Anoche tuvimos el gran placer de ver actuar por primera vez en Madrid, dentro de la programación de Electrónica en Abril, a Annika Henderson, una chica angloalemana de 23 años, ex periodista política y que, desde Bristol y con el padrinazgo de Geoff Barrow (Portishead) tensa canciones pop aparentemente dulces con ruido, suciedad y bases machaconas de herencia dub, todo ello dotado de una lectura política y social. Días antes, de cara a un texto sobre el festival que ayer se publicó en La Luna de Metrópoli, le envié un cuestionario por email, que aquí reproduzco en su inglés original e incorrecto.
Your album ("Anika", 2010) is basically made of cover versions, although I’ve read you had a lot of songs written since very young. What moved you to choose mostly someone else’s songs instead of yours?
It being the kind of project that it is, I think an album full of our own writing would have been too inaccessible. By recording covers, it gave people an original to compare our version of the song to. It offered a juxtaposition whereby the sweet original was sat next to our darker, twisted interpretation. A lot of people didn’t even realize it was an album mostly covers because we had messed with the songs so much. We wanted to go against the trend of over-produced sickly sweet Nokia folk and so twisting sweet 60s songs was tremendously gratifying… more so than just writing lyrics that overtly rejected it.
I know there is a political commentary in your approach to the original songs. I see some of them are quite naïve 60’s songs and you make them dirty and dark. The Dylan ("Masters Of War") and the Yoko Ono ("Yang Yang") ones are political songs that you take from a contemporary perspective. But… are there many more intentions in that?
The reason the Yoko song appealed to me was because I liked the words and the way the lyrics sounded when I spoke them. It was only after that I appreciated the song’s true meaning. I have a penchant for languages and words, so yang yang was just an appealing song. I learnt german before I learnt English and have moved around a lot picking up bits of welsh, Birmingham, Swedish. I think this is why my accent is a little confused. With regards to Bob Dylan’s song, it appealed because of the intelligent argument the song puts forward. There is a huge lack of political songs these days apart from perhaps the odd U2 song, that is so far removed from our every day issues that it’s not really a protest song, more a charity record. Dylan’s song was a direct comment on those that sit in the background, in the comfort of their mansions, handing the guns to those who go out and risk their lives. The song is just as relevant now as it was then and that is what is so good about it.
There are some current bands inspired by 60’s girl groups, taking back that sound from an indie lo-fi perspective, quite nostalgic (Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls, Tennis…) Have you listened to them? What’s your opinion?
Yes. I just djed at the fat Possum showcase with Tennis in SXSW. They are covering the Beach Boys side of the 60's, which is great and very pleasant but we deal with the parallel universe.
Were you a Portishead fan before collaborating with Geoff Barrow?
Yes but I only realized it was Geoff ‘Portishead’ Barrow during the 3rd recording session or something. I just liked what they did and Geoff is a very unassuming character.
What were the contributions of the Beak guys to the sound of the record? Did they contribute many ideas or were they mainly yours?
It was an equal contribution process. We all put forward cover ideas and we jammed together, recording things as they came. That’s the way Beak and Anika work. We’re all in the same room but focusing entirely on our own bit, in our own universe but slotting it in with the stuff around us. It’s a nice way to record.
Are there many differences between the record and your live sound?
Yes I think the live show helps people understand the record more. Plus we’ve all developed quite a bit since. We recorded the record so quickly that now we have moved on quite considerably. I’m looking forward to the next record! The backing band is made up of Matt and Billy from Beak and two new members: Andy and Rasha.
How do people usually react in your shows? You consider your music as confrontational and uneasy, but it can be very hypnotic too…
Yes. I always think I am making people feel uncomfortable but they often say the opposite: that they felt VERY comfortable…
Do you have more cover versions in your live repertoire? More songs of yours?
Yes, there’s a few additional songs in the live set (en Madrid tocó "Love Buzz" de Shocking Blue, popularizada por Nirvana, y, según me reveló mi compañero Carlos Barreiro, una de Chromatics). We have just finished recording a short EP. It’s a nice middle step between the next album.
Are you fed up of all the Nico comparisons?
I’m German and I’m blond. OK. So well done. People always need to compare and contrast to understand and I suppose German blond musicians aren’t that common.
Your current favorite artists?
I like Soft Moon, Factory Floor and the new PJ Harvey album.
The End Of The World