AllSaints Manifestos: Neneh Cherry

The iconic songstress opens up about her love-hate relationship with the music business as she proves she’s still a force to be reckoned with

To call Neneh Cherry iconic doesn’t quite do her justice. Raised in a musical dynasty – her stepfather was jazz musician Don Cherry and her siblings all work in the industry – she turned 50 earlier this year and has once again found herself on the covers of magazines and spinning around on the top of the chicest 1210s. Moving to London when she was a teenager, after a stint in the States, the Stockholm-born singer began helping out in punk and new wave bands such as The Slits before releasing her seminal debut solo album, Raw Like Sushi, in 1989, which featured the hit single, “Buffalo Stance”. Two more LPs followed in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that her fourth Blank Project, was finally revealed. A creative force to be reckoned with, Neneh talks to Dazed about her struggles with the music business and her plans to make another record before the year is out.

Why do you make music?

Neneh Cherry: Jeez, what an all encompassing question, kind of similar to “Why do you breath and eat?” The short answer is, I don't know, it’s always been what I do. I come from a musical family, I grew up with music all around me, I have always made music and I have always worked through my stuff via music so I guess that makes it similar to breathing and eating for me. [But] the business of music pisses me off beyond belief. I’m in a creative relationship and have been for 30 years with my husband (music producer and writer Cameron McVey) and he has had to watch our biz for nearly all of these 30 years due to the amount of times we were ripped off by the biz and its systems. Actually making music is fulfilling and exciting and we both love this part of the process, but we don’t get much more than that back from it as we spend so much of our time bucking the system(s). It’s a bitch because it could be so simple. More recently – since the biz took such a beating post free downloading – we have both felt more in touch with our surroundings as a lot of the more deep rooted scoundrels left to pursue more lucrative avenues of employment. I like to play live as the interaction with an audience is healthy, but the travel and time away from the family make this tough too. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how damn lucky I am, it’s just harder as one gets older to accept certain rituals as the “norm”.

“The business of music pisses me off beyond belief. It‘s a bitch because it could be so simple” – Neneh Cherry

Your daughter Tyson is a musician too – what advice have you given her about the industry and making music?

Neneh Cherry: To stay 100 per cent true to herself.

How did you end up performing with The Slits?

Neneh Cherry: My dad was working with them and I bonded with Ari who then invited me to hang with them. It was very organic.

Why did it take 18 years for you to release Blank Project?

Neneh Cherry: It didn't. It took me 18 years to feel like dealing with the music biz full on again.

It was produced by Four Tet's Kieran Hebden – what were the two of you like together as a creative team?

Neneh Cherry: The team was Kieran, RocketNumberNine, Cameron and me. It was never just me and Kieran and it was awe-inspiring on all fronts. Kieran is a great producer – he brought out the best in all of us.

What does it mean to you to be selected for the AllSaints Manifestos showcase?

Neneh Cherry: It’s always nice to be appreciated. Feels kinda weird to be singled out as something special sometimes.

What are you plans for the next 12 months?

Neneh Cherry: More time with the family, another album, more festivals and to spend more time in Cuba.