This article is from 2009.
Nicola Meighan chats to New Zealander singer-songwriter Ladyhawke and finds out why shooting cats and meeting heroes are way less scary than bagpipes
‘Well, it’s basically me just flying through the air, shooting cats, avoiding cats, and trying not to die,’ grins Pip Brown, abashedly. Better known as one-woman vintage pop behemoth Ladyhawke, the quietly-spoken, congenial New Zealander is detailing her personalised computer game with a blend of incredulity and delight.
The aforesaid eight-bit, airborne kitty shoot-em-up – free to play at her MySpace – prevails as retro online distraction, and short-hand for Brown’s career integrants: independence, authenticity, gender subversion, 80s lust, sci-fi nostalgia – and cat appreciation. ‘It’s really simple!’ she asservates.
Brown makes it look that way. Within six months of releasing her eponymous debut album last autumn, Ladyhawke was roughhousing the likes of Jay-Z and (eventual victor) Pete Doherty – for the Best Solo Artist gong at this year’s NME Awards – and counting Peaches, Courtney Love and Kylie among her admirers. Yet her apprenticeship is worth relating: before relocating to London, she was a one-time axe-basher with Wellington’s Peel-endorsed Two Lane Blacktop and Sydney’s similarly-touted Teenager.
The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s inaugural long-player is charged with ardent synth anthems, scorching pop and scrupulous electro-rock. It elicits an avid litany of chart stars: Fleetwood Mac and Pat Benatar (‘Back of the Van’), Joan Jett and Debbie Harry (‘Dusk Till Dawn’), Fuzzbox and The Bangles (‘My Delirium’), Kim Wilde and Bananarama (the re-released ‘Paris is Burning’).
Brown’s aural excavations, resurrections and re-imaginings are wilfully forward-thinking, but given said retrospective roll-call – and previous reports that she’d love to work with Kylie – with whom would Ladyhawke collaborate, by way of a definitive duet?
‘That’s interesting,’ she muses. ‘I always wonder about that. I think about digging up heroes from my past, but, you know,’ a pause, ‘it’d be interesting to do something with The Strokes – or Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, that’d be awesome,’ she enlivens, wide-eyed. ‘But with your all-time heroes, you remember them in their prime – I’m thinking David Bowie here – and if you met them now you might be disappointed. Or they might just be an asshole,’ a shrug and a smile, matter-of-fact.
Fantasy alliances with indie glitterati notwithstanding, what other surprises might we anticipate in any new Ladyhawke material? Has Brown’s 18-month pit-stop tour of the globe upturned her creative process? Is her art much defined by a sense – or lack – of place? ‘Yeah definitely,’ she concedes. ‘You know, I haven’t felt grounded for a really long time – I have this really scattered sense of self at the moment, and I think that’ll be reflected in my writing,’ she recounts and sighs. ‘I mean, I’ve been having ideas and stuff, and it all just seems so weird and different. I guess that’s just an outward sign of how crazy things have been.’
Speaking of the impact of a peripatetic, rock’n’roll lifestyle – have Brown’s travels unearthed any new instruments that she’d like to tackle, given her broad musical virtuosity? ‘Well, I’ve always wanted to learn the banjo,’ she reveals, suggesting that our arch pop anthropologist may yet shun the 80s in favour of bluegrass.
Given the upcoming Glasgow show, what about the bagpipes maybe? An outburst of mirth: ‘Woah, they’d kill me! Oh my God, the lung power necessary for that!’ she laughs. ‘I’m too asthmatic …’
Ladyhawke, QMU, Glasgow, Fri 15 May.