Wednesday 7 December 2016

Q&A: Stars' Amy Millan

Published 03/09/2010 | 05:00

On death, the supernatural and drunken stage invaders

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So your new album is called The Five Ghosts and has a creepy Victorian photograph on the cover. Fans of the supernatural are we?

Yeah, we're trying to find our favourite ghosts. We're trying to summon them and see if they will come to us in our lives or in our dreams. Only the nice ones though...

Most of the songs seem to be about death and the afterlife -- you've basically written a concept record about mortality.

Well, we were haunted a little bit. We lost [co-vocalist] Torquil's father, Douglas, in the middle of the album. That was a huge thunderbolt in the middle of our lives. He was this once-massive person for us. And then he became this spirit. It happened so quickly, while we were making the album. In the middle of recording it. It was very sudden. He died of a massive heart attack.

You must have been in shock.

When you're in the face of that kind of tragedy, it happens so quickly. It makes you feel on the edge of the world. You don't have a chance to grieve. You feel more alive when someone close to you dies, it's a very strange time in life. We put a lot of stuff on the linem, because that's what Douglas Campbell would have done. He gave his whole life to art. It's an homage to Douglas, this entire album.

Is it true you also became collectively obsessed with the number five during the recording process?

It's interesting. There are five members of the band. This is our fifth record. Five is a discordant number. It's not an even number. It's like, who's the fifth person? It's an uncomfortable number in some ways. We knew this album had to be in some way dedicated to a ghost. We were looking for some way to title that. The Five Ghosts seemed the most mysterious.

You've put the record out on your own label. Is looking after the business side of things a headache?

I think in some regards you should always pay attention to the things that aren't the creative side. That's what keeps the entire thing running. Sometimes, if you're not paying as much attention to the business, you might not get to the amount of people that want to hear you. I don't find 'business' a dirty word. I look to people as big as Mick Jagger, who runs the business of the Rolling Stones. The people who are the most successful in this industry are the ones who pay attention to all aspects of what it means to be a musician.

What prompted you to cover Fairytale of New York by the Pogues last year?

I love that song, it was played all the time when I was growing up. Every Christmas you'd hear it, along with the 'Do They Know It's Christmas' song... Do you know that one? And I always thought we were a bit like The Pogues.

What -- a bunch of whiskey-soaked plastic paddies?

We sing boy/girl duets. There's a little bit of that going on too.

On your last Irish tour, you had stage invaders two nights running...

That's right... the crazy Irish.

Is it exciting when someone gets up on stage? Or a bit random and irritating?

Whatever happens, it's all rock and roll. I mean, God, please. If you are moved to the point where you want to get on stage and give me a hug, then by all means.

Ed Power

Stars play Electric Picnic tonight. The Five Ghosts is out now

Irish Independent

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