The Lady Gaga comparisons are all but inevitable when Perez Hilton blows up your demo, you perform under an ass-kicking stage name, and your videos are high-glam memoirs about dead relationships (“Zombie”), sex games (“Mirrors”), or fairy-tale love (“Wonderland”). Such is the case for British pop singer Natalia Kills and her impressive debut, Perfectionist, out August 16. Fresh off a summer tour with the Black Eyed Peas, the 25-year-old Bradford native—whom will.i.am signed immediately after meeting her—certainly isn’t fretting about Gaga. “Is Coke bothered about being compared to Pepsi? I’m pretty sure not,” she says.
What’s up with Natalia Kills? You’d performed under the names Verbz and Verbalicious before, right? It’s funny, I don’t know how that even made it to the internet originally, but basically when I was a kid my mother used to nickname me “Verbal” because I used to speak a lot — run around singing and talking and dressing up since I was a little girl — and I suppose that’s how the nickname stayed with me for a very long time and took on all these editions and elaborations: Verbz, Verbalicious, Verse, Verbal.
But now it’s Kills. It’s the first time I was ever asked to name myself. I would’ve liked to use my real name [Natalia Noemi Cappuccini] but they say it’s a bit unpronounceable, and I’ve kind of learned that from checking in to airports and hotels; it is a bit unpronounceable. I was asked what’s the best description, or closest adjective, to describe you and it was Kills.
Why’s that? For example, the phrase, “You killed it.” Michael Jackson was the best singer of all time, he “Killed it onstage.” Or Naomi Campbell was “dressed to kill” at Fashion Week, she was wearing “killer heels.” When we say kill, we usually mean someone giving 100 percent of their passion and energy to something that defines them. So, me being a perfectionist, my passion is always there 100 percent. I guess that’s why Kills was the most beautiful and appropriate thing to call myself.
It seems like your personal style has evolved as well. You know when I was Verbz I was 15 and I’m going to be 25 this year so that kind of explains itself. I looked like Fergie in “Fergalicious” before it existed. It was hoop earrings and a chola ponytail.
Like a Fly Girl… Yeah, like a Fly Girl. Don’t get me wrong, I had swagger for days. I looked fresh as fuck back in the day, like Missy Elliott had a child with Fergie, but that’s nothing to be proud of. I still have big gold earrings, they still exist in my wardrobe, I just mix them more with black and leather now.
So how did will.i.am find you? I put a demo on Myspace in 2008, and Perez Hilton found it and blogged about it. Then suddenly I had 2 million plays and got to number 1 on Myspace’s unsigned artist charts. So I decided to go out to LA and while I was there I met a DJ when I was out shopping… This man came into the store and said, “Oh, you have a really interesting look.” I gave him my website and he sent me a message almost an hour later saying, “You’ve got a lot of plays and your music is good, let me introduce you to a DJ who might spin your song.” And when he introduced me to the DJ, he was like, “You don’t even have a deal? That’s crazy. My friend is going to love you, he makes music.” So we drive to this house in the Hollywood Hills, it’s this massive crib and it’s beautiful and I’ve never actually seen anything quite like it, and when we get there, there’s Will at the table. I was like, “What the hell is this guy doing here?” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s my friend I wanted you to meet. He’s going to love you.” And I was quite fortunate, because he did.
Does your acting background provide the impulse to direct? Yeah, you know what’s so funny was that when I was acting I was desperate not to play a character. I really loved it at first, but I was always doing things like wanting to change the script and the lines and thinking my character would do something else. It’s really a naughty thing to do as an actress. I wanted do all the other stuff: be the director, the writer, I wanted to create something. That’s what I was saying about Love Kills. It’s not acted, even though it’s me using things I’ve learned to bring true expression onto the screen. It’s me being me. It’s literally me showing my fans and my audience my brain: this is what I think about when I lie awake at night, these are my regrets, these are my fantasies, these are things I wish I did.
But that’s interesting, because in the fight scenes you’re killing guys and being abducted by gangs. You’re like an action star. I wish. It sounds so much interesting when you say it like that.
Do you ever think of going back to TV? No, but my dream collaboration would be me and Tarantino, and I have a funny story about it… I was in the cinema a few weeks ago in West Hollywood, watching a really bad movie. It’s a really tiny cinema that seats about 50 people, but there were only six of us in there at about two in the morning, and this man at the front of the theater he’s laughing his head off, cackling, and the film is really sad, so it’s totally inappropriate. He keeps laughing the whole film and it’s totally driving me bonkers and then the lights go up at the end, he walks out with his date, and who is it? Tarantino. It was so funny. I’ve always had this dream of working with him and he’s just right there.
Photo: Tim Fahlbusch