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Firing the lead singer of a band has always been a very rock 'n' roll maneuver. But such a thing happened in electronic music's realm back in 2003 when the producer brothers behind seminal downtempo trio Morcheeba dismissed longtime vocalist Skye Edwards. The Godfrey brothers ran through two more singers—much to fans' dismay—before producing an album of all guests and ultimately asking Edwards to return last year. The rocky road to this reunion is a stark contrast to Morcheeba's mellow flavor. Now touring the states, Edwards talked candidly to City Pages about the split and reconciliation before the band's First Avenue show.
City Pages: It's good to have you back. How did this Morcheeba reunion come to be?
Skye Edwards: I bumped into Ross Godfrey in September of 2009 and they asked me to rejoin the band. I was in the middle of writing my Keeping Secrets solo album and was about to go on tour, so my first reaction was, "No, I don't want to come back." It took a lot of persuasion, particularly from my husband, who thought it was the best thing I could do. Paul Godfrey came over from France and we met with Ross over a meal and talked about the past and the future. They wanted me to sing a couple of songs and I said, "Well, rather than singing a couple let's do a whole album together [because] it would feel strange to just sing a few." Maybe they only asked if I would sing a few because they thought that's all I would do.
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CP: How did you end up parting ways initially?
Edwards: Things got bad around Charango, back in August of 2003. Via our manager, I was asked to leave the band. I got the phone call that Morcheeba was over. Paul said he wanted to take a five-year break and I thought, what am I going to do for five years, a side project? Maybe I'll write a few songs and record them. I think they were uncomfortable with that idea and thought I was going to leave them for good. It was a case of "Let's dump Skye before she dumps us," and I think that's the truth. It was a relief, really. People didn't really know me as Skye—I was just "the girl from Morcheeba"—so this sort of thing allowed me to make a new start. Now that I'm back, I've properly taken hold of the reigns as the frontwoman and I think the guys are happy for me to do that now.
CP: Obviously music has changed immeasurably since you first left. As someone who came up in an era without mp3s, you've expressed disdain for file sharing.
Edwards: It didn't really bother me up until I released my second solo record without the help of the label. I wasn't given a big loan by a record company; I paid for it myself and put it out via iTunes. When people were writing to me via MySpace they'd say, "Oh, I just downloaded your album on BitTorrent and it's really good, I might go and buy it!" I thought, wow, I am not getting paid for this. If I can't pay my musicians, I can't go on tour. That's not very cool. I've got a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old, and when I told them it's actually illegal to download it if you don't pay for it, they didn't realize because it's so easy.
CP: Have you seen any benefits to music industry 2.0?
Edwards: There's loads of positive sides because on the other hand, you've got MySpace, where you can make a website rather than having to pay loads of money to get somebody to create one for you. There's so many places where you can upload your music and people can listen to it. And we don't have to spend $150,000 on a music video because it's just going to go up on YouTube. A fan made a video for "Self Made Man" and set it to a video of a Tim Burton animation, and it's brilliant.
CP: When you hear the phrase "trip hop" now, 15 years later, what comes to mind?
Edwards: Whenever I thought of trip hop and Morcheeba, I described it like when you have a CD and rip the label off—it always leaves a little sticky stuff behind. Today when people ask what kind of music we do, I describe it as downtempo. But what I really want to say is, "The name of the band is Morcheeba. Look it up."
MORCHEEBA perform on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, at FIRST AVENUE; 612.332.1775. For an extended version of this interview, head to gimmenoiseblog.com.