Born on May 14, 1960, in Croydon, South London, England. Addresses: Record company--Indigo Records.
Although her roots date back to the punk rock and new wave eras, Anne Clark, through collaborations with other artists and a willingness to experiment, explored a varied musical territory. "For me as a writer I switch from every emotion, from A to Z," she commented to Bernard Van Isacker for SideLine magazine. "And maybe A is gentle and quiet and Z an angry, violent or extreme emotion. We are constantly changing, we are never exactly the same. So it makes perfect sense to me that my music shouldn't remain constantly the same."
Seemingly by instinct, Clark was never one to follow prescribed notions about artistic expression and culture. Born on May 14, 1960, in Croydon, South London, England, to an Irish mother and a Scottish father, Clark felt alienated from social life as a teen and took refuge in art, books, and music to find a sense of connection. At the age of 16, Clark, desiring practical involvement in the world around her, left school in search of a more active education. Although her appetite for literature and music continued to escalate, Clark soon realized that she needed to make a living. Thus, she took a number of jobs, including working as a care assistant in a psychiatric hospital just outside London.
After this, Clark found a job more directly related to music at Bonaparte's--Bromley, South London's premiere record store and independent label. Her timing could not have been better as the punk scene was just about to explode in London. With the emergence of punk rock, Clark--who shared in punk's disregard for formal institutions and traditional means of self expression--finally found a place where she felt she fit in. Suddenly, so many young people, regardless of social standing or level of education and formal training, were discovering ways to express themselves. Some formed bands, while others turned to writing, dancing, and the theater.
Inspired by punk's entirely new take on music, art, and society in general, Clark decided to branch out from her record store job. Located next door to Bonaparte's was the Warehouse Theatre, a venue that had been struggling financially to stay afloat for some time. For well over a year, Clark pleaded with the Warehouse to support an idea she had--to put on music, dance, and theater acts from the emerging punk and new wave scene. Although wary about the concept at first, the owners eventually conceded, and for nearly two years, Clark worked as an unpaid administrator at the Warehouse. While in this position, she booked sell-out shows for acts such as Paul Weller, Linton Kwesi-Johnson, the Durutti Column, French & Saunders, and Ben Watt of Everything But the Girl.
During this time, Clark additionally served as co-editor of Weller's Riot Stories, a publishing company set up to advance the work of young, unknown writers. This enterprise led an established publisher, Faber, to issue an anthology of young writers' work titled Hard Lines, which was re-printed three times. As for her own writing, Clark took on several television projects for the British Broadcasting Corporation. She also wrote the script for a Channel 4 film called Sketch For Someone, which featured contributions from Patrik Fitzgerald and the Durutti Column.
All the while, Clark had been experimenting with text and instrumentation, taking decisive steps toward making music. With backing provided by the local band A Cruel Memory, she made her spoken-word performance debut at Richard Strange's Cabaret Futura in London with Depeche Mode and gained a respectable following for subsequent shows. These early poetry recitations, according to Chris Lark in Rock: The Rough Guide, were "as gripping as the work of earlier punk-scene spoken-word stars Patti Smith and John Cooper Clarke."
Clark's tales about urban decay and everyday problems set to the moody drums and keyboards of A Cruel Memory resulted in a record deal with the Virgin label Schallplatten GmbH, which issued her debut recording, The Sitting Room, in 1982. For this solid, hauntingly atmospheric EP, Clark collaborated with the first of numerous songwriting partners, A Cruel Memory's Dominic Appleton, formerly of This Mortal Coil and Breathless.
On her follow-up, Changing Places LP in 1983, Clark teamed with keyboardist David Harrow, an old friend from her days at the Warehouse Theatre. The two musicians clicked immediately, and through their shared fascination with keyboards, synths, and samples, Clark and Harrow developed sounds that would inspire the techno movement some ten years later. A startling departure from Clark's first recording, Changing Places featured Harrow's inventive keyboard riffing on one side and Vini Reilly's (of the Durutti Column) cinematic guitar work on the other, while Clark herself revealed a maturing poetic talent, as evidenced on tracks such as "Wallies" and "Sleeper in Metropolis."
Combining the solemness of The Sitting Room with the pre-techno stylings of Changing Places, Clark, aided by Harrow as well as pianist Virginia Astley, returned in 1984 with the six-song EP Joined Up Writing. Although it became one of Clark's most notable records, featured her well-known song "Our Darkness," and helped to establish her music outside of England, Virgin, insisting on bigger sales, moved the artist to the more commercial 10 Records label. Paired with producer John Foxx, a founding member of Ultravox, Clark returned in 1985 with the more polished Pressure Points album. Still, Clark's work failed to sell in significant numbers.
Thus, Clark returned to working with Harrow and a new keyboardist, Charlie Morgan, who helped her produce Hopeless Casesreleased in 1987. Here, Clark made observations about life ranging from sexual healing ("Homecoming") to romantic frustration ("Hope Road"), again setting her words to spacious synth arrangements. Hopeless Cases remains a favorite among Clark's fans.
Despite an increase in sales throughout Europe, Hopeless Cases went largely overlooked in the United Kingdom, as did its follow-up R.S.V.P.in 1988, recorded live in Holland. But selling millions of records has never been Clark's primary concern. "I haven't got anything against being commercial or successful," she told Van Isacker, "but there has to be room for other things." Virgin, however, saw things differently, inevitably deciding to drop Clark from its roster.
By now weary of the music business in England, Clark moved to Norway, where she made her home for the next three years. Subsequently, she returned to the United Kingdom, settling in the English countryside. After relocating, Clark met formally trained Norwegian musicians Ida Baalsrud and Tov Ramstad, whose backgrounds centered around jazz, classical, and folk music. Collaborations with Baalsrud and Ramstad came to fruition with the 1991 release Unstill Life, which revealed a more traditional and classically-inspired sound, though Morgan returned for contributions to some tracks. In the early part of 1992, Clark and Morgan reunited for another project. But tragically, the pair's work was suspended that summer when Morgan was stricken with terminal cancer; he died in December of 1992 at the age of 36.
After taking some months off to mourn the loss of her friend and contemplate her next career move, Clark contacted Ramstad to work on a new album. Joined by Andy Bell, Paul Downing, and Eyeless In Gaza vocalist Martyn Bates in addition to Ramstad, Clark arrived with her most sophisticated work to date, The Law Is An Anagram Of Wealth. Released in 1993, the album brought to light Clark's Neoclassical leanings as well as her previous synth sounds. The Law Is An Anagram Of Wealth also saw Clark covering the work of others for the first time--specifically, dramatic readings of the poetry of Friedrich Ruckert mixed with original music.
For her next tour, Clark opted to remove most of the electronics and machinery and focus on acoustic instrumentation. A new album recorded by Friedrich Thein at a show in Berlin, The Psychometry Album, was released in 1994 that featured these live, stripped-down versions of earlier songs. Her next album and last for the SPV label, To Love And Be Lovedin 1995, also employed acoustic elements, together with drifting waves of electronics and vocals.
In 1997, some of Europe's top dance music producers and remixers--including Sven Väth, Hardfloor, Total Eclipse, Juno Reactor, and Mouse On Mars--acknowledged Clark's importance with The Wordprocessing--The Remix Album, featuring re-workings of her influential material. The greatest example of Clark's artistry, however, remains Just After Sunset--The Poetry of R.M. Rilke. Released in 1998 on her new label, Indigo, the album pays tribute through sublime musical meditations to one of her personal literary heroes.
by Laura Hightower
Anne Clark's Career
Booked punk and new wave acts at the Warehouse Theatre, late-1970s and early-1980s; signed with the Virgin group, released The Sitting Room EP, 1982; released Joined Up Writing, 1984; released Hopeless Cases, 1987; released The Law Is An Anagram Of Wealth, 1993; released tribute album, Just After Sunset--The Poetry Of R.M. Rilke, 1998.
- Selected discography
- The Sitting Room (EP), Schallplatten GmbH, 1982.
- Changing Places , Schallplatten GmbH, 1983.
- Joined Up Writing (EP), Schallplatten GmbH, 1984.
- Pressure Points , 10, 1985.
- Hopeless Cases , 10, 1987.
- R.S.V.P (live album), 10, 1988.
- Unstill Life , SPV, 1991.
- The Law Is An Anagram Of Wealth , SPV, 1993.
- The Psychometry Album , SPV, 1994.
- To Love And Be Loved , SPV, 1995.
- Just After Sunset--The Poetry of R.M. Rilke , Indigo, 1998.
- Buckley, Jonathan, and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
- SideLine, August 1998.
- Anne Clark Official Website, http://www.anneclark.com (January 10, 2001).