MTV VMA Performer Florence and The Machine Talks Lady Gaga, Gays and Getting Awards

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One of the most anticipated performers at this year's MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday is Florence and The Machine. The British singer will be performing her break out hit "Dog Days Are Over" that is nominated for an impressive four VMAs, including Video Of The Year, Best Rock Video and Best Art Direction.

A few days ago, I sat down with Florence for a totally fun and candid chat to talk about her upcoming show at the VMAs and the incredible success of her debut album "Lungs," which has been a success in the charts and received massive amounts of critical acclaim and accolades.

Florence also confides that she has received special help from none other than Lady Gaga to get ready for her show on Sunday, and that she hopes to meet Drake and Nicki Minaj on the Red Carpet. Florence also gives a special shout out to her gay fans who have been huge supporters of her music.

Congratulations with all of your success over the past few months. It has been an incredible year for you.
Thank you, Arjan! I know! It is supposed to be winding down right now, but it doesn't seem to be.

You've not only had success in the charts with "Lungs," but you've received loads of awards and nominations too. The critics love you!
Aww. That's nice of you to say. I've been really lucky with all of the recognition that the album has received. When you are making an album all that you really want is for people to take it to heart, but to get all the critical acclaim is amazing as well. I very much appreciate it.

Is there one award that you received that you are particularly proud of?
To be nominated for the Mercury Prize was a pretty big deal for me. Especially, because the entire album was nominated. It was all about the work that was being recognized. It's all about the music and that is what's important to me. Winning the Brit Awards was pretty amazing as well. Sometimes I remember, "Oh my god, I actually won that." And I have a little moment with myself [laughs].

I really like that you got nominated for the NME Best Dancefloor Filler Award for "You've Got The Love."
I like that one too! I never thought that would happen. I must tell you that I'm obsessed with dance music, I love dance music, the way that a song can take over your mind and body. We totally recorded "You've Got The Love" on a whim. We are not a dance band, but I was like "shit, why not?" The original is so fantastic - the lyrics, the bassline. We just had to cover it.

And I must tell you that gay men love dancing to that song
[laughs] Amazing! I have such a fantastic gay fanbase. I just had an amazing gay night out actually in London that I must tell you about. There's this gay party here called Tranny Bash. My friend Violet Flames performed and she has the most amazing voice but when she performed the other day her guitar broke so I jumped on stage to do backing vocals. It was like my big moment. I love the gay community. I feel a lot of love, and I want to give a lot of love back.

I'm really looking forward to your performance on the VMAs on Sunday. Are you ready?
Oooh. I really take thing one day at a time, but yesterday it just hit me. We've been talking about the performance for like months. but I had my fitting for the dress yesterday and I was like "oh my god the VMAs! You're really gonna do this!" I've been home for a while and I've been trying not to think about it. It is insane!

Do you have favorite VMA performance?
We have been looking at past VMA performances to get some inspiration, and hands-down my favorite is Madonna performing "Like A Virgin" It is so amazing. There are no dancers, no nothing, it is just incredible. I loved Britney Spears doing "Satisfaction" too. That was pretty major. Blew me away.

Are you performing "Dog Days Are Over"? Can you give us a sneak peek?
Basically, we are going to recreate that chaotic energy that the Dog Days video has. The song and video have been nominated so we figured that would be appropriate. I want to recreate that reckless energy and a sense of abandonment on stage. There will be quite a few references from the video on stage.

Everybody will be at the VMAs on Sunday. Who would you like to meet?
Good question! Mmmm. You know I'm a really big fan of Drake and I'm a really big fan of Nicki Minaj so it would exciting to meet them. I'm probably really shell shocked and be totally British about the whole thing and be super polite. I'm a huge monster too so I can't wait to meet Lady Gaga again. We met a couple of times before and she is absolutely lovely.

I've been really into Lady Gaga's last album lately. I've been trying to whip myself back into shape to get ready for the VMAs. When I'm on tour I'm gigging everyday so I stay pretty healthy, but I've had time off off, so I've been wanting to keep it up and so basically I put on Lady Gaga's music and work out like a maniac for an hour. So I will be at the show saying "See this Gaga? This is thanks to you." [Laughs]

Have blast and Sunday, and perhaps we'll see you again at The GRAMMYs!
Ooooh. Who knows! I can't even think about that right now That would be amazing.

September 10, 2010 in Florence and The Machine, Interviews, VMA | Permalink

Video: Arjan Chats with Neon Hitch

This weekend, I met up with the sweet, spunky and totally fun British singer and songwriter Neon Hitch via video chat. While recovering from a throat infection, Neon and I caught up to chat about her nomadic lifestyle that eventually brought her to Los Angeles where she is rapidly become one of the most sough-after pop writers. Neon also fills us in on her much-anticipated debut album "Beg, Borrow and Steal," and talks candidly about her friendship with Ke$ha and Amy Winehouse. (Neon shows the tattoo she got together with Ke$ha in the video.)

Born to a family of gypsies deep within the countryside in the south of England, Neon Hitch lived the life of a true free spirit. The young globetrotter spent her early years in a traveling circus with her family. A trapeze artist and fire swinger, Neon nurtured her inner performer early on in festivals throughout Portugal, Spain, France, and other parts of Europe.

After being Amy Winehouse's flatmate in London ("when things were really crazy"), she moved to the U.S. and ended up meeting producer Benny Blanco who has worked with Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Britney Spears, Santagold and many other pop artists. Neon and Benny forged a powerful songwriting partnership, which most recently resulted in Ke$a's "Blah Blah Blah" that the three wrote together.

American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi acknowledged Neon's talent and signed her to Warner Brothers Records to start performing her own music. Currently, Neon is putting the final touches on her debut album "Beg, Borrow and Steal," which will introduce us to the singer's unique brand of bohemi-pop and includes collaborations with Imogen Heap, Greg Kurstin, Jason DeRulo and Sia. A very eclectic and exciting line up of collaborators indeed!

Make sure to go see Neon in a town near you this fall when she will be touring together with 3OH3! and Miike Snow.

August 27, 2010 in Interviews, Neon Hitch | Permalink

On The Couch With... Mike Posner

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One of the hottest new pop artist to enter the mainstream spotlight this summer is Detroit's Mike Posner. Earlier this month, the producer turned singer released his much-anticipated big label debut "31 Minutes to Takeoff" on Jive/RCA that follows the release of 2 hugely successful mixtapes. The album debuted this week at #8 on the Billboard Album Chart and #3 on the Digital Album Chart. Mike is stirring up a storm on pop radio as well with his single smash, "Cooler Than Me."

I met up with Mike to have a bite to eat, play a few rounds of Connect 4 (yes, he won) and to chat about his success, his inspirations, his unique brand of hip pop and the importance of social media in his rise to mainstream fame.

In person, Mike is very much like his music - savvy, articulate and presenting himself with a style and swagger that make him one of the coolest new kids in the business. What you hear is what you get.

And he is ambitious too. In our little get together, he explains that there is a lack of male pop stars on the charts right now. He smiled, "Lady Gaga needs a prince. I plan on wearing that crown!" 

Congrats with the mainstream success of "Cooler Than Me" and your debut album. These achievements have been long in the making. For people new to your music, tell us a little more about how you got started in music.
I started playing drums when I was in fourth grade and when I was thirteen, I started making beats, becoming more of a producer and songwriter as well. Two years ago I got tired of having my ideas going through other people. As a producer, I always had to channel my creativity through other artists, I just got tired of that and I started singing. I started creating free mix CDs in my dorm room when I was a senior at Duke University. I decided to put those mixtapes on iTunes and before I knew it the word spread and in a few months it snowballed into a career. It is has been an incredible ride.

College kids were among the first to discover you and take it to a professional level for you...
Totally. It all started with me putting out the mixtapes and the word about those spread from my own social network. Simple as that.

Social media and online networking has helped you tremendously in spreading the world. In a way, you've set a standard for other acts to market their music. Do you see any drawbacks to this DIY style of marketing and producing music?
Music is more democratized than ever. Plus, you don't need a lot of money to make music. You can do it in your dorm room. And you don't need any money to get people to hear it. Record labels don't control who get big anymore, the people do. But at the same time, people are exposed to a lot more shitty artists because anybody can put stuff out. It's a double-edged sword.

Your music is blend of a lot of different genres, from dance to hip hop, and from R&B to pop. Hip hop especially seems to have influenced the way you produce and compose your music.
I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop. And I think that's what makes my lyrics different than any other singer out there. I sing my lyrics in a way that a rapper would rap his. It is in the way I structure my lyrics, not so much the melodies. For example, on "Cooler Than Me", I rhyme "designer shades" and "hide your face." Most singers wouldn't rhyme that way and if you're not a hip hop fan you may not even catch on to that.

When you decided to start singing your own songs, did you have the complete confidence you could make that work? 
I've always had confidence in my project otherwise I wouldn't have done it. When you compare my mixtapes and the CD, you can hear how much I have evolved as a singer. I definitely have grown as a singer.

As a producer, what are other producers and musicians do you look up to?
J Dilla is one of my favorite producers who is from Detroit as well. I also like Mos Def and Talib Kwali. I'm  also a big Nas guy. And Wu Tang Clan. Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin. Obviously I'm from Detroit so a lot of the Motown stuff was constantly in rotation in my house. I was lucky to be exposed to a lot of stuff from a very young age.

I'm also a huge Stuart Price fan. I met him a couple of months ago. I almost threw up [laughs]. He is the man. We were working in the same studio. He is such a pioneer for a sound that is really popping now - his "four on the floor" sound that is hitting mainstream America now. He started that a decade ago.

With your production background, do you find it harder to collaborate with other producers?
Great question. I think it only works for me if we are all really excited about collaborating. I want to work with people that I'm a fan of and that are enthused working with me otherwise I can do it myself. But at the end of the day, I'm only 22 so I love to learn as well. So when I go into the studio with Benny Blanco for example, I see all of his tricks and I come out of the studio a ten times better producer. I'm not cocky and think I can't learn from other people. So working with other producers is when I learn the most.

How do you see yourself in the pop spectrum?
When I started this project, I set out to be a credible pop artist. I want to be an artist that goes to Coachella and Bonnaroo, and still make pop music. There's nothing more important than authenticity in my music. And that's why I think the hip hop community has been supportive of me even though I'm not rapping. Plus, there are no guys really out in pop right now. Lady Gaga needs a prince. I plan on wearing that crown!

August 20, 2010 in Interviews, Mike Posner, On The Couch With... | Permalink

Video: Arjan Chats with BT

Ever since he released his ground-breaking LP "Emotional Technology," I have been a huge fan of BT (aka Brian Transeau). Throughout his career, the acclaimed composer/producer/DJ has been pushing the envelope by incorporating innovative new production techniques to give his music a compelling new edge with every new release.

BT has been a trail blazer who was at the forefront of the dance-pop revolution in the U.S. infusing his productions with distinct pop sensibilities while also staying true to his dance and electronica roots. That's what makes him stand apart from the crowd - he understands melody, composition, production and what sounds good on the dance floor. A good example of that is his production of 'N Sync's 2001 smash "Pop" that served up an exciting, genre-crossing sound that still sounds current today. (It also includes that "stuttering" audio effect that BT invented and been used many, many times since.)

I recently chatted with Brian about his new double LP "These Hopeful Machines" which is the long-awaited follow-up to his critically-acclaimed "This Binary Universe." We talked at length about the process of making this new record, his contribution to pop music, his new iPhone app, and his past and future collaboration with some major artists Really fun and interesting chat with a super cool guy. 

May 26, 2010 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (2)

Video: Arjan Chats With Lolene

Lolene is getting ready to take on the pop world in her own unique way. The British pop singer worked with people like Nellee Hooper and Sam Sparro to put together her debut album that is filled with slick, '90s inspired tunes that will be released on Capitol Records later this year. Lolene had a club smash with "Sexy People" a few months ago and is now hoping to cross over into the pop charts with "Rich (Fake It Like You Make It)." Check out the little chat Lolene and I had a few weeks ago, while Lolene was lounging around on her Hollywood apartment balcony. She's a blast.

May 19, 2010 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (3)