“First of all, I like rock ‘n’ roll,” says Madame So peacefully. “I don’t want the idea of being black in a white world to be the main focus of my artistry. That would get boring very quickly.
“I like to challenge stereotypes. That’s why I wrote Black is Beautiful. It came out of a conversation I had with someone who told me I should have more ‘groove’ in my music because it sounded like I’d been adopted by white people. And that fucking pissed me off. I genuinely thought, how stupid can you be?”
Today Madame So is shooting a video at Studio 101 in Deptford, London. The studio is buried within the train station arches, just off the main road where the thriving Deptford market is held. As we speak in the derelict outside smoking area, the ferocious rumbling of trains can be heard entering and exiting the station, along with the occasional sound of R&B pumping out of passing cars.
“And those kind of people who criticise the music I make for not being ‘black’ enough are the same kind of people who claim that they’re black but then try and lighten their skin. Black is Beautiful was a reaction to that attitude. And I’m very proud of being black. I’m very proud of being the ‘freckle’, you know. If people want to say I’m not proud of being black, I want to fuck with their minds basically. It’s their problem.”
Madame So is from Paris, but her English is impeccable and she speaks with a fierce momentum that holds your attention. When I ask her why she chose to go down the punk route with her music, the response is typically eloquent and perceptive: “Some people would probably say that I play ‘white music’, but it’s like someone saying, ‘How did you become gay?’ – you don’t choose the kind of music you fall in love with. What I like about rock music is that you can be a bit intellectual and witty with it. I like lyrics that say something. I don’t hear a lot of lyrically interesting R&B to be honest.”
Beneath a casual black denim jacket, Madame So is wearing a self-made shirt with the slogan ‘ANGRY BLACK WOMAN’ written on it. She explains that this is another stereotype she likes to “play with”, and demonstrates her point by pointing at me and saying, “When you are angry, people don’t go, ‘Look, there’s an angry white man’. I’m playing with the stereotype and serving it on a plate: ‘Here it is – I’m black and I’m angry’. And I’m actually entitled to be angry.”
While Madame So may appear to be your (dare I say) stereotypical, belligerent punk, her music isn’t exclusively political and reactionary. Gimmicks inevitably become boring, which some might argue was one of the reasons why punk fizzled out in the late 1970s. And while Madame So will always carry the safety-pinned flag of the “no future” generation, she won’t be falling into the same trap.
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