Don't take this interview too seriously. Roughly half the tape consisted of laughter and jokes, but some interesting topics came up over the course of the conversation. After all, how many interviews have you read recently that mentioned Keynes? By the way, the cat is alive. It'll all make sense when you finish. I talked to Mathew and Amelia Fletcher. Amelia played guitar and sings, and started a new band after Heavenly broke up. Mathew died in 1996.
So how did the band get started?
Mathew: We've just known each other for a very long time, since about 1986 and we had a lot of songs knocking around that were written and we needed to play them.
Amelia: We actually had a band before which was Talulah Gosh and that basically started because I liked all these bands around 1986 and I desperately wanted to join in and have one too and then we stopped that, thinking that we didn't want to be in a band anymore. As I think happens to a lot of people that leave bands we suddenly realized we still wanted to do it. So that's kind of how Heavenly started. Mathew's looking cross because I wasn't meant to mention Talulah Gosh and I did.
M: It's our sordid past. We don't like to bring it up but Amelia does like to bring it up because that's when she was happiest.
You mean you aren't happy in Heavenly?
A: We're happy.
M: I'm happy. She seems to have some hankerings for some mythic pastoral innocence or something. I don't know.
Even the album covers are happy. You have smiling pastel babies and kittens and things on them.
M: Kittens, yeah. That kitten is dead now unfortunately. It got run over. This is true, it died about two weeks after that film shoot. It lived with Cathy's sister in London and London is a big town. It's not really a good place for cats.
Well, that brings me to the next question ...
A: Does Heavenly lie a lot? Is that your next question?
No, no, no. I had just noticed that your music seems happy but has these really dark manic-depressive themes running through it.
M: Yeah! Well spotted!
A: Yeah, that's very true. It's getting more and more true. That wasn't true when we started I'd say, and I don't know what the undercurrent in our lives is, but that seems to be getting more and more true.
I remember one of the songs on the "P.U.N.K. Girl" EP sounded like it was about an assault.
M: Which song is this?
I can't remember.
M: Is it the third one, "Atta Girl," maybe?
I was thinking it was either "Atta Girl" or "Dig Your Own Grave" but I'm not sure.
M: There is an assault in the a cappella song "So" and also in the song "Hearts And Crosses." We have quite a lot of assaults in our songs.
A: Well, two on this one.
That's two out of five though. That's a fairly high incidence rate.
M: On that record yeah. The dead cat LP doesn't have assaults.
Oh, okay. On the dead cat LP? This sounds like the Heavenly version of "The Black Album."
M: Yeah, I think so.
A: The black dead cat.
"The Dead Cat" LP.
A: It sounds more like something Spinal Tap would have.
"It's just so ... black. You can't get much blacker than that." That was a great movie.
A: That's what we feel we're aiming towards really. In about five years we're going to be Spinal Tap.
So you'll be going through your free jazz stage by then?
M: I think so. We've already gone through that but only in private. We wouldn't wish to foist that on the unfortunate public.
M: Because I think they'd probably arm themselves and we would have to wear protective clothing.
But on the other hand, can't you imagine a nice clarinet solo in the middle of an instrumental version of "Escort Crash On Marsten Street"?
M: Maybe then we can do the barbershop quartet version.
M: I can see it. It'd be good.
Just put somebody with a harmonica and squeezebox out on the corner and you can sit there busking.
M: Yep, that's the one.
A: We busked yesterday actually. We played that show in Seattle with Built To Spill and it was just completely sold out. There was a line around the block of people that still couldn't get in.
M: There was about 300 people that couldn't get in.
A: So we and Lois and the Halo Benders went out and played some songs on acoustic guitar for the people that couldn't get in to make it a bit better.
Lois mentioned that. That's something not a lot of bands would do.
A: Well it was Lois' idea.
M: Evan Dando would do it. He would do it and you couldn't stop him. You'd go "Shut up Evan," and he'd go "No! I want to play a bit part in your life again!" You can't shut him up.
A: Mathew didn't think it was a very good idea.
M: I thought it was an embarrassing hippie thing to do and scowled at them. It was kind of nice and sweet I guess.
Just like the album covers before the cat died. This is horrible. The cat's dead.
M: Yeah, well if we'd known before we sent the sleeve off for printing, we could have ... I think it was too young to even have a name, I can't remember if it had one, but we should have put "Kitty, R.I.P. 1994 to '94." I think that would have been a nice touch on the back of the LP.
That's gruesome. That's grisly.
A: You're horrible Mathew.
M: It's quite grisly. I mean, I love cats. I have a cat. That's life and it died.
Yeah. I actually had a cat that was eaten by a coyote.
M: That's what happens in San Diego. That doesn't happen in East Oxford where we live.
Are there even coyotes in East Oxford?
M: No, not a lot.
A: I don't think there's any coyotes in Britain.
M: There was a restaurant called The Blue Coyote. That's about as far as we get.
I didn't know coyotes got depressed.
M: Oh yeah, I guess they do when there's not enough cats to eat.
Since we're on the topic of the dead cat album, some of the songs like "Me And My Madness" and "Sperm Meets Egg, So What?" seem to be sarcastic, yet focusing on darker issues.
M: Yeah, I think that's true. I mean, we're not exactly the Sisters Of Mercy.
And you're probably much happier for it.
A: Or Slayer.
M: Or Slayer. We're never going to write a song that goes, "Your corpse rots in blood!" or "I'm depressed, it's raining" or something. So if we want to deal with the darker issues, we have to deal with it in a slightly flippant way because otherwise people would thing we were Morrissey and just whining on and being sad and pathetic.
A: Oh no, that's not true though because Morrissey is pretty ironic.
M: That is true. Morrissey is pretty ironic, but he's still sad and pathetic.
M: I know, poor Morrissey.
At least you aren't Andrew Eldritch.
M: Our soundman looks a lot like Andrew Eldritch though, but if you meet him, don't tell him that.
A: Andrew Eldritch actually went to college with our guitarist.
M: Did he?
M: I didn't know that.
Wow. Heavenly legends that even other band members don't know.
M: Yeah. It's true I expect. She's not lying.
I remember seeing the Sisters Of Mercy once. Eldritch wandered around stage croaking for about 75 minutes or 90 minutes.
M: It's a tough life being on tour. It's so dark and gloomy. It's sad for him.
A: They're probably backstage cracking jokes and having a good time.
M: He's got that white face makeup off. He's actually got a really dark tan under there.
So it's just an affected pallor then?
M: It's totally affected.
A: I have to say that I think we may not be so very different by the time we time we get down to San Diego because my voice always goes after we've played about four days in a row so I'm going to be croaking and looking miserable as well. We may be the Sisters Of Mercy by the time we get there.
M: I haven't really got a long black cloak that I can wear though.
Right, and you're missing the cowboy hats and I'm pretty sure you don't have a drum machine.
M: We don't.
A: But it would play better.
M: It would play better. Maybe if I get drunk or quit the band or something before we get there, we can sort that out. I might just get lost somewhere up in San Francisco.
I can't imagine a better place to get lost.
M: It would be a very nice place to get lost.
You could hang out on Telegraph and sell playing cards or something.
M: That would be really good. I could sit in the Haight and try to beg by reminiscing about my time with the Dead and be like "Yeah, I saw them once and they were really cool. They let people tape their shows, they're really into that." Someone once got on to me about this, and I was just like, "Yeah? Fuck you!" Then he asked me who my favorite bands were and I said Bruce Springsteen and that shut him up pretty quick.
A: Our guitarist, Pete, his brother did go to San Francisco and just kind of stayed and he's now a metaphysician.
M: That's his job title, metaphysician. I think he does exorcisms and tarot readings and things like that.
I've always been familiar with "meta" as meaning "about something." Metafiction is fiction about fiction. So does metaphysician mean they're a doctor's doctor, or a doctor about doctors or what?
M: I don't know. I mean, the metaphysical poets from the 16th century like Andrew Marvell and John Donne were kind of ... actually, I don't know where it comes from. I don't know what it means. I think it's sort of spiritualism.
A: It's a kind of spiritual philosophy behind the world.
A: About the physical bits but also the spiritual bits.
M: So it's not that talk about crystals actually having power and stuff. We're not into that kind of thing.
Here's a chunk of quartz. Hang it around your neck and you'll soon be well.
M: Yeah, exactly. That's really how it goes.
A: There's actually a really famous scientist who's based in San Francisco, or certainly in California somewhere, and he won the Nobel Prize and then he went crazy.
A: And he was completely obsessed that Vitamin C could cure all ills and he and his wife and his research partner were all taking huge doses of Vitamin C.
M: And they turned orange and died.
A: No. And his wife got cancer and everyone was saying she had to go and get operated on, blah, blah, blah. And it was like, "No, she's going to be fine. She's taking loads and loads of Vitamin C" and of course she died and so did his research partner. It actually turns out he was kind of right. Although I don't think it cures cancer, it cures quite a lot of things and I, I believe. I believe. I have that spiritual thing and I have lots and lots of orange juice every day and I haven't been ill this year, so there you are. So that's the Heavenly spiritual bit.
That's Heavenly's spiritual interview quote.
M: Yep. Pete, our guitar player, has just turned up to tell you all about Andrew Eldritch at college.
This is fun.
That is, opposed to the serious interviews rock critics like to do.
M: Oh, we don't do those.
So tell me all about the themes and issues in your work. What sort of sociological implications do you see for Heavenly's music?
M: Hmmm. Is that a proper question? Oh, Amelia can deal with that. She's the serious one.
That was just a joke.
M: Oh, I see. If you want her to bore you for a long time and talk about her feminist philosophies, I'm sure she'd love to.
A: No, another silly question please.
Another silly question? Why "Sacramento"?
M: Because we played there two years ago in a basement and it was just really good fun. Tiger Trap supported us and they did the whole show on roller skates.
A: They couldn't work their wah-wah pedals because they would have fallen over so I had to sit and work their wah-wah pedals for them.
M: So we just fell in love with the place. It's a nice name. The song sounds like maybe you should be driving on the open road in a pickup truck with your guns in the back or something, going out on a hog shoot or, I don't know what you do in America. Do you do that sort of thing?
Not personally. Normally hogs are slaughtered.
M: Oh, hogs are slaughtered. Well, you know the kind of thing.
Yeah, guns in the back window, two cases of cheap beer in the back of the truck and you're going out cow tipping.
M: Yeah. Cow tipping! I saw that in "Heathers." That looked fun.
All you do is run up next to a cow and tip them over. I never had a chance to do it but when I was in high school I knew quite a few people who did.
M: Like moron people? Yeah, well, so "Sacramento" is about cow tipping.
So the song's about cow tipping.
A: Oh yeah.
M: We should have called our LP "Dead Cats And Tipping Cows."
That's a good title.
M: I think it is as well.
I think I hear another album in the making.
You're probably going to get off the phone head over to the four track and have eight songs ready by tonight.
M: Very possibly.
That was something I was wondering about. Usually Heavenly's releases are comparatively short.
M: We write songs very, very slowly mainly because we all have better things to do with our lives than write songs.
A: It's particularly me because I'm the musical dictator of the band. Bands that write songs a bit quicker than us, they have songs that are really all similar. I never want to write a song that's like another song I've written with the result being that I write incredibly slowly. I think I'm going to try and speed up because the rest of the band is getting pissed off with me.
M: She hasn't written a song in about five months which is why we're pissed off.
A: I've written one.
M: She's written one.
She's polishing things.
A: Yeah. I'm waiting for inspiration.
M: Well, they're polished.
She's waiting for the muso to strike. So about these feminist philosophies you mentioned earlier, what are they?
A: Oh, I don't have any philosophies at all.
M: Someone asked us what our songs were about, and I think pretty much it's like boy meets girl, boy is horrible, girl kills boy kind of thing.
M: I think the songs are basically about relationships going wrong and usually because of boys being dicks.
A: Well then there's that complete lack of communication, like boys and girls speak completely different languages and don't manage to communicate. But that's not based on any feminist philosophy, I wouldn't say I have a feminist philosophy.
Oh, pshaw! You know you have a raging feminist spirit inside you that's struggling to break free and write a manifesto for a new generation.
A: Well, yeah, but it's still at the struggling stage.
So when is the Heavenly feminist philosophy book coming out?
A: Uhhh, we may do the Heavenly economics book first.
About the economics of traveling on the road, driving vans, independent touring and solving the financial problems of underdeveloped nations?
A: Oh yeah. We're quite good at those kind of things.
All this and Keynes too.
M: And what too?
A: As in Keynesianism.
M: Oh, Milton.
A: Keynes is spiritual. He's my man.
So we're back to the spiritual interview part?
I just want to keep track of where we are.
A: Just because every time it gets serious we go back to the funny part.
M: I'm glad you don't get irked. It'd be very easy to just hang up on us when we're getting this stupid.
Well, these types of interviews are fun to read.
A: Good. We hope so. Sometimes we do serious ones.
M: Not usually when I appear. One time they were doing this really boring, serious interview and so me and Pete just came and stood on the table where they were doing it and did Elvis impressions until they shut up. We had to prick these preening popinjays' bubbles. These pop stars. Where do they get off talking crap all the time?
But they're your bandmates!
M: That doesn't stop them.
A: This never happened to Nirvana. You didn't get Novoselic and Grohl coming in and taking the piss out of Cobain.
M: Yeah, Cobain's all "Oh, my stomach's so hurt, I'm so messed up," and they're like "Shut up Kurt! Go to McDonald's. Lighten up."
Did you ever notice that Chris and Dave were the fun ones, the less serious ones?
M: Yep. They're the ones that threw a bass up in the air and had it land on their head. That's how fun they are. They were the Beavis and Butt-head of that band. "Huh huh, look at Kurt, he thinks he's cool, huh huh."
A: We're the Beavis and Butt-head of Heavenly.
You're the Beavis and Butt-head of Heavenly?
M: All of us are.
A: All of Heavenly.
M: Every one of us. Except Pete is Butt-head.
Okay, we've gone through dead cats, assaults, economists, feminism and how boys are not so nice. This is, I believe, what is known as free-wheeling.
M: I think so. It's almost like word association.
A: If you want to ask a question, we'll try and answer it seriously if you want to have one little bit of sensibleness.
M: If only you could see us. We're both laying back on leather couches in a darkened room, looking at Rorschach blots.
So you have someone sitting next to you saying "Tell me about your mother"?
A: We actually have the same mother, me and Mathew. We're brother and sister.
That explains quite a bit.
M: I expect so.
So is a sense of humor genetic or an acquired trait?
M: Well, acquired because our parents don't have one.
A: That's not true.
M: I don't know. We don't have the same sense of humor though so it can't be genetic. Well, she got hers from her dad and I got mine from my mom, so she likes clever comedy, I like hitting cats with bricks.
A: It's definitely not genetic and its definitely cultural because French people do not get our sense of humor.
On the other hand, the French like Jerry Lewis.
M: Exactly. There's enough ammunition against them to close down their country.
I still can't believe they had to demand that workers smile at Euro Disney.
M: Yeah. Well, did you hear about what happened at Euro Disney? The best one was all the employees making hardcore porno films on site. It's absolutely true and I'm not inventing this. Amelia thinks I'm inventing this but they had to sack about 40 employees because they had all teamed up to make hardcore porn films at Euro Disney which they were selling in Amsterdam. This does not quite fit in with Walt's image. There's Bambi, there's his dildo. I don't think so.
A: Bambi fist fucking.
M: I swear this is true. It's a good place to take your children though.
What, and watch the Seven Dwarves chase after Snow White?
M: You got it.
What is it now, Grumpy, Sneezy, Doc and Horny?
M: That's the one.
So is there anything I should know that we haven't covered?
M: I think you've really gone the whole gamut from A to Z, although we haven't had anything from Q yet.
Yeah, and I think we missed X and Z, but I think we've hit almost everything else. I know we hit "Sacramento" which is so far off the beaten path that it should count for double.
M: What's really annoying, and I just found this out, is that we've got another song on the LP called "Modestic" and I've since found out there's a town near Sacramento called Modesto, so I wish we had called that song "Modesto," because that would have been even better.
If you'd like, I'd be happy to sit down and help you find Central California towns to use as song titles for an album.
M: Well, we've got a map so that's how we do it.
A: That's an excellent idea.
M: I thought you were going to offer to go through every copy of our LP with white out and white out "Modestic" and write in "Modesto." That would be good.
And how many copies are there?
M: Probably about four or five thousand in America. It could be fun.
As long as we did it in a closed room so all the fumes could accumulate.
M: By the end of that we'd be changing the song titles to "Purple Elephant, You're My Buddy."
So what are your shows like?
M: What are they like? Well, they're like 45 minutes long, us onstage getting very sweaty and dancing about a bit.
A: We actually just discovered what they were like because we just did this video where we had a fake Heavenly and we had to go in and beat up the fake Heavenly and take over, but it did involve us watching the fake Heavenly so we were in the audience watching the fake Heavenly and they were all impersonating us so we now know what it's like in the audience. It was pretty funny.
M: We had Calvin doing Rob and he did it very well.
So this is the point of the video you just shot?
How long did it take?
M: How long did it take? It was about four hours. It was on Super-8 film and there's no lip-synching or anything. It was cheap.
A: It had spirit.
And it captures the band's essence!
A: We're just enjoyable live. Sometimes we're a bit ramshackle, but most of the time we're fun. We should be fun.
So you have fun?
A: Yeah, we have fun.
Has anything weird happened on the tour so far?
M: We went bowling. That was good. It wasn't really weird, that was just a cultural experience.
Bowling alleys often are cultural experiences.
A: Actually, I think the weirdest thing about this video is that Mathew is played by Heather who plays drums with Lois, and without organizing it, she and Mathew were wearing exactly the same blue cords with exactly the same cut and everything. I thought that was sort of weird.
M: That was weird. It almost makes me believe all that crystal shit, you know?
So is there anything else I should know about the band?
M: Pete went to college with Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant. Pete is actually on a cricket team with Hugh Grant.
A: That's not the coolest thing about Heavenly.
M: With Hugh Grant, star of Britain's top TV comedy, "Four Weddings And A Funeral." That's his double-barreled surname. Every time he's in the paper, they have to say that. He likes it because it's like a big thing and the next film he's in, it's going to be really huge on the billboard.
I think I've got everything.
M: I think so.
A: We're really reaching the dregs now.
I can't think of anything else unless I were to ask which you prefer, tubes or taxis.
M: Ooooh, tubes. Taxis are far too expensive. Taxis are for bourgeois rich people.
A: I like taxis.
M: Yeah, but she's an economist. She wears a business suit to work. She power dresses. She really does. She thinks she's Joan Collins off of "Dynasty" or something.
So there's something else coming up, the Heavenly fashion line, featuring power ties and business suits.
A: We could do it.
I'm frightened now.
M: You wait until you see how we dress, then you'll be scared.
A: Come up and say hello when we play San Diego.
M: Wear a red flower in your buttonhole.
You presuppose I'll be wearing a shirt with buttonholes.
M: Of course. I hope you're a dignified gentleman who wouldn't go out without one. No t-shirts, you ruffian!
Well, I'll make sure that I'm properly attired then.
M: A tie, slacks, a waistcoat.
You forgot an ascot.
M: A what?
Replace the tie with an ascot.
M: Okay. What? An ascot? I don't know what an ascot is, but okay. Very foppish.
M: Oooh, excellent.
I just have to decide whether I'm going to the show or going to class.
M: You should never disregard your education for any reason.
Well, it's sociology.
M: Ahhhh, don't ever go to that class. You can learn that on the streets. Just go sniff a little white out and walk around downtown. You'll study it.
A: Show up when the teacher takes roll and say you're there and then go to the loo and don't come back.
M: That's a really good one Amy. Did that work when you were at school?
A: No, I got caught in the loo.
M: Don't ever take handy hints from Amelia because they never work.
A: I always got caught.
M: Her suggestions are like "When testing whether a microphone is electric, make sure your hands are wet and grab it very hard and don't wear rubber shoes."
And make sure you're standing in a puddle of water.
M: That's the one. Yep, she's really pretty bright.
Hey, she's your sister!
M: That's why I can get away with it. If it was any other member of the band, they'd have punched my lights out by now.
Smack him Amelia.
A: Okay. Hang on.
M: Ow! Did you hear that?
Actually I did.
M: Did you hear the smack?
Yes, I did.
M: Do it again Amy?
Not only are the songs about abuse and assaults, the band members beat each other up.
M: Amelia actually has a black eye at the moment because in the video she made herself up with one and it looks so scary.
A: We absolutely don't approve of violence in any form.
M: Apart from "The Itchy And Scratchy Show." We approve of that violence whole-heartedly.
It's a cartoon.
M: Exactly. That's why we can approve of it, because no one really gets hurt, even when they're getting slowly fed into a liquidizer.