At around about the time you ‘the shark’ & Joe Gideon released your debut album ‘Harum Scarum’ back in 2009, I saw you guys play at a tiny little bar in white chapel. It was a powerful set and not having seen you play in your former band Bikini Atoll, I could sense the newness. It was also obvious you were carrying a baby bump whilst you bashed out those tunes. Does your little one think she has a cool mum?
I think so, but just because i’m her mum. Not because i play the drums. Although i’ll bring her this year to a few festivals and she can watch me play…
Was playing drums while pregnant an unusual experience?
Being pregnant is the unusual experience. Once you start playing a show you forget about everything…even being pregnant. My husband, also a drummer, used to stand in the audience grimacing, telling friends…”she’s hitting them too hard!”..worried about the impact it would have on the baby…I had to stop playing live at 8 months though mainly because i couldn’t bend down to reach the loop pedals, not because of the drum playing.
Before you began making music, you kept time in a very different arena and competed as a rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games, Barcelona, in 1992. What made you put down the ribbons for the drumsticks?
I got too old for the gymnastics. I couldn’t sustain the mental determination and stamina anymore to compete and needed to explore what else was out there. I could have stayed in the sport and coached but I needed to get out completely. I was desperate to experience life and the arts out of the restrictions of the gymnastics association, the organisation that chastised me for wearing ripped jeans to travel to a training camp. (this was the 80′s!) I had dedicated my life to training and competing and wanted to turn that focus to other things.
I went to Edinburgh university, left, joined a dance company, went to New York, studied at Alvin Ailey Dance school, came home, danced some more, disslocated my knee a couple of times, (one time too many…) at the same time Gideon was hounding me to do music with him. I hobbled in as keyboard player…got bored, picked up a guitar, got bored, got behind the drums….didn’t get bored! It’s the mixture of musicality, dancing and performing that i love about playing the drums. (plus my knees are safe!)
When I was young I performed in a dance championship… and with the help of my friend’s older sister we designed our own lycra outfits in banging yellow and hot pink. Who designed your outfits when you were competing as a rhythmic gymnast?
I did. I would design my leotards! And my sponsor would make them for me and give their own designs to me. And I would do the other girls hair and make up. I still love doing hair and make up. My 5 year old is a lucky girl.
We’ve seen you rocking a onesy when you play the drums. What is your favourite outfit to wear on stage?
Whatever i wear, there’s normally a catsuit involved.
Each song you guys perform takes you though a narrative journey and your loopy vocals and experimental keys really compliment the surreal story telling Joe G presents. What is your favourite character from your songwriting brother’s rhetoric of oddballs?
There are 2….himself in ‘I’m Ruined’….”the meter man came today…i was still in my dressing gown, but not in a good way” And our good friend Paul in ‘You the Pole and the Rastafarian’….Typical Paul passes out late on a tube going home… wakes up in Gospel Oak. It’s the end of the line, he jumps on the train with the tube driver who’s going to ‘drop him off’ and who rolls a spliff in the meantime. Oh… yeah and there’s a Polish dude and the train driver is… yes you guessed it….a rastafarian..
Do u both have input in the writing process?
Gid normally comes with the lyrics and the guitar line….i then add all the music and can twist it one way or another..
Did you and your brother squabble when you were kids? Did this have anything to do with your nickname The Shark?
I kind of adored him when i was younger..you know…like adoring your abuser. He was my big brother and i followed him around and he would trip me up, i would spill my juice, then get told off by mum for spilling the juice on the carpet…
The Shark name was born out of a list that he presented to me. I thought that was the only cool name on the list of potential band names. Initially I wasn’t going to be the Shark…it was just our band name. Then we played one of our first shows..it was at the Botanique in Belgium. I was walking around after and my friend heard someone say…”look, there’s the Shark”. That was it….I came home and wrote “The Shark” on my kick drum.
Your hubby is Mark from Archie Bronson Outfit, also a drummer, so I’m sure the gene pool for making noise is strong. Do you think your kids will take up music?
My daughters class teacher has just told us she’s a genius at holding a rhythm and leads the class with a tambourine when they’re singing songs..so it looks like it! And our 1 year old boy now screams and points at the stereo demanding music. We put it on and he starts doing a crazed yet focused dance on his bum. It’s actually driving us a bit mad…but yes, he also is clapping in time.
You have been invited to tour alongside some great bands. Who is the biggest backstage diva when getting ready – Nick Cave, Karen O or Jon Spencer?
i really couldn’t tell you! I tour alongside them…but i don’t get dressed with them!
We love the artwork for the album Freakish. Tell us about your artist, Josie Willey.
Ah Josie! She’s nuts….but didn’t she do a god job!! She just got it really. Gideon told her what we were after and she already had all these fantastic images that she had been working on for herself. We wanted them all really. But the cover was just a collaboration of ideas.
To sneak a peek at said artwork, purchase Joe Gideon and the Shark’s album HERE! Freakish x
Listen/Watch Viva’s playlist for Swanfield…
Goat – Let It Bleed
Serafina Steer – Night Before Mutiny
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Bellbottoms
The Kinks – Victoria
Archie Bronson Outfit – Run Gospel Singer
Joe Gideon & the Shark – Civilisation
Photography for the Swanfield Muse Project by Cat Stevens.
Garments and accessories by the swans.
Visit more from this shoot HERE.