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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:42 am 
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You have to pay to subscribe but you can get a free password to look at free stuff including an article and 2004 interview with Polly.The part that makes me drool is the 18min mp3 version of the interview that you can only get once you have joined.Now if only someone had an account....... :wink: ... =harvey_pj


PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:59 am 
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well here's the interview, after reading it, it seems familiar:

RBP: Not to suggest that Uh Huh Her must be entirely autobiographical – or "confessional" – but you don’t sound terribly happy in these songs.

PJH: I’d say it was quite a dark record, but I find a lot of positivity in it. I do find a lot of hope and beauty in this record, but I do continue to believe that when I’ve finished a record and it goes out, I sort of hand it over. And I think that listeners take what they want and what they need from it. It is quite an unusual bag of songs, and some people take it in a very positive, happy, and funny way where some people take it as quite a dark and introspective record. Almost across the board people take it as an autobiographical record, and I spend my entire time trying to explain to people that I’m a creative writer. People jump to conclusions and I can understand it, because I myself, if I’m very interested in an artist – whether it’s Neil Young, Bob Dylan, whoever – you want to imagine that those stories are true because you want to believe in them. But I think also that when I listen to those writers I project my own stories into it. And I’d like people to be able to do that with mine. I try to write in a way that can be universal, and it’s a very hard thing to do – I think it’s something that I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to get better at doing. It’s a very important balance to strike, but this is not an autobiographical record. Obviously when you’re using your creativity, you’re doing it in a way that’s filtered through the way I see things. So of course it’s kind of flavoured with the way Polly sees things, but I’m not always telling stories that happened to me. I’m a very private person, and I would never choose to show my diary to people.

Is it a coincidence that you seem to oscillate between upbeat (Dry, To Bring You My Love, Stories) and lowdown (Rid Of Me, Desire?, Uh Huh Her)? Is there a pattern there?

What you are picking up on is the way I do this constant sort of opposites thing, and I think that is a big thing with me. Because I live in fear of repeating myself and I try always to find new ground and challenge myself so that I can move on and learn and discover more things about being a writer. So the automatic reaction always when I’ve written a record is to write the opposite next time. My ground line when I’m beginning to write a new record is: how far can I get away from the last thing I did? Because that immediately then challenges me. But then the second question is, okay, how can I not do something I’ve done before? I’ve ditched loads of songs that remind of stuff I’ve done before. There were three for this record that I loved – and maybe some of the best I’ve written – but I didn’t use them because they sounded completely P.J. Harvey. I try and find something that excites me. But it gets harder, the more songs you’ve written.

You’ve produced this album yourself, as well as played many of the instruments on it. Working mainly with Head and Rob Ellis must have taken you back to Dry.

I suppose I chose Rob and Head in the first place because when I knew that I wanted to produce the record myself and pretty much play everything myself, they were two people that I knew I would not be inhibited in front of – and with whom I’d still be able to maintain my vision for the songs. Those two guys know me so well that I can be completely myself with them. I knew that Rob would instinctively know what I wanted from him. He had to be very humble on this record, because it’s not a drummer’s record in any sense. To this record he added the most subtle parts that he’s ever played, so that was a really big learning curve for him. This record felt very important to me, because it was the first time I’d felt confident enough to produce myself, and I knew they would support me in that.

Where was the album recorded?

Mostly at my home, on my four-track or my eight-track. They’re very basic machines I’ve got. I’m not particularly technological or anything – I choose not to be. So all the music tracks and vocals were done in my house over a period of about a year. And then to put the drums on I went to Devon and we went to a little studio there and put the drums down. I think we only re-recorded two songs from scratch.

Why did you choose that slightly David Lynch-ish Polaroid for the cover? You have a very ambiguous if troubled expression in that picture.

Since I was about 11 I think I’ve taken self-portraits. And being that the record is produced by me and played by me – lots of me, me, me everywhere! – I thought, all right, I’m gonna do all the artwork as well. So the artwork is pictures of me pretty much yearly from 11 upwards, all self-portraits. And I think we all do that, especially if you’ve been an art student. You go through this period of self-examination, usually involving taking lots of pictures of yourself and casting your body in plaster and stuff. So I had loads of that stuff, and I just thought it would be really interesting for me as a mark, to date, of where I’d got to. I like the image because it looks like there’s something a little bit disturbing going on.

Stories was a sparkling, exultant guitar album – "absolute beauty", in your words – after the distorted, techno-industrial-flavoured Desire? This is a guitar-based album but the guitars are much dirtier and murkier. Why?

With Stories I wanted to explore a very highly-produced, melodic, trebly sound – I was even singing in a bright, trebly way – and with this record I wanted it to be kind of ugly. I was looking for ugly, distressed sounds – debased sounds. So all of the guitars are either guitars tuned so low that it’s hard to detect what notes they’re playing or they’re baritone guitars or they’re played through the shittiest amps I could or they’re played under a blanket. And the same with the vocals. I tried really messing up my voice, I tried singing in strange situations, I tried imagining myself as eight years old or a hundred years old.

‘Mr Badmouth’ and ‘Cat On The Wall’ sound almost wilfully unfriendly, while ‘Who The Fuck?’ says you can still kick it in the Angry department. At the same time there are very tender and beautiful moments on Uh Huh Her: ‘The Slow Drug’, the closing ‘The Darker Days of Me and Him’.

Yeah, I think the sadness in ‘The Darker Days’ is undercut with the music. People too often pull the lyrics apart. I’m a songwriter, so the music can entirely change the feeling of the words. And I think that’s a case where it does. The music I found incredibly uplifting to go with this sad storyline, and out of it I find quite a lot of positivity comes – or a way to go forward. Even the way words are sung has such an effect. If you’re singing in a broken, hoarse voice but you’re singing beautiful words. You think of Sly Stone on There’s a Riot Goin’ On: his voice is breaking up and distorting and yet he’s singing songs like ‘Family Affair’ and ‘(You Caught Me) Smilin’’.

I suspect people take your voice somewhat for granted. I know that you work very hard on your singing.

Yes, I spend a lot of time on it – particularly on this record, I felt that I did experiment quite a lot, much more so than on Stories. And I was very pleased with the results. With a song like ‘It’s You’, I felt like I got right inside that song to sing it in a young voice and paint an atmosphere of this young person. A song like ‘Desperate Kingdom of Love’ is sung in a such a muted and gentle way, like I’ve never sung a song before – a very tender way, I think. And then something like ‘Pocket Knife’ I find quite funny. So yes, I was really experimenting this time, and I was very pleased with what I got as a singer – and as a guitar player.

‘Pocket Knife’ is an acoustic song in the vein of ‘Angelene’ or ‘C’Mon Billy’ – one has that sense of you as a young girl in some border town in Arizona or something.

I was thinking more of a Russian peasant village!

My thought was that you’ve moved away from those sorts of story songs, to some extent.

Well, Is This Desire? was very much about weaving stories – or projecting myself through other characters.

But wouldn’t you say your writing has become more first-person – and therefore perhaps more personal?

It’s hard to describe it. I wouldn’t say more personal. What I’m aiming for in my lifetime – which I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve – is being able to marry the personal to the universal. Which is what my favourite songwriters do extremely well. They weave stories that sound incredibly personal, and yet the listeners can involve themselves completely because they recognise even very specific things. Someone like Leonard Cohen is very specific in his language, but because of the specificity you can relate to it even more. You think, ‘Oh yes, I recognise that elm tree that he walked past at 6 am.’ You know that feeling, and I think that’s what I aspire to. With this record I was trying to be specific in the stories that I was weaving – which makes them feel more personal – but hopefully getting somewhere towards letting other people in more. I think it’s a really hard balance to get, but it’s what I’m trying to do.

‘The Slow Drug’ posits love as addiction, and the way romantic love is presented on the album generally is quite troubled. How do you view romantic love?

I’m not someone that would divulge my view on anything like that anyway, really – not in an interview. I’m a very open-minded person, and I don’t have one particular shadowy view of love at all. I think of myself as a very hopeful person. I like to paint atmospheres, and I was painting a particular desperate atmosphere in that song and wanted it to be so. I choose to paint other atmospheres in different songs.

In ‘The Darker Days...’ you long for a land with "no neurosis, and no psychosis/No psychoanalysis... and no sadness." Is one ever likely to reach such a place?

One can wish for it, and long for it, and sing it out loud. Wouldn’t it be great? Yeah, I was particularly pleased with those words, and I wanted to make them really come forward. At that part of the song the music disappears and you’ve just got the voice, just there, and I sang those words in a particularly sibilant voice. It’s a place in the song where you really hone in on it, and you really listen to those words. And I always wanted to get the word "psychoanalysis" into a song – it’s not the easiest one to slip in there.

You’ve always maintained that you had "a stable upbringing". Are you quite sure you weren’t damaged by hearing Trout Mask Replica as a child?

Well, you never can tell. I know I heard it quite consistently for about three years upwards. But you know, I did [have a stable upbringing]. It was unusual. I was surrounded by musicians – surrounded by people all the time. Our house was full of people staying in it. So although I lived in quite a remote village, I had a strange combination of millions of people around all the time as well. And I had fantastic parents that loved music and played rock’n’roll and blues constantly every day. That was normal to me.

Didn’t that make it hard to rebel?

Well, my rebellion was going to school discos and listening to Duran Duran. My mum was horrified that I was buying Spandau Ballet records. I can remember when I left art college to concentrate on music, they were so relieved. ‘We knew you shouldn’t have been doing art anyway. ‘Course you should be doing music.’

I understand that Ian Stewart often stayed at your house when you were young.

Stu was my dad’s best friend, really, and he would stay pretty much every weekend because he loved to escape from London. It was great for us as kids, because we got into loads of Stones concerts for free. We got to see them play at the 100 Club when we were about nine or ten. We got to meet Keith and Mick and shout the songs we wanted them to play. We ended up with lots of backdrops from ‘70s concerts in our house. We’ve got Stu’s piano and speakers. When they were in their twenties, Stu and my dad kind of formed this gang that would gather together every weekend, without fail, on the West Country coast. People would come from London, Manchester, Scotland every weekend – this group of about 25 people that would get together, play skiffle music, listen to rock’n’roll, and have parties together. And Stu was one of the gang. My mum and dad were the first of this gang to buy a house, so then all the parties ended up at our house, and Stu would continue to come down every weekend.

Going back to 2001, how did it feel to be awarded the Mercury Prize on 9/11?

It was very strange, particularly since we were in Washington. I woke up to people hammering on the door, saying the Pentagon was on fire – which we could see from our hotel. Sadly I didn’t I feel at all present in terms of winning the Mercury Prize. And it was an honour for me to receive it.

What’s happened in the two or so years since you finished touring Stories?

I didn’t get off the road till 2002, because it was a very long tour. And then I spent most of the rest of that year writing in Dorset. End of 2002/early 2003, there was a year of my life where I pretty much didn’t do anything but nurse my [paternal] grandmother with my family. I didn’t even do any writing or anything then. She was my last grandparent, so I wanted to absorb as much of being with her as I could at that time.

Is part of you still rooted in the country and in the seasonal cycles – birth, death, dirt, slaughter, fox-hunting?

Oh yeah, yeah. I mean, I feel like it’s definitely the place I’d go to die. It’s where my roots are, but I do need to spin off into all these extremes. And I think as a writer it’s really important. Even now I’m thinking about writing the next material, and I know that I’d very much like to relocate again in a quite unusual, maybe foreign-speaking country. Because it just plunges you into having to look for new areas in your writing and makes everything seem new for the first time. When you’re faced with a language barrier, something like buying a loaf of bread becomes a major experience. Your eyes are open as if for the first time, and that’s a very useful tool as a writer.

How much time did you spend in the desert with Josh Homme?

I think it was ten days – a very short time to make a record. They were friends of mine – we’d played a few festivals together in Australia.

You made a guest appearance the other day at Vincent Gallo’s Festival Hall show – one assumes you’re still on good terms with him?

He’s one of my greatest friends, really. I have about three people whose opinions I need badly, and he’s one of them. And he helped me a lot with advising me on the record. He’s just a soulmate, really.

Some people might infer that he was Mr Badmouth.

Well, I don’t explain songs to anyone. People can think what they like, but Vincent and I... I wouldn’t talk about anything like that.

You sing that "shame is the shadow of love". Is shame a psychotherapeutic term for you?

Again, I’ll just say that I don’t explain lyrics, and choose not to. The beauty of it for me is that everyone can interpret it in their own way. I don’t choose to psychoanalyse my own lyrics either. Sometimes words come together because they sound really beautiful together – and I think that’s a prime example. Those words rolled off the tongue in a very beautiful way at that point in the song.

Do you think the whole business of women in rock has finally become a dead issue?

Yes. I’ve never experienced difficulty as a female artist. If I’ve come across hurdles it’s certainly not been because I’m a woman. It’s usually been creative in some way, and I’ve always managed to get through it or find a way around it. I’ve never felt that I’ve been hampered more by being a woman. I’ve never really been aware of problems of gender.

Do you think the onus is much more on female performers to play with their image – to wear the kind of "mask" you did back in the mid-‘90s? How will you be presenting PJ Harvey this year?

[Laughs] Well, she will be lowered from the ceiling... I don’t know, with every record I just follow my gut instincts, really. I shall be presenting myself in what feels most comfortable: "This year I shall be mostly wearing bailer twine..."

Simon Reynolds wrote in 1993 that "Polly Harvey's songs derive their savage energy from a conflicted attitude towards masculinity..." Was there any truth in that? And are you still a tomboy at heart?

I choose not to analyse myself, is the answer to the question. And I like wearing dresses. I don’t know if that means I’m not a tomboy.

I think you’re one of the great unsung riffmeisters of rock. How long does it take you to hit on a riff that feels right and gives rise to a good song?

It varies, really. Sometimes if I’m just playing around with things, you’ll hit upon something and you might just mould it over a period of twenty or thirty minutes. And other times it might just come immediately. Sometimes I might feel a rhythm when I’m away from an instrument. I can feel a rhythm or a tune in my head. I think it’s the way that my rhythm naturally goes that can bring that out. And I think that’s unique to people. Josh Homme has great rhythmic sense, and it’s not something you can learn. It’s a feel thing.

I also really admire the way you strip things down to bare elements, whether it’s on ‘Working For the Man’ or ‘Electric Light’ or ‘You Come Through’ on the new record. Does that kind of minimalism demand a certain courage?

It needs a lot of courage. It’s a very frightening thing to do. To leave something that bare, you’ve got to have a very strong basis to start with. If you leave something so bare, all its weaknesses are exposed. With this record, I wanted to make an album where nothing was on it that didn’t need to be there. Anything that wasn’t needed, go away. So you end up with a song like ‘Desperate Kingdom’, which has just got two elements to it. That was kind of my thinking, especially after a record like Stories, which had everything on it. It’s also because there’s too much information everywhere these days. Videos have so many edits in them, and records have so many layers. It’s all to do with quantity and not quality, and I wanted to get right away from that.

Who are your peers as songwriters and performers today?

Will Oldham I admire enormously as a writer. Lyrically he’s incredible, and he paints these amazing atmospheres. Vincent Gallo continually pushes boundaries, wherever that takes him and wherever his challenging of himself takes him. I am constantly awaiting the new Fall record, because I know I will live that record and not play anything else for about four months. I am a huge fan of Mark Smith’s writing. I think he’s one of the best lyricists we have. I saw them play last year and it was the best gig I’ve seen for years. I came away from that gig feeling inspired, excited, wanting to change my life. If I go to a show and come away feeling that, that’s what you want to happen. Because music can change the way you feel.

Do you feel a sense of kinship with people like Thom Yorke, Beck and Bjork?

Um, I think of myself probably as an artist in terms of it being my life’s work. I want to explore and challenge myself. I’m not doing this for any other reason than to see what I can produce, and can that be of worth and help to people. And I think those people are the same. They challenge themselves. I think of Thom definitely as a friend who I lean on for support when I’m confused. So I do need their support too, and I have this kind of network or support system of people that are like-minded in that way.

It seems to me that people so often miss the point of artists such as yourself and Radiohead and Bjork, which is that the music is first and foremost about emotion.

Yes. At the end of the day, you either are moved by a song or not. And that’s for me where a song works or not. Am I feeling something? Is this moving me? That is the most important thing.

How are things progressing with Marianne’s album?

That’s all ready to go, but she’s delayed putting it out because she’s in this Black Rider production. I’ve written and produced five songs, Nick Cave’s done three, and Jon Brion did one.

Is she like some gloriously wicked godmother?

Yes. She says to me, ‘Welcome to the Marianne Faithfull School of Bad Living’!

Do you ever still think, as you did partway into the recording of Is This Desire?, of giving it all up and doing something else? Is that really a choice you have?

I don’t anymore. I think in the last five years or so I’ve felt more than ever that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing here. And I’ve thrown all of my energies into it. I feel very lucky to have found my life’s work. I’ve found something where I can try and give something back to other people. And I think that’s quite a big thing that a lot of people want to find – some way of giving – and I find I’m able to do that with music.

Listening to Rid Of Me again, I was struck by the fact that it sounds quite like In Utero. What did you think of Kurt Cobain?

I met him a few times. As a writer I had enormous respect for him. He was an incredible writer and an incredible singer. And when I met him I found him to be a very special person. He was one of those special people. There was a light inside him that you could see. He had a charisma that went beyond his physical presence.

Where are you at now? What might we expect next time around?

Well, I am someone that writes all the time. And I’m very much involved in thinking about the next record. Just yesterday I was pooling all my ideas together to take on tour with me, so I can work on tour. I’m actually thinking that I might record the new album on tour. You know, when we’ve got a day off, drag my band kicking and screaming into a studio and hopefully make a song every couple of weeks or something. That’s my new challenge to myself – to write more in the moment and not prepare things at home beforehand. Again, it’s a complete opposite to this record: I’m going to take half-written things into a studio and bash them about and see what happens. I have so many albums planned in my head, but one of those plans is to loop myself playing things and play with me looped. What would it be like if I looped a cymbala playing a melody and then drummed over the top of it. I want to explore that kind of thing a lot more.

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:29 am 
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Very interesting interview. Thanks for transcribing it!

Polly must've gotten over the looping thing soon after this. She's never recorded anything with overt looping going on has she?


PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:52 pm 
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Thanks Teclo!
I don't think I've heard her speak of KC before. I know Kurt liked her music and "Dry" was high on his list of favourite albums.

how will you ever walk again...

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:14 pm 

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"I’ve ditched loads of songs that remind of stuff I’ve done before. There were three for this record that I loved – and maybe some of the best I’ve written – but I didn’t use them because they sounded completely P.J. Harvey. I try and find something that excites me. But it gets harder, the more songs you’ve written."

Anyone care to speculate on which of the b-sides these may have been? I'm thinking Uh Huh Her, Evol, and maybe The Falling. I don't know. Thoughts?

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:15 pm 
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^ It's possible these were not even made into B-sides. Check out the BMI list of many of her registered song titles. She's registered tons of songs that she's never recorded. ... =162440888

Someone once created a new list from the BMI list, but ordered by BMI #. It's interesting to speculate on if that new list is in chronological order.


PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:48 am 
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papersteven wrote:
Anyone care to speculate on which of the b-sides these may have been? I'm thinking Uh Huh Her, Evol, and maybe The Falling. I don't know. Thoughts?

Definitely the first two, not sure about the third.

PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:04 pm 

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Apologies for bumping an ancient thread, but I've transcribed the beginning and end portions of the interview (via Amazon Music) that didn't make it into the print interview and it seemed sensible to add it to the same thread as the print version. She talks about the band, Lollapalooza (which of course ended up cancelled), and LA:

Spoiler! :
Barney Hoskyns: So, how are you?

PJH: Really well. Quite busy--I forget how busy it gets this time of when an album's coming out, every time. You feel like you're going to be prepared and you have things sorted, and then there's things that aren't prepared and sorted. So it's a but busy, and I don't feel like I've had enough time to get my head around rehearsing the band--we start rehearsing in a few days time

BH: How far are you into the process? Where did it all begin?

PJH: I suppose I finished the record in November/December last year, and then we've spent the first three months of this year just sequencing, deciding which songs are going to be on the record, doing some remixes. And then by the beginning of February that was sort of decided, and since then I've just been preparing, doing interviews, auditioning players, getting the band together.

BH: So the band is...

PJH: It's a new band. Two people I haven't worked with before, and Rob Ellis, who's my usual partner in crime.

BH: Anyone notable that's joining you?

PJH: Well, there's a guy called Dingo from The Fall, I actually saw him playing with The Fall last year, and I was on the lookout for a bass player, and he was a very charismatic and strong bass player. So I'm just borrowing him from Mark E. Smith at the moment.

BH: Does Mark know? (laughter)

PJH: Yes, I'm borrowing and he's going back again.

BH: (more laughter)

PJH: The other player is a player I spotted in the States, playing with Vincent Gallo's band, who's a friend of mine, and he also plays with John Frusciante quite a bit, a guy called Josh Klinghoffer.

BH: Oh, I know that name, yeah.

PJH: Yeah, he's quite a well-known Los Angeles musician. He plays quite a mad fashion.

BH: When are you likely to be playing in America?

PJH: The first week of June we're just doing something in New York, just a bit of promotion really, and a couple of low-key gigs. But I think we actually tour there properly as of the end of July/beginning of August, and then we're there August, September, October, we've got a two and a half week slot on Lollapalooza.

BH: Oh, great. Has that been announced?

PJH: No. I only wanted to do that because Sonic Youth were doing it, and they're friends of ours, and it was just for a short amount of time. I don't like getting on those festivals that go for a long, long time.

BH: Is Perry Farrell involved in this one?

PJH: Not this year, I don't think. Not as far as I know.

BH: And the headliner is who?

PJH: Morrissey.

BH: Morrissey!

PJH: Yep!

BH: Wow...

PJH: On my days. Because I think they've got flip-flop days--on my days they've got Morrissey, Sonic Youth, and us...Dizzee Rascal...

BH: Great. Have you met Morrissey?

PJH: I haven't. We're like ships that pass in the night, because he's got an apartment in LA two streets down from where I am, so I'm constantly driving past and waving hello to Morrissey (laughs)...but I haven't. I do go to the pub that he goes to sometimes, but I haven't been there when he has been.

BH: Of all the places he was going to end up, I think that's the least likely.

PJH: It's funny because I would have said the same about me!

BH: Are you actually now living there?

PJH: I've got a place there. And I'm from Dorset. So I didn't think I'd end up there either.

BH: How long have you been there?

PJH: I've had the place a year, and out of that amount of time I've only been there about three months.

BH: Is that in the Hollywood Hills?

PJH: It's on the Sunset Strip.

BH: It's actually on the Strip?

PJH: Yeah. In the thick of it. Tricky lives two blocks down from me. It's really funny. Tricky's the kind of person--I mean, I've known Tricky since we were really young, because we were both in Bristol--and I constantly bump into him in the weirdest places. I didn't even know he was there, and I bumped into him on the street. Coming back from the supermarket, things like that. I ended up sitting next to him on the plane, none of us knew, so it's very funny. He's lovely, a really good friend of mine.

BH: Now, let's get into the meat of it...

And this bit at the end:

Spoiler! :
BH: Thank you.

PJH: My pleasure.

BH: You were excellent today. Deflected some of the questions.

PJH: Cunningly deflected (laughs)

BH: But I respect that. I respect that. Because I think...

PJH: Oh, you can fill in the gaps! (laughs)

BH: (inaudible)...songwriters are expected, apropos of songs they write, suggesting they have to sort of comment on everything, be people that we commit to caricature, and I think that's one of the problems, we expect too much.

PJH: Yeah, people want things explained, and I think that for me, the beauty is leaving things completely unexplained. What we were saying about underwriting, it means that the listener then has this wide-open canvas to paint their own picture. Some people don't want that, some people find that a little bit scary, but I don't. I've always been somebody that loves using the imagination, and projecting your own emotions on things. If I ever look at an exhibition of any kind, I love what does that bring out in me, in my emotions. How that reminds of that time when I was..that's what I love, and I don't like things being overstated or oversaid.

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