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Tell me more about this BLU performance. I’m curious, how did it kind of come to fruition?

I avoided doing any of the virtual stuff for ages because it’s not what I enjoy about life. If I’m going to do something virtually, I’m going to do something different virtually. It doesn’t have to be one size fits all. But the things I loved about live was being on the stage and falling into a character because that’s what the stage is to me. It’s a theater, it’s performance. How can I bring that theatrical mess back into this? To this new staging where things are prerecorded, because I prefer to pre-record at this stage. I really wanted something where I had a little bit more control in presenting it because again, this is an opportunity. When else would I get to really assert how I would like to be consumed entirely live?

There’s always other constraints with some of these festival shows. It’s money or traveling with stuff, it’s logistically a nightmare sometimes. So I have this opportunity here to present myself the way I want to be presented and to kind of give someone a step to understanding me and translating it later on, if they wanted to, from this place where I’ve said, “This is how I like it.” Also I hadn’t really had any time to live a little bit longer in the Alias songs. We hadn’t had the opportunity to do shows and that’s really how you live in the moment of a release, right? So I kind of had this opportunity to do this thing. And I was like, “Oh, I’m not going to do all the songs.” Because actually some of the songs I don’t think would live to their fullest potential in this setting and I want them to be… Things like “Tasty” isn’t in this. I play it for a second, but it’s not performed in this because “Tasty,” for me, was that, like, big summer song. You know? It involved people, and dancing, and to be outside. Because I wrote that song outside in the park, and I was like, “I don’t want to bring this song back into the studio, actually. It’s not what it is for me.” And for BLU, I wanted to … It was like a self reference moment. Because I’m obviously obsessed with cars in some way, and I never realized I was until I just keep going back to cars as, like, a thing. It was like I had the most fun making the “BB” music video. Just before, I guess, people became a bit more aware of me, and I wanted to reference that a little bit and kind of live in the world I’d started to create with that video.

“BB” was based off this girlfriend of like your dealer who sits in the car or something while you’re like awkwardly picking up. The girlfriend’s always kind of like a little bit fab, and she’s quiet. You’re like, “Does she hate me? What is she thinking?” That was who I was in the “BB” music video. I kind of wanted to expand upon that a little bit more, using myself as a reference and seeing what world I could create with the new songs with that basis. I was like, “Okay, how many things can we do with a car? Let’s just run away with it with this.”

We had a car … I said “Let’s cut a car in half; let’s do that.” So we did that, and I was like, “I want to be filmed from above. I want to see the car from a different angle. I want the car to be up higher than the ground.” I was like, “I want all of these things so I can … different ways of presenting the same scene, almost.” Because it’s like when you’re on stage, you have one scene, and you can’t change so many components all the time. Unless you’re like a huge artist like Ariana who has loads of set going on or whatever, but I’m still in the early stages.

I think we definitely got the most out of what you can do with a car whilst presenting the … kind of all collecting together the aliases that I’d put out there. I’m wearing, like, one look throughout the whole thing, but pieces of the look change. You know? I felt like that was important about creating this continuity and kind of trying to bring the sides of me together, but showing you that there’s different ways to reflect these different personality traits almost and the energy that you put across on screen and my relationship with the camera and how voyeuristic that could be. If you’re given this opportunity to perform in this way, the audience should be able to see more angles of you or closer than they would ever get if you were on the stage, and that was really important to me when I was making this movie almost.

Like with “Freaks,” I’m inside the car. It’s voyeuristic. It’s like different angles shot inside the car, like static cameras, and I’m obviously in my element almost because I’m just … Because “Freak” is such a moany song. I’m like moaning, I’m like performing, and then … and there’s water foam running down the side of the car. It’s on the nose of what it is because that’s what the song is. The song is in your face about what it is the whole way through so why would the performance be any more subtle than that?

Yeah, so did you feel like recording this you got to maybe distill as pure of an expression as you would have liked to? Because I was reading your tweets, and I do agree with you about heavy handed male camera crews and maybe how the expression isn’t as emphatic as you perhaps would want it to be when you’re kind of in those situations. Do you feel like you got to maybe express yourself in your fullest potential with this?

I mean, I wouldn’t say to my fullest potential. I’d say we’re very nearly there. This shoot in particular, I co-produced it with my creative director as well. I mean co-directed it. But usually we even co-direct with someone else. You know, because I don’t really like dealing with a lot of film crews. They’re very … so much masculine energy, and they don’t want to hear it from the artist. There’s not the respect there, and my background before making music was always in film and photography, anyway. So I definitely have that sensitivity to being respected in that, and people understanding that I do know what I’m talking about.

I may be a little sensitive at times, but honestly the misogynoir that happens on sets is wild, and I’m not the only one that talks about it. Like, people know. People who work in the industry know that it happens, and unfortunately … Like, I do try and work with a lot of female crews, but sometimes it’s just not available: someone isn’t available or doesn’t shoot in the style that you would prefer. So you end up working with someone, and a lot of it, because of this industry, people work on jobs, they might not like the person they work with. They just don’t work with them again, but that person is still out there to work with other people. A lot of them have really toxic traits.

On this set, for instance, it was a two day shoot, and on one of the days, one of the scenes we used, like, a crane to film the final scene, and the crane operator was racist. So he was … It was like 8 A.M.. By 8:30, I had to have a meeting with everyone to discuss what we’re going to do about it. Because he’d already been racist. I think he turned up speaking in a Jamaican accent. He’s like an older white guy. So already, we’re like, “What are you doing?” And the production assistants I had on set were like three Black girls, and he had a conversation with them and ended up saying the n-word, talking about the difference between racism in America and England, which I don’t know why he had his credentials on that discussion, but he said it then. And he said that this job requires skill, and if they don’t have it they should think about retraining as a bus driver or a nurse. He said some wild stuff.

And so immediately I’m like, “We can’t have this guy on set.” You know? He was so confident in having that attitude on set because the industry supports it, at the end of the day. There’s nothing in place to protect people, and when we did … We reported him to Bectu and the APA, who are the unions that he was associated with. Bectu said they would investigate. The APA, their response was so ridiculous. They ultimately wanted to shame myself and the producer in coming forward because they were like, “We’re not the police. We don’t fine people.” They were trying to highlight the ridiculousness of our email and CC’d in every production company that they work with.

Luckily for me, as someone who is intersectional here as an artist, as a director, I feel that I am able to speak up on it, but there are other people where their whole job is in the filming industry who cannot speak on it because their livelihood is affected directly. They won’t get booked on things. And it’s sad because when we spoke up about this guy, loads of people came forward to say that they’d had the same experience with him, and it’s just a shame that it came to our door to talk about it, but I am glad that I get the chance to talk about it. Because it’s a real experience that before I think about making anything it’s like, “Is it worth the trauma?” Because there is going to be trauma on set.

It’s so funny because there’s been so many … Those are the negatives, but in total I really did have some really great experiences on that. There were so many moments when I was on set when I was so in awe of seeing it come together and really proud that some small idea I had had was being made big in this process. That was a really big moment for me. It was like the biggest project I’ve tried to work on, and I hope to work on even bigger in the future. But the reality also of, like, facing up to this kind of attitude, that I guess I had been avoiding previously, and just kind of accepting that it existed and trying to find ways to live around it. And now, I think I really want to be defensive of the environment I want to work in creatively. I want to wake up and believe that I can go into work and it not be toxic on some degree. I want to exist happily in this industry, and I do think it’s possible. I have to think that’s possible to continue.

Yeah. You have to to get out of bed in the morning, to feel empowered, and it sounds like, in a way, that this performance accomplished that for you and kind of got you to that level. So I’m really excited to see it.

I hope everyone likes it. It’s so hard when you’re working on something and I’m always hyper critical. I’m really trying to learn to chill out. And it is the releasing it to everyone that does make me chill out. Same with the music, once I put it out, it feels like it’s taken by everyone and adopted. And I can be happy for the life that’s going to live, but before that movement I’m just anxious.

Yeah, but you know the internet’s going to eat it up, just like they’ve eaten up Alias. Could you have anticipated how your fans and how Twitter has eaten up this project? The memes have been incredible.

I’m so surprised. I really love Alias. I’ve never felt proud of something because music has been such a discovery process for me. And the first EP I really love, but this one it felt a lot more directional for me. And I felt much more of a curator on it. Which is something that I guess I didn’t really have on the first one because I would just dipping a toe in and I just discovered I could make music. And this one, I was like, “Okay, so I’m making music, this is what I’ve got to say.” And it span over pre-COVID and during COVID and the creative happened within it. I think it’s so reflective of me as a person and I’m really happy to stand by that project. So regardless of what anyone was going to think, I was just happy to have it out. And it was doubly an amazing feeling to have people accept what you’ve made and understand it.

Right. And to get a little weird with it and have fun with it too. During a time when not a lot was fun, I think your project gave people a lot of joy.

I didn’t expect people to gag so much over the artwork thoogh.I just thought I was like, “Yeah, I just want to see myself flattened out.” I haven’t shopped for ages. We’ve been stuck inside. I’ve been pigging out on like Deliveroo and watching movies. I was like, “Am I shoot ready?” I was like, “Whatever.” Maybe just like discombobulate myself originally. And I was like, “I’ve been watching loads of sci-fi and Dr. Who and stuff. So I was like, “This totally makes sense to me right now.” And then everyone was like, “Oh my God, like how gross.” But it was fab.

“BDE” is around the corner as well. How did that come together? I feel like it’s such an organic collaboration, you and Slowthai, just makes too much sense. How did you guys meet?

I think I was supporting Mura Masa. Ty had come out for a couple of the shows because they have a song together. And we didn’t even meet properly then, but we were kind of near each other. I was very close to him. And then I can’t remember who reached out first. I think his team asked to have a session or something. And then I had already started this track with Karma Kid. I’d come into the studio still up from the night before, which isn’t an everyday occasion. But on this one, I was like, “Oh, I think I have the best vibe to come and work in the studio today.” With like one hour sleep. And then I think it was the third song we made in last session, me and Karma Kid. And as soon as Karma played me this, it was he just had the drums. And as soon as he started that, all the words came to me.

And at the time I’d been hooking up with someone who was not giving me any joy. So all the words about that came out in the song and this desire for satisfaction and I think and desire, satisfaction, all things. So it was just I just tapped into that energy. And then when I’d done that, I was like, “This would be so sick with a male vocalist.” And brought it to Ty. Because I’ve never really hear Ty talk about sex before. Here I’m being so derogatory to men and objectifying them. I was like, “Who can stand up to that?” That’s definitely going to be Slowthai. He’s got that energy that can defend himself. He’s like funny and he’s honestly the nicest guy.

So when we got the chance to sit in the studio together, we went back and forth on some stuff. And it was really interesting to work with him because I haven’t actually worked with that many vocalists or rappers or anything on my own stuff, especially. And just seeing how other people work is still really interesting to me and what they tap into. And especially when he hasn’t spoken about sex before, I was like, “Okay, you need to be filthy.” And he totally got the brief. He really went with it. Usually my voice is my favorite part of the song, but his bit is definitely my favorite on this one.

Branching out a little bit, what is this summer look like for you Shy? What do you got going on besides career stuff? Do you have anything fun lined up? Are you going to go on any trips?

Yeah, I’m trying to go to the Caribbean and I miss it so much. My grandma lives in Grenada and there’s something about, I’ve been in cities for too long. I’ve been in London for ages. This is probably the most I’ve ever stayed in London since I started making music. Well, even before that I had a job that I could travel. So yeah, this is a lot. I’ve got two cats and this time, I’m turning into a cat lady, so I need to get out.

Well, thank you so much for taking a minute to talk with me. I really appreciated it. And I’m so fucking excited to finally get to live in these songs. I feel like we’ve all gotten to process them enough in our own little spaces, but I feel like they’re bursting at the seams. And what a treat to kind of get to experience them now and in the world again.

Totally. But also thank you so much for giving me the space to talk. It’s been such a lovely conversation. And I’m constantly surprised because I wonder how long people are going to listen to each album before they get sick of me. But it’s been really lovely to talk to you. So I’m glad you’ve asked me.

I really appreciate that. Thank you. Yeah. And keep talking, we’re listening.


Amazing. Well, enjoy the rest of your day in London.

All right. You too. Bye.

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