FKA Twigs Tells Art Basel About Six Times She Seized Control

“For me it’s very important and even necessary to do everything myself.”

FKA twigs
Photographer Charlie Engman
December 06, 2014

FKA Twigs sat down with LA artist Alex Israel and curator Hans Ulbrich Obrist at Art Basel Miami Beach this week to talk about her career so far, with particular emphasis on how important control is to her whole output. From her battles over that Google Glass concept film to her right to be a unicorn if she pleases, here's Twigs on six ways in which she's seized the creative steering wheel.

1. By battling the elements during her Fallon performance
Speaking of her performance with a giant sheet of organza on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (watch below), Twigs said: "My friend Leo [Fitzpatrick] had showed me this video by an artist called Daniel Wurtzel, and I loved the idea, but I just felt like I wanted to do it live. We tried it in rehearsal, and it was like a battle, and the organza won. I remember watching the tapes and thinking, OK, this will only work if I stay in absolute control. I didn't have another option." [via]

2. By making Google play by her rules
Google initially had to battle to get Twigs on-side. "Google approached me, and they asked me to make this advert for Google Glass," Twigs explained. "My first reaction was 'no.' I was like, 'Why would I do that? That's ridiculous.' And then they asked again, but then I still said, 'No, stop hitting me up, stop hitting up my people, this is awkward.' And then they asked again, and I was like okay, maybe I'm setting barriers for myself, because I'm sitting here, living in East London, signed to a cool label, Young Turks, with all my cool friends wearing cool clothes, and maybe I just need to branch out of that and work with a corporation—a company that's essentially one of the biggest organizations in the world."

When she did agree to direct and star in the film, though, she made sure the corporation knew it would be on her terms. She told them: "Don't change anything. It's my idea, I'm going to be very clear about everything. I'll do a storyboard; I'll make it perfectly clear to you what I want to do, but once it's done, you don't touch it." [via]

3. By using her Google ad to reclaim her identity
The film itself (watch below) was also an overt comment on how others perceive her, and a way of owning that. "Sometimes, I'll be walking down the street, and people will be like, 'I didn't realize you were real! I thought you were just this thing on the computer. I can't imagine how you make it in real life,'" said Twigs at Basel. "I know that's how people want me to be. It's not true, I'm not like that, I'm just a human, but I could just tell that that's how people want me to be. I read before that when I speak in my gigs, people say it's disappointing, because I'm a human. Well, yeah, I'm a human. I'm just a girl, a woman I guess now, but I wanted to be able to play on that." You can't take Twigs' voice away from her. [via]

4. By not succumbing to A&Rs with an agenda
The artist also described a meeting she had with an A&R as a 15-year-old, and the path that was laid out for her then is like a peek into a crappy alternate universe. "First, they give you a pop song, and then your second song should be a ballad. The third is a collaboration — and 'luckily' for me, he worked with N-Dubz — and then the fourth, the fourth was like a cover, or something." [via]

5. By creating her own sound
"As a female artist, there is a certain pressure to have someone tell you how to sound," said Twigs. "Think about it. Kate Bush was the first to have a number-one single that she wrote herself, and that really wasn't that long ago. But for me it's very important and even necessary to do everything myself. I mean, if I want something to sound woozy and sad, like a wizard who just stabbed his son, how do I tell the sound engineer what a wizardy synth should sound like?" This is reminiscent of something she told Rookie not so long ago: "what makes me a woman is when I know I've produced a song myself." [via]

6. By always allowing her imagination to rule
Even as a kid, Twigs was boss - and her attitude toward creativity hasn't changed at all. "I was brought up in a very creative household. If I wanted to be a cat for a day, I would be a cat. My mother would lay out a saucer of milk on the floor for me...I can really relate to something Tyler the Creator said: 'I'm a unicorn.' Don't tell me otherwise." [via]

FKA Twigs Tells Art Basel About Six Times She Seized Control