Atmospheric rock'n'roll songstress Gemma Ray has always done things differently – she plays guitar, for instance, with an eight-inch carving knife. So it's no surprise that her new single, a cover of a couple of tunes by the cult duo Sparks, is a little strange: it has ended up as Sparks covering Gemma Ray covering Sparks.
Ron and Russell Mael's Sparks had a slew of hits in the 1970s and have recently concentrated on genre-busting concept pieces like their critically acclaimed The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. Ray discovered them on their 2002 release Lil' Beethoven. She wanted them to produce her new album, but, Ray reveals, "Russell emailed me out of the blue, and said, 'How about covering one of our songs, "Carnegie Hall"?' I recorded some vocals with a keyboard, sent them to him, and he sent me back this amazing music. They had turned it into some brilliantly twisted fairytale, and put on some brilliant orchestration. I couldn't quite believe it. Then I did "Eaten By the Monster of Love" [from the early Eighties], which I turned into a rock'n'roll thing, but they changed it again, and Russell added his vocals. They've turned them on their heads twice."
Berlin-based Londoner Ray had nearly been turned on her head some time before by Sparks, at a London gig, when she was so overcome by the music that she fainted. "The songs were so intense, and the way that they performed them. It got to a certain crescendo with the timpani drums and so on, and I fainted briefly."
'Gemma Ray Sings Sparks (with Sparks)' is out on Bronzerat on Monday