Faithful to her art, and herself

Marianne Faithfull ranks as one of the most controversial cases in music history. From her emergence in 1964, the artist counts much more than the four decades that have elapsed: There has been success, glamour, disappointment, self-destruction, drug abuse, loneliness, artistic stagnancy, and, from rock bottom, steps toward revival and maturity. Well publicized, nowadays, it all belongs to the 58-year-old Faithfull’s distant past. She recently released a new album, «Before the Poison,» and, just days ago, completed a series of stage performances in San Francisco. She was cast as the devil [in the leading role] in «The Black Rider,» a musical by songwriter Tom Waits in collaboration with director-designer Robert Wilson to text by William Burroughs. Though not yet rested from the recent series of shows, Faithfull, on the occasion of her new album, spoke to Kathimerini. How was the experience of contributing to «The Black Rider»? Fantastic, but to tell you the truth, I’m glad it has ended because I got very tired. Six weeks in London and then eight weeks in San Francisco – it was a heavy program. Toward the end, I started to feel a strong need for holidays. If only it were summer, so I could come to Greece. But I will be there next August with my grandchildren. You know, I go to a seaside resort close to Thessaloniki. Even though it’s hot and humid, it’s a beautiful place. Would you like to tell us about the new album and the collaboration for it with Nick Cave and PJ Harvey? With Nick and Polly, there was a soul connection. We worked a lot together, experimented and tried various things, and the result, I believe, is the best Faithfull album until now. The work’s very pessimistic… The lyrics of the songs are pessimistic, but with a ray of hope. A hope that human nature can change. After all, the only thing that I can do is to hope. Why did you name the album «Before the Poison»? The truth is that the first title I considered using was «Mystery of Love.» But after discussing the issue with two very good friends of mine who had heard the material, they told me a stronger title was needed, one in line with the times we’re living in. And they were right. We’re not living in an easy era. That’s why I preferred «Before the Poison.» Incidentally, is love still a mystery for you? Definitely, yes. After so many experiences? There weren’t that many, after all. Besides, I’ve been in love with one person for the past 10 years. Can love make your life more fulfilling? I don’t know that it can, but I do know that it helps. I don’t think we should base everything on love. We can’t expect everything from it. Most of us believe that if we find somebody to love everything will be perfect. But it’s not at all like that. Love is hard work – difficult. There are many forms of love, such as friendship, which are far more precious. If you had to choose between a relationship and friendship, what would it be? I can’t imagine myself in such a position. It’s probably never occurred to me. But what I can say with certainty is that I would distance myself from the person I love in the name of my art. I’d leave him for my work. Your friends must love you dearly… There are lots of things they love about me. I’m great company and very entertaining. But to certain types of people, I’m very annoying. Even though I think that everybody should like me, some people are annoyed by me for some very strange reasons. They probably dislike a woman when she’s the way I am. So free and healthy. They believe that I should have suffered some consequences for my freedom. What makes you happy? To be with my family, be at home, cuddled up in bed with the telephone talking to friends. It upsets me when I work continuously and can’t enjoy all these things. But, on the other hand, I won’t work forever. When do you think an artist should stop working? When he or she is empty. And I think that when the time comes, you understand it. Or, at least, you should understand it. I feel that I’ve expressed almost everything I had to say. I may do two or three more albums. And then I’ll stop. What was the model of success for you early on and do you believe you came close to achieving it? The lady I listened to and adored was Billie Holiday. How could I reach her? Nobody will ever be able to get to where she did. But I didn’t do too bad. I had my bad moments, especially in the 1970s, when I went though a «dead» period in my life. But I had many wonderful periods, too. What is your opinion of rock’s new generation? Even though – besides the people I work with – I don’t follow closely, I believe that if given time by listeners, this lot will prove its worth. Those that are cut out to stay will stay, the others will vanish. And those that will stay are the ones that truly love music. Based on your stay in San Francisco, how was the atmosphere there ahead of the US elections? I didn’t have time to get involved much with the elections, and I’m not going to follow the developments either. But I have two very close friends, Robin and Sean Penn, who are both politically active, and they keep me informed. The feeling I get from these elections is that they’re a matter of life or death. The ups and downs of a career Marianne Faithfull was born in London on December 29, 1946. A distant descendant of Leopold Zacher-Mazoch and the daughter of a British secret service agent, Faithfull emerged musically in 1964 as a 17-year-old singing the song «As Tears Go By,» written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Two years later, she became Jagger’s girlfriend, got involved with drugs, and at some point got arrested with the Rolling Stones following a police raid. The downhill stretch had begun and did not end until midway through the ’70s. At this point, she took her first – hesitant – steps as a songwriter. The effort yielded 1979’s brilliant «Broken English» album. Between then and now, Faithfull has not produced prolifically, but there have been important albums, such as «Vagabond Ways» in 2000 and «Kissin’ Time» in 2002. For her latest album, Faithfull collaborated with Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, and Blur’s Damon Albarn.