Billie Ray Martin: After All

The Iconic Singer Takes a Lonely Walk Through the Lively Streets of Berlin

Dubbed the “queen of electronic soul”, Berlin based singer Billie Ray Martin combines soulful expressions with an electronic backdrop. She grew up with an eclectic mix of musical idols, which included The Sex Pistols, Martha Reeves, Vandellas and Cabaret Voltaire. Billie tells us that she was ‘never happy to just keep copying a sound that already existed. So I chose to combine the two loves of mine.’

In her latest track, Billie worked with Dark Storm (aka Abdullah Al-Wali), to record the mix of David Bowie’s song After All. The video sees her walking through Berlin’s bustling streets, and past Bowie’s old apartment.

Billie told us little more about the video and her work:

The Plus: What inspired this video?
Billie Ray Martin:
I wanted to walk though my neighbourhood and show it as it is. The neighbourhood happens to be Bowie’s old neighbourhood, and you can see me walk past his old flat. But that’s not the point of the video. I wanted to walk by all the people and capture the moment in my neighbourhood, which has many facets. In the song Bowie says, ‘some people are marching together, and some on their own, quite alone’. I am the ‘alone’ part…as usual.

TP: We know you were influenced by soul music in your youth- how did the electronic sound come into it? How do you feel soul and electronic music complement each other?
When I was a teenager there wasn’t house music yet (in Berlin), but I was greatly influenced by bands like Depeche Mode, The Eurythmics, but also more far out acts like Cabaret Voltaire, Vice Versa, DAF, Throbbing Gristle and many more. So I chose to combine the two. To this day I’m really trying to figure out how really best to do that. I guess sometimes I succeed, sometimes not.

TP: What’s your most hilarious gig memory?
I guess one legendary moment was when I played at the last ever night of Studio 54, with Cher, Gloria Gaynor, and many others. Cher fell on her butt on stage, (she won’t mind me saying that), Gloria Gaynor was pushed out of the way by Cher’s bodyguards, and my sound wouldn’t start. I had two dancers already onstage in giant skirts and massive angels wings and me waiting by the side of the stage. When the sound started it was ‘Imitation of Life’ instead of ‘Your Loving Arms’. So they had to let me do two songs, otherwise the crowd would have gone nuts, without “YLA”. So I was the only artist who got to do two songs.

TP: What has your journey been like as an evolving artist?
It’s been a journey of loss and rejection, battle and some successes. Trying to get heard in this current climate of what for some reason is still called ‘the music industry’ is a ridiculous endeavour. Artistically I try to evolve. I try different things. This has left me outside of categories, which doesn’t work in my favour. However I’m going back to my house roots at present.

TP: What has been your career highlight so far?
Being still alive. Hurray for me!