So lets get into the nitty-gritty behind the sparkle! 2012 has been amazingly busy year for Kylie celebrating her 25thyears in the music industry. Lets start with Anti-Tour. Hearing Bittersweet Goodbye and Disco Down live was amazing.
Anti Tour was without doubt the most fun rehearsal period we’ve ever had. Just the freedom to try things out and rediscover amazing album tracks and rarities and all in the Melbourne rehearsal studio we used for Intimate And Live. I always say that a lot of her album tracks are better than a lot of peoples singles and I think this tour proved that. Nothing sounded like filler , it was all killer! Also working on the PWL songs was a dream especially “Enjoy Yourself” which is pure happiness personified. I loved how she found her new “PWL voice” too and the audience reaction was one of the loveliest and warmest I’ve ever witnessed. It was also really special to hear “Bittersweet Goodbye” sung live as she just sounds so beautiful on that song.
What is the story behind Bittersweet Goodbye?
We were writing at Real World and in those situations especially in a residential studio sometimes you just wake up with an idea which is what happened here. I went into the studio and started playing piano and then I think she came in with her lyric book and almost instantly started singing along. As with all the really good ones it happened very quickly and I think we had finished the demo in about 2 hours including the middle section which is so dream like.
When Kylie came to you with those lyrics what went through your head?I just thought it was a beautiful way of saying goodbye and that people would adopt the lyrics to their own situations and hopefully love the song because of that.
I’ve always wondered whether the tracks The Good Life, Paper Dolls, Bittersweet Goodbye and Ocean Blue belonged to a specific KM project/album as they certainly sound like they could be a part of an acoustic Kylie album – a sound you evoked on parts of the recent Abbey Road album. They gloriously show off Kylie’s warm tones in her voice. Was there a moment in time when you and Kylie were going to do an album with Paper Dolls and the like?
The thing is , when we get together to write we just do what we feel like. We never try to pitch at an album or sound so often we write something we love that happily sits on a b-side and that’s fine with us. If you take something like “Harmony” for instance - the sun was shining at Real World and we just wanted to do something really bright, warm and summery with a lovely lyric. We knew there was no way it was going to fit on an album but that’s not a good enough reason not to write it. Similarly with “Thats Why They Write Love Songs” and “Flower” - we just loved writing them and knew maybe one day they would find a place in the world - one has and one hasn’t - yet...
There was a massive list and a few of us pitched in ideas but ultimately it came down to her in the end. Of course we could have gone on forever but we had a limited rehearsal time plus the pre production time for me was about the same as it would have been for a world tour so we needed around 22 core songs which is what we ended up with until she started adding extras here and there. Obviously you can’t please everyone but the hope was that there would be something in there which resonated with individuals one way or another - for some it was “Tightrope” and for others it was something like ‘You’re The One”. For me it was “Things Can Only Get Better” - I absolutely love that song.
There was a real family feeling of the night I went to. Felt like a bunch of mates getting a little too much drink and going through postcards of their most memorable holiday moments. The room was one big smile. A little cliché to say this but did Kylie and you notice the love in the room? It was like big ball of happiness!
Absolutely and it was the same everywhere we went. I still think it was fantastic thing for her to do and the first time anyone like her has done something like that - so perfect for the beginning of a year of celebration.
Given its success would you and Kylie consider doing another set of similar concerts in ten-five years or so?
One thing at a time Bobby.
Ha! If so, can I suggest Love Is Waiting. Kylie sounds amazing on it! The production sounds fucking fantastic!?
Thank you - her vocal on that is one of my favourites.
I much prefer Love is Waiting to songs like Time Will Pass You By. Seriously shouldn’t of been a bonus track! I loved Kylie’s vocal on it.
In honesty I do too but at the time M People were very successful , also on deConstruction and both songs sounded similar so there was only room for one. The vocal is extraordinary and is one that Terry Ronald co-produced hence the full on adlibs at the end!
What I loved about Anti-Tour was the chance to hear You’re The One. And performed live! That was an absolute joy. What was it like revisiting it?
It was a real treat to be able to finally finish it as we didn’t quite get there the first time around at Real World. I love the extremes of the vocal from being so gentle to quite demonic in the middle section. I really hope the Anti Tour version comes out one way or another.
Ultimately I think people were scared by how dark the record was so they brought the Manic’s songs into the frame to fix that. Everything gets its chance eventually and we were lucky enough to do that this year on tour.
Impossible Princess is now considered a lost pop masterpiece (Q MAG). What was that like? – the creative side. When you both finished the track Dreams for instance. Was there a tangible feeling in the studio when it came through that “this was it!”?
It was long I tell you that! I think when we finished “Dreams” I was just relieved as it went through about 10 versions to get to that. Ultimately the creative process for IP really pushed everyone to their limits which was a good thing but I’m just not sure people were ready to hear that side of her. That album has the most incredible lyrics on it and its just a shame a lot of people didn’t get to appreciate that but everything happens for a reason and what followed probably wouldn’t have happened without IP.
How do you feel about it all now looking back…What are the most fervent memories of that period?
I don’t really have any negative memories - yes it was hard work but I love that. We were so fortunate that the label gave us complete creative control and that she was in an amazing place to finally get out a lot of emotions in the songs. There was no need to do something that sounded like what was on the radio - it was just lets see what we can do if we push ourselves. The whole thing was an organic process which in hindsight may have been seen as a little self indulgent especially from our part but the challenge was to change what had gone before and push an artist to areas they had never been to before which I think was achieved albeit not with the level of success that was required.
I seem to recall the constant challenging of the established PWL sound by Kylie and her new label. (Through music and its consequent promotion.) It was like the critics refused to listen the product itself and instead scrutinized everything else…. You put an immense amount of work into those albums and yet the music had to climb and challenge a completely unanticipated, wall…one of history and stereotypes. I personally marveled at the experience of watching Kylie growing as an artist – why do you think so many quarters in the music presses avoided the development?
Its easy to pre-judge anyone based on what they’ve done before and some people will never change which is fine. Its not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s fair enough.
Though I distinctly remember Kylie fans becoming very aware of promotion and marketing in relation to her identity being an issue rather than the music itself. It was like Kylie had to defend herself all the time and there was a refusal to let the music just speak for itself…..
My only real frustration over the years is when people attack her vocals especially in an increasing world of people miming all over the place. Luckily Abbey Road seems to have finally dealt with this but there’s always someone wanting to have a pop which is just a bit sad.
Looking back at the album as a whole one thing I would say – the inclusion of the Manic Street Preachers tracks on that album seemed obtuse considering the rest of the work on it. For sure it made it very interesting. Though personally I would’ve much preferred Tears, Love Takes Over Me, and Take Me With You instead. Those certainly seem to make a more “cohesive” Impossible Princess album to my ears. What did you make of those two songs on the album? They’re good songs but do stick out.
I actually liked both songs but they did stick out on an otherwise electronic album. I guess we’ll never know what would have happened if something like “Too Far” had been the first single. deConstruction showed incredible nerve when they chose “Confide In Me” from the first album but I think were more influenced by other people with the second.
Beyond You’re The One, if you could finish one unreleased song from the Impossible Princess sessions what would it be….
I would love to record “Stay This Way” with orchestra.
Before we leave Impossible Princess, as previously mentioned, it has been described as lost gem. What is favourite song on the album?
Mine is “Drunk” just because when it goes to those chords at the end I still get goosebumps - we wouldn’t be allowed to put those chords in anything anymore in today’s climate but then it was just lush.
So back to k25! When you construct a song with Kylie where does it start? Does that long-term friendship come into it with you and her. It’s just not as simple as laying down vocals on a backing track or demo. Is it a mixture of a sunny morning, a good coffee, a fantastic melody and her lyrics and…. see what happens on that given day?
I’ll give you a for instance with “Flower” as she has talked about this recently. That day she called to say she probably wouldn’t be coming in as she had a cold or something but I persuaded her to anyway. I had been working on a piano idea which had been in my head since I woke up that day so put a rough structure down. When she got there she told me she probably wouldn’t stay as she was just not in the mood after which I grabbed her lyric book with all the rough ideas in it and stumbled on some rough lyrics with the word ‘Flower’ in the title and basically said ‘we’re writing this’. I played the piano part I had been working on , she started singing and probably the best song we have ever written together was completed in a few hours and she was smiling from ear to ear by the end. So no, not always coffee and sunny mornings but as corny as it sounds if the magic is in the room then its the best feeling in the world.
In many ways Anti-Tour was a flip-side to the Abbey Road album. How did it come about this year in particular? Being so different to Aphrodite too.
Anti Tour came about because of Aphrodite. Everyone was wondering how on earth she was going to top that tour so why not go the complete opposite and go stripped back , no dancers, no production and predominantly no hits! Abbey Road is just something we have talked about for a long time and thankfully the time was right to do it for K25. I still can’t quite believe we did but couldn’t be happier with the results.
Each song and re-interpretation has a backstory of its own. In many ways we could make this interview all about Abbey Road. I’ll try to limit myself! So lets start with Lucky! Am I right in thinking that if you wanted to source the origins of the album you could look at the torch ballad version I Should Be So Lucky performed at the Crown Plaza? In this then, album didn't just come out of the blue. It has history.....
One of the first live arrangements I did for Kylie was “I Should Be So Lucky” on the Intimate And Live tour which was the first time it had been treated as a ballad. I think she did a warm up gig at Crown so maybe thats where it got its first airing but it was a centrepiece of the tour and led into “Dancing Queen”. Over the years we have played with what we call the ‘torch’ version of “Lucky” but its really only Kylie fans that know it so by putting it on “Abbey Road” it opened up a whole new audience plus we got the chance to purely do it with vocal and orchestra.
I Should Be So Lucky sounds like something Dusty or Doris would sing. Magic. Was that the intention? To totally strip it back and celebrate those sumptuous melodies+harmonies with just her voice and a string arrangement?
How did the arrangement for Never Too Late come about – it almost sounds like Blossom Dearie performed the cover.
We are lucky enough to have one of the best piano players in the world in our band so after trying a somewhat disastrous uptempo version of it I suggested we just take it right back and try it with piano and vocal. I also wanted it to get really small at the end - outside of that it was David Tench playing beautifully and Kylie singing the words with complete conviction and honesty so they almost took on a brand new meaning. Its my favourite track on the album.
You, Kylie and Blossom met in New York a few years – what was that like?
It took a while to track her down but we did eventually meet her which was a real honour. She still had her wits about her for sure and we even talked about her playing piano on something later that year. Sadly she passed away a few months later but she was a lovely lady and it was one of those moments I will never forget. Also she got to hear Kylie’s versions of “Try Your Wings” . “I’m Hip” and “You Are There” which is something we wouldn’t have dreamed would happen when we were recording them.
I love “I’m Hip!”. Whose the particular superstar producer that knows Kylies friend….?
I think she changed it to Pharrell Williams at the time. It was a few years ago.
Back to Never Too Late! You’ve just let it be….Let Davids’ music and Kylies voice just do the work. Is that right?
Its a fantastic song - yet again PWL wrote quite sad songs which were hidden in glossy uptempo pop - its actually completely heartbreaking.
Seeing the release of Flower proves that's the Jazz stuff will eventually come out – just has to find the right time/context. Is that so?
I wouldn’t call “Flower” jazz to be honest but I see your point. I think there is plenty of time for everything so no rush to do something like that for a while yet.
For me, Flower (and the entire album) seriously showcases her voice
I think because of the nature of the record its easier to push the vocal more to the front and also the way we recorded was so effortless and with very few takes. I just let her get in the mood and deliver the song often choosing believability over technicality which is something that can’t be done as easily on a pop album as it needs to be stacked up with loads of backing vocals and production. There are some of my favourite vocal performances by her on Abbey Road and it was a joy to record.
What Kylie hits were attempted but didn't quite get off the drawing board?
Not really. We had a 2 week rehearsal session before we went to Abbey Road and the list we started with was the list that we ended up with. We tried a few songs a few ways but once we decided it had to be songs everyone had heard of and we weren’t going to do album tracks and b sides as it would make it too much of an introspective thing then the songs really chose themselves. It was more about lyrics than anything else too.
What was it like to be at Abbey Road Studios?
Without doubt the best recording experience of my entire life and one of the best overall experiences too. There was an initial fear of being intimidated by the legend of the place even though I had worked there before. However it couldn’t be further from the truth as it is the warmest , most loving environment to be around and just having our band set up in Studio 2 for two weeks with the best microphones and engineers in the world was a dream. I loved going to work every day and would go back there in a heartbeat.
Is it true some of the album recorded in the same place Yoko and John had decided to live for a month?
Legend has it that they did live in the corner of Studio 2 for a month. So many stories of that place yet when you are there you feel its your own just for that little piece of time.
On A Night Like This was Colin’s idea to do it in the new time signature. As soon as I heard that I immediately pushed it to go bigger (as always) and made sense to give it a bit of Bond! Add Terry Ronald’s immense backing vocal arrangement to it and thats what you get. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head was more tricky as I’ve done so many versions of that song. Originally we were going to do the Live Lounge version which is really chilled out but William Baker thought we needed something more dramatic and he was absolutely right. I came up with the arrangement idea the day after and that was that. Its actually a lot faster than the original which makes it even more menacing.
In that version of Head – I love that moment when everything pulls-in and Kylie goes “YEAH”. Its like a big shotgun! Who pulled the trigger on that one? I mean it could’ve gone large.
She did - as always. Just knows exactly what to do at precisely the right moment.
With Confide In Me…a song which was already “up there” with regards to strings and drama…where could you go with it? – did you mix together some of those earlier remixes like the Big Brother Remix? Am I wrong in that I hear that in there?
I felt that we should go against the grain with “Confide In Me” as it was already a massive string song so stripping it back to this Mazzy Star kind of darker world could be really interesting. Its not often I do ‘stripped back’ but a lot of people are surprised to find out that a lot of the music I listen to is quite stripped back. I love Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett’s productions and it seemed the ideal opportunity to do something like that. Of course it gets big in the end but the idea was take one groove and just play with dynamics. And yes there is a little vocal reference at the end from the remix which I’ve always loved so seemed right for her to add in that bluesy voice she also uses in the middle of “You’re The One”.
For me, that is now the definitive version of Confide In Me. I absolutely love that that's happened. The magic you can hear in the revisionism. I love that. It sparkles. What is intrinsic on this album is the dynamism in her voice. You can really hear that in this new version of Confide In Me (but also the likes of Slow too). This album really shows off that dynamic in her voice. Was that a priority to bring to the fore for Abbey Road?
I’m always about showing off her voice with whatever we do but specifically on this album its allowed more space to shine…..