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‘You’re going to make me cry’: All Saints on music, motherhood and meeting George Michael

Written by gaytourism

All Saints are one of the most successful British bands of their generation, scoring five number one hits and even cracking the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 with their signature song Never Ever back in 1998.

Over 20 years later, Shazney Lewis, Melanie Blatt and sisters Nicole and Natalie Appleton are closer than ever, and still making amazing music. Their new album Testament, the follow up to 2016’s UK top three album Red Flag, is out tomorrow.

Here, the girls discuss combat trousers, their loyal LGBTI fans and what the Spice Girls should do next…

You played G-A-Y in London recently – how was that?

Melanie: It was awesome!
Natalie: It’s always a big treat. It’s like Christmas.

Did you ever play G-A-Y when it was at the [iconic but since-knocked down] Astoria?

All: YES!
Melanie: We played G-A-Y again recently because it was the 20-year anniversary of when we first played it!
Nicole: The crowd…it’s just the same!
Shazney: We did it with our band. That was good, we never did that [previously].

Have you noticed that 90s fashion is coming back?

Nicole: There was an old poster of us on a bus recently, and my kids were like ‘Those trainers are in right now!’

Did you keep all of your old clothes?

Natalie: Yeah!
Shazney: I’ve got my old adidas… It doesn’t age!
Melanie: It’s classic.
Natalie: Timeless.

Did you keep any of your old video outfits?

Nicole: I wish I’d kept everything.
Natalie: They weren’t ‘outfits’. They were our own old clothes.
Melanie: We never got styled.
Nicole: It was just… ‘There we were!’

So that style just evolved naturally?

Nicole: Yeah. And it’s lasted 20 years…

I might start dressing like it now. I want some cargo pants, but tight ones…

Shazney [conspiratorially]: Yeah
Nicole: You can wear them now!
Natalie: Some sexy ones!

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Could you sum up the message of Love Lasts Forever, the lead single of the new album? Is it about patience?

Shazney: It’s exactly that. I was inspired to write that for my son, because he’s doing his last year at school. You’re going to make me cry now…
Others: Aww!
Shazney: He’s going to be leaving his friends that he’s been with since he was three… [Voice cracks, gets teary]
Natalie: [Tearily] I’m going as well!
Shazney: He’s going to be going off by himself. I just wanted to give him the message that that’s OK. He’s excited now, but I reckon he’ll be nervous. I just wanted him to know that us as a family, we are rooting for him, are still behind him. No matter what, that’s concrete.

What form do you think the Spice Girls reunion should take, given your experience of reuniting?

Shazney: I don’t know. I suppose whatever works for them.
Nicole: It depends what the fans want.
Shazney: Because they are such an iconic band, the Olympics – it was so major that, for them, to come back and continuously make music, for an iconic band like that, I don’t think would be so much of a thing. But it would be amazing if they came back and did something massive.

Do you have any memories of partying with them back in the day?

Natalie: We had some great times with them… But we can’t give any secrets away!
Shazney: I’ve got a good memory of partying with Melanie C. It was at my apartment, and what I do have from that night – still – is this silk cushion. There’s still her mascara on it that I cannot get out of it! It was either from Nat or Nic or Mel…

Because they fell asleep on the sofa or something?

Shazney: Yeah, face down!
Natalie: I remember this one time me and Mel, I don’t know if it was with a Sharpee or something, were drawing and writing all over our arms. We passed out, and when we woke up, the writing was all over my bed! Literally printed all over my bedsheets.

And this was 97, 98 sort of time?

Natalie: No, this was last week! [Laughs]

I’m just so delighted to hear you guys got on! I didn’t believe it at the time…

Nicole: Do you know what, I guess it was fun for journalists to do that.

Do you feel the press and the music industry are less sexist or more sexist today than back then?

Shazney: I suppose as a lot of stuff is coming out now – a lot of stuff that was hidden away, that we didn’t actually realize was there. Now things are coming out, I look back in time to us, four women, and in this industry… Essentially we are the bosses of all these guys that surround us. We’re the only women, really, in our whole scenario. The guys on stage, the crew, management. We’re in charge of the whole ship. That was the same situation back then. The way we are as characters, we are quite strong. We do say a lot of ‘No’s.’ In terms of the record industry, people probably found us a pain in the ass, because we weren’t like ‘Ok…’ We were like ’No.’
Natalie: And then we’d be labelled as difficult.
Shazney: Whereas if it had been four men in a band, calling the shots, it wouldn’t have been looked at the way it was with us.

How do you think you’d have coped with social media if you were coming up today?

Melanie: The thing is – and 20 years ago it was the same thing – we’ve never been that ambitious. We’ve never had this thing: ‘We’ve got to do this, because we’ve got to get there.’ So we were always quite comfortable saying no. I think we’d be the same with social media now. There is a lot of pressure isn’t there? Especially with the physical [side] of it all. That pressure to look a certain way, to act a certain way, in order to achieve something – we don’t have that. All we want is to be happy, and for our kids to be happy and each other to be happy. That is it. We don’t need to dominate the whole world, or be the most famous. We’re just cool being us, doing what we’re doing.

What is your biggest pinch yourself moment as a band?

Natalie: Shaz’s acceptance speech on stage at the Brits 98 is imprinted in my brain forever.
Shazney: Did I see that as a meme?
Melanie: No way.
Shazney: I saw it the other day. It makes me go: ‘Oh god…’
Natalie: You’re a meme!

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Do you have a favorite LGBTI pop star?

Shazney: I’m old school. I love Boy George. And my daughter, who’s eight, is obsessed with Boy George! I don’t know where it’s come from. I think she heard Karma Chameleon, asked ‘Who’s that?’ and then I showed her a picture of him. She was like: ‘I love him.’
Shazney: Olly Alexander from Years & Years seems really cool. I saw him doing an interview the other day.
Natalie: Sam Smith is special as well.
Nicole: George Michael was always mine.

Did you ever get to meet him?

Nicole: Yes, he was so lovely, so sweet. He was magical. He ticked all the boxes.

Of your personal idols, who’s the person who’s blown you away the most that you’ve met?

Natalie: Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. And we met Janet Jackson, and she said to us: ‘I’m a really big fan of your work!’ I was like: ‘Oh. My. God. Did she just say that to me?!’
Nicole: Celine once spoke to us a few minutes before we went on stage, and she just left this amazing feeling. That’s what she does. She’s a wonderful lady.

What do your LGBTI fans mean to you?

Shazney: Everything. They’ve always been there.
Nicole: They have such a good spirit.
Natalie: I wish I could be with them all the time. They bring such a beautiful…
Melanie: Energy.
Natalie: Energy!
Melanie: They bring something different for the band as well. We’ve never specific to one genre, we’ve always done our own thing. I feel that’s part of the reason, back in the day especially, kids, [they hopefully looked at us and thought]: ‘We don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.’

Have you ever had someone on the scene, a pop star or whatever, confide in you about their sexuality and being closeted?

Shazney: Yes, I have. I responded with love, and gave my friend confidence, in order for them to speak to their family.

Finally, do you have many LGBTI friends and family members?

All: Yeah.
Shazney: Most of my male friends are gay. My husband’s best friend, my children’s godfather, is gay. We’re surrounded by amazing, beautiful people.
Natalie: And our management! Best team in the world!

Testament is out tomorrow.

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