Are there ghosts messing with Ladyhawke’s head? She talks to Jane McConnell about being skint, being famous and the paranornal.
LADYHAWKE nicked her stage name from the title of the 1985 medieval fantasy film, and although professing to love cinema, she actually came across the word on her computer whilst she lived in Melbourne, Australia.
“I was online when I came across it. Then I remembered the film Ladyhawke. It just felt right, like a light that went ‘ding!'”
It’s proven a useful persona for the mellow 28-year-old who is finding that her music and life is attracting more attention by the week.
“It helps having my name as Ladyhawke. There’s no character. We’re exactly the same but it separates it for me mentally. It’s funny. I never thought in a million years I’d have ever heard myself talk about myself being in a position where I have to keep my private life private,” she says, with a delicate demeanour that could easily be mistaken for timidity.
Before becoming Ladyhawke, Pip Brown, a New Zealander, had been in bands since she was 13. “Okay then, so it wasn’t a cool band! I was in like, the brass band and I played drums. I was in my first proper grunge band at 15. Ever since then, I’ve always been in a band. There hasn’t been a moment when I haven’t played an instrument.”
It was only relatively recently that she wandered into axe territory: “For the last seven years my main instrument has been guitar.”
Ladyhawke first trained as a percussionist. Her parents found that she had a certain flair for music and painting. She says: “It always got encouraged in me. I was never an academic as far as maths and science went.” Pip progressed to university and studied design, majoring in illustration before changing to photography, and did a minor in digital video production – but she never abandoned her passion for musicianship. “I wasn’t going to leave uni and be a photographer, I just thought it would be a tool that would come in handy in my music career!”
As a guitarist, her stage presence is resolute and she’s finally been able to achieve the live atmosphere she wants. Like the classic suffering artist, Ladyhawke drifted around skint – oftentimes with nowhere to live – before making it.
“I always wanted to be a bit of a vagrant with my guitar, playing music at every opportunity. You hear of broke musicians… so yeah I was broke to begin with. Luckily I’m in a position now where I can pay musicians to play with me on stage.” Her eyes widen: “Though I can’t take that for granted – it could go tomorrow, it could all be over,” before supping more beer.
This pessimism is unwarranted as her career has flourished since the release of her debut album. She’s been confirmed for the festivals too – she can’t say which ones, exactly, but a sly cough won’t deter this article from claiming she’ll be at Glasto.
Onto less libellous subject-matter, Ladyhawke talks about where the ideas for lyrics come from. Everyone knows the story behind ‘Paris Is Burning’…but can all the lyrics be true?
“Yeah,” she says, “or they’re musings. Or little sections of my brain that entertain me, like Dusk Till Dawn and my…slight obsession with the paranormal!”
This particular dressing room at the Apollo isn’t spooky, but its tea-stained walls and dust-spewing red furniture probably holds the wisdom from ghosts of rock ‘n’ roll past.
“I wish I could see ghosts. But I know that ghosts don’t exist. I just really want to see one. You know how every kid is scared of kids and monsters and what’s under the bed? It’s followed my into my adulthood. I haven’t really let go of that, I like living in a fantasy world because…” Ladyhawke looks at the walls.
“I think it makes me more interesting! Or just crazy.”
It’s heartening: despite the glamour of worldwide critical acclaim, sell-out gigs and the constant jetting around and despite headlining the notorious Skins tour with 8-bit-electro mentalists/hype band of 2008, Crystal Castles; she hasn’t become an egotistic ogre.
“I’m easily scared, and I’m also very gullible,” she says. “So people take advantage of that all the time. But I’m not stupid, I know what’s right and what isn’t, but there is a side of myself wants to let go and be scared by these things, because it reminds me of being innocent and being a child.
“If I let go of that, I’ll be a stupid, boring adult.”