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Mel Blatt talks All Saints and Ibiza

We caught up with the singer ahead of All Saints' Ibiza Rocks gig

In the past couple of weeks I've indulged my 16-year old fantasies in ways I never thought possible. I've clung like a clam to the back of Craig David's jacket while having my photo taken with him (play it cool babes, play it cool), and I've interviewed Melanie Blatt from All Saints - the girl band single-handedly responsible for transforming my teenage wardrobe into a medley of different coloured combat trousers and vest tops. It's fair to say the teen within me is pretty happy right now - all hail the 90s revival.

As a kid, I was firmly in the Spice Girls camp when it came to straight up adulation, but then All Saints came along with their sassy tunes and their laid-back nonchalance, performing ‘I Know Where It's At' on Top of the Pops with something that could be described as mild disdain, and it wasn't long before I'd switched allegiance and become a fan girl of the coolest new girl band on the block. This fresh and brassy foursome became the ultimate alternative to the saccharine pop acts that came before them, and dizzying fame inevitably followed suit.

I spoke to Mel Blatt ahead of All Saints' gig at Ibiza Rocks on Wednesday 17 August, where as part of their current revival tour, they'll be unleashing a sermon of past hits and current tracks from their new album, Red Flag. After so long away from performing, I wondered if the girls felt strange singing all the old songs - ones that must conjure emotions from a time long past. “It's so nice to be able to perform all the old stuff and to see people loving it,” Blatt explains, “back in the day we didn't really tour much because we spent so much time promoting, so we didn't perform as much as we'd have liked to.” It probably helps that a lot of the old tunes - ‘Black Coffee', ‘Bootie Call', ‘Pure Shores' - sound just as current today as they did back then; their sound remains remarkably distinct. “We've always stayed on our own path - we've never worked with people who are ‘hot right now', and that means everything sounds relevant across all four of our albums. Shaz writes the tunes and we work with producers who understand what we want to do - when you know what your objective is there's always going to be a definitive sound.”

In spite of the resurgence in popularity of many 90s groups, this second bite of the cherry isn't something all performers are lucky enough to experience - do they feel fortunate to be back on stage over a decade on? “It's been amazing. When we decided to make new music again we were quite realistic - we've been round the block a few times so we just thought the most important thing was to make an album we really loved. But that turned out way better than we ever could have hoped and it all spiralled - suddenly we're playing Ibiza Rocks - it's really weird!” Blatt has been an Ibiza resident for many years now, so she's no stranger Ibiza Rocks: “I've had some very good times there. The last time I went was to see De La Soul - they're one of my favourite groups of all time so we were very lucky to see them and still have space to dance - that felt really special. CHIC were also amazing there - Ibiza Rocks really smash it with their line-ups.”

"I mean I'm really good friends with Emma [Bunton] and I've said this to her, and she's always said she wishes she was in our band!"

The industry obviously differs hugely now from when All Saints first formed, but back then, around the time of the emergence of Britpop, was it exciting to be involved in that scene? “In my head I always wanted us to be an RnB band like TLC or SWV, so when the Britpop thing was happening, I didn't really get it, although at that time it felt like something special was happening across the whole of the UK. We were just busy doing our own thing - we never quite fitted in with everyone else.” Does she think that that's what contributed to the band being at the mercy of a spate of bad press at the time? “Yeah, I think part of it was because we definitely didn't give shit! When you look back as an older lady you think maybe I shouldn't have been so moody! There are a couple of interviews I look back on and I cringe at what I came out with, but it is what it is - you live and learn.” She continues, “In general, I think it's because we didn't play the game and so we were brushed with a certain reputation. We were having fun behind the scenes but we weren't into the press side of things - we just wanted to make out music and be together, and while we knew it was important for selling records, we weren't really into self promotion. We didn't really try very hard!”

These days, it's a different story, with Mel explaining, “We're all having the time of our lives. We're doing the band exactly how we wanted to, without any pressure. Our lives are pretty amazing without the band so we're just having a good time. We can't wait to see each other; to get on stage - we're very lucky that we can just enjoy it.” And is she any less cynical about the idea of girl power? “Nah, I mean personally I was just never into it. I mean I'm really good friends with Emma [Bunton] and I've said this to her, and she's always said she wishes she was in our band! The Spice Girls bought into the whole marketing aspect of pop music and I was quite militant about the fact that when you make music, you make music and that's how you make money - not from eating crisps. So that's what I found hard to swallow - there were certain messages that were a bit contradictory.” All Saints always remained true to this ethos - their version of girl power was to act and do what they felt, even if that caused tensions within the band itself. Is that something that's been ironed out now? “Yeah, for sure. We love each other more and we appreciate the time that's gone by and what we've been through together. We've all got kids and it's just an elevated sisterhood we have now. It's really special.” And there's the definition of girl power, right there.

WORDS | Abby Lowe

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