The amazing Phoebe Killdeer – Exclusive Interview

You know Phoebe from way back when she started performing and touring with Nouvelle Vague. No long introduction is needed for this artist, as I’m sure you all know about her totally original and impressive performances of Human Fly, Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Escape Myself etc., about her absolutely brilliant performance with Melanie Pain of Too Drunk To Fuck, where they dance and scream (in the most pleasant way) and give out Whisky to the audience and so on and so forth. Youtube has them all, folks!

Phoebe was so kind as to answer a couple of my questions, so it is truly exciting to get to post this for you.

She toured with Nouvelle Vague and performed one of the most powerful and most interesting renditions of songs from the New Wave period. She dazzled you all and keeps doing so, through her own project with The Short Straws and different collaborations, which will be later discussed in this interview.

I strongly hope you all enjoy reading this. Here’s Phoebe:

Phoebe Killdeer1

ZME: Please give us a short description of youself: a couple of words that best describe your character and way of life.

Following my instincts and enjoying extremes.

ZME:You mentioned that the main influences to your music where artists like Tom Waits, Art of noise, Nick Cave and Carmen McRae. What specific and unique characteristics would you point out about these artists, that have led you to enjoy listening to their music and what exactly is it about them that has influenced you so much? Please mention one or two things for each of the ones stated above.

Tom Waits: its going to be hard to just fit two things, his use of percussion, the way he makes industrial loops out of organic sounds and the variety of sounds he uses (from white noize to chickens to hammer sounds) there are no boundaries that’s what I like about the way he makes music, it’s like he goes and finds whatever fits with what he is saying. Another important thing about Tom Waits that has changed me is his live performance, when you see him in the flesh, he doesn’t sing with his voice, he sings with his body, mind and soul, you can actually physically see it and I think that is something that struck me hard. And his humour and lyrics, story telling. Art of Noise: the ambiance they created and the free structures, very visual…the fact that it didn’t sound like anything else. Nick Cave: mood, rough edges, beautiful ballads, lyrics, humour. Carmen McRae: the texture of her voice I love and the interludes on some of her live album, the character she is as a performer really struck me, the way she stays in control during and in between her songs, she’s running things… and the Jazz, I love Jazz.

ZME: You mentioned on your website (, that you have collaborated with Basement Jaxx, Bang Gang and True Stories in the past. Could you please mention when this happened and what material stands out for you? Also, which are the songs on which you collaborated on and which one is your very favourite. I know about Tonight for the Kish Kash album, but please mention other ones as well.

Well with Bang Gang I sang ‚’There was a whisper’ (2003), and True Stories is a project that I co-wrote with Boxsaga, and english producer with whom I wrote many songs which should be coming out soon. Working with Bardi from Bang Gang was a great experience, especially discovering Iceland through his eyes was very inspiring.

ZME: How did you start working with Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux on Nouvelle Vague’s second album in 2004? I mean, did you audition for the band, did they call you, or did you send in some material and after that everything just worked out? Also, did you choose the songs you wanted to cover or was everything chosen by Marc from the very beginnning?

My manager and her partner actually send my demo to Marc Collin knowing that he was looking for new singers for NV2 and Marc contacted me a little while after that and as you say everything just worked itself out from there onwards. Marc Collin did select the songs I was to sing on the albums partly because he had a lot of ideas as it was his project and also because a lot of the singers, me included, didn’t actually know the original songs as we are from a different generation.

Phoebe Killdeer 2ZME: From the 4 songs you took care of on NV’s second album – Escape Myself, Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Human Fly and Dancing With Myself – which one are you most pleased with record-wise and which one did you find to be a huge success with the crowds, when performing live? All of them were very well received, I know, but there has to be one song from the 4 you’ve always enjoyed performing more.

Ok, record-wise, I would say Human Fly and live Bela Lugosi’s Dead, I loved bringing out the dramatic side of the song.

ZME: You have somehow taken Camille’s place after she left Nouvelle Vague and have taken care of the songs she recorded for NV’s first album. After catching you in one live performance and seeing a bunch of them on YouTube and the like, I must say that you are very talented and absolutely amazing, especially when performing Too Drunk To Fuck or Friday Night, Saturday Morning or Guns of Brixton. You’ve impressed with such a unique voice, with the most sensual moves … and of course with the Whisky glasses you and Melanie were frequently passing around the audience. Tell us a bit about your past live performances with NV: the work behind it (touring non-stop for 2-3 years), always trying to keep it fresh, maybe some funny stories you’ve encountered along your way. Also, what’s it like to see so many places around the world, meeting so many different kinds of people but impressing them each and every time with brilliant performances. This is the creative question so to say, so tell us what you think is best.

Wouaouww, that’s a lot of information, I don’t think we have time to mention everything, I will try to pick out a few examples. It was an incredible time for me, I was touring properly for the very first time, so I’d say the freshness side to it wasn’t a problem as it was true. Performing with Melanie Pain was great fun as she is always up for a laugh, ready to take things not so seriously which I think is one of the charms of Nouvelle Vague. Marc Collin has a way of putting things together in such a way that he makes you feel actually quite nervous and relaxed at the same time. He is by far the most laid back producer I’ve ever met which makes him a great touring coworker. I’ve got to say that a lot of the magic comes from the original songs, such great songs and melodies but also of the concept of the project, it’s just very clever…

ZME: Please mention some differences between being on stage with The Short Straws, promoting your own songs, and singing with your ex-collegues from Nouvelle Vague, especially Melanie Pain. The chemistry between you two is very obvious and you always managed to make the audience go wild. Do you miss it? And will there be any more duets with Melanie in the future? Maybe some special songs and features, or a project you’ll do together?

Well, performing my own songs felt a lot like coming home after a fantastic adventure. I think performing your own songs takes you a little deeper into what you already know, so it’s a little scarier but I think it very rewarding for the individual whilst performing with Nouvelle Vague felt like a whole lot lighter in a way and we could just relax and have fun. I don’t think there are many truths you can hide on stage, Melanie and I get on really well and we have become good friends through Nouvelle Vague and I think that’s probably why people enjoy seeing us perform together. Of course I miss it, but we make up for it from time to time, I have joined her a few times now to sing a song on her solo set. We actually started writing together when we were touring with NV, but then we got sidetracked doing our own individual projects, but who knows, maybe we’ll get it back to it one day when we both have a bit of time on our hands.

ZME: Please give your professional opinion on Melanie’s debut album My name. I’m sure you’ve listened to it a bunch of times and considering you’ve worked with her for such a long time, it would be more than relevant to hear what you have to say about it. Also, do you see yourself maybe performing any of her songs with her on stage, as a special live duet? Just humour me.
P.S. Wikipedia (which I know is the least trustworthy website) mentions about Melanie’s album the following: that she also collaborated with you on her debut work. Is that true? If so, what exactly did you help aut with for her album? Here is the statement: En septembre 2009, elle sort son premier album My Name dans lequel elle collabore avec Julien Doré, Phoebe Killdeer, Villeneuve ou encore Thomas Dybdahl.

They would be talking about songwriting, I co-wrote ‚’If you knew’ with her.
I think it’s a great album of introduction, I love her velvet voice. They are some great songs on there, like ‚Helsinki’ is one of my favorites along with ‚my name’. But I would tell everyone to go and see her live because the way she interpretes them on stage is even more charming, she has such a great stage presence, she’s really at home up there. We have actually already sung a few duets on her show, we sang ‚one silver dollar’ by Marilyn Monroe.

Phoebe Killdeer & Melanie Pain – One Silver Dollar (Cover)

Phoebe Killdeer 3ZME: Something happened and you left Nouvelle Vague – to start your own work with the Short Straws. Please tell us why you felt it was time to stop collaborating with NV (sick of making covers all the time and wanting to perform your own music, or was there something more to it?).

I felt like my performance was becoming repetitive and empty or hollow. Its when I felt myself thinking about what color I should paint the walls of my flat this summer whilst performing onstage that I said to myself, I can’t do this anymore. I felt I had given all I had to the 250 versions of each song I had performed, I needed a change and Marc must of felt it as that’s when he asked me about producing my first album.

ZME: How did you start working with The Short Straws? Why did you choose them exactly? Please include a short description of the band members, what X does, and why does he do it so well that it made you decide to work with them.

Actually, I was introduced to Cedric Le Roux (guitarist) by Melanie Pain. She was working at the time with a band called Villeneuve with whom Cedric also played and I saw them perform one night and I knew instantely Cedric and I were going to get along just fine. It was like finding my partner in crime. He has the sound that I was looking for and incredible stage presence, he is a hook maker and holds a groove like no other. Cedric introduced me to Raphael Segunier (drums) who has a fantastic way of using the drums, he tunes the drum kit to the key of the actual song we will be working on and then makes magic, he has an ability to make the drum tell the story, he can be sensitive and one hit later be aggressive and heavy, one of the best drummers I’ve ever come across. And then there is Alexandre Maillard (Bass) plays with extreme texture and heaviness, he manages to produce sounds with his bass that are really cinematographic, he also has a dramatic sense of the stage which I love. All of them care immensly about the sound their instrument produces and they all take great care and precision to get what they want to hear. It’s a real pleasure working with them.

ZME: Please tell us about the concept behind your first album – Weather’s coming … Also, did you personally write all the lyrics, or was it team work involved? Finally, the use of instruments is impressive. I’m always surprised to see how each of you manages to handle them all at once. Just wanted to congratulate you for this beautiful mix of instruments – no question about that.

‚Weather’s coming…’ means something is coming, a change is coming and I think it portrays what was happening to me at the time: releasing my first album. It also describes the many emotions I wanted to communicate in this first album, I didn’t want the whole album to have one atmosphere, I wanted it to travel emotionally and musically. I wrote all the lyrics, they are a very important part of the writing to me, I have always payed attention to the lyrics of a song.

ZME: has made a very nice video of one of your concerts with the Short Straws. Tell us the story behind Paranoia and also Chaos. Why wasn’t Chaos included on the album? Or is it not a song with The Short Straws?

The Grandcrew crew are really a lovely bunch of people doing professional work in a very easy going way, it was so simple to work with them, a real pleasure. Well the story behind ‚Paranoia’ is pretty obvious, it describes mostly people who are slowly but surely loosing it in the big city, the social pressures of being up to level or in. ‚Chaos’ talks about chaos creeping into your life and tempting you to do something you wouldn’t, it’s about breaking free and letting it all go. ‚Chaos’ actually came out on a compilation done by Marc Collin called ‚Late Night Tales’.

ZME: You’ve recently done a live performance with Tigerman, I think it was in December 2009. It was &Then came the pain. This live version is so much better than the recorded one, in my opinion. I was deeply impressed with it, especially your savy and witty attitude throughout the song, especially the „It was not that long agooo ”. I love that. Every time I see it, I picture Meryl Streep acting in front of the camera for a new movie. Anyway, it’s great. Please tell us about this collaboration with Tigerman – Why him? Why now? And would you agree that this live version is better than the one recorded on his album?

Well we actually have the same promoter/booker in Portugal and he put us in touch when Tigerman was looking for vocalist for his Femina project. I am really happy to have made contact with him and been able to take part in his project, I think he’s a very talented artist. Why not now! I think generally live versions of songs sound better because they have had a chance to get out there and live, breathe and they have had time to mature and grow into something real.

Phoebe Killdeer & Tigerman – & Then Came The Pain

ZME: Please mention 10 bands you like listening to when you’re at home, relaxing, or when working, or doing chores, etc.

Paris, Texas (soundtrack) – Ry Cooder
Jazz FM Radio
Nat King Cole – A mis amigos
In the heat of the night (soundtrack)
Strip 005 – Jungle Exotica!
Yma Sumac – Xtabay
Captain Beefheart and the magic band – Bluejeans & moonbeams
Tom Waits – The Asylum Years
Clare and the reasons – The Movie
Mercedes Sosa – Gracias a la vida

ZME: Let’s imagine the perfect party: mention 10 tracks you always want to hear, in order for the party to be a successful one.

Volare – Dean Martin
Everybody Knows – Leonard Cohen
Herbie Hancock – Chameleon
Beat it – Micheal Jackson
Nina Simone – See-Line Woman (Masters at Work remix)
The Coasters – smokey joe’s café
Spektrum – Horny Pony
Speed Ball Baby
Nick Cave – I’m on Fire
Violent femmes

ZME: If you could choose the list for a festival, whom would you love to see performing, next to your name? You can ignore time frames and choose bands that aren’t performing anymore. Let’s say there should be 6-7 names, next to yours.

The Ex, Laurie Anderson, Miriam Makeba & Harry Bellafonte, Yma Sumac, Carmen McRae, Heavy Trash, Kip Tyler and his Flips, and many many more…

ZME: I see a lot of upcoming shows on your Myspace page. When can we expect to see you somewhere else throughout Europe, and when will I be able to attend a Phoebe Killdeer concert in Romania?

Soon I hope, we would love to come and perform in Romania!

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