Interview with Marina & The Diamonds

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After the release of her sophomore album Electra Heart earlier this year, and in the midst of her Lonely Hearts Club UK tour, The Edge caught up with Marina & The Diamonds to talk about touring, Electra Heart, and new music.

How’s the tour been so far?

It’s actually been much more enjoyable than the first, because I had a vocal injury, so the first Lonely Hearts Club tour in the UK, I was always really nervous. This one has been my favourite UK tour that I’ve done.

What can we expect from the show?

It’s very camp and theatrical. It embodies the Electra Heart character, it’s almost like a musical, even though I hate musicals, so I don’t want to say that. It’s like a pop musical.

You’re touring the UK at the moment, you’re heading around Europe next month, North America in December and back around Europe in January. Are you ever going to have time off?

I do get some time off. You do get weird bursts of time off which suits me fine. 

So you’re not ‘heading for a meltdown’ like you sing in ‘Radioactive’? 

Most of the time I feel like I’m on the brink of one, but that’s just the artist life *laughs*. 

Who actually is Electra Heart, and how has she changed your career?

Well, Electra Heart, is like… well in the beginning I used to make up these names, of drag queens and porn stars, so Electra Heart was just one of many, and at the time I’d had this really weird relationship, a very unorthodox relationship with this person, and you know when you have a bad experience, and you’re just like, ‘I don’t ever want to be in love again,’. So I formulated this character in order to protect myself from that in terms of writing, it interested me; what people’s fears are and what their vulnerabilities are. When it comes to love people are pretty fucked up really, we all are. 

 How would you explain the writing and producing process of Electra Heart? 

It was really important for me because it freed me up a lot to write in a different way, and also I just wanted to have fun as an artist, whereas with the first album I was very strict, I didn’t want anyone to have control, which is great, but I think in my mind I had this idea that like, that equalled purity in terms of artistry, and pop equals shit. Which is wrong! I mean, some pop is shit but some pop is really good, even if it is factory produced. I was really interested in that process so I just thought, I couldn’t think of any other female, indie artist who had taken that route, gone from selling my CDs to Rough Trade, to going into Hollywood Hills with Dr Luke. So far it’s really helped my career in terms of fan base. I wanted to use that pop model in a very obvious way, and apply it to my own work to see what would happen.

The songs are really honest and expose a reality of heartbreak that you don’t see in generic love songs. Is that a conscious decision which you made when writing your tracks?

I am conscious of it, but it wasn’t something I decided to do, it’s just how I write. Even on the first album I was writing very blunt, acerbic way, so I don’t think I can really write in any other way. Plus I never really relate to soppy love songs. 

‘Starring Role’ I think is one our favourite songs on the album, so what was the inspiration for that? 

Again, that part of being in a relationship, and regarding intimacy with someone where it’s problematic. I think my aim as a lyricist is pinpointing these really complex feelings that are very normal and common to people, that everyone can relate to. 

‘Teen Idle’ is another track from Electra Heart, and it’s become almost anthemic amongst your fans now. What advice would you give your teen-self if you could? 

Oh god, I don’t know. I’m not very good at advice. I was about to say I don’t think you should worry as much, but I think it’s impossible if you’re someone who really cares about your future. I think I definitely should have had more fun but sometimes you can’t. My dad was very strict so I couldn’t really do that.

‘How To Be A Heartbreaker’ is your current single, and it was on the American release of Electra Heart. Is it going to be on a deluxe edition, or perhaps a third album? 

I hope so. I think it should have a repackaging really, because I think that could be a big single for me, and I wrote it just as the UK album was going to manufacturing, so I would like for that to be part of an official album at some point.

…and it’s the seventh part of The Archetypes on YouTube, how many parts are there going to be in total? 

Well, actually I tweeted about 2 months ago that it’s going to be 15 parts but now I’m regretting that *laughs*. Genuinely I think there’ll be about 12, ‘cause you don’t want to drag it out more than it should be.

There’s still a bit to go then isn’t there.

Yeah, I mean some of them are really stupid *laughs* this thing with Marilyn the dog is ridiculous, it’s really tragic, it’s like her in slow-mo jumping to this very special song.

There was some drama the other week with your US record label delaying the release of the ‘How To Be A Heartbreaker’ video because you weren’t pretty enough. Did you find that ironic given the message of the album?

Yeah, stuff like that always happens to me…

Awww.

Well, not the ugly thing, but like, things that contradict exactly what I’m doing. It’s funny. I didn’t really think it was that big-a-thing, it’s just I didn’t want to go on Twitter – after everyone’s waited all day to see the video – and be like, ‘oh sorry guys, it’s coming soon,’ I just thought I’d tell the truth. It wasn’t anything bad against the label, I actually agreed with some of the comments they made. It was more ‘beauty work’ that needed done, BUT they wouldn’t give me the budget to have it done, and then on the day, they were like ‘oh this can’t go out,’ so I was like, ‘fucking hell!’

Fashion comes through quite strongly in your music videos and you have a very distinct style, what inspires you to look the way you do?

I like feminine clothes, and I really like classic clothing as well, but I kind of like using fashion for humour. As a pop artist I see it as the third element, so without the fashion and the imagery, whether that be what I’m wearing, or a video, I feel like everything is really 2D, and I can’t ever imagine style and image not being a part of what I do.

If you had to give a suggestion to our readers of any up and coming pop artist anywhere in the world right now, who would it be?

I LOVE this guy, he’s called Mykki Blanco. He is an american rapper, who’s… kind of like a drag queen. He’s so interesting because he touches on a few of the things that I was doing with Electra Heart, examining archetypes and embodying roles and subverting them.

What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve ever read about yourself in the press?

Nothing terrible. I mean, when I first started to become known, I think it was the Daily Mail who did a feature on how all these pop star girls were secret rich girls, and that because I’d gone to a girls school I was obviously loaded. But I wasn’t! I lived in a bungalow for my whole life with my mum and my sister, and there’s nothing wrong with being rich, but it just wasn’t true, if you go to a private school people assume things. I could have had a scholarship for all you know. There’s not much to gossip about yet.

Have you started thinking about a new album yet?

I’m always thinking! Even with Electra Heart I started writing it in March 2010, and the album was released in February 2012, so I have started with the third album but I’m taking a different approach this time. I will probably write on my own again for most of it, but I’m experimenting with lots of different ways of writing.

So will Electra Heart be involved with that again as a character or is that it for her? 

No, she’s done, only one album. Actually I’m starting to feel sad, that I’m not going to wear the heart on my cheek anymore. After this album is gone, that’s it. I keep thinking about the last moment when I put it on, it’ll be this poignant moment *laughs*. But when I was doing the second album I was like, ‘shit, I’ve created this special character, how am I going to do the Family Jewels songs?’, but it was actually really seamless, and it seems to fit. I think people who know me properly as an artist rise above the whole ‘Is this a real character? Who’s the real her?’ thing, it’s like, for god’s sake, it’s ART, you’re ALLOWED to pretend. 

Lastly, how many times do you get proposed to each week?

Oh, um, 4? I’d probably say 4 or 5 times a week! 

And have you ever said yes to any of them?

Yeah actually, like 2 nights ago *laughs*

Oh, so, is that happening now?!

Nah… actually it was like, a 12 year old girl so… *laughs*

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I’m Megan Downing, an English Literature graduate from University of Southampton. I am the Music, Arts and Culture Editor for The National Student. I am the Membership and Communications Officer for the Student Publication Association, I write about music for 7BitArcade, and contribute regularly to The Culture Trip. I have a passion for live music and this is where I began in student journalism. Reviewing a gig or festival is still where my heart lies four years on. I will be starting at MTV as a News Intern in June 2015. One thing you should know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Spacey.

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