‘The Devil Has My Double’, told of a rich woman who develops increase bizarre sexual obsessions, while the second, the lusher brass and strings-laden ‘Tears Again’, upon which ‘Nursery Rhyme’ appears, of a pill-popping society hostess and former soap opera actress. While most of the songs on ‘The Devil Has My Double’ and ‘Tears Again’ were written by Shepherd, ‘Nursery Rhyme’ is amongst the first of Badler’s own compositions. Jane Badler is currently working on a third album which will come out in 2014 with Australian songwriters Bryon St John and Matt Thomas, and which has she has recorded across the world with producers Jeff Bova (Cyndi Lauper, Eric Clapton, Iron Maiden), Ivor Guest (Grace Jones) and Mark Sanders (Talking Heads, The Cure). Pennyblackmusic spoke to Jane Badler on the phone in Melbourne about ‘Nursery Rhyme’ and her plans for next year. PB: You started out as a singer, and then abandoned it for thirty years when your acting career took off. What was the initial spark that started you singing again? JB: I was at a jazz club, a very famous jazz club in Melbourne called The Continental, and a female singer named Kate Soprano was singing with an absolutely beautiful pianist, and I remember sitting there watching them and thinking, “I can do this,” and “I need to do this again.” That was the beginning, and then once I started again I just couldn’t stop. PB: Has taking up singing been in some ways a reaction to acting? You have obviously won a lot of acclaim for your acting, but is singing in some ways more liberating because you are doing things under your own direction rather than working to someone else’s script? JB: Yes, it is really different. Everything you do with singing takes so much work. Nothing is easy. When you make a decision to move into something else, thank god, there is normally a little naivety involved, because it is only when you start that you realise how much work it involves. To me, getting into singing has been a real journey. I have had to learn theories, go back to the piano and also started song writing. If you want to be really taken seriously, you have to keep learning and growing with it, and that is harder to do as you get older. When you’re young, it’s easier because your mind is like a sponge. The roles for an actress in Australia are almost non-existent. There is very little opportunity for actresses over 45 in this country. It is a slow industry. If I want, I can go overseas to work and now that my family is grown up, I am starting to do more of that. It is really survival for me to be creative. It is my way of expressing myself, and through singing I can form my own universe where I can be sexy, I can be sensitive, I can do whatever I choose to do. PB: You have been happily married for over twenty years, but the characters on your albums don’t have happy lives. They are often disastrous and destructive. What is the appeal to you of singing songs about such unhappy people? JB: Oh gosh, I know. It is really crazy. The whole idea to me of being human is very poignant and a bittersweet thing. There is a lot of pain involved. No matter how cheerful I personally am, there is a lot of darkness. Part of it is my feelings about the human condition and part of it was my upbringing. I didn’t come from a totally functional family, and I had to fight hard to become anything that I wanted to become. That sort of thing stays with you. If you come from a family with happily married parents and that has had no tragedies and disasters, then you might have a lighter opinion about the world (Laughs). I am a very optimistic person at one level and I try to persevere, but underneath that I have quite a dark, twisted point of view of things. PB: While the subject matter on your records is melancholic, you don’t take yourself totally seriously. Songs like ‘I Want a Lot of Boys to Cry at My Funeral’ or ‘Did I Leave the House Today?’ from ‘Tears Again’ do have an element of humour. JB: Oh God, yes. Absolutely. You have got to have humour. I was very, very lucky because I started out by singing a lot of jazz and cabaret, and I was saved from jazz obscurity by Jesse Shepherd, who called me up one day and said, “I heard you singing on the radio and I would love you to front my band SIR and do my album for me.” That was ‘The Devil Has My Double’, and he had basically prewritten all these songs and gave them to me. They seemed really strange to me when I first heard them. I looked at them and thought, “What the hell am I going to do with these songs?” So I developed a persona, as an actress I developed a persona and created this character, and put a lot of humour into it. That is how ‘The Devil Has My Double’ came about. We then worked upon ‘Tears Again’ together. PB: You have worked on soap operas and you have been a snow carnival queen like the main character in ‘Tears Again’. There is an element of autobiography there. JB: Yes, there is. ‘Snow Carnival Queen’ is, I think, the most beautiful song, and when Jesse gave me that song I cried. It is a very poignant song about America and being a beauty queen and thinking that life is going to turn out the way you want it. You are going out with the star football player, and you just think that everything is going to be so amazing, and it is not. That album is about a woman who is trapped in her own soap opera. Here in Australia I am often thought of as a society woman. I am married to a businessman and I have put on some charity events, and the woman in the album, while she is in some ways very different from me, is also a society woman. I see that album as about being trapped. The cover of ‘Tears Again’ portrays me as this woman who on the surface has this appearance of having it all. She is a kind of ‘Mad Men’-esque character, and underneath it she has this very dark despair. It was very tongue-in-cheek. When we did the art work for ‘Tears Again’, we made every page of it look like the script of a soap opera, and so hearkening back to my own soap opera days. PB: ‘Nursery Rhyme’, which was one of your own songs, appears on that album. Was it a song that took a long time to write or once you started did it come together really quickly? JB: It was a song that came to me very easily. It came out of a crisis in my own life. It is once again about my fascination with the fairy tale. I was brought up in the late 1950s and early 1960s where you were lead to believe that you were going to meet some Prince Charming, who was going to take you and save you from yourself. It is an old-fashioned view. Nowadays young women don’t think- or I don’t know maybe some of them still do think - that way, but it was certainly the case in my generation. It was about the fairy tale, the nursery rhyme, and the shattering of it and the loss of innocence. PB: The video for it is really powerful. Who is Wilk who directed it? JB: I don’t say this lightly, but he is a real artist. He is very particular about what he takes on, and he is not interested in commercialism. He will only do what he believes in. It was his concept, using the house as a metaphor for abandonment, a house that was once filled with love and which is now boarded up and it had such a beauty to it, the way it filmed. It was hard for me to make that video because normally I put on a character, but this felt very raw to me and I felt very exposed as I was filming it. With the other videos – and a lot of the films I have made - I have usually felt really safe. On ‘Four Corners to My Bed’, for example, which was another one of my music videos, I became this older pill-popping woman who got her solace from younger men, and that felt kind of good to me (Laughs). When I shot this one, I didn’t like the way that it made me feel. It made me feel in real despair to go there and to feel this real sense of hopelessness. I have a very beautiful life normally, but I did allow myself to go there and it felt very dark. PB: You have got a new album coming out next year. JB: I recorded a lot of this one in L.A. with an incredible producer. His name is Jeff Bova, and he has won various Grammys and he basically runs a one stop shop. He is also mixing the album and played on it. I brought him the demos that I worked on with two writers Byron St. John and Matt Thomas here in Australia, and so some of it is based on the demos that I brought him, but he has brought in something beautiful to it. PB: You also recorded some of the songs in Britain and New York as well, didn’t you? JB: Yes, I am very lucky. One of my favourite artists is Grace Jones, and I knew someone who knew her producer Ivor Guest, and I connected with him and sent him my demos, and he liked one of them, and then when I was over in London for a sci-fi convention he and I met up and he produced it. It is called ‘Black Dove’, and it is a very futuristic track about being reunited with someone that you love in the spirit world. I also worked with Mark Saunders in New York who is a wonderful producer on a track called ‘Stuck On You’. It has been a long journey. It has been three years. It took me a while to write the songs and to find people to collaborate with. I wasn’t going to release this album though until I felt that it was right. PB: How many of the songs on the new album have you been involved in writing? JB: I wrote eight out of the ten songs. ‘Black Dove,’ which is magnificent, is written by Byron, and ‘Volcano Boy’, which will be my next single and music video and will come out in January, was written by Matt Thomas , so there are two songs on the album that are not written by me, but mostly, yes, it is me, me, me (Laughs). PB: The last two albums were themed. Is this one themed or it more a collection of songs? JB: It is not as themed as the last one. It is more a collection of songs, but when you listen to it there is still a link there. Many of them deal with betrayal and revenge, and there is an element of Film Noir to a lot of them. PB: Do you have a title for the new album? JB: We are thinking of calling it ‘Diamond Crimson Blood’, which was the very first song that I wrote with Byron and Matt. PB: Your first two albums were very different from each other. What kind of musical direction will‘Diamond Crimson Blood’ take? JB: It is more electro pop-oriented. It is very sensual, torchy, epic, a little bit Evanescence. There is a great amount of sonic depth to the songs because of Jeff and the way in which he produces, so if you listen to it you will always keep hearing new things. I am very fortunate to have worked with Rafael Padilla, the percussionist for Chris Isaak and Shakira, and my guitarist Tim Pierce has worked with Springsteen, Patti Smith and Michael Jackson. We also had three different backing singers, including the Rolling Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler. It is a very rich album. It is late night stuff really. PB: When are you hoping to release it?? JB: We are hoping the end of March. I am looking at putting out the ‘Volcano Boy’ single and video in January, and then the album will follow in March. PB: You said that it is difficult getting parts as a mature actress in Australia, but your acting career has been going despite that quite well lately. You had a lengthy guest slot in ‘Neighbours’, and you were also in the revamped ‘V’. How easy is it balancing acting with singing, particularly when your acting career has been going through a resurgence? JB: I am actually waiting to hear about a couple of films in Spain and if those will come through. It is not always easy, but I love to be very busy and I love to work. That is the type of person that I am. There is nothing I would rather do in the entire world rather than work at my craft. A musician friend of mine said all that you can hope from the album is the next gig, and I thought that was a fantastic thing to say because from an album you hope that there is enough interest that you can keep gigging. If there is enough interest, then I hope to do a tour and I hope to put a band together from some of the people that I have met in L.A. We would tour and play some gigs there and in Europe. That would be my greatest dream. You don’t want to do that if you don’t think people would be interested because it would be expensive. I am going, therefore, to wait and see how it goes. Whatever comes my way I will see what I can do. PB: Thank you.

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Anais Mittchell - Interview

Anais Mittchell - Interview

Anais Mittchell - Interview

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