LOLLY POP/TELEPHONE!: "Take the World by Storm and Somehow Manage to Fit In A Few Hours of Shopping!"
Interview by Erkki Rautio / pHinnWeb
July 23, 2005 -- Hailing from Minnesota's St. Paul (together with Minneapolis one half of the Twin Cities), comes electro chanteuse and Telephone! front girl Lolly Pop. With a smash dance track ('Elevator Operator') on the recent Twin Cities Electropunk Vol. 2 compilation, and a solo album (Glamorous Life) in the works, life has never been sweeter. Collaborating with UK producer Ricardo Autobahn, Pop has just finished covering Prince's (the Twin Cities' best known son) 'Controversy', from his 1981 album of the same name. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to take a bubblebath with Miss Lolly Pop!
- What's happening now in the lives of Lolly Pop and Telephone! -- any news?
Hallo pHinn! I love the new Kompleksi record!
-Why, thank you, Miss Pop, but now we are talking here about you, so wassup in the Twin Cities?
At the moment, we're working on two new Lolly Pop maxisingles with UK producer Ricardo Autobahn: a re-make of the Prince track 'Controversy' as well as dance mixes of our TC Electropunk Volume 2 cut, 'Elevator Operator'!
- Tell me something about your background, and how did you start making music?
I started out as a dancer/backing vocalist. Songwriting and dabbling with instruments ensued... I bought a Tascam 4-track in '99 and almost never left my house again! Audio whiz Howard Hamilton from the Busy Signals worked across the street from me at this vintage clothing store called Lula... He'd help me pick out the cutest outfits! We started talking shop one day and found out that we had a lot in common. He gave me a tape of instrumentals to play with -- two of which became the first ever Telephone! tracks. I moved on to study songwriting and production, focusing on the works of George Martin (The Beatles, Paul McCartney et al.), The KLF, Prince, Lee Hazelwood (who wrote songs for Nancy Sinatra) and Madonna.
In all actuality though, this whole thing began ages ago. It's rather silly, but when I was a little girl, I used to collect records and put on lip synch shows with my Barbies!
-How would you describe your style of music?
High-energy electro, house and techno -- but from a pop perspective. I'm super-influenced by the 80s -- new wave, breakbeat, early electro, hiphop, Top 40. In the 90s, I grew up with big beat, rave, Britpop and house. But then I also really like things like 50s and 60s acts: Patience & Prudence, Nancy Sinatra, The Beatles, Petula Clark etc. Smokey Robinson -- for example -- is one of my favorite songwriters of all time!
-With you living in the Twin Cities, one obviously cannot ignore the musical influence of Prince (you've just covered his 'Controversy'). You've been working with some of his previous musical collaborators: what's up with these people now? And have you ever met the Purple One himself...?
Whether songwriting, producing or performing, Prince has been a major influence on many of us. If not for him and the Revolution, I wouldn't be here right now. When I moved here from Africa, it was because friend of a friend had come to the States and got a job dancing for him. I thought: "If she can do it, I can do it." So I packed my bags and hopped a plane. I quickly scored a day job as a switchboard operator at a Minneapolis hotel; the Concierge there -- who pretty much knew everything as well as everyone in town -- made sure I was invited to parties at Paisley Park. I'd see Prince there all the time, but could never bring myself to talk to him. Everybody seemed to want something from him and I decided that I just wasn’t going to be one of those people. You asked earlier if we met... On the night of my first main room performance at First Avenue (yes -- it's still around and just as cool!), an artist friend of mine had an afterparty set up for us at this club called The Lounge. Just as I arrived, this white limo pulls up. Prince steps out. I'm like: "No fucking way!" He always did have a habit of pitching up at the most wonderfully bizarre moments, though. To make the night even crazier, this blonde girl who wouldn't stop staring at me turns out to be Gwen Stefani (minus make-up). She happened to be in town recording with him at Paisley. After Mr. Nelson and his entourage got settled, I decided that I was finally going to talk to him. I thanked him for his work and explained -- very briefly -- how it affected my life. He was very sweet and polite. I wasn't expecting that... I'd somehow gotten the impression that he was a bit of a prick. Then -- faster than Cinderella -- I split. I rather enjoy vanishing because it makes a stronger statement than lingering about.
In the years that passed, I lived between here and Los Angeles. I met Matt (a.k.a. Dr. Fink -- Revolution keyboardist and co-writer of the Dirty Mind album) around 2001. He'd worked on an aquaintance's, called Ana Voog, record and I really enjoyed his solo effort, Ultrasound. Over the years, we found that we got on well. He's very funny! He's actually the one that switched me on to electro. About a year ago, he began collaborating long distance with Belgian producer Kris Van Der Heyden. They decided they wanted a female vocalist to front the project. Kris wanted someone kind of like Peaches; Matt called me up and off I went. In the end, I wasn't X-rated enough (or something) for what Kris had in mind, but it still worked out great! I wrote some super-fun songs (Matt helped me fine tune vocals for 'Elevator Operator') and gained the experience of working on a deadline. I got to know myself better as an artist: I like to keep it fairly clean. Suggestive -- yes, definitely -- but clean. I won't record or perform anything I wouldn't want my kid sisters listening to. I owe Matt for that experience. He's also a wonderful producer. He understands how to push an artist in the right direction. There's another song -- a ballad -- we'll be working on together later this year called 'Love You'. It's the last song on the full-length and is a love letter to our crowd, show staff and the folks at First Avenue.
The other Prince-related artist I am greatly indebted to is Monte Moir of The Time. I'd never seen The Time live until last summer. Mr. Jeffrey and I went and were floored. About half way through, I started taking notes. They're one of the best live acts I've ever seen! We stuck around afterwards and had a chat with Moir, who I just thought was fabulous. A few months down the line, he came to see us at First Avenue. He gave me a copy of his solo recording This Side of Paradise. It was beautiful... quite opposite of The Time stuff... full of lush pianos, contemplative, haunting lyrics with a definite a jazz feel. I began studying songwriting with him shortly after. It turned out he'd also penned The Pleasure Principle for Janet Jackson as well as songs for Alexander O'Neal, Gladys Knight and a slew of others. He continued coming to shows and sort of haphazardly began directing our set. He's taught us a great deal about performing... I can't say much more -- it's all very top secret. We're in a learning process. He's amazing to work with, basically a creative genious. It's too bad Vanity 6 already came and went 'cuz me and the boys would have definitely given the "Nasty Girls" a run for their money!
- Are there any other role models or influential artists for you?
Adam Ant. David Bowie. Charlie Chaplin. Mae West. The KLF. Madonna. Fischerspooner. Ru Paul. Jimmy Harry. Missy Elliot. Cab Calloway. Felix Da Housecat. DJ Copper Top. Cyndi Lauper. Those who dare(d) to be different, to create characters and legends.
- Any current acts which would particularly impress you, or you feel are on the same wavelength with you?
Ricardo (Autobahn) for sure! Mach Fox. Tony Tronic. Spray. Alexia. Scott McGovern. Amir. DJ Robbo. The Scissor Sisters. Uberfly. Miss Paris. DJ Noise. UCKF and several of the TC Electropunks!
- Tell something about the other members of Telephone!, also about your other collaborators.
Mr. Jeffrery and I met in 1999. We were hired by the Lords of Acid on their Heaven Is Coming tour and stayed in touch afterwards. He worked at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theatre as well as with glamrock act All The Pretty Horses here in Minneapolis. He is very theatrical and has a sparkling sarcastic wit! He's great with the audience too -- just jumps right in! He's a very good businessman, but more importantly he's one of my best friends. Plus, he wrote 'Silk Silk'! Howard Hughes III and I met more vicariously... We were both at this club on a publicity shoot for Telephone! He's quite dramatic and very, very sweet. A bit of a playboy -- ladies, don't say I didn't warn you -- but as I said, a very sweet guy. He's the sort who will cook you breakfast in the morning and bring you flowers... I mean, he might be out on a different date later that night, but you'd never know it. He's also very clever with the financial end of things!
Regarding collaborators, we've been working with Dory (a.k.a DJ Apollo/1DJ), who created the backing tracks for 'Elevator Operator', 'Glamorous Life' as well as the demo version of 'Love You'. In my opinion, he's the Picasso of electronic for Minneapolis/St. Paul. Also (obviously) we've been doing a lot in the UK with Ricardo, whom we basically worship. Ricardo and I get on like crazy... We like a lot of the same artists, sounds, films, programmes and humour. He's a freaking riot! Monte's amazing too. We bounce everything off him -- show skits, instrumentals, lyrics, all of it! Simply put, we're super, super-lucky to have such a wonderful team!
- What about your live performances, and any interesting anecdotes about them? What have been the best and worst places to play, for example?
We love playing live! We literally sit down and create songs for our show. Some of my favourite performances have been at First Avenue. You get up on that stage and think: "Oh my God... everybody's been here... Siouxsie, U2, Björk, Sonic Youth, Prince (obviously!), Joan Jett, Nirvana, Queen Latifah, Blur, Parliament... James Brown, for God's sake! The energy there is crazy. Their production guys have been there for years and really know how to run a show. We sometimes have cocktail parties on stage, which requires a lot of pre-show set-up. They're great about it -- so great that I have to mention a few of them by name: Mean Larry, Lee Marcucci and Conrad. If you're in a band and wind up booking a show there, ask for them! Also, Berlin Nightclub in Chicago. It's the only venue that we've played where I've been tipped by drag queens. Drag -- to me -- is just as much an art as singing, dancing or acting. In fact, it's all three combined. For those performers to be that demonstrative was an honour. On top of it, Berlin's staff is fabulous -- management, bar staff, doormen, you name it! Best and worst places -- there really are none. If you're smart, you learn something valuable at every single show, every single venue, every performance.
-What is your own take on the (depending on whom you ask, much-maligned or hyped) "electroclash" craze of the recent years?
I love it! It's brilliant and funny. Also, I think Larry Tee was very clever to launch things the way he did. It brought humour back music, which had been missing for ages. Will it last forever? Probably not, but its influence will be felt for years to come.
- How's the music scene where you live? For example, any good clubs?
We have pretty much everything! Electronic, rock, punk, jazz, R&B, country, folk, funk, hiphop -- and most of the bands are really good. We have tons of clubs... My personal favourites to hang out in are First Avenue and the Varsity Theatre.
-Your Top Twenty songs for all-time?
Oh my gosh, that's a terrible question to ask... there's too many of them! I'll do my best, but apologies to any artists that may be missed... Gosh, can this be a Top 25? There's too many damn great songs that I love!
1) Pop Muzik - M
2) These Boots Are Made For Walking - Nancy Sinatra
3) Tears Of A Clown - Smokey Robinson
4) 17 Days - Prince
5) Hello/Goodbye - The Beatles
6) All The Young Dudes - David Bowie (not the Mott The Hoople version!)
7) Voices Carry - 'Til Tuesday
8) If You Were Here Tonight - Alexander O'Neal
9) Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me - U2
10) Like A Virgin - (who else but!) Madonna
11) Nasty Girls - Vanity 6
12) TIE: Room At The Top & Antrap - Adam Ant
13) Imagine - John Lennon
14) (Still The) World Is Turning - Monte Moir
15) Too Shy - Kajagoogoo
16) Parklife - Blur
17) Cool - The Time
18) Minnie The Moocher - Cab Calloway
19) Justified & Ancient - The KLF
20) Like Cocteaus - The Cure
21) Hey Yeah - Andre 3000/Outkast
22) San Francisco - Sir Ivan
23) Everything Counts - Depeche Mode
24) Shout - Tears For Fears
25) I Hate Myself For Loving You - Joan Jett
- Your own future plans now?
Oh, the usual: take the world by storm and somehow manage to fit in a few hours of shopping... Meet my future husband... You know, all the things a girl thinks about! [chuckle]
- Your favourite question they never ask in interviews?
"What's the Adam Ant quote that you live by?"
"If you don't think you're special, if you don't have personal pride and integrity and self-respect, then spiritually you're dead. Pessimism is unforgivable. And when things are down you've got to get up. Kids need something to tide them over. They need hope."- NME interview, December 20th, 1980
Lolly Pop/Telephone! IMAGE GALLERY:
Glamorous Life sessions:
1 | 2 | 3
All Hot Tub/Glamorous photos by Dwayne Williams/Slang Studios
Lolly Pop/Telephone! live:
1 | 2 | 3
All live photos by Zak Metz/Distortion
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