The New York Times

The New York Times 10 Dec 2019

'Mary Magdalene': How FKA twigs Made Her 'Most Complex Song Ever'

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'Mary Magdalene': How FKA twigs Made Her 'Most Complex Song Ever'


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Miela Kroenke, 6, was disappointed when the coronavirus pandemic canceled all of her classes at Wahoo Dance Academy. So her dad, Lt. Tyler Kroenke of the Nebraska State Patrol, stepped in to help. With Miela dressed as Wonder Woman, the pair broke down the whole routine she had taught him. Tyler even donned a cape and mask over his police uniform. "It felt great being able to do something for my daughter that made her and the whole family laugh and smile," Tyler said of the sweet moment.

… show captions ↓
Singing: “A woman’s touch.”
“Hi, twigs.”
“Hi.”
Singing: “A sacred geometry.”
“‘Mary Magdalene’ was a bit of a pain in the ass to make.”
Singing: “I know where you start, where you end,
how to please, how to curse.”
“I think it’s like the most complex song I’ve ever made.”
“She’s the perfect person who could
out me for not doing anything, because she does everything.
She’s like tap dancing, on a pole, swinging swords.
It’s crazy.”
“What was it like the first day
you guys actually sat down to work?”
“She’s unlike any other artist you work with.
She’ll bring a little potions and, like, readings.
And she was like, do you know about Mary Magdalene?”
“The original story is that she was a prostitute,
and she was filled with sin.
But then it came out that she had
a really amazing and extensive knowledge on oils,
and she was a healer, and she was in many ways
what we call a doctor now.
I think that that duality really excited me.
That is my archetype.”
“She was talking about using the story about
Mary Magdalene for her music.
She was very determined to go down this path.”
“I’d just had some surgery.
I had fibroids in my uterus.
I was in a period of deep healing and rediscovering
my sexuality.
Mary Magdalene helped me ground myself in who I am.”
“Before I knew it, we were drinking the Kool-Aid.
I was believing whatever she said.”
“And I think she just started singing
with no beat or anything.”
Singing: “A woman’s work.
A woman’s prerogative.”
“Cashmere, I think he laid a harmonizer behind it.”
"She wanted it to sound very Gothic, but also very
futuristic at the same time.”
“I just thought of this melody.
And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’
I was like, ‘That’s crazy.’
Like ‘Mary Magdalene’ actually fits into that.”
Singing: “Mary Magdalene, creature of desire.
Come just a little bit closer to me.”
“With her, a lot of the things we used
are, like, little clicks in her voice.”
“Harmonies.”
“Drawn-out notes that are tuned down.”
“She’ll be like, it should be like, ‘Wah, wah,
brrr-rum-pum-pah.’
You know, she’ll do [expletive], and you’ll just be like, whoa,
and you’re just trying to program it quick enough.”
Singing: “I fever for the fire.
True as Mary Magdalene, creature of desire.”
“I just remember really loving this song,
being at Benny’s house, realizing in that session
that the name of my album was ‘Magdalene.’
And then I was working in this other house in L.A.
that was haunted and quite stressful, actually.”
“We just spent, like, two weeks
ripping the song apart, and rebuilding it,
and it not really working, and then ripping it apart again,
rebuilding it again and again.”
“I think I broke a lot of songs in that haunted house.”
“There’s so many versions, man.”
"Do you have any of those early versions you
could show us?”
Singing: “Yes, I heard.”
“Where Benny’s version was very clear and very focused,
we really cluttered it.”
“Was she frustrated throughout this process
or was she exhilarated by it?”
“Oh, no, she’s just excited.
She’s like a kid —
‘I want to try that, can we do that, can we do this?’”
“I love practicing stuff.
How many different ways can you do a cartwheel?
You know, like can you do a slow one?
Can you do it on your elbows?
Can you do it fast?
Can you do it with no hands?”
“We sat down once and she was like,
I want the sound of witches burning at a pyre.
And I was like, right, O.K.“
“Do you think because it was the title
track and the centerpiece of the album,
you were overthinking it?”
"I wasn’t overthinking it, I just
don’t think I was treating it with enough sensitivity
in the beginning.”
“Did that end up on the record anywhere?”
“No.”
“Then there was another stage with Nico.”
“So what did Nico do to fix this song?”
“A lot.”
“He did a lot.”
“Is it a strange thing, like you’re
coming into someone else’s house
and rearranging the furniture?”
“It is strange.
But you know, I come from dance music.
And I did so many remixes.
And it’s just the same thing.”
“We were in Electric Lady.
It was like 3 o’clock in the morning.
And we went down into the big studio,
and it was where Prince had recorded all this stuff.
And it had a purple board.
So it felt really special.”
“There’s just definitely some spirits in there,
speaking through.”
“With ‘Mary Magdalene,’ every other session had always
been, like, a full-day session of ‘O.K., no. Mute that, O.K.,
no. Take it out, O.K. Put that in, O.K.
Let’s try a guitar,’ you know, all this stuff.
Whereas the end of ‘Mary Magdalene’ was the opposite.
It was complete calm, and there was just
this magic kind of like 30 minutes to an hour
when Nico just, like — his energy
just grew in the space.”
“I remember redoing the chords.
Then I started feeling a bit more like that there was
a direction or something.”
“As soon as it had a darker feeling,
that’s when it actually came to life.
He just went on his computer, and he just
made all these incredible stretchy sounds.”
“I had coffee, and I don’t drink caffeine.
So maybe I was a little crazy.”
“I just had this idea that I wanted it to bounce.
It’s just like the wrath of Mary.”
“He found a hardness in air.
And that felt truly like evoking her spirit.”
“Do you dance, do you jump around
when something finally hits?”
“No, I don’t think I did on that,
because I didn’t want to —
you know when something’s happening in front of you,
and you’re just like, just nobody move,
everyone stay really still, no one change anything,
no one even put the air con on.
Everything has to stay exactly the same.
It was kind of one of those moments.”
Singing: “Creature of desire.
Come just a little bit closer till we collide.”
“Can we kill the cat?”
“Nope.”
“For a little while, please?”
“I just don’t know if there’s a way for me
to do this and be comfortable without the cat.”
“Really?”
“Yeah.
Yeah, I’m a little shy.”
“You look so good, though.”

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