Not only is she responsible for a trio of the biggest pop records of the past three years, but Charli XCX has brought a knockabout punk energy to the Top 40. She talks to Gigwise about admiring the "God Of Fuck" Marilyn Manson, and why Kanye was right to take the stage at the Grammys.
Like many terrible nightclubs in commuter belt towns, Bishop's Stortford's local nightspot went by many names during its lifetime. Over a number of decades it was known variously as the Triad Arts Centre, The Juicy Duck, Peppers, Flaunt, The Attic and, somewhat improbably, "Scorch".
But Charli XCX had a connection to the club no matter the name above the door - her father used to own it in the 1970s. By the time she was old enough to pass for 18, however, the venue had changed beyond all recognition.
"I went to a foam party once or twice when I was younger," Charli tells Gigwise. "I was using fake IDs and stuff so it wasn’t exactly ‘wild’. I actually really liked Darude’s 'Sandstorm': big song! And there was one called 'The Launch' [sings the countdown]. It was sick.”
What's remarkable, is that by the time Charli slipped past the bouncers to dance to DJ Jean, she had actually recorded her own LP. Her debut album 14 was created when she was still in her early teens, but was never officially released. It took until 2011 for the hype to finally kick in and even then it was only after the huge success of her co-write of Icona Pop's 'I Love It' in 2012 that the music world finally cottoned on to Charli's full potential.
Whether guesting for Iggy Azalea, supporting Katy Perry, writing for Gwen Stefani and even recreating Thelma and Louise with Rita Ora, the past few years have certainly shown what Charli is capable of. Having got a true punk record out of her system (a series of covers of Sweidsh punks Snuffed By The Yakuza) and released an album that didn't quite capture her anarchic side (True Romance) next week finally sees the release of Sucker - a potent pop record full of fury. To mark the release of her long waited debut album she talks to Gigwise about the musical influences you might not expect...
David LaChapelle’s portrait of Marilyn Manson was a key influence on you. What do you admire most about Manson?
"I think Marilyn Manson is such an incredible artist. Over the past few months I’ve been watching loads of interviews with him - there was a really interesting one of him on Letterman because obviously everyone always tells him he’s inciting the devil in children. I think he’s a really intelligent, well-spoken man from the interviews that I’ve seen. To be honest though I’m not very well versed in his back catalogue and definitely my favourite Marilyn Manson song is his cover of ‘Tainted Love’. It’s also one of my favourite music videos."
"He's very inspirational for me - less sonically but more his visuals and him as a live performer. He’s a freak but he totally knows it. He’s not just doing it as “Look I’m wearing stupid stuff! There’s a reason behind everything that he does: even to his name (from Charles Manson to Marilyn Monroe). I think he’s a clever freak."
You've talked before about liking the Ramones but is there a punk band you’ve seen live who has really impressed you?
"I saw The Sex Pistols live when they reformed - but it definitely didn’t impress me. It was cool to go and be there but it obviously wasn’t The Sex Pistols. It was a "We do butter adverts"-kinda vibe. But obviously I was not around in the 1970s so I never saw any real authentic bands perform live. I did see a band called Cerebral Ballzy play in New York one time in a Chinese Restaurant. It was great."
Tommy Lee once requested tickets to your show. Is there anyone else you didn't expect to be into your music?
"Tommy Lee was definitely a weird one but I did a show at the Super Bowl with Steven Tyler and he came and watched from the side of the stage. He was really into it: that was pretty awesome. He was rocking out to my band."
What’s been your strangest fan encounter recently?
"I had a really bizarre thing happen the other week. I was at a Radio station in Phoenix and FatMan Scoop was there as well. I walked in and my fans were in another room as I was doing a Meet and Greet. He said ‘Let’s GO! I’m going to introduce you to your FANS!” and we walked down the corridor. I walked into the room with him and everybody started screaming. And then one girl yelled “EAT MY ASS!” It was so funny."
Photo: Gigwise/Richard Gray
What’s it like attending the Grammys rather than watching it on TV?
"It’s a very long ceremony, I’ll tell you that. But I was honoured to be there: I cried during the Kanye West performance because I thought it was so good. I really loved the 'Fourfiveseconds' performance as well. But there’s no alcohol in there though - that’s kind of a bummer."
How did you feel when Kanye got on stage?
"I was sat right behind him and I couldn’t work out what was going on. It was "Oh My God! What’s happening?” Beck really looked quite sad but my eyesight’s bad so maybe he didn’t - maybe I was just squinting. It’s Kanye West - he’s very outspoken and rightly so. He doesn’t have a personal vendetta against Beck - it’s more just about the Grammys and what they stand for and who they chose to represent. I feel like the fact that ‘Best Rap Album’ isn’t even in the main award show is part of the reason why he wanted to stand up. It’s pretty weird that that isn’t the case."
Describe your worst Valentine’s Day.
"I’ve never had a real shocker. I think I was caught in a snowstorm once when I was going out with someone when I was 16. It was kinda cool - snow is very exotic for us in England."
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
"That I’m from Stevenage. People always say it... and I’m not from fucking Stevenage! I bought something from eBay once and went there to collect it - that’s the only time I’ve ever been there."
What advice would you give your younger self?
Chill out. Don't worry about so much stuff. Don’t stress: you’ll figure it out.
Sucker by Charli XCX is released on 16 February in the UK.
Charli XCX is embarking on a UK tour in March. Dates and more information are below. For tickets and more information, click here.
24th - Brighton, Concorde 2
25th - London, O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
27th - Glasgow, QM Union
28th - Sheffield, Sheffield Plug
30th - Oxford, O2 Academy
31st - Manchester, Manchester Academy 2
1st - Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
2nd - Birmingham, The Institute