Interview: Kate Nash

April 22, 2013 in Interview, Interviews, Lorna Gray, Reviews

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Kate Nash is well-known for her hit Foundations and her debut 2007 album Made of Bricks. Her second 2010 album, My Best Friend is You, was also a huge success. However, last year, Kate got dropped by her label after she decided to go in a new direction with her music. Her recent trip to Africa and her work with various charities inspired her to embrace her inner feminist, and her new, unapologetic album, Girl Talk, with it’s grunge-y undertones, shows this. Lorna Gray caught up with Kate and they covered just about everything, from feminism to funerals and from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to bunny rabbits.

What made you go in this new direction with your music?

I think it just felt like quite a normal progressive really, I started playing bass in a band and I really like that, so I just started to play bass on my own as well, and I was able to write a song that made me really happy and then I just continued to play the bass and I think that just changed the sound a bit, you know? Because you’re writing on a heavier instrument, and I’d just gone through quite a lot of personal stuff that was quite heavy so it just sort of seeped through into my music.

Who were your musical role models for this album in particular? Who were your influences?

I listened to a lot of T.Rex, and Hole, and Joan Jett, and I was honestly just listening to mainly T.Rex and Hole, you know when you go through one of those phases were you just listen to the same stuff over and over?

You vocals on Sister sound very similar to Janis Joplin, would you say she was an influence?

Oh cool! I love Janis Joplin! I remember the first time I heard her music, my mum played it to me in the kitchen on vinyl, I was young, I was like 14 or something, and I just couldn’t believe that it was a woman’s voice. It totally blew my mind, and it was amazing. So I definitely taught myself how to shout, that was like an intentional thing, I wanted to learn how to do that in a different way.

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When did feminism become an important factor in your life?

Sorry but have you got dogs and cats on your dress?

It’s cats and mice! I was quite upset this morning because I thought it was loads of different animals, then my sister told me it was cats and mice.

I thought it was birds at first! It’s really awesome! Sorry, what was the question again?

Thank you! When did feminism become an important factor in your life?

I think I’ve always kind of like it, like even studying it in school and stuff, I really got into that, in history and stuff, and then my mum’s really outspoken and stuff (she yawns) I’m sorry! I’m not bored I’m just really tired! And then, becoming a musician and being in the music industry, it then became really important because I was faced with quite a lot of harsh sexism in the industry and in the media.

What sort of sexism was it?

I think the way women are treated in the media is totally different to men, from image, sort of pressure and from being interviewed, like just the way you interview a girl is completely different to how you’d interview a man and how seriously women are taken, you know? They’re not taken as seriously, you’ve got a lot more to prove as a girl and people presume that you don’t write your own music, and that you can’t, the sorts of things that people want you to do, and push girls into corners. I mean I’ve spoken to girls that have had to release songs that they didn’t want to release and stuff. So I think it just became a big deal for me, feminism is my way of being able to challenge that, and feel good about challenging it, you know?

Who are your feminist role models?

Well my mum is like my biggest. Then I remember reading, probably the first book I read, was Naomi Klein, No Logo, and that wasn’t necessarily a feminist book, but it was definitely a woman being active and a feminist role model. And then it was getting into stuff like Janis Joplin and Joan Jett and then Riot Grrrls, that sort of gave me new ideas. Jodie Sampson, one of my friends but also like a role model, I just really appreciate her, the way she lives and acts in her daily life is really cool.

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What do you think of the negative connotations of feminism in today’s society? That all feminists are misandrists or lesbians that don’t shave?

It’s really annoying because there are so many negative connotations, but it’s just any group of people have labels. It’s like football fans, you know? There’s like shitty football fans. Not every feminist is going to be an open minded person and not every football fan is a hooligan, my dad’s into football but he doesn’t go and brick people in the face, but there are people that do that. I understand where it comes from, parts of its to do with the history of women just being able to be labelled crazy because of their emotions, and being run by your emotions, which I think is a really good thing, and then being treated totally differently, the way you are treated differently sometimes, because you are affected emotionally, people can sort of put you down for that. That gave women a history, from like witches or whatever, of being crazy or irrational, that I think brought a lot of negative connotations. I’ve experienced the negative side of it quite recently, I think it’s just people that don’t have a sense of humour, that read all the books and write angry blogs but aren’t actually doing anything, all they’re actually doing is moaning about other people and what they’re doing wrong. There are negative sides of religion, but there’s also good sides of religion and for me it’s just about seeking equality and encouraging and supporting girls and women. That doesn’t mean you have to like all girls, either, you’ve got to be honest about being a human being as well. It’s like, I don’t like every girl in the music industry, but I get asked sometimes about who I don’t like and I’ll never name names, because I think that’s really unnecessary. I mean people go on YouTube and comment “I fucking hate this person” and it’s just like, “well why do you fucking waste your time writing a comment on YouTube about them then?! Just listen to someone you really like.” You know? There will always be people in any kind of group that has ideas that can make it negative. But then I think it’s just a mixture of history of sexism, that is also going to bring negative connotations, you hear people saying, “oh you’ve come a long way” and “what’re you moaning about?!” well, read a newspaper mate.

How do you deal with any criticism of your new album? And people saying that you’re not really a feminist?

Nobody’s criticized it, everybody loves it, everybody in the world(!)

I read something last night that really shocked me.

Oh God, don’t tell me! Was it bad? What was it?!

It was saying that this was all a publicity thing, that this was all fake. I thought it was ridiculous, why would you go through so much effort to write an album?!

I know, honestly, it would be an exhausting project if that’s all it was. Someone posted that on my Facebook page, on a video I posted like, “oh this is such an obvious marketing thing, she’s just filling a quota of what her record label want her to do” and I responded and I was like, “yeah I fucking am actually, ‘cause guess what? I’m the head of my record label now; because I got dropped last year, so I can do whatever the fuck I want, this is my quota and I’m filling it, so fuck you.” But people will say anything and they say that about everything and you can’t listen to what people say about you. It’s like at school if someone’s bitching about you, you’ve just kind of got to be like “fuck you” and just get on with what you’re doing. I’m meeting girls after shows and guys after shows that are really appreciating what I’m doing and saying that my music means something to them, and I’m getting tweets from girls like “oh I just picked up my guitar yesterday because of watching you and the Tuts (Kate’s support band on the tour)” that’s why I’m doing it and if someone wants to write an article like that then I haven’t got time to care, I’ve got too many marketing stunts to get on with here(!)

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I read that you no longer play your hit “Foundations” live, why is this?

Oh, I do! I have been playing it! I didn’t play it for a while on the first tour I did with my second record, I was just so excited to have new music that I didn’t want to play any of the old stuff, I also just kind of wanted to break free of just being solely on that song. But now, I’ve got three albums so I’ve got a lot more songs to choose from, and you’re less bored. Because when you only have one record you only have 12 songs that you play over and over and over and over and you’re like “oh my god, kill me now!” now I’ve got three albums, a bunch of b-sides and if I get sick of something I can just switch it up. But I do play it! I think, you know, when you’re a bit younger you don’t want to be put in a box, and now I think I’m definitely not in a box.

If you weren’t an artist what else would you be? Would you still be a feminist activist?

Yeah, I’d still be a feminist activist, and I’d still be an artist but I’d just be like, a waitress as well. Which, you know, I might end up having to do! I think it was always be in my life at a level, even when I’m a granny knitting in an old peoples’ home, I’d still go on a piano as an old lady, I think music and being creative are a really important part of life for me because it makes it fun and interesting and it makes me happy so. But I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was little, because I love the ocean and I love whales and sharks and dolphins and just sea creatures. I also wanted to be an ice cream lady. I mean, me and my sisters once came up with this thing that we were going to run a funeral services. We figured it was a really good idea because A) everybody dies, so you’re never going to run out of business, and B) we came up with all these really creative ideas of how to run a really good funeral and how to offer someone a really amazing funeral. It’s because we’re Irish as well, we’ve been to so many funerals, and we know the good ones and the bad ones and we’re half English too, English funerals are usually always really shit and stale whereas Irish funerals are a really good time. And I think that a funerals got to be, like, you plan a party, do you know what I mean?  Like, at my Granny’s funeral someone was like laughing as they were walking away and they said to my mum, “awh, I’ve had the best time!” and then he was like, “oh shit! I’m really sorry!” and my mum was like, “no, that’s what my mum would have wanted, for you to come and have a really good time!” I think I want my funeral to be like the best, all my friends and family eating and drinking and laughing and crying and listening to good music. Anyway, I’m talking about funerals now.

Could you tell me about Pussy riot?

That was just quite an important thing to highlight where Russia is right now and how it’s being run, because on the same day that Pussy Riot got sentenced, gay parades were banned. It just says a lot about Putin and what he’s getting away with, I don’t know, it’s just bullshit! It’s just a scary thing, I just think it’s a matter of taste and not the law, it’s offensive no doubt, what they did to people with religious beliefs, and I think if someone did something offensive like that it would be fair enough to say that they had to publicly apologize, or something else like if there was a fine, or if you got arrested for like a day or something, but being put in prison for like years for just being an activist and an artist. People need to be able to do that, especially in Russia where the reason people are doing such shocking things is because they’re not being heard as people, we were talking about this the other day, about Thatcher and stuff, you can’t run a government by completely ignoring the people, it’s not right, you’ve got to be listening to what people want. It’s just fucked up that people are at the point where they have to crazy activist things to get heard and then they’re just shut down instantly because there’s someone in control, it’s like a dictator really, it’s really fucked up.

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Could you tell me about your work in Africa?

Yeah! I went to a village called Hohoe, which is like a five hour drive from Ghana, I went with Plan USA and I’m fronting my campaign, Protect a Girl. So we drove to this village and I met like the chief and the elders of this church, it was so crazy, like, so cool, and they were all really sweet, the elders. I had to ask for their permission to visit the school. It was like something off tv, like literally as I walked out onto the street I could hear all the kids screaming, and they were singing this song and it was so cute they were singing (sings), “happy to see you, happy to see you,” it was so sweet! And then I went to see how they were taught, there were bottle caps like that (points to bottle cap), there would be a gold one and a red one and they were teaching kids about colours like that, their resources were so different to ours’. And then there was like kids without shoes, I asked, “why’re there kids without shoes?!” and it’s a really poor area and you have to pay for education, and the parents might chose that over buying their kids shoes and stuff, kids would walk for miles to get to school. I met some older kids who were part of this group called, Girls Making Media, and that was awesome because they were doing these radio projects, and interviews, and learning about creating opportunities for girls, learning about sexual assault and bulling and hygiene, and interviewing their community and working on ways to improve that. Which was so much initiative for 16 year old girls, and for 14 year old girls to be doing. They were all so determined, they were like, “I want to go to university and be a socialist and be a journalist,” it was so cool! They create a lot of projects in developing countries for girls and women to help them be educated. I mean there’s some places were that stuff is liked and it’s all really positive, and then there’s other areas where there’s genital mutilation, domestic violence cases, rape cases. I’ll be putting on an event in New York, with Ten by Ten, which is a documentary makers; and they made this documentary called Girl Rising, which is really good, and it’s got voice-overs from like Anne Hathoway, from Chloë Moretz, Meryl Streep and Alicia Keys and they represent eight different girls in developing countries who have really suffered. There was this one girl from Egypt who was part of the Plan programme, she was so amazing, basically, she got raped by this guy, and she had a knife so she attacked him. They were at the police station and she was telling the police that she was a superhero, there was nothing the police could do about the guy, but she was represented as a superhero rather than a victim. Now, she’s married to someone, she’s only 13, but it’s safer for girls to be married off just so they’re not raped, but then there’s people having sex with them anyway and they’re only 12 and 13, but it’s safer because otherwise they’d get kidnapped and attacked and stuff. So it’s really been really cool to work with a charity that’s doing something like that, and learning more and more about what’s really happening in the world because you don’t often hear about stuff like that.

What’s your favourite song off your new record and why?

That’s a hard one, I always change my mind! “Oh” is a really important one to me, and “Sister”, that’s the first one I wrote and I was like, “this is what my albums going to be like” it sort of changed the song writing process for me I think.

I really like the lyrics in Rap for Rejection, they make so much sense! It’s ridiculous how you can be called a whore and frigid in the same sentence.

Awh, thank you! It’s funny, we were talking about it, when we were recording it we were in L.A and we were out one night doing karaoke, and this guy was just chatting to us, and then was talking to Emma (kate’s guitarist/bass player), and he was asking for her number and stuff and she was like, “oh no, I’ve got a boyfriend” and then he was literally like, “oh what? Are you guys lesbians?!” and we were just like, “oh my god, that’s literally the lyrics, like the song came true!” it’s ridiculous like, calling us lesbians just because he got rejected, “nah I just don’t want to have sex with you, sorry mate!”

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I read that you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I pretty much grew up on it. So whose your favourite Buffy character and why?

Oh cool! Well Buffy, obviously! But then I really like Anya as well, and I’m so dissatisfied with that, wait, have you watched all of it?

Of course!

Okay well when she gets killed off I’m like so depressed, like I don’t feel like she was mourned enough as a character. Oh, Spike was so sick as well, and I loved Cordelia as well! I loved Cordelia, she was wicked, when her and Xander were dating it was so good! There are so many good characters though, so many! Faith, five by five, but she got so annoying. I’d say Buffy was my top favourite and then Spike.

I really like Willow, I think she’s great!

She’s so cool in season one, then when she goes mental and goes into like a black witch!

Do you have a favourite episode of Buffy?

Oh well I love the musical episode! That’s why we recreated it, we did a gig on Halloween, me and my friend Emmy the Great, and it was so good! I just think that it’s so genius and so funny, it’s so good for the storyline as well! My favourite season is season five, I fucking love that season like, so much shit happens! It changes it up, you’re like, “what the fuck?!” and also when Joyce dies, that episode is amazing, and the silent episode!

Yeah, the Smiling Gentlemen, I think that’s my favourite, they’re so creepy!

And I love that episode when she’s in university, the drunk one? When the beer turns them all into cave men! It’s so good. There’s so many! Like all of season one as well! Like the ventriloquist dummy one, and like, all her outfits in that season! The cheerleader one is wicked! I’m trying to think of season two, there’s so many good ones! What about when they do the parents’ night and Spike turns up for the first time with Drusilla! My favourite one as well is when she gets the Umbrella award, the protector award! Do you remember that?

I think so? Her prom?

It’s not prom, oh no, maybe it is the prom! It’s when someone’s trained a bunch of wild dogs to attack her and Angel’s not going to go to prom with her, but then he does, and all the students are like, “we recognise weird things are happening in this town, and someone’s always here to protect us”, oh I’m going to cry! It’s when she’s finally recognized! It’s the best, it will get you through any emotional thing, there’s nothing it hasn’t covered, it really covers any problem you could face I think.

You’re a vegetarian, would you ever be an animal activist as well as a feminist activist?

Well just recently I was watching, in my hotel room, this video, someone had put it on Facebook and it really upset me, it was about the seal slaughter in Canada. I found out all these facts and so I tweeted about it, then a woman who worked for it was like, “do you want to post some things for it?” so I posted these videos and this blog about it. I love animals so much and I think like there’s so much cruelty to animals and also furs become fashionable, I mean it’s always fashionable, isn’t it? I really hate that, I hate that you’re seen as like moan-y if you care about animals. I just love them, they’re so cute and we’ve always had animals growing up and I’ve got a bunny rabbit, she’s so cute! She’s actually so naughty, she acts out, like when I go away she acts out! My mum will like text me and tell me all this stuff she’s doing, like, “I’m so annoyed!” and I’m like, “awh, she misses me!” Look, I’ve got a picture of her from this morning (gets her phone out)! Yeah, I would really like to get involved with an animal charity as well, they’re so innocent! Like, I like standing up for humans, but humans aren’t really innocent are they? Look at the mess she made of her cage (shows me a picture of her rabbit)! And look at how she’s chewing on the bars, she looks insane, she’s like “grrrrr!” I love watching stuff like Attenborough. I just think people who don’t like animals are really dumb. I don’t really trust someone that doesn’t think animals are cool, do you know what I mean?

Yeah!

I would just think, “oh you’re just really sort of a weird scary person because you don’t care about animals. Why wouldn’t you? They’re just so cool!” All the crazy shit they can do is awesome!

I could spend hours on YouTube just watching animal videos

I know, me too! It’s like, what else is YouTube for?!

Well, thank you very much!

Oh, cool it’s been lovely!