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Changing dollars

Since the demise of Dollar, hailed in their time in some unlikely quarters, Thereza Bazar has not been idle. Shes been recording an album with Arif Mardin and is about to be launched upon an unsuspecting world. Interview by Dave McCullough.

IN COMPARISON with ZTT everything else in the music scene looks, feels and, for all intents and purposes, is from the Stone Age. There, somebody had to say it and it might as well be me.

Elsewhere in the music scene we can only look to the likes of Wham! or the odd Nik Kershaw to reveal signs of (surprising) goodness. They are doing what Thereza Bazar and her erstwhile Dollarmate David Van Day did around five years ago — debunk the serious ‘hip of the likes of the Smiths, Bunnymen, Bragg et al. They are gifted with the stance of the true outsider (they make good records too, astonishingly).

Ironically, now with ZTT well and truly founded, Thereza Bazar should be moving up a category with them. In brief, she almost signed to ZTT, didnt in the end and is now, after almost a three year gap since silly-marvellous Dollar, about to Launch Her Solo Career with MCA.

MCA have improved as a label but they are no ZTT. One worries slightly.

Launching Her Solo Career is taking Thereza ages. I interviewed her last summer! Arif ‘Abandoned Luncheonette Mardin is producing in place of Horn. Reliable rumours say the material is high-class, a fistful of hits. In a backstreet studio somewhere Godawful in East London Thereza looks, as she must look, stunning.

“OH DAVE, I didnt know it was going to be you!…”

The journalist goes bright pink; eavesdroppers gnash their teeth in envy; Thereza, all four foot and an inch of her, looks smashing.

She is very showbiz by nature, very 1950s British actressy. Not really belonging to the pop world at all, which obviously in part contributed to Dollars brilliant muddling of what pop should be. They were so wrong they got it right. Every pop songstress should be a Thereza Bazar and NOT have spent all their teenage years listening to Leonard Cohen or Siouxsie Sioux. Therezas, and Dollars, stiltedness used to look great in a medium that, in after-punk times, was becoming dangerously flexible and all-encompassing.

Now, though, I suspect shes changed. I think shes aiming either at becoming a serious hipster, which would be awful, or at being big in America — she talks significantly of her fondness for Cyndi Lauper. One worries: its like George Michael suddenly saying he likes the Bunnymen and Redskins.

How do you look back on Dollar?, I ask.

“Oh we didnt take it seriously. We sent ourselves up terribly, didnt we? I mean, you couldnt have taken that seriously now could you!…”

I keep quiet.

A LITTLE BIRD told me you have four hits on the upcoming album…

“Really? Well, it was six last week, so obviously its gone down!… No, its going really, really great. Its just a little strange, thats all. Its taken so long making sure, not just diving into a solo career, going out and making an album and putting it out just to see how it does.

“I just decided that if I was going to continue with my career it had to be done properly and on a worldwide scale. Otherwise, whats the point? I might as well go and do production full-time or host a TV show anything but dabble…”

Did you ever consider quitting the pop scene?

“Oh never! Im more obsessive now about music than Ive ever been. I think thats partly due to the writing side — its always been very important, but you have to be very courageous to seriously become a writer because youre leaving yourself open to all sorts of things, the most of which is failure, I suppose. It can be a real let down if someone says your songs arent good enough.”

How much did you write in Dollar?

“Really very little. It was never encouraged particularly… And the whole process of promotion is so time-consuming I never really had a chance. It was a very soul-searching moment when I decided to write and perform on my own. Because if I didnt come up to scratch Id be really disappointed in myself.

“I just got really very lucky when a friend introduced me to Phil Pickett, who wrote Karma Chameleon and plays keyboards for Culture Club. He started to co-write with me and Ive never looked back since. The whole co-writing thing then sort of snowballed into me writing with Terry Briton who did Tina Turner, with Graham Lyle and several others who really make up the cream of British song writing talent. In all theres six different co-writers on the album. But I think it has my own personal style over every track…”

Why did you need co-writers

“Well, Im not learned enough in songwriting — which is a real creative art. I can plonk on a piano or put ideas down on an eight track but thats about it. Im the sort of person who gets melodies in her head when shes in the supermarket — that sort of thing!…”

What does the new material sound like? (At time of going to press pre-release cassettes were still not available from MCA.)

“I think its probably the perfect extension of where Videotheque left off, which is where Dollar stopped functioning, really. Theres nothing cynical or calculating about the direction Im taking. This is a real representation of me and some of the music I like.

“Its very, very melodic, very contemporary. Its not schmaltzy, theres a lot of edge in the music. Because my voice is so soft really there has to be a lot of toughness in the backing track…”

Will you be credible this time?…

“Im very serious about this project. I mean, its taken over two years to get it together so its been no picnic or as glamorous as Dollar used to be…”

Do you regret not signing to ZTT?

“…I spent a lot of time talking with Trevor and Paul. I was going to do a whole album with them, it was supposed to be their first release. And then Trevor did first Yes and then Frankie and I was left waiting. It would have been lovely, of course it would have been. But… what Im doing now sounds like pop but theres a sophistication to it. I think weve got a really adult feel with Arifs involvement. He has this quality that brings out the best in people.

Hes not over-technical or anything, he just brings out little nuances that you would never have noticed otherwise…”

But hes no Horn…

“I didnt want to work with anyone else except Trevor…!

That seems a genuine loss to the music scene. It could have had great results, maybe better than the limited Frankie…

“I waited nine months, Dave! It was very sad and I think Trevor was upset too. The contracts were drawn up and everything. It was very disappointing.

“Mind you, Trevor was delighted when he heard Arif was doing it, and Arif had been into Dollar all along because of the work Trevor had done there…”

Theres two sides to every story and the other side of this particular tale relates that Therezas new manager, a Yank named Budd, was requesting rather a lot from our ZTT pals. Thereza, though, still says shes a “Trevor Horn disciple” and hints at working with him again some day. One worries slightly for the present (the lesser talented Kim Wildes MCA launch was scarcely inspiring).

What about a new image? Whats it to be?…

“No idea. Ill know when Ive completely finished mixing the tracks. Really, its gonna have to be Me As I Am.”

What were ZTT going to do with you?

“It would have to have been Me As I Am there too. Theres no real need for big pretentious images. That could only be trying to say theres something lacking in the music, which there isnt this time. I mean, lyrically Dollar were pretty lightweight, werent they? It wont be like that this time around…”

Will you be a ‘Serious Artiste now?

“Well, Ive a kind of dual personality. Theres one side of me that does take things very seriously but theres also the side that likes to have a giggle.

“I just want to be stunning: I want to be stunning in every possible way…”

Are you being honed in any way for an American market?

“Not really, its just that Ive grown really disillusioned with the Durans and Whams in general and Im listening to more American chart music than I am to British. I like Toto, Hall and Oates, Cyndi Lauper — I think shes great, Was Not Was. English bands have got a bit boring.

“One good thing is that MCA are an American company. As well as that, my managers American, my producer is American — so, you know, ZTT doesnt have everything!”

It would be a shame if MCA couldnt make you as modern as ZTT could have done, thats all Im saying.

“Yes, it would be. I suppose Im going to be terribly headstrong. I cant see myself smiling nicely into Joe Bangays camera for a piccy for the Sunday Mirror…”

And she smiles a significant smile. I hope she wins through, against the odds.