Sia Talks Music Industry, Life w/ JD, and David Byrne’s Sperm: The New Gay Interview
Zack Rosen: So, what’s your new album gonna be like?
Sia: I love it, it’s much more uptempo than my usual thing. If you heard “Buttons” and the new fake single that I linked on my twitter, “You’ve Changed,” [above] that’s as close to an explanation of what to expect, really. There are still a few weepies, I did a cover of “Oh Father” by Madonna, but it’s a bit more bouncy. Nick Valenci from The Strokes is on it, he’s my new guitar hero. This is the album I’ve been wanting to make for ages but they wouldn’t let me make a pop record.
ZR: Who wouldn’t let you make a pop record?
S: Universal Records. I delivered some [pop songs] and they said “What are we going to do? You’re a downtempo artist.” So I said ‘This is what I have” and they said “You’re dropped.” I made my last record because people said ‘You’ll confuse your fans” and I said ‘What fans? Beck can do it, how come he can make a different record every time?’ They said “Because he has established his [audience] and no one has heard of you.” So I made [previous album] ”Some People Have Real Problems,” and the video for “Buttons” made that song stick out, and that gave me the lead for this album which is the album I wanted to make.
ZR: How does it feel to be bossed around like that?
S: I just cut people off. They were trying to do me a favor, they said “If you release these you will ruin your careeer,” so I said “Delete, you are not my friend anymore.” I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear, which is ‘This is awesome. It’s the best pop record I ever heard, you’ll be a millionaire. Everyone will dance, this is the best thing you’ve ever made.” Instead they said it’s really confusing and they don’t know how to market it. It’s hilarious because now the biggest label in the world, the three biggest major labels, have been in a bidding war for this. We went with one of them, it’s a one-album deal for the most retarded amount of money. It’s like, ok, now they know how to market it. Four or five of those songs I delivered to Universal when they dropped me and three of them are now lead singles. It’s funny how a good song will find it’s way back to life.
I get it now that there’s this whole machinery. I thought you could make what you wanted and your fans will like it or not, but I see that management tries to build you a long term career, but there are politics for it like doing long lead press doing long lead press when you haven’t even heard [the new album.] They bumped it from April to May, it’s crazy.
ZR: Is it possible to work outside this machinery, or do you have to be within it to have a successful career?
IS: I think that it depends what you mean by successful. If you mean ‘make money’ you need to be part of the machine unless you’re one of those superhuman people who can do everything by yourself, and have workaholic tendencies and really good advisers and a good investor. I do think that these days the most important part is marketing. It’s sad. I came into this when I was fucking 17 [with the band Crisp.] I was so naive. I thought all you had to do was write a good song and put it out. I learned so much after that one single ["Taken for Granted'] went to number ten on the UK pop charts. I was on Top of the Pops, I said ‘This is how it works. You write a song and put it out and you get a hit.’Then the record came out and everyone had forgotten about me and it sold 8,000 copies. There’s a system. You release a single, then six weeks later an album. There’s time limits on how long people’s attention spans will work. There’s six weeks in each territory that you’re really famous, then you, thank god, disappear again.
I think it’s awesome that you don’t need a record company to put out music, but you need a marketing machine if you want tit to sell. You know, worst music ever sells millions. The worst music with the shittiest lyrics. The fact is that they pay radio stations to put it on the radio, then you’ve heard it a million times when you’re driving from your shitty job to your shitty house. It’s indoctrination, it’s sad. I liked when I was naive and I thought it was just about making good music.
ZR: What are some of those shitty bands?
S: I don’t like to play that game, sir… Ok, Limp Bizkit. I don’t mind doing that because I met Fred Durst and he’s such a big dickwad, he’s the hugest loser in the universe. It is crazy to me that he has sold so many records.
ZR: What bands you do like?
S: Marina and The Diamonds, Lauryn Hill… I’m kinda cheesey, I like bands for a long time, even when they’re not trendy anymore. I still like Arcade Fire. I’ve always liked Stevie Wonder. I like Motown, The Pretenders…
ZR: Who are some of your lady rockstar icons, speaking of [The Pretenders] Chrissie Hynde?
S: That hit I had in the UK once, when I was on Top of the Pops, so was she. She pulled up a chair in the cafe and was like ‘Hi, I’m Chrissie” and I was like “Yeah, I know.” She did her song and then the crowd parted and she came over to me and tapped my hand and said good luck. Then she came to the green room and gave me the best advice of my life, which was “Don’t read your press. If you believe the good you’ll believe the bad.” There’s been two slip-ups where I came across something [I shouldn't have.] My boyfriend at the time said “Don’t worry about that terrible review.” Then I saw that every newsstand had had huge shining lights on it, I had to pick it up. It said “Sia lacks the songwriting skills of Dido and the credibility of Martina Topley Bird.” I was like “Fuck, she was right.” Don’t read anything
But Annie Lennox was an icon, Arethan Franklin, some Australian artists…
ZR: Like Olivia Newton John! Just kidding.
S: No, she totally was! So glad you brought her up. [Sings "'Nothing can stand in our way' from Magic.] I play that song when I’m DJing.
ZR: Last time I interviewed you was for the Washington Blade two years ago and you were just rumored to be a queer singer. Now you’re actually established as one. How has that changed things?
S: I guess I felt straight when I was allowed to get married. Now I feel queerer because I’m not. It’s the only thing that’s changed. I wouldn’t measure it in icon status or how much my demographic has changed, but in the rage I feel, and being not equal. That’s the only thing I’ve noticed in the last couple years. I feel like I’ve always had gay fans, I don’t think my dating a woman has changed my demographic, but it certainly changed the way I feel about politics. I was born pretty lucky, an Aryan Australian, friendly girl, that gives you a lot of advantages in the world. I was unaware of people’s fights or struggles for equality. I was really naive.
It was really shocking to me that when I was dating a dude I could get married and my taxes were 8 grand less, blah blah blah. We could visit our children and we could both pick them up. Now that I’m dating JD one of us will have to adopt. It will be a million in legal fees to make sure the sperm donor is happy with their deal, then one has to adopt it so we can visit it in the hospital. And if we get married our taxes are different and if one of us dies we have to pay so much for legal paper work. I had no idea. It’s crazy to me. I was really unaware of it.
ZR: Do you and JD have plans to marry or have kids?
S: Yeah, absolutely, but not until we’re allowed to. I want my rights. It’s like fuck off, this is embarrassing. It’s shocking to me. So I’ll fight for them until we get them then we can all have a big fucking celebration. We might have kids before we marry…
ZR: You’ve discussed it?
S: Of course.
ZR: And you’re into it?
S: Yeah, we want David Byrne‘s post-modern sperm.
ZR: Me too!
S: We haven’t found a way to broach it yet, we’re still just email buddies. We see each other occasionally at art events, but I’m not sure how Cindy [Sherman], his Mrs. is. We’ll have them over for dinner and then… Or I can take David to the Oscars, I can pitch that to him then. But yeah… we’ve got our eye on his sperm.
ZR: Lemme know if that works out. I wanna break the story if it happens.
S: Otherwise we’ll got to Xytex.com. It’s a sperm website.
ZR: I see. Do you have any parting words for everyone before I get tempted to ask you more questions about sperm?
S: Ummm…. do a good deed. Go do a good deed. That’s all. TNG
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