The Glitterbox Interview: Alison Limerick
Alison Limerick is where love lives. Her love of singing, love of electronic music (and so many other styles besides) and, yes, that iconic single have, over the course of the early 1990s, quite literally changed her artistic life. But there is much to appreciate beyond one anthem.
Limerick started out at the London Contemporary School Of Dance before switching to music and backing vocal duties for Paul Weller’s The Style Council, Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy and post-punkers This Mortal Coil. There were also appearances upon the West End stage and even film cameos. Later came session work with George Michael, Courtney Pine and Lamont Dozier. By then, Limerick had signed to Arista in her own right and released future club classic ‘Where Love Lives’. The record, written and produced by Swede Latti Kronlund before the golden remix touch of David Morales and Frankie Knuckles, changed everything, paving the way for three credible artist albums, And Still I Rise (1992), With A Twist (1994) and Spirit Rising (1998), and a run of further hit house-tempo singles including ‘Make It On My Own’ and ‘Put Your Faith In Me’.
Since the Millennium, Limerick has continued to create and inspire. Studio collaborations with the likes of X-Press-2 have given way, most recently, to work as intimate nu jazz duo Algorisms (with keys maestro Gordon Hulbert) and, simultaneously, electro-jazz eight-piece Eat Logic. And the stirring solo performances are still in full swing – home (London) and away, for both club and beyond.
Next up, Limerick brings her considerable vocal presence to the Glitterbox rendezvous at London’s Ministry Of Sound on 12 December. For a night built upon performance and spectacle as much as its unique fusion of soulful grooves, old and new, Limerick’s attendance means everything. Here, we catch up with her ahead of the big occasion….
Alison, so how are you right now?
I’ve been concentrating on my band project Eat Logic. We had another gig last week which went well. It’s fairly early days but things are good. I’ve also been working with an American producer on a new solo vocal-dance track. I can’t say anything yet but it’s really exciting. Other than that I’m trying to avoid red wine – it wrecks the voice!
What about Glitterbox in London? – your performance there is fast approaching….
I’m hoping it will be fantastic. Based on what I’ve heard about Glitterbox from friends, it should be. It’ll be nice to actually put on some glad rags and perform, and that’s not always the case with PAs. For me, Glitterbox seems to be about taking care of the complete event - the music, themes, visuals and the rest. It’s an immersive party, which should make it extra special and transcend the usual club set-up. Plus, it’s in London, where I live, so getting home afterwards on the same day will be amazing!
How do you take electronic music today?
I absolutely love it, despite doing all these other projects. So long as electronic music has groove and melody, and isn’t too fast or trippy, then I can deal with it.
There’s been resurgent interest in the funky, soulful, Nineties house scene upon which you cut your teeth so effectively – why now?
Things like that are always difficult to fathom. It might well just be a rebound thing. When the music starts getting harder and faster, there’s a hankering after new sounds and so artists often look back at what was happening for them when they were younger. Right now, that’s the sounds of the Nineties and so people start reinterpreting those older ideas and connecting them with current dancefloors.
How important is ‘performance’ in the club space today?
It’s true, a lot of music can be made and played fairly easily these days thanks to technology but most nights I perform at – from intimate basements to huge dancefloors for thousands of people – usually have some element of live singing or instrument playing. A great night doesn’t have to have these things because DJs can be extremely creative in setting the scene. However, live performance does provide a nice lift. The live angle builds stronger engagement with a crowd. I see bands and singers perform a lot, because I have many friends doing this, and their ability to control a crowd is amazing. A good singer can do exactly what the DJ does, bringing a dancefloor up to an even higher level or guiding it down depending on the audience’s mood. Performance definitely adds something.
Talk us through your pre-performance routine…
Glitterbox will be a late one but I can’t just get up and sing, so I prepare throughout the whole day. I’ll have a gentle sing the morning before and then go about my day as usual. Later on, I’ll aim for a disco nap. Frankie Knuckles told me once how important disco naps were before an evening performance…even just sitting down and having time to pause. After that I basically just start my day again. I specifically prep for my gig, drink lots of fluids but absolutely no alcohol, l and have something to eat. That said, I need to eat at least four hours before I sing. I move around a lot on stage, so this allows for things to digest and for me to be at my optimum performance level. After all that, I have a hard sing to properly warm-up and then I’m ready.
What’s next for Algorisms and Eat Logic?
I’m mainly focused on the latter at this point in time. We set up a short while ago and have already played three gigs, all of which have had a great response. There’s more on the way and we’ve written another two songs for our set. It’s incredibly exciting. I feel massively out of my comfort zone, and there’s nothing to hide behind because it’s all live. But that’s what makes it so good!
Latti Kronlund wrote ‘Where Love Lives’ and famously picked you to record it – why you?
At the time I was involved with this glorified fashion show at the ICA in London which involved singers, jugglers and other performers rather than models. I sang ‘God Bless The Child’ [Billie Holiday’s 1941 classic] and Latti was in the audience. He apparently told people afterwards that he absolutely had to work with me but it took him six months to connect because the ICA, being security-minded, wouldn’t give him my number. We worked on three or four songs which, to be honest, were really odd and abstract, and then he disappeared off to Sweden for ages. Latti eventually returned with another five songs, one of which was ‘Where Love Lives’. He told me that that was my song to sing because it required someone with a big two-octave range, and I had it.
Do you keep in touch with Latti?
I do and we have something really special planned for  January. He’ll be playing Ronnie Scott’s in London with his ‘big band’ Brooklyn Funk Essentials, and he’s asked me to join him for a one-off twist on ‘Where Love Lives’. It’ll be the first time we’ve ever performed the track live together, and after all these years. It’s a fantastic song…such an amazing shock to see what it has become.
It’s become your life in so many respects – truly, what’s your relationship with it like these days?
There was one point a few years ago where I was upset about it; upset that it would define me regardless of whatever else I did. But ‘Where Love Lives’ turned me into a focused artist after years spent as a jobbing singer, dancer and actress. And when I see people reacting to it that’s always genuinely amazing. More so now, when those people are not just of the older club generations but the new ones too…the twenty-somethings. When you’re live they are always new ways to sing a classic song like that and keep it fresh. A few years ago I was probably playing around with it too much and taking it too far away from what the fans recognised. So now I keep it a little more controlled and enjoy the atmosphere I’m creating. I hear a few DJs have been playing it at Glitterbox to some great reactions this summer. I’m really looking forward to performing the classic version there in person soon. Can’t wait!
Words: Ben Lovett
Alison Limerick performs live for Defected Presents Glitterbox at Ministry Of Sound 12 December, alongside Norman Jay MBE, The 2 Bears, The Shapeshifters, John Morales, DJ Pippi and Simon Dunmore - full line-up and tickets