‘Bowie Songs One’: An interview with Clifford Slapper

❉ We chat with the musical maestro behind ‘Bowie Songs One’, Clifford Slapper.

Due for release in March 2017, ‘Bowie Songs One’ is a new collaboration of familiar Bowie songs which have been re-interpreted for piano and voice. The piano in question is established musician Clifford Slapper who has also produced this album and features heavily on it. The album project started in Summer 2014, when David Bowie was still very much alive and the recording was fifty percent completed in January 2016, at the time of his tragic death. The album is dedicated to his memory.

Clifford very kindly took the time to answer some questions for We Are Cult about this project…

Clifford Slapper and David Bowie (Photos: Ray Burmiston, reproduced by kind permission)

You worked alongside David Bowie during the filming of “Extras”. What are your particular memories of that event?

David was perfectionist, professional and taking the work intensely seriously, whilst at the same time being charming, warm and incredibly funny. He was a dream to work with.

Which is your favourite David Bowie album?

‘Aladdin Sane’

Which Bowie song has had the greatest effect on you?

Life On Mars?

How was the idea for the album conceived?

I established the Bowie Songs project in 2014, because for many years I had enjoyed interpreting his songs through my piano playing and I wanted to challenge a number of great vocalists, many of whom I had worked with in the past, to perform those songs with only the piano as accompaniment. I felt that by stripping the songs bare their emotional core would be revealed. In addition, the genius of Bowie’s songwriting is confirmed, as the songs stand as masterpieces even without the support of a full band.

Despite coming from a range of musical genres, the album has a cohesive and fully-formed feel to it. How did you decide which artists would appear on the album?

I selected singers and songs together, in general. I purposely created some tensions in which the singer’s normal style would sit at odds with the song, because I was very concerned to create something new rather than simply to “cover” the songs in a predictable way.

To me, the album seems to have a theme of passing time/endings and its many forms, was that deliberate?

Half of the tracks were recorded before David died, and half afterwards. The songs are not arranged on the album in the order in which we recorded them. When I finalised the songs which would make it on to this collection, and the order in which they would be arranged, it was just a few months after we lost him.

Who chose the songs for the album or was it a joint decision-making process between yourself and the artists?

I suggested songs to the singers, in general, and we would then discuss it in detail and arrive at a decision. There were one or two exceptions to this, such as David McAlmont, who had always been keen to sing Sweet Thing.

Is there anyone who doesn’t feature on this album that you hope to include in the future?

Yes, already for Bowie Songs Two we have agreement in principle from artists including Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Lisa Stansfield, Suggs and Simon Westbrook, and I have several more on my wish list who I would like to bring on board.

‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, by Katherine Ellis & Clifford Slapper was released from ‘Bowie Songs One’ on 10 January 2017 to mark one year since the death of David Bowie. The first single from the album was Stay by Marcella Puppini & Clifford Slapper, released December 2016 and still available on iTunes and all digital stores worldwide.

❉ The album is due for full release on 3 March 2017 and will be available to download from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify with physical CDs available to purchase from www.bowiesongs.com

❉ ‘David Bowie’s Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson’ by Clifford Slapper is published by Fantom Publishing.

❉Ange Chan is a poet and novelist, and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. She also regularly writes poetry for the Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s fanzine “Celestial Toyroom”. Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” was published in paperback and ebook in 2016. Her second novel “Baby Can You Hear Me?” was also published in paperback and for Kindle. Her next novel is due to be published in 2017.

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