When she’s not cooped up in her London studio scoring meteoric hits like the crime series Line of Duty, Carly Paradis can be found working alongside a slew of sonic icons. She’s the go-to pianist of Clint Mansell, the award-winning musician behind the scores for Black Swan and Moon, but her illustrious musical career has seen her go from being a band member in Ontario, Canada to a stint as a solo artist, before winding up where she is today.
On a wet Tuesday afternoon in Hackney, former Ash icon turned soloist Charlotte Hatherley is taking a break from finishing up her next project to chat with Carly. Her upcoming Night Vision EP sees Charlotte delving into a back catalogue of her favourite songs from movie history (like Saturday Night Fever’s How Deep is Your Love?) and blessing them with her own musical twist. The rock star, like Carly, is flexing a new musical muscle; their career paths becoming strangely similar.
In this conversation for The Fifth Sense, Charlotte and Carly discuss dressing like aliens, composing for Grammy winners and romanticising loneliness. They start by delving into the way music affects their emotions and senses in equal measure.
CARLY: I like music that hits you, like bass running through your body.
CHARLOTTE: I went through this phase when I stopped listening to it for pleasure, just because I was so consumed by it. I had to force myself to start again just so I could discover new music, and I realised that it shapes your whole day and affects your mood. It can make you feel really melancholy. I never really listen to music when I’m feeling happy.
CARLY: Oh really?
CARLY: So, it’s become like an additional part of your day-to-day life – like cleaning the house? When I’m [doing that] I like to listen to Gypsy Kings. It gets you in the mood! I’m trying to think about the scents that I [associate with music]…
CHARLOTTE: The smell of smoke machines takes me back to touring with Ash. It makes me really want to get on stage and play lots of loud angry music. And beer! Sweaty, damp gigs really take me back to that time.
CARLY: When you’re touring with Clint Mansell you’re in quite lovely venues like The Barbican!
CHARLOTTE: We’ve both matured now. We both play very well air conditioned venues these days!
I’ve always wondered: how did you meet Clint [Mansell]?
CARLY: MySpace! I sent him a message telling him what I thought of his music, and he responded! We started swapping music that we had both been working on at the time. I went to LA for the first time in 2007 and we met for coffee. Six months later, he needed a pianist to play for him and I was like, “Uh, yes!”. I’ve just been doing bits and bobs with him since then.
CHARLOTTE: That’s amazing.
CARLY: You always need to send that message. Never be afraid of a no!
CHARLOTTE: Clint seems so generous.
CARLY: Oh yeah, he’s awesome! He was a rock and roller before!
CHARLOTTE: I always sense that he has an insecurity about his placement in the soundtrack world, in the way that I’d be thinking: how is this going to work? I’m not someone who can write for orchestras.
CARLY: You don’t need to be, though! There are so many people from the pop and rock world that have done that transition.
CHARLOTTE: Have you ever done any solo live stuff?
CARLY: No, actually. I want to but maybe it’s that whole vulnerability thing. It’s scary.
CHARLOTTE: I would advise you to dress up like an alien.
CARLY: Oh! Are you going to be dressing up as an alien?
CHARLOTTE: Definitely. A lot of the ideas behind my solo record are [tied to] sci-fi. Filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky [who made] Solaris and Stalker; their visual traits were really inspiring, but the songs are all breakup songs, I just found it much easier to be honest through this character called ‘The Traveller’ [who Charlotte plays in the music videos for the album], and I want to continue that through to the live show. I want it to be cinematic with its visuals. Nothing bores me more than travelling around the country in a van and just playing a regular set. I’ve been doing that for 20 years – I want to do something fucking weird.
CARLY: Like an alter ego? There’s definitely something about the creation of music that makes us want to go into the places within ourselves that we’re maybe afraid to go to.
CHARLOTTE: I mean, I’d be happy working in the studio; you’re removed from the limelight. Even though you’re so stressed about doing live stuff, you do do it quite a lot!
CARLY: My experience of touring with Clint versus my experience of sitting here by myself in front of a screen is so different. One is solid ‘you’, and then the other one is having to face people in the moment. Here in the studio, I can fix any mistakes.
CHARLOTTE: I really love the solitary nature of writing at home. I love that I can eat cereal for dinner.
CARLY: Pyjama party!
CHARLOTTE: Exactly! You get time to focus on something with no interruptions, whereas the live stuff is cool but there’s so much prep around it.
CARLY: I just find that it can get lonely. You need to spend a lot of time with yourself to create the music that fits the story. When [I was] doing a TV series for three months, I was working from home that I just wouldn’t go out of the house for like four or five days straight.
CHARLOTTE: I feel like after you’ve done an intense day’s work, you can just feel so content and happy. I don’t know if I feel like I fully get that when I’m on the road. I mean, the lifestyle is amazing. The social aspects especially.
CARLY: It’s like a soundboard. Sometimes you really need [that] otherwise you get lost in your own head. But I do think you can have too much of anything.
CHARLOTTE: I don’t know if there’s a way of maintaining that in between. I do a lot of yoga and meditation to take a lot of the edge off of the madness, because you’re either doing the greatest fucking work of your life or you just think you’re terrible.
CARLY: I don’t know how to manage that, either.
CHARLOTTE: I’m a real romanticist of loneliness, and now that I’m in a relationship it’s destroying that!
CARLY: So you think that you produce better work when you’re in a state of loneliness?
CHARLOTTE: Well, I do think it’s bullshit, but being alone in a crowd and feeling sad and melancholy in a big concrete place [is inspiring to me]. When you’re touring, especially when you’re wandering around these big metropolises like Hong Kong or in Tokyo, I find that so inspiring. I just love being on my own in really stimulating environments. Sitting on my own in a bar in Berlin – the tragedy of it all.
CARLY: Like, being a tourist? That you can be whoever you want to be in that city?
CHARLOTTE: Yeah well that’s the thing with touring. It’s [melodramatic] for a second, but then you end up back in your nice hotel room, or on your tour bus with lots of friends! I flirt with the idea a lot. There’s something about Los Angeles, though, that means it’s hard to be moody!
CHARLOTTE: I was gonna ask if there was any other place you’d move to.
CARLY: Yeah, LA! The sun is out all the time. It’s so social, people are everywhere. Meeting up for dinners or parties.
CHARLOTTE: Yeah. As someone who’s never left London, I feel as though I should experience living somewhere else, just for the challenge. A lot of my friends are in LA: KT Tunstall’s moved out there, Clint’s over there. There does seem to be a lot of Brits! When I went there in my early 20s it scared me so much. At least with London it’s…
CARLY: I find that London is [less social] which kind of bums me out. That’s why I started these Film and TV Music Girls’ Brunches – because I just felt a bit disconnected. I’ve been here for eight years and I still don’t feel as though this is home.
CHARLOTTE: I still feel like I’m discovering parts of London, even though I’ve been here my whole life! When I was in South London for a year I was like: what is this? I discovered so many cool places.
CARLY: But if we wanted to have a cup of tea together, we’d have to book our diaries two weeks in advance! Everybody’s so spread out.
CHARLOTTE: A few years ago, there was a real community vibe. But because it’s become so expensive, people I know have had to move out. It’s so true that that spontaneity isn’t possible here.
CARLY: I’m spending more time talking to friends through technology than face-to-face now, so you sitting here today has been such a luxury! It’s nice to have another human being in the same room!