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Róisín Murphy Reemerges on the Disco Scene

The U.K. fashion and music legend opens up after an eight-year hiatus

No one ever called Róisín Murphy a shrinking violet, and luckily, she’s only grown bolder with age. The UK disco queen and fashion icon, who got her start in the mid-nineties as one half of the electro-pop duo Moloko, is returning to the stage with her anticipated third solo album, Hairless Toys. Something of a departure from her first two albums, Hairless Toys trades in the dance floor for a sleepy disco stroll on a dark night recalled from her early twenties. A lot has changed in the worlds of music and fashion during her eight-year hiatus from the spotlight, and she sat down to talk with DuJour about how it all looks through her eyes.

On making a record after eight years:
In some ways it was like a first record… I was so far out of it. It was starting from zero again to a degree, and in many ways having to say I don’t know what’s going on in the industry and I don’t know what’s going to work for me right now, so I’m just going to do what’s natural. I’m going to do something I think is beautiful and complex and layered and has depth. Certain people would say to me, you should make a really banging dance record—it’s of the moment. But for whatever reason I didn’t believe I could make a record like that right now.

On the dreamy, reminiscent feel of the record:
There’s a lot of conjuring and nostalgia across the record, and remembering myself as a much younger person—21 years old, living with a bunch of girls in a house in Sheffield, going out and having parties all the time. There is some romanticizing of my life— I mean my life is not that fucking interesting—but that’s what you always do. I love images, and I’m looking for something beautiful all the time. Even if it’s dark and complex, it has to be beautiful.

On her love for couture:
Is couture fashion? It’s somewhere between fashion and art I guess. I don’t know if I always knew about fashion growing up, but I always knew about dressing up and the fancy and sparkle and beauty and lightness of it, and the expression of it. I loved that.

On the death of London’s punk fashion scene:
Fashion right now is very cynical, and it doesn’t hold a great deal of excitement for me. I live in London and London is the place for the punk attitude to fashion, that’s what we’re famous for. And it was still here eight years ago, even—which isn’t that long ago—but it doesn’t actually feel like it’s here any more. The whole celebrity culture thing has taken over, and it’s become very professional London fashion. It’s still known for being kind of avant-garde, but the business side and its relationship to the broader culture and media is much more cynical. So it’s a bit of a scary place for me now. It’s not about the clothes—it’s about who is wearing them when to which event and why and all that. It’s fucked.  I used to go to a warehouse in the east end, and scrabble around on the floor looking in black trash bags like, can I take that?? Even the weird shit, no weird people are wearing it. The weird people are not prancing around in the latest fashions anymore. I don’t know what they’re doing.

On the nineties:
I came up in the nineties, and it was a quite awkward time for someone like me. As a performer I was dressing up and trying to say quite complicated things, in my leather dress with a dog collar around my neck and a bone in my mouth. It was awkward. It was the grunge world of the nineties. Everyone would wear their jeans and we were so deep and so hurt. Anyway it was the opposite of what I was actually trying to do. I wanted to say deep things for sure, but not in such an obvious way. I wasn’t getting the kind of correct feedback on what my sense of performance was, but then I started to realize many, many gay people were into my music. I would look out and 70 to 80 percent of the crowd would be gay—and I just thought, Wow, I’ve come home. This is where I should be. I’d never planned that. But when I look at dance music culture that’s where it all came from, so it makes sense.

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