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An Interview with Alexander Laurence

Dot 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 trio.

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 music.


AL: What are your sets like nowadays?

Dot: 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 York.

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 that like?

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 outside.

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 April.

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 drive.

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 it over.

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 bleak.

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



--Alexander Laurence

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