Damien Albetto chats to soulful Diva, Skye Edwards about her return to Morcheeba and their new album, ‘Blood Like Lemonade’
Morcheeba – Remember those ‘Trigger Hippie’ ‘Tape Loopers’ from the mid 90’s? If you don’t know what I’m talking about you’re probably a decade too late. Go ask your older brother or sister, heck maybe even your mom or dad although they might be a bit reluctant to divulge the entire truth about those wild heady days of White Doves and Pink Champagnes.
Still have no idea?
Okay let me explain. In the early 90’s, around the time when we had a regime change and the Gestapo-like National Party – the rulers of the day – lost their vice-like grip on the country, we all experienced a new-found sense of freedom as the heavy burden of apartheid was lifted. This freedom was celebrated in many different ways. The suppressed masses, of course, had the most to celebrate as a new era dawned but some of the ‘elite privileged’ (read white minority, of which I was one) celebrated a different type of freedom. We were celebrating the massive influx of quality Class-A’s in the form of Ecstasy pills, MDMA and LSD. With this came Raves… old-skool style with luminous decor, tiger balm and the good old chill room.
It was during this era that Morcheeba first appeared along with Massive Attack and several others to forge a new sound of trippy down-tempo grooves and set the blueprint for a genre called Trip-Hop. This new form of spliff music for a generation of buzzed out ravers was the ideal soundtrack to life beyond the repetitive beat of acid house, trance, Goa trance and drum ‘n bass, the genres of the day, no more aptly displayed than in their name, a loose slang term for ‘more cheeba’ (marijuana) and intended to indicate ‘the way of cannabis.’ Indeed.
In 1998, Morcheeba dropped their classic album of all time, Big Calm, which not only tapped into the raver crowd but reached beyond, charting in the UK and going on to reap global success although as Skye [Edwards] points out when we chat, the real success for this seminal release came when they released their commercially more accessible follow up, Fragments of Freedom, in 2000. “Yeah strangely it was once Fragments of Freedom was out that so many more people who had discovered the band went back to trace our previous releases and that’s when Big Calm actually became so big. It was weird. We’d moved on yet it was this previous album that everybody was talking about,” she explains.
By the time Charango came around in 2003, chief lyricist, Paul Godfrey, the one half of brotherly duo Paul and Ross (Ross being the multi-instrumentalist and Paul the DJ/Producer) was in a very happy place and as Skye explains, “Paul wanted to write happy songs and although we weren’t getting very good reviews from the critics, the albums were selling really well.”
Four albums, relentless touring which Skye had to do whilst raising kids (she has three and is happily married to bassist, Steve Gordon, a huge Morcheeba fan himself she adds) and the usual clash of ego’s spelt the end of Morcheeba as we all knew them in 2003. Skye was fired. “I was really naive back then… I guess we all were in a way, but when I got the phone call to say I wasn’t needed any more I kinda thought the band was over. So I was pretty surprised and hurt when they said that Paul and Ross were going to continue Morcheeba without me.” The official statement was musical differences but as I press Skye to tell me more she divulges, “I think the main reason was that I was getting all the attention. When you’re the lead singer you end up fronting the band… and well…” she pauses, measuring here words, “it’s just the way it is innit?” her East London accent filtering through .
The fact that replacement singer, Daisy Martey (from 2005’s ‘The Antidote’) never survived past the promotional tour and similarly her replacement, Jody Sternberg suffered the same demise, coupled with Morcheeba’s follow up album [Dive Deep] featuring a loose mix of guest vocalists, must have offered here some solace? “Yeah I think it really was a case of not knowing what a good thing they had,” she refers to Paul and Ross. “But for me it was in fact liberating. I’ve since produced two solo albums, [2006’s Mind How You Go and 2009’s Keeping Secrets] and worked with some amazing people like producer Daniel Lanois and Marc Collin from Nouvelle Vague.” She continues, “I actually had to think quite long and hard about rejoining Morcheeba if I’m to be honest. All those good times, but then also one remembers the worst parts too and it’s quite a commitment. But then Paul and Ross started bringing me some of the stuff they’d written and I could feel the Morcheeba of old in the music again.” And creative freedom I enquire? There must surely be a bit more give and take from the brothers… “Well Paul still writes the lyrics and I still do the melodies. But this time around I felt I could easily go back to him and suggest some changes or say I didn’t like a particular lyric or verse and we’d talk about it. Sometimes he’d ask me how I visualised a song, whether I had any story in mind, and then he’d write lyrics around the story. It was a true collaboration.”
We’re chatting of course about their brand new release, Blood like Lemonade, an album Skye says may easily be the one they could have (should have) made after Big Calm. Ross’s take; “What’s weird is how we’ve been drawn back into older thought-patterns as the classic Morcheeba sound worked its magic. I hadn’t really smoked much dope for the past five or six years – but suddenly, making this record, I was smoking all day long. That’s the secret!”
With all three members living in different parts of the world they’ve embraced the digital age with Skye recording her vocal parts at home; “It was wonderful. In the evenings after dinner, I could lose myself in a space of creativity, load up the backing tracks they’d sent me into Garageband and then work on the melodies and record the vocals.” Her favourite tracks on the new album are Crimson, about a married woman’s lover who, when he wants to end the affair, tries to kill them both by crashing the car they’re in; and Recipe For Disaster, in which a foodie kills her partner when he turns up drunk for dinner. “I can really relate to that one – not like I’m a potential murderess or anything!” she laughs.
It’s been a half hour of blissfully easy conversation – I’d clearly called her at home and this soulful diva sounds like she’s in a good space. A self assured 30-something, married with kids, but possessing a voice of a seductress, Skye Edwards is back with Morcheeba, on her terms it seems, and this is a good thing. Kick back, skin up and enjoy.
Blood Like Lemonade is out now.
Written By : Damien Albetto