Natasha Khan, who goes by the name Bat For Lashes, encompasses everything we promote in Platforms Magazine - a musician, a poet, a story teller, a visual artist and a performer. Heading to San Francisco at the age of 20, she found her calling on the old hippy path and returned home to make rich magical dreamy music performed in sparkling headbands and facepaint and to wander through the woods with a horse. Her debut album 'Fur and Gold' is out now.
We spoke to her in a quiet bar in East London, just after she posed for a photoshoot in a graveyard, dressed as a skeleton on a BMX.
Rob: Is your process of songwriting similar to your approach to creating a piece of art, like when you write a song, do you go about it the same way as you go about making a picture?
Natasha: I think it's similar in terms... I mean I guess my artwork is mainly collage and illustrations and it's about bringing extremes and opposites together - photographic images with drawings or... I've done sort of embroidered little miniature satin CD pillow cases before and stuff like that, so I like an eclectic mix of visuals and I like eclectic mixtures of instruments and I think it is kind of a layering process and i guess you get the bones of something... and then it's about not judging things that might not seem to go together conventionally - hip hop beats and auto harps and whatever...but um, yea. So yea, I guess it is similar, it's composition and structure and I can see in my mind, like yea, when I'm writing I'll see a landscape or colours or a still of a film thats imaginary or something.
Rob: Like you'll be layering images and then you'll be layering sounds.
Natasha: I'll be layering sounds and then images will come and it will feed me a story or a narrative or a certain time of day or night or...
Roy: So do you associate each song with a visual image?
Natasha: I think so, definately yea, I reckon...I mean I studied music with visual art, or music with moving image and film and animation so... erm, so yea when I'm playing something it's a bit of a film reel going...
Rob: I read an article in Modern Painters about Devendra Banhart, who you know...
Rob: And he was saying when... sometimes he does a song and he'll be half way through and he'll finish it by doing a drawing...
Natasha; Yea, I read about that as well.
Rob: That sounded really interesting.
Natasha; That did sound interesing, yea because I think it's about erm, I was reading something today about... adventure. Like, when you're creating a sense of adventure it's always important because your creative impulses are usually quite childlike and sort of um, they come from a place that thrives on risk taking or y'know, it's a youthful energy and so I think if you try and be too kind of.. regimented and structured and be like, 'I'm just going to do Music for ever and ever and ever and ever', then erm... so if you're struggling with a bit of an audio thing, then sometimes just swap over and be inspired visually... can really get the juices flowing, and it all comes from the same place but it's like, they all complement each toher... like a family holding hands complementing each other and then you can get back.
Roy: Do you see yourself doing music for ever and ever and ever?
Natasha: I really hope I can but I've been quite worried lately [laughs] No, I mean... every artist has self doubts and stuff, but that's what I would love to do because I think it allows me to look at all sides, like you say the visual side, and there's music scores or lyrics, writing, sounds and it's all incorporated into what I do and that's all I can do so I just really hope it doesn't run away...
Roy: So what's next after this album and the touring...
Natasha: Well, I've just been to New York and I worked with this guy called Matt, who's like a friend of Devendra, like a bi-product of all that thing and we did a reworking of Prescilla and got a horn section in and big tom drums in and stuff, so I sort of rearranged...well, I sang to the horn players the parts I had in my mind. I just wanted to make the song more grand and a bit more like... it's slightly Otis Redding and then it goes Voodoo-ey horns, quite sexy and dark... so I've worked on that, I think it's more indicative of where I'm going to go musically for the next one which I think is going to be a bit more powerful. Still magical but more meat and bones.
Rob: You went to San Francisco...
Natasha: I'm going again actually, for Christmas... but anyway...
Rob: When you first went to San Francisco, what expectations did you have?
Natasha: Well, I watched 'Woodstock' a lot when I was a teenager and got really into these gorgeous bearded boys, so I was hoping for a lot of those, which I found, and erm... then there were the Beat generation writers and I was into Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg's Howl, just the usual initiation into that kind of thing when you are 20... I think that was an important step for me.... So when I went there I stayed right by the City Lights Bookstore, and I saw Jack Kerouac's street and the landscapes and the bay area, pine forests...everything I hoped it would be - Golden Caifornia with slightly sleazy undertones, really lovely things happening, like walking down the street at three in the morning after I'd gone to a really weird warehouse party where everyone was taking acid or something, it was quite scary... and then walk down the street and you just come across four black guys.. I think they were living on the street but like, tap dancing and singing like a chain gang kind of thing... just randomly echoing with nobody around , they could have been ghosts or something. You come across these amazing people, I came across lots of musicians, lots of people who told me that I should be going home to do it, and that I should do music and stuff.
Rob: Before you went were you thinking 'I want to do music' but not sure?
Natasha: Before I'd gone I thought I was supposed to be doing Fine Art Painting. But that's only because that's what all your teachers tell you at school if you do A Level Art, and you're like, 'Oh, the only courses are Fine Art Painting or English Literature'. I knew that wasn't right and so I went away and once I came back the first prospectus I opened was Brighton, and it had Music with Visual Art, like 50 percent of each which was perfect.
Rob: If you were a character on a Top Trumps card...
Natasha: In a what card?
Roy: You know Top Trumps?
Natasha: Not really.
Rob: You know those card games where you like say... er...'Strength - 52' and then they go, 'Strength - 49' and so you won...
Natasha: I don't know what you're talking about! But that's my fault, lots of people ask me about things that normal people should know about and I don't know what they are...I think I must have had a very strange life.
Rob: Ok. If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
Natasha: Ah ok...My boyfriend asked me that the other night on the phone. He said his super power would be the power to make anyone shit their pants at any given moment, which would be genius because they all wear tights don't they..so you could just say, 'Look Superman...' ha ha... and they're in trouble...
Rob: Apparently you can actually do that
Natasha: With bass you can apparently...
Rob: Apparently the Sex Pistols did it... of course it means you have to do it to yourself as well...if you play that frequency...
Roy: Yea, but you know about it, so you get ready beforehand
Natasha: Put a nappy on... I think if I had a super power I would probably...I don't know. I'd probably like to do that Spiderman thing where he shoots stuff out of his wrists, that's pretty fun. What would you do? You've got to be able to answer the questions.
Roy: Er... I don't know..er...
>Rob: Erm... it'd be quite standard just to be able to fly. In general. Or to go invisible.
Natasha: Invisible would be good wouldn't it? Yeah, invisible. Or the other good one is to be able to hold time while you run around and do something and come back again.
Rob: Inevitably you'd do something really really bad...
Natasha: Or really naughty....
Rob: What did you want to be as a child?
Natasha: I wanted to be a Marine Biologist, most of growing up. And then I thought I wanted to be a writer or a secretary when I learnt to do typing on my little typewriter but the original thing I wanted to do...I was obsessed with David Attenborough and nature programs...
Rob: Did you ever do drawings in response?
Natasha: Oh yeah, I did millions...I think I won a prize at school for drawing a Tawny Owl, I did it with pastels and stuff. I worked really hard 'cos they bought a Tawny Owl into school and they are like that beautiful cream with the blue...blue and amber coloured feathers. And then I did an Otter, standing up, and I had to do a whole project on Otters...and I really liked seals as well.
Rob: Which artists are most inspirational to you? That's artists in the wide term.
Natasha: I've just got into an artist called Bea Nettles and she was kind of like, she's still very prolific, but she did some amazing stuff in the Seventies. Strange little collage tarot cards where she'd collaged photographs that kind of depicted each of the Tarot, and then put them in little velvet pouches, and they're kind of all weird black and white Seventies looking, slightly Diane Arbus-ey, but they're all collage with big people's faces in the sky... really inspiring. I really like Gregory Crewdson as a photographer...and I like Steve Reich as well.
Roy: What's you're favourite thing about the eighties?
Natasha: It's got to be hoodies and BMX bikes...and films like E.T and Karate Kid. All the soundtracks of early eighties films are so evocative when you listen back to them, I love those...and then, just like the kid's fantasy films where they're just bordering on...with adult undertones that are like quite sad...
Roy: Are you looking forward to the new Rocky film?
Natasha: God, yeah! That song... doo... do do doo...yeah, 'cos my dad was a squash coach and when we were younger he'd coach people and I always remember my cousin wearing hoodies, tiny little running shorts, and like doing his skipping really fast...they had to do this video where he starts on the bottom of a runway, and then he runs and the plane takes off.. it's really eighties.
Roy: Do you play squash?
Natasha: No. I'm shit at racket sports... it's official.
Rob: Would you ever do a Coca Cola advert?
Natasha: Never in a million zillion years.
Leanne [Natasha's PR]: What about a cheese advert?
Natasha: Might be persuaded. Yea... If someone put... no that's far too rude...sorry.
Leanne: We won't go there.
Roy: Ok. We'll play a little game, right? We give you the answer, you need to give us the question.
Rob: The first one is - 'I used to but I don't anymore'...
[Natasha's phone goes off]
Natasha: ...have a boring Nokia ringtone, but now I've got a proper rave tune.
Rob: So the question is, 'Did you used to have a boring Nokia ringtone?'...no, 'Do you have a boring Nokia ringtone?' and the answer is, 'I used to but I don't anymore.'
Roy: Okay, second answer: David Cameron.
Roy: David Cameron.
Natasha: Is he a film maker?
Roy: No, James Cameron is the film maker...
Natasha: Who is David Cameron?
Roy: He's the leader of the Conservative Party.
Natasha: Oh! [laughs] ...fuck. Don't ask me about politics! Ok, 'Who do I...Who do you not know who it is...?'
Roy: That will do.
Natasha: I can't phrase that one properly.
Rob: Third and final answer is: Yes.
Natasha; 'Did you just fall off your BMX bike?'
Leanne: Oooh, you're good at these. I couldn't think of an answer...
Rob: 'Have we run out of questions?' - 'Yes!'
Roy: We want you to draw us a self portrait...
Natasha: this is how Devendra draws me... every time he draws me it goes like this:
FOR MORE OF BAT FOR LASHES, VISIT HER WEBSITE