The Life Fantastic
Sometimes a decision turns out to be a good one. Having been offered new Mariann Rosa projects to help with and having been a sometime fan of Norwegian electro-pop group Surferosa, which Ms Rosa of course fronted, I opted to invite her out to discuss her latest adventures over a sprawling lunchtime session in Soho. Any slight fears that the Scandinavian songstress might be a bit of a handful or OTT were swiftly dispelled buy the arrival of the lithe blonde singer, somewhat fatigued by an energetic promo gig in Hoxton the previous night, but brighteyed, quick-witted, funny and appreciative. Oh and looking gorgeous. (Keep your Beauty & the Beast jibes, I have heard them all before…)
I am going to get you to pull the Frikkin’ Fantastic single cover face, Mariann..
Ha! We’ll see..
To start off, I do know about your previous band stint with Surferosa so I’d like to ask you please about some of the songs you did..the group struck me as having elements of Blondie, The Cars, maybe The Pretenders..but with your edgy voice. Is Surferosa still an existing band alongside your solo work? Like a No Doubt/Gwen Stefani thing?
(Sighs) If they paid us enough ,money, then maybe we could think about it, but I can’t see any reunion in the near future, to be frank
Lucky Lipstick..it seemed to be about girls becoming just fashion machines.
Yeah, let me tell you about that song. There were so many good-looking girls on every street and dance floor, I was moving to Oslo. I had lived in Oslo for six months when I wrote that song. I was living with three other people and they were partying all the time and this night I wasn’t going out, so I just wrote that song. All the girls out on the street they all looked so good, so amazing. And this guy – won’t mention his name – he was struck on me and he bought me this lipstick. It was green, when you put it on your lips it went pink and then lasted for three days..so that was my lucky lipstick, hence the opening line of the song (she sings it – PS)
One thing about Surferosa, unlike a lot of new acts, you seemed to get the keys right, for the vocals
Because I’m pushing my voice all the time, it sounds like I’m not in a high pitch, but I AM in a high pitch…but now, I am more daring, I can go down and then up more than I did then. I try to experiment with my voice all the time ..I don’t think people have heard what’s in my throat 100 per cent yet
You didn’t sound shrill, you hit the notes..just accept a compliment!
(Laughs) Thank you!
Chinese Moon…it’s Bowie-ish
Chinese Moon! Nothing to do with Bowie, I’ve always been in love with Bowie, though. I had this vision, twelve years ago, that I wanted a number One song in Germany and Number one in China, everywhere ! I wanted to go on tour in Asia..in 2008 we did go on tour in China..went to Shanghai and I cried, our first album was called Shanghai My Heart
(this record is in my bag, awaiting signature – PS)
I do suggest you are influence by Bowie, both visually and sonically
(Dreamily) I wish I was young and in London in 1968..I think I was born in the wrong period of time..I don’t belong in this modern world ! It’s like, I don’t know – nostalgic
Some songs reminded me of Iggy Pop
Yeah! I like Iggy Pop..I like The Stooges
One time I saw Iggy in London he had Sonic Smith from the MC5 on guitar..
Neon Commando was very radio-friendly, with the cowbell and everything, did that get you radio play?
Loads! Loads of it ..was a big hit. That song, I wrote it for Japan, it’s all about Japan
My favourite is Kanuba Toystore
You’re kidding, Pete, right??
No, it’s got a great vocal ..and it’s a freedom call, isn’t it?
Yes – it’s in a fantasy world, where everything is totally different and all the rules are totally changed..everything looks really different
There’s an outfit over here from Scotland from years ago called The Rezillos and they do seem to be the predecessors of Surferosa in some ways – energetic pop rock, striking looks…and maybe Devo
(Explodes) Yes !! ( Sings) Whip it! …real good! Ha ! I read your mind ! ..I’m a mind-reader (hopefully not – PS)
Tell me about your DJ gig last night..
Not DJ’ing last night, but performing..new single launch for Frikkin’ Fantastic but I played a whole set…
Can I have single or promo of that?
It’s on the internet, not physical…BUT I will have a gift for you next year as I plan to put it on vinyl.
Fine..who was in the band with you last night for the solo show then?
My guitarist Dominic and my drummer Nathan Griffiths and on keys Jordan..
When you choose a set, Mariann do you include any future album tracks?
I did the whole album (Hype, out soon and with a full launch in Norway – PS)
Blondie started off as quite edgy, rocky..Rip Her To Shreds. But very quickly they became mainstream
Yeah..with Surferosa we started doing TV shows, had a string of hits and radio exposure, but to be honest the label didn’t seem to a great job with us in the UK..but we were touring with The Killers which helped us..they had to release a song three time and then it took off for them…with Lucky Lipstick it should have been rereleased, I think….they didn’t want to do that cos of money
I have a favourite David Bowie album,,,do you have one?
(Emphatically) PinUps..I love all the songs
I like Station To Station
Yes! I like the album Low, as well..what he did with Iggy Pop in Berlin was amazing, crazy..I met Bowie in New York , when we were there on tour.I was freaked out! I thought **** , it’s Bowie…when he was in the VIP part upstairs, I thought, I may not get this chance to say Hello again..I said Hi I’m Mariann, he said I’m David, do sit down.I’m like, yeah! So I was chatting to him and another chap who was there, about music. I grabbed a Shanghai album and gave it to him
(We discuss how writing and reviewing takes all your fear away from meeting creators)
(Reflects) You know what? I would rather be remembered, than rich. Remembered for doing something. That’s why I keep doing things, new things all the time
Your best and most satisfying work is ahead of you.
I am really fond of sound, playing vinyl..it inspires me. And I go to see other bands and other artists. I may put the album out in a different format in the UK and not for Norway. Some of the guitar sounds are treated..like Bowie style really
Hell I know about all that, I use different tones all the time…you know what Adrian Belew did on Talking Heads Remain In Light?
I have that! – it’s a cool album, it really is…when I was in LA three years ago..it wasn’t really a holiday, because something happened every day there, I wrote a song with the bass player of The Killers..I was supposed to relax, y’know, read a book – it never happened! I was walking down the street, Sunset Strip to go and have a coffee and this car pulls up – Hey Mariann ! jump in..I didn’t really want to go but I gave in and then we drove all the way up into the Hollywood Hills and we stopped near this futuristic looking house. It was like a movie, y’know..girls in the pool. And this old guy greeted us..it was The Doors’ manager..everything was surreal! So interesting things happen ALL the time..I did Whole Lotta Love a capella on National TV once..it was fun..stripped back, Pete
The worst thing you can do with music is fill every space with sound and play too fast…it removes all feeling, all sexiness..
That’s why my vocals are not – by design – perfect on my album, they’re just real.. to keep that humanity and feeling there. I am hard on myself when I sing, my producer always wants to leave the quirky phrases in and not clean it up too much. And I’m like Why??? but yes if it’s not perfect it, will last forever.. am really into Nico (ex Velvet Underground – PS) ..I would love to cover Each Day..
I want to ask you about Pop Idol..
Idol, that’s what the TV show was in Norway..yes, I was a judge. You know why I said yes to it? I was so sick and tired of the industry…all just pretty boys and girls getting the chances, we need some freaks! Some originals.. hey let’s put some colours in this! I didn’t agree with the others on the panel much. But ! three people that I really liked and pushed they are the ones still selling records and doing well..
Mariann Rosa’s new album ‘Hype’ is out now. For more information go to mariannrosa.com
You can read our review of Mariann Rosa’s single ‘Frikkin’ Fantastic’ here: https://justlistentothis.co.uk/reviews/mariann-rosa-frikkin-fantastic-single/
(Thanks Mariann..the theatre awaits, vinyl appreciated)