Interview With Alice Francis  (10 Questions to…)

Alice Francis – I don’t need to introduce this fantastic artist, as I’m sure every Electro Swing fan knows her songs very well. A creative soul, a passionate woman, a songwriter, a charming person and a phenomenal singer – that’s how Alice can be described in a nutshell. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview her, which I am delighted to present to you today. But this is no ordinary interview. It is an incredibly honest, passionate and full of interesting facts conversation through which, among other things, you will find out how her musical career started and developed, read her impressions of touring and learn about the process of making her albums. I guarantee that in no other article will you read so much interesting information about this outstanding artist. Especially for you, our dear readers – 10 questions to… Alice Francis!

01. LadyDot:Dear Alice, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for Electro Swing Thing. It is a great honour for me to be able to ask you my 10 questions. To you – the queen of Electro Swing, because I know that’s what you are called by many fans, and I personally think the nickname is well deserved! I’m very curious to know how your adventure in music started. You must have been born with such a wonderful, sweet and perfect-sounding voice and an incredible talent for charming the audience, but I’m sure you have worked very hard for this success. Please tell us about where this wonderful musical adventure started!

Alice Francis: Thank you for these nice words. It is not only charming but also very appreciated when people acknowledge and appreciate our work and see the effort and passion behind it. I started music when I was a little child. When my parents and I came to Germany I began writing poems. I was writing rhymes about houses, my family, animals etc. we even had a record player from now on with records. Inspired by these records, especially the Shirley Bassey one, I began singing and performing on our living room table. So my parents felt compelled to get me a guitar and send me to a teacher. Later I discovered that I could sing these poems while playing the guitar. I started working in the studio at a young age. I learned producing and from there on worked with different musicians till I met Goldie and the Niegl Bros. The Niegls produced beats with old Swing and Jazz samples. I started singing swingy lines on them and Goldie decided to produce some songs with us. This was when our first album St. James Ballroom was born. But till it grew up and became a complete and proper ‚being‘ it took nearly ten years, a lot of passion, dedication and hard work. To finance the album I had 3 different jobs in the day time and in the night time as well as in every free minute I worked in the studio.

02. LadyDot: The Alice Francis music project is the work of three people: Yours, Mr. Goldielocks from Germany and Sir Chul-Min Yoo from Korea. Please tell us how it came about that you joined forces with artists from totally different parts of the world? Do your ideas for producing Electro Swing music complement each other, or do you first gather ideas and then brainstorm and choose the best solution?

Alice Francis: I met Goldie through a friend from university when I studied literature and languages. I met him as a musician but we didn’t really work together. We experimented more with equipment in his studio. Or we sang harmonies in the park. Only later when I started working with the Niegl Bros and he listened to the first tunes he immediately had a vision for the whole project. He took what we had already created and catapulted it onto the next level. As we were working on the live set we were looking for someone who could play the keyboard and also sing at the same time, so we could have a keyboarder plus 3 backings in one person and be flexible and easy with travelling. Goldie had worked with Chul-min before on an acapella project and I knew him because we used to be former flatmates. He can sing as hell and play the keyboard, so he was a perfect match. On top he was very excited about our project and highly motivated. The way we work is very diverse. Sometimes I have an idea and scratch it with some simple chords on the guitar. Then Waldemar Parra, our Jazz Prof friend from Chile takes over and gives it an appropriate and sophisticated basis or Goldie makes something out of my simple arrangement… At the end of the day everything gets Goldiefied. Sometimes he has an idea and I write something to it. He comes from Grunch & Funk and I used to listen to Rap & Hip Hop music. So all these Genres find influence in our music. Most of our albums were composed by me and Goldie but we also often work with different musicians on songwriting. The lyrics are mostly by me.

03. LadyDot: One of your tracks, ‘Shoot Him Down’, was remixed by Parov Stelar himself! Surely this must have been something really important to you. Can you tell us how this fantastic remix came about?

Alice Francis: Actually at the time Parov Stelar remixed the song we didn’t know him or that he’s quite a number in the international music scene. Btw. It might sound silly but we didn’t even know such a thing as Electro Swing existed… never ever heard this term before. Someone from EMI music asked if we knew Caro Emerald. Never heard of her either. He said: our song ‘What are you made of’ used the same sample as hers. You know, that piano habanera rhythm.. we were shocked. The Niegls and her producers must have used the same sample library I guess. Her song became a huge worldwide hit. That was: a night like this. We named our music Neo-Charleston. It was our former manager who found Parov. She showed us some of his tracks and we thought, “Oh yeah, why not! Let him remix something‘. His remix surely gave us a boost because he already had a huge fan base which all suddenly got to know us. Also we went with him on tour. We really appreciate he introducing us into the scene and we’re thankful.

04. LadyDot: I also read in one of your bio notes that you were on tour with Parov Stelar and performed on the same stage with Wyclef Jean and Alicia Keys. Please tell us about how this happened and what emotions you felt about these performances.

Alice Francis: With Parov Stelar it was different, though he was in a nightliner and we were in hotels we were still close with the whole band. We met at Soundchecks, had a drink after the shows etc. That we played with the biggest stars like Alicia Keys, Wyclef Jean , Erykah Badu who I adore or even went on tour with Estelle is super exciting, because you feel that you get a lot of credit for your work to be put on the same stage with the biggest. But very well known people are usually avoiding contact except for their closest team. They need peace and quiet and don’t feel like chatting a lot. So we surely respected that. But Public Enemy was totally different, they even watched our show, we chatted, made pictures and even exchanged numbers. I was absolutely thrilled about that , because I was listening a lot to them when I was younger.

05. LadyDot: You already have three fantastic albums in your artistic output – ‘St. James Ballroom’, ‘Electric Shock’ and ‘Club Noir’. Each of these contains a whole host of songs that can be looped endlessly! How do you recall working on these albums?

Alice Francis: The first album was the work of 10 years. I had the chance to put the experience of 10 years into the St. James Ballroom. Songs like Pimp you derive from that. It depicts the classical situation of industry people who offer you the world but in the end it’s just a big illusion. I met a few people like that before I had the chance to work with the best. Electric Shock is a lot like Goldie’s baby. He wrote a lot of songs with me on tour. For example he produced Getting Cross in the mountains on the very top that was snow covered and swallowed any noise. Maybe therefore the song is also characterised by a lot of silence between the notes. The unfortunate thing about Electric Shock was that the cat from the cover died after the shooting and very sadly the mastering engineer Tom Coyne from Sterling New York (Rihanna, Beyoncé etc) also died after mastering our album. Yeah I know, that sounds a bit creepy. Club Noir is our latest album which no one really noticed because it was produced and released during the pandemic. The pandemic was scary, strange, at times very dark and apocalyptic. It was unreal, like a movie. I guess this is why Club Noir became more of a podcast like an acoustic movie with a narrator and lots of interludes and brilliant music of course, also featuring the work of Bucharest Jazz Orchestra or Björn Federspiel. For me it’s the best album of all three.

06. LadyDot: We will soon be releasing an album of remixes of songs from your 2022 album ‘Club Noir’ on Electro Swing Thing Records. How did the idea to remix these fantastic songs come about? Who was the originator of this project?

Alice Francis: The answer is simple, no one had noticed our Album Club Noir because of the pandemic following the Ukrainian/Russian war. So people understandably had no capacity for anything else. But since we consider it the best album we weren’t keen to just let it go. So we had the idea to remix the whole thing because there are some pretty good tunes on it. Wolfgang Lohr the Label Chef of Electro Swing Thing found the idea splendid and so he activated all of his finest Electro Swing remixers. We love the remixes so far. They bring a different note to it. We even adapted some into our live set.

07. LadyDot: Since we’re on the subject of remixing the ‘Club Noir’ album, I just have to ask this: which of these remixes ranks among your favourites? I know that the label supplied you with the first versions of the remixes, even before they were released. Maybe one of these versions made such an electrifying impression on you that when you first heard it you said to yourself, ‘this is just brilliant!’?

Alice Francis: I really got to admit that all remixes are exceptionally good. They keep the essences of the songs but bring them onto Club & dance level. Though I absolutely adore Catch the Killer by Intended Immigration, sorry to my co-writers but this should have been the original Version :-) I love the Weirdness and playful approach that Katzenjammer has by Bbop, giving it a new Future Swing style. I adore Stung By a Bee by The Soulmate Project. Amazing how he kept the country vibe. Stung by a bee existed long before the country hype came with American artists to Europe so I find it amazing that it’s the right timing for us. Mr. Jones by Balduin is also great. Shake by Atom Smith or Shake by DJ Mibor are great.

08. LadyDot: I think that not only for me, but also for many of your fans, you are a true style icon. Your outfits are very impressive, incredibly creative and chic. Please tell me, do you design your stage looks yourself or do you work with a trusted designer?

Alice Francis: Thank you very much, it’s amazing to hear that. Right from the start I created most of my outfits. Since we never had so much money when I grew up I taught myself how to see and created my own prom dress or other dresses. I also like to create from garbage and give it a glam touch.

09. LadyDot: Talking about fashion, I can’t help but ask about the Garbage Catwalk project, which you curated. It’s a show that combines music and burlesque, and people perform there in outfits made of metal and plastic rubbish, and I think this project tackles a really important topic. Please tell us about the idea behind Garbage Catwalk and whether you are planning future editions of the event.

Alice Francis: I really appreciate you asking me about my garbage project. It all started on our tour. We were invited to play in the most beautiful parts of the world: Canadian forests, African beaches, South America, Asian waters, beautiful rivers and waterfalls etc. but as soon as we left the touristic areas we encountered tons of garbage, mostly plastic garbage. Shocked by this, Goldie suggested addressing this issue in one of our music videos making all clothes and scenery from garbage. That was unthinkable for me since in my eyes I was all about glam. But Goldie can be very convincing ;-) at times so in the end I agreed. We collected garbage from the river , I made the clothes for the protagonists out of it and he made the scenery. I think for people it was as strange as it was for me in the beginning because we were expected to do another St. James Ballroom Glam cliche 20s thing. So I decided to combine this topic with my love for vintage and created a calendar with vintage photographer Sarah Tröster where I display famous women of history like Josephine Baker, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich etc. in their most famous outfits made from garbage. Our project was very well anticipated and won the Gregor Award. So I thought this needs to get onto stage. This is why I created the Garbage Catwalk. It’s a fashion show with live music, dance and performances. Garbage costumes are presented by performers of the LGBTQAI+ and diversity scene. By performers with and without disabilities. I want to also show that you don’t have to be the typical stereotype person to stand for environmental concerns. It affects all of us. And you can be glamorous and conscious at the same time.

10. LadyDot: I always ask this question at the end of an interview: what are your plans for the next few years? Are you thinking of producing a new single, do you want to get involved in some other artistic project, or are you planning a big tour? I, for my part, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions and wish you a whole lot of success! 😊

Alice Francis: Right now I’m in Africa, sitting on my balcony in 31 degrees, looking at the ocean which I will jump into shortly.. I play the ukulele a lot at night and sing other people‘ s songs which I didn’t do so much before. I‘ n not thinking much about the future. If you do that as a freelance creative it will drive you crazy. We surely will make another album in the future but at the moment I’m enjoying the non-existing album pressure. I’m looking forward to our gigs this year.. in Istanbul, Sweden or with Bucharest Jazz Orchestra in Ulm. We’re also touring with the garbage Catwalk. And I’m looking forward to the remix Album. Thank you very much for having me.

Interview by LadyDot; Date: 2024-05-27


Electro Swing Radio