Sarah Nixey was the backing vocalist in a band called Balloon. Unluckily for us, her performances never appeared on record with that group, but during this period she met Luke Haines of the Auteurs and former Jesus and Mary Chain drummer and Expressway frontman John Moore, both of whom wrote songs for her style of voice under the name of Black Box Recorder.

They recorded three albums together, ‘England Made Me’ (1998), ‘The Facts of Life’ (2001), and ‘Passionoia’ (2003)

With Luke beginning work on his first ever solo album ‘Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop’, and John putting out his first solo LP ‘Half Awake’ too, Sarah decided to write for herself as well.

She has just released ‘Sing, Memory’ on Service AV, an album of European flavoured tales of love and loss. Pennyblackmusic caught up with her at her first headline date at the Luminaire in London.

PB : You have now gone solo. When did you start out as a solo artist because the first time we spoke you said you would like to do something solo in the future then , and that was nine years ago ?

SN : (Laughs) Yeah, it has only taken me nine years to get around to it. I think basically I had to feel that the time was right for me. After Black Box Recorder released ‘Passionoia’, we reached a point where we came to a natural break. John Moore wanted to go off and make a record on his own. Luke Haines was already off doing a different thing and I just felt, rather then just sit around and wait for them to write me some songs, I would challenge myself slightly and see if I could come up with something worthy of putting down on tape.

It just felt like the right time really, and fortunately James Banbury was around, who showed a lot of interest in working with me. We got together and decided to work on this album. We must have started on it about three years ago, but I have been doing other things as well. I have spent a lot of the last year looking after my young daughter, Ava, but I found space to do this as well. I suppose it started coming together in about 2005. That was when we released the first single, ‘The Collector’ and then we released the second single ‘Strangelove’ last summer. We were just testing the waters really, and the response that we got was really good, and so we just carried on from there.

PB : Does Black Box Recorder still exist?

SN : Yes, very much so.

PB : So you will work with them again ?

SN : Well !

PB : If they write you some better songs (Laughs)

SN : There is that (Laughs)! The thing is I really enjoyed my time with Black Box Recorder but I am really enjoying myself on my own. It is really different, and I'm doing what I want to do. It is just a lot easier being on your own, because you can say, “I want to do it this way”, rather than to have to worry about what everyone else wants to do.

We were on the verge of putting something together after ‘Passionoia’, but then other things happened and it fell apart. I am sure there is something brewing, but when that will happen I'm not sure.

PB : Have you always sung? You were in Balloon before Black Box Recorder. Did you sing when you were a child, and hear songs and then sing along to them ?

SN : It sounds like a cliché for a singer to say that I have always sung, but in my case it really is true, My mother would always say that she knew I was a singer from when I was a baby. My favourite song, which was on the radio a lot when I was a small child, was ‘Sugar Baby Love ‘ by the Rubettes (Polydor, 1974-AS) and I would scream that when I was a baby.

I was a really shy, private child, but then I went to nursery school, and then, with my nursery teacher backing me, every chance I had to stand up in front of class I took it. I liked the sound of my own voice even then (Laughs). I really enjoy singing as a little girl and I continued to do so. When I was 13 I had singing lessons, and then I worked with some older male songwriters( Laughs).

PB : Is the finished product on the album how you would imagine it would sound ?

SN : Yes.

PB : So you thought it would be electronic, dancey and poppy.

SN : Yes, that's what I was aiming for when I wrote them, I wrote them on guitar, and played them for days. I thought they sounded like pop songs and kept testing them to make sure that they were. Tonight's gig is an acoustic set, and we could of gone down that route. Maybe we will on the next record, but for me the natural progression on from ‘Passionoia’ was to do a pop record which it is. I don’t think I could have pushed it any further, whereas the next record could go in the opposite way (Laughs). It may even go back to the style of old England with me using traditional instruments.

PB : How do you work ? Do you write the songs then give them to Infantjoy whom are your backing band ?

SN : No, it is a complicated situation. Service AV is run by James Banbury.

PB : Who was in the Auteurs?

SN : Yes, he is also my producer. He is also in Infantjoy. Service AV is run by James with Paul Morley (ex ZTT propagandist and well-known music journalist-AS), who is also in Infantjoy. I sang on their album ‘Where the Night Goes’, and did a cover for them of the old Japan song, ‘Ghosts’.

PB : The album is in two parts, and you tell a story before each. Was your aim to make it like an old vinyl LP ?

SN : Yes, it is supposed to be. Other people have done it before. It’s not a new idea.When I chose the track listing,for it, it made sense to divide it that way. One side is upbeat. One side is downbeat. I think that it works well.

PB : I once almost interviewed Sophie Ellis Bextor, who was then the singer with indie band the Audience,. Then she went pop and left her indie roots behind her. Would you like to do a big ‘Murder on the Dance Floor’ number ?

SN : I don't think it is really me. It would be great to sell that many records, but I'm not that sort of artist really.

PB : But when she was in the Audience she was only selling about 1,000 records per release to start with.

SN : Yeah, when she started doing dance records, it took her in a different direction. I'm not sure. I don't think about it too much. I just do it because I like it. I'm not thinking about it in a big career way.

PB : Do you see a difference between Black Box Recorder which was very indie and English and your solo material which is more pop and European flavoured ?

SN : That is because it has an electronic production on it.

PB : It is quite Kylie like. I am not saying you have to wear the diva dresses though (Laughs).

SN. : (Laughs) To me it just seemed the logical way to go. Black Box Recorder was so indie and so English, while ‘Passionoia ‘had more of a pop element. I could definitely see it going more that way. It was definitely a progression on from ‘The Facts of Life’. It definitely has more of a European flavour than the other Black Box Recorder releases.

PB : What are your future plans ?

SN : I would love to do a tour. I am hoping to put one together. I would love to play in New York or even L.A. Those would be my dreams. I also want to start the next record and do more writing.

PB : Thank you.















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