The gorgeous tones of www.billieraymartin.com Billie Ray Martin first came to prominence on Electribe 101's monster Balearic house hit 'Talking to Myself' and have since adorned the collective's cache of classics, her own 'Put Your Loving Arms Around Me', and various smouldering ambient / electronic cuts by the likes of Spooky and most recently, Slam.
Her new project, The Opiates (alongside Robert Solheim) is a trip into dark electronic pop; Martin's typical, scalpel-sharp lyrical observations are juxtaposed with Solheim's shimmering production to magnetic effect. Their first release 'Anatomy Of A Plastic Girl' EP, out 3rd, precedes an album, 'Hollywood Under the Knife', out later this year. DJmag.com linked up with the mysterious diva to discuss lyrics, moving on and being the part of the 'electro Carpenters'…
So first of all, why the name The Opiates?
"Because The Opiates is named after an album that I really like, it's one of my favourite albums in the last two years, by a guy called Anywhen. Robert my musical partner became aware of the album as well and said that he was really into it. Plus I thought that The Opiates is a really beautiful meaningful name. You can apply different meanings to it."
How did you come to be working with Robert Solheim?
"Good old MySpace, actually. It was just one of those things. You communicate with a lot of people on there, and most of them are quite flaky, but me and Robert connected straight away and started sending ideas over the internet and it just worked, the communication really worked."
What's this about your being the electro Carpenters – what's the similarity?
"I would of thought it's a little bit audible. We've not set to be an electro Carpenters, but its audible in some of the melodies, and maybe lyrically, the vibe kind of came about really. And one song, which isn't on the first EP but may be on the album, called 'Rainy Days and Saturdays' and that actually does sound like a Carpenters rip off, which probably justifies the Carpenters of electro tag."
What other influences would you say make up The Opiates sound?
"Really the obvious like Kraftwerk, for the Robert as an electronic producer they're gods, and also for me! Who else have we been mentioning recently? The people like Tiefschwarz, I like a lot of electro productions, but I play them to Robert and he thinks they're awful! So we don't actually have the same taste, but speaking for myself I'm influenced by harder stuff like Kavinsky, but he listens to more minimal stuff. But some how whatever comes out both of us like it."
What is the song 'Anatomy of a Plastic Girl' all about?
"It's about anyone who lives in LA. And who has bought into the whole thing of changing their physical appearance to get work, plastic surgery. There's a vague theme of the young person having plastic surgery who survives that. The album is called 'Hollywood Under the Knife'. The whole album is about, no plastic surgery as such, but identity, so all the songs are kind of metaphorical, you can read stuff into them. The album is about a plastic girl who doesn't know any better."
This seems to be a theme for your writing – metaphors, multiple meanings. It seems that you prefer art that gives you the freedom to apply your own interpretation to it – is that right?
"Absolutely. Lyrically if you're very obvious, if the lyrics went, 'I am a girl, I'm walking the streets of LA, I change my appearance to please', that couldn't be any more boring. On the song 'I'm Not Simone Choule', that's about the film The Tenant, a Roman Polanski film. And in that the protagonist goes through this mad identity crisis where he believes he's somebody else. He ends up dressing in female clothes. So it's more about what these people might be experiencing on the inside."
Do you feel the The Opiates is a logical step onwards from Electribe 101 and your solo stuff, or do you see it as entirely different project?
"The Electribe 101 connection is there in the sense that people have started to compare to that, and I don't mind that at all. I'm a songwriter so if it's an extension of something I've done before then that's good for me because it makes sense to people. As far as my solo stuff goes, I'm working on that slowly but surely as well. That's mad electronic pop, it's very very different. Robert would say I don't want to produce it, because it's a lot harder, more cheeky."
Is there an album on the way, and if so what can we expect?
"For the EP, we were looking for four tracks which represented songs that could be found on the album. What's been happening with the album, is that the track 'Rainy Days and Saturdays' is actually a bit of a hit single. It really does sound like The Carpenters of techno or whatever. The melody we came up with, and the chorus I wrote, I thought, this is going to divide our fans, because it has a very pop melody, it sounds like a hit and we don't want a hit. But then when we listened back we couldn't stop singing it, waking up at three in the morning, and hearing that melody. We've now decided that we're not shying away from being a crossover act. What the hell? We've almost found our identity by accident – we're not afraid of pop! Really dark electronic pop songs is what's going on with the album."