Wednesday, April 02, 2003


First published in The Badger, October 2002

JJ72 are fast becoming one of Ireland’s greatest exports. Having sold half a million copies of their debut album, the trio return with their second LP I To Sky, and an accompanying UK tour. BadgerMusic caught up with them on the Portsmouth leg of the tour...

“This is the best part of it.” says drummer Fergal Matthews. “Getting to travel the country and play gigs to the fans. The worst part is probably spending so much time with the same people, and kind of having to force yourself to get along with them.” Fergal’s been given a quick break from his bandmates tonight – nearby, bass player Hillary Woods and vocalist Mark Greaney are conversing with an over-enthusiastic presenter from Obscure FM in Somewhere-shire. “Well, not force yourself,” says Fergal, correcting a potentially difficult statement. “You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t want to.”

Given the success of the debut album, JJ72 have a lot to live up to with I To Sky, but the band aren’t hugely bothered, nor are they worried about competition from other artists. “I suppose there’s a bit of pressure now we’ve released it,” says Fergal. “Now we have to stand up to a lot of the other bands around, and we’re not near as commercial. They’ve all got their meat-and-potatoes tunes, haven’t they? Whereas I think we’ve got more soul-scratching tunes.
“It’s not a conscious decision to make a certain type of song,” Fergal continues, addressing the more mellow sound of I To Sky. “We were just young and naïve on the first album, and we thought we had to sound a certain way.”

Also noticeable is the closing track Oiche Mhaith, a Gaelic title but sung in English. Any hopes of an entire album – or even song – in Gaelic are quickly scuppered: “No, no, no!” cries Fergal. “We’re not at all fluent. We’ve forgotten anything we learned of it!” Nonetheless, it’s promising to see Irish music represented by something other than the sewage inflicted on the world by Louis Walsh.

“I think people don’t know that in Dublin there’s an awful lot of bands, like Melaton,” says Fergal, referring to JJ72’s support act for the UK tour (pretty good as well, by the way). “They’re the best of what’s going on at the minute. But all people hear is just your Samantha Mumbas and your Westlifes, which is a shame.” However, this isn’t the opinion of the whole group – Hillary is an unabashed pop princess, something which has caused the odd rift on the tour bus.

“She’s just a girl, and girls like dancing around and dressing up,” laughs Fergal, as he twirls a drumstick. “It’s obviously strange to have different sexes working together, but that’s just the way we wanted to do it.” JJ72’s boy/girl line-up, along with their widely-noted sex appeal, certainly makes the band stand out – but is it a positive or negative thing?

“Well, I suppose it’s a good thing to invite people to your music by the way you look, but when you actually listen to the music we make, I don’t think it’s relevant,” says Fergal, evidently keen to play down any pin-up status. “I think we’re quite unique, in a way. We’re not making music like anyone else. Maybe the look we have doesn’t suit the music we have, but that adds to it.”
So where do JJ72 see themselves going? On questioning the band’s long-term plans, Fergal is adamant that the present is more important.

“We love doing this. We love making music, but I don’t know. You never really know, so I suppose there’s that kind of fear involved, as to where you’re going to go.” But with two great albums under their belts, fans including Kelis and Bono, and a European tour approaching followed by further promotion in the States, you can’t help but think the only way is up for JJ72.

Return of the Sugababes

First published in The Badger, May 2002

They’re Number 1. They’re so cool it hurts. And they’re chatting exclusively to badgermusic.

“We are SO not cool!” protests Keisha Buchanan. “Not at all!” Britain hadn’t spawned a decent girl band since the Spice heyday, until three schoolgirls sneaked into the charts in Summer 2000. And they were bloody cool. 18 months on, and they’re even cooler. “It’s not that we’re cool, as such,” Keisha says modestly. “I just think people perceived it wrong. I just think we’re a bit… street.” Street, cool, whatever. Sugababes – made up of Keisha, new member Heidi Range and seasoned pro Mutya Buena – are back. And having just scored their first UK Number One, they’re not going about it half-arsed.

In the earlier days, the then-underage girls were tied down by numerous work restrictions. Having completed their GCSE’s and passing the ripe old age of 16 means things are now going to be a lot more different. “It’s much more exciting, and we’re definitely a lot happier,” enthuses Keisha, whilst Mutya (whose sinister glare could freeze lava) and Heidi (in contrast, a chirpy Scouser) saunter about in the background. “We’re working really hard now, and it feels right. We did absolutely no promotion for Overload, just two performances for CD:UK and Top Of The Pops, whereas now we can do a lot more venues and stuff like that. Also, we have experience now. With the first album, we recorded it when we were 14, and I don’t think we realised how important it was to perfect it. So we’ve worked really, really hard on the new one.”

The flop of the last Sugababes single Soul Sound led to them parting company with London Records – do the girls feel smug now they’re excelling without them? “No, not at all.” says a diplomatic Keisha. “We’re grateful to them. They saw talent and they signed it, just like they did with All Saints. It’s just that they wanted to take things one way, and we wanted to take it another.”
Keisha gives us an insight into this new direction: “It’s really diverse. It’s just a lot more soulful. It’s a bit rock, a bit R&B, a little bit hip-hop, just trying different flavours. Mutya does a bit of rapping, I even do a bit of MC-ing! I’m not Alesha from Mis-Teeq though, I’m not gonna give up my day job!” Enter!

The Sugababes’ latest single Freak Like Me showcases the genius art of bootlegging (ie. squishing two tracks together to end up with what’s usually a belter of a record). The practice has become increasingly popular in recent times, and thanks to the ‘babes, now sits happily at the top of the charts. Surely this defeats the purpose though? Not according to Keisha: “I think it’s good for the underground to get up to the commercial side, you know? No-one wants to be underground for the rest of their lives.” But are the girls worried that it might become too commercial?
“Yes!” Keisha hollers, frighteningly quickly. “I personally am. There’s already a lot of bootlegs out there, but as long as they’re good, it’s cool.” So what’s the Sugababes definition of ‘good’? “You’ve got to keep it raw, which is what we’ve done with Freak Like Me,” explains Keisha. “There’s been so many different versions and mixes of it so we just kept going back to the original. Good music is good music, and if you keep it a good bootleg then you can’t go wrong from there.”

The split with London Records wasn’t the only adjustment for the band. Original member Siobhan Donaghy left Sugababes to pursue her interest in fashion photography, although the press tend to favour the idea she was brutally turfed out by Mutya and Keisha. “At the end of the day, people are gonna assume stuff. I mean, we’ve known each other since we were seven. Siobhan left because she wasn’t happy, and that was it. She was an original Sugababe, and we’d never kick her out.”

Fear of stepping too far into commercial territory may have been heightened last September when former Atomic Kitten singer Heidi joined the band as Siobhan’s replacement. “It’s cool though, that Heidi is seen as quite pop,” says Keisha. “Since she joined, we’ve had younger kids coming up to us and asking us for autographs, and that never happened before. Before, people thought we were a bit moody and scary!”
And are you? “No, not at all!” laughs Keisha. “Anyone who meets us knows that. We are the bubbliest people. We are mad!! It’s just that in the start, we didn’t do press, and if we did it would be for, like, the NME. And there were smiley photos! They just didn’t want to put those out! But we do have personalities and hopefully now people will start to see that. From now on, you’re going to start seeing the real Sugababes.”

Who the L R LHB?

First published in The Badger, February 2002

Remember towards the end of last year, posters asking “Who is Dave Matthews?” plastered the boarded-up shops of Britain? All part of a mahoosive marketing campaign, to which the answer was “some American bloke who did that song on that mobile ad where the wailing banshee is inadvertently busking on the train platform.” A few months on, and you can expect to see similar posters covering the length and breadth of the country, thankfully plugging something slightly more worthwhile – the brilliant LHB and their equally brilliant album Tell ‘Em Who We Are.

Rather funnily, while Lee Wilson-Wolfe and Giles Barton excel as musicians, they lack a sensible bone in either body. And once again, the ropey name of our beloved publication causes puzzlement. “The Badger is a newspaper?!” exclaims Lee. “Oh right! We saw it written in brackets after your name and we thought it was, like, your nickname. Like a terrible DJ name or something.”

Already having received outstanding reviews for Tell ‘Em Who We Are, LHB look set to make it huge with their new single, the Sting-sampling Everybody Sees It On My Face, quite cleverly released in the wake of Sting’s recent Brit honours. “The Brits?” asks Lee. “What are they, then? I’ve been in the pub for the past couple of weeks.” It shows. “Did Kelis get anything?” No. “Why did Kelis not get anything?” She wasn’t nominated. “Oh.”

Whilst the new single nicks bits from Geordie yoga freaks, the other tracks on the album each showcase a different style of music. No two songs on Tell ‘Em Who We Are are even remotely similar – was this a conscious decision? “Ideally we wanted to avoid that,” they explain. “We wanted to go for one style, one feel, but that was just how it came out.” Although Lee names ELO as the band’s main influence, it’s easy to see why the album ended up so varied: “We love all music. I know it sounds really old, but all music is great. We’ll listen to Radio 1, then we’ll go to some weird pub and listen to old reggae. And it’s all great.”

Having already used the vocal talents of Imogen Heap and the aforementioned Sting, is there any one person, dead or alive, that they would like to work with? “Dead Or Alive,” says Lee, quick as a flash and seemingly rather proud of it. “Nah, joke. Maybe Chaka Khan?” he suggests while Giles thinks of his own ideal collaborator. “Seriously…” Lee continues. “…the Sultan of Brunei!”

LHB are like this throughout the whole interview, and it’s refreshing - so many dance acts are so desperate to maintain credibility they lose all personality. Lee also points out that they’re not musical snobs either – they respect all artists. Even the Pop Idol collective? “Yeah, it’s fun, cos pop is horribly shallow and shit anyway. It’s a bit like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, isn’t it? You win a prize at the end, your mum watches it, it’s just fun.”

Once LHB have the next single out of the way, they plan to continue promoting the album and possibly embark on a tour. And their long terms plans? “Well, death,” Lee proffers. “I hope to live a bit, and then die.” As he continues, it almost looks as though a straight answer is on the horizon: “We’d like to do a third album… and earn enough money to have people killed.” So near, yet so far. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: who would you spend your hard-earned cash on assassinating? Lee waits until his partner in crime is just out of earshot: “I’d kill Giles actually. But don’t tell him.”

The Cooper Temple Clause

First published in The Badger, January 2002

Holed up in a tiny windowless room somewhere inside the Concorde 2, The Cooper Temple Clause vegetate on a large leather sofa prior to their gig. Were it not for this sofa and the rock graffiti coating the walls and ceiling, this room could well pass for a Munchkinland gas chamber. Guitarist Dan points out his addition to the scribbles – someone has written an ode to childhood memory Ed The Duck, and Dan has corrected their spelling: “Edd The Duck has two D’s, you wanker”. Rock ‘n’ roll.

The Cooper Temple Clause have been touted as the next big thing for some time now. Radio 1 have given them plenty of support over the past few months, not to mention the assorted praise from numerous music publications. “It’s funny, more often than not,” says vocalist Ben. “We just go, ‘Kieran, look what they wrote about you’ and laugh.”

“It’s nice, but we don’t really feel like it’s us a lot of the time. We try not to get fazed by that kind of thing. Press pressure can be the worst thing to happen to people. I mean, The Strokes got huge press but they were ready for it. But then you’ve got Gay Dad and Ultrasound, who had so much exposure before they released, and…. well.” The pitiful tone in his voice says it all.

The band are fairly outspoken about their dislike of the marketing mentality of the music industry today – so assuming they manage to step out of their current guise as promising underdogs into the upper reaches of the chart, how would they get around that? “We haven’t really got any kind of political manifesto or scenario,” says Dan. “We just try to think on our feet a lot of the time. If it did happen, then we’d just try to address it in our own way.” Their rising success suggests they’re getting increasingly closer…

Last single Let’s Kill Music was less than a hundred sales short of a Top 40 placing, although they made quite an astonishing achievement that week. While the tabloids were blowing the Posh vs Kylie non-argument out of proportion, the CTC outsold the pair of them by miles in their home town of Reading.
“It was a very well co-ordinated buying plan. We had our parents buying, our cousins buying, our friends buying,” jokes Dan. “It goes to show that there could be a scene or a market in Reading, but there’s just no outlet for it. There’s just that monotonous thing of going to your Ben Sherman sort of pubs, then going to a club and listening to whatever music’s in the charts.” And what do these Ben Sherman, Reebok-Classicked wideboy types make of the festival that invades their home annually? “They tend to just stay indoors,” Ben sneers. “Although I think they liked Eminem!”

The CTC list their influences as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Blur, Massive Attack, Spiritualized and Portishead to name just a small fraction. But the varied blend of musical preferences within the group can sometimes be an issue: “Often, three of the band will really like something intensely, one will think it’s okay, then the other two won’t like it at all,” Dan explains. “When we started out, we were all in the same bracket, whereas now everyone explores different avenues of music. It’s very healthy, someone might bring in a record we wouldn’t normally have heard, so you get exposed to a lot of different music.”
“Except Tom.” adds Kieran. “Tom plays the same record over and over again.” The rest of the band groan in unfortunate agreement. Dan divulges: “It’s this really hardcore Northern drum ‘n’ bass remix of that Madonna song Music, with all this [cue fifteen seconds worth of an interesting vocal interpretation of random D’n’B noises], which he plays about 10 times a day. He’s one boring fucker.”

Love of ropey remixes aside, the Cooper Temple Clause have a lot to offer, and thankfully it’s beginning to reach further than their Reading fanbase. Debut album See This Through And Leave is to be followed by a Japanese tour, and a showcase in Texas for US record companies. This band will go a long, long way – and in a year’s time, it’ll be nice to remember that they stopped off at The Badger.

Mull Historical Society

First published in The Badger, June 2003

There are two types of ‘nice’ in the music industry: the poorly-crafted sunshine-in-a-jar as demonstrated by the late Steps, and the genuinely decent examples of humanity in a world of insolent, revolting self-interested divas.

Thank heavens, then, for Colin Macintyre, aka Mull Historical Society, a normal bloke with a cordial manner and an unquestionable talent. But as a one-man band, Colin suffers from the increasingly common perplexing pop plural/singular syndrome, as previously demonstrated by The Streets and Roots Manuva. It must be annoying to be constantly referred to as a “them”.

“Sometimes! I’ll be honest!” says Colin. “Well, it doesn’t really annoy me, as I guess it’s confusing. On a creative level, I know I do it myself, but if it keeps going the right way I’m sure people will be aware of that. Y’know, as long as the music’s doing well.”

While mainstream success is only a recent achievement for Colin, the now-famous Mull Historical Society Dog-In-A-Wig stamp has been identifiable for some time. Plastered all over both albums and all MHS merchandise, is Colin worried the dog in the wig will take over? “When I first saw the image, I just liked it. It’s something recognisable,” says Colin. “It’s good to have a brand, I think. I’ve even got it on my business cards! I paid some ridiculous amount of money to use it, so I’m gonna keep using it!”

On the subject of image, Colin often finds himself the recipient of female attention. While the fandom levels have yet to reach Osmond proportions, how does it feel to be branded a sex symbol? “Is this a question for the dog in the wig or me?” laughs Colin. “What can I say? It’s not the reason I’m doing what I do. For me, it sounds dull when musicians say it’s all about the music, so it’s good to have a bit of a laugh.” He chuckles sheepishly. “That’s how I avoid that question!”

However, Colin’s not entirely opposed to the visual side of things, having developed a quirky, kooky characteristic that runs through each MHS promo, from sheep-wrestling to human rabbits to a mini-Colin hiding in the anorak pocket of a regular sized Colin. Purely fun or have we missed some deeper postmodern meaning? “There’s always a bit of the lyrical content in the visual,” he explains. “But at the same time I like the idea of not taking yourself too seriously. It’s kind of early days, so touch wood, I can make a lot more videos, maybe something with a lot more power to it.”

Early days it may be, but the pattern of MHS chart positions suggests greatness is on the horizon. How will things change should Colin successfully pull a Travis? “Oh God, I don’t know! I’ll start wearing that wig that the dog wears, I think!” groans Colin. “Back in the rehearsal rooms in Glasgow before any of this started, I thought ‘I don’t really know if I want that’. But that’s partly why I chose the name. If it becomes bigger and bigger, I’ll feel I’ve got something to hide behind.”

However, the MHS profile is being raised constantly. Colin’s recent appearance on BBC Three’s Re:Covered saw him performing a version of Ms Dynamite’s It Takes More. “Two or three days before filming I still hadn’t got a way of doing it. I was still worrying about it at 7 o’clock that morning! And then it came to me on the flight from Glasgow to London, the do-do-do’s and the bassline. I scribbled it all down on a sick bag! You can tell how much I was worrying about it, I was pulling out sick bags! I’d like to think I could write all types of music, given the chance. At the moment, I’m focusing on what I do but it’s quite nice to have a challenge like that.”

“Sometimes I have the most ridiculous songs come into my head, and I think ‘I can’t possibly record this’. Maybe someone in Eurovision can?” he laughs. Now there’s a challenge – after the hilarious failure of Jemini and the supposed promise from Thom Yorke to represent the UK next year, would Colin ever cross that vintage pan-European line of no credibility? “Maybe! Let me think...” muses Colin, reaching for a copy of Us to browse the tracklisting. “I think a big cheesy version of Am I Wrong might work! I can imagine it all big and throwaway.”

We’ll have to wait a year to see whether that happens, but until then you can catch Mull Historical Society on an equally high profile bill supporting REM. Alternatively you can find out what the critics have been creaming themselves over, via the second album Us. “It’s good that it’s out there, and I’m really proud of it,” says Colin. “But you can’t stand still – I’m already thinking of the next record. You’ve got to keep evolving.”

A Knight To Remember

First published in The Badger, February 2003

We catch up with the million-selling Wolverhampton wonderwoman

It’s a pity Tim Wheeler from Ash isn’t a regular Badger reader. It would probably interest the Nicest Bloke In Pop to know that we’ve found his female counterpart – triple MOBO winner, crown princess of celebrity humanity, and best thing to come out of the Midlands since Ozzy Osbourne, Miss Beverley Knight.

“Bloody hell!” hollers Beverley, aghast. “Did you see it? My God!”. Yes, the inescapable aftermath of the Michael Jackson documentary has managed to infiltrate the entire British population, fellow musicians no exception. “My overwhelming thought was that this is a genius, desperately flawed, a lot closer to madness than any of us probably even realised. I just think he is utterly and hopelessly lost.” Anyone with ears cannot fail to form an opinion on the topic, but does something like this affect someone in the public eye in a different way?

“More than the Jacko model, which is so removed from any of us, I look at Victoria and David Beckham – who are really nice people, don’t believe the hype – and I think about how some nutter tries to snatch their children away from them. It makes me think ‘I just wanna make music, thanks’, and if people come up to me in the street and yell ‘YEAH BEV!! Y’alright?’, that’ll do me!”

However, it seems solely making music is a more challenging task lately, given the influx of TV-produced fly-by-nights, something which Beverley feels strongly about. “I think it’s shocking. It has really damaged the music industry. The industry is so busy chasing that dollar sign that it’s neglected people that they’d pick and nurture and develop who’ll go on to be the superstars of tomorrow. It’s like building a house and forgetting to dig your foundations. It’s gonna fall down eventually.” An interesting comment from a woman who’s just duetted with Fame Academy’s Lemar – was Beverley a secret fan of the show?

“Oh, bollocks to the show! The show was an absolute pile of shit!” she cackles. “I saw the saw the show twice and I saw Lemar, and I thought ‘I don’t know who he is but he’s really good’. He just happened to be on a God-awful hell-hole of a TV show.”

The ongoing crossovers from music into other fields have not evaded Beverley Knight, whose recent foray outside the charts saw her presenting a Brits preview show. “Oh my God, don’t remind me!” groans Beverley in genuine embarrassment. “I’m not a presenter. I’d prefer to be on TV with a microphone and my band behind me. Cat Deeley I ain’t!” Being nominated for two Brits must be exciting though – how does Beverley fancy her chances?

“Oh, remote!” she laughs, clearly not bothered. “It’s been a great year for Ms Dynamite, and The Streets and The Coral. But I didn’t build my career on accolades. They certainly have helped, but it wasn’t the be-all and end-all. I’m just gonna go along, put on a frock and enjoy the show.”

Discussing awards and promotion is all well and good, but there is another side to Beverley Knight. Last year, Beverley travelled to Brazil to undertake some charity work, something which underlines her sheer determination and compassion. “It came about with Christian Aid asking me to be an ambassador for them abroad, looking at the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Central and South America. They hadn’t realised that my dearest, closest, best friend is HIV positive so they hadn’t realised how deep it ran with me until I came on board.”

“Brazil was absolutely awesome, but heartbreaking at the same time,” says Beverley. “We don’t have the same sense of community over here. And these are places you and I have never dreamt about, about how awful they could be. We sit in our houses watching reality TV, when these people are the ones making a difference.” So how has seeing life in Brazil altered Beverley’s own life?

“Dramatically. Every day those faces come into my dreams. It’s really made me think about the lives of those who are affected. It’s made me think a lot about how my friend is feeling. I don’t have Elton John’s money so I can’t set up a charity, but I can do something within that charity.”

This month, however, it’s back to the comparative 9 to 5 as Beverley releases the fourth single from Who I Am, the Wyclef-produced Shape Of You, before returning to the studio to write and record the next LP, which will differ greatly from the last.
“The album won’t be chirpy. It’s rawer. Some not-great things have happened, and it’s given me a lot to draw on.” Her trip to Brazil will undoubtedly provide a part of this, but her best friend’s illness plays an even larger role, something which Beverley is quick to emphasise.
“He’s given me so much. He’s inspired me so much and if it wasn’t for him I’d never have seen the other side of using the fame thing in a positive way. That eternal optimism will always be running through me.”

Sincere Spice

First published in The Badger, June 2003

Melanie C talks exclusively to the badger about life after Spice and life as a solo artist

Technically, the badger is a tabloid. As a regular publication measuring 12 by 16 inches, we cannot help but meet the definition of the one word Melanie Chisholm hates with a burning fury.
So let’s thank our lucky stars she’s overlooked our unfortunate pigeonholing, as we have been granted an exclusive interview with the lady herself. Backstage at the Southampton leg of her UK tour, Melanie C is all smiles and more than happy to give us an insight into her world.

“The tour has been fantastic, it’s been very well received,” says Melanie in sing-song mild Scouse. “The album is still really, really fresh so it’s a nice little indicator of how the fans are reacting to it, and it’s been very positive. Very mixed audiences as well, which is always nice to see, that you’ve got a broad fanbase.”

“The worst part is the tiredness,” she groans, after letting out a yawn so colossal you wonder whether she unhinged her bottom jaw to achieve it. “It’s not even so much the physical thing. Vocally, it’s frustrating because I just want to be free on stage every night and be able to just enjoy it but I’m ten gigs in now, and I’ve gotta rely on my technique because my vocal chords are really quite knackered. And a bit... fucked, basically!”

Tut-tut, young lady. Such language may be unlikely from a popstar but Mel C shuns the mould these days. Gone is the timid, ponytailed, pre-packaged-sweetness-and-light fifth-of-a-phenomenon, and in her place exists a striking woman; genuine, funny, and most importantly, real.

Melanie C is perched on a dilapidated yellow couch in her dressing room, far from the luxurious demands one might expect to be mandatory for an über-platinum chart champ. Clearly, touring is a major thing for Melanie, and no amount of travel, backstage hovels or sleep depravation will stand in her way. “Just being up there, just that feeling. The band’s getting really tight now and we’ve got a really good relationship, all of us together. I think there’s a good chemistry so there’s just that buzz when we’re on stage. And of course, when you’re jumping and singing the words it’s the relationship you have with the audience as well.”

“When people say ‘touring’s really important to you’, it’s like, touring is the be-all and end-all, really. It’s so funny when people ask that question, because, y’know, I’m a singer: what do I wanna do? I wanna fucking sing!” But surely in today’s dollar-driven music industry, this is a rare occurrence? “I know! It’s really weird, isn’t it? It just depends on the individual what you want out of your career,” explains Melanie. “For me, it’s just totally about being a performer. I’m not interested in being a celebrity, but you’ve got people like fucking J-Lo who’s got her clothing range and her fucking perfume?! Great, if you wanna do all that, but I haven’t even got enough energy to do all this!”

It’s been a long while since Melanie held a similarly multimedia role. Almost four years since the Spice Girls last performed together, all members are often quick to scupper rumours of a reunion. But why were the band less eager to actually announce the split in the first place?
“For a long time, there were certain members of the band that didn’t want it to be,” admits Melanie. “And then it actually got to the point where it was so long that we felt like we didn’t want to make a big deal of it. For one thing, everyone gets fucking hounded by the paparazzi anyway. And another thing, we didn’t want to look like we thought anybody would give a shit, really. We didn’t want to be that self-obsessed that we had to make a statement.”

I ask Melanie if there was any truth in Victoria and Mel B’s autobiographies, where they stated she was the least keen to continue. “Oh yeah. Absolutely.” she plaintively replies, before a delayed reaction kicks in several seconds later, eyes widening. “Did they say that?! Hahaha!”

Not content with inadvertently stirring up a cauldron full of shit with her aforementioned Spice colleagues, I surprise Melanie with a quote from three years ago, where she claimed ‘Simon Fuller needs to work with robots who have absolutely no emotion, and no brain’ – does she hold the same views now Emma’s gone back to him?

“Er... I was really upset that she went back to him,” answers Melanie honestly, while craftily avoiding the juicy part of the question. Elsewhere in the dressing room, her PA Ying, who’s popped in briefly, stifles a giggle. “Courteously, Emma called us all and told us individually but I’d already heard on the grapevine anyway, and I didn’t believe it. I was shocked and I was upset, but it’s her choice.”

Although the Spice Girls are well and truly over, there must be residual shades of Sporty hanging around – when did Melanie last do a backflip? “I did a backflip last summer, in my mum’s garden!” she laughs. “I just wanted to see if I could do one or not! And I could, I managed it!”

While she may be diplomatic about her former Spice colleagues, the catfight-craving Heat Magazine readers among us will be pleased to learn Mel’s happy to sharpen her claws for certain individuals, albeit with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

“That fucking Cheeky Girls new song is abysmal,” spits Melanie, half joking and half incensed. “I really liked Touch My Bum, I thought that was pop genius! And bless them, [adopts hilarious generic Eastern European accent] they’re just sitting there with their terrible English. But it’s like, aaaaarrggh! Fuck off! Hahaha!”

The tabloids (there’s that dirty word again) have been quick to maul the sales figures of Melanie’s second album Reason, despite the fact it’s sold more than Northern Star did at the same stage. But it isn’t chart positions and platinum discs that keep Mel ticking.

“My ultimate goal is to stay happy and just keep making music, to improve as an artist, a writer and a performer,” Melanie reveals. “It would be nice to maintain my success and it’d be even nicer to surpass that.”
And with that attitude, you can’t help but think she’s going to succeed.
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