An Interview with Alexander Laurence
was born Dorothy Elliot Allison, on 17 August 1969, in Edinburgh,
Scotland. In the early 1990s, she was the lead singer of
One Dove. It was a band that made a major contribution to
the club scene, as comedown music in the morning. The implosion
of One Dove amid record label wrangles and band arguments
disappointed the multitudes that had relied upon the Scottish
Five years later, Allison emerged from the wreckage and
a serious car accident and signed to Heavenly Records. With
the instrumental talents of Mani (Stone Roses, Primal Scream)
and Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine), and lyrics from
legendary songwriter Hal David, 1999's AFTERGLOW was not
a radical departure from her former band's sound. It featured
dub excursions, dynamic pop and heartbreaking songs. Her
live shows, complete with a string quartet found Allison
tipping her hat to Beth Orton and were always spectacles.
Her latest, WE ARE SCIENCE, is a mixture of electro
and folk music without the pop narcotics. It showcases her
ability in programming and her embrace of the new electro
What are your sets like nowadays?
I started playing a One Dove track. I play a couple of tracks
from Afterglow. I play an instrumental version of one song,
"Mo' Pop," that is one part "rocky"
and has uptempo guitar. Wait a minute, I am just getting
into a taxi. I like the older stuff when it gels with the
newer tracks. I think that it is important to play the back
catalogue because it's part of my history.
AL: Have you been DJing a lot in the past three years?
Dot: I have been doing it more and more. I do it in London
quite a lot. Then I ended up with a residency in Barcelona.
I played at Arthur Baker's club in London and he liked my
set. He wants me to go on tour with him in Europe and New
AL: What sort of records have you been playing?
Dot: A mixed bag of electronic music. It's quite uptempo.
Even my album is quite like warm up tracks as opposed to
mid-set tracks, excluding the remixes. I have been playing
the same stuff for years: electro and techno tracks.
AL: There was one track that was a B-side on one of your
earlier singles called "Melted." Was that a precursor
to a lot of the electro stuff that you did three years later
on We Are Science?
Dot: Definitely. I was listening to electro then but it
didn't fit in with the rest of Afterglow. Afterglow was
more of a classic pop album. Yet there was a couple of B-sides
that were electro, and "Melted" was one, and another
one "Mr. Voyeur." On that one I actually sampled
Gary Numan. That was during the Afterglow sessions. That
was indicating where my head was at although it wasn't reflected
by the album much.
AL: Do you like Ladytron and Adult.?
Dot: Yeah, I do. I like Adult. and Le Car. Le Car was a
precursor to that. I like almost everything on that Ersatz
Audio. Most of the groups on that label are really great.
AL: Are you a member of Death In Vegas now?
Dot: No, I just collaborated with them on two songs. It's
like Massive Attack or something, where there is two core
members and a cast of long-time collaborators who come and
go. I am just one of those collaborators in Death In Vegas.
AL: You recorded the early parts of this record in upstate
New York with Dave Fridmann at Tar Box Studios. What was
Dot: Oh, that was brilliant. They are all talented musicians
and lovely people. It was an enjoyable session. I am a big
fan of Mercury Rev. I also liked the work that Dave had
done with The Flaming Lips. I like the fact that Dave Fridmann
is a technically proficient producer. He's good at recording
and at the same time he doesn't over-process things. He
is able to keep the human element and it sounds like a performance
as well. Tarbox is a music studio that is in the middle
of the forest and it's quite remote. It's a real beautiful
surrounding to make music in. There's no distractions. It's
better to be in nature than in a London studio with madness
AL: Did you take a lot of time off after the previous album?
Dot: Not really. I spent a lot of time sorting out my new
studio. I bought so much new equipment. I had my head in
the manual just working. I was troubleshooting with the
new gear because I changed my software package. I changed
to Logic. It wasn't a big leap. I also moved into a new
apartment. My prized possession is an Arp Odyssey which
is quite cool. I had a digital analog too. Some of the sounds
are cool even though it's a digital keyboard.
AL: Were the songs "Strung Out" and "Lover"
written before most of the new album?
Dot: They were written first. When I was out touring Afterglow
I was already playing them live. They were already in existence
and had life and had arrangements at that stage. Since they
were guitar based and guitar lead I knew that I wanted to
work with someone like Dave Fridmann. At the same time I
knew I wanted to make a diverse but quite electronic album.
I wanted to have all those loops and samples and also have
guitar tracks near to keep it "space rocky" and
electronic like a bad marriage.
AL: When did you work on the new album and when was it
released in the UK?
Dot: I finished it about a year ago and it came out in
AL: How did you write this album? Afterglow had a bunch
of piano based songs.
Dot: Probably in a similar way. I did more programming.
I still like to sit down with a guitar and worked out chords.
My primary instrument is piano really. I work out chords
and play them in parts and edit them on my computer. I experiment
a lot now too with the computer. I play around with bits,
playing them backwards and transposing them. You can record
parts and put effects on them, and then re-record them with
other effects. You can keep processing things till you get
something original. I always spent time on pre-production.
I always came in with templates of songs that I had sampled
up with Afterglow. I always had bags of records and notepads
with notes of which songs and which parts I wanted to sample.
I had a rudimentary setup in my flat and not a very good
computer. You need a lot of memory for some samples. Now
that I changed systems I can record all that on my hard
AL: Are you going to do an American tour soon?
Dot: I like being in America. I would like to come back
as soon as I can really. I would like to do an acoustic
tour as a tastemaker of the songs on this new album that
I can do that way. I can play some stuff from Afterglow
and One Dove. Then I can come back again with a full band.
I have been touring in Europe all year. I think that it
has come of age as a live set. So I can't wait to bring
AL: Have you read any good books recently?
Dot: I read the "His Dark Materials" trilogy
by Philip Pullman. It was really cool. I read "Atomised"
(The Elementary Particles) by Michel Houellebecq. It's quite
AL: Have you seen any films recently?
Dot: Yeah. I saw Almodovar's "Talk To Her." It's
the new one. It's good. There's a British comedy called
"Once Upon A Time In The Midlands" with Rhys Ifans.
The guy who was in Notting Hill.
AL: I heard that the Marquee Club opened again in Islington.
Dot: I went to the opening. It's cool because Primal Scream
played. It's quite a small stage to see them on so it was
like a treat. It was good. They really rocked. Everybody
was going mental. I have worked with Mani before on Afterglow.
He said that he would be on my next record. We agreed that
he would be on a couple of tracks on my next record. So
I am going to hold him to that. I have worked with Andrew
Innes and Kevin Shields too. So I work with them one by
one but never together.
More websites: www.mantrarecordings.com/dotallison