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Lola Perrin: Rave Music for Butterflies

By Published: June 19, 2007

AAJ: Wow! And that was "Forced to Choose.

LP: So, that's the story of that. But that is what made me realize that my stuff was OK.

AAJ: It is interesting that you say you were unfamiliar with his stuff, because Perpetual Motion sounds Eno-ish.

LP: I don't know. I have only really listened to the stuff that he wanted me to write lyrics for. I've got this really bad habit ... in the early days, everything I tried to write sounded like Eberhard Weber. Everything. I just had to cut myself off.

AAJ: In this period you're not really listening to anything; you're playing your own stuff and composing your own stuff

LP: Haydn did that. Haydn and Mozart lived at the same time, and Haydn is very different to Mozart. He was totally isolated; he lived in the countryside and he was given an orchestra, so he could really experiment. And he always said that his isolation was the reason he was very different to other composers. That was such an influence on me, that 101st symphony, in the countryside...

AAJ: You are compared to minimalism a great deal—Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman...

LP: Steve Reich is one composer that I can listen to. He is just a genius—and a nice guy as well. I haven't met him but I know one person, a violinist, who works for him. He is just a very good person to work for. I heard him in New York, just before I had my kids, and that was part of my decision that what I was doing was rubbish.

AAJ: Your stuff isn't minimalist, but it has obvious affinities with it.

LP: I like the idea of the repetition but I think it's minimalism with feeling. I think a lot of minimalism doesn't have so much feeling. I was playing in a tiny little festival in Walthamstow and I saw these films called East End 1 and East End 2 [see YouTube]; I tracked down the film makers afterwards. I couldn't believe these films. They document how the East End works, in photographs, really nice photos of people who live and work in the East End. And they used Michael Nyman's music, with his permission. It was music he'd written for Peter Greenaway, mainly. And the edits didn't work because the music wasn't written for the film. For me, it didn't work.

They came to my gig and we got on very well socially and artistically. One thing led to another, and they said they'd got an opening, and they'd invited Michael Nyman, they'd told him all about me and I should come and meet him. Wow! So I went and met him and he's a lovely guy, and he said he was recording the next week and invited me along to the session. Incredible—to watch Michael Nyman's musicians, who are just amazing. The music is very challenging; it is really something to see it. And he was very charming. He said he'd got a sound check at the Barbican and he invited me along, and he was going to tell David Jones [of promoter Serious] that I was ready.

So David said that Michael Nyman liked me, that I was ready and that he was going to book me for the Purcell Room. I'd been touring in Germany, so my show was completely ready. So really, I'm indebted to Michael Nyman. I don't think Serious would have picked me up if it wasn't for some heavyweight coming in and saying I was ready. Also, maybe he didn't feel I was a minimalist. Maybe if he'd thought I was a minimalist he'd have been a bit worried that I was going to come in and take his market. It's a very different market. It's been called post-minimalist.

AAJ: You're also compared to Debussy and Ravel. How do you feel about that?

LP: Debussy was born a hundred years before me. I think about that. And he's my man. The poor guy died just before the end of the First World War. He never got through. He was thrown out of music school; I don't know how he reacted to that, if he was upset. He was such a rebel. He set the scene for the minimalists, because he would do something [on the keyboard] and then he would just shift his hands up and do the same thing. You weren't supposed to do that; you were supposed to go from chord to chord to chord. He just shattered the whole thing. They couldn't deal with him. I don't think he minded.

AAJ: Images—let's get onto that. Did you play to images right from when you started in 2003? When did that come in?

LP: Thomas Gray was at an early concert of mine. We ended up having a conversation a couple of weeks later, and he said he was going to make some films that I could make soundtracks to. And I said, "Hmm. Really. It had never occurred to me. All along, because I'd tried to write film music and abandoned it, I was conscious of images a lot in my mind. Other people say this as well, that they write music to an invisible film in their mind.

I actually went to a boarding school in Switzerland, an English school, and I was more-or-less the only pianist, and they had a fantastic Steinway in a very large room with a huge window overlooking a valley. Why do you think I failed my A-levels? I just played the piano so much in this room with the most amazing view of clouds...and the clouds would clear and I'd see the valley. It was just incredible. And it is only really recently that I've realized that this is it again. I'm playing beneath this big screen and I'm looking up at it...It's so funny, because film makers come along and say they want to work with me and I've always said "yes —although now I'm being much more selective because I can't dilute what I'm doing. Not with Thomas Gray, but the others, there are always clouds.

It's in me, this most incredible view that I had for those years, it's in me. It is the most incredible feeling. So, when Tom said that he'd do that, I was just overwhelmed. He was actually not that well known at the time. Then suddenly his career went through the roof and he was working on His Dark Materials, productions in five countries, because he got in with Stagecoach and suddenly people started booking him.

We have this project, which we are going to do, that involves filming in a place in Africa. Without a budget, he won't do it. It is something I want to get off the ground; to get investment. He's got a stage plan, a really amazing stage plan that's along the lines of Laurie Anderson but it's going to be totally different to anything. I'm going to try and make that happen this year. Those are some of the best projections I work with. But I can't keep using them. Every time I go to a new country, I do that piano suite but I can't keep using it here; if I go outside London, I'll do it. I won't do it again in London for a while.

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