Interview: A Conversation with Martha Skye Murphy

Following the release of the enchanting Heroides EP and new single ‘Black Eye’, we caught up with Martha Skye Murphy to chat idols, musical background and how she got tangled up with former Label of the Month Slow Dance. Hear her haunting new single ‘Black Eye’ below.

You released the Heroides EP last year, how have you been enjoying the reaction?

Very much so.

The artwork for the release was removed by Facebook, how did you feel when that happened?

Incredibly frustrated. It is exhausting having to battle with institutions that are corrupt in their censorship. The immediate sexualisation of the artwork as decided by their algorithm, was due exclusively to the fact that it was a female body. Facebook and Instagram disturbingly refused to recognise that the album cover was a piece of feminist art celebrating women rather than intending to elicit a sexual response.

Who do you look up to as idols?

Leonora Carrington, she was a phenomenal mind. Her imagination is beguiling. She was an author, an artist, a poet and an anarchist associated with the Surrealists but who always distinguished herself as being apart from them. Carrington was born into an aristocratic family who’s class customs she detested. When she was presented to King George V as a debutante she refused to stay for the formalities and hid upstairs. Carrington euphemistically wrote a short story titled ‘The Debutante’ which mockingly appropriated this autobiographical tale: a little girl befriends a desperate hyena and allows it to be the belle of the ball in her place so that she can read Jonathan Swift in her bedroom instead.

I’m also absolutely obsessed with Al Pacino. He is astonishing in his capacity to inhabit such diverse roles. I spent hours watching interviews with him the other day and he told this brilliant anecdote about how nervous he and Diane Keaton were on the set of The Godfather when they were shooting the first scene. They thought they had performed dreadfully. During filming a leaf had fallen onto Pacino’s shoulder which he had absent-mindedly brushed off. The next day, Marlon Brando came up to Pacino and said in his husky voice: ‘I loved what you did with the leaf’. You know that if Marlon Brando thinks you’re doing something right then you must be a genius.

What is your musical background?

I learnt the violin and the piano between the ages of 7-14. I was very impatient in my lessons when it came to scales and the technicalities of being classically trained. I remember telling my piano teacher I didn’t want to do grades and giving him the collected songs of Noel Coward to teach me instead. I was a chorister at school and then I was chucked out of the choir at university because I was told that I wasn’t committed enough.

My great grandfather was a professional violinist and my grandfather (his son) is a fantastic violinist too. My other grandfather has an excellent singing voice but to my dismay he has never been part of a group. My dad was a drummer before he became a photographer. He was in post-punk bands such as Soul on Ice with Gary Chaplin (Penetration) and King Butcher which was with John King of Gang of Four.

What inspires you to write?

Anything: someone whispering into their phone on a packed train home, morse code recordings, Pina Bausch’s choreography.

Who would be your dream collaboration?

I’m fortunate that I have already collaborated with Nick Cave, singing the title track of The Proposition when I was 9 and then again as a featured vocalist on his 2013 album ‘Push The Sky Away’. I’d love to work with Daniel Johnston, Gavin Bryars and Mica Levi all at the same time.

How did you get involved with working with Slow Dance?

Marco (Pini), one of the label’s founders, started coming to my gigs and then a few months later when we were stood in a queue waiting to go to the last show at the Montague Arms (RIP) I said that I wanted to release my first EP. That was that.

What does the future hold for you?

I recently released a single called ‘Black Eye’ which I recorded at 4AD’s studio with Fabian Prynn (Ex:Re). I’m currently working on a concept based mini album.

What annoys you most about music today?

The fickleness of the ‘hype’.

Do you have any recommendations as to who we should be listening to?

Lore, Wyka, Guildhall Military Orchestra and Waterbaby.

Lead photo: Ceidra Moon Murphy