1In 2015, which band performed dressed as the Spice Girls with a cardboard cutout of Melanie C?
“God, I remember that! Years & Years once dressed as us.”
“Great band! Olly [Alexander, frontman]’s such a great performer and a lovely guy. They invited me to perform at their 2016 Christmas concert for Shelter – we sang ‘2 Become 1’ together. It was a moment for Olly because he’d been a Spice Girls fan growing up, so it was emotional. Virtually every artist you meet who grew up in that era turn into their 10-year-old selves!”
Any that have stood out to you?
“I adore MØ, who I’ve worked and performed with – she does a fabulous electronic cover of ‘Say You’ll Be There’. She’s like a mini Sporty Spice. We were all blown away by how excited Adele was about our Wembley gig last year – she was the life and soul of the party. Having Emma Stone come to a show with Haim was really cool as well.”
2Which chart-topping teenager originally thought that Spice Girls were a fake Spinal Tap-style band from the movie Spice World?
“That’s easy! Billie Eilish.”
CORRECT. You were her favourite member!
“She said that to Ellen [DeGeneres]. She’s probably the Spice Girls fan that’s surprised me the most, because she wasn’t even born when we were around. It’s bonkers. But her parents were big fans and she and [her brother and producer] Finneas grew up watching the movie. She’s amazing, and it’s lovely to hear.”
Obviously we’ve had the camp classic that is Spice World, but would you like to see a proper Spice Girls biopic?
“I think it would be brilliant, and there’s a real appetite for it. The story of the Spice Girls would be perfect for something like that. Who would I like to see play us? I’ve no idea! Somebody put out a list on Twitter, which said Daisy Ridley could play me; Mel B [would be played by] Zazie Beetz; Margot Robbie would be a good Baby Spice; Willa Holland for Victoria and Emma Stone for Ginge. I thought that was pretty good.”
3Who declared he wouldn’t go to the 1997 Brit Awards because, ‘If I bump into the Spice Girls, I will smack them’?
“Which prompted my acceptance speech saying: ‘Liam! Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!’ (Laughs) The Brits in the ‘90s were so much more rock‘n’roll than they are now! The first time I met Liam was funny because it was after that happened. It was in the early days of his relationship with Nicole Appleton, who he married. I was at her sister Natalie’s house and Nicole and Liam turned up. He put his fists up and went: (Mel does a pitch-perfect Liam impersonation): ‘Come on then Scouse!’. From that day on, we’ve always been on good terms.”
Who were the best bands to party with in the ‘90s?
“There were a few parties with Damon [Albarn] and Alex [James] from Blur, and Dave [Rowntree]’s gone on to be a mate and there were always a lot of tales – but never to be told! (Laughs) Me and Geri once went to see Blur at the Astoria and somebody dared us to invade the stage. I said: ‘OK, if the next song is Girls & Boys, we’re doing it’. And of course, it was. So we went up and quickly got scooped off by security. I found bootleg footage of it on YouTube – you just see these squiggly things come onstage then disappear.”
4Spice Girls only ever won one NME Award. What was it for?
“(Laughs) Was it for Worst Band Ever In The Universe? Most Annoying Bitches?”
WRONG. It was for ‘Worst Single’ in 1997 for ‘Wannabe’.
“For NME, that’s probably fitting and any acknowledgement for the Spice Girls I’ll take!”
Mea culpa! A lot of the criticism you received was sexist, and footage went viral a few years ago of you admonishing the director of a Polaroid commercial who’s asking to see more cleavage. Did you ever face misogyny from other bands?
“We never got it from other artists, but definitely from labels and the media. It was culturally more acceptable to speak to and treat women in that way. We had power in numbers so if anybody attempted to behave or speak to us in that way… you’ve seen the footage – that’s the response they got. I feel grateful that I was in a pack so we could handle that without back-up.”
5You famously dueted with Bryan Adams on his 1998 single ‘When You’re Gone’. He offered the song to someone else first – who?
“Did he?! When I spoke to Bryan, my understanding was he’d already recorded it and it wasn’t a duet – he sang both parts. I know he did a version with Pamela Anderson. Still haven’t forgiven him for that! (Joking) But what horny young pop star wouldn’t duet with her?”
“I was going to say that! But that’s not the story I heard. I’m not offended I was second choice. She missed out because it’s such a good song and it was a massive hit. But Sheryl’s brilliant.
“As a solo artist, I’ve been lucky that I’ve had collaborations with people like Bryan and Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopes. Spice Girls looked towards TLC for inspiration when we started out – and Lisa was my fave – so to get the opportunity to work with her [on the track ‘Never Be the Same Again’] was incredible. ‘Northern Star’, my debut solo album, was a magical record. I was in LA, collaborating with Lisa and hanging out with bloody Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. At the time, Steve was in Neurotic Outsiders with Duran Duran’s John Taylor and Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum from Guns ‘N Roses, who had a residency at the Viper Room. The first time we were introduced, he said, ‘Get up onstage with us!’, so little old Sporty Spice ended up doing a couple of Sex Pistol songs in the Viper Room. Fucking insane!”
Was this around the same time that Madonna invited you to her house?
“Yeah. She came to a Spice Girls New York show. When I got a call to my hotel room, saying: ‘Madonna’s on the line for you’, I thought it was one of the Girls taking the piss. But it was her inviting me to dinner – I spent a little bit of time with her in the late ‘90s. That was my Madonna phase. (Laughs).”
6Which rap song includes the line: ‘My brain’s dead weight, I’m tryin’ to get my head straight /
But I can’t figure out which Spice Girl I want to impregnate’?
“That’s the wonderful Eminem, one of my absolute faves. I always forget what the track is. ‘The Real Slim Shady’?
WRONG. Close – but no zig-a-zig-ah. It’s called ‘My Name Is’.
“Arraaggh! ‘Slim Shady’ was the name of the album, right? I’m a massive Eminem fan, so if he mentions the Spice Girls in any way, I was happy. I nearly met him backstage when he played London – but just missed him. I met Dr. Dre, though. In the ‘90s, there were a crazy number of Spice Girls references in the media. But it’s never stopped. Even now, I’ll watch a soap and someone will talk about ‘girl power’ or dress up as us for Halloween. I was watching a show set in ’97 yesterday and in the first episode, the girl buys a magazine with the Spice Girls on the cover.”
7Name any of your special moves in the video to your recent single ‘Blame It On Me’
“(Laughs) Maybe high-kicks? Karate kicks? Roundhouse kicks? Backflips? This is what you’d call short-term memory loss!”
WRONG. You could have had: plasma punch, liquid smash or lightning strike. Your new, self-titled album features bangers co-written by upcoming artists such as Shura. Do you feel revitalised?
“Definitely. Being onstage with the Girls last year was a moment of proud reflection of everything I’d achieved. I changed my management and A&R and went into the studio wanting to empower people and make them dance. In their 30s, female artists are made to feel: do I go off to pasture now? My new mission is to show that girl power gets older.”
What impact did touring with Sink The Pink have on you?
“It was phenomenal. I knew it would be fun, but I never expected it to affect me as much as it did. Being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community is important and rewarding. Being accepted into their world, I learned so much about their struggle, and I just admire that courage to be who you truly are – which was always the message of the Spice Girls.”
Transphobia (and trans-exclusionary radical feminism) is on the rise. Is it important to you that girl power includes trans people?
“Absolutely. We’ve always talked about Girl Power being about equality – and it’s equality for all. Like Black Lives Matter, it’s about education. We’re afraid of the things we don’t understand and that’s where prejudice comes from, so I’m very proud to be an ally to the trans community. The great thing I learned working with non-binary people is to see people as people and not as a gender which is really hard because we’re conditioned. When you first look at someone, you think, ‘There’s a tall white guy or short black girl’ or whatever. Take away the gender, and we all want the same things, don’t we?”
8Can you name all the Spice Girls’ alter-egos in the ‘Say You’ll Be There’ video?
“Katrina Highkick…. Trixie Firecracker? Blazin’ Bad Zula? Midnight Miss Suki and… what was Emma’s name? Kung Fu Candy?”
“(Screams) Check me out! I’ve impressed myself. That was the Spice Girls’ second single. Obviously ‘Wannabe’ had been a huge success all over the globe, but we felt many people felt we were a novelty band, but we always knew ‘Say You’ll Be There’ had more gravitas.”
9Complete the following lyrics: ‘Aquello no paso, ahora estoy aquí’?
“Is that Geri’s rap in ‘If U Can’t Dance’?”
WRONG. It’s ‘Wanna make love to ya, baby’ – from the Spice Girls’ Spanish version of ‘2 Become 1’.
“I’d forgot we did that! We have a massive fanbase in Latin America, and I sing ‘2 Become 1’ on my own, so I’m now tempted to learn the Spanish version for that territory.”
The Spice Girls are working on a cartoon film, but would there be any chance of new music?
“We’re in talks with Paramount Pictures about an animated feature, but these things are painfully slow. But it’s a lovely concept and fun idea. Maybe there will be music to accompany that. Personally, I just want to get out there and play more Spice Girls shows.”
10Which megastar’s plant pots did the Spice Girls once drunkenly piss in?
“(Laughs) They weren’t his plant pots – it was a plant pot on the floor that he had taken over at the Four Seasons in Beverley Hills. There was CCTV all over that hotel, so I’m sure there’s lots of incriminating evidence! We got in trouble for the Blur stage invasion, but we got away with the Elton John plant-pot peeing!”
The verdict: 6 / 10
“That’ll do for me! I’m not as hard on myself as I used to be. There’ve definitely been some brain cells damaged along the way!”
– Melanie C’s new self-titled solo album is out October 2