'Do I make you feel scared?'

SUFFOLK has surely never seen anything like the performance the Latitude Festival will host on Saturday night. Grace Jones - live, unleashed, and ready to shock.

SCARED? You should be.

The historic estate of Henham has surely never seen anything like the performance it will host tomorrow night. Grace Jones - live, unleashed, and ready to shock.

“I think a lot of my audiences kind of enjoy being scared,” says the 61-year-old, who headlines the main stage.

“You know I watch scary movies, at a certain point I enjoy being scared. I think we all kind of enjoy that - there's a certain masochism.


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“I was brought up in a scary way. And maybe that's probably why my personality has this scariness. I've finally realised why I am the way I am and that scariness comes from the dark, edgy part of my childhood. But I've embraced it and I understand it, and when I turn it around and I put it out there to the public or on the stage or whatever they're just as scared as I was when I was little.

“They're reacting to their own fear, their own excitement faced with that fear.”

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It's not exactly what you would expect at the summit of “the family-friendly festival” but, once the sun goes down on Latitude and the kids go to sleep, there could be something quite startling to behold on the big stage.

“My performance I know is special,” says Jones. “Because it's coming from a place where only I've been and it's a real place and it's full of this unique, scary energy. And I'm not afraid to bring that out.”

She might admit that “it's hard to know where it actually is performance and where it's me” but then adds: “The people that really know me know that I'm not scary. I pretend very good scary. I can be very good scary.”

Jones explains: “I know I'm extremely on the edge of a caricature, a cartoon. I wouldn't mind a cartoon of me, actually, that's fine. But if I'm not in control of that cartoon then it would annoy me actually, I could see it coming and I'd say, no, no, no, that's not what I am. It's not for someone to actually make that out of me. When people think they have me worked out I like to undermine that idea.

“I'm made up of all these different characters. It's like speaking different languages. And the way that I speak with all sorts of different accents. All the travelling I've done means I switch from accent to accent and people cannot work out where I am from. And when they ask I say, I'm from the Universe. And it's possible that we all have some alien blood inside us. We've been aliens and we'll become aliens again.”

Whatever else you might call her, Jones is an icon. Whether it was seducing James Bond in a View to a Kill or slapping chat show host Russell Harty around the face, she demands attention, makes headlines.

She's probably best recognised for her acting and modelling, but her music can still put her at the top of a festival line-up. Last year's Hurricane album was warmly received and critically acclaimed, even if it was her first album since 1989's Bulletproof Heart. “It might make the Guinness book of records for the longest gap between albums,” she jokes.

Bulletproof Heart was her 10th album in 12 years - prolific by today's standards - back to a time when her club-dance songs earned her a string of hits - Nightclubbing, Living My Life, Slave to the Rhythm - and a huge following, particularly in the gay community. She was one of Island Records' top recording acts - but then she suddenly stopped making music, or at least releasing it. Two albums were recorded in the 1990s, but remain unreleased.

“I guess sometimes things just kind of fall apart,” she explains. “Both Chris Blackwell (Island Records boss) and I sat down and we actually decided 'yeah you know we're getting too many hiccups here'.

“So I don't bang my head, I never bang my head against a wall that is not giving way.

“For me it's just saying, you know this is not the time. When it gets to the point where you're really trying it's not like you're not trying, it's like you're really trying and you've got your heart and your soul into it, and there is nothing more painful than when it gets sabotaged or you get other elements that come in that make you - that stops the artistic process from flowing.”

Aside from the odd chat show appearance, Jones has kept a relatively low-profile over past two decades. “Some people thought I was dead,” she laughs.

But she insists she didn't miss the limelight. “No, because I was doing other things, writing films, directing, you know I did the underground kind of private shows and tours and a bit of music for a couple of films and worked on music in these areas where it was pleasant and not within the corporate world - you know big brother record company watching over your back and maybe changing what it is you want to do.”

And the critical praise garnered on the new album, she says, is down to failing to move with the times.

"Well I don't try to keep up. I think that's what it is. If you don't try and keep up you don't sound like you're trying to keep up, which would be wrong.

“You just sound like yourself, which should sound like the moment. And it was important that we didn't work to some industry formula of what the Grace Jones sound is. We just found what we were looking for, all the musicians found their way, and, followed where it seemed to be going. Followed where my voice was taking the music and where the music was taking my voice. Followed where everyone was heading.”

She adds: “So it's impossible to put me in a box when I've always been out of a box. And that also counts for whatever I'm doing is going to be and it's going to be out of the box.

“So it doesn't matter in a way that it's taken 10, 15, 20 years because me and the music is always in the same kind of place. It doesn't sound like the past or the future. It sounds like now, whenever now is.”

It could add up to a startling Saturday night in Suffolk. A scary show on the edge, no regrets, no fear - just how Jones means to go on. In this life, and the next, it seems.

"Well a lot of people sometimes have too much fear, they don't try anything new, they just say 'oh you know how can you travel so much' and 'oh I hate flying' or I'm afraid of heights… I do believe that things can just… a plane can fall on your head. You can be just like 'lights out boom boom'. And if it does you must have no regrets. And even the ones that you know you might have you figure out there was a reason for them. You know as long as what you did didn't hurt anyone, because we all probably have some little regrets or some big ones. But I like to say I have had little ones, a couple of little ones. They don't matter anymore and what's important I think is to just take off and when it's time - when you die, you can die happy. Yeah. And then you go on living.”

GRACE Jones became a national talking point when she slapped chat show host Russell Harty around the face in 1981.

She became enraged when she felt Harty was ignoring her as he turned to interview other guests on his BBC1 show.

It was at number one in a recent BBC rundown of the most shocking TV chat show moments.

“With Russell Harty, I was exhausted, and when I'm tired I can be like a baby, and when you are tired, and excited, you act in a certain way,” says Jones.

“I think those things are in us, and as you grow up you are meant to control those emotions. But sometimes you can end up controlling them to the point where you have no emotions left. I find that very frightening, to lose my emotions.”

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