This interview was one of my first for The Big Issue, and as I remember our chat didn’t exactly generate a mountain of scintillating copy. I put that down to my inexperience and think some additional interviewing must have happened before publication. This might explain the weird bit of Kate Bush-bashing at the end. Whilst not a fan of Bush at the time, I don’t remember actively disliking her, or Peter Gabriel for that matter! Weaver is one of the few performers I interviewed who’s still active today. Looking up her discography , it seems I spoke to her just before she recorded her solo debut album ‘Supersister’ in 1998. However, the death of Manchester Records boss Rob Gretton soon after stymied Weaver’s plans for that album and it remains unreleased.
Ask any number of singers what drives them to perform before a room full of strangers and you’ll probably be met with initial bemusement and then the assertion that it ‘just feels right’. But when Jane Weaver began her career at college in Liverpool, singing cover versions at revue nights, she didn’t have that luxury; it didn’t feel right at all.
“People would say ‘You’ve got a sweet voice, get up there’. And I used to hurl in the toilets before going on, I’d be shaking really bad”, remembers the now self-assured singer as she watches the world go by through the windows of Manchester’s Dry Bar. Luckily for the lining of her stomach, things have changed as Weaver has grown more accustomed to performing live. “I don’t hurl, but I still get nervous”, she laughs, drawing on an ever-present cigarette. “Being on stage is dead scary but it’s quite thrilling”.,
That heady shot of adrenalin propelled her in front of a microphone with erstwhile indie contenders Kill Laura. The combination of gritty power pop and Weaver’s implacable tones gained them a live reputation to be reckoned with, and a bit of radio airplay. But like many others before, the band were dropped by their record label. Although initially devastated, the experience hasn’t dampened Weaver’s craving for the pop life.
“At the end of the day it’s a business and you do have to separate yourself from that and not let it affect your creativity”.
But it’s only natural that after such a rejection you would want to take stock and figure out what you’re going to do with yourself and it was the same with Kill Laura. By the time they were finished, singer and band had parted company, with it seems the archetypal ‘creative differences’ playing their usual role.
“I couldn’t do a lot of acoustic stuff, because there wasn’t a lot for the band to do” she explains reasonably. “I wanted more of a free rein to what I wanted. I think as a solo artist you can do that, you can have the album with a lot of different sides to it. It’s a lot more difficult in a band”.
Even so, poised to record her first solo album, there’s still a question mark over exactly where Jane Weaver wants to roam. The big, raggy-arsed guitars and nomadic melody of the new CD Scream and Shout aren’t a million miles away from the muscular fret-stomping of her first single We Are Modern. Up against her more recent interest in electronic music, leans the strength of long-cherished guitar heroes like Neil Young and Teenage Fanclub. It’s possible even Weaver doesn’t know where she’s going yet, but whatever route she chooses, it’s feeling and not technique she values.
“I don’t know what I’m playing half the time: I make up chords”, she says, candid to a fault. “I’m frightened of learning what I am playing because I might start thinking about it too much”.
Again, it’s the answer you’d expect from a songwriter anxious not to strangle her muse. Weaver’s attitude to writing lyrics is completely the opposite, comparing it unfavourably to school homework.
“They come at the very last minute, at the eleventh hour. When I’m in the studio, they’ll go: ‘Right, vocal takes’ and I’ll go ‘Can you give me another ten minutes until I’ve actually written them?’ I ended up waking up in the middle of the night, writing a chorus and then going back to sleep, I was so worried that I had to finish all these songs”. And songs are what truly matter to Jane Weaver.
All the singers Weaver lists as heroes are women notable for doggedly pursuing their individual musical path through great songs: Patti Smith, Courtney Love, Kate Bush. Kate Bush?
“The first album I ever got was The Kick Inside, she remembers, lighting up another fag. “I wanted to be Kate Bush. It was just so weird and bizarre, watching her on telly dancing about”.
A Kate Bush fixation we can handle, just so long as she doesn’t begin working with Peter Gabriel. [see what I mean? AM]