Gino DePinto, AOL Retro-leaning Irish songstress Imelda May has given birth…
- Posted on Aug 9th 2011 3:00PM by Dan Reilly
Gino DePinto, AOL
It's been a long road to success for the 37-year-old -- who started performing as a young teenager -- but the wait has certainly paid off. Spinner had the pleasure of hosting May and her guitarist husband in our offices. After performing 'Mayhem,' 'Kentish Town Waltz' and 'Eternity,' May told us about her love of rockabilly, recording with Lou Reed and how an injured bird led her to working with Jeff Beck.
Your brother introduced you to rockabilly when you were a kid. What about it appealed to you?
It slightly scared me and excited me at the same time -- I just thought it was wild. I'd never heard anything like it. It was Gene Vincent. [His band] the Blue Caps were screaming on the tracks that I heard, in the background, like really screaming and I'd never heard anyone really scream like that. I thought, "Love that!" Seeing that rockabilly is based off of American Country, then American Country is based on traditional Irish a lot -- I know bluegrass is, when people traveled over with their fiddle in their hand. The rhythms are quite similar so it made sense; they fit quite nicely together.
Later on, I got into blues and I got into jazz and I got into ska. Great, great stuff, and then kind of post-punk and psychobilly. When I listened to rockabilly again when I got a bit older, I found some Eddie Cochran records and this one song he does called 'Something Else,' I said this before, but I reckon that's the first punk-rock song written. If you ever hear it put up really loud, it's definitely very, very early punk rock. It must have blown people's minds then, because it blows my mind now.
Speaking of punk pioneers, how did you end up recording 'Kentish Town Waltz' with Lou Reed?
That was through [producer] Tony Visconti. I don't know how it came about. I just know Tony heard the album and came to us. And it wasn't some big, "Let's get somebody famous on the album," because the album was already made. I caught a flight to New York for four hours to re-record 'Kentish Town Waltz.' Tony Visconti played it to Lou Reed once and he said, "Yeah," and then Tony did some fantastic string arrangements on it and then [Lou] came over.
It was a very good day. We got on well, eventually. He can be very prickly! And I had to tell him what to do. I'm a big fan of Lou Reed's. I was very respectful. I said, "Thank you for coming here," and then he kind of blankly said, "Who did the strings on this?" Tony said, "I did," and then he said, "Who wrote this?" And I said I did. And then he went "Ooooooooh." Then we got on like a house on fire, so it changed things around. Then I had to ask him to do stuff, because it was my song and, apart from that, I produce my own albums and needed to direct him what I wanted him to sing. I would just shyly say, "Could you just ... that line after there ... and..." And then he was just like, "Suuuuure! It's your song. I'll do whatever you want!" And I was, like, "Wow!" So we messed around and laughed around a bit. Yeah, it was terrific.
Gino DePinto, AOL
Well, Darrel had already worked with Jeff before, through the Big Town Playboys. They did an album together. But Jeff didn't know that we were together. Do you want to hear the full story?
Well, I was walking through the park one day and I found a tiny little baby crow. And nobody would take it in, nobody would rescue it. I was ringing all these animal rescue centers and they said, "A crow?! No." I didn't know what to do, so I brought it home. And we fed him, Darrel and I. Darrel named him Dave. And we fed Dave by hand, fed him bread. It took me two hours to find out what to feed him. Darrel was online trying to find out. He eventually grew from a little bruised, little baldy thing into this beautiful grown crow. He used to sit on my shoulder and we'd bring him to gigs, because you can get someone to mind a dog, but you can't get someone to mind a crow when you go on tour.
So we'd bring the crow with us and he'd sit on my shoulder and we had a little cat box for him, for in the car. We'd let him out and he'd fly around the gigs. I was trying to get him to fly. I wanted to release him back to the wild, because he was healthy. He started to get very tamed, though. He'd fly up into a tree, wait through the gig, fly back down. I'd go "Dave!" and then he'd fly back down to me. He wouldn't go to anybody else. So he was pretty safe.
So then we had a gig and Jeff and his wife Sandra were there, a Jools Holland gig. And then it came about, Sandra his wife -- this is a weird story, I know, but it's weird how life works -- Sandra rescues animals. And I didn't know what to do with Dave, because he was getting too big. People would say, "Put him into a zoo or something," and I'd say, "No way, I wouldn't," though he was getting huge. So she said, "I'll take this crow, I'll take him off you." And then we got to chatting, and Jeff goes, "Oh, you two are together?" And then she said, "Come back to the house, I just happen to have an aviary free, if you want to have a look at it." And then we went back to the house and had brandy and a little jam session and Jeff said we need to work together, that we should record and go on tour. [Laughs] I don't know how to get around that full story!
So, if wasn't for Dave the crow, we probably never would have worked together. It's weird how life goes.
Gino DePinto, AOL
I've written a couple of songs about the crow, but they're both rubbish because it sounds like you're using a little metaphor, but I'm actually serious, [laughs]: "Fly away and be free," and all of that! Maybe I have to sing a love song to Dave and then only all of you and I would know!
What inspired the title track? Is that a nickname?
Actually, it was a previous drummer I'd had, Dean, the drummer on 'Love Tattoo,' he used to call me Imelda Mayhem, because -- actually I never tell people -- when I bring the suitcase in, I have to cram as much as I can into one suitcase for traveling. Actually, our bass player calls it an explosion in a whorehouse, because when you open the suitcase, the whole room is just covered in leopard print, diamond, feathers, glitter. It's just everywhere! Maybe you shouldn't write that! [Laughs] So a lot of that goes on and then Dean would come in the room and say, "Oh, this is Imelda Mayhem!" So it was a little bit of that.
And it just really fit our lives, because touring makes our lives just really chaotic. I'd written the song one mad night and it seemed to fit the rest of the album, because there were a lot of different songs there, a lot of different sides. There's slow ones and there's mad, wild ones. It kind of went up and down a bit like life, so it seemed to just fit.