Ana Matronic on cinema, cats, and cutting the spiral
The British Film Institute have released a collection of short films featuring well known artistic creators as part of an initiative called THE CUT, that aims to bring independent cinema to new audiences.
September’s artist was Ana Matronic, front woman of Scissor Sisters. We caught up with Ana to talk about her love of cinema and how film has inspired her career. We also chatted about cats, chocolate and curry.
Tell us a bit about your love of cinema and how you became involved in the BFI’s project, THE CUT.
I was contacted by the BFI (British Film Institute) to talk about my love of film. Film has been with me since I was a child; some of my earliest formative years were spent, during summer break, watching a program on my local television called Bijou Theatre. I used to watch it with my grandmother who was born in 1904, and among the first generation of cinemagoers.
The Bijou Theatre, every day at noon, would show a vintage cartoon, like a Betty Boop cartoon, a vintage newsreel, a vintage serial, like Flash Gordon, or Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and then they’d show a full-length film. It was stuff like Laurel and Hardy, W.C Fields films, and stuff like that. Part of my bonding with my family has always been in and around cinema.
I was a 10 year old obsessed with Fred Astaire and Humphrey Bogart. My 10th birthday party was actually a private detectives party, because I was obsessed with film noir at age 10! We watched The Maltese Falcon…I was such a weird kid. I had a friend that came in a full fink onesie as the Pink Panther, it was really cute.
Cinema is something that’s always informed me so when the BFI talked to me about this new project I just though, “Yeah! Yes please!” It took me about 5 minutes to find films to talk about because there’s so much great stuff.
In the short you talk about how cinema has informed your music. How has cinema influenced the music created by the Scissor Sisters?
We are all big cinephiles. Jake [Shears] collects cinema art and posters. There would be times when we had certain posters, he had a really cool poster for Blue Velvet that actually never got made, and that was hanging up in the studio for a time. I believe that was around the time he wrote Sex and Violence. We were always talking about certain themes and soundtracks in films that were really big; everyone was really into Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre.
My stage look for Scissor Sisters was from three directors whose films I wanted to look like I’d walked off the set of. If I could achieve and amalgamation of those three directors or looked like I’d walked of their sets then I had triumphed. Film was for sure a constant touchstone for us.
Do you have any examples of when you referenced cinema for your own music videos?
Most definitely. I think our most cinematic video is Invisible Light, which was definitely based on new wave French cinema, Italian aura, and Stanley Kubrick. It’s a very trippy, bizarre video, and definitely my favourite. I think there’s a huge power in trusting the filmmaker, and not a lot of bands fully trust people to say, “here’s our song, go do with it what you will”.
Independent work and artists are something that you really support.
Independent artists are the people scraping together their money and working their day jobs and doing it, that’s where I came from, those are my people and they continue to be my friends until this day.
You talk a lot about acceptance, and LGBTQ is something very close to your heart. How did you get involved with the Contigo Fund and release SWERLK?
I was raised by parents who were very active in the community. My dad was in Rotary International and did a lot of stuff for Habitat for Humanity and my mother was a volunteer teacher and taught art history to at risk and low-income kids. So, I was raised with the notion that you must work to leave the world better than you found it. Those sorts of things are no brainers for me, and for the band.
It was actually MNDR’s idea, and it was her song. She was working with BabyDaddy and then when the Pulse massacre happened it was just shocking, and it spurred a lot of my friends to action. I’m friends with, and have done a lot of work with Gays Against Guns who were founded in the aftermath of Pulse. So, when MNDR said she wanted to do this as a fundraising single we just jumped at the chance, it was a no brainer.
It’s a really fun song. I went in and recorded my part at BabyDaddy’s flat, which took me a couple of hours. It’s so simple for me to go to my friends’ house, sit down, have a laugh, record something silly on a microphone and have an impact on the lives of the people who have gone through an inconceivable loss. That’s the thing that I always try to keep in perspective and is the thing that will make me take a selfie with everyone who wants a selfie with me you know. It takes me 2 seconds to take a selfie and you could make someone’s day/week/month/year/life by doing that.
It really affects your mental health, having a sense of worth and a sense of purpose and gives you something to get out of bed every day for. I think that that’s important for every person to have and to wake up feeling worthless is to be in a very very poor mental state.
If you ever wake up in a bad state of mind, what do you do to bring yourself out of it?
I’m a big proponent and practitioner of meditation. I try to meditate every day, I don’t succeed but I try to do it every day for at least 10 minutes. I find that it really helps me to centre everything and put things into perspective because we really only have a very tenuous grasp on this life and it’s going to be over in the blink of an eye.
The days I’m not feeling good, I try to cut the spiral and get off the wheel of suffering and stop telling myself the stories of me suffering, of me being fearful or angry, or being taken advantage of, or however I’m feeling that day. I try to disengage from the story and try to understand that eventually none of this will matter.
I’m very fortunate, I have a whole lot of privilege and support, I have a great job, a great husband, and a great house and an amazing cat! So I don’t have a whole lot of things to bitch about. Another thing I try to do is rise up and see things from above, pull back and look at it from the perspective of, “I am an extremely privileged person and there are so many people in this world who would, A: Kill to have the problems I have, and B: there are so many people out there whose struggles are insurmountable compared to mine”. Naming things and being able to put a finger on something helps you to realise where you’re at and that’s the perspective that you often need.
You’re a multi-hyhener; you’re a DJ, presenter and author, and you travel between London and the States a lot. How do you unwind when you have such a busy schedule and are toing and froing all the time?
I often feel like a human ping pong! What I try to do is approximate my life as closely as possible in both places. My flat in New York, the bedroom is painted in the same colour as my living room and done in the similar decorative fashion to my home in London. I try to have as similar a life over there as I do here. Usually I’m quite busy when I’m in the UK, I hit the ground running, I’m on shows, and the radio and I absolutely adore doing that, so I have a lot of fun whenever I come over. It’s easy to have fun in London, there’s no shortage of great things to do during the day, or at night.
It can be very difficult, and I’ve gone through periods of time where I was just not present in my relationships because I felt so stretched thin. At that point I just vocalise it, I’m honest with my friends and I apologise and just make them aware. Thanks god for Skype! It allows you to have a visual connection with the people that you miss, which helps.
We know that you’re a big fan of robotics, are you a fan of other technologies? Do you ever find that it sometimes gets too much?
Definitely! I have pulled back from social media as I really don’t have the headspace for it at this moment in time. Right now I only really use social media as a tool for my promotion. It’s very necessary for me, there’s a lot that social media does to bring us together but it can also really compound feelings of missing people, missing out on functions, things like that, and sometimes you have to be able to pull away from it. It’s like that with most things in life, there’s a beauty and a darkness in everything.
What’s your one indulgence?
Chocolate! Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. I’m a chocoholic. I consider myself a very crazy cat lady, I like to have a cat with me. My flatmate in London has a cat, I have a cat on me right now! I find them to be great little stress relievers and pals. Again, they help you put things into perspective, and they’re something to live for. I don’t have kids, but I know my cat needs me!
I also love to walk around the park in London and just stare at green things. I love to cook, so I cook for myself, eat healthily and make big pots of stew and stuff like that. I very much enjoy cooking for friends and family. My favourite thing to cook is a curry. If I have a big group of people I’ll just make a massive pot of vegetarian curry. There is a magic to curry that is very grounding. I have a few recipes that don’t use a whole lot of oil of ghee so there quite healthy.