THE SMALLEST ACTS OF KINDNESS
„Anne Clark is playing here tonight – and you’re not Anne Clark“!
Being refused entry to a show you?re actually headlining must be an embarrassing experience and one of the many music biz divas would no doubt throw a massive J Lo-style strop yet Anne Clark takes this kind of non-recognition in her stride. If you were to pass her in the street you?d be forgiven for not recognising her as one of electronic music?s long-term contributors; she?s rather small with mussed up hair and a quiet, unassuming personality.
Clark herself would agree that she doesn?t exactly fit into the traditional female ?pop star? image. ?Having grown up being ?Not The Most Beautiful Girl In School? it was truly magnificent when punk rock arrived and it was what you did that mattered, not what you looked like. Things soon reverted back to how they had been before and women had to be ?babes? or ?whores? to make it. I know I can never be one and hopefully am not the other, so I am very proud to say that I guess it’s my work that matters to people!?
Clark was born in Croydon, London and worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital before taking a post in the Bonaparte Records store. She immersed herself in the burgeoning punk/new wave scene when she began booking artists such as Paul Weller, Linton Kwesi Johnson and The Durutti Column to perform at the Warehouse Theatre. Seizing the opportunity to be part of a wave of music where attitude rather than looks mattered most, it?s no surprise that Clark turned to writing and performing and her debut LP, The Sitting Room, hit stores in 1982. Since then, her musical output has been somewhat sporadic with long gaps between releases; she?s an artist who only brings out an album when she feels she has something to say as opposed to churning out nonsense to fulfill contractual obligations. Her new LP, The Smallest Acts of Kindness, is her first in twelve years so why the long wait? ?In 1996 my father died and this had a huge impact on me,? explains Clark, ?I basically lost all interest in writing.
What could I say? What was the purpose of writing really? I felt I no longer had anything to say. By the late 90s I had also grown very tired of the whole music scene. It seemed so stale and sterile. Everything seemed to be about „product“ and nothing to do with „quality“. Everything sounded like a derivative of something else.? But while one family tragedy put a complete block on her writing, another opened the doors to her creativity: ?In 2006 my mother died and I had a completely opposite reaction to the one I’d had after my father’s death. Suddenly everything seemed urgent and vital. Life is so short and unpredictable. We have to give it everything we can. I had to write again. This is basically how the new album came about.?
As the first new Clark material to be released in more than a decade this album can surely be filed under ?Eagerly Awaited? and is likely to be a hit with die-hard fans as well as bringing in a few newbies along the way. It?s scarcely a deviation from the typical formula yet can hardly be classed as a mere regurgitation of what she?s done befor. After all, her spoken word critiques and rants are what she does best and this time the impassioned sloganeering is set to sombre acoustic guitars and banging techno beats in equal measure. ?I wanted to be certain that I did something that had value to my audience and to myself. I want to give the best I can. I also want to give something that the audience recognizes but that also challenges them. The most important thing for me was keeping a clear perspective and maintaining my vision of what the album should be.?
Clark?s music has often been described as bordering on Weltschmerz but she is keen to point out that far from being a 24/7 misery she simply uses music as a means to understand and cope with difficult issues: ?I always find it curious that people feel my music is lacking emotion. I fill it to bursting with emotion! Energy and communication are the primary elements to my work. It has certainly never been my intention to release material that makes people depressed or gloomy. I don’t deny that there is an element of melancholy and introspection in what I do but for me the purpose of music, poetry, books is to help us deal with parts of life that aren’t so easy. I think you’ll find the themes of most of the greatest works aren’t always the jolliest!?
With a flair for memorable electronics and certain degree of formality and distance in her music it?s perhaps no surprise that Clark is especially popular in Germany and she herself is very positive about her German fanbase: ?I adore my German audience! They have been so loyal through so many different and difficult periods,? she enthuses, ?For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by Germany and German culture. Despite all the clich?s, I find German art and culture passionate and full of fire.
There is a romanticism and honesty, a directness that I love in its poetry, music, painting. It touches me very deeply.? In October Clark will set off on a European tour which will see her busy until mid-February. Yet despite the intensity of the schedule, it?s an experience she adores, ?I love touring. For me it is the ultimate part of this whole thing. Everything comes together – the music, the musicians, the audience, the energy shared. This is going to be a very long and no doubt very tiring tour but what a privilege to again be doing something I love so much.?
With a new album about to hit the stores and lengthy tour in her diary, Anne is back on the radar doing what she loves and as an artist with more experience under her belt than most she has seen myriad developments within the industry yet is confident that changes happening now can only work in the artist?s favour: ?I have to say what enormous pleasure it gives me to see the greedy grasping hands of the industry losing their grip on artists at last. The arrival of technology has been like a renaissance for so many musicians. There will of course always be the „pop music industry“ and that is fine but for so long „Artists“ have lost out to „Products“. Now, through the Internet, downloading sites etc. there is a whole other world for people to discover real music in and for the people that create it to have a platform. It should be wonderful.?
It should indeed. Clark remembers an incident that would have most artists foaming at the mouth: ?I asked one of my record companies for a tiny budget for a re-mix. They gave me half of virtually nothing. That same week a model who had been fucking one of the executives got an advance of ?250,000 to make an album that nobody ever bought!? Her response? ?C’est la vie, eh??