Rebecca Sapp, WireImage Rock 'n' roll could have looked very different if not for…
- Posted on Jul 12th 2011 11:00AM by Jonathan Dekel
Jim Dyson, Getty Images
At age 64, Faithfull now finds herself on the other side of the looking glass. Heralded as an inspiration by many of modern pop's biggest names, the British expat (she now lives in Paris) seems finally comfortable in her own skin. This newfound confidence comes shining through on what is, incredibly, her eighteenth album, 'Horses and High Heels.'
Spinner caught up with Faithfull before her tour stop tonight in Quebec City at Festival d'ete to discuss her enduring status as a sex symbol, mentoring Rufus Wainwright and Cat Power's Chan Marshall, Keith Richards' exploitive autobiography and why she doesn't want to be associated with Mick Jagger.
There are two covers -- 'Goin' Back' as made famous by Dusty Springfield and 'Past, Present and Future' by the Shangri-Las -- on the album that deal with reflecting on the past.
Yes, that's exactly what I've allowed myself to do -- and I never allowed myself to look back.
What changed to allow yourself to do that?
I'm at this point when I can recognize that a lot of what I did is very good. Even things that I didn't think were very good are good.
Did you have trouble acknowledging that previously?
Yes, I did. If somebody wants to be really nasty to me, and a lot of people do, it's usually about my voice. They turn to drugs and Mick Jagger. It annoys me, but it annoys me less than it did.
I don't like being associated with drugs and Mick Jagger -- it's the association I don't like.
But both have been such a well-publicized part of your life.
People change. I know the media can't accept that, but, between you and me, they do change. Since 1985 I haven't done drugs. That's a long time.
But surely you can acknowledge that both have been large factors in making you the person and artist you are today. Both thematically and, in the case of drugs and the life surrounding that culture, your voice.
I understand, I really do. [My voice] is not pretty. If people could see my voice more like Neil Young or Bob Dylan, they won't get such a shock.
I think that's highlighted in your cover of 'Past, Present and Future.' Your version is such a harsh juxtaposition to Mary Weiss' delivery, which plays off both your life and her youthful naiveté.
We did that quite consciously.
What were you thinking about when you read the lyrics?
I was thinking about what it is. I know what I'm talking about in love and life and all that s---. I'm a huge fan of [Shangri-Las producer) Phil Spector and I love that song. I remember hearing it at my mother's house in Reading, [England], on [pirate station] Radio Luxemburg, under the covers.
It reminded me of your rerecording of 'As Tears Go By' in the sense that you're reinterpreting lyrics that, originally, were sang without a good grasp of the content, with the emotional gravitas of age and wisdom.
But now, you know, I've actually gone back to the first reading of 'As Tears Go By.'
Because I'm perky. I'm in a good mood. I don't see life as tragic anymore.
What happened to turn that around?
I think I've gone through everything I could go through, and now I'm coming out the other side happier.
In your first TV appearances you come across as this wonderfully naive teenager, both boastful and scared but with undeniable confidence. Do you ever watch the old footage of yourself?
Occasionally a friend will send me a little film or video from the '60s and I'll watch it once and say, 'Gosh, I was pretty.' That's it really.
I really lived that part of life. It really happened, I really did look like that and I meant every word I sang. But then I went through my art period. I think now that I'm older, I don't have to be arty anymore. I can really let that go. I've been really arty and it was great fun -- it's something to do with being young, you've got the pretentiousness to do that -- but I don't have to do that anymore.
You've written two autobiographies (1994's 'Faithfull' and 2007's 'Memories, Dreams and Reflections'). Did you have a chance to read Keith Richard's 'Life'?
Did you feel it was an accurate portrayal?
Not completely accurate, no, but I liked it very much. I don't think accuracy really matters.
What do you mean?
I think he made a few mistakes. I wish he hadn't said those awful things about Mick, I think that was a bit much. I happen to know that Michael Peach is the editor and he's always been trying to get someone to say that. He wanted me to say that and I would never do it, but I would have gotten more money if I had.
I'm interested in thinking who will pick up my mantle of work and I think I know now. It's ended up with Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Rufus Wainwright. I follow both Rufus and Chan very closely. Actually, Chan is moving to Paris which will be wonderful for me.
Do you see a collaboration in the future?
I don't know, but we'll discuss and learn from each other.
How did you discover the two of them as your protégés?
Rufus fell into my lap, really. I was a great friend of his mother [Kate McGarrigle] and that's how I met him. But Chan was very cool. She sought me out. We had some wonderful dinners. We talked and talked -- we don't have to do a public collaboration to collaborate.
You've also worked with the likes of Nick Cave and the Gutter Twins, which, along with your grizzled voice, has led some critics to refer to you as "proto-Goth," do you feel that's accurate?
No. I don't mind people saying that but I don't see it like that.
Lou Reed plays guitar on several tracks off the new album.
I've got a great relationship with Lou. I'm very fond of him.
Did you two meet when he was in the Velvet Underground?
No, not till later, but I've always liked him.
And now you've both worked with Metallica.
[Laughs] Well, yes. It's not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Lou, or me, but actually I think it'll work well for Lou. He really is a rock and roll animal.
He's said it's the best thing he's ever done.
He needed a rock and roll intervention. We'll see whether he loves it in the end or not. They've had a rather good time but quite difficult, too. Making a record is a long process and they're not necessarily coming from the same place.
How was your experience working with them?
I loved working with Metallica [on 1997's 'The Memory Remains']. I had a lot of fun.
You've been surrounded with celebrity from a very early age. Do you ever think back on any particular person or time regularly?
I've got rather fond memories of Tom Jones, actually. He was so nice. He's a fun and charming guy and I liked him. I still do. He obviously wanted to stop playing the part of a sex symbol. It was inappropriate and ridiculous to continue carrying on like that.
Do you see yourself a sex symbol?
No, no. I haven't been a sex symbol for quite a while. I think only in the '60s. In all my collaborations with people [since then], I didn't try to use sex.
There's certain sexiness to a gravel voice.
Well, I don't mind. I'm not going to overtly encourage it but, of course, I work very hard at my photographs. I'm aware I still look good.
There are certain themes running through 'Horses and High Heels,' themes like beauty, time and death. They all seem to deal with inevitability.
Yes, that's very interesting. I relate to that because I'm getting older and all these things, not all the time, but now and again they strike me.
Do you find yourself considering death regularly?
It's not weighing heavily on my mind, but it's foolish to look away. I'm not going to deny it.
You've had a weird relationship with death.
Yeah, I know a lot of people who are dead [laughs]. And also, when I was young -- it's really stupid, if only I had known -- you don't have to wait forever before you're coming up against it, yourself. I mean, not yet, but at some point after 70, I would say.
I can't predict exactly but I would say it's wise to occasionally think about death.
Do you find dealing with those themes in music therapeutic?
Any creative work is going to be therapeutic, but I've always said I'm not doing this for therapy. If I want therapy, I'll get therapy. And I do want therapy sometimes.
Have you gone to a therapist recently?
I went last January, to work on things about my father.
Did you consider it effective?
Yeah, very good.
You've struggled with mental problems your whole life. Do you feel you have more control now?
Oh yeah. The best thing that's happened to me -- and it didn't happen very long ago -- is that I've got so much more confidence and I feel more secure.
What gave you that confidence?
I don't know.
It just happened?
I think it has something to do with the way things go. I know that I'll be alright. I know when I go onstage; I know that I like my costumes; I know that the band is good; I know a lot of things, and I really believe it now. It's not a question anymore, it's a fact.