Circle of friends: Dot Allison
With previous collaborations with Massive Attack, Arab Strap and Death in Vegas to her name, Dot Allison’s latest pairing with Pete Doherty and several Bad Seeds looks set to bear fruit, as she tells Doug Johnstone
There can be few better kept secrets in music than Dot Allison. The Edinburgh-born singer songwriter has been involved in exciting new music for over fifteen years, collaborating with all kinds of different artists as well as producing four acclaimed solo albums, and yet she could easily still walk down Princes Street without anyone batting an eyelid.
In the past Allison has acted as muse for the likes of Massive Attack, Arab Strap, Slam, Death in Vegas and more recently Pete Doherty, lending her distinctive breathy vocals to a wide range of musical styles and situations.
And her love of collaboration continues with her latest solo outing, Room Seven and a Half, which not only features duets with Paul Weller and Doherty, but also sees Allison backed by a collection of ex-Bad Seeds. The album was produced by Rob Ellis, best known for his work with PJ Harvey, and Allison was keen to echo the sound of Harvey’s work.
‘I wanted to keep it quite natural sounding and capture the performance of the songs,’ she says. ‘Not have it processed too much, make it warm and beautifully recorded. Half the battle is working with people who you know you have shared reference points with. The guys on this record were all very sensitive players and people, so I was halfway there.’
Room Seven and a Half is certainly Allison’s most natural-sounding record. From her early days with influential Scottish proto-indie-dance outfit One Dove, who received critical acclaim for their trippy, blissed-out comedown tunes, and through her solo career, she has tended towards heavily produced beats and sounds. But all that’s stripped away in the new record, which is as honest a depiction of her songwriting skills as she’s ever delivered. The presence of Doherty (who she’s been romantically linked with in the past) and Weller stick out in this environment, but Allison sticks by her collaborative leanings.
‘I love collaborating, I find you learn a lot from those experiences,’ she says. ‘And there’s something much more fun about being in a gang. I spend quite a lot of time in my studio on my own, so there’s something to be said for interacting with other human beings.’
And that extends to live shows, too. In the past, Allison has regularly turned up on stage with Doherty to sing with him, and her forthcoming tour sees her stepping out on joint dates with the man and his band.
‘Yeah, we keep voting with our feet and going back to doing something together,’ she says. ‘I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a person and as an artist, I think he’s a really interesting person to be around. We are friends, he seems to have a group of people around him that he trusts and that he likes. He’s very loyal in that way.’
With a couple of horror movie soundtracks in the pipeline and some more diverse collaborations planned, Allison is anything but resting on her laurels, but for now she’s just happy to have the new album done and dusted, and itching to get on the road.
‘It’s always great to communicate with people, that’s always the driving force for my music,’ she says. ‘As for the album, you just have to let it go out there and see what happens.’
Room Seven and a Half is out now. Dot Allison plays Barrowland, Glasgow with Peter Doherty, Wed 23 Sep; Homecoming Festival, SECC Glasgow, Sat 28 Nov.