Thursday, June 2, 2011
My Interview With Raechel Leigh Carter (Baby Birkin, Piano Magic, el Records)
I reluctantly started using Facebook 3 years ago and, at the time, I added people almost at random based on similar interests.
Little did I know that when I added Raechel Leigh Carter due to a shared love of The Wild Swans that 1) she was the former lead singer of Baby Birkin, and 2) she'd turn out to be one of those rare people who make Facebook interesting.
Now, she runs a very dedicated blog about Klaus Kinski -- Du dumme Sau – a Kinski Blog -- but I decided to ask her a load of questions about her varied musical career.
For someone like myself who spent the 1980s and 1990s trolling the import bins at Tower Records, Raechel's stories provide a bit more insight on the glory days of UK indie and the edges of the Britpop storm.
And she dated Momus!!!
KENIXFAN: Where did you grow up? What are some of your first musical memories?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: I was born in Nottingham in the East Midlands. I was conceived in '69 (ahem!) and born in '70 so I'm a child of the 70's.
I've always been interested in music -- I'm the youngest of 5 kids so my older brothers and sister all bought records and that made me interested. My favourite song ever when I was a kid was "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" as I had a Fischer-Price wind-up radio which played just that one song. I LOVED it. I kept the radio wound up pretty much all of the time and I carried it around with me all day. I don't think other people liked "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" as much as I did though, as, sadly one day, I woke up from my sleep to find the radio smashed into pieces. I bust out crying so my mum bought me a new one. It was in a shape of a bluebird and it played "Bluebird Through My Window" or whatever. Now anybody knows that "Bluebird..." is not a real song like "Raindrops..." -- it's a kiddies' song, what was my mum thinking?!! I was really annoyed and I threw the bluebird across the room. I never did find a raindrops radio to replace the one I had...
After that, I got onto real records. Me and my youngest brother were only allowed to play certain records -- you know what kids are like with vinyl? -- but I was happy enough with my Barry Blue singles, and "Popcorn" and "Seaside Shuffle" and "Snoopy vs The Red Baron". In the 70's, I loved the Bay City Rollers and I have fond memories of the glam bands as they were so much fun. I even remember imagining what it would be like if I met them -- I was only 4, so I guess that is when I started thinking about hanging out with bands and stuff. My mum loved Donovan, Marc Bolan and T. Rex and Trojan records, so I was pretty much brought up on those and loved them.
Me and my brother also had an album we were allowed to play, which turned out to be mostly Joe Meek productions. We used to sing along to "Have I The Right?", which we loved. And I remember, as well, that my brother used to sing along to "What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For?" as well.
The first record I bought was the theme tune to "Scooby Doo, Where Are You!". I bought it at the newsagents where they had cheap vinyl for sale. Then my mum bought me an album. I had to take a Christmas album to school and we didn't have one. We were quite poor -- working class, big family etc. -- and so my mum went to Fred Hartleys in Sherwood (not a record store, a strange store that sold a variety of things fairly cheaply) and got me a Partridge Family Christmas Album. I felt so ashamed. I didn't know who they were and I didn't know the songs either so I was embarrassed. But when I took it to school the other kids knew who they were and they were interested in it, so I felt a bit better then. I never did like the album though. Talking of Christmas songs -- I remember jumping around the school room to "Wonderful Christmastime" like a retard; I hated that song but all the other kids were dancing so I figured I had better join in, but did so with great disdain. Maybe that is where my hatred of dancing comes from? Anyway, I blame Wings. Just so you know, most sanitary towels in the UK are advertised as "with wings." I guess that is where they got their name from because they are bloody annoying and you need something to stem the hemorrhaging after listening to their Christmas song, and "Mull of Kintyre" and Paul McCartney and his f***in' Frog Chorus!
Anyway, where was I? Yes, my main memories of music from childhood are probably Donovan and T. Rex. Later in the 70's, I inevitably got into Grease (1978) and John Travolta etc.. It was downhill from there really -- until I educated myself, that is. Then in the mid to late 80's, I got into bands that I am still into nowadays -- big favourites were The Lotus Eaters, Associates, The Pale Fountains, etc.. Because of The Pale Fountains, I got into Love (they used to cover some of their songs when they played live) and because of The Lotus Eaters I got into The Wild Swans and Care and then Zoo Records, which I still absolutely love. And because of Billy Mackenzie (R.I.P.!) and Associates I got into Sparks. Good music usually leads you to other good music, doesn't it? And I still love Donovan and T. Rex.
I wasn't allowed to like certain bands when I was a kid as my mum wouldn't let me -- she didn't like Abba so she said I wasn't allowed to like them. She hated Elvis Presley and so she told me stories about him so I wouldn't like him as well. She told me several stories, all of which I believed to be true: (i) Elvis used to throw bread crumbs out of his window to attract the birds and then he would shoot them with a shot gun; (ii) Elvis used to entice children into his garden with lollipops and when they came in to get them he would kick them in the shins; (iii) Elvis used to drink and drive and invite girls he didn't know to get into his car with him. They were all really bad things and so I didn't like Elvis one bit.
KENIXFAN: How did you get into performing professionally?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: I had always kind of wanted to be in a band from the age of maybe 14 or 15 but I was a total geek with no skills whatsoever. Nobody, I mean NOBODY would have let me be in a band with them back then. It took a long time to change that.
I remember telling some lads I met in The Garage (a night club in Nottingham) that I wanted to be in a band and they asked me what I could do, sing or play an instrument? I said I couldn't do anything and one of the lads said I was "a total loser." That hurt, but it was true. It wasn't until 1994 when I saw Jane Birkin in concert in London at the Savoy Theatre that I thought I should do something about the band situation. I had recently seen a French covers band called Dutronc who used to play the garage band circuit in North London, doing cover versions of (funnily enough) Jacques Dutronc songs. I figured I should do the same for Jane B. as I reckon English people were in the minority at the Savoy Theatre concert.
It was her first concert in the UK and it had taken her ages to organise a concert for herself in the UK; whereas everywhere else they would beg her to play concerts, in the UK (her birth country) people just weren't that interested. So she did the concert in memory of Serge Gainsbourg (R.I.P.!) for a cancer wing of a hospital or some such, and the tickets sold out. And the Savoy in London was full of French people -- and me. That's when I decided to do a covers band to make people aware of her songs -- the songs Serge had written for her.
At the time, I was in a shared house situation in Crouch End -- a guy called Nigel lived there and he played jazz guitar. I told him what I wanted to do and he said he would definitely do it with me and so we got some other people involved -- Will from Cee Bee Beaumont on drums, Lisa from Blood Sausage [KENIXFAN: That band was associated with seminal riot grrl legends Huggy Bear.] and a couple of other people.
Anyway, we practised a bit, were a bit chaotic and catastrophic, but decided to take a gig early on to get the first one out the way. We played at the St John's Tavern in Archway with another band called Planet of the Apes. We went on first and Jarvis, Russell, Steve, and Mark of Pulp came to see us. We only had like 6 or 7 songs we could do and Jarvis turned up for the last couple of songs. I was rubbish and would only look at my friends Alex and Jo who were sitting towards the right-hand side of the room, so I wasn't even facing straight forward. Afterwards, Jarvis told me three things: (i) I wasn't facing the front; (ii) the set was short; (iii) our drummer (Lisa) kept time well. Words of encouragement indeed!
Jarvis Cocker at the height of his powers...
We carried on regardless until I got fed up of Will not turning up for practices and turning down a gig as he wanted to go and see Expresso Bongo (1959) at the cinema, or something. That was adding insult to injury, so I told the rest of the band that Will was not taking it seriously and so I was going to ask him to leave. The others said they didn't like that idea and that if I asked Will to leave they would also leave. So I saved them the trouble and asked them all to leave and promptly set up a new Baby Birkin line-up (new, improved, better than ever, etc.!) with three members of Planet of the Apes (who we had supported at our first gig) and with Delia of Mambo Taxi.
[KENIXFAN: That would be Delia Sparrow, UK indie rock woman of legend.]
Early line-up of Baby Birkin...
The band worked a lot better from the start and we went on to do a fair amount of gigging (Delia was/is really well-connected and organised when it comes to gigging etc., so she sorted the band out that way) in London. We recorded a few bits and pieces with our gig earnings -- we had a record out with the other French covers band Dutronc -- a split EP on Damaged Goods -- and an Elvis cover version on an EP on Nana Records; it was supposed to be loads of bands doing Elvis cover versions but nobody else recorded one so we were the only ones doing Elvis in the end (I didn't tell my mum we were recording an Elvis song...), which was a bit odd for a Jane Birkin covers band. We did Bossanova Baby (Birkin) on which I duetted with Gavin of The Guaranteed Ugly. Then a bit later were given some money to record an album...
KENIXFAN: Tell us about your association with el records.
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: That's where Mike Alway comes in. Well, I had dated Momus back in the late 80's for a bit, and so I was aware of el records and some of their recording artistes and Mike Alway's reputation.
For a UK indie junkie like myself, this picture of RLC with Momus is like crack! Now he gets respect, but in 1988, I only knew about 3 people who knew who Momus was...
We really wanted Mike Alway to do the artwork as the el sleeves always looked stylish. But Mike Alway was the one who got us the money to do the album for a Japanese record label. They gave us quite a lot of money -- an unheard of amount to us back then as we were just a little garage-y covers band and none of us had ever been given thousands of pounds to record an album. So although we had kind of split up by then, and I'd moved to Rugby, we decided to take the offer and to spend all the money recording in a posh studio rather than the lo-fi places we were used to.
And it was me who suggested getting Russell Senior in to produce as I had been a big Pulp fan and I admired Russell's work in the band and thought that, as he'd left Pulp, maybe he might like to try his hand at producing. He said yes and then we read in the music press that he had said he thought we were cheeky (I was quite friendly with Russell through Pulp so I don't quite know what was cheeky about the request to work with him at all) because we were just a North London pub band, or something or other, but that he thought he might give it a go anyway. But back to Mike Alway: we really wanted Mike Alway to do the artwork as the el sleeves always looked stylish. Well, it all ended in tears as he kind of disappeared along the way, with the artwork which never materialised, after (I think) he'd had some kind of dispute with the label. We never heard from him again anyway.
Actually, I have a terrible memory but I recall that Mike Alway also paid me to record a couple of tracks for a manufactured "band" for a compilation album called something like Songs for the Jet Set. I don't have a copy of the album as I didn't like what Mike Alway did with my tracks. I have a rubbish girly voice and he teamed me with a session singer who was obviously stacks better than me. Bid from The Monochrome Set was doing the recordings and production and I really liked him a lot. He was very gossipy and good fun. Sadly, I've forgotten most of the gossip, but believe me, it was good.
Anyway, after I'd done in the studio, Mike asked Bid to do something to the recording. One of the songs was a cover version of "I'd Like To Be You For a Day" from Freaky Friday (1977) and I was supposed to be the Jodie Foster person. He wanted to speed up my vocals or something like that to make me sound even younger than ever. I didn't like it, so I asked if I could return his payment and get out of the recordings etc.. I didn't want to be on the album. The other song was a cover version of "The Paisley Window Pane" by Wendy and Bonnie. I just see on YouTube.com that someone has uploaded it. The name of the pretend band is Sunshine Day. Ironic really as I was very unhappy.
[KENIXFAN: Don't be too mad; I found the clip. It's not that horrible! It's already better than quite a few UK-looking US indie bands that I can think of.]
Anyway, Mike Alway was true to his word back then and he did not release the tracks -- on the FIRST issue of the album. When it was reissued later, apparently he did include them! I don't have the album, like I say. Maybe I should get one just to prove I have done something with my life -- even if it is not something I like or wanted to do. Ho hum.
KENIXFAN: And you're on the first Piano Magic release?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: That's right. I was friends with Glen Johnson for a long time. I say was and I understand that a lot of people who worked with him as guests on Piano Magic stuff also were friends with him but no longer are. That's the way with bands as it brings out people's greediness and egos. Anyway, I had already worked with Glen on a track for his previous band Mitten -- I co-wrote a song called "It's An Ill-Omen When Your Halo Falls" which was about the poet Algeron Charles Swinburne, who I was absolutely crazy about. Anyway, this was back in say 1992 or so when Glen still lived in Nottingham and I was living in Derby part-time (as I was at the University there studying English and Film & Television Studies) and Nottingham the rest of the time. Glen just gave me a tape of some music and I wrote some lyrics in French for Swinburne. I had never sung before and we had never rehearsed or practiced or anything. I had a couple of glasses of gin (I'm not really a drinker, it was for courage) and I recorded some odd kind of made-up singing thing that didn't really work. I never liked it, but it was a start where being in a band was concerned. It was only ever part of a cassette tape EP and it certainly wasn't the best track on the cassette. That song kind of led to me and Glen falling out actually.
But anyway, Piano Magic -- yes, I did "Wrong French" and, for whatever reason, people liked it. I never did. I like music and not ambient noise stuff so I always preferred Mitten to Piano Magic really. But don't get me wrong: Glen is good at what he does, and he likes Vini Reilly, and all that, but I preferred the type of music he made before Piano Magic.
Anyway, after the music press had "liked" "Wrong French" Glen obviously thought it had something to do with my crappy vocalising and so invited me to do a bit more. Like I say, I didn't massively enjoy it, but I was helping out a friend and I like doing projects and so on, so I always said yes. But I noticed certain things about the way he treated his "guest musicians" and there were already 2 people I knew who would no longer speak to him anymore after they'd worked with him in the band and I suppose I was the third.
Firstly, he invited me to go to France to perform in concert with the band -- he knew I loved France and that I really wanted to go, but he changed his mind and decided to take this guy called Matt instead so he told me that the plans had changed and he could no longer justify taking me there to do just a few songs. Some French guy who went to the concert asked Glen about me and Glen said I loved Michel Polnareff (wonderful French singer/songwriter), and so the guy bought me a boxed set of Polnareff CDs. That's pretty much all I ever got out of Piano Magic. No payments, just a couple of vinyl copies of 12" records and one CD of the first album -- that was it. Then the final straw. Glen asked if he could release the "Ill-Omen" track, which I had co-written with him back in Nottingham in the early 90's -- he wanted to offer it to a French record label which had asked for exclusive tracks from him. I said no, not as it was. I said that as it wasn't Piano Magic, if he wanted to record it again, I might be able to make a better go of it this time but that, as it was, it was a very scrappy recording and I didn't particularly want it to be available on record. Then several months later, my friend Delia, who worked in the Rough Trade record shop, saw this Piano Magic single, which wasn't really a Piano Magic single and it had my name on it. She asked if I'd known about it and I said no, so she bought me a copy. How about that? Having to buy your own records?
Well, I emailed the French record label (in French) and demanded to know why they had released my song without my permission. They replied to my e-mail saying they would send me some copies of the record in payment. They forgot to delete the e-mail that preceded it -- it was from them to Glen asking what did I mean by the e-mail I had sent to them. His reply just said: "Send her some records." That's all after about 10 years or more of friendship. I heard on the grapevine that he had said to someone: "Why do these people come back into my life? They should just disappear." Well, the answer to that is, when you use other people's work without their permission, they are bound to complain. He knew how I felt and again later I saw that he had used the track on a compilation CD. I had to buy my own copy. I didn't particularly want one as I was so angry that he still uses my tracks and I get nothing for it. Some people would rather lose friendships than be fair in a band situation.
KENIXFAN: Tell us a bit about the video shoot for Pulp's "Mis-Shapes".
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: Well, I was invited along -- I guess it was through Alex Deck, who ran Pulp's fan club and was a very good friend of mine back then. We have lost touch now but she was so good to me and I always think fondly of her.
Anyway, I went along dressed up nicely in a faux fur jacket and some other vintage clothes (I moved between 60's and 70's styles back then) but sadly I was not one of the "beautiful people," as Jarvis would put it, so I didn't make it into the final cut of the video. Plus I am rubbish at dancing, thanks to Wings and their Christmas song etc., so I stood no chance really. I remember it seemed like an overly long recording and I know the band had been doing loads of other stuff before us plebs got there.
"Mis-Shapes" by Pulp...
I saw Jarvis and we were friendly -- he used to do some flirting with me but it ultimately led nowhere in particular as he always had some ex-girlfriend he was trying to get back with or whatever. Jarvis was definitely one of those blokes who gets bored of their girlfriends until the girlfriend dumps him and then suddenly he's broken hearted and all that. Listen to "Don't You Want Me Anymore?" for more details. That is Jarvis.
[KENIXFAN: Raechel also related how she's name-checked in Pulp's "Acrylic Afternoons" off of their His 'n' Hers album.]
Anyway, so he did a bit of flirting with me -- that's nice; always nice to be flirted with by a tall, bespectacled guy with ginger hair as far as I'm concerned -- and asked if he could take me on a date to Agent Provocateur" to get some naughty undies (uh?) and he was a bit tipsy and asked for my number for about the hundredth time since I'd known him. I realised then that I would never get to go out with Jarvis Cocker because he was totally unreliable and the next day he would have lost my number again and so what was the point? I just said, "Well, ask Mark (Webber) for my number when you want to use it as he's got it and he won't lose it." Obviously, the call never came and I never got the Agent Provocateur undies and whatever else it was he had in mind for me back then. The one that got away, eh?
Aside from that there was some kind of ruckus going on in the men's toilets: a bit of a fight (apparently) between an actor who was in the video and one of the "beautiful people." I was shocked as this actor was someone I had watched on TV when I was at school and I had thought he was a good actor etc., and there he was trying to beat the crap out of this pretty boy. Don't blame him really, I felt like smacking the "beautiful people" meself...not that I'm bitter or anything!
KENIXFAN: Before we get to Baby Birkin, any other brushes with fame you'd like to relate to this Britpop junkie?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: I can't remember anything much other than the things I've related along the way in my long rambling answers. I once met the Olympic swimmer David Wilkie and I used to work with a bloke who was in the revised line-up of the band Mud if that counts?!!
KENIXFAN: How did you get interested in French pop?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: I was a big Smiths fan and I loved Morrissey. He used to go on about the records that he collected. He seemed to like a lot of girl singers and so I bought some records by people like Cilla Black ("La La La Lu" which was the song used in a  film called Please Sir!) and Sandie Shaw (I really liked "Long Live Love") and then I found a record by Francoise Hardy. It had my sister's name written on it but it wasn't hers which I thought was spooky, so I bought it.
It was "Et Meme" (which Baby Birkin ended up covering on our album Classee X) and on the B-side there was the fabulous song "Le Temps De L'Amour" (with music written by Jacques Dutronc). I was hooked from then on.
Amazing (!) clip of Francoise Hardy singing the magnificent song in English. The type of Holy Grail-clip YouTube was meant for!
It was fairly easy to find records by Francoise in the UK as she recorded in English too, but then I started buying up the rarities too. I have this fabulous German album with a gatefold sleeve with a pop-up Francoise figure inside it. Then eventually, thanks to a girl I went to college with, Catherine McBeth, I got into Serge Gainsbourg. She made me a compilation tape and I really liked it. I was totally in love with Gainsbourg. I still am. Then when I was dating Momus, he got me into Mylene Farmer too. I mainly like the French singers of the 60's (Polnareff, Antoine et les Problemes, Christophe, Jacques Dutronc, France Gall, etc.) and I like the French garage stuff too, but I do also like the odd thing from the 80's or 90's. I really like a French singer who calls herself Robert (she plays electronic baroque music; it's lovely) and Mylene Farmer too -- although I don't like her more recent stuff so much.
But Serge Gainsbourg and Michel Polnareff are my favourites of all time. I went to Nice to see Polnareff in concert in 2007, I think it was. I didn't get to see Serge but once when I met Jane Birkin and I told her that I had been to Serge's grave on Valentine's Day and left him some flowers. She kissed me "on behalf of Serge, because he would have loved it". I've never forgotten that moment! I haven't met Polnareff and I'd LOVE his autograph -- please someone, get it for me!!! When Baby Birkin released our album, I sent a copy to Francoise Hardy. In return she made me a compilation tape of new songs she had recorded. She wrote on it "De F.H pour Raechel" - "From F.H. for Raechel". That was possibly my favourite Baby Birkin moment ever.
KENIXFAN: How did Baby Birkin come together as a group?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: I covered that one above really, but what I will say is, after Mike Alway had disappeared, the Japanese record label disappeared on us too. We sent them the recordings we had done and I don't know if it was us or our association with Mike Alway, but they never contacted us at all. In the end, Guy from Dishy Records said he would like to release the album and he got artwork done. I was annoyed about the typos -- they spelt my name wrong -- but aside from that, it was lovely of Guy to want to put our record out. He had seen us live a few times and he kind of liked what we did. He was very enthusiastic. I've lost touch with him as well but he was a lovely lad and I remember that he was very cool and had a great record collection and loved Dario Argento films and so on. Odd what you remember about people, isn't it?
[KENIXFAN: It's worth noting that Debbie from Baby Birkin was in Thee Headcoatees as well!]
KENIXFAN: Any interesting stories about the British music press? Like most of the Brit bands I enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s, I first read a review of Baby Birkin in either the NME or Melody Maker and then sought out the album without first hearing anything from it.
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: My experience of the music press is not particularly good. I was only ever interviewed twice whilst in Baby Birkin and I wouldn't do it a third time. The first time, I was interviewed by a massively inexperienced girl who didn't even know that Serge and Jane were an item. She said in the review that we liked Serge Gainsbourg and we did cover versions of Jane Birkin songs and that Serge Gainsbourg was a fan of her work too or something. There was no irony there, the kid just did not even know about their 13-year relationship and even longer artistic collaborations. Also, I had told her that "Melo Melo" -- our single -- was very silly, a lot of word plays which didn't mean very much at all in English but that Serge's other lyrics could be very emotional. She wrote that I had said "Melo Melo" was a very emotional song, which it clearly is not AT ALL. The second interview, the guy seemed to be obsessed with the fact that Serge had called Sly and Robbie something ever so slightly racist (I don't want to go into that again...) and I said, "Yes, yes, only Serge would say something like that and hope to get away with it." In the end, he wrote the interview up as if I'd raised it and said that Serge could get away with making comments like that. Absolutely not. I love Serge to pieces but occasionally he went too far and that was one of those moments. No, I don't need journalists to make myself look stupid; I can do that without their help. So I can totally understand why some public figures give interviews a miss -- if journalists can upset little nobodies like me with a few words amiss here or there, I am sure they can do far more damage with higher profile figures...
KENIXFAN: What was it like working with Russell Senior of Pulp as the producer on your album?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: Gosh, it was HARD. Russell was new to producing and he definitely had some good ideas but the band and Russell were not a good match. I didn't work very well with Russell, which is odd as I had been absolutely enamoured of him when he was in Pulp. He was such a great bloke but I think he felt like he had a lot to prove after leaving Pulp and, sadly, he was having to do it with Baby Birkin. The band were brilliant, but I was never a very good vocalist and I had a cold when we went into the studio so that didn't help. You can hear my sore throat on "Di Doo Dah" and some other songs. I was crying when we recorded "Nefertiti" as Russell said I was a worse singer than Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne. Unfortunately they forgot to remove the snot gobbling from the recording and you can clearly hear me sucking up the snot at one point. It's not a good way to record but I think Russell thought that it might make me better. He doesn't realise that that doesn't work with someone like me; I need encouragement and someone saying, "Well, that's good but I think you can do better..." rather than someone saying, "I could get a tramp off the street and they would be better than you". I still have very fond memories of Russell, just not in the context of working together that's all. He found it just as hard as we did. He wanted us to succeed so much and we were only ever going to sell the album out; we were never going to be massive. We just weren't big enough for Russell Senior's plans, I don't think.
Besides, we had already split up before we recorded the album and had only ever got back together to record it because we had the money offered to us. We weren't going to get back together afterwards or promote the album. Delia had decided that she thought that me and James (our bassist) did not seem to enjoy playing live and so she called an end to it all. That's what she said at the time; I remember it well! The fact is, I was never the best singer -- the band were far better than I was -- and I was terrified on stage but I used to get up there time-after-time and try my best anyway. I wanted to be good, Glenn!
KENIXFAN: What musical ventures did you pursue after Baby Birkin?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: Nothing much. I was asked to do an acoustic set at the Scala in London to accompany a screening of Serge Gainsbourg's film Je t'aime...moi non plus (1976) for a film group called Halloween. I really enjoyed that as it was totally different to be singing with a much quieter backing and better quality of sound -- to hear your own vocals and the musical accompaniment without straining makes it so much easier when you're singing. I think it was good. I had a lot of my friends in the audience and they said I was better than when I performed with Baby Birkin. I picked a good set of songs, very different to the ones I did with the band as they liked to make it garage-y (which was fine with me, I like that too). So I picked "Le velours des vierges" which is my favourite Jane Birkin track of all time; and I did "La Vague a lames" by Vanessa Paradis; and "Baby Alone in Babylone" and "La Ballade de Johnny-Jane" and "Quoi" and some of the other songs that Baby Birkin would never have contemplated. I think it was good, Glenn. And I got to do one song by Robert, even though it wasn't a Gainsbourg composition: "Psaume" from the Princesse de Rien album (original Japanese Karina Square issue, which is more baroque than the reissue -- if anyone has a copy of this for sale, please can I have it?!!). Russell Senior was in the audience and he said that kind of singing suited my voice. He didn't say I was worse than Sarah Cracknell or a tramp off the street or anything, so it must have been okay, eh?
Later, some chap who was in a band that made music out of cookery sounds asked me to do a recording with him but he must have heard how rubbish I was as he moved away to Switzerland or somewhere like that just so he could get out of doing the recording. Any excuse!
At one point Baby Birkin was asked to record a track for a Gainsbourg tribute album -- it was for a Spanish record label. We did a cover of the France Gall song "Attends ou va t'en" and we did okay as we only had a minute budget and about 3 hours or so in a studio. My vocals were recorded in two takes. There was no more time and they had to layer the two takes as there were no backing vocals recorded. We sounded better than Anna Karina did on the album though, and I say that as someone who is very fond of her. I don't want to suggest that her voice nowadays is worse than Sarah Cracknell's or a tramp off the street though, so I should say that her voice has not improved with age and I'd prefer to remember her working with Serge on the Anna tracks back in the 60's. (Phew! Did I just about save myself from digging a hole there?!!)
Aside from that, just one other thing, I think -- and I guess it's a big thing as I had to impersonate the great Bill Drummond one night. I used to love the band The Wild Swans and also a band called Care. They were both bands from Liverpool and they were both Paul Simpson's bands. The Wild Swans were on Zoo Records -- Drummond's label. They split after recording one 12" record and a couple of radio sessions for Peel and Kid Jensen. They were amazing.
One of the greatest albums ever recorded, as far as I'm concerned...
Anyway, years later they reformed and I met them -- Paul Simpson was my hero. Wowee! We stayed in touch for a while and a long time later he got in touch to ask if I'd be a guest performer for him and stand in for Bill Drummond who had recorded with Paul on "Mind Lagoons". He wasn't available to do the concert after all and they needed someone to stand in for him. Well, I had the album and knew the song but I didn't even really know what Bill was saying, so I had to see Paul during the soundcheck at the Garage in London and he had to write the words out for me. He said to just say the words really slowly and to just keep repeating them if I got to the end of the song and they were still playing. He was amazing playing his bass live -- a very sexy bass player. I was shit-scared and so I had a gin (I pretty much never drink these days but I seem to turn to alcohol when nervous on stage or for recordings, don't I?) and got on stage in my scruffy clothes. I had taken a great purple and green dress and knee boots but I was too scared to wear them as the people who went to see Skyray were like ambient geeks. Anyway, I went on in a scruffy old brown Gaultier hooded jacket and was terrified but these geeky kids loved it. And what did I care? I had appeared on stage with one of my musical heroes so I was right pleased. I was even more pleased when he asked me to repeat the experience at an ambient music festival in Gloucester or somewhere. I said yes, of course, but when I got there -- the story of my life! -- Paul told me there had been a change of plan and he thought he might like to mix it up a bit and either use this old guy who had a walking stick (uh?) or use this 6-foot-10 albino kid instead. Well I wasn't old and I didn't have a walking stick and I wasn't an albino and I wasn't incredibly tall either so I was left to watch from the sidelines. Maybe the old guy with the walking stick was also watching sadly from the sidelines that day as he wasn't the chosen one either. Paul chose the freakishly tall albino kid -- and, guess what?, he was rubbish! He was really, really posh and he read the words out as he sat at a piano he wasn't playing and he sounded either bored or like he was reading a shopping list out to someone who's not paying attention. Yes, Paul Simpson should have chosen me -- but he didn't so I sulked as he spoke with Julian Cope who turned up looking emaciated and wearing something like Spice Girl shoes and combats and so on. Paul knew I wasn't best pleased. I forgive him though because he is one of my musical heroes and I did get that one experience of appearing with him so I am very lucky indeed.
KENIXFAN: And now you run a wonderfully detailed blog all about Klaus Kinski. How did that obsession start?
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: I have my little obsessions. Gainsbourg, Polnareff, etc.. Then there are people like Vincent Gallo, who I am obsessed with for all the wrong reasons -- is he a stand-up comedian? He's hilarious! And Klaus Kinski. If you have never read Klaus' autobiography -- in English it's called Kinski Uncut and it's also called I Need Love, or something like that -- anyway, READ IT!!! Klaus was a very naughty boy and his autobiography is very, very funny indeed, even if it's not all true. But aside from this, I loved Klaus' films with Werner Herzog and I was also picking up some of the Italian films from the 70's that he'd been in and I'd seen him in a couple of Jess Franco films as well. Eventually I realised how much I enjoyed watching him and how great he looks on camera; what an amazingly good actor he is, even if he's in something crappy. That's when I started seeking out his films. Then I found out he was in something like 170 - 200 films, but nobody really knows how many films he was in as there are so many of them that are no longer available or whatever. So I decided I wanted to try and find them all. My boyfriend suggested I should start up the blog and review all the more obscure ones. He set me the challenge and I accepted it and I have a long way to go in getting all the films and reviewing them all, let me tell you! It's really hard work but I enjoy it very much. It wasn't an obsession to start with, but now I'm doing the blog it definitely is. I've been keen to add in more information as well, so I've been referring to German biographies and trying with my very rusty German to get more detail out on the internet in the English language.
I need Kinski stuff, so if any of your readers have any Kinski articles or films or photos to "donate" to my blog, Du dumme Sau! I would be most delighted!
KENIXFAN: Thank you so much for this interview Raechel. It was a pleasure!
RAECHEL LEIGH CARTER: Thank you, Glenn, I hope someone will find it of interest.