Regina Spektor has released five full-length albums, but her fans will swear that, much like Tori Amos or Amanda Palmer, you haven’t really experienced the music until you’ve heard it live. For those who might want a souvenir of these electrifying performances, or can’t go to the show because of a red-piano phobia, the singer is releasing Live in London, a 22-track omnibus that comes with a complete film of the concert. Regina Spektor: Live in London will be released on Sire/Warner Brothers Records on Nov. 22.
Why did you decide to do a live album now?
We actually didn’t do the album now. We recorded it over a year ago, and it took us this long to get it together and put it out. I thought that it was important to have the live album because even though I’ve toured pretty much everywhere, there are still some places that I haven’t had a chance to play. I also wanted to have a really good live recording for my fans. I’m really open to people recording and sharing my shows, but there’s a limit to what you can do with a cell phone. There are so many shitty bootlegs floating around out there. I wanted something that people could have as a clear snapshot of a performance that meant something to them.
The presentation on the album is pretty formal. Is that on purpose?
The record had to be straightforward, because I wanted to put so many songs on it. I wanted people to get the most amount of music for the dollar. The DVD is a little bit looser. There’s talking in between songs, some cool visuals, and a lot of behind the scenes footage. I wanted to show a little bit of all the hard work that goes into putting on a show.
What should a listener be looking for that is unique to the live record?
I consider touring and recording two very different things. In the studio I get to play with all my toys that I don’t have live. On the other hand, when I play live I have incredible musicians playing with me. On this record, I’m playing with drums and a string quartet and a piano. The songs take on a different complexion in this setting. I also sing differently when I’m in a big hall rather than the intimacy of a studio. And there’s the pure energy of having five thousand people together in a room. That’s something that can never be reproduced in the recording process.
Why did you decide to make the recording in London?
The two cities that are most important to who I am as a musician are New York and London. My friend Adria, who directed a bunch of my videos but more importantly is just a great friend, told me she wanted to go to England and film some stuff. I’m like a lot of musicians in that I get really freaked out when there’s a camera involved. It just gets harder to play, and I know that I’m going to make more mistakes because of it. Adria convinced me that it would be easier if we went together. The trip coincided with her birthday, so all of a sudden it went from something that was anxiety inducing to an amazingly fun celebration trip. Having her there with a camera was so much different than being under the microscope with a full film crew.
Given the size of your catalog, how did you choose the tracks for the record?
I play longer at shows, so it was amazingly hard to sequence the record. There was a limited amount of space, so part of the choice was putting together the songs that I felt needed to be on the record with as many other songs as possible. The songs I was drawing from are the ones that I’ve been playing a lot live lately. There are songs that I always play, and there are some songs that you may only hear live.
There are three unreleased songs on the album. Do you have plans to release them in any other formats?
Right now they’re just my live songs, but they might be on an album one day. Whenever I put an album together, there are some songs that have existed for a long time. I had been playing some of the songs on Far for years before putting them on an album. I’m not going to say that these three won’t make an appearance somewhere else, but it’s impossible to predict because I don’t really plan these things out. When it comes time for the next record, I might have an entirely new set; it could be time to record some old songs or songs that were in the middle.
What is something that you’re especially proud of about this record?
It’s not really my personality to take something that I’ve done and be really proud of it. I’m more likely to be listening to it and obsessing over some small mistake that only I could possibly hear or a choice that I wish I had made differently. That’s the hard part about creating something and then releasing it into the world. A live album is a little bit better in that every night something happens that’s magical and something else happens that’s not awesome. There are once-in-a-lifetime events that happen during a concert when everything clicks just right, but you can’t be too precious about them.
Many other bands have recorded in Live in London albums, including Leonard Cohen, George Michael, The Pretenders and Judas Priest. Which one would be the best companion piece to your own album?
I’m not sure what I’ve heard of them. I’m such a music criminal. All of my music is burned by my friends and given to me in an attempt at education, because I am such an ignoramus when it comes to music. I love Leonard Cohen, so I’ll go with him. I can see why so many live albums are recorded in London, though. The city has a lot of rock 'n' roll energy. I could feel it from the minute that I touched down. When I entered the venue I could feel this tremendous excitement. It was like, “Holy shit. I get to play here tonight.”