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She deserves to be as big as Florence + the Machine. So why is big-eyed pop goth Natasha Khan – aka Bat for Lashes – still a cult singer? With her most anticipated album yet on the way, she talks about her rivalry with Welch, her bouts of self-doubt and her decision to pose (almost) nude on the cover of the new record.
Ed Power, 17 Oct 2012
The problem with this way of looking at things is that, in her own mild, very English way, Khan does actually seem a bit messed up. She certainly isn’t blessed with world conquering self-belief. You wonder how much of that has to do with a childhood blighted by tension between her Muslim father and her secular mother. When she was 11 Rahmat left the family. Khan won’t talk about it and yet you can sense the shadow of the separation in her work.
She’s never been especially confident, she says. It all came to a head as she sat down and tried to write a follow-up to her 2009 LP Two Suns. That record brought a Mercury nomination and the unabashed love of the high fashion set. Rather than pushing on however, the spotlight freaked her out, so much so that she began to wonder if she had it in her to sweat out another album.
Khan tried and tried to pen new material and nothing happened. The harder she worked, the emptier she felt. There was stuff she wanted to say – she’d recently split from her boyfriend, so it wasn’t as if she lacked motivation on that front. But no, the songs weren’t flowing. Maybe they never would.
“I went home and felt exhausted,” she recalls. “I was tired and creatively strung out. I attempted to nurture myself. I forced myself to go to lots of drawing classes. I shot some dance films. I wrote a script. I did ballet and cooking. I bought a kitchen and struck a pact with myself to stay at home and be nurturing. That was the first step towards regaining creative health.
“Once or twice I thought I didn’t have the ability to write a record, It never crossed my mind that I had nothing to say. I wondered if I had the ability to do it. You are constantly plagued with self-doubt. It’s part of the creative journey. On occasion it’s hard. Extremely hard.”
Coming to terms with (relative) fame was the toughest part. At one stage promoting Two Suns she almost compared herself to Madonna. However, she soon swung the other way with a vengeance, and became profoundly uncomfortable with her status as a public figure. Her response is the stripped down, almost minimalist, persona she presents on The Haunted Man.