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Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Drawer of Knives

HOT columnist Sean O’Shea interviews local musician, singer, songwriter, and satirical entertainer Anita Jardine. Sean talks with Anita about her musical influences, the inspiration for her song Drawer of Knives, her travels as a musician and the healing power of music.

Sean O’Shea: You are an Essex woman and came to Hastings in 1991. What drew you to settle here?

Anita Jardine: Following the end of a chapter in my life in 1991, I was drawn to the creative melting pot of Hastings, where I was able to immerse myself in the vibrant local art community and live music scene.

Sean O’Shea: Your career has included working towards the emotional health of both adults and children within statutory and voluntary agencies. How have you managed to combine this with your musical activities?

Anita Jardine: I’ve always maintained my music alongside my working life and this has helped me to achieve balance in my life and been very therapeutic for me. Song-writing is a wonderful way to explore and manage emotions. As my passion for music gained momentum I’ve brought jamming and song-writing into my work with children. Music allows individuals to shine in a way that no other medium, even visual arts, can achieve. I’ve written collaboratively with children and performed alongside them in whole school assemblies where the pupils and staff joined in an anti-bullying ‘anthem’ we had composed.

I’m currently studying ‘life music’, at the University of Chichester. It’s a marvellous method of facilitating improvised music with groups of people who may or may not have any previous skills or experience, promoting self-esteem, well-being and social cohesion. I hope to run some sessions locally when I have finished the course, possibly in conjunction with the Music Well, a local music therapy charity based in Rye.

Sean O’Shea: What have been some of your main musical influences?

Anita Jardine: Ahahaha, pretty much too numerous to mention as I’ve been around a while! I began by transposing Lou Reed songs for the piano in my teens, which was when I began song-writing, and also have a great affection for the pioneering song-writers such as Bowie, Joni Mitchell and Ray Davies. I’ve been likened to Mitchell, Patti Smith and, in the Czech Republic, ‘a womanisation of Johnny Cash’!

Sean O’Shea: What is your take on the contemporary music scene and what kind of music excites you at present?

Anita Jardine: I don’t spend a lot of time listening to recorded music but attend numerous live performances and am uplifted by innovation, warm engagement and anything that moves me to dance my socks off.

Sean O’Shea: You have played and performed with a range of musicians, are you most at home as lead singer in a band or as a solo artist?

Anita Jardine: I love working with other musicians and experiencing their creative input but have found it more practical, particularly as I’m on the move a lot these days, to work with a loose collective of musicians, which grows as I travel the world. I’ve developed my solo skills with the hope of always ‘giving a good gig’ and entertaining a crowd, and have added harmonica to complement my demon kazoo solos recently. There have been various projects in Hastings – Contraband, with duo and trio incarnations, Worst Case Scenario, a duo with the awesome Alfie Bilsby on guitar, The Underdogs with Wild Will Davis, and Anita and the Stupid Fonts, a current collaboration with my producer, the multi-talented Keith Osborne, and his other partner in crime, Simon F Baker. I’ve been fortunate to play with scores of amazing instrumentalists in Europe and further afield and was delighted to be adopted by Crescendo, an inspiringly talented young band in Ubud, Bali recently.

Anita and the Stupid Fonts

Sean O’Shea:What’s it like being on the road?

Anita Jardine: I love it and have recently returned from a tour incorporating Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Bali .Nothing compares to the excitement of turning up in a new place and meeting new friends. I’ve played dozens of open sessions where one can spontaneously enjoy a host of other performers and reach new audiences, as well as singing for my supper in restaurants and bars. I’ve been on stage in a theatre, an art gallery and even a museum in New Plymouth, New Zealand, making contacts for more strategic tours in the future. I also enjoyed visiting small venues in eastern Europe in early 2011.Travelling with a guitar is a great way to make friends and fellow musicians provide instant family along the way. I’ve benefited from the most amazing hospitality from complete strangers.

Sean O’Shea: You seem to be a natural performer. How come you engage so well with audiences?

Anita Jardine: I enjoyed drama from an early age but was raised in an era when ‘showing off’ was considered the cardinal sin and suffered from The Fear for decades, particularly after the anxiety of my years of classical piano exams. Eventually, by playing at every opportunity I learnt to relax and enjoy performing and realise that it’s a two-way process that depends on wooing the crowd and acknowledging that without them there’s really nothing going on.

I attended local comedy courses with Sally Holloway, which was challenging. This helped develop my confidence, stagecraft and honed my writing skills. It was also good fun.

New film and album launch at Electric Palace

Sean O’Shea: What can we expect at Drawer of Knives, your forthcoming film and album launch?

Anita Jardine: This is a rare local performance so I’m going the extra mile! There will be a guest performance from a duo, The Criminal Hand, psych-swamp purveyors of soaring melodies and spine-jangling rhythms. This will be followed by a set from Anita and The Fonts, the irony maiden’s expressive vocals in bed with pert instrumentals and baroque backing vocals from the boys. My set will include some repolished gems from the past, a selection from my two latest albums and a preview of Drawer of Knives – the movie. There will also be an ongoing backdrop of slides from my recent travels, to include breath-taking landscapes, musical exploits and a trans-global cast of crazy musicians and bon viveurs.

Sean O’Shea: What was the inspiration for your song Drawer of Knives?

Anita Jardine: I wrote the darkly comic Drawer of Knives back in 2005 on the unlikely subject combo of cosmetic surgery, gender realignment and self-harm. I had a sense of sadness about the fact that people were succumbing to the knife because of dissatisfaction with how they perceived themselves and believed that others perceived them. I felt it would be great if we could love and value ourselves and each other more and the song tumbled out without premeditation.

In a sense it’s quite naive and I’m certainly not arguing that my take on these subjects is in any way the right or only one. The theme of people’s insecurities being exploited by the cosmetic surgery industry recurs in other more recent songs (Semi Century Fox and Designer Vaginas). I like to entertain and amuse an audience but also leave them with something to think about. The songs aren’t strategically written but erupt from me when I have strong feelings, whether they’re related to my own experiences of love, lust, loneliness or more generalised subjects like the increasing pressure to appear younger than our chronological age and the devaluation of experience and maturity (Semi Century Fox)

Sean O’Shea: How did you come to make a film of this song?

Anita Jardine: I had always felt the song would make a powerful short film and had potential for startling imagery. In 2011 I met film graduate Stuart Miller, and we entered into a co-operative working relationship spanning the summer of 2010, shooting in various locations in Hastings and casting the characters from amongst friends and family. Everyone who plays a part brings something individual and special to the narrative and I am very grateful for their time and commitment to the schedule.

I’m hoping that the film could potentially be used as a discussion point in schools and young people’s projects. The young generation has been bombarded with images of physical perfection and is under constant pressure to achieve acceptability in a world where scrutiny is constant and inescapable. It would be good to open up a debate on the topics from the song in an environment where teenagers felt safe to explore and express their feelings.

Drawer of Knives

Tasha takes her tee shirt off and mourns her modest milk white breasts
She displays them to the doctor, who’s profiting from her distress
Because we see it on TV it’s normal now for you and me
‘Cause Tasha don’t like what she sees
We’re changing angel as to dubious double Ds
And it hurts and it hurts and she bleeds
And despite all the pain she stays the same
Susan’s smile is warm and proud but anxiety has furrowed her brow
She’s 50 now, that’s not allowed, will anybody want her now?
The years have written on her face, you look your age, that’s a disgrace
You really are the weakest link, beneath the knife she will not flinch
And it hurts and it hurts and she bleeds
And despite all the pain she stays the same

Michael doesn’t like himself, Prozac doesn’t really help
Maybe it would cure his heart to lose a more external part
Perhaps were he more like his mother, men wouldn’t love him like a brother
He tells the doctor he feels sick, doc therapeutically removes his dick
And it hurts and it hurts and she bleeds
And despite all the pain she stays the same
Ellie dreads each day at school, she doesn’t think she looks too cool
Teachers treat her like a fool, she doesn’t understand the rules
Smoking helps but not enough, despite the pills and puff and stuff
Vodka’s good ’til she throws up, then there’s nothing left to do but cut/cut
And it hurts and it hurts and she bleeds
And despite all the pain she stays the same

So look deeply in your drawer of knives before you judge another’s life
Save your tears and do not weep for beauty that is but skin deep
Rather look inside yourself for something that’s worth more than wealth
Just remember to be kind and don’t forget that love is supposed to be blind
And it hurts and it hurts and we bleed
And despite all our pain we’re all the same
Love is blind, love is blind, love is blind
Feel no shame, feel no shame, feel no shame

Sean O’Shea: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by Hastings Online Times and the best of luck with the launch.

  • If you want to attend Drawer of Knives, Anita’s film and album launch at the Electric Palace Cinema, Old Town, Hastings, on Saturday 24 November, 3.30pm-6.30pm, booking is advisable.  Suggested donation £7, which will include a copy of one of Anita’s CDs. Bar available. To book, contact Anita direct at anitajardine33@gmail.com or telephone 07845 024255.
  • Google Anita Jardine for some YouTube clips, Myspace, and Soundcloud recordings.
  • Anita’s latest albums are for sale at: Art Thou, 92 Norman Rd, St Leonards, or email her to order a copy. Her albums will be available to purchase online in the near future.

November 2012

Posted 20:45 Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012 In: SOS

Also in: SOS

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