Wednesday, April 02, 2003

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 ├╝ber-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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