When Katy B appeared two years ago with her debut album, Katy On A Mission, she was like a breath of fresh air. Unlike the vast majority of her generic, over-produced rave-pop chart contemporaries, Katy sounded as if she had not only actually been inside a club, but was genuinely in love with dance music and its potentialities. With a new single 5AM out now and a follow-up album, Little Red, on the way, she tells us about the importance of dancing, how being short has helped her to stay anonymous – and her dad’s dark, dark secret.
Q: This is probably a dumb question, but why is your second album going to be called Little Red?
A: Ha! It is a line in one of the songs, as was Katy On A Mission, but obviously it also represents me, because I am little and have red hair. Also the album has got themes of romance, love, passion and jealousy. I feel red when I listen to it!
Q: Do you think it is true that redheads are more hot-tempered and passionate?
A: I just read in a magazine that every redhead is either a hothead or a sexpot! Which one am I? I think I’m pretty chilled out, but I can be fiery when I need to be.
Q: Have you ever suffered anti-ginger discrimination?
A: Not really but I think that girls have it easier. Boys get it worse. Oh, have you seen "Gingers have got soul"? No? Just type it into Google…
Q: What can we expect from the second album? Will it be more of the same?
A: I’d like to think that it is a progression but a lot of the songs are written the same way – dance producers giving me instrumentals to write over – because that really inspires and kick-starts me. But this time I’m also writing a few songs from scratch, on the piano.
Q: You went to the BRIT School, which so many people associate with karaoke-howling X Factor wannabes. How was your experience there?
A: I loved it. People think they just teach you how to do press interviews but really you just learn all about music. Before there I was just in my room, on my own, on my piano, but at the school I got to meet drummers, bassheads, people doing beats, everybody. Once, we did a concert of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road – it was wicked!
Q: When did you first fall in love with dance music?
A: At 16. I remember going to my first drum & bass rave. I didn’t even know how to dance, so I watched a girl in hot pants and tried to copy her. Then I would go every week to Plastic People in Shoreditch [east London] with no money, dance on my own – because my ex-boyfriend would never dance – and then get the night bus home.
Q: What is the best thing about the clubbing experience?
A: People go clubbing for all sorts of reasons. Some go to pull, some go to get drunk, some go to do drugs and some go to hear music. I have just always loved hearing music on a really big sound system, in the dark – it blows my mind!
Q: Have you always loved dancing?
A: I think moving my body has always been one of the ways that I express myself. When I was a kid, I would work out a dance routine, then sit my parents down and make them watch it 20 times. Then, when I started clubbing, I would always end up dancing on the podium – I still do! I guess it is not so different from being on stage.
Q: Can you still go On A Mission; go out clubbing and lose yourself in the music, anonymously? Or does the fact that you are now famous get in the way?
A: Because I am so short I am at most people’s armpit height, so they normally skim past and don’t notice me. Usually, if people recognize me, I have had a few drinks so I can talk to them OK. Mostly they are nice, but it can get weird.
Q: How do you mean?
A: I was in a club in Vauxhall [south London] last week and a girl recognized me and said: “Wow, I love your music – can I get a photo?” I said “Sure!” and then started dancing with her, but then her friend appeared and started videoing us on her mobile. It all got a bit strange, so my friends dragged me away. They all look out for me.
Q: Is it true that your dad was in the Eurovision Song Contest for Germany in 1976, performing a ditty called Sing Sang Song?
A: It is! It only came out because I was on Graham Norton’s show and he asked me if I would ever do Eurovision, and I said, “Do you want to know my dad’s secret?” Now they play his song all the time, whenever I do TV!
Q: How does your dad feel about that?
A: He loves it, but I think he’s also embarrassed by it because he thinks it wasn’t a very good song.
Q: Did it get nul points?
A: No, it came fifteenth. My dad always says it was a total flop but I tell him, well, you know, it could have been worse!
5AM is out now. Little Red is out on February 3.
Watch the video for 5AM by Katy B