It all started with YAZOO (known as Yaz in the U.S.) a synth pop duo comprising former Depeche Mode keyboard wiz Vince Clarke and singer supreme Alison Moyet. Her voice was a force of nature, more powerful then any of the decade’s other female singers. (For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, Miss Moyet was our Adele.)
After the duo split, Miss Moyet released many superior albums, and her live duet with Paul Young at Live Aid remains a highlight of the ‘80s super benefit concert.
Since then she has never stopped recording and touring, including her latest trek out on the road to support her latest CD, “Other.” That road trip will play Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in the District Monday evening. Miss Moyet spoke about being “other,” her songwriting process and America’s gun epidemic.
Question: What, if anything, did you do differently in making the new album?
Answer: Not a great deal differently from the last album, which I wrote with Guy Sigsworth. We’ve got a way of working. How this material is being written is he would give me a basic track, which I would not start writing on ‘till I’ve [pressed] record. In which case I start improvising.
It starts from improvisation. And then it goes back to him and he paints around me. The difference with this album has been that the tracks have been edited to fit, not to sound pretentious, but the poetry. Instead of the lyrics being amputated into a normal song format.
Q: Lyrically it feels very stream-of-conscious.
A: Certainly the track “April the 10th “is stream of consciousness. That is poetic in nature. The album is about observation. I changed my life massively since I made my last record. Before I was living in the country, where I never saw anybody. I chucked everything away and downsized [and] moved into a terrace in a city. I’ve never lived in a city before.
This record is far more about observation than self-reflection.
Q: Why is it called “Other”?
A: Because that’s what I’ve always been. I’ve always been “other.” I’ve always felt odd; I have always felt foreign in the environment I’ve been in. When you are young, that is a really uncomfortable thing to feel. As an older woman I really embrace it.
Q: As a songwriter, do you ever define the meanings of your songs?
A: I’m someone that finds it very difficult not to answer a question directly, so I fully intended not to do that. But I find myself doing that. The only song that I don’t do it on is “Reassuring Pinches” because that’s too personal for me. Beyond that I can explain it slightly.
It’s funny because during the day I’ve been doing sculpture, and I just did this sculptural piece and someone said to me, “Well, what is it?” I think that is really strange. I wonder if artists get asked that.
As a songwriter people are so used to wanting an explanation in this modern day age that they feel that would translate into physical art.
Q: Let me ask you what the meaning is behind your song “Beautiful Gun”? Is that song a reaction to the violent society we live in?
A: It is that. I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and it’s a very interesting place. People are so driven to aggression.
To me it’s a funny thing. I grew up in an aggressive family, so I’m not at all intimidated by being verbally abused. I have no fear with words. “Beautiful Gun” is watching this group of people on Twitter who have such little love for diversity, for anything that is other than themselves. Any lifestyle that doesn’t suit the strict rules they adhere to. They are very easily dismissive of people [and] just disparage them wholeheartedly.
Were you to suggest that gun ownership was not a brilliant thing, then you might as well have just fisted them with a rusty nail. All this panic about the idea of being attacked by terrorists [but] more children are killed by their own parent’s guns than will ever be killed under the threat of a terrorist. Yet people will not address this.
Nobody really looks in on themselves, and we can all be guilty of that. Guns have obviously not protected us because more people are dying from guns. I heard people [say] about [terror] attacks: “If we have had a gun we could have protected ourselves.” Yeah but if that [person] has a gun instead of a knife, how many people would he have killed?
Q: What can people expect when they come out to see you live?
A: Touring is my favorite thing. I’m working in electronica again. There is a three-piece [ensemble] — me and two programmers/synth players who also doguitar and bass. But on the whole, its synth-based.
I do a good four or five Yaz songs. I do songs from my solo career. Plus there is focus on the last two albums, which are electronica.
Live I’m quite irreverent. I can be a bit sweary. The set swings between euphoria and darkness.
Q: Do the best songs come out of darkness?
A: I think that you have to experience darkness to feel empathy. For all of my failings — and I have many — I do have a complete ability to emphasize with people. Again, that all goes down to being “other.”
When you’re young you think otherness is a state only you possess. When you get older you realize, “Actually, there’s so many of us.” In that we find community.
Alison Moyet plays Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Monday evening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 by going to Ticketmaster.com.