Interview: Platinum Weird's Dave Stewart and Kara DioGuardi

September 13, 2006 12:42 PM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

Musician Dave Stewart is best known for his work with Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics. But if he has his way, his "resurrected" mid-'70s band Platinum Weird and its new "powerhouse" singer, Kara DioGuardi, will be equally notable.

"For me, Platinum Weird is amazing because I'm mad about guitars," Stewart said.

"And in the Eurythmics, I never used to play hardly that much guitar. This has been a great opportunity. I was always into loads of American bands when I was younger and growing up in England. I never got to play or write with an American partner. Having Kara--who's so melodic and such a great singer and a great person to write with--it's like fulfilling a dream for me. I get to play guitars and work with somebody that's got an American sort of melodic sensibility."

Stewart is quick to note, however, that the Eurythmics have not broken up.

"Annie and I have never really announced that we did break up. We did a reunion tour ... where we gave all the profits to Greenpeace and Amnesty. We made a whole collection of all of our tracks and all of our CDs. The thing is that [Platinum Weird] is something that never got finished, and now it's getting finished," Stewart said.

DioGuardi, a judge on ABC-TV's "The One: Making a Music Star," is well versed in her own right. For the last 10 to 15 years, she has penned songs for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Enrique Iglesias ("Escape"), Gwen Stefani ("Rich Girl"), Kelly Clarkson ("Walk Away," with the help of Canadian chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk), Pussycat Dolls ("Beep"), Ashlee Simpson ("Pieces of Me") and Christina Aguilera ("Ain't No Other Man").

"Meeting Dave was a big turning point for me...," DioGuardi said. "It was quite a journey to get here."

The band's publicity materials say that Stewart and DioGuardi are bringing Platinum Weird full circle with the Sept. 19 release of its self-titled album. But there's a catch: even though Stewart talks fondly about Platinum Weird's origins, the band never existed until now. A "documentary" about the band on VH1 is actually a "mockumentary" meant to stir interest in the band that is only now making its debut.

Stewart outlined the back-story: "This girl that I met in Holland [Erin Grace], we started writing songs and it was really great. We were starting to get, like, a buzz. When we were signed to Elton John's Rocket Records, she disappeared. So if you see the documentary, it tells you the whole story with archived footage and Elton John talking, me meeting Kara and it kind of explains it."

Before the ruse was exposed, Stewart and DioGuardi talked to about "Platinum Weird," the group's reformation and working with the Pussycat Dolls.

You must be looking forward to the release of "Platinum Weird." It's a project a long time coming.

Dave Stewart: I am. I started two years ago. It's been a long process making the record, making the documentary and doing all the various bits. It's been a year and eight months between starting it and its release. It's a little bit of a wait and a build up at the same time. Kara and I, we just seem to musically and lyrically hit it off. We tend to write songs in about an hour, and record it quickly. It's the classic "Hurry up and wait." We wrote all the songs on the album and recorded them in about four weeks. But then all the other stuff--the video, black-and-white and live video, we made a half-hour-long film/documentary. Our album, when you get the real thing, it has massive collages under the photos and information. Then we had the fan site coming on board, then we had our own site. We looked at ourselves like we were completely unknown, which we are. It's kind of starting from scratch.

Why did you decide to reform the band now?

DS: I didn't really decide it. It just kind of fell out of the sky on my head. I didn't know I was going to meet Kara. I didn't know that when we started to write together [for the Pussycat Dolls], it would sound instantly like this melancholy sort of memory. It triggered all this other stuff that I had always wanted to do, had started to do and never completed.

How did your proposed collaboration with the Pussycat Dolls come about?

DS: I don't usually do writing commissions for people. [Interscope Records exec] Jimmy Iovine described the Pussycat Dolls as, at the time, an interesting cabaret act, almost like the movie "Cabaret." And I thought, "This is interesting." I thought it was actually going to be a theater thing. I was writing things like "Love is My Favorite Word." Kind of ...

More dramatic songs?

DS: Yeah. In an esoteric, sort of cabaret way. [Iovine] said, "I'm going to send you this spitfire," and this Kara DioGuardi arrived from L.A. via New York on a plane, arrived in England, walked in the studio, and within five minutes the two of us were getting on. We started writing this music that had nothing to do with the Pussycat Dolls, cabaret or hip-hop or anything. It just sounded like Platinum Weird. It just couldn't be stopped. The more we started playing with it, every song sounded like the same band. The band didn't exist. Then it was like, "Hang on a second, maybe we are a band." Luckily, when Jimmy Iovine had come to hear what we had done--Kara was freaking out going "Oh my God, they paid for my ticket and everything. We're supposed to be writing for the Pussycat Dolls and this doesn't sound anything like it." Jimmy Iovine listened to it and said, "Wow, you're an amazing band." Then we were a band and he signed us on the spot.

What is the state of the Eurythmics?

DS: Funny enough I see Annie every day at the moment because I'm partners in my studio with [producer/songwriter] Glen Ballard. I introduced Annie to Glen and suggested that Glen [help] Annie make her new solo album. So she's actually recording in the studio I share with Glen, which I work in every day, too.

Do you plan to make a new Eurythmics album?

DS: No. Last summer, we got together and wrote two to three new songs and put together a great package, which never appeared in America, but in England and in Europe. It was a black box set ["Boxed"] that has all our albums, but with loads of extra tracks. We made a video and everything. That all came out, sold a couple million. But in America it didn't get marketed or promoted.

That has to be frustrating.

DS: You could say that. [Laughs]

Do you plan to tour with Platinum Weird?

DS: We're really interested in playing live. Kara has yet to perform in front of many people. She's amazing. She's like a powerhouse. She's a real sort of girl rock singer. There's not many of them. That's great. And I love playing guitar. I have loads of guitars I've been dying to play for years--all my old Rickenbacker 12 strings, my Fender Telecasters and all that stuff. I'm really looking forward to it.

* * *

LiveDaily: Are you looking forward to touring?

Kara DioGuardi: We are always looking to tour. The first thing is we want to put the record out. After the record comes out, we'll have many opportunities to go out and perform. Right now it's a little premature, even though we've done Yahoo and a few gigs here and there.

How did the gigs go so far?

KD: Great. One was an acoustic gig for the Grammy foundation, so it was really packed with industry people. That's a little scary because they're used to seeing Dave with Annie.

So that was intimidating?

A bit. But [after] the first few seconds, then I was into it.

How did you find working with Dave during the Pussycat Dolls process?

Every time we would sit down to write, we would write a better song. That's the thing with true creative people. What was so great about Jim [Iovine] is that when we didn't start going down the road we were supposed to go down, we just went with it. Sometimes you sit down to do something and something else comes up. I don't want someone to mandate, dictate my creative output. It just may be the vibe that I can't write that kind of song. Or that the relationship between us isn't going to be about urban songs. What Dave and I have in common is sort of the love of the melancholy of music, the bittersweet, beautiful chorus against a harrowing melody--things that are not so saccharine. That's what was so interesting. I have a real pop sensibility based on what I have been doing. He came with a different musical landscape than I've ever written.

That must be really fun

It's so fun. There's no drama. It's just all about music. We like each other so much. We don't fight. It's really people that have been put together for the sake of music. We love music, we love to express, there's a certain artistry in what we do because it's real for both of us. I think that's the most important thing you can be as an artist: real.

Platinum Weird is the name of Dave Stewart's new rock band. This is no ordinary band, but what it does have is an extraordinary past. Stewart (best known for being half of the Eurythmics) has returned to Platinum Weird 32 years after the band originally split. Don't let Platinum Weird's rich history take away from the band's incredibly moving rock 'n' roll songs. The feature single, "Will You Be Around," could easily be an outtake from Fleetwood Mac's Rumours sessions. The previously unreleased 1974 album, Make Believe, is being released by Interscope Records in North America on October 10, 2006.

In addition to writing hundreds of songs with Annie Lennox via Eurythmics, Stewart has also written songs with Mick Jagger, Bono, Sinead O'Connor, Bryan Ferry, Bob Geldof, Anastacia, Jon Bon Jovi, and has produced everyone from Aretha Franklin to the Ramones. Kara DioGuardi is currently America's most celebrated female songwriter, and has penned songs for Santana, Christina Aguilera, Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, and Kylie Minogue.

The history surrounding the original incarnation of Platinum Weird continues to intrigue rock 'n' roll enthusiasts. In 1974 Dave Stewart formed PW in London with female songwriting partner, muse, and soul mate, Erin Grace. Their debut gig was at Mick Jagger's birthday party and they quickly enjoyed a cult-like status and following in London’s rock club scene. Elton John's Rocket label signed the band, putting down an advance to send them into the studio and lay down tracks.

Erin's behavior during the making of the album was unpredictable. Prone to mood swings and emotional insecurity, sometimes she would disappear for several days, reappearing as if nothing was unusual with a smile and ideas for new songs. "She was wispy and elusive," recollects Stevie Nicks. "I wasn't quite sure what she was about, but I kind of copied her look."

With artwork on the album finalised and a confirmed release date, Erin vanished again, leaving Dave nothing but a demo of a song called "Will You Be Around" and a closet of metal hangers where she used to hang her clothes. The intended debut album Make Believe was never released and its name disappeared from public consciousness as quickly as the elusive songstress herself. Dave went into a deep depression, a period he later referred to as his "lost years." Two years later Stewart formed Eurythmics with Annie Lennox and the rest would become part of musical history.

During Stewart's success with Eurythmics, Kara DioGuardi was a young schoolgirl living in the upscale neighborhood of Scarsdale, an hour north of New York City. Her early interest in music was encouraged by an older woman who lived nearby and became her mentor in those formative years. By 2004, having become, as an adult, a successful songwriter, with scores of hit songs to her credit, Kara teamed up with Stewart under the guidance of legendary record producer Jimmy Iovine.

Waiting to rehearse with Kara in his Hollywood home studio, Dave found the old Erin demo of "Will You Be Around." As he was strumming the guitar and singing the song, Kara arrived and immediately chimed in with the chorus. Dave was amazed; he and Erin were the only people who knew that song. Kara explained that she was taught it by her mentor all those years ago in Scarsdale. It could only mean one thing--that woman and Erin were the same person.

Somehow the gods of rock 'n' roll had decreed that Kara and Dave, inhabiting their separate universes and separated by time and place, were destined to meet. The magical synchronicity enabled Platinum Weird to restore its musical legacy and reach out to a new generation.

Sparked on by his current collaboration with Kara, Stewart rediscovered his early recordings of Platinum Weird featuring Erin Grace. It's a miracle those vintage '74 recordings are finally being compiled and mastered for a release 32 years after it was originally intended to be released. The October 2006 release of Make Believe will be followed by the release of Stewart and DioGuardi's forthcoming self-titled album, Platinum Weird, in early 2007.

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