Singled Out: Vienna Ditto's Ugly
The song 'Ugly' started off with a rhythm. This is probably quite boring and technical, but it's a 12/8 thing, inspired by/stolen from a lot of music from Western Sahara that I'd been listening to, particularly Mariem Hassan, who's a really wild, Janis Joplin-sounding singer from those parts. TAtataTAtataTAtataTAtata it went; round and round my head and it didn't really go anywhere for ages.
Normally I just write words to try and remember a tune and I did that with this, just bunging down whatever came into my head, but in the manner of automatic writing, I realised that some phrases seemed to refer to an episode that was bugging me at the time- I live on a narrowboat on the Thames in Southeast England, and another boater had befriended me before running off with a load of my tools. The thought of publicizing my gripe with him and hopefully even making a little money off the episode was VERY inspiring, and the rest of the song came easily, so Hatty and I set about working on the rhythm in an effort to make it sound like an aural punch up the bracket.
I'd been listening to a lot of Faust at the time, and loved some of the metallic sounds they used so, in keeping with the nautical theme, decided that the drums should be made up of us beating the steel walls of my boat with sticks. I was moored opposite a huge warehouse at the time and the sounds that echoed back off this were MENTAL- we had to wait until 5am for the traffic noise to die down (we hadn't factored in the dawn chorus, however; hence the snatches of birdsong on the record) and we were pretty drunk by then. We had a great time slamming the big metal doors, dropping the heavy engine bay doors, and beating oilcans, much to the amusement of passing crackheads and ne'erdowells who frequent this quaint neighbourhood. At that point we reached the logical conclusion that the biggest, bestest, angriest sound would be that of the boat colliding with the wharf. We weren't wrong. My poor long-suffering neighbour heartily agreed and told us so in no uncertain terms, also passing comment on some members of our immediate family. Sensing trouble, we adjourned to Hatty's house where we directed our attention and microphones to her grumpy cat, who has a positively malicious-sounding purr. This can also be heard on the track, although it's a bit drowned-out by the sounds of tortured metal.
Of course, we all know how this one ends- the song sold millions, going triple platinum in several countries, and as I chill in my mansion I sometimes chuckle to myself and inwardly thank that boater for inadvertently making me the international megastar that you all know and love. I could thank him in person but he's too busy cleaning my oven.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!