Interview: Ann Shenton (Add N to X)

Ann Shenton was the founding member and lead singer of the Add N to X and now the co-founder of White Label Music, an independent British record company whose main aim is promoting domestic independent electronic music, promoting bands like The Horn and The Hunt, Jay Stansfield, Ghost in Saturn?, Hiem , Kontour and so on. The label has created the “Electronic Bible” series of compilation albums including artists such as Jarvis Cocker and Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The label also organizes the three day “White Noise Electronic Music Festival” in Cornwall.

 Ann visited Thessaloniki back in November, where she did a great Dj set at the Coo Bar. At the same day the Horn and the Hunt –signed in White Label Music- were playing live at the basement of the bar. We met there while she was playing her interesting set with a wide  blend of sounds accompanied by a talented Vj. She was really kind and talkative, real fun! In the following interview she is talking about her experience during her time in the Electronic/ Electroclash band Add N to X, explaining the ‘back stage’ of the band and informing us about her present occupation.

LSD: Ann Shenton, you are front-woman and female persona of the legendary Add N to X (Mute records), one of the most successful electro bands of the ’90s. How does it feel to be all that?

Ann: “Its funny when I still get emails from people who say our music changed  their lives, or that they followed us all over Europe, it throws me back in time and makes me think ‘wow’ all the shit was worth something to someone. I had a lot of female fans, I think they liked the fact I just didn’t give a fuck and would smash stuff up and sweat and not give a damn about the mess I was in, its great to be sweaty, messed up and liberated.’’

 LSD:  Add N to X ‘s music is characterized by analog synthesizers,  electro-punk aesthetics and non-conformism. Did that suit your life style as well?

Ann: ‘’ We lived by the sword and died by it, we made videos that were banned and led pretty hectic lives. To be able to go on tour for most of the year means you have to sacrifice a safe comfortable home life. We had nothing and everything simultaneously.’’

 

 LSD: Some of your songs and video clips have had sex references, such as “Metal Fingers in My Body” whose animated video is featuring a woman having sex with a robot, and “Plug Me In” in which porn actresses are playing with sex toys. What were your influences?

Ann: ‘’One of our main influences at that time was Demon Seed (the movie), we also wanted to see what MTV and British TV would dare to play, Germany had no problems with our videos, but Metal fingers was banned in Japan because the cartoon female character had pubic hair! Can you believe that!!?  It would have been ok if the character was pre-pubescent or had been to the cartoon world salon and had a Brazilian wax , what is wrong with a bit of body hair !? The porno Plug me in video was directed by Barry, it didn’t have a lot of humour in my opinion.’’

LSD: My favorite song by Add N to X is “Revenge of the Black Regent”, what’s yours and what memories does it bring back ?

Ann: ‘’That track had goldfrapp singing on it, a really powerful gothic track, strange to hear it now, I am still always blown away by Rob Allum’s drumming on that one’’

LSD: You had been active as a band since 1994, in 2002 you released the inspiring “ Loud Like Nature” and a year after you split up. Was that coincidental? How and why did that occur?

Ann: ‘’ We had come to the end of the line, too much of everything had happened. Add N to X  had become a machine that I didn’t like anymore, had lost its innocent  optimism , had become fractured like a bad marriage, I kicked over the ARP 2600 in the rehearsal room, and said ‘’I’m leaving   if you want to talk to me I’ll be in the pub next door’’ I don’t think anyone came to reason with me , so I spent my last £50 on a taxi to my mothers and cried.’’

LSD:  Then I guess that you wouldn’t like to reunite with the band again, even not for a gig as I heard in one of your interviews too. Is that true and if yes why?

Ann: “Imagine if we did re-unite and played and no-one came to the show, we would feel like a right bunch of fallen egos, it would be so sad. Why re-unite, move on, let go, breathe.’’

LSD:   I doubt that no-one would come to the show- I have the opposite opinion, but either way, it is nice to move on forward, I agree with that. So where are you living at the moment and how do you like to spend your time?

Ann: ‘’ I am living about 20 miles out of London , close enough to get there fast, far away enough to not get seduced by the bright lights! I co-manage a  record label with Marc Hunter, and we are working with some artists at the moment such as Jay Stansfield & Ghost in Saturn? (a French band) and I do a bit of DJing (recently at Coo Club which was a blast !!!)’’

LSD: As a person with a great deal of intense experiences, what would you suggest to the new generation?

Ann: “My advice would be to trust your instincts always, with situations & people you work with.  Always test yourself and place yourself out of your comfort zone.

Don’t think you can control everything that happens to you or the music you make.

And if you have had enough of a situation , don’t be afraid to walk away from it , its not quitting , its getting out of a mind swamp to save your sanity, also  don’t get angry with your cat when she walks on your Moog with muddy paws.’’