Interviews

Jaki Graham

Our favourite dance diva has been reswizzed for 2012 – so here’s the full chat we had last year about her other come back (though we saw her shaking her stuff at Carpet Burn in Vauxhall, it’s like she never left).


It’s the anniversary edition of Breaking Away, I can’t believe it’s been 25 years.

I know what you mean. Tell me something. Pinch me somebody cos there was me going on the same thing. You know even if it a one hit wonder then I am going to make the most of it and have a lot of fun and all the rest of it.

It’s great that they’ve finally released it, as a proper physical release rather than just digital.

Absolutely. A big fan, his name is Leo, he pushed for it and everybody was pushing for it and everybody was saying you need to. And like I said it was the anniversary as well and “25 years really?” and I went through it again and went “this is good” and I was having fun and meeting a lot of people and going to a lot of places and so on and then all of a sudden the resurgence of the 80s and all the youngsters now so I’m Auntie Jaki to everybody now. It’s all good, I’m hoping that I’m making memories for the youngsters as well. You know the adults have got it when they were actually young, free and single and troublemakers and they have that to listen to. Remembering who their friends were, whether they met their partners or whatever the case may be, whatever it meant to them. And now it’s the kids coming up and see their Auntie Jaki do her thing and its not dated either, that’s what’s nice about it. They are celebrating it.

I had it on cassette when I was younger and tracked it down on CD when I was older. Which was kind of difficult as they were worth quite a bit on money for eBay for a while…

Well you see, technology is beyond me darling. I’m having to catch up now but that’s what I’m hearing about eBay and lots of people that I’ve have met and fans and everything else that’s exactly what they’ve told me. Its like “Ebay? You did what?” and they’re getting me to sign the stuff for them, you know what I mean?

Do you have a favourite track on the album?
Oh my gosh. What can I say? What can I say? Everything that is there it just reminds me of a time, when you are coming into the music industry, you don’t know nothing and everybody is different and you got all these celebrities and people rubbing shoulders. I learnt very quickly about making acquaintances, but there is a handful of people that I still kept in touch with and have never changed and really down to earth people and I still call them friends.
But my favourite track? Oh my goodness, what can I say? Every time it comes on it’s just the sound of it. It’s so bright and summery and there’s something different an atmosphere that the album created for the 80s. I understand what you mean and every track, I don’t know what to tell you baby boy.
But you know something like Breaking Away, Set Me Free, Step Right Up, Could It Be – every one of them is a winner and I really don’t know which of them my favourite is.

Can we talk about the skirt in the Set Me Free video?

The rubber!

Was it rubber, because I need to know.

There was a red dress and then it had a red rubber and black jacket on as well, so to get into that rubber dress a lot of talcum powder, darling. That’s all I can say to you, a lot of talcum powder. And you start to sweat. Doing the video in that outfit, my God. So needless to say when I did Top Of The Pops I didn’t wear no rubber for Top Of The Pops and having to put talcum powder all over me. For my first appearance I got my red leather dress and that was wicked but under the lights and when we were doing the video can you imagine the rubber under the lights? With a student, cos the video was done at the academy I think. Under the lights I was sweltering, let me tell you.

Do you have much call to wear rubber these days?

Forget that darling. Forget that. You need to get help in and out of. You need help.

So with being on Top Of The Pops and all that kind of stuff who was on when you were on? Who were you rubbing shoulders with?

Oh my God. We’ve got some clips of the Top Of The Pops we played and we were lucky because my manager is trying to put them on DVD for keepsake. Because you know he videoed them and we want to keep them. We were looking at the rundown of the chart at the time that we were in and trying to see how much you had to sell at that time to get to those positions. I mean it is a different situation now. I mean you are selling 20,000 a day so you had to be up in the hundreds, the thousands to get into the top 20, top 40 that sort of thing. There was Go West that was with us. There was Junior and people like that. Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. David Bowie, Eurythmics, people like that.
You achieve so much I still feel as though I am starting all over again, working my way up you know?

And you’ve got a best of coming out too…

You know about that as well? Let me tell you darling that came out in October and that is the best of. Now when people see me around there shopping and stuff – I have got to get the house organised and I go to the supermarket – and they all say “Jaki aren’t you doing anything? Are you retired?” And I say “I’m doing it all darling, trust me. I’ve just got back and the house is empty and I’m getting my provisions. I’ve come back from Japan, or I’ve come back from Australia or I’ve come back from America and back in the 80s when I was doing my thing, which I haven’t stopped, but I have to say I was international, I had one hit and then another hit and I managed to go to Europe or Scandinavia. America didn’t until I was there it never really hit that I was seriously, seriously international until I went to in Japan in the early 90s. At that point in time in that part of the world and I hope you are going to like it and they say to me “Why have you never been here before?” and I am thinking “You know that stuff?” It really freaked me out that they were well aware of my career and what was happening. There were big hits in those territories and I didn’t even realise that. So needless to say that when I started to tour stuff over there, places like Japan tours were selling out within 20 minutes and I was like “I beg your pardon? Really?” And then getting up in the airplane “make sure she looks alright when she comes off the airplane because there will be a lot of press and photographers and when I came off the plane I am looking behind and thinking “Why what’s happening?” And it was me and oh my gosh. It was good.

Are you glad to finally have a definitive best of, because there was one before I remember that wasn’t a complete best of?

Yes there was, and I didn’t even know that that was released. EMI released that. It was my niece said she had got this and I said could you get me a copy and went when did this come out? And like I said when you meet fans sometimes they want you to sign their product and “Where did that come from? I don’t remember that photo shoot, I don’t remember that sleeve,” and all that kind of thing. There are some people out there who have really supported me, my darling, and I am so grateful. At the end of the day all I want to do is make people smile, bring back good memories and make them smile.

You’ve done nine studio albums, I think isn’t it?

Yes, and the best of that came out in October that incorporates the other international things that I have done that people don’t know before. And it’s like a double disc as well so they’ll catch up with what’s happened throughout the years.

Any chance of a tenth album?

Oh let me tell you something. Everybody knows the daft staff that I do, I’d like to think I’ve touched everybody somewhere down the line and appeal to everybody. So yes my baby, recently I did Gershwin and Duke Ellington with the BBC big band, that was on last October and then I did another one in March of this year, which was the Duke Ellington. They were live performances and there is going to be an album coming out probably in the New Year sometime. So there is another side of me, which is the Gershwin musicals and that kind of thing and I am supposed to be working with a lady by the name of Patrice Rushden and she did Forget Me Not and she’s from the stable of Quincy Jones. So there is going to be a little jazzier album that’s going to be coming out so I need to go to America to do that. So I am basically touching base with everybody and still recording and doing things and still learning. So for me it is still a learning curve.

You’re finishing your book as well…

Yes, that was something else to go asking me for. And I thought initially I haven’t got anything to tell anybody. It was actually a writer friend of mine said: “You should really put something down because you have got a lot to tell,” which the management has encouraged me to do so. Yeah that’s going to happen.

Is there any salacious gossip to look forward to?

Gossip? Gossip? Thing is we are talking about things that have happened around the world. Things that are good and bad. But to be fair, not just myself there are other stars who have been ripped off and have been treated badly and all the rest of it but they’ve got the money to fight it and we can only go so far. But I am giving nothing away, baby boy, I aint giving nothing. I’m not here to badmouth anybody; I am just here to tell it like it is. If it helps somebody else I suppose, growing up and entering the music industry and bring up a family and all the rest of it that incorporates that and travel, if somebody finds that interesting then you know I hope it helps.

The other thing I was going to ask you about is gay fans…

Listen they are the ones, they are the ones that have kept me going they have been so loyal. I told you about Leo who does some things for us and his support and with the gay fans support, bless their heart darling. There was GAY and I used to go and do all that and the rest of it and I tell you they have been so good to me, they really have. And anything I could do to give back I’ve done Gay Pride and all the rest of it so my friends, my friends really.

Did you ever get to meet Chaka Khan?

I met her cousins and sister and stuff and spoke to her Mum. That’s coming darling, cos we keep in touch like. But only ever really over the phone and leave messages, that kind of thing.

My last line of questioning will be how on earth you got into chocolates?

Isn’t that great I’ve got a range of chocolates coming out? Isn’t that wicked?

It’s fantastic.

I know, wait until you taste them. We will send you a sample or something. Paul Wayne Gregory, a chocolatier that did the Queen’s 80th birthday and I think he has done some stuff for Mandela as well for his birthday and does some edible art. He said “I would love to do something with you,” and then there was the chocolate sculpture of my face so had to do the mask and do a mould for that and so on. And I just kept tasting chocolate and saying “these things are nice” and I normally don’t eat dark chocolate but this stuff was so and I asked him to do me some flavours and that’s how it came about. He’s done me a range and it’s a Jaki Graham Indulgence so I hope when you taste them you’re going to think the same as I do.

So he made you a chocolate face?

Yes.

Did you keep it or did you eat it?

No, its like to promote everything so they don’t know how long the chocolate will keep, but it is good for a good while.

If you were to describe yourself as a flavour of chocolate how would you describe yourself?

I have to say I quite like alcohol as well, as well as food. I like my brandy and my congac and I got truffles as well and champagne truffles as well, I think there is some lollipop, some chocolate lollipops as well. The stardust thing as well. I’d like to think that I am a … does that sound good? And maybe like a strawberry flavour, the sweet kind of strawberry, you know ripe.

Here’s the latest updated version of Set Me Free by Paul Rudd featuring the lady herself, Jaki Graham



Pre-order on iTunes

Words: Darren Scott