Bertie on the new record and what it’s like making art in a hotel that’s named and decorated after your dad. (Hint: creepy.)
What’s Pope Innocent X about?
For a couple of years I have a blank memory of when I was a kid. I was writing songs for the new record and I got really lost in those moments of wondering why I had a blank memory. So it’s the imagination of a child, from the point of view of an adult. They’re quite scary songs about all different magical things. Francois Tetaz wrote it with me and produced it, so it was a year of him and me sitting in a room talking about stuff. We really sculpted the stories, got out the thesaurus and spent hours and hours figuring it out. It’s quite amazing to have that time because usually you go in and pump a record out in a couple of months. The vocals I recorded at home. It makes you a better singer I think because you’re just stuck in a room with yourself.
Did you start with the concept or the music?
A bit of both. I did the sonic concepting when I was over in Chicago for a couple of months and I spent a bit of time in the desert over in LA, which is a bit of a cliché, but it’s like being on the moon. Being in a foreign place gave a bit of a different flavour to the sonics.
More than anything I had the stories and the images in my head before the words even came out. They’re stories, they’re not very esoteric. Certainly there are songs in there that are very personal to me and emotional, but I wanted to tell the stories in a way that you could read the words to someone and they could put their own spin on it or you could read to a kid before they went to bed – though they might be a bit disturbed! I think they’re ok but I had a fairly eccentric childhood.
Are you involved in the visual side of your output as much as the music itself?
We’re doing a special edition of the album, which is a linen bound book. I’ve done all the illustrations for the songs; they’re very fine ink drawings. I spent a lot of time creating the visual presentation of this album. On stage I’ve been working with a stylist called Ramona and we’ve made all the stage clothes, so we’ve gone and got vintage jackets and bits that we’re joining to the jackets. We wanted to the feel to be a bit like Clockwork Orange, or like City of Lost Children. We wanted it to feel like a gang on stage and like we’re all there together, rather than it just being me up there with a bunch of lights playing with people that you never see. I want to play a bit with the theatre of it, which I’m excited to do.
If you were in a gang, what would your gangster name be?
That’s a hard question. Maybe I’d be Mrs X.
You did an artist residency as well recently.
I did, at the Blackman Hotel. It was crazy, I’d just got back from Chicago and had nowhere to live, no money, and this boutique chain had just opened a namesake hotel after my father [the artist Charles Blackman]. I was like, “I can go and make music in there, that’d be cool”. But it was actually very strange spending three or four months completely surrounded by my dad’s work, down to the glass in the bathroom being stained with his pictures. It was interesting though, because it had something to do with the childhood
What did you make there?
I did five video diary entries a week of what I was doing. I was writing the record in there, so it was more about having the space to do my thing, which is cool.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I used to have a skipping rope and skip, which I enjoyed because I have quite a lot of anxious energy before I perform so it’s a good way to get yourself ready.
Do you attribute luck to objects?
I have things that I’m attached to but I don’t think they’re lucky. I think you make your own luck.
First day job?
I worked at a jewellery store in Paddington. My mum’s friend was the owner and I wasn’t very good. It was one a shift a week for a few years.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A musician. I think for a couple of years when I was really little I wanted to be a cartoonist, then I started the drums and that was it.
Least favourite subject at school?
Maths. I just didn’t understand why I had to do it at all.
What are you reading at the moment?
A book of fairytales from Russia and China and Norway and America. They’re all very different. One that I just read was about boiling parts of a woman, some of the stories are really violent.
Pope Innocent X is out October 12. Bertie Blackman is touring nationally and you can catch her on the following dates:
With the Rubens…
Wednesday 10 October – Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour
Thursday 11 October – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast
Friday 12 October – Hi-Fi, Brisbane
Saturday 13 October – Great Northern, Byron Bay
With Gotye and PVT…
Thursday 6 December – Entertainment Centre, Adelaide, SA
Saturday 8 December – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 12 December – Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 14 December – Entertainment Centre, Sydney, NSW