Isabella Summers interview

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Co-written a multi-platinum album recently? Hmm nor us. Best we all listen to someone who has then. Check out a sneak preview of our Isabella Summers interview (of Florence + the Machine fame) taken from the latest issue of PowerOn magazine.

Isabella Summers plays Keyboards, writes and produces for Florence and the Machine. But when she’s not travelling the world, playing glamorous shows with Florence, she’s got a lot on her plate. Writing with a string of artists and working on numerous side-projects, there’s never a dull moment for Isabella. She tells us about her love of hip-hop, how she met Nas and why you’ll probably find leopard skin spandex in her wardrobe…

How did you get together with Florence and the Machine?
I had a little studio and I was there, making hip-hop. I knew Florence and she was next door¬¬ in these studios where her boyfriend at the time was getting his guitar fixed. I said to her: “do you want to make a song today?” and she said “why not?” so we started working together.

When you’re not with Florence what else do you get up to? I know you do a lot of remixes and solo work? 
The Life, the Love and Grateful is my prog rock psychedelic side-project. That’s like 20 guitars and we have musical freedom. We’ve got huge Iron Maiden guitar solos, mixed with dirty beats and filthy bass jams. We do nine-minutes songs with spoken word verses.

Sounds like one of you should be wearing leopard skin spandex pants. 
Sort of that vibe, yeah! I’ve also just done three days work with Juliette Lewis and I’m also working with Ivan Ink ‘n’ Isa.

I know you’re into your hip-hop so I wanted to speak to you about Nas? 
For me Illmatic is one of the best albums ever, but my favourite is 6 Feet Deep by the Gravediggaz. It was the first hip hop tape I owned – that and Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style. I grew up with those two albums back to back. Love that shit.

Nas came down to the studio actually. I was working with this girl, LP, in LA and a mutual friend who wanted him to hear my beats brought him to the session. He walked into the room at like 9pm on a Sunday and I was like: “We’re in the middle of recording a song – how about I just make him 16?”

I just made him rap for me in the studio. I was worried he wouldn’t be any good – like, he hasn’t rapped for a while – what if it’s awful? And then about an hour and half later he sort of tapped me on the shoulder and rapped in my ear. I wanted to get him in the booth straight away. He totally killed it. I don’t know if it will lend up on LPs record but I’m fighting for it. LP plays the ukulele, but it’s Nas and it’s wicked.

With Florence, what’s been the best gig you’ve played?
Glastonbury was amazing, but I really enjoyed playing on Saturday Night Live. We’ve played it twice and it’s so fun. Last time we played the Muppets were there and we had this real Spinal Tap moment. They were like “Sorry you can’t have the dressing room on this floor because the Muppets are having it.” We had to go downstairs because there were puppets in our dressing room.

What’s your favourite song to play live?
I always get a kick out of playing Dog Days. Mainly because we wrote it together.

What’s the biggest challenge playing live and how do you overcome it? 
Doing the same thing every day. It’s just like Groundhog Day.

How do you get past that?
I always find entertainment in the support band.

Who’s the best support band to get drunk with?
The XX were REALLY fun. They were my favourites.

Just because they were good drunks?
Good banter and crazy party times. We destroyed a hotel room with The XX and had an hilarious night out in Berlin with Spector. I threw five custard pies at Fred’s (Frederico Pavão from Spector) face. He was sitting in catering and there were loads of pies and I just really wanted to throw them in someone’s face. He’s still mad at me he wants his jacket dry cleaned.

If you could moonlight for one night with anyone else who would you choose? 
I think Juliette Lewis. I’ve been writing with her and we’ve been laughing so hard all week.

What’s your advice to anyone trying to get into the music industry?
Do it all the time – work hard. It’s hard work .

You’ve been using the JP-80 – what are you thoughts?
Behaviour modelling. Trying to get the ending on those horn sounds. I want to be the face of Keytar (AX-Synth). When are we going to make this happen?

What is a typical day on the road?
Get out of the tour bus, go to get a cup of tea then either go for a run or do two hours of music before anyone gets up. Usually I hang out with the support. I’ll shower or do some vintage shopping then sound check. Then we’ll have dinner, then get ready to go on. Then we’ll play a show and then get drunk or chill out on the tour bus and watch a movie. I’m addicted to Breaking Bad.

What are your thoughts on the Roland Kit you use? 
I love the Juno – I haven’t mastered the JP-80 yet but the Juno is so easy to use. I love the arpeggiator. I love the sounds, they’re all the sounds I like to write with.

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