The Spice Girls perform during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
The Spice Girls perform during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Spice Girls’ Olympics ‘diva strop’ revealed

Australian Spice Girls fans yearning for something - anything - from the group in 2020 should find some solace in the fact that Melanie C's new album is shaping up to be the Spiciest release by a member of the group in years.

Melanie C, 46 and still as Sporty as ever flashing washboard abs in a designer crop top, played half a dozen new tracks during her recent Australian visit. 'Rock Spice' no more: The new single Who I Am is a Ray of Light-esque self-discovery banger, there's more than a hint of Kylie to In And Out Of Love, while Overload wouldn't have sounded out of place alongside Something Kinda Funny and Last Time Lover on the Spice Girls' debut album.

24 hours after that little sneak peek at her new music, I'm back in Sporty's company for a coronavirus-friendly fist bump and a sit-down chat about her new musical direction, her triumphant return to Spiceworld last year and why she and the other Spices had to throw a "diva strop" on the day of their iconic 2012 London Olympics performance.

Still Sporty: Melanie C circa 2020.
Still Sporty: Melanie C circa 2020.

 

It strikes me you've copped a raw deal: You're the first Spice Girl to come to Australia since Mel B infamously announced 'See you in Australia in February!' at your final Wembley show last year.

(Laughs) I'm always pickin' up the pieces aren't I!

The Spiceworld tour ran for 13 dates last year - it seems like when the Spice Girls do reunite, you're usually here for a good time, not a long time.

A hundred per cent, and I wish more people would realise that situation. Spice Girls is incredible, but we are a NIGHTMARE. It is so, so difficult to get this thing to happen. It really is so explosive that it only happens in very short bursts. I hope it happens again. It may, it may not.

You've had a … complicated relationship towards rejoining the group over the years.

We'd reunited in 2007, (in 2012) we did the Olympics, then Victoria made the decision she didn't want to perform anymore. For me, that was it. I thought, the Spice Girls is a jigsaw puzzle - we need all five pieces, otherwise it's not complete. But then as time went on, and being approached so frequently by people who grew up with and were inspired by the Spice Girls, it just felt like this snowball effect. I could see us influencing music, fashion … it just seemed a really good time to do it. So we got to talking; we finally got our sh*t together. The offer was to do stadiums which, as an artist, is the ultimate. How many pop bands can do stadiums? I just thought, this might be the last time I do this.

Zig-a-zig-ah: Melanie C (far right) during last year’s reunion tour.
Zig-a-zig-ah: Melanie C (far right) during last year’s reunion tour.

From the moment you all rose out of the stage at that first show in Dublin last year, it was very clear that you were taking this very seriously. You're all-in when you jump back into Spiceworld.

I'm all in! I just thought, I want to be uber-Sporty. I want to be the fittest, the strongest - it was like an Olympic event for me, that was how I saw it.

The tour was like a time capsule of Spice Mania from 1996-98. Was that always the blueprint, or were other ideas thrown around?

No, we wanted pure nostalgia. Nostalgia but in a modern setting. The creative idea comes from this really great photograph of Adele in her childhood bedroom, you know the one? (Adele posted a photo of herself as a child in a Spice shrine bedroom in November 2018). So many childhood bedrooms were just plastered with Spice Girls everything. We wanted to take that and bring it to life - to take everybody in that stadium back to that moment, to relive that. It grew and evolved from there; that photo was the seed.

Post-Spiceworld, you didn't stop. You kicked off a worldwide Pride tour a couple of weeks later …

No, it was three days (laughs). On the hangover from hell after three sold-out Wembley Stadiums.

You don't have to do that, Melanie!

Well, you know what? Sometimes you do. I was invited to Sao Paulo Pride, it's a really interesting time right now in Brazil and the (LGBT) community are feeling quite nervous about the views of their President (far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro), so I felt it was important to be there. You can't choose the date of Pride!

You mentioned the Spice Girls' 2012 London Olympics performance - with the five of you hooning around the stadium on the top of taxis, it seems like a million and one things could have gone terribly wrong.

The Spice Girls inventing world peace at the 2012 London Olympics.
The Spice Girls inventing world peace at the 2012 London Olympics.

We were in the stadium on the day of the performance, and these things always run overtime during rehearsal. We'd never done the taxis in the stadium. We'd done them in the rehearsal space, outside London, but not in the stadium. Then they told us we didn't have time to rehearse it. We were sayin', there's no way. We can't. Surely health and safety would get upset, right? Killing a Spice Girl! We had to throw a bit of a diva strop so we got our rehearsal.

But it was still scary! We weren't secured on in any way, just those bars to hold onto. Someone was obviously looking down on us, because it was FLAWLESS, right? Well … a few wobbles.

This new album seems like a full-circle moment - it's the poppiest, danciest stuff we've heard from you in a long time.

It's been influenced in some ways by being a DJ myself - I've been out there doing it for a couple of years. As a teenager I was going out raving, and it's kind of reignited that love. My last album (2016's Version Of Me) was an electronic record, but not that danceable - so that's what I wanted this to be, but I also wanted it to have meaning lyrically. There's been bit of a theme with this album - i feel like it's a new chapter in my life, both personally and professionally. I feel a bit braver, being a little bit older.

Your debut solo album Northern Star turned 20 last year. Your very first solo single Going Down was a new, divisive sound and look for you. Did anyone advise against it?

 

Not at all. We were so lucky - I don't think many artists have this situation that the Spice Girls have. As soon as we released music, we became very successful, very quickly. We had a lot of power, and we were never really told what to do. I mean, we had a really hard schedule, and we wanted to work hard, but we never compromised, because we wouldn't allow anyone to try and dictate to us.

So coming out of such a hugely successful band, going into a solo record, you're still in this great position: Amazing people want to work with you, record sales were through the roof so budgets were huge … it was a playground. And I was quite frustrated at the time; I felt there was so much more of myself to show than just being Sporty Spice. Creatively, I felt very free and liberated being on my own.

And I've made lots of records, so I know this doesn't happen all the time, but every now and then there's a magical time where it all falls into place quite quickly and easily. Northern Star feels like it was waiting to be written, you know? It was just such a joyous experience.

It must've been a funny time - you'd all been in this gang together, and then you were competing against each other as solo artists.

I always find it weird to be compared to the other girls, because one of the strongest things about the Spice Girls is that we are all very different. Our looks, our personalities, the music we liked - even the directions we've gone in now. And often, those sort of (battles) are engineered to sell more records anyway, so we never really took it too personally.

Newly solo in 1999.
Newly solo in 1999.

By your third album, Beautiful Intentions, you'd parted way with Virgin Records. Was that a bit of a career crossroads?

I knew I wanted to continue to make music. Reason, my second album, was such a weird one. I was still with Virgin, I'd been hugely successful, but the digital age was just dawning. Record labels still thought that if you sold 3 million of your first album, your second would sell 5 million. I felt really let down by Virgin Records - I'd helped make them a lot of money, and the minute things didn't go as they'd expected, I was released from my contract. I just thought, I want to do the most different thing from the thing I've done before, and that's when I made the decision to self-finance and become completely independent. It suits me: You have ownership of your own work, and you don't have to compromise creatively.

The Spice Girls wrapped their reunion tour in June last year. Picture: Instagram/timmsy
The Spice Girls wrapped their reunion tour in June last year. Picture: Instagram/timmsy

You've been working with a bunch of exciting young female artists on this album - Shura, Rae Morris, Little Boots - how did that come about?

I started working with a whole new team, including a new A&R. We were talking about the artists I was listening to, and he threw a few ideas in there too. It was about being open, really. Because it's quite a vulnerable place to be in, in the studio, you can tend to just work with the same people because you know you're in a safe place. I wanted to be courageous and have a fresh start.

Those artists would all have been young girls in the peak of Spice heyday. Is there a bit of fangirling to get out of the way before you can get down to work?

You're right, they're all of an age where they were probably Spice Girls as kids, and they're excited to meet me - but as soon as we hang out, they're comfortable. It's funny, a lot of people when they meet me are really, really cool, and then at the very end they're like 'I've just got to tell you, I WAS YOU'. It's a lovely thing - people are so excited to meet a Spice Girl!

They are.

Melanie C's new single Who I Am is out this Friday March 20.

Originally published as Spice Girls' Olympics 'diva strop' revealed


Tributes flow for former Ballina surfer who died in Bali

premium_icon Tributes flow for former Ballina surfer who died in Bali

NEWS of the 53-year-old’s unexpected death has shocked the close-knit Ballina and...

Sprung!! needs your help for ‘biggest production ever’

premium_icon Sprung!! needs your help for ‘biggest production ever’

ROLL CALL: Local theatre group Sprung!! is one of Norpa’s 2020 season features with...

Cousin’s heartbreaking video on missing backpacker

premium_icon Cousin’s heartbreaking video on missing backpacker

Sunday marked one year since backpacker Theo Hayez went missing