Jul 21, 2014 5:48PM
Interview — La Roux: The Album That Changed My Life
aka The Knife!
La Roux is Elly Jackson and she's desperately in love with The Knife. The spotlight-shunning singer behind Trouble In Paradise may be reserved when it comes to deconstructing her own shimmery, deep pop — but ask her about her musical influences and she lights up. Turns out her favourite album of all time is one of our's too! We spoke to her about the Tom Tom Club, New Order, Kraftwerk and — above all else — The Knife's timeless record Deep Cuts. Read on to get educated.
Jerico Mandybur: Why did you name your album Trouble In Paradise? What appealed to you about this idea of 'emptiness where there was once joy?'
La Roux: The mood of it was developed over the course of the record, in a way — after the title was decided. It's something that I really wanted to portray on the album sleeve as much as possible. There's kind of something uncomfortable about the situation, or the context, or the way something fits with something else. Theres always this kind of juxtapositions in most great music so it's not something I can say that I feel we've come up with. That contrast of melancholy and happiness — I think it seemed to fit very well. I already had this kind of 70s, future thing going on in my head and it's like the ruggedness that me and Ian first spoke about when we used to speak about what people thought the future would look like in the 70s. I think it's that kind of thing and the general Carribean/calypso influences that all started to mould into this perfect storm of Trouble In Paradise in terms of visually and aesthetically and musically.
Does making a record of your own give you fresh ears when it comes to listening to other songs, that you might have heard a million times, but now you're hearing something that you didn't necessarily hear before?
Yeah totally, I actually get that all the time. I think the reinvention of a song that you've known for years is a great thing as a listener. Often there's songs you like by an artist that stay the same, but I love it when you listen to others in a different way and suddenly that core sequence that you didn't think you were that in to five years ago, suddenly becomes your favourite chorus. I think it's one of the best things about music.
Was there a musical discovery that changed your life? Like, a pivotal record?
Yeah, The Knife. Anything by The Knife basically. I rememder I'd just, never heard, and I still haven't heard anything that sounds like that — it's got so much character. There's lots of things you could try and say that it's like, but it's not like any of them. The only thing it's like is The Knife. That in a way was, and probably always will be the biggest inspiration to me, because there's lots of different categories that (genre wise) you could put them. But what I love about really great bands is that they make their own genre. You know, the Kraftwerk genre it's almost its own genre and The Knife for me is a whole genre by itself. Like, New Order's a genre by itself. I always wanna write pop music, of course, but I always want everyone to know that none else could have ever made something that sounded like that apart from La Roux. Just like all of the bands that I've loved. Nothing else sounds like Tom Tom Club and Tom Tom Club's sound doesn’t sound like anyone else.
Was that Knife album Deep Cuts specifically?
Yeah, Deep Cuts and Silent Shout — but yeah, it was mainly Deep Cuts.
When you listen to The Knife lyrics — they're pretty abstract but they're also kind of mundane. Did they influence you too?
Yeah. That's what I love about them! I never really know though. I always know where my musical influences and references have come from but I've never been asked about lyrical influences before and now you've asked it! I think musical and production inspiration is a very different thing you know, it's easy to know where the things that you like are coming from and to be aware of that and go 'oh ok thats coming out in me because I've been listening to this or listening to that,' but I think lyrically, you always just right what you want to write. You might write something and just go 'I dunno — I wrote it but I don't know if it's the kind of thing that I want to sing.' But yeah I'm sure there's something about their ambiguity that's sunk into me over the years, because I've certainly enjoyed writing slightly more ambiguous lyrics on this record in stuff like 'Cruel Sexuality.' What I love about their lyrics is they have a very serious nature but at the same time are very cheeky. There's a lot of kind of humour and swagger and kind of almost over the should looks, you know?
Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you first heard them?
Yeah I do! I was at my friend's house with a couple of boys from school and they started playing 'Heartbeats' and I said, 'Isn't there like a weird like a folky guitar version of this?' and they were like, 'Yeah, it's a cover of this song!' and I was like 'Ohhh!' I just became obsessed with it and I literally could not stop listening to it. There's just something so fresh about it and I haven't had that feeling since about new music. I do not understand why they're not — I mean — they're unbelievably well respected by everybody who loves anything to do with that kind of music but they probably don't get the attention they deserve. But also, I'm not sure they want the attention.
I guess you could listen to it now and be just as shocked and pleased.
Oh God, yeah. The detail! Again, they do that thing that Tom Tom Club do really well, which is make parts and sounds that make you actually laugh and smile, you know? Like in 'Got 2 Let You' by The Knife — there's that bit that goes *makes noise with mouth* and it's weird sort of effect and then it's got that weird kind of cheeky bass line *makes bass noise* and then it's got those *makes brass noise* bits. It almost sounds like mini saxophones and it's kind of really cheap, like really sparse arrangements. You can almost hear them doing it in the studio and it makes you laugh because they're turning it into kind of a musical joke and that’s something that I love about the music from that era; its cheekiness. But without sounding dated. I don't think Grace Jones sounds dated, I don't think Tom Tom Club sounds dated and I don't think The Knife will sound dated for a long, long time.
Cool, let's leave it there. I hope you didn't mind talking about The Knife rather than yourself!
You don't understand, that's all I want to talk about; the music, so you've made my day. Thank you!