Interview: Kylie Minogue
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Her latest album Aphrodite is not likely to reduce the worldwide phenomena of Kylie, and if anything revisits her early days of pint-sized pop sensationalism. "It's been described as a return to the dance floor; I don't think I ever totally left but it is a return to form I'd say," says 42-year-old Kylie.
You can see her point, after a glance at her singles back catalogue. '2 Hearts' (2007), for example, is catchy but fails to get you busting out your best dance moves. 'Slow', a number one in 2003, is also lacking that dance vibe.
After her well documented battle with breast cancer in 2005, Aphrodite provides a lighter alternative to Kylie's last album X in 2007. "I think a lot of what I do now is, in some way, coloured by the experience I had with illness. I guess I was just feeling like expressing joy at this point, I'd written songs more about that period in my life either on or for the last album, so I didn't feel like going through those again; this was about this moment, this time, and what a happy experience this has been for me."
"A lot of people question why so many pop songs are about love, why operas are so written, why paintings are painted, why we cry during really silly commercials. Love in all its various forms challenges us all the time and I guess you could say this was a little love affair with this album. I loved coming to work and I loved working with Stuart [Price], I think that feeling comes through on the album" she says.
Stuart Price is the producer of Aphrodite, which debuted at number one in the UK charts. "I think it was important for us to make a record that sounded like it was a moment in time, that came from the same place, from the same voice, from the same heart" he says.
"This was the time capsule. Having it all in one spot just gave it the cohesive sound that we wanted from the start."
Having an executive producer was a first for Kylie and the consistency seems to have rubbed off. "It was just the best experience, and funnily enough I think it's the most cohesive album I've had since the beginning of my career, back in the PWL [Pete Waterman Limited] days, where by its very nature made it cohesive. There's a lot to be said for working with different producers and trying different stuff which has worked really well for me in the past but I definitely wanted someone to tie this together as Stuart has done so beautifully ... so that it existed as a real body of work.".
Aphrodite came about thanks to a uniting force - Scissor Sisters, Queen-Bee Jake Shears. Kylie and Price have both worked with the Scissor Sisters in the past, a factor that brought them together..
Kylie herself made a guest appearance at Glastonbury this year performing with the pop quartet and Price co-produced their latest album Nightwork. They both have front-man Shears to thank for the success of Aphrodite.
"The reason all of this came around was because of our dear friend Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters, who was working in this very studio, as I had started recording my album in various studios around the world".
"He praised Stuart highly and loves me dearly, and basically pestered me and said "you've got to do this, it'll be so amazing!", so I've got much to thank Jake for."
From the 12 track album, 'Looking For An Angel' was one of the first tracks to see the light of day from her work with Price. It's synth pop vibe and catchy lyrics certainly hark back to the early days with Pete Waterman.
"That [Looking For An Angel] was the first song we wrote together" says Kylie. "We had our notebooks at the ready; yours was a very special one and mine was from the 99cent store! One of the titles was 'Angel' and Stuart asked me "have you ever had a song called Angel?" I literally had to think back because one would imagine I had done so, but no, we hadn't. So that was our first song; in a tiny little studio in New York, very compact. It was nice."
Working amidst the New York buzz seemed to suit Kylie and Price's style. "You had the advantage that you were spending a lot of time in New York, so you were living a certain "bubble" of life there. I think that was a different, mentality, from just checking into a studio, writing for a day and then leaving" says Price.
The bubble of the New York studio also resulted in Kylie re-recording material. "We had songs with perfectly good vocals recorded elsewhere, but we (decided) "let's just blast through" on the microphone here - which could not be more relaxed not in another studio, doors shut, waiting on the cans, feeling like 'I'm in a studio I've got to get it right'".
"We just sang here and it was the easiest thing, that also helped to make the songs feel like mine - once I'd already recorded them and lived with them a little bit - and had that time and space to get to know the song and do it here. It was just another means of tying everything together."
Aphrodite is of course the goddess of love and other tracks include Looking For An Angel and Cupid. These names suggest a bit of a divine intervention throughout the album which wasn't entirely planned.
"There is something of a celestial feel throughout the album, definitely not on every track but I think we tapped into that, on the first song we did together 'Looking For An Angel'. Personally, I'm always attracted to those ethereal, starry, universal ideas."
Price explains that tracks on the album were included because they fitted in with the "blueprint of the record."
He says: "Kylie did [Aphrodite] with Nerina Pallot and Cupid Boy was done with Luciano and the Swedish House Mafia. I think it's a good way of illustrating that, of the songs on the record there's stuff that Kylie wrote and stuff she wrote with other people… Songs would come in or we'd hear something and it would have a resonance with the rest of the record."
"At that point it's almost like there's no way it couldn't have been on the record. It was as if everyone was there at that time and was part of the same thing…all songs written by combinations of different teams but all sharing that unifying idea of the album."
But making this album wasn't all hard work and no fun. The duo managed to find a very unique way to check a song was all it could be. "We'd both be listening in our own world and there'd be the point in the song when the hands would go up! Hands up - good reaction. And of course there was the "Dolly Parton Litmus Test" which I've got to tell you has travelled, I've been asked so much about that."
Kylie continues: "The soon to be trademarked and copyrighted "Dolly Parton Litmus Test" is a way of, testing a song's viability as a song without production. He'd get his acoustic guitar out and we'd sing."
This distinctive 'litmus' test has allowed Kylie and Price to create a beautiful album. With age and grace Kylie has made a sophisticated album with the hints of playfulness from the Pete Waterman days. Each track has a catchy riff and lyric which is thanks to the numerous collaborators including Jake Shears, Calvin Harris, and Nerina Pallot to name but a few.
Album number 11 is certainly a triumph. Debuting at number one, 22 years after her first number one hit, it shows that Kylie is not going anywhere no matter what hits her.
"I thought the tenth album, X, was a benchmark but this one has just been amazing. I wouldn't care what number you called it. It's been the most amazing experience."