20 MusicWeek 25.05.12 DANCE SPECIAL SISTERBLISS YOU’VE GOT TO HAVE FAITHLESS At least, you do if you’re printing a special dance music issue. So with that in mind... here’s Sister Bliss!
INTERVIEW BY TINA HART
here’s not much about the rise, fall and re- rise of dance music that Sister Bliss doesn’t know about.
The Faithless lynchpin and queen of the keys
was a vital component of one of the scene’s first ever truly successful album acts. The band officially split up following their Pass The Baton dates at Brixton Academy last year – recently immortalised in CD and DVD form. They left a 16-year legacy, over 15 million record sales and some of electronica’s biggest ever anthems, including God Is A DJ, Insomnia and We Come One. Here, Bliss – real name Ayalah Bentovim – talks
about the band’s career, the evolution of dance and her new project with ex-bandmate Rollo…
What was your career highlight with Faithless? Playing Glastonbury. Being second headliner on the Pyramid stage not once but twice was awesome – particularly in 2010 for the 40th anniversary. That was pretty damn special.
Do you think being on that stage has broken the mould for other dance acts? Alongside other acts of the last decade at least, Faithless proved that dance doesn’t have to be a poor cousin to indie. It’s absolutely the people’s choice. Dance has been sidelined and ignored for a long time, but you can’t say that now – it’s absolutely taking over in America. I’ve always flown the flag for dance music, even when it was written off or people were saying it was dead. It just takes some fresh blood to come in and change things around. We were one of the first dance acts to
play in a band setup – something that people at festivals could understand, rather than just a DJ standing there. You’ve got a full live experience. There’s a lot more of that now.
Compared to when you first started, how has the dance scene changed? Absolutely massively. When I started it wasn’t on mainstream radio for starters. When we first put out Insomnia we were told there was no hook and no chorus and it [wouldn’t sell]. Our pluggers went in to Radio 1 and were pretty much told to piss off. It wasn’t until a year later that they changed all the personnel there and the station started to embrace dance. There’s been an absolute revolution at Radio 1,
spearheaded by the likes of Pete Tong, bringing dance music from an obscure slot to create a totally different energy at the station. What I love about electronic music generally is
that in some ways it is boundary-less. You get new artists coming through all the time and they’re not necessarily all 19 or 20 years old. The guy whose mixes I love at the moment is called Eats Everything, and he’s certainly not in his first bloom.
There’s a bit more of a democracy
in electronic music; it’s not quite so image-based, it really is about the song and the tune.
What’s your view on the shift from the vinyl age to the digital age?
The slightly sad aspect is that my little
TOP Roll with it: Sister Bliss is working on a new project with former Faithless collaborator Rollo Armstrong
ABOVE Keeping the Faith: in familiar pose with Faithless bandmate Maxi Jazz
pilgrimage to the record shop was how I actually
met Rollo and how I actually came to being a producer. I get sent promos digitally whereas I used to go
to a shop, and it has taken away a bit of the camaraderie and that sense of expert knowledge. Also, there used to be a sense of anticipation
where you’d hear a DJ playing music: ‘What is that tune?’ and you’d do anything to hunt it down. There became a tantalising element to it. We’re very easily gratified now, but we’re also
more easily bored and therefore the whole scene and some of the music becomes more disposable. On the other side, it inspires you to be even more creative and to make something that isn’t here today and gone tomorrow. Faithless always strove to do that – not to chase the popular sound. Salva Mea
was utterly undanceable… but it had drama and emotion and really made you feel something.
How did you get involved with Example’s new project? We invited him to support us on our last tour and he did a fantastic job. He seems to think we are bit like heroes for him and he’s always been quite vocal in saying he learnt a lot on the tour. This is the next generation; massively ambitious
but also more intent on creating a hit – because they know radio at the moment is incredibly amenable to dance music which has that commercial edge. It’s a very strong time for electronic music globally. I’m really proud of that because I feel in a way we sort of sowed the seeds for that [mix] of rap and electronic music. It’s taken, God, nearly 20 years to kind of permeate the mainstream.
What’s all this we hear about a new project with Rollo? At the moment we just want the music to speak for itself and not to carry the baggage of the past because we’re moving forward and it’s a very exciting time. Obviously there’s a huge legacy that we have from Faithless. It’s just very exciting being back in that world; we’re really buzzing about electronic music and dance music, it’s an extremely fertile time for it with lots of great remixes. For me, dance music – maybe more than any
other genre – is about relationships and the world becomes a very small place when you use the internet. I can connect with artists I like, drop them an email, tweet them and suddenly we’ve got a conversation, it’s the most amazing thing. I can do remixes for them and they can do remixes for us and off we go.
You’ve said before the industry ‘corrupted’ you. How – and what –would you change? Oooh God. That is a massive question. The obstacles have made me more business-savvy over the years. We’ve done everything from releasing music on a tiny label to being signed to majors to releasing on our very own label with no support whatsoever. When you’re with a record company really the
fact that it’s all about the bottom line, it’s a slightly sad thing. I feel the great creative minds have pretty much been elbowed out. There’s very few, I think – Daniel Miller at Mute is one of the only ones left. If I could change anything it would be that
creativity is king rather than cash, but you know the business has changed so much – it’s not easy. How would you pay people’s wages, whether they’re working at a record company or they’re playing in a band? It would be so nice if we didn’t have to live that way, if music was valued. Free downloading is just a thin end of a wedge.
It’s more an underlying philosophy. Music has massive value in schools, for children, society and civilisation. It’s not just an extra that comes below reading and writing.
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