|GOOD TIMES MAG|
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNABELLA LWIN
By Don Brown
Annabella Lwin has packed a lot of living into a very short time of being alive. A quarter-century after her voice was first pressed to an LP, the music of Bow Wow Wow can still be found on movie soundtracks and theplaylists of pop music stations, and the band can still fill clubs and concert venues 365 days a year. And in a time when entertainers come and go like the weather, this is nothing less than amazing.
The public's first exposure to Annabella Lwin was as the beautiful teenaged girl of English/Burmese descent with the Mohawk whose sweet voice turned Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" into a mainstream hit and made Annabella punk's first true female sex-symbol.
The days of new wave and punk was a great time to be making music, and for Annabella, 1980 feels like another lifetime and yesterday all at once. "When we first started out in 1980, it was really weird because a lot of people didn't like what we were doing. They liked us when they saw us live, but people weren't familiar with our music, and obviously we had a different sound and look, which was really alien to them at the time. But that's what happens when you start something new. Besides we had Malcom McLaren as our manager at the time, so there was all this negativity surrounding us because he was also managing The Sex Pistols."
To be able to front such a controversial act and withstand the negative backlash that first greeted the band would be a tall order for any performer, let alone a girl in her early teens. Annabela's explanation for how she was able to maintain her focus and sanity during Bow Wow Wow's rougher period lies more in the spiritual realm than the physical. "All I can say is that apparently I'm an old soul. So perhaps in one of my past lifetimes I had similar experiences. But my first passion and love had always been music, so it was a matter of just dealing with it. It also goes back to something Malcolm said said to me when we first started. He said that you either sink or swim, it's up to you."
With many years to reflect and enjoy the gift of 20/20 hind sight, Annabella can look back with calm and clarity. 'Bow Wow Wow was a great band. We were just poorly managed. We broke-up after a very short time being together compared to bands like U2, and Duran Duran. If we had actually stuck together as long as they had, things might have been different. But the guys went off to form another band, and I was kind of left in a record deal situation with RCS. But I didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't have the training, or a lot of experience as a writer. I had only been performing on stage, so I ended up writing a lot with different people. I wound up doing a record called "Fever" (the classic). I wouldn't say it was my best work, simply because it was sort of an experimental project, and my first journey into ding my own thing. But I really didn't know what I wanted to do, because I was still very young. From there I had what I guess you would call some down years. I was working with writers and musicians who loved music and loved playing. I was honing my craft as you might say. Then I got a band together and Sony signed me to a record deal. And all of that has happened in the last twelve years. So, for me, this has been a long time coming."
Although Annabella has spent a good part of her career reinventing herself, the idea of getting back with her bandmates has never been off the radar. "Bow Wow Wow has gotten back together on a couple of occasions. I remember some time ago being at home and seeing this band on television. They were smashing up equpment, and it prompted me to call Leigh (Gonnan), the bass player. I told him how this was ridiculous, we had been doing these things before any of these other bands. So we got some new songs together and of course we have the old songs. But these days Bow Wow Wow is about the deamnd for us. Right now we are not really on tour as much as we are playing a string of dates, because we are being asked to do them. So we're working on the band and solo projects at the same time."
The present incarnation of Bow Wow Wow features drummer Adrian Young of No Doubt, who was introduced to Annabella, and Leigh through the agent who books both acts. Adrian is a long time fan of BWW, and for Annabella, the feeling was mutual. "For us, he fits the bill. He's a professional and a joy to work with. And he's an animal at the drums, he mastered our rhythms quite easily. You know he's at a point in his career with the success of No Doubt that he doesn't need to be playing for the money. He plays because he loves the music, and that's also why we do it."
For now, Annabella Lwin is very content with both her life and status of singer for the band that gave her the very first chance to perform. "The line-up you see at these shows now was put together to recreate the sound of Bow Wow Wow," Annabella explains. "As for the idea that we have reformed, it would be nice if some record company saw some potential in us, but the idea is that we're doing this because we love playing. The art of music is to make a difference to the people who buy your record. It's about speaking to the people for the people, and hopefully bringing some joy and love into their lives."