‘Mary Magdalene’: How FKA twigs Made Her ‘Most Complex Song Ever’ | Diary of a Song


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.”

57 comments

You know a song must exist when it is strong enough to be build, wrecked and rebuild over and over. The same thing happened to Lorde's Perfect Place.

the amount of intricate details she puts into her music is astounding. i always find myself discovering new things whenever i relisten to her songs

"Tap dancing… On a poll… Swinging swords…" Can't help but notice that singing live and musicianship didn't make the list.

I discovered fka twigs last year and every time I listen to her music i feel like Im discovering something new. I adore her artistry so so much, she is so special. This was super interesting to watch, thank you!

Mary Magdalene was never a prostitute, that idea didnt emerge until the Middle Ages and it’s the result of an amalgamation of at least 3 unnamed women in the Bible that interacted with Jesus including the unnamed female that washed his feet.

Mary Magdalene was NOT a prostitute but a woman who belonged to a rather wealthy family in the town of Magdala… but she had seven devils driven out of her by Jesus of Nazareth who then became the center of her life. the prostitute bit was a misreading of biblical texts and a historical prejudice. in current theological parlance, she was the first apostle sent by the Risen Christ to deliver a message to his disciples.

Music would be so much better if these mainstream artists put this amount of thought and work into their music. Not to say they don’t work hard, but everything is so… generic 🤔 these days. Where’s the creativity?

Hope she owns the rights to the song. Sounds like this was her inception and she drove it to completion. Disgusting the business side of music. Think it's disgusting studios and managers get to own the hard work of artists. #supporttalent

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