MEET THE CREW: MUSICIAN CHARLOTTE HATHERLEY
When it comes to sci fi fans it doesn’t get more serious than Charlotte Hatherley. From playing guitar in Ash to making futuristic soundtracks to collaborating with Moon co-creator Gavin Rothery, you could say she’s the living embodiment of what Space Rocks is all about. She’ll be making the world debut of her latest True Love project – a breakup record set in space – at Space Rocks on April 22nd.
So how do you go from playing guitar in Ash to making solo records about space?
“I’ve always had a sci fi element to my records but after I released the last one, New Worlds, I toured as a session musician for a few years and took a break from writing. When I came back I wanted to do something that was very different, very electronic and sci fi influenced, and I came up with the concept of Sylver Tongue…”
“It was a very 80s Mad Max-inspired alter ego. I released a Sylver Tongue EP, and along the way I got asked to do the soundtrack to Gavin Rothery’s short film, The Last Man, which was a dystopian film. He’s probably best-known for his work on Moon which is a cult sci fi classic.”
Is your new record, True Love, related to that short film?
“There were a lot of offcuts from that soundtrack, and enough time had passed, and it sort of turned into my solo record. Along the way I’ve been doing so many different things – it’s all fed into it. Personally I think it’s the best thing I’ve done – it’s distinctive – and a lot of it comes from my love of sci fi and soundtracks. It’s about being a heartbroken alien”
What was it like working with Gavin Rothery on A Sign?
“Great! He’s got such a strong aesthetic vision. I was moving away from the hyperbolic style of Mad Max and 80s sci fi films and Tina Turner fake fur. I wanted to move into a kind of realism, an ode to the Zulawski film, On The Silver Globe, and another film – The Quiet Earth. Gavin created a very similar skyline – we were able to shoot it on literally no budget with three people, and I just walked along the beach. All it took was an amazing makeup artist who also made the helmet, we got up super early to get an amazing sunrise, and Gavin did a lot of concept design in post-production.” (Check out the video.)
How did your video collaboration with ESA come about?
“I met [session two panelist] Mark McCaughrean when the video for A Sign, which Gavin Rothery directed, went online. Mark contacted me saying he thought it was great. The Space Rocks connection came through Mark, which is a really wonderful thing.”
Tell us about the video for How Deep Is Your Love…
“It tracks the movement of the constellation of Orion for the next three million years. So you see the stars very slowly moving apart – it’s beautiful and hypnotic” (Check out the video.)
How did you fall in love with space?
“It’s funny because when I joined Ash I was only 17 and they were famous for being massive Star Wars fans, but my entry was through literature because my Dad had an amazing book collection – he was a member of the Philip K Dick fan club. In fact I inherited those fanzines, and the front covers of the books were so striking and weird and surreal that they really stuck in my mind. It wasn’t until later that I got into Bladerunner and Alien.”
So you weren’t a Star Wars fan?
“I never really got into space opera – I was always into the psychological elements of films like Solaris. As much as I love Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars, the stuff that hooked me was more subtle – many times it’s on a budget, lo fi, and probably kind of culty – that’s why I responded to Moon so much.”
How did all that tie into music?
“When I was 14 I discovered David Bowie and The Man Who Fell To Earth. A lot of what appealed to me had this Twilight Zone weirdness – stuff you wouldn’t term as sci fi but those ideas of other dimensions, different realities and dream states are all very Philip K Dick, even Interstellar. I think some of the best sci fi films are about human relationships and just happen to be set in space. That’s probably why sci fi is so popular – it’s a forum for us to explore what we may be faced with which is why a lot of it is dystopian – it’s not always pleasant.”
Was that the influence for True Love?
“Yeah. It just happens to be set in space, but it’s a breakup record, it’s a record about love. The kind of sci fi that appeals to me is stuff that touches me – human relationships, which is why I love Solaris and Interstellar so much. It’s an obvious thing but it’s easier to be open and honest about something if you wear a mask, or you’re in a different setting, like space.”
Was it a homage to Bowie?
“It’s very Bowie – the weird thing about that is that we were shooting at Pett Level (in East Sussex) and this stretch of beach had an ancient petrified forest underneath – it was really beautiful and odd, and it turns out it was the same stretch where David Bowie shot the video for Ashes to Ashes. I was like, ‘wow.’”
What can people expect from your show on April 22nd?
“Well it’s my first solo gig in years, and I’ve got so many visuals so I’ll have projection screens up with ESA visuals. It’ll be a very welcome return to the stage. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for Tim Peake, of course! I’m going to be there all day to geek out the whole time.”
Charlotte Hatherley will be opening our live gig at Space Rocks on April 22nd at Indigo at the O2 in London. Get your tickets here!