DIVA catches up with the two-time Mercury Prize nominee in her last interview before "self-inflicted album hermitism."
When you're given the nod to meet a beautiful musician in some loos, why would you say no? Ask any one of George Michael's friends from the late 90's - do George Michael jokes fly anymore? - and I'm sure they'd say the same thing.
The location is Attendant: a small coffee bar in the heart of Fitzrovia that was once, while Victoria was enforcing everyone to wear black, gents' toilets. It's the last place you expect to meet someone like Claude, and yet all too fitting.
We're the only two people there at 8:30am, but I'm quickly apologised to and told this place is at its best before the rush of lunchtime suits and their quick, to-go croissants. The only other bodies at this time are two young baristas and an older man in a flatcap, sitting at a urinal. Our table is at the back in front of framed photographs and white boards with dried up markers hanging from their sides. "My friend tried to straighten them up so they'd stay in their holders," she explains with an impish smile and a flash of teeth from behind full, red lips that have been the talk of the office. "Didn't work though, as you might be able to see."
Smaller in stature than one might expect having been to one of her shows, a face like hers seems out of place confined to one corner, but with the lighting the way it is, I can see why she'd want to write here. We order coffee - black, ordered as a café noir, which she openly calls herself pretentious for, explaining that she's been spending a lot of time in Paris - we embark on what I hope to be a memorable morning.
You've rounded up your tour of One Breath now, how does it feel to be off the road? It feels alright. I still have a couple of shows in Dublin early next month curated by Thomas Bartlett. It's a celebration of Yeats, of his poems, his words, and we've sort of put music to them. Our own stamp. It's a unique project and I'm excited about it. It's called Blood and the Moon, which is even more special given the blood moon and lunar eclipse later this month. Like he's smiling down on it, although I think I remember him not liking the church very much, so I'm sure he's just part of nature. More or less we're done though, yeah. I'm not sure I like it, to be honest with you. This is only my second record and I've already been bitten by the Where's Home? bug which is all well and good when you're going to a different country every night, not so much when you're in your own flat.
Have you been working on some new stuff?
I have actually, I've been writing for the last year or so, on the road and in various places that have been inspiring to me. The last album was very personal in a way that I wasn't expecting, and while I'm still proud of it and what it became, I think it's a very easy hole to find yourself in - to write about yourself and your feelings - so I've been trying to become one with nature. I mean, I say that and there'll still be a lot of myself in the songs and I'll end up eating my words, but I'm interested to see the completed journey.
One with nature? [She's smirking.] One with nature.
One with Yeats?
One with Yeats, see?
Does that mean you're not spending time in London?
Not spending time in London. I've been wandering. Dunno if you ever saw the film Mermaids - I really love Cher, I've seen it lots - but there's a quote she has when Winona is whinging about how they keep moving. Something like "death is dwelling in the past or staying in one place too long", and I love that, so I picked up a globe at the Puces de Vanves flea market for the flat I'm renting in Paris, and I just spin it with my eyes closed and point to a place. Then I go.
Even if it's in the middle of the ocean?
One day, I hope.
Is Paris one of the places you love? I've been there once, we went to Disneyland.
I do love Paris. I've gone back and forth between the two for years now but have always tended stayed with friends, as you do when you're dirt poor. Marianne [Faithfull], whom I love to death, has a flat in Montparnasse, and it was really going to visit her that planted the seed in my mind that I might like to live there, or at least stay for a bit longer than a week or two. I could show you around, if you like.
I would love that. So you're renting there? Air bnb'd it, I'm very lazy.
Will you be staying there to continue the album?
I couldn't tell you. I would tell you but I don't really know yet. Wherever the wind takes me.
You recently played a sold out show at the Southbank Centre for David Byrne's Meltdown, how did you two meet? We met a couple of years ago through a mutual friend. He saw one of my shows in Brooklyn at the beginning of the tour, then mentioned me to a friend who's also my friend, who I was going to be recording my EP with, and that's sort of how we got together.
Are you a fan of his work with Ophelia?
Course, I'm a fan of everything David does. He's fantastic.
I went to the Meltdown show and spotted a few faces in the audience I recognised. It was a good mixture of Southbank members and your fans, some of them having traveled from Italy to see you. Do you have a good relationship with your fans?
I like to think I do. I'm exceedingly grateful for anybody that takes the time to listen to my music, it's like my child and seeing people that you recognise is, I suppose, like a mum going to parents night and all of the teachers going, "Claude's a great student." I never got that in school or cared about it the way I do about my music, so it's good, yeah. I get a lot of flowers from them, it's lovely.
Is there anyone you're a fan of? If I mentioned David Bowie at this point, I feel as if everybody would roll their eyes, but I definitely drew hearts around his and my names when I was younger.
Have you ever met him? No! It's probably a good thing. I'd freeze. I love him so much, I'd feel slightly creepy.
He follows you on twitter! I know, I saw that! I don't think either of us use our twitters but I like to remind my friends of that randomly.
You're a fan of Grace Jones as well, aren't you? How do you feel about her latest comments on younger female popstars as of late?
I am, yeah, but it's not really my business to say anything about her opinions. We're all entitled to them. I don't disagree with her, but I do think it could've been worded in a way that was a little less "I'm going to drag these names through the gravel." At the same time, it's highly likely she's been misquoted, so we'll see.
You're not a Wrecking Ball fan?
No, but I am a Little Monster.
Are there any current or upcoming artists out there that you're excited for? Ones that we could see on tour with you at some point in time?
I'm a huge fan of The Reverend [Glen Pearson], we met through Peter [Darling], and he's every bit as fascinating as his music is good. We actually got together in Seattle and he sings back up in some of my demos. Blackbird [Helen Blackburn] is a good friend of mine as well, and I've seen her evolution for six years now. I'm equal parts excited and proud for her. If I'm honest, the only real time I get to check out new artists is at festivals and on radio shows. It sounds as bad as it probably is, but unless you listen to specific radio stations, you get the same stuff, and I'm a sucker for my old vinyl. Oh fuck, no, I love Perfume Genius as well. I'd love to support him on tour, but Patrick [Wolf] might think I was cheating on him. He's a Cancer.
What are you? Star sign? Leo.
Aries. Oh wow, remind me not to piss you off.
Lastly, I know you've said you're not a big planner, but what's next for you? What would you like to do next professionally or personally?
This is the worst question to ask me, you realise that? I change my mind more than I change my clothes, and I've been known never to pack them when I jump on a plane. For now it's just winding down from two years on the road. Write, travel, play guitar, sit at Aux Folies for six hours hoping to channel the spirit of Edith Piaf. You know, your regular abnormal things. But I do hope to get in the studio for my album soon, and this afternoon I'm going to be in the studio for my percussionist who's composing and recording a score for a short film. Beyond that, I dunno. I could use another coffee though. It's on me.
[Claude will be playing Blackheath Festival on 12th September. Get your last minute tickets here.]