Kylie Minogue doesn't go clubbing like she used to but her new album comes with contributions from The Grid's Dave Ball, MoWax's Rob D and Brothers In Rhythm, alongside the Manic Street Preachers. So why does she still crave our respect? And has she ever necked a pill? Writer: Alex Petridis Photographer: Eva Mueller
In a private dining room in an exclusive Soho drinking club, Kylie Minogue is demolishing a plate of nouvelle cuisine noodles and sniggering over newspaper reports that she's suffering from anorexia. "Kylie Minogue, the famous anorexic," she giggles, "wolfing my way through the interview."
We're here because Kylie has a new album out, an album that flips through just about every style modern pop music has to offer - and that includes a large slab of dance music. While she's performed at Cream in Ibiza and Liverpool, recorded with Brothers In Rhythm, signed to Deconstruction, and even , for a period, clubbed every night in London to death, the dance scene has never really taken to Kylie. Though with people like Dave Seaman already playing remixes of new tracks like 'Too Far', that could be about to change.
Indie fans have embraced her for years as a sort-of ironic pinup, making pop singles that were daft, trashy and fun, while hanging out with Primal Scream, The Manic Street Preachers and Nick Cave. The gay scene loves her, she believes because "I'm a drag queen trapped in a woman's body". Modern artists make paintings of her. She appeared at a poetry event at The Royal Albert Hall, reading the lyrics to 'I Should Be So Lucky' with a self-depreciating smirk. But still her relationship with the dance scene remains strained and its not for want of trying. PWL tried their luck with anonymous 'ardcore Kylie mixes in the early 90s under the alias Angel K. Deconstruction paired her up with Brothers In Rhythm and Farley and Heller and shelled out for Chicago trackhead Felix Da Housecat to remix 'Where's The Feeling'... Maybe her pop past hangs too heavy for a scene obsessed with the underground, with avoiding cheese at all costs. Maybe its glamorous enough without her glitz and glitter.
Kylie calls her new album "pop dance that's commercial with sharp edges". Its actually better than that. She's written songs and lyrics herself, and grabbed enough cool collaborators to finally sound like she's getting the hang of the dancefloor thing. Brothers In Rhythm whip up epic house storms, MoWax's Rob D - as in 'Clubbed To Death' - offers us Kylie inna big beat stylee, Dave Ball of The Grid does suitably spooked grooves, even moving her into Bjork-circa-'Debut' mode; and she carries off all these styles with panache. But sometimes, particularly on the rock tracks, Kylie sounds strained, a saccharine Alanis Morisette, a bit Robbie Williams, even with the help of the Manic Street Preachers. So is this a lucky dip into 1997's vast musical spectrum? Or another attempt at making Kylie cool?
There's quite a lot of Indie tracks on the album. Is that because your last album got such a lukewarm reaction from the dance scene?
"Indie's a horrible word. There was SexKylie, now there's IndieKylie. I'm not Indie, for God's sake. I wanted to make pop dance album that was commercial but with sharp edges if you like. I'm not sure if I did change direction. I was working with four different sets of people of that two years. I did a couple of tracks with Olive which ended up not being used. I feel there's a lot of different styles but I hope it isn't too distracting because what I'm trying to find is something that I can call my style but I guess to find that you have to go through..."
...everybody else's first?
"Yeah, well, go through different styles."
Isn't it just hedging your bets? You want indie credibility, you want dance credibility and you want pop success, and nobody's got all three.
[Laughs] "Oh no! Have I really put myself in that position? Now you're making me nervous! I think if I had to choose one of those songs and have an album full of songs like that it would be very difficult for me to choose which one. Because what I wanted was a representation of the time and that's what happened. I can't justify any more than that. I found it a more honest representation. If I took six months to do my album it might have been a different story and that's what I'd be inclined to do next time. If it was up to me it would have happened in a more condensed period."
When you were with Stock, Aitken and Waterman, you were having hit after hit, making loads of money. Why drop all that to be trendy?
"Why not? It was the end of my contract and I didn't see that I would spend another five years with them. It's like leaving Neighbours when it was the number one TV show. Call me stupid, but it's something instinctive that made me leave. If I had stayed I wouldn't be talking to you now."
It wasn't more calculated than that? You didn't look at Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and think "your time's running out suckers, I'm off"?
"I don't think that I thought their time was running out. It's just that it had been something that I'd wanted to do for a while. Now I look back, I'm so pleased to have been with them. They were just dominating and monopolising the charts. There was a gradual build-up, wanting to have something of my own. When it came to the first Deconstruction album, I thought that was it, this is a place and a time where I can do what I want. Bit I still didn't know what I wanted. I thought I did but you only know as much as your life experience to that date. In another two years time I might look back at interviews I've done around this time and think, shit..."
Do you go clubbing?
"No, I used to."
There was a phase when you were something of a permanent fixture in London clubs...
[Laughs] "Yeah! 'That's Kylie on the stage...'" [does remarkably accurate mime of off-me-mash dancing]
So why did you stop?
"I guess it was a phase. It was a time I wouldn't go back to. I haven't really been out much at all. I actually enjoy being at home a bit."
Has that had an effect on your music?
"Oh, it must have. It stands to reason if I was going out every week, this album would sound very different. I still think there's a lot of dance on this album, its just with the Manics' song being the first single people think 'Oh God, she's gonna pick up a guitar', like Republica or Texas or something. I swear to God I'm not going to do that. I just asked everyone, 'If there's anything interesting you're listening to, can you just send it up my way.' People send me different CDs and cassettes, my boyfriend was giving me stuff and I just got to hear a lot of music I wouldn't hear on the radio or see in the singles chart. Then there's the influence of Dave [Seaman], who is out clubbing every week - so he's in touch with what's going on."
The original album title - 'Impossible Princess' [It's now been changed for obvious reasons] - makes you sound a bit snotty.
"Well, I regard it with humour definitely. I'm not a Chelsea Girl but I am the girl on the show pony in the circus, with lots of sequins and a spotlight on me. I'm a part-time exhibitionist. I keep aiming to be a prima donna but I never actually become one..."
What do you mean?
"Because sometimes I think it would be a whole lot easier just to have tantrums. It drives Deconstruction mad sometimes - "What's wrong with you? You're so professional! - you should be out drinking and..."
Why are you so professional?
"I think because I started working at such a young age and you had to know your lines, you had to turn up and you couldn't screw up 'cos everyone depended on you."
If you had those restrictions placed on you from an early age, didn't there come a point when you thought 'Oh fuck this, I'm just going to go out and take a bunch of drugs'?
"Well I did kind of, but I still had this...maybe it comes down to manners as well."
The British public seem terribly affectionate towards you. Why?
"I don't know."
But they do let you get away with things a former teeny star doesn't normally get away with. You don't see Sonia reading poetry at the Royal Albert Hall, do you?
[[Laughs] "It might have something to do with the fact people have seen me grow up... I can't profess to know and I almost don't want to know. You'd be better off asking other people about it 'cos it makes me kind of twitchy."
Have you become famous for being famous, rather than actually do anything?
"Cab drivers are always asking me 'Are you still making music?' Unless you are doing something, in the position I'm in I'll go to a restraunt and you're photographed going in and out of that restraunt, in and out of that club, or parties... it was like no-one knew that any work was being done."
What's it like not being able to speak freely because it might damage your career?
"I try to be honest as possible. I enlighten people where necessary. It's a bit more cloudy in a personal light. I would say I think I give enough away. There's so much that people don't know - so much - and that's my big play zone, that's my friends, my family, my boyfriend. That's the only restraint I put on myself [mysteriously]. There's things that people just wouldn't want to know about me..."
How's it feel knowing that there's thousands of people around the World who want to shag you?
[Giggles] "Oh, really! These questions! I really... I don't know. You tell me."
No Kylie, I don't know. You tell me.
"Well...it's almost too hard for me to think about being a 2D object or image. I'm very, endlessly flattered by it, but I find it quite funny when I think of where I came from. I just suddenly have the image of first time I arrived on screen on Neighbours. I looked pretty tragic in 1988."
Do you crave respect?
"Yes, I think these days I do, or at least an understanding. I don't expect everyone to like what I do - God, no - but I think it's because of where I came from. I've been slagged off for no good reason sometimes."
So how nervous are you about the album's reception?
"I definitely have a few nerves, but I'm really excited. If you'd asked me a couple of months ago I couldn't see excitement for the nerves."
So what are you going to do if it flopped?
"I'll be mortified."
One last question. Have you ever taken an E?
[Mammoth pause] Weeeeell... I did tell you I was dancing up on stage didn't I?"