This interview was conducted February 21, 2001.
Elton likes to call Kiki Dee Stan as a play on her surname, Matthews. But Kiki has been busy redefining her career. Here, in part 2 of our Backstage article, she comments on coming full circle in recording work, the Internet, Amoureuse and talks about Elton lyricist and pal Gary Osborne.
I now record in Hertfordshire, where my musical partner Carmelo has a recording studio. Where Rivers Meet was recorded at the Tickety-Boo studios in Fulham, London. But now we are here as Carmelo moved his studio up here. But we have done demos, and havent done any master recordings here yet," said Kiki.
Of her radio presentation on BBC Radio 2, Kiki recalls:
The presentation was scripted. I didnt have a lot of time to work on it. I remember going in the first time and saying look, can I do one programme at a time? It is quite a lot of material to record if youre not used to doing it. I hope I did it well! said Kiki.
Because it was not my words, if I project too much personality, it would sound like I had written it. Which I didnt want to do, because I didnt write it. It was quite interesting doing something different.
GM: Would you do it again?
KD: I would. But I would like more preparation, to have the scripts for a couple of days. Got my head around it, and then again, you can over-rehearse these things! But it was quite nice they asked me.
GM: You mentioned Gary Osborne, Eltons one-time lyricist, in the programme. But we didnt get to hear a sound-bite from Gary. Why was that?
KD: That was the one time when I wanted to change the script. I cant remember what specifically it was. But I did feel that Gary got sidelined out of the picture. And he did work with Elton quite a long time, about six years I believe. I told the producer I think Gary should be mentioned. Partly because Garys a very old friend of mine, but also because he also did some good work with Elton. But unfortunately, Gary is associated with the period when Elton was going through a bad time in the early 1980s, the drugs, drinking, wasnt working with Bernie Taupin. It is a shame that Gary is not doing an awful lot these days. He is very talented I think.
GM: Of course Elton regularly plays songs like Blue Eyes in concert.
KD: Yeah, for example, Elton actually mentioned Gary on the Parkinson show. And I nearly told Gary about that. He would have been pleased. But it got edited out. That is kind of the story of his life with Elton. I cant speak for Gary, youd have to ask him yourself. But I think Elton is a hard act to follow on from. When you have worked with him and loved working with him. A lot of people kind find it difficult to move on, if Im honest and find a way after that. I think Gary had some problems with that.
GM: When you and me met at the Borderline in London last November, you mentioned that I should not contact you until nearer March. What were you up to?
KD: I cant remember why I said that! There must have been a reason for that. Things do change rapidly in my life. I hadnt been extremely busy just then.
GM: We finally connected anyway! Is there a prospect of a new album from you soon?
KD: I have been trying to do the past couple of weeks is to work more on live performances. I am not trying to get a major record deal. I am more concentrating on selling live concert dates on the Internet. So, we have been pursuing agents this week to see what is out there. It is quite tough. To get this off the ground and to the audience. We believe there is a audience out there for what we are doing musically. But the last album Where Rivers Meet was not radio-friendly I hate that expression. It didnt have any singles on it, and it was a different direction for me. Not what people might expect. I think you have to believe in what you are doing and keep going. We havent pursued trying to get a record deal recently, because I dont think record companies are signing this kind of music. Especially at my age, unless I went into a more mainstream direction, which I chose not to do. Because I have been around so long, people do have an idea about what I am doing. I do get rather tied up in the Elton thing in peoples eyes. And it is rather hard to move from that sometimes.
GM: You seem to be a victim of it yourself. You mentioned earlier Internet selling. There are a number of artists who have put their music online. People like Prince, U2 and Public Enemy. A lot of people think of the Internet as an open door, and increasingly accessible to people. But you think there are hurdles.
KD: I think there are hurdles, whichever way you go. But you need to be just as creative and innovative I imagine. It is a fairly new thing to me.
GM: I think marketing is the hardest part. How do you tell the offline world that you are online? It is the silent majority who are not online, making critical mass hard to achieve.
KD: But I think it is an avenue worth pursuing. We have sold quite albums on the Internet. From the Elton gig at Madison Square last October, we get 50-50 emails from people who like what I did there and those who buy my two latest albums. There is some activity, which is encouraging.
GM: Nigel Olsson marshalled you into helping his album. You recorded Naked Without You.
KD: I saw Nigel at Madison in New York last year. And Ive always had a few phone calls with him. He asked would I guest on his album and I said I would love to. He suggested the song. I recorded it in Hertfordshire, and Carmelo produced my vocal. I havent heard it yet! Have you?
GM: He dropped a few names to me recently, but nope, I have not.
KD: I think it will sound good. I think it is close to the original version. It will have two voices on it, and until I hear it I wont know what it is like. It is quite amazing that these days we send tapes around the world so that people can put vocals on them! I am looking forward to hearing it.
GM: Most artists fall in love with a song is they personally choose it. Did you fall in love with this song? And does it say something about you?
KD: I wouldnt have done the track if I didnt like it. I did like the lyric and think it hangs well.
GM: Were there other songs on the album you would have liked to have recorded?
KD: I dont know what other songs are on it, ha!
GM: Is there a chance of an Elton collaboration?
KD: Not really sure. Career-wise we are now a million miles apart. Mine is smaller-scale to his. I am trying to do something not established, like a new career in fact. Although it was great to work with him at Madison Square. I love working with Elton! We get on so well and hes a talented bloke. I dont think he would approach me unless there was a reason to approach me. Hes got access to everybody. If I worked with him, it would be because I was the right person for that job.
GM: You were irreplaceable on the song you did at MSG! What song stands out as your favourite over the years? The one you liked best in recording stage, and the one which you like more as the years roll on?
KD: I dont a favourite. Loving & Free I loved. I enjoyed recoding that whole album which Elton produced that for me in 1973.
GM: I think that was your own penned song and the first you recorded?
KD: That's right. To record my own song for the first time was also exciting. I remember playing it to Elton. I think that album was, ironically, closest to what I am doing today. Because afterwards, I moved into the rockier stuff like I Got the Music In Me. Loving & Free was a more acoustic song and album. A simple song with a completeness about it I try to put into anything I write. I also love Pretty Tune, the first track on Where Rivers Meet, love that whatever mood I am in. And it fits me, like Loving & Free did at the time.
GM: Do you see yourself as a perfectionist?
KD: In some ways I can be. But not always.
GM: But you dont have tantrums!
KD: I am not into tantrums, but I have internal tantrums. I beat myself up more than others! I must put the boxing gloves away!
GM: In November, when I asked you about the song Amoureuse you told me that you prefer to look forward rather than backwards. Does the song hold happy memories for you?
KD: Oh, completely. That whole period was very positive and exciting for me. That song was unusual because it was four minutes long. And there werent a lot of songs getting played on the radio that was four minutes long. It was Londons Capital Radio that broke that song. We all believed in it. And Elton produced it as it was on the Loving & Free album. And Clive Franks was involved on that song too.
GM: I always get tearful when I hear that song. It is so graceful, the way you carried it off.
KD: I didnt write a lot of songs at that time, and you dont often find songs that fit you. And it was my first hit single. And such a classy song in its day. I think it is one of my favourite of the older songs.
GM: Take this as a compliment, but the only other person I can imagine recording it would have been Karen Carpenter who had a very warm voice.
KD: Yes, a great voice.
GM: It didnt get to number one, but because it was such a big hit, did it overshadow your continued success?
KD: I think that if you are a prolific writer, you dont have that problem, and Elton certainly helped me to an even bigger hit with his Dont Go Breaking My Heart in 1976. But a singer constantly relies on great material. I suppose that I might have found more similar material at that time. I was quite young. A bit like the pop idols types who say they want to write and record their own material outside of a band, and then you never hear from them again! I was trying things out, experimental. The album I did next with Gus Dudgeon was different. If I could have gone back, I think I would have stayed with Loving & Free and would not have diversified so much although I am very pleased what I did with Gus on I Got the Music In Me but as musical direction goes, it would have been better to stay with ballads and perhaps steer Gus or whomever towards that. At that time, I dont think I had a strong identity as an artist and a writer, if Im honest. I have always done a lot of different things. Thats good in some ways, but in some ways people dont know who you are. I have always had a bit of a problem in that area. Now that I am older and wiser, I will be singing, performing and writing for the next 5 to 10 years, I suppose. So this is the later part of my career, trying to be as clear about what I am trying to do as possible. Keeping it in the acoustic area. Which is where we started with Loving & Free.
GM: We have come full circle.
KD: I suppose we have, yeah.
Star! - Wednesday, February 28 2001 at 18:30:17
Part 3 of this interview follows soon!