MelC Herald Sun Interview - 10/21/99

Black Text = Herald Times
Blue Text = Melanie C

C Soars

She's got a new hairdo, more tattoos and a new album, but Melanie C tells CAMERON ADAMS she hasn't outgrown the Spice Girls.

KIDS, as they say, can be cruel. And while kids have made Melanie Chisholm a multi, multi, multi millionaire, one kid recently threw a priceless insult at the artist best known as Sporty Spice and now as Melanie C.

Chisholm was on a UK kids TV show promoting her solo career, kick-started with the un-Spicy Goin' Down. But it was a brief interview after the show that made the headlines. "Someone asked me about Geri," says Chisholm, referring to Geri Halliwell, the woman who took Ginger out of Spiceworld.

"People were trying to put words into my mouth, wanting me to say she can't sing. Of course she can sing, she's just made a record. You can't make a record if you can't sing."

"So I just said, 'Her voice isn't my preference', and this audience of 10-year-old kids all go(shocked) 'Ohhhhhhhhhhh'. They were all taken aback."

EXCEPT one audience member, who yelled out, "Well, she's got a better voice than you."

"I didn't hear it," Chisholm says now of the pre-pubescent heckler.

"But I know people want me to hate her (Geri). I don't."

Does she respect the way Geri left the band. "No I don't."

Even though she was no longer happy being a Spice Girl?

"Well, as you say, I respect that if you're not happy with a situation you should change, but in my eyes she left under false pretences. We thought she left the band because she didn't want to continue a career in music, then she went on to make a solo album."

"But," Chsiholm adds, " there are no hard feelings. We've gone on to have success, she's had success."

Does Chisholm have a copy of Geri's new album? "Yes," she says. And . . .

"It's OK. I don't like her voice, it's just my personal choice. If I had a choice of what CD to play, it wouldn't be hers."

HALLIWELL may have been the first Spice Girl, past or present, to release a solo album, but Chisholm has followed quickly.

MELANIE Chisholm likes tattoos. She has six strategically placed over her famous body and is planning her seventh.

"I think I'm going to get one on my leg," she says.

Her latest acquisition, joining Celtic designs on each arm and one on her lower back, is a huge phoenix on her back.

"It took three hours," she says.

"It's an endurance thing. I think you need to earn your tattoos and you do after what you go through. It hurt."

Chisholm says sometimes she has an image in mind (like the word "angel" on her stomach to remind her of friends who have died) or she chooses from designs at her tatooist - also frequented by serial ink fans the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"When I get one tattoo I start planning the next," she says.

"The one on my back is a phoenix rising from the ashes. I thought that might be enough, but then I was reading an article about ying and yang and how in Chinese mythology the phoenix represents the female energy, ying, and yang is the Chinese dragon".

"So I've got to have a dragon now."

Is it like an addiction? "Definitley. But I'd never go too far, never get one on my face or whatever."

What's the attraction?

"Visually, I've always liked them and it's kind of spiritual for me."

In her documentary, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell is shown covering up her tattoo and saying: "I should have listened to my mother, she said tattoos make you look cheap and she was right".

"I don't think they look cheap," Chisholm says.

"I think Geri was actually having a bit of a dig at me then actually. Or maybe I'm just paranoid. I think they can look cheap. But trashy's in."

Northern Star debuts the reinvention of Sporty Spice. The tracksuit and long hair are replaced by a short, punk-styled crop and more glamourous wardrobe. The "I'm rich me" gold tooth remains, and her celebrity skin is covered in more tattoos.

Basing herself in LA, Chisholm has gone rock. Hanging out with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their producer, Rick Rubin (who worked on her album), jumping on stage with various ex-Sex Pistols at the Viper Room, she even covered the punk anthem, Anarchy in the UK, changing the opening line to "I am an anti-Christ, I am Sporty Spice."

And, when she performed at a UK rock festival before the likes of Manic Street Prechers, she told a hostile crowd: "I don't give a fuck if you don't think I should be here."

Chisholm doesn't care, not even when her performance was canned for trying to "go indie", though there were reports that more pop songs were added to her album.

"Everyone thinks there's this huge image change or persona change, but I'm the same person," she says. "I've always like rock music, it feels natural for me to make an album like this."

Like her friend Robbie Williams, who reclaimed his former band Take That's biggest hit Back For Good as a cathartic thrash cover for his solo shows, she performed a punk version of Wannabe at her recent Sydney gig, tellingly to a crowd of over-18s. On stage she said it was the best gig of her life.

"It's bloody hard doing all five parts of Wannabe," Chisholm says, "but it sounds good like that."

Throwing so much of herself into her album means she takes the criticism more personally.

"It is a more personal album, I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve. But I'm putting myself up for criticism, so you can't let it bother you. You can't expect everyone to like you."

IF SPICE Girls is manufactured pop, Northern Star is light rock. And when you're a Spice Girl and love Madonna's Ray of Light, you can recreate yourself by hiring the men behind that record, William Orbit, Marius DeVries and Rick Nowels.

Lyrically, Chisholm even awkwardly tackles the issue of homeless people in If That Were Me.

The stand-out line runs "I couldn't live without my phone, but you don't even have a home."

Unconcerned by the flak that millionaire Phil Collins wore after Another Day In Paradise, Chisholm plans to release the track as a single and give the proceeds to charity.

"I don't care what people think," Chisholm says. "It's something I wanted to express. I know what I do for homeless people and I know what I want to do in the future. If people want to criticise me, then they can go ahead. But if I'm helping one person on the street, that's good enough for me."

ANOTHER track, Why, is dedicated to a potential lover.

"It's about someone not that close, someone I want closer. Someone I held a torch for, I'm not going to say who."

She refuses to say whether it's about Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis.

Kiedis recently suggested a track on their album, Emit Remmus, about an "English girl and an American man" was written about Chisholm. "Did he say that?," blushes Chisholm, speechless for the first time. "I'm not making any comments on that. Did he really say that? Wow. Next question."

Doesn't that go against her honesty policy? "Well, I am too honest for my own good. But I'm me and I'm not going to become all cynical and bitter and hold things. Maybe I'll learn to do that as I get older."

Which brings us back to Spiceworld. Chsiholm heads back into the studio soon to finish Spice album No. 3.

As well as their usual British producers, the remaining foursome have been working with US producers Jam and Lewis (Janet Jackson) and Rodney Jerkins (Whitney, Monika, Brandy) for a R&B feel.

"But it's nothing too shocking. Once the Spice Girls get together we're like four silly little girls. It's good quality, sophisticated pop."

They're controlling their own destiny more, cutting back on overkill merchandise and taking a year off.

Chisholm says she hasn't outgrown the Spice Girls. "We are the Spice Girls. We're growing, but you can't outgrow yourself."

And, Chisholm admits, they created a monster with countless happy pop acts filling the charts. "We're proud that we've inspired a lot of girls, but there have also been a lot of greedy producers who have jumped on the pop bandwagon and are manipulating young kids in these bands, which is sad."

"There is a lot of good pop out there, and a lot of crap. But the kids know which is which - you can't fool the kids."

Especially about Geri Halliwell. What if they bumped into each other? "I can't wait to meet Geri again. I know our paths are going to cross at some TV show or awards show or whatever."

And what will she do? "I'll give her a big hug. A really, really, tight hug. No (laughs), only kidding."

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