THE GIG TOG

plays the violin and I get them in for that song. It's quite interesting really, I think it's a bit like in the old days with the Blues where you got your mates to come into the recording studio, you learn the song there on the fly and play it live together, I think it's really got that feel where people are really excited about the song because they've only just heard it, they've gone through it and they're a bit nervous and it gives it an energy when we're all playing together, nothing programmed, just old school so I've recorded my 10 - 12 tracks like that. I've got some great musicians on it, quirky musicians and bit by bit because of how it evolved I've been using a different Bass player on each track, some quite good names - last week it was Jack Bruce! It's funny, as a kid I had the Cream album Disraeli Gears and loved all the great songs on it which Jack wrote and sang, well, I was nervous, can you imagine? I'd never had a music lesson in my life and here's the great Jack Bruce coming to play on my song and I'd written the song especially for him! How do you write a song for Jack Bruce when you can barely play yourself? So it was a hell of a challenge and we had the most fantastic time and the funny thing is even though he's played a lot of Jazz and he's this great Maestro of a musician in a way, he hadn't had a session where he was so free to do what he wanted in years! He said to me that he got so much joy out of that. But in a way it's really nice I gave him something but he gave me loads - I gave him a little thing which is great, he said "You don't care which key I play in?", I said "No, do what you like" and he said "Do we have to listen to a demo and reproduce the demo?", I said "No". "Crikey, this is like real old school!"

Fish: I guess that way of working makes what you're doing a bit more "vital"?

Viv: It was very vital, he was turned on by it and he made my funny little riffy song a kind of meandering exciting adventure. He played on another song of mine and he did the most beautiful, what I consider to be almost like a, painting throughout the song because I said I wanted something very loose, very emotional, no returning to choruses or anything which he did, very much like a Jackson Pollock, bending notes, scratchy thumps, musical bits - it was like he was flinging paint around in a very elegant way. I don't know if that gives you a feeling of what to expect, maybe a bit tantalising but mixed with that is my straight forwardly emotional lyrics although I must say sometimes when I've written occasionally, because (Jah) Wobbles on it as well, I haven't been as personal which was quite interesting to come out of my "write with my heart and head" type voice, to write a bit more obscurely so that was a challenge as well and I've learned so much this year. The Album has taken over a year and a half to put together, it's involved pulling in musicians from hither and thither who've never heard the track before they walked into the studio so fuck knows what anyone's going to make of it but that's the best I could do, I hope my best is good.

Fish: I remember you played Rebellion 2010 and went down really well with the assembled punks.

Viv: Oh I know! I was dreading that with all the punks there. I saw all the punk "uniforms" all trooping in there and I thought "Oh, no they're going to expect me to do thrashy chords!" but they stood and listened and they were moved by it, I made them laugh and they really gave me their attention - I was more turned around by them than they were by me. The Bizarre Bazaar at Rebellion is a lovely room and those who came to watch me seemed quite senstive people with open minds which is great.

Fish: Your book is also out next year, will it be a kind of memoir or something different and has it been interesting to go back and re-visit memories?

Viv: It is a kind of a memoir but not just about the punk times, it's a girls journey through life and I suppose in some ways I think it's quite interesting that a girl who hadn't had any music lessons, who grew up in a council flat, who didn't have an arty background and parents like so many musicians do nowadays don't they? They come from comfy middle-class backgrounds with lots of music lessons and books on their shelves, well I didn't and I think that's quite inspiring for people who've come, and are still coming, from that "nothingy" background to not be scared to make a fool of yourself, don't think that this club is an exclusive club you can't be part of. If you want to do it, you do it. In fact you've probably got a darn sight more to say than people who've had it too easy. Before Punk you had to be some kind of virtuoso and I think the best legacy that Punk has left, across all the arts actually, is you don't have to be a virtuoso, you're not excluded if you've got passion and authenticity.

Fish: You'll be supporting The Damned on their upcoming tour which sounds like it should be fun, are you looking forward to it?

Viv: I'm absolutely looking forward to it, the thing I'm not looking forward to is sharing a bus with them because I reckon they all going to snore! I'm not scared of them being rowdy or anything like that and I'm really looking forward to it because it's 12 dates on the trot which will be so good for my playing. The Slits never did a 12 date tour, I've never done a 12 date tour so I'm really excited because even with the short tours I've done recently my playing gets better and better and better so I'm so excited about that. I stopped playing for 25 years so I need to get better and better and sometimes when I've been practising and I feel as I've taken a little leap, my fingers move a bit more smoothly it's just a lovely feeling. So with The Damned I think my playing will get better and better but my face will get worse and worse due to no sleep. (Laughs)

Fish: The Slits split in '81 and you played Rebellion in 2010 did you do any live work in between or were you concentrating on other things like your film making, ceramics and writing?

Viv: I had no thought about music for 25 years, I never thought that I'd ever go back to it, it was my past, I never spoke about it because I was bringing up my daughter and I felt that no-one around me was interested in it, it wasn't relevant, it was something from the past, I had no idea that out there was brewing a kind of resurgence, an interest in it, I had no idea whatsoever until one or two people came into my life and said "we think you're cool" and I liked these people and I thought "Oh my God, I can't believe it" and then I realised that there was a bit more interest in us and that we were considered relevant even amongst young people and that meant a lot to me. But in between - nothing, I never touched an instrument, I never wrote a song, I never thought about it. When it came back and I wanted to express myself again I picked up my guitar and it came back with a vengance so that's how I am, I'm either all or nothing. I know lots of people kept playing for those 20 odd years because they couldn't think of what else to do and now they're all burnt out, their hearts aren't in it. I can think of other things to do, I can always think of something else to do, I only do music or art or bring up my baby or whatever it is if I really want to do it, I'm bored with life unless I'm absolutely absorbed. I'd rather starve than do something boring, I've never done a "proper" job y'know? I've done interesting stuff and as soon as I'm not interested I shift again, I've just about ducked and dived my way to this age, it's quite precarious but it keeps you in a state of survival. I'm like "Oh my God, I've just changed my life completely", I was married for 17 years and I've changed it entirely to do music, he wasn't interested in me doing it so I had to totally re-set-up my life.

Fish: Are ceramics something you've always been interested in? My wife used to do ceramics and found it very theraputic moulding something out of your head into reality. Is it a relaxing thing for you or just something that's inside and has to come out?

Viv: I got into ceramics by mistake because it was the only art class that was available on the day I had free as a Mother but I would say that it was really the whole keystone of my re-birth in a way because I found I could do it, I'd been to art school before so it wasn't like I was not able to work in a medium like that and I started but didn't really know what I was doing and the Teacher, who was amazing said to me "Viv, I want you to express yourself through this medium and not make brown pots" y'know? And I said "No, I don't want to express myself, I just want to make nice brown pots, I'm sick of expressing myself" and he went away thinking "What is she on about?". Then, funnily enough, he heard me on the radio that night from something recorded years before with me talking about The Slits, he just thought I was a Housewife from Hastings! So he came back the next day and said "Ah! I now know what you mean". In a way I couldn't help but express myself and I did this very erotic piece, it wasn't just pure erotica, it had messages in it and that was it, the curtains opened, the walls fell down and I couldn't stop myself and the teacher said it's funny because a lot of people who go to art school say their whole lives change because once you start to look inside at who you really are which you do through art if you're doing it properly, you reassess everything around you so he wasn't at all surprised that my marriage fell apart and I picked up the guitar, he said he'd seen it a million times.

Fish: What do you think of the so-called Punk revival? Is it just a bunch of middle-aged people trying to re-capture their youth? Or is there more to it? Is it something that should be put behind us and we should move on?

Viv: I know nothing about any punk revival but all I would say is I'm never one to live in the past or glorify the past. I'd learn from it and make it into something new. Of course you can't deny the past but to just caricature it is a dead end. Any artist I would like to move on otherwise really you might as well go and see a Buddy Holly musical in the West End. Can you imagine "Punk - The Musical"? That's what some of these bands are in my eyes. some people don't get it, they think it's thrashing about with 3 chords, Punk is an attitude and the attitude would never be copy something that's been done before.

Fish: Is it different for you performing on your own as opposed to being part of a band? Is it more intimidating being "Viv" rather than belonging to a group of people?

Viv: Well, comparing it with The Slits I feel a great relief because I carry it on my shoulders now, I carried it on my shoulders before but I felt I was lugging other people along with me who weren't the same as me mentally and I had to accomodate Ari Up, a 15 year old with high jinks, a lack of knowledge about the world and what she said to the press as the lead singer which would represent me - that was hard because I was 7 years older and had led a completely different life and had this 15 year old German girl speaking for me. I had to make sure everyone was somewhere on time, it was exhausting! I now love that I can pick up my guitar, pick up my stuff, I get on the train, I turn up, get on stage - it's all on my shoulders. But sometimes when I play with other musicians as Viv it's such a relief again to have great music behind you. If something goes wrong I have no-one to come off stage and have a laugh about it with so when it goes wrong it's all on my shoulders too. At least I'm being represented truthfully, I'm not being watered down by other peoples views, I'm just being Viv and if I'm annoying to someone then that's fine - I'm being truthful to myself artistically where before it was all these different personalities in the mix which actually made The Slits what they were but was quite hard to live with on a day to day level and now I love it when I play with other musicians but on your own it's very empowering.

Fish: We see TV Smith quite a lot and he seems to thrive on the "Wandering Minstrel" aspect of his solo work.

Viv: Yeah, that's how I am, I like that it's gone back to that in a way. Although you're not going to make a load of money out of it, you should never go into music to make a lot of money, if you're doing that then you're doing X-Factor or the Charts. It's a different genre and I totally respect Pop Music but anyone going out there to express themselves cannot think they're going to make money out of it, you are just like a Minstrel.

Fish: What music are you listening to yourself at the moment?

Viv: I never answer that question and do you know why? I think people just want a list of extraodinarily geeky bands to see "How cool is she?", "Is she going to say someone we've never heard before?". No, because I am not a geek trawling the Internet for things that are going to shock people with how cool I am. Leave that to the young guys in bands who've told us all of their obscure influences and girls aren't geeks and I'm not going to play that game!

Fish: You've released a couple of Christmas singles so can we expect another one this year?

Viv: Yeah, I've just written it! And it's called "Viv's Christmas - Single" as in I am single at Christmas (Laughs). My Christmas single is not very deep so I'm hoping I can get away with being an absolute fool on it. I've got other deep lyrics but these are stupid! It is Christmas afterall.

Fish: Viv, thank you very much.

Viv: No problem. Can you give me a lift to the Hotel now? (Laughs)

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