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Oi Oi Saveloy! Lick Your Lips, Here’s The Chips: An Interview With SaltPeter

What a tease mushy peas, nice legs pickled eggs, catch up ketchup, cod roe, have a go, hot pies, battered sausage kingsize, chip fat hot pies, sweet and sour, bit of rock, rock’n'roll.

I can tell you something, Salena Godden is older than Lily Allen (who she’s been compared to) and the fashionable Kate Nash — it shows in her lyrics. Older and wiser, cleverer and far more poetic. Please don’t hit me Salena: you don’t actually look older! OK, a bit.

What I mean is, this album, these songs aren’t the tittle-tattles of the young, but then Salena is a poet, a real poet, and if you ever saw her perform as Salena Saliva, her old incarnation as a youth, you’d know. She has the most amazing talent of stealthily stealing into her own heart, dissecting all the joy and pain for you to feel all the better, as it smears through your ears, to leave remnants floating in your head.

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If you’ve had any kind of life, which includes being poor, happy, worthless, loved, lived, sex, drugs, and drunk on a bender, you’ll know a little of what’s going on in these songs, capable of making you laugh and cry in the same line. If you don’t like being manipulated from one state to another, if you don’t like to feel, go elsewhere and listen to some pussycat girls faking it.

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Oh she manipulates your emotions, with a huge helping hand from Peter Coyte, who writes anthems. Not that I know anything about pop music but why do I keep on finding myself singing these songs, especially “Who Needs Money, We’ve Got Feathers”, when I’m cycling around town. They are as much about London as Ian Dury’s New Boots and Panties from the 70’s, with the same sly humour from seaside rock, cartoons as bright and bawdy as Donald McGill postcards, to mock Hammer Horror “Johnny Disney” to the poverty and pain of “Pale as the Rain”, maybe I’m just an old softie but some lines get me right here in the tear ducts.

“The West End is glaring
Like a whore with her legs splayed
Somebody jumped on the tracks
and now the tubes are delayed.”

Anyone who’s been in central London on the weekend at night, knows this is just how Leicester Square and Piccadilly look, cruelly ravaged after Sebastian Horsley’s had his way with them. The music is sensitive enough, sometimes, to carry off this Hogarth rudeness of piss-stained steps, winking night stars and tramps. Salena’s beautifully intimate voice sings her lyrics of failing, falling truths, in “Picked Up Something Dirty”, “Green to Gold” and “Fuck Me”, but pumps into raunchy soul in “Hunger’s the Best Sauce” and “Feathers”, with brilliant backing vocals from larger-than-life Josie.

Go see SaltPeter live, for the dresses and heels are wild, and you’ll be singing along like an old-timer to “I’m Not Gay But…” or “Your Wife”, dancing madly to the almost psychedelic “Alice”, before you leave shouting, “Everybody Back To Mine” with your “vodka, fags and wine”.

If you long to escape from your dreary humdrum office life and sofa home existence, on one of those Soho benders of camaraderie that pass into a whirlwind of best friend promises and kisses, just remember it’s not all glamour, as Salena sings: “Pale as the rain, thin as December, paper faces pass without any light, I’m running out, little faith big doubt, and I’m all out of fight”. But if you love Banksy’s graffiti of London life, this is it, the equivalent match, look at the book or wander around the streets, looking and listening, SaltPeter just sounds better. Hhmmm — just in time for Christmas shopping.

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3:AM: When you’re both famous and rich, what will be your sauce when you’ve run out of hunger? And will you still want to run a funeral parlour [Peter Coyte runs one, no really]? Or speak to your ol’ muckers?

SG: I will always be hungry…and thirsty…when I’m rich I’ll have gout from too much port, stilton and other fancy rich things… Speak to my old muckers? Most definitely. Absolutely, yes. I will be most suspicious of “new friends” telling me I’m pretty with my newfound fame, my big head, my gouty leg, my portly stout belly, my lips blue with wine and my fat wallet.

PC: What, you mean making money from music and art? Weird concept. Milarepa said desires achieved increase thirst like salt water. My sauce is an everlasting metaphysical condiment enhancing the flavour of life. Tastes a bit like Mrs H S Balls’ chutney.And will you still want to run a funeral parlour?
Of course: it will always be an honour to serve the community in this way, and my Dad asked me to keep it going. Or, Speak to your old muckers?
Only the ones that have made me a cuppa. Can’t wait to get rid of the others.

3:AM: Is there anybody in the world (still alive) you would be honoured to share a stage with?

SG: At the moment, I love the Dresden Dolls and want to do a gig with them one day. Prince would be well cool to do a duet with.

PC: Simon McBurney.

3:AM: Where’s your favourite greasy spoon?

SG: The Spaghetti House opposite Tufnell Park Tube.

PC: The Tea Cosy, Harold Hill. Bread cut two fingers fick.

3:AM: What’s your favourite dish?

SG: I love pies. Anything involving slatherings of gravy, crumbly pastry and creamy whipped mashed potato with double butter and salt and lots of red wine.

PC: Pork chops in Yorkshire pudding, gravy, mash and greens.

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3:AM: How often do you go to the Groucho Club? Where would you be seen smoking a fag outside for the Paparazzi?

SG: Never Groucho’s! Urggghhhhh. Always the Colonic [The Colony Room]. Smoking for the paparazzi? I can be found by most Soho bins.

PC: Who do you think I am? Sophie Parkin? I’ve never smoked cos I look daft.

3:AM: Who and what’s the first thing you’ll buy with your first million pounds?

SG: I will buy marble and granite and get my stonemason lover to design and build us an eco-castle with solar panels and chickens, with a rose garden, a bubble machine and swimming pool and sauna and steam rooms and a studio and vegetable patch, orchard and a vineyard and we’d take hot air balloon rides everywhere.

PC: Who? That’s slavery! What? The pub at the end of my road to make it into a nice local. Imagine the Groucho of Neasden close to the delights of Ikea.

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3:AM: What festival would you be most excited to play?

SG: The main stage at Glastonbury. We’ve done the little poetry stages for years at most festivals. Any main big stage. It would also be awesome to play on a boat at the Venice or Cannes Film Festivals. Burning Man Festival or Lollapalooza at night in the desert under stars and fireworks…

PC: Krampus festival in Bad Goisern, Austria.

3:AM: Is it just me or does “Picked up Something Dirty” sound like it should be the soundtrack of a Bunuel, Truffaut or Left Bank French movie?

SG: Yes. I like the idea of the video being dark, atmospheric and French, perhaps starring a fragile lip-quivering Isabelle Hubert and directed by Michael Haneke.

PC: I know what you mean. I reckon it would be brilliant for un film de Jacques Audiard. Or Jacques Tati.

3:AM: Would you ever consider acting? And if so, who would play you in the docudrama of your life (living or dead)?

SG: I’d love to play a cameo part, like a bartender, the way Tom Waits kind of played himself. I think in the docudrama of our lives I would be played by Tina Turner ha, ha, ha.

PC: Yes I’d love to. I already practice many roles including moody musician, sulky artist and chirpy boozer. Paul Merton onstage and Cate Blanchett off.

3:AM: Are you pleased with the album? I think it’s great: are you sure you both wrote and performed it, or did you get someone else to do it for you? I won’t tell if you did.

SG: It’s been a good ten years in the making, marinating. I’m not the same girl now as the chick who wrote some of the earlier tracks, that’s for sure. See if you can spot the difference.

PC: Very pleased thank you. We found the sounds down a well in a small village around the Bourgogne area of France, rearranged them in my laptop before talking Fred into putting out the CD with our photos on the front. Hang on — how dare you suggest that. Why, I oughtta…

PS: Ian Dury’s Blockheads are on tour currently playing New Boots and Panties — coincidence?

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ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Sophie Parkin has written seven published books. Three grown-up novels (you can’t say adult otherwise people think they might be pornography): All Grown Up, Take Me Home and Dear Goddess. For teenagers there is French for Kissing, Best of Friends, and Mad, Rich and Famous. She has also contributed to four other books, from short stories, true stories, long stories, to poetry. Mothers by Daughters, Sons and Mothers both published by Virago, Girls Just Want To Have Fun: the Cosmopolitan book of short stories, and POT 05 – Anthology of Poetry ed. Michael Horovitz. Her new book, Bazaar Nights and Camel Bites (Piccadilly Press), a teenage novel set in Tangiers and London, is out now.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, December 1st, 2007.