Fashion and music are inseparable. They’ve been playing off each other well before David Bowie recorded the tune “Fashion” or Duran Duran sang “Girls on Film.” With this in mind we will occasionally feature interviews with people in fashion and music that embody the qualities that we so admire. – Ford Models Blog Editor
“In the past, even with art or music, it was sometimes the mistakes that were the best. It was the mistakes that were most creative because you follow your instincts.” Few would argue with this assertion of musician and political journalist Annika Henderson, more commonly known amongst music listeners by her simplified stage name, Anika. Then again, not everyone’s musical miscues are as brilliant as Anika’s or her fellow collaborators, Portishead‘s Geoff Barrow and members of BEAK>. Such is the aesthetic kernel around which the debut album Anika is formed and according to the artist that also provokes and divides opinion in ways that pop music simply does not. Sonically confrontational, yes, rhetorically spiky, yes again, but what the album also is not is a mere stunt. In fact, through it all Anika is an earnest record keen to both shake loose speaker cabinets and conceptual moorings alike.
Late last year Peanut Butter Wolf sent me the Anika record, which was released domestically in December on his label, Stones Throw. It’s not often that an album comes with such a ringing personal endorsement, but upon first listen and subsequent review of the production credits, it all made sense. Produced by Geoff Barrow and recorded live over twelve days in collaboration with BEAK>’s Billy Fuller and Matt Williams, Anika is a collection of nine dub embellished tracks including a couple original tunes as well as several austere reinterpretations of standards by Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono, and others. In early February on the Wednesday immediately before New York Fashion Week F/W 11 I had an opportunity to sit down at the agency with Anika to discuss the album, its aesthetic choices, and her overall approach to making art.
In speaking about the album, Anika explained the fortuitous origins of the project that not only brought about the unique collaboration, but also informed the resultant music. Prior to meeting Geoff Barrow, Anika had been booking bands in Cardiff, Wales. It was in this capacity that over a period of several months Anika noticed that the type of music groups that enjoyed relative local success were the acts with the slickest photos and most MySpace plays. These outward indicators, however said very little about the actual music, which more frequently than not was staid, pop fare. This resulted in no small amount of frustration for Anika, who was all but resigned to leaving the music industry to pursue a career in journalism. In April 2010, she actually signed a one year contract with a news agency in Berlin following recording the album because she honestly thought it would not even be released. Anika could not have been more mistaken, however. What began with a phone call from a mate’s friend, Barrow, who was searching for an offbeat vocalist for his musical project, blossomed (albeit in greyscale) into the Anika record proper.
The album is deliberately unpretty. To start, Barrow even went so far as to instruct photographer Clare May to make Anika look as rough as possible for the album cover portrait in black & white. A shock of white hair mostly obscures Anika’s down-turned eyes and thus declines the opportunity to sex up the packaging. The cover songs themselves are unsentimental, even cold affairs, however when juxtaposed to the originals do suggest a certain wryness that isn’t betrayed by the cover art. That it was only the third take for the most part that made the album cut means that the songs retain a raw, unpolished luster. These decisions make for a slightly imperfect product, but one that is no less compelling for its unique boldness. At the same time, however Anika maintains this album is not overly self-conscious for the simple fact that at the time of recording it had never meant to be marketed. That the album is now out in the world has made for surprises not least of which include an invariably Marmite-like reception it has received. Love it or hate it, the album at least provokes an opinion, which in the age of indifference is no mean feat. For the time being Anika is enjoying the project and looks forward to recording a second album for which work has already begun. Until then, however please enjoy this Ford Models Blog interview special with Anika.
Credits include: Publication, Ford Models Blog; Title, “Anika Interview Special”; Subject, Anika; Interview/text, Damien Neva; Video, Damien Neva; Photography, Damien Neva; Music, from Anika by Anika.