20 Questions: Vashti Bunyan

Vashti Bunyan chats with PopMatters 20 Questions about music-making at her pace, life without safety nets, and her nonconformist nature.

Vashti Bunyan

Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind

Subtitle: Singles and Demos 1964 to 1967
Label: Fat Cat
US Release Date: 2007-10-16
UK Release Date: 2007-10-15

Vashti Bunyan


Label: Fat Cat
US Release Date: 2005-10-25
UK Release Date: 2005-10-17
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

Vashti Bunyan

Just Another Diamond Day

Label: Dicristina Stair
US Release Date: 2004-10-19

British singer/songwriter Vashti Bunyan was offered her first record deal when she was only 19-years-old. Indeed, her musicianship is highly regarded by colleagues and fans that have virtually saved her music from obscurity; talented, she is -- prolific, not so much. Bunyan prefers a quiet life; at times rural / at times urban, living what she calls "an upside down life." She chats with PopMatters 20 Questions about music-making at her pace, life without safety nets, and her nonconformist nature.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Trench Rats, a short animated film about a rat in the first world war trenches who is writing a letter home to his mother and telling her that everything is fine. He is dressed in tin hat and uniform. A new rat called Frank comes along, but he gets shell-shock. The frames where the first rat puts his arm around a shaking Frank made me cry, alright.

2. The fictional character most like you?

The person who went to the Outer Hebrides in a horse and wagon and stayed there bringing up kids and animals and being an earth mother. The real one didn't stay in the Hebrides more than six months and was never much of an earth mother. Mother yes, earth no. Just mud. Mud, wind and fire.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Neil Young's After the Goldrush -- only partly because it was the first album I heard after being without electricity and therefore no record player for a couple of years.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Stars Wars, if you mean the film. If you don't, then Star Trek, of course.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Do you mean brain food as in fish and omega? If so, I don't like to eat fish. If you mean nourishment for the intellect - erm - arguing, probably.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

For never having had much of a plan. Learning how to live with almost nothing and not being afraid and finding a way to feel safe in the word without a house or a job or knowing how things were going to work out.

7. You want to be remembered for...?

An upside down life; making my 17-year-old self's dreams come true at the age of 62.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Bob Dylan, who walks in his own shoes and not those made for him by the rest of us. And my father, who could find a way 'round obstacles like no one else I ever knew.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

It's taken me most of my life to understand that what other people make is what they make and what I make is what I make. It was comparing what I do to what other people do that got me into trouble in the first place.

10. Your hidden talents...?

Picking stones out of horses' hooves. No, really. I don't know of my hidden talents as they are too well hidden.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

My father, who never compromised, telling me to compromise and go ahead and record a Jagger/Richards song as my first single, "Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind", instead of holding out for one of my own songs. My song, "I Want to Be Alone", went on the b side. I'm glad I did it.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

The first Mac I bought with the first royalties from the re-issue of Just Another Diamond Day. Getting it out of the beautiful box so new and shiny and mine all mine. It changed my life and it only gave up (gracefully) just the other day.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or...?

I've idea how it would feel to wear Armani. Levis are more likely, as I have more or less lived in them since I bought my first pair when I was 14 in a local Army & Navy store and yes, I did lie in the bath with them back then to get them to shrink to fit.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Peter Snell, the Canadian producer of my second single, "Train Song" in 1966. He is the only person from my musical past that I have not been able to find, and the only person back then who really understood the simplicity I was trying to achieve in my music. I would like to be able to thank him.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Back to the Christmas when I was ten. My older brother built me an electric train set even though I was a girl and hid it under our parents' bed on Christmas eve. I was so overwhelmed with joy and surprise when I first saw it I probably didn't even say "thank you".

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

One of the places I lived (in the country) I used to rage up to the top of the hill where there was a huge white rock that had been left there by some glacier thousands of years ago, stand on the top of it, and shout at the sky. It didn't help. 'Till I moved to the city.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or...?

Jammie Dodgers, a biscuit that I think is only available in the UK. Oh no, and I'm thinking of moving to LA.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I grew up in central London, left for the country when I was 23 and stayed there for 25 years. Then returned to the city 15 years ago. Knowing both I am torn. Country living is just a different kind of crazy to city living.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

You could have stopped it. Why didn't you?

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Well I wouldn't call it "work" exactly, but I'm writing new songs which may or may not ever see the light of day.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.