Interview: Sister Bliss, Faithless
I had the pleasure of speaking to a fair-haired lady by the name of Sister Bliss; a cohesive and central part of the British electronica band ‘Faithless’; and probably one of the coolest chicks i’ve ever had the pleasure to speak with. She shared her heart with me delving into the abyss of controversial film clips to the summer hype of Australia’s Good Vibrations Festival due to shake the ground in early February 2011.
How are you finding England at this time of year?
Well, the sun is out, the snow is down – so it’s looking very gorgeous, however it’s very very cold; but I’ve got my thermals on…so this is good.
Well, I’ve never actually touched snow before…
Awwwwww, that’s so sweet. Well, you’re not missing too much, let me just say that it’s kinda cold and wet, and dogs like to pee in it and then it goes brown. It has its little fairy-tale moments, but then it’s just horrible. Old people fall over in it and hurt themselves so that’s not good. The whole country grinds to a halt when it snows, so I think that you’re probably better off where you are – don’t worry too much about it.
Well you’re in for some great weather at Good Vibes next year!
I can’t wait! That’s something that we’re so excited about; getting out of the English winter and coming to play to a really fantastic crowd; I’ve heard really good things about Good Vibes. More importantly the line-up is just outstanding this year excluding ourselves. I just can’t wait to see the other artists! Cee-lo [Cee-Lo Green] is bomb, and Janelle Monae is a wicked singer, Phoenix is a really cool band too – it’s just a great line-up with some pretty cool DJ’s thrown in as well. I get to hang out with my man Sasha! I mean what more can I say? It’s just absolutely rocking and we love playing festivals!
We’re going to play lots of music from all the different ages of Faithless; from all 6 of our albums so people will get to hear a lot of the old stuff that they love, but at the same time they’ll get to hear a lot of music from our new album ‘The Dance’ as well. So we’re hoping that gives everyone a bit of a buzz and a lift.
I’ve been over in Australia more recently to DJ, but the band hasn’t been over for quite some time, so we’re really stoked to be coming and playing to a proper up-front Aussie crowd!
So who would you say is your favourite on the line-up for Good Vibes?
Well, I actually saw Janelle Monae a couple of months ago in London and she is just incredible; I don’t know why she isn’t ‘bigger’ in the UK, because to me she’s one of those people who’s got ‘big star’ quality. Her songs are kinda crazy and really musically interesting; there’s just so much going on within her music. She’s definitely someone that I would recommend as a ‘tip for the top’ – I love her album; The ArchAndroid – it’s really dense and interesting, and the production is fantastic.
Also, Cee-Lo [Cee-Lo Green] is an absolute God; what an amazing voice and what an amazing artist. Again [Cee-Lo Green] doesn’t really conform to mainstream expectations either.
I love that the whole line-up is a real treat; very beat driven, dance electronic music, yet it goes so much beyond that. The artists that I find really exciting are the ones that are totally happy to use beats and computers and synths and all my favourite gadgets, yet they create their own music with huge personality and a sincere soulfulness.
Phoenix is absolutely wicked too, but I’ve never seen them live before so I’m really looking forward to that. There’s also a little band from the UK called Fenech-Soler whose music I’ve been playing loads as a DJ. So it would be really good to meet them!
The fun about festivals is that you get to meet the other guys, hang out with them, and play great music and also listen to great music. I mean what a treat!
On your last album you produced a track called ‘Bombs’ which was quite controversial, to the extent that MTV refused to air the clip. Was this your intention for this clip?
Well MTV thought that it would be distressing for children, so they didn’t want to air it. But the truth of it is that children get murdered every day as a part of war and conflict. The song is a depiction of how much joy and beauty there is in the world in comparison to how much pain and misery there is in the world also; and what can we do to elevate this, what can we do to change our behaviour?
I mean it was actually a very simple song; almost like a comment on the kind of contradiction that is present every day, and I think that the video director really captured that. If you like heaven and hell in the same frame for example, you had a family running along a beach together holding hands while a nuclear bomb is going off behind them. It’s just saying that people are so creative and inspired, but they can use their creativity for the most horrible ends, and really can we not move away from that? We’re going to end up destroying the world and each other. The song is a really simple song, but I like that it was expressed in a really visual way.
The sad thing is that everything depicted in the film clip actually does happen. Of course it’s a metaphor but at the same time, so many children in the world are affected by war. I was pregnant at the time we wrote the song. My boy was actually in the video clip; he was only a couple of weeks old when we made the video and there is a moment in there where I’m giving him a little kiss on his nose. I guess we included that moment to express the lyric in the song “So much heaven, so much hell, so much love, so much pain, so much more than I thought this world could ever contain” – and that’s how I felt! You know, obviously I was full of ‘new mum’ hormones as well, but the first time I saw the video in full I was welling up in tears within the first few moments because it moved me so deeply.
Coming down to it all, I think that’s the point of Faithless music whether it is on this album, or the last album, or any album! We create an atmosphere; it’s not just supposed to be ‘controversial’ for the sake of it. It’s to comment on life, the universe and the human condition as we find it – without meaning to sound too ‘lofty’. I think that music that is devoid of emotion is completely pointless, but when a piece of music makes me feel something deep inside is when I love music the most. Music has the ability to connect people. Life is very random and screwed up, so sometimes a song can just bring you comfort or help to illuminate something, or make you feel less alone. So I still feel that Faithless has a bit of a ‘higher purpose’ if you will. I love when people ‘get off’ on our music with all the excitement and jump up and down and go nuts, but I also like that there is ‘food for thought’ within the lyrics. So it’s good that you can feel that beat when you’re listening to it in a club or at a festival, but it’s also good that our music is something you can chew over later.
I wouldn’t find making cheesy, disposable pop music satisfying at all. I think that’s maybe one of the reasons that Faithless has been around for so long; hopefully we haven’t compromised our lyrical integrity, and that we’re always seeking to connect and find different things to talk about. We’re very blessed that Maxi [vocalist] is such an astute lyricist and that he illuminates life in a very real way – and I think that people really appreciate that.
There is a lot of good publicity and ‘not-so-good’ publicity surrounding the release of your last album ‘The Dance’; the return to your roots is quite obvious to many. Why did you decide to return to your core sound after a long process of development?
I love the phrase ‘electronica’, and I really think that’s what Faithless is; we cover so much ground. From the very first record we put out we’ve never pigeon-holed ourselves; and it just so happened that a couple of our songs from our earlier albums have become enormous global anthems. From the beginning we’ve always visited other genres from ‘Trip-Hop’, ‘Funk’, ‘Hip-Hop’ to even classical music with an ambient sound; anything that’s got electronic roots is just what we like doing; even reggae and dub!
Now that I’ve had my son and he’s a bit older, I’m back DJ’ing loads and traveling a lot within the dance scene again. I’ve also resumed my residencies with Ministry Of Sound and Ibiza, I’ve travelled the world, I’ve played Summadayz Festival a number of times, and not so long ago I began to feel that I was smack-bang in the middle of a really thriving dance music scene. I started to think that so many people had just ripped us off! I mean, we do this better than anyone, so you’re bloody mad not to right?
I mean, I am a DJ and I do work in the clubs when I’m not out on the road with my band. I never thought about ‘The Dance’ as revisiting out roots because I’ve never stopped thinking forwards and making electronica music. Some of it has just been a little more ‘chilled’ like the times when I found myself being too fat to fit behind the decks.
Even though Faithless have released a couple of more melancholy and introspective albums, the core of our sound has always been dance and electronica – so I guess we’ve never really moved away from our roots. We’ve always used processed beats, samples and synthesizers – we always fascinate with new technology and that’s why the sound is always moving forwards rather than backwards, but we’ve always managed to keep it quintessentially Faithless.
I don’t really care what people think about the album, but I know that I’m proud of it and that it was the best that we could do. I mean the proof of the pudding is that some of the best DJ’s and producers in the world wanted to get involved and remix a lot of our tracks. We had contacts from people like Eric Prydz, Armin Van Buueran and The Temper Trap who have actually remixed the song that we did with Dougy [lead-singer of the Temper Trap] – which was such a good remix, I love what they did with that.
I mean, critics can love it and critics can hate it. I know we’re not the young kids on the block any more so people aren’t necessarily going to ‘champion’ it anymore, but I think that it’s a really great record. The other proof of the pudding is that the tracks on the album go down just as well as the anthems that people know and love! So I’m happy with it!
So if you could turn back to any point in history, which gig would you go to, and why?
Oh… I’d probably go back to our gig in Glastonbury again this year. We played second headline for Stevie Wonder on the main-stage and it was just incredible, and then I drank lots and lots of tequila afterwards so I would quite like to be that drunk again because it’s not something I do very often. I just had the best weekend ever; it was truly tremendous, it really was.
Originally written for www.theaureview.com