Wonderland.

FKA TWIGS

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We reunited Matthew Stone and FKA twigs to talk through her “most honest” work, “M3LL155X”

FKA twigs wears nude bra by ERES, nude knickers (just seen) by MAISON MARGIELA, nude silk trousers by CHLOE, earrings by GIVENCHY HAUTE COUTURE BY RICCARDO TISCI and jewellery (worn throughout) TWIGS’ OWN and nude heels by CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN

FKA twigs wears nude bra by ERES, nude knickers (just seen) by MAISON MARGIELA, nude silk trousers by CHLOE, earrings by GIVENCHY HAUTE COUTURE BY RICCARDO TISCI and jewellery (worn throughout) TWIGS’ OWN and nude heels by CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN

The first time FKA twigs (who at that point, was still just “twigs”) graced the cover of a magazine, she was a basically-unknown dancer with the word “love” written on her forehead in kiss curls. Little did we know, creative duo Matthew Stone and Wonderland’s Matthew Josephs had introduced the world to one of music’s most forward-thinking countercultural talents – an artistic force injecting the pop charts with energy, hope and true creativity. Her ascension from unknown to undefeated was a controlled, calculated one: it wasn’t by chance that twigs broke when she did, she’d planned it from the start.

For Wonderland’s 10th anniversary cover shoot, twigs (Tahliah Barnett) and Stone talk through the thens and nows: why ego can hold you back creatively, and how her newest work, EP “M3LL155X”, is “the most honest thing” she has ever made.

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FKA twigs wears nude silk bra with nude lace choker detail by ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, nude fishnet tights with crystal detail, nude knickers and nude jockstrap made from bra STYLIST’S OWN and nude patent leather boots by VALENTINO

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FKA twigs wears nude silk bra with nude lace choker detail by ALEXANDER MCQUEEN, nude fishnet tights with crystal detail, nude knickers and nude jockstrap made from bra STYLIST’S OWN and nude patent leather boots by VALENTINO

MATTHEW: I wanted to ask about how you move between the different things you do – music, videos, thinking about visuals – and whether or not you feel there’s a connective thread.

TWIGS: I think that a lot of my work is just based off feelings, so when I make a piece of music it tells me how I should feel, and then that feeling will create an image. I never really stray away from that image. If I make a piece of music, for example “Papi Pacify”, I always had this idea that it had to be hands down the throat. So it was always that movement, from when I first made the song. Even though the video might not be made for six months or a year, I can’t get that image out of my head.

M: So it’s about recognising an emotional state that you’ve already expressed, in a sense?

T: Yeah, exactly. I’m not an amazing singer and I’m not an amazing producer… I’m not an amazing dancer, but one thing I know is feelings.

M: All of those statements are ridiculous, because you’re amazing at all of those things.

T: Aww, that’s sweet. But the one thing I can say confidently is that I can portray a feeling. If I was feeling a certain way and you told me to express it, I feel like I’d be able to express it with my body, or express it with a shape, or express it with a sound, you know? That’s the language that I understand.

M: I think what I’m interested in, and maybe what I connect to, is just that process of translation. Where it can move from being a sound, into a movement…

T: Let’s say, for example, that if I was in a position where I was feeling sad because somebody wasn’t giving me what I needed emotionally, and there was a lot of stop-and-start within a relationship, to me I would make that stop-and-start with the drum or the synth stopping and starting… the jolting of it. The thing that I find exciting is that even two years on, it’s still so definite that it can be translated to another medium of express[ion]. I never feel like I lose sight of what I originally intended, and things that I have lost sight of just don’t make the record.

M: What do you think your process is for directing people? How much of it is pure personal vision and how much of it is working with people and how you interact with them?

T: If I pick somebody to do a certain thing it’s because that is their truth, you know? I don’t really ask people to do anything that I haven’t seen a glimpse of them do before. Even for example with Michele [Lamy, Rick Owens’ wife and creative collaborator, who appeared in the “M3LL155X” promo video] and “Figure 8” that’s her, you know? I didn’t tell her to do anything, that is just 100% her and yeah on the day you can say, “that looks great! Do that move again and do it bigger!” And that was the thing with the guy [in the “I’m Your Doll” video]. He was like the sweetest guy actually, like so sweet and very gentle and very polite and I’m getting him to have sex with a plastic doll! I just started screaming obscenities at him, the worst things, like things that you’ve seen in porn… then he started repeating those things and screaming them at the doll, and then it just really worked, like all the energy just went so dark in the room… I was just shouting at him and there wasn’t any music and the whole energy just got sucked down really low and it felt so dirty and grimy. That really comes through in the video, everyone says it’s so uncomfortable to watch. I think we’ve all watched something a bit dark and got a kick out of it. It’s in every single human being, that darkness. I didn’t bring out anything in him that isn’t in every human.

M: If you’re making imagery that is dark, how much responsibility do you feel to contextualise it?

T: I feel like my work is honest, so that can just depend on where I am in my life. I think that “M3LL155X” is the most honest thing I’ve ever made because it explains the most… “M3LL155X” was an actual period of my life. I felt low, but I felt really hopeful and that’s what it’s about.

““M3LL155X” was an actual period of my life. I felt low, but I felt really hopeful and that’s what it’s about.”

M: Art, in a sense, is usually the triumph over suffering. You can’t make art while you are depressed. It is the thing that pulls you out of something.

T: And that’s exactly what it was. Even doing it healed me. Just making the music healed me and then completing it almost a year later – I feel so light now… It felt like you know when you’ve fallen out with someone that you really love and you’ve got to call them and make it better and you put it off.

M: How do you move on from having finished a project?

T: For me, the way that I work, reminds me of Candy Crush. You have to have all the blocks at the bottom and then that block will disappear and smash down and something else will sit at the top…I work usually three projects ahead, more than that and I start to feel a bit nutty.

M: I watched a Ballroom TB YouTube show and there was Dashaun [Wesley] and a lot of people in the vogue scene and they were talking about their experiences working with you. He was talking about the fact that you’d asked him to chop you first and he saw a lot of significance in that and respect in that. I love that story, because it’s such an inversion of the way people have interacted with and appropriate ballroom culture historically.

T: Basically the truth of the matter is I love voguing, I’m learning. Every two to three months I get a little bit better at it, but I’ve only been doing it for two years and these guys have been doing it for 10 years plus. If I was to go up and dance against them, I’d get chopped and that’s the truth of the matter. But if I’m going to bring them on stage in a place where voguing was created, in their home, why would I act like I wouldn’t get chopped?

M: Can you explain what chopping means?

T: Chopping means that you aren’t good enough, like if you go up and dance because you want to compete in the battle, and you don’t get your tens then you get chopped. I feel that that’s what I would get if I competed in my section… I would get chopped, so I just thought that that’s real. I’m very honest in what I make and that’s the reality. And I’m not scared of that because someone can chop me on stage… I don’t feel like it hurts my ego in any way, because the next day I’m lucky enough to be able to be backstage with someone teaching me how to not get the chop.

M: I wonder whether or not your sensitivity to that comes from knowing what it’s like being the backing dancer [Barnett danced in Kylie and Jessie J videos].

T: Yeah, of course. Being told not to give as much energy because the female singer can’t give as much energy as you, I just think that’s rubbish. I want everyone on stage to be incredible, people are going to be better than me and that’s the truth and maybe it’s down to me to keep up with them… that’s what’s really fun for me. I said this to someone the other day, it’s not for the money, it’s not for the fame, it’s not for the record sales, it’s not for anything else other than the fact that I really want to get better. That’s why I am here doing this, it’s because I want to learn and I want to get better. I can do that through working with exciting people… I can do that by knowing Denzel [Daniels, fellow dancer] can perform my solo better than me and be able to stand behind the camera and watch him, because that’s how you learn. It’s through watching and being able to stay humble. The ego is a very interesting thing. When I first started and I didn’t have much to show for myself, my ego was much bigger. Now, when I am managing to do things and I feel happy with the things I’m creating and getting opportunities, I feel like it’s shrinking, and that’s actually allowing me to learn so much, become more humble and more open. That’s the most exciting thing to me about being given the opportunity to make “M3LL155X”, or even just work with you on the shoot that we did.

M: I see that. Do you feel like there are moments where the ego is useful to your creative process?

T: Not for me, no. I don’t think so.

FKA twigs wears mirrored headpiece by SLIM BARRETT FOR JOHN GALLIANO Spring 1997, top STYLIST’S OWN and gold wing earring by NOOR FARES. Kaner wears nude body shaper shorts, cod piece made from bra and cupless bra STYLIST’S OWN. Ryan wears nude body shaper STYLIST’S OWN and nude body by MISSONI

FKA twigs wears mirrored headpiece by SLIM BARRETT FOR JOHN GALLIANO Spring 1997, top STYLIST’S OWN and gold wing earring by NOOR FARES. Kaner wears nude body shaper shorts, cod piece made from bra and cupless bra STYLIST’S OWN. Ryan wears nude body shaper STYLIST’S OWN and nude body by MISSONI

FKA twigs wears pink patchwork of cornely embroidery, glass drops and silk fringe dress, vintage rose beads and shiny palladium metal jewellery all by GIVENCHY HAUTE COUTURE BY RICCARDO TISCI

FKA twigs wears pink patchwork of cornely embroidery, glass drops and silk fringe dress, vintage rose beads and shiny palladium metal jewellery all by GIVENCHY HAUTE COUTURE BY RICCARDO TISCI
FKA twigs wears pink patchwork of cornely embroidery, glass drops and silk fringe dress, vintage rose beads and shiny palladium metal jewellery all by GIVENCHY HAUTE COUTURE BY RICCARDO TISCI
FKA twigs wears pink patchwork of cornely embroidery, glass drops and silk fringe dress, vintage rose beads and shiny palladium metal jewellery all by GIVENCHY HAUTE COUTURE BY RICCARDO TISCI
Interview
Matthew Stone
Photography
Matthew Stone
Fashion
Matthew Josephs
Dancers
Jarrod, Ryan G, Kaner, Mamadou and Ryan H
Hair
Jawara at Coffin Inc using Bumble and Bumble
Makeup
Daniel Sallstrom using MAC Cosmetics
Assisted by
Francesca Kerns, Annabel Luyken and Sian Kelly
Nails
Jessica Thompson at Frank Agency using Dior Vernis Fall Look and Capture Totale Nuturing Hand Repair Cream
Digital Assistant
Paul Allister
Photo Assistants
Sam Nixon and Maria Elisa Gomez
Movement Director
Patryk Boguslawski
Set Designer
Alun Davies
Set Design Assistants
Alexander Wren and Heather O’Shea
Fashion Assistants
Toni-Blaze and Mateusz Debicki
Retouching
The Forge
FKA TWIGS

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