Sarah Nixey is the former front woman in Black Box Recorder. The group, which also featured Luke Haines from the Auteurs and Sarah’s then husband and one-time Jesus and Mary Chain drummer John Moore, recorded three albums, ‘England Made Me’ (1998), ‘The Facts of Life’ (2001), and ‘Passionoia’ (2003).

After Black Box Recorder went into hiatus in 2005, Nixey started a solo career and released her debut album under her own name, the dance-oriented ‘Sing, Memory’, in 2007.

Since then she has reunited with Black Box Recorder, who finally broke up amicably at the end of last year, for occasional shows including a tribute concert to Nick Sanderson, the former Earl Brutus guitarist, who died of cancer in 2008. She has also just released her second solo album, the strings-influenced ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to Sarah Nixey at a gig in London about ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’.


PB: You have just released your second album, ‘Brave Tin Soldiers’. Why did you give it that title? Is it anti-war?

SN: No, it's not political at all. I quite like the idea of all the songs being like little tin soldiers, or the characters in the songs being like little tin soldiers. It is also the first single from the album. I originally had the title of ‘Silk Threads', which is the name of another of the tracks on the album, but thought that it might be too soft.

It is a fighting record. All the characters are fighting either with themselves or with someone else, or dealing with some sort of demons. I love the story of the brave tin soldier as well. It seemed like the right choice.

PB: Was it an easier album to record than ‘Sing, Memory’?

SN: It wasn’t necessarily easier. The first album was more of a collaboration, I wrote the melodies and a lot of the lyrics, and then I handed them over to James Banbury who created these soundscapes.

It was done this time in a different way. I didn’t set out to do it on purpose, but when I was writing these songs and doing the demos at home I began to layer the tracks in such a way that I knew what I wanted the record to sound like. It was pretty hard work, but I did a lot of it on my own.
When I called in the band, they added to it. They brought in their own ideas. Mark Lodge, who plays the cello and piano, helped me with the string arrangements because I had no idea what a cello could do, so we built those up together. It worked out well in the end (Laughs).

PB: Did it take longer to record than the first album?

SN: It took about two years to put the songs together in terms of writing and doing the demos. I had just had my little boy, and because of that I was doing it one or two days a week in my own home studio and then I got the band in. It was quite intense, and we recorded it over just four or five sessions. We recorded at least two or three songs at a time, and I really enjoyed that. I enjoy having a short recording schedule. I have found that for me is the ideal way of working.

PB: How would you describe the sound of the new record because the first album was more electro and dance-based?

SN: This album is more about stories. Some of them are famous and some of them are more personal stories. but I have not gone too much in that direction. There is not a lot that is autobiographical. I have usually have taken a story and retold it in my own way, which I didn't really do on the first record. I did it on tracks like ‘The Collector’, which is quite personal and about things that were going on in my life at the time.

PB: Who is your current band?

SN: I have Mark Lodge on cello; Liz Corcoran who is a friend of mine and in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; Rupert Ring who plays double bass on a few tracks; Jimmy Hogarth who is my husband on guitar, and Tim Wheeler who plays drums and who has been with me since Black Box Recorder days. John Moore also played some saw.

PB: There have been some Black Box Recorder shows since we last spoke to you, including one with the Jesus and Mary Chain, which was a tribute to Nick Sanderson. Did you know him?

SN: Yeah, we knew him. He was a friend of John’s. We all wanted to do that show. We then did some shows at the Luminaire after playing that first show at the Forum inspired us to do some more.

We thought that there would be maybe another record in there, so we played a few more shows. We started to do some recording but it didn't come together, and we decided there wasn't going to be a fourth album.

PB: Did any of those tracks turn up on subsequent Luke Haines solo albums?

SN: No, we just recorded two tracks, ‘Do You Believe in God?’ and ‘Keep It in the Family’. We released them the day of the general election last year as a download single. It was a nice book end. It felt like the right thing to do.

PB: Have you read Luke's autobiography, ‘Bad Vibes’?

SN: I read a part of it. He is brilliant, a great writer, really funny. I just have a problem with reading about history that I was part of (Laughs), and I don't want it to be changed in my head. He has got another one coming out soon too.

PB: Do you think you have an audience that has come out of your solo career, or do you think that the majority of your fans are from Black Box Recorder days?

SN: It is a real mix really. I am sure that there are people who were fans of Black Box Recorder and don't like what I do (Laughs), but I think that I have found a different fan base as well.

PB: This album is on Black Lead Records. Who are they?

SN: I set it up myself, I went to my old label, One Little Indian, who did show an interest, but then went cold on me. I felt like I didn’t want to go around other record companies, so I decided to set up my own label. Cargo distribute it for me. It has been hard work, but at the same it has been more straightforward than I expected it to be.

PB: What are your future plans?

SN: The next single will be ‘The Homecoming’ with some remixes as B sides. There will be maybe another EP, and beyond that a few more live dates.

PB: Have you any ideas yet for a third album?

SN: I don't know yet, but I think I will start on it pretty soon. I don't want to leave it too long.

PB: will you be playing any instruments tonight?

SN: I strum a bit of guitar and I play some piano. That is how I write the songs. I am playing guitar tonight, but it is not too technical. Put it that way (Laughs). I started learning the piano two years ago and I am really enjoying it. It is good to get your brain working.

PB: Thank you.















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