I’m so excited to share with you this interview with Stella Grundy, not only a leading actress and playwright but also the lead vocalist in Intastella, a fantastic band from Manchester whose music pushes boundaries and has encompassed many genres and guest artists over the years, since its inception in 1990. Intastella were born out of a band called Laugh who played numerous gigs in Liverpool and Manchester in the 1980s, their drummer being Spencer Birtwistle who later played with The Fall. They have worked with the likes of Shaun Ryder on an early EP and Manchester harpist extraordinaire, Katie Brett, and their music has been used on soundtracks including the 1997 film Love in Paris. Intastella continue to push forward, going from strength to strength with upcoming tours and albums. She has recorded five albums and ten singles so far and presents herself as a real force of nature and a powerful female artist.
Her latest work is a unique show blending comedy and tragedy in rhythmic, pacey dialogue, interspersed with Stella’s original music. The story is a semi-autobiographical cautionary tale of rock n roll wannabe, Tracy Star trying to make her mark in the male-dominated Manchester music scene of the eighties and early nineties. The score includes Star and Goodbye featuring legendary bassist Jah Wobble. At the time when Festival Republic’s ReBalance Project is promoting and addressing the representation of women in music, The Rise and Fall of Northern Star showing a woman’s struggle in a male-dominated industry is particularly timely. Her charity work and support of homelessness and LGBT projects are well known and for a sneaky peek, she is performing at a number of Musicians Against Homelessness concerts! Let’s meet the powerhouse that is… Stella Grundy.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a singer, actor, writer and performer and front woman and main writer for Intastella. Our music is a blend of Dub, electro, glam, Prog and psychedelia avoiding convenient categorisation. I also use spoken word, projections and multi-media to create a narrative. This new album was inspired by my play The Rise and Fall of Northern Star which tracks the weird, wonderful and at times catastrophic adventures of protagonist and ‘wanna be’, Tracy Star.
Who are your major influences and inspirations, and why?
The Velvet Underground– because of Lou Reed’s amazing story telling and the fractured nature of their song writing.
Horace Andy a classic reggae artist who has managed to stay contemporary at 80+ years and for writing one of my favourite all time albums. In the Light Dub.
Goat – for their raw energy and amazingly unique guitar sound like a buzz saw through a melody.
Led Zeppelin just because of their amazing songs
Pink Floyd influenced me enough to name my band after one of their songs
Cocteau Twins for their noise and melody
Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age) An amazing voice – rich and full of scars. I like dark themes in music
Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Nico, The Beach Boys (Brian Wilson) because they are geniuses!
Sum up the band in five words!
EXPERIMENTAL, POWERFUL, BEAUTIFUL, DARK, AUTHENTIC.
Who writes your songs?
I write the majority of the songs. I liked to work alone in that sense and bring the songs to the band. On The Rise and Fall of a Northern Dubstar, I collaborated with the producer Mike Bennett (The Fall, Ian Brown). He brought in Jesse Green (Foo Fighters)a great female artist. One song, Plastic Head was written by us in the car on the way to the studio and finished that evening. I’ve never written in a conventional way and some songs started life as dialogue I’d written for theatre and visa versa. The Rise and Fall of a Northern Dubstar is my best work to date I reckon.
What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs?
Life experience. Funny really, as mainstream music is so focused on the young. However you’re going to have so much more to write about with some years lived and mistakes made. Themes have included: striving to reach, internal dialogues, addiction, loss, dreams, hypnosis, hedonism, mental illness (both positive and negative) and general escapism from the norm and pointless pressures of modern day life.
Who is your favourite unsigned/underground band at the moment and why?
Youth prodigy Nick Haslam from Nottingham who Mike Bennett and I are working with on a side project. His songs are diverse and also PINS – an all-girl band from Manchester.
What’s in your CD player right now, or last song you streamed?
Oh Stereo Lab’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup on Spotify.
What are you like live?
Intastella has always been an ace live band and this time round it’s gone up a notch or two. Never been afraid to experiment with live sound and sonics, we have always used triggers, sampled noises and drumbeats along with live instruments. Because of recent chart success in America and the success of my play/gig which toured for 3 years I am now able to use tech to create an immersive multi-media installation utilizing virtual characters such as John Cooper Clark and Harry Shearer and I hope this will be a unique live experience for audiences and very different to any gig/show they have seen before.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Yes a major tour. Intastella ft Jah Wobble (Pil) starts in February next year with other special guest appearances from Craig Gannon (The Smiths), Nick McCabe (The Verve), The Membranes and a hi octane support from Gary Clail and Youth as the DJ. It kicks off at Birmingham Town Hall 23rd February, 02 Ritz Manchester on 24th February and KOKO in London on 25th February. There are more to be confirmed including LA!
For Musicians Against Homelessness gigs:
Stella is performing at the Nottingham and Manchester dates.
You’re stranded on a desert island and have one album with you, what is it?
Pink Floyd: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
What’s on the horizon, and what can we look forward to from you?
The new album is released on the 22nd September through Nova/Universal and we have TV appearances and radio sessions to promote it. It’s been getting a fair bit of radio play and some amazing reviews: 4* rating from Mojo and Classic Pop, 5* from Louder Than War and 10/10 from Ministry of Sound
I’m also booked for 2019 Glastonbury and me and Mike are also thinking about putting Tracy Star through another audio, visual incarnation at Pinewood Studios.
WEAPON OF CHOICE – The Pen
BASE – Manchester
FOOTBALL – Man City
GUILTY PLEASURE – A good musical
HERO – Brian Wilson (The Best Beach Boy)
VILLAIN – Mike Love (The worst Beach Boy)
BEST COMEDY SHOW – Big Bang Theory
THREADS – I love clothes all shapes, colours and prices. I love vintage and a good charity shop in a nice posh areas. Also, some belting stuff online if you’re prepared to search and wait for delivery. Copies and one-offs you can get from China are out of this world. I love clothes!
TROTTERS –Big Boots
AT THE BAR – Guinness
GIG YOU WISHED YOU’D BEEN AT –The Spiders From Mars Tour David Bowie
NIGHT OUT WITH ANYONE –The late Howard Marks
FILM – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original not the Tim Burton shite)
SOUNDTRACK – Midnight Cowboy
TOP 3 TUNES OF ALL TIME –
Sweet Thing by David Bowie
Venus in Furs by The Velvet Underground
Suzanne by Leonard Cohen
TOP OF THE POPS – Albums not singles
THREE WORDS – I love it.