Singer Róisín Murphy: ‘It is astonishing, world-changing the best record ever’

When she was 15 and could get away with it, Róisín Murphy went to clubs in Manchester. These were the heady days of “Madchester”, the city’s indie dance wave in the late 1980s at clubs such as The Haçienda and Dry Bar, as well as Manchester’s inner-city street soul scene, The PSV and Precinct 13, where they learned dance. “So much happened then,” says the singer. “People in Manchester have always been very proud of their grassroots music and arts scene.”

Having moved to Ireland from Ireland three years earlier, she was immediately charmed by the city’s vibrant music scene. “It was a very strong black culture, West Indian, so in Manchester there was a lot of reggae, a lot of dub systems. There was a lot of cross-pollination. We were all together and it wasn’t that hard, shall we say, intellectually.”

Cross-pollination is a hallmark of Murphy’s career spanning more than 25 years and nine albums, beginning with the band Moloko (“Sing It Back”) and later as a solo artist. In 2020 she released the critically acclaimed and commercially successful album Róisín machineelegantly blending countless dance floor genres, Studio 54 disco merging with British bass, punctuated by swelling orchestral strings, and on June 25 she will perform at the Glastonbury Festival.

The sun is blazing outside as we sit in her backstage locker room in Berlin’s Columbiahalle, where she’s having a concert that evening, which is performance art as much as performing. From arms full of red roses with long stems, she throws them one by one into the audience and beats the rest across the stage. A rejection of patriarchal chivalry? An anti-romantic statement? It’s hard to say which one, but Murphy knows how to captivate the audience. Brooding Moloko classics such as “Familiar Feelings” and “The Time Is Now” fuse disco and pop.

Róisín Murphy performed with Moloko in 1996 © Roger Sargent / Shutterstock

The atmosphere at her performances “is a bit like” The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, she says: As with screenings of the 1975 cult classic, her audience dresses up to reflect Murphy’s own spectacular fashion. In the music video for her 2007 song “Overpowered,” for example, she injected high fashion into the everyday banality, in a scene sitting on a London night bus dressed casually in an architectural plaid cape dress, a black slanted hat resembling a spacecraft. her head. These clothes enhance her personality: exhibitionistic, playful, eclectic, bigger than life.

“I go on stage and forget to take care of myself. † † Recently I was playing in Hamburg and my friend DJ Koze was there and he said to my assistant every five minutes: ‘You have to give her some air! Give her a fan on stage, she’ll pass out!’ † † † The way I go on stage is completely athletic.” That evening her music is laced with dance moves, sometimes resembling Irish dance, sometimes a sense of swing during her boisterous songs, even a melancholic indie rock star swagger for the quieter moments.

Murphy, 48, describes her dream of creativity as a “flow state”: “When I’m performing, when I’m writing, when I’m in creative mode, when an idea comes to me, be it a visual one, or when I’m directing, when I’m styling, when I get into the flow, and it all starts to come together, it’s the most magical thing – I’m addicted to that flow state She protects it with a “maternal fierceness”.

That creative process isn’t a solo effort — her associates are conspirators: “They come like cats with a dead mouse in their jaws, and they drop the dead mouse right there for me,” she says in her husky registry. ‘There you go, that’s a beautiful dead mouse! Would you like that?’ and then I say, ‘Yeah, mmm, I’m going to hit it!’” She is regularly approached to work together, “and that has to be the best blessing I’ve ever received”.

A woman wearing a glittering silver dress sits in a room in front of an upright piano
Murphy at home in Cricklewood, London © Jonathan Goldberg/ Shutterstock

One such collaborator is that concerned friend DJ Koze, German producer Stefan Kozalla, who is working closely with Murphy on her upcoming “global sounding” album. After doing an EP with contemporary covers of Italo pop classics (2014’s.) Can you hear me) and collaborated with Lebanon’s most famous rock band, Mashrou’ Leila (2018’s “Salam”), nothing seems unlikely.

“How can I explain to you that it’s absolutely stunning, world-changing… it’s the best record ever… It’s a fucking planet of its own.” Surprisingly, this doesn’t sound narcissistic, but sure – a promise to deliver the goods.”Róisín machine is therefore parochial. I don’t mean that negatively. Róisín machine comes from Sheffield, this is from the world.”

Undoubtedly, in a fruitful creative period, she will make her acting debut as a witch in the new Netflix fantasy series half bad, about the 16-year-old son of the world’s most feared witch. Murphy plays a witch named Mercury: “She’s cunning and mean, but she’s very stylish, thank goodness!”

on Róisín machine, the opening track – eight-minute string epic “Simulation” – has underground frequencies bubbling under a reverberating loop of her voice. The first words sound like Murphy’s manifesto: ‘I feel that my story is still not told. But I will make my own happy ending.”

She likens her career to carrying a baby in her arms for 27 years, protecting “something beautiful and a space to be creative and free”. So why does she think she’s been successful in an industry where disposables are the rule for a quarter of a century? “I don’t know if I succeeded,” she says. “It’s been proven that it’s not really about success. Actually, my career was more about endurance.”

Róisín Murphy headlines this weekend’s Body & Soul Festival in Ballinlough Castle, Ireland; roisinmurphyofficial.com

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