Lily Allen: Interview

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Back in April, London girl Lily Allen told Time Out she wanted to be 'the new Bob Dylan.' Since then she has courted cocaine controversey in the tabloids, and is about to fulfil her dream of playing at the Carnival. Time Out catches up with Lily again.

  • It’s Saturday afternoon and Lily Allen windmills into the Time Out cover shoot with eyes like saucers, blasted out of her mind on a million Es, gibbering libellous obscenities about Prince Harry, Alex Curran and Howard from the Halifax adverts. Actually, no she doesn’t, which is a shame as it would have made writing this article easy. What she actually does is shake everyone’s hands, semi-apologise for being late and enter into a detailed debate on what clothes to wear.

    She is, like all famous people except Pete Doherty, Stephen Fry and Nikola Tesla, smaller than you’d expect. And posher, too. In fact, the only thing to betray her status as the pop star de la saison is an entourage of stylists, hair and make-up technicians, manager and – thanks to a half-time doggy drop – her manager’s chihuahua. For her part, Allen is sanguine but realistic about her success, suggesting that the biggest impact it has had on her life is that ‘I work every day for a start’. In the same way it takes a year before an artist starts seeing their royalties, the other trappings of fame are only just starting to sink in for Lily.

    ‘Everything is a bit weird,’ she marvels. ‘People recognise me all the time now, and there’s lots of autograph hunting and smiling. But then I get to play gigs, which are amazing. It’s a good job.’ Reaction to her meteoric, MySpace-assisted rise hasn’t been universally positive, even in the TO office, but Allen takes this well: ‘I think I’m like Marmite, you either love me or you hate me.’

    The ‘hate’ part of that equation may have something to do with Allen’s habit of shooting her gob off in interviews. It’s given her a reputation as a spiky character but in person she’s an altogether more affable figure. She’s friendly and laughs a lot, and the most controversial thing she says all day is an aside about bombing Starbucks that you’d have to be Kim Howells to feel menaced by.

    ‘The press are trying to make me out to be this really bitchy, horrible cocky lady, and I’m actually not,’ she says. ‘Well, I am a bit. I’m opinionated, but I’m not a vindictive person and I never say anything unprovoked, either. I only ever bitch about someone if asked directly about that person. It’s not like I just walk into the room going, “Before we get started, I just wanna say Madonna, you’re a right cunt; The Kooks, really don’t like them; Razorlight – rubbish…” ’

    If Lily’s opinions have bite, then, it must come from her day job as one of the capital’s pre-eminent people-watchers. She has built a rep for chronicling the everyday abnormality of life in the capital, detailing the routines of various pimps, club skanks, hoodies and innocent bystanders with a let’s-cross-the-road detachment. Essentially, Lily diarises city life at every level like a modern-day Pepys, except not quite as good and with more of a reggae influence. So actually, more like a PG-rated Plan B in an A-line. But in person, she’s not so much of a cheerleader for the capital as you might think.

    ‘There’s nothing really specific about London on its own that’s amazing,’ she muses. ‘But I think when it’s all put together as a whole, that’s when it becomes a special place. It’s the whole east, the west, the north… not so much the south ha ha! I think the whole, like, cultural diversity and the arty side of London is really, really great. And how it’s so historic as well. You go to places like Los Angeles for instance, and you just go “Where’s all the old shit?” ’

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