Marina and the Diamonds: ‘I killed Electra Heart with sleeping pills’

The Welsh singer-songwriter talks about murdering her alter-ego, the trouble with kisses, and her latest switch from pop to indie

Hi Marina! Can you tell me about the last dream you had involving a famous person?
I’m thinking of a specific one but I can’t possibly say ... it involved quite a young boy! It was about six months ago, but I absolutely can’t tell you about it. Most of the time I have really boring dreams, like two nights ago I dreamed I made a really good pancake. That was it. I used to have lots of dreams about female pop stars and being really good friends with them.

What does the term “pop star” mean to you?
Someone who is immersed in popular culture and is relevant to it. So it’s not really got anything to do with the genre of music they create.

Would you say Kate Bush is a pop star?
I would say she’s a pop artist because the connotations of “star” are something trashy and celebrity.

Are you a pop star?
I don’t think so. There’s a bit of a split with me; some people would see me like that and some wouldn’t. It depends when they followed me from, the first album or the second. The second album got me a lot more pop fans. I feel like a pop artist, but I do love pop stars. The media spotlight changes the definition between a pop star and a pop artist, I think.

Do you think it’s better to know too much or too little in the pop industry?
Definitely better to know too much, because then you’re under no illusions about what you’re doing.

Marina and the Diamonds' album Electra Heart.

But it must be nice also to just sort of float along not questioning certain things.
Oh it would be lovely, don’t get me wrong! I feel like the business side of my brain and the artistic side of my brain are very equal. I don’t forget things and I’m not in a dream world, so I can’t be any other way. With Electra Heart (1), it did hinder me because the aim with that was to be a straight-up pop star. So when I was promoting it I realised, OK, this is why I don’t like being a pop star because people assume you don’t know anything and you don’t make your own music. I saw that change as soon as I dyed my hair blond and created music that had a different production style. It was fascinating but it made me think: “I’m not going to do this again.”

How did you kill Electra Heart?
Oh with sleeping pills, of course. But I had to kill her, it was the end. It was really fun while it lasted but those things are only meant to last a certain amount of time.

Was she a reflection of you, a projection of who you wanted to be or just an excuse to wear a blond wig?
A little bit of all of that.

Didn’t all your hair fall out because of the dye?
It did! I bleached it and then when we were doing the cover shoot the guy was like, “You’ve got a little bit of breakage at the back” – and I was like, “So are you telling me I’m going bald?” I basically cut it into a boy’s cut and then wore a wig.

You popped a new song online on New Year’s Day called Immortal that features the line “everybody dies, everybody dies”. I like to imagine a lot of hungover people crying into their coffee listening to that. Was that the intention?
Kind of, yeah. Because all the songs off this album come out on double-figure dates – so 12/12, 1/1 etc (2) – I thought about what song would be suitable and I went with that one. It puts things into perspective. I feel like there’s hope in it too.

I love these girls 'n boys a lot

— Marina Diamandis (@MarinasDiamonds) January 4, 2015

I noticed you spent a lot of time with a selfie stick on New Year’s Eve. Any tips for selfie-stick amateurs?
You know what it’s good for? I always do the Britney walk when I’m drunk. Not sure if you’ve tried it, but it’s great for capturing that.

Beyoncé has a good walk. If you’re a pop star, you need a good walk and the ability to look good in a hat.
I have never worn a hat.

Oh dear. Your new album is called Froot. Why is it spelt wrong?
Well, erm, no reason really (laughs). I just liked the way it looked. I didn’t want it to be the traditional spelling because I thought it looked too serious. I like merging the natural with the synthetic.

Are you quite a contrary person?

Well I can just imagine you telling people the album’s title and them going “great” and then you saying “Oh but it’s spelt F R O O T”.
Oh yeah for sure. But also the great thing was that when we came to doing the logo it looked better because the “O”s could interlink. (3)

Do you think the public see you as being quite knowing, or cynical even?
Actually, yes. There was definitely that in me, but that cynicism has gone now. I feel like you hold on to that when you’re not very happy and I wasn’t happy.

Why not?
I don’t know really. Even when the best things happen you don’t really feel them until you’re happy in yourself and so you figure stuff out. I was always looking at what wasn’t happening as opposed to what was. When I first started it was natural for me to compare myself to other pop artists and I don’t do that any more really.

Members of Everything Everything and the Cure play on the album. Is this indie Marina? Will you be wearing Paisley shirts and second-hand knitwear soon?
I mean, look at me, I’m wearing a cape! (4) It feels like a definitive record for me. It feels very me. There are some pop moments on there, but it’s more of a very natural thing that came from the songwriting. When I first started recording it I was doing it the electronic way but all of the drums sounded shit, so I got in a real drummer. Basically, for a long time I’ve been trying to translate how I am on stage on to a record and before, because of working with co-writers and stuff, people just wanted to do it electronically. But this was all written by me and me alone.

Marina and the Diamonds Froot album cover
Photograph: PR

Is it true that each song has a different smell? How will this be achieved?
Not in real life, no. For the vinyl they’re separated up and there’s a scratch and sniff thing on all the covers.

I also saw you were kissing your fans via the medium of Twitter...
Do you know how long that fucking took me? I was supposed to be on my Christmas break in Wales with my mum and I was like, “Mum, help me scan these kisses” and I fucked up her scanner. All the red lipstick was going all over the scanner! It is hard to do a good kiss, you know?

I was intrigued by this lyric from the new song Can’t Pin Me Down: “Do you really want me to write a feminist anthem / I’m happy cooking dinner in the kitchen for my husband.” Tell me a bit more about it.
Well I got married last year! No, I didn’t. It’s about people trying to define who you are. It’s about women, mainly. It’s about what people expect you to be or who they think you are, when actually they have no fucking idea. People don’t know who I am and so as an artist that’s really frustrating because your whole aim is for people to understand what you’re trying to express. Am I feminist though? Fuck, yes. But even with feminism it’s not about being independent the whole time. There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife.

What are you doing tomorrow?
I’m flying to Lanzarote to shoot a video. I need a really stark, barren backdrop so obviously I need to go to Lanzarote (laughs).

Couldn’t you have just gone to Slough or something?
No. Shut up. We were going to go to Iceland but it was just too cold, so off to the Canary Islands instead.

You can tell a lot about a pop star by their merch stand. What can we expect from the forthcoming tour?
Well, I plan to go one up from what I’ve done in the past. I really want to do scratch and sniff T-shirts. Maybe those Global Hypercolor ones. I want to put my colour palette onto eye shadows and nail varnish. I also want glow in the dark T-shirts that people can buy and then be part of the show.

And that way you’ll sell more merch and therefore make more money!

The blond Marina in 2011.
The blond Marina in 2011. Photograph: PR


1. Electra Heart was not only the name of her second album but also a pure-pop alter ego she created to go along with it.

2. The next song, I’m a Ruin, is out on 2/2.

3. It does look good, to be fair.

4. As well as bright green Aladdin-style trousers and a pink, fake-fur shrug. You wouldn’t confuse her with one of Belle & Sebastian, let’s put it that way.


Michael Cragg

The GuardianTramp

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