FKA twigs Embarks on a Healing Journey with 'Magdalene'

FKA twigs Embarks on a Healing Journey with 'Magdalene'
Photo: Matthew Stone
"You're not an avocado, not everyone is going to like you."
 
FKA twigs doesn't care what you think. In a career marked by scrutiny over her artistic choices, her relationship partners and her approach to the music industry, all that matters to the 31-year-old British singer-songwriter is staying true to herself.
 
But it's been the past few years marked by pain, both emotional and physical. Between a very public breakup with actor Robert Pattinson and the discovery and removal of six fibroid tumours from her uterus, the fact that new album, Magdalene, is set to be unveiled to the world  seems remarkable.
 
Not so, she says.
 
"If everybody only released work when they were at their peak health and happiness, it would all sound like the Teletubbies or something," she tells Exclaim! via email.
 
Her first full-length studio project in five years — since 2014's LP1 and 2015's M3LL155X EP — is a testament to catharsis. While her heartbreak was "all-encompassing," as she explained in a recent social media post, the artistic practice gave her hope and meaning.
 
"There isn't an emotional or physical cost, because it's all just part of the process. I feel that to assume that there is an emotional or physical cost feels negative. There are physical and emotional changes that happen with being an artist. I believe that it's only ever part of your growth," she says.
 
Recorded over a four-year period in London, New York and Los Angeles — but primarily in London, as she felt more grounded and honest there, she says — Magdalene represents genre-eschewing growth. But this is a wholly FKA twigs affair. The album is a representation of her dance, visual and music capabilities. It bobs between soul, pop, opera and electronic elements; it is nine tracks of carefree yet introspective vibes wrapped in sensuality and a high emotional IQ.
 
"I wouldn't say that Magdalene is an extension of LP1 in terms of the work, but it's about me, so it's about me growing as a person. So in some ways, it's about my growth as a woman. I don't think it's directly related in any way other than the same soul has made it. M3LL155X was a really important work to me visually, and for my development as an artist."
 
Creative control is both a must and a given: the self-produced project leans on contributions from longtime collaborator Nicolas Jaar and also contributions from Future, Oneohtrix Point Never, Cashmere Cat and Benny Bianco.
 
"I've been there for every sound that has been made across the record and it really became a big family of ideas that I was lucky enough to stich a big patchwork quilt with," she says. "My relationship with Nicolas is incredibly deep and sensitive. I couldn't have had such a close relationship with someone that wasn't so open and willing to get into the trenches with me."
 
Indeed, the collaborative process has been a form of self-care.
 
"Being around collaborators that love me and people who care about me, and care about the integrity of my message and my work — I enjoy learning new things, new skills and spending time alone to play with new skills and crafts," she says.
 
That being said, the project was created under the principles of Gesamtkunstwerk, when all the separate elements of a piece are of such a high standard and are so individual in their own capacity, it creates a new elevated spectacle, she explains.
 
Album tracks such as "Holy Terrain" (featuring Future), "Home With You" and "Cellophane" are varied and seemingly disparate parts of a whole, sounding different in terms of genre, yet pure in terms of artistic perspective.
 
"I'm incredibly passionate about music, visuals, dance, aesthetic across the board. I pay really close attention to every tiny detail as do my collaborators. Gesamtkunstwerk is a pinnacle that I would always strive for."
 
Ultimately, the focus has been on creating art and not about worrying how it might be received. The creating is enough.
 
"It's not for me to say what listeners take from Magdalene. It doesn't belong to me any more," she says. "I believe you give it to the world and then people can build their own experiences to the work. It gives me great joy to think about people building their own experiences from things I went through.
 
"I already feel like it's been successful because I've completed everything. I've completed everything I wanted to artistically. It's already everything I could have hoped for. I enjoy being a part of culture. And my voice being part of a bigger story that defines an era."
 
Magdalene comes out November 8 on Young Turks.