Musical Discoveries: What can you tell us about your musical background Agnieszka?
Agnieszka Swita: I started singing when I was able to speak. The very first sentence I ever uttered was the verse of the song my mother sang to me. I was only eleven months old and she was my very first female duet before Christina [Booth, from Magenta], who I sing with in She.
To be honest, my musical life really began with my meeting Clive. Before that, I had enjoyed singing in various music formations, and even dabbled a little in a band, but my real direction became clear when Clive and I talked about the possible She project. For him, it was something he had always wanted to do, and for me, it became the same situation. Naturally I have always enjoyed singing, so this was the perfect opportunity.
So how did you and Clive actually meet?
Clive and I met by coincidence, when a mutual friend, Magda, introduced us. She used to do some work for newspapers and interviewed Clive at some point. They stayed in touch and when we both came to UK to spend winter holiday she called Clive and we got invited for lunch. So the very first time he saw me I was standing right at his doorsteps…waiting for him to answer the doorbell. As he said later, his first reaction was asking Magda, "Can she sing?" But I found out about that exchange of thoughts much later.
As the evening progressed we got talking about Clive's ideas regarding this rock opera; I could tell by his enthusiasm that this was something he was passionate about. As I listened to him talking, it became obvious to me that I wanted to be a part of it. We went to the studio and played a couple of film classics just for the fun of doing it.
I came back to Poland and listed to all he had done before gradually realizing how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right time. I have always believed in destiny. When I think about it, out of one million places I could go to I went to UK. There was a reason and Caamora was meant to be.
When I returned to UK two weeks later, Clive had already written what became the "Overture." We recorded this and that was the beginning of Caamora and the opening track for She. We still have this demo, and it sounds great.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up and how has it evolved over time?
I was never dedicated to one particular genre. I just enjoyed music. Anything from Cher to Callas and from Mozart to Motorhead! Naturally I have favourites but I prefer not to share them with people in interviews because that is what they then hear in my performances.
I remember when we were travelling by bus with some other musicians to Portugal to play in a festival and somebody turned the music on suddenly there was a wave of protest we are musicians, no music please.
I think it is because when you are actively doing music you need some space. You choose to listen instead of being exposed and you know exactly what you want to listen to. Obviously what you listen to can be an endless inspiration. It becomes a part of your musical self.
In addition to your work on the She project the last few years, what else have you been doing?
There is no room and the truth is that I have had little interest in doing anything else. The thing is both Clive and myself are very much the same when it comes to music. When you are involved in a project like She it is pretty much like being in love, I guess, you can’t get it out of your head.
When you wake up it is you first thought and when you go to sleep it is your last thought. You rethink it in your dreams, wake up in the middle of the night, and you have no choice. You are sentenced to it. Whether you want it or not.
And you are absolutely right. If I do anything else it is in addition to Caamora.
Please tell us about the making of the studio album.
We spent the first two years building up a large catalogue of demos. Once we were satisfied that we had enough material, it was time to make the rock opera. We spent many long evenings recording the songs, just to make sure the atmospheres and colours were exactly right.
There are so many ways you can interpret the song, so many voice variations and finding the right way of singing the story the song tells was the key. To me the ultimate test for the performer is if I believe them when they sing. When I hear a vocalist singing 'love hurts' I want to hear pain. I apply this rule to myself.
Ayesha is a multidimensional character and so are her songs; she loves and suffers, hates, curses and kills, she is powerful and helpless, triumphant and completely lost at the same time. Every song paints different side of her. She is soft and gentle in "Vigil," dangerously powerful in "Murder or Curses" and so is my way of singing.
How did you work with the other musicians to bring the project to its final stage?
Because of the way Clive works, we tended to make quite a few changes, until they felt just right. Most of my songs were recorded by the time that other three vocalists became involved. After they had done their parts I got back to the studio to listen to the album again. I think even at that stage we decided to introduce some changes.
My time together with other artists was spent mostly in rehearsal for the live show. Christina and I had a great time helping each other with costumes and thinking about some of out on stage interaction.
What can you tell us about the first live She performance in Poland?
I felt like I was detached from my own self on stage I was really Ayesha. Every gesture I made or anything I did seemed so natural to me. In "Curses" I kill Ustane and I know I grabbed Christina too hard causing her pain but I was so into it that I think I lost control and emotions took over. "The Eleventh Hour," in which Ayesha offers Leo a chance to put an end to his suffering by giving him the only weapon that can take her life away the knife we had on stage was a real dagger. The blade was very sharp, but I don’t think I would feel any pain even if I had cut myself badly. I was completely entranced.
There seemed to be so many people involved, it was hard to imagine how it would all come together in the end. But when you have performers with great voices and strong personalities and talented musicians the final outcome can be nothing but great!
I remember looking at Clive on the first day of rehearsal in Poland and seeing the completely dazed look in his eyes. I thought "that must be how I am looking too." It was one of these moments when you see your dream come true and the tangible proof of what you have envisaged is right in front of your eyes. It was overwhelming.
How was it working with the other artists in such an elaborate staged event?
We had a couple of days of rehearsal with the UK musicians before heading for Poland. This gave us a chance to see what we were up against. It was comforting to hear how well prepared everyone was. This made the job easier. We were all crowded into a little rehearsal room, so this was all about the nuts and bolts of the music. No room for any 'stage performance' and no room for mistakes. It was like putting together little pieces of jigsaw puzzle, we knew exactly where we were fit in the big picture.
How did the audience react during and after the show?
It was a terrific surprise to see just how involved the audience were. We had been worried that they would be rather confused and mystified by what was happening on stage, but they really enjoyed the show, clapping along and cheering when they could.
The performance concluded with a five minute standing ovation. To me this says it all. After the show, there was a large group of fans who just wouldn't let me get away until I'd signed all their programmes. It was a fantastic reaction.
What can anxious enthusiasts expect from the DVD?
They can expect a brilliant testament to the event. Its a wonderfully filmed show; clear and colourful, which captures the flavours of the night. There is also a very interesting documentary that was made to accompany the performance. It gives an insight to what was going on behind the scenes and a chance to feel the excitement of 'the before.'
Are there plans to bring the She project to the stage in other territories?
We would love to bring the show to many more countries and to many more people. We would welcome any possibilities to do this. There are plans and hopes to bring She to South America. In fact, Clive and I will be out there again in May to start preparing for this very thing.
What are your hopes and dreams musically and for your life?
It would be great to think that this rock opera will reach more and more people. In my mind I have been Ayesha for three years now and I am not ready to let her go yet! I would love to play Ayesha on stage around the world many more times and give people a chance to enjoy the full staged version of She.