CLARE BOWDITCH interviews Magic Dirt’s ADALITA
December 24, 2007 | Author: Clare Bowditch
I met Adalita at a really beautiful wedding a couple of years ago. She was spinning some tunes and I was dancing as hard as I could. This could be the wine talking but I think I remember bringing her some buttery chocolate cake (this was before I knew she was a vegan) which she accepted with grace. We met again recently at a song-writing session in Mount Macedon, where we quickly teamed up and penned a song that we should probably hand over to the Veronicas. I had a lot of fun, and as with our first meeting, I was struck by her grace and kindness, the way it mixed in so beautifully with all of her strong opinions and left-field ideas. We always find things to talk about, as you’ll soon see. Our last meeting was at the photo-shoot for the cover of this here magazine. The shoot was a breeze because the photographers (my sister Anna, her assistant Colin) were particularly easy to work with. As a general rule, however, I’ve always felt frustrated by the “image-making” part of being a modern-day musician; I understand that it comes with the territory, but because it has nothing at all to do with the quality of the music itself, and in fact distracts us from hearing music for what it is, I find it a somewhat problematic. I was curious to find out how someone as visually striking as Adalita had worked her way through or around such things, or whether she thought about them at all. I began our interview by asking her how she felt about the imposed intersection between image and music-making.
A: For me, I don’t really think about it in depth. I’ve always had a pretty strong idea about what I like .. what I like to wear and how I am on stage … and what I sing about. So I am pretty clear most of the time about my aesthetics. Say I am doing a photo shoot for a magazine and sometimes the stylist will be there, and they have clothes for me to wear. I’m pretty clear with that stuff. I don’t get coersed into it you when they say ‘You look really great in this!’
C: Is it something you have learnt or have you always just been confident?
A: Pretty much always been that way. Every now and then, maybe I have worn something I didn’t quite want to. I’ll look back and go ”Oooohh’. A gold lame suit for instance! But I was pretty young and I wore it for a video clip. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with making mistakes. I’m cool with that. I’m pretty confident most of the time with how I want to look. I mean clothes are important. It is important to feel comfortable on stage. I just wear what feels comfortable and represents me the best.
C: Do you and your band talk amongst yourselves about matching outfits?
A: (Much laughter) No! Everyone kind of wears different things. Especially as we are getting older, out tastes are getting more definite and defined, and refined.
C: I think I am asking you about it because …(before this latest album) I’d never noticed how much focus there is on image in general in relation to making music. It was something that come up a lot with the surveys I did (in preparation for this edition) with other women about their experience of being a woman in the music industry and how you seem to need to be an incredibly good musician to stay where you are, and you also have to keep up … The way you look seems to play into it a lot more than males. I wonder if that’s true or not?
A: I reckon it’s the truth. I don’t know why and I don’t know how. I think it is true that it is more accepted for a male, either actor or musician to age and still be relevant or powerful. For women it’s somehow … when women age, they don’t get as many jobs or it’s seen as losing your power. For women, you have to be youthful, which is you know … is wrong … but I think it’s up to the individual. I’m starting to think, well, I’m getting older now and I’m a musician and I’m a female. I’ve started to think … how does it effect me? I haven’t started worrying or anything but I’ve noticed I’ve started thinking about it. But it doesn’t really effect me and I don’t want it to effect me, and I don’t think it will. I think the most important thing is to do the art and keep writing the songs and do it if you love doing it, and I think everything else just follows. But on the question of image, I think our society is pretty obsessed with beauty and youth in general. I mean you are beautiful and I would reckon that there would be a bit of focus on that in interviews particularly mainstream.
C: Sorry I just got confused …. Thanks. Were you talking about me personally?
C: You are!!!!
A: No you are!!!!! But you know, I’ve had that thing where I’ve been on a ‘sexy’ list or whatever and I just think that stuff is stupid. It’s got nothing to do with what I do. I mean it’s out there and I can’t control it but .. I’ve had questions about my appearance and you know ‘what’s it like to be a women in the industry?’ I just really hate having to answer that question because I don’t think about it. I feel genderless. I feel totally genderless when I’m doing the art. Most of the time I really don’t think about it.
C: A few weeks ago I went to see Laurie Anderson as part of her show for the Melbourne Festival and I actually had to interview her very briefly the day before. It was this experience of meeting this ‘incredible’ older woman, which really inspired me no end because she’s just an incredible woman full stop. But my excitement in meeting her and also in seeing her perform … the strength of her performance and what inspired her. She said ‘the thing that is inspiring me the most at the moment is anger’. She said she is channeling her anger. Obviously being an American with the position that America is in at the moment … (channeling that) into her creative life. I guess it makes me curious about A) whether you have creative champions or people that inspire your work, but also what fuels it? Big questions I know.
A: I agree. people like Laurie Anderson… she’s amazing and she’s a great role model for us gals. To see her still doing her art and she’s older now, it’s great. It’s interesting and inspiring for us, for me. I do look up to a lot of … not just in the music sphere .. a lot of creative women. People like Claudia Carven. I just find her totally inspiring
C: Yeah, so do I.
A: I met her a couple of times and she is just wonderful and so down to earth but she’s got this great fire in her eyes. You can tell she is just creatively … she’s on fire!
C: I had this fantasy about the last album that I wrote that the central character was her.
A: Really, that’s so great. She’s independent and she’ll just do what she wants to do. The audience will come to her and they always do. And she always does really cool stuff. People like that really inspire me and I love that she’s Australian. I love that she’s a women and I love that she has so much creative power.
C: It seems to me that you have a really strong independent creative aesthetic. You approach music almost from a cubist point of view where it’s obviously about the sound, the relationship between the instrument and the way that changes in the live sphere. There is a really strong focus on the music and it’s not always ‘easy’ music. Have you always had this streak of expressing yourself through music and wanting to push sound beyond what’s considered popular and just create something new? Is there any of that in there?
A: I think sometimes I am pretty cold blooded about what I do. I feel quite reptilian in a way. I don’t really question any of it and I don’t really know where most of it is coming from. I guess if I look at it from the outside, as an outsider looking at me and what I do … I think there is a lot of mystery to it. I feel like I am right in the middle of it, in the eye of the storm. I’ve always felt like expressing myself creatively. It’s like second nature. I’m always walking around and thinking about how to express … well not even in those terms … the world to me look really interesting. The tiniest thing like a little sparrow or something is really big for me, like it’s a really big deal. Then I go away and write a song. It’s just like that. It’s part of life.
C: You’re affected by life intensely?
A: Yeah, but then we were talking about this the other day…why do we go out and perform on stage, because it’s so terrifying sometimes! But there has always been a part of me that wanted to be a showgirl. I wanted to be on show. I wanted to communicate or express. I want people to look at me. But it’s weird because when people look at me, I hate it. (Laughter) I’m like, don’t look at me!!!! I’m scared! I guess I am a bit of an attention-loving person. I like to entertain. I like to make people laugh or feel something. My first memory of entertaining was dressing up as a clown and my mum said I just absolutely loved it. I’ve done dance. I’ve done drama and now I am in a band.
C: So the medium is not the central force, it’s more the creative expression?
A: Yeah. but you know with that personal side … injecting songs with personal experience .. that’s another thing. If I consciously decide to do that, it won’t work. It’s just like eating or drinking or having a conversation, it’s something I have to do
C: You and I went to Mushroom camp together, the songwriting camp. I was so impressed with your ability … there seemed to be no divide between your personality and your creative expression. We just sat down with guitars and straight away you were into it, and it was like your voice and guitar were just another limb. It was so present, almost like a physical object. That was beautiful because it came out really quickly and I had a lovely free experience of writing with you and
I didn’t have to think.
A: Me too! You’re the same though. Your guitar is part of you. You were strumming and it was like you were talking and mid sentence you’d be singing, really beautiful.
C: I’m always asking myself, beyond us enjoying it personally… us making music … or people making music generally… do you feel any sense of contributing to a greater ‘something’ in the world?
A: That’s right, we were talking about that the other day. I definitely feel like there is an altruistic part of me. It’s a big part of me. I always have to feel like I am contributing something in life and I always go that little bit further than a lot of people would bother to do. I do work really hard and give a lot of myself to the process and to the fans and the performance. I feel like if I don’t, then I haven’t done my job. And if I haven’t done that extra bit, I feel unsatisfied. I feel like I really have to push myself.
C: How do you deal with the exhaustion which must inevitably come from that? Do you feel that?
A: I do feel the exhaustion, but that’s the coming down off it all, and that’s part of it and you just go through it.
C: You become familiar with the cycles?
A: And as much as we whinge and whine about touring, we love it. We’d miss it if it wasn’t there. It’s hard. It’s fucking hard work. It really is, but it’s good hard work.
C: How much does your relationship with your band affect your love of touring?
A: Oh yeah, we’re big friends. We’re like a family. We hardly fight … now. In our early days we had our youthful moments. We’re big mates. We hang out, not just on tour but we’re always at each other’s houses talking the shit. They’re part of my best friends. We all get along well.
C: Have you considered writing a book?
A: Yes I have. I used to write a lot in my teenage years, little novellas of my own stupid love stories. So that was my first love, writing love stories. So I would like to write a romantic love story one day for sure. That would be a good thing to do and I’d like to do a short film stuff too. I think I might combine the two. I have poetry that I have been collecting over the years and I have whittled it down to 20 good ones and I hope to put that out one day. I reckon I just need a bit more experience and life under me belt before I do the romantic novel
C: Save it for the next decade?
A: Yeah, I’ll just ripen a bit more. Still a bit green.
C: When you think of yourself as an older lady. Do you still see yourself making music, still playing guitar?
A: I think I’ll still be making music in some fashion whether its soundtrack stuff or writing little ditties. I plan to do it as long as I can. I’ll probably get sick of it in the end and just want to settle down and grow a veggie garden at some point. But I think I’ll be creative until my last days because I won’t be able to sit still and do nothing. Or to mentor other people would be good too.
C: Tell us what you’ve been up to and what’s coming up
A: We released the mini album ‘Beast’ in July and we went out and toured that. We got amazing reviews, the fans were amazing and it was just such a good time with the mini album. And we also released a ‘noise’ album called ‘Rocky’s Room’ which was not strictly a Magic Dirt album. Dean and myself and Raul did guitars, but we had some guests from other bands on the noise recording that we got in as well. That’s has had a great response too. There’s a real noise-lovin’ scene out there.
C: Can you explain “noise” music for those who’ve never heard it?
A: It’s basically… we all went in with our guitars and amps and pedals and a lot of feedback and hum and scraping the guitars and then layering up all of those sounds to create … I guess non-music. No vocals. No drums. Just a spontaneous guitar explosion really. Also I have been collaborating with Katalyst from Sydney. We co- wrote a new song on his album called ‘What’s Happening’ and that’s out. He’s asked me to come on tour with him in late November. Also Jim Moginie and I and Matt Walker an Ashley Davies, we’re all performers at the first Adelaide International Guitar Festival. So all these amazing guitarist and me. My god what am I doing there? During summer we’re recording our new 6th full length album, laying down tracks and that’s going well. Also doing the Falls Festival and a Christmas show in Sydney.
C: So basically you don’t stop. You just keep going and you love it, and you’re a great inspiration and keep doing excellent work.
A: You’re a great inspiration to me.
C: Oh God, thank you.
A: I have been following you for a while, before the big mainstream explosion. I love what you’re doin’.
C: I think it looks like a mainstream explosion but it’s not. It’s a blessing curse of the ARIA which makes it look like that, but thank you.
A: I love what you’re doing and you follow your heart and you’re genuine.
C: Well, I look forward to being immortalised with you on the cover of Australian Musician magazine
A: It’s gonna look good.
C: We’ll look hot!
MORE MS. MUSICIAN ARTICLES
Link to Clare’s Ms Musician Edition editorial HERE
Link to Holly Throsby interviews Clare Bowditch HERE
Riding in Cars with Boys. Touring with a band full of guys (Danielle O’Donohue) HERE
Music, The Road and Motherhood (Peggy Frew) HERE
Australia’s Great Industry Unsung. Recognising influential women in the music industry (Mary Mihelakos) HERE
Saluting our Seminal Woman Rockers (Claire Hedger) HERE