Shaun Jury caught up with her for a chat, in an attempt to try and disprove Frank Zappa's theory that "rock journalism is people who can't write, speaking to people who can't talk, for people who can't read". Draw your own conclusions.
Let's start off with the basics, tell us about your recently released solo album . . .
(Laughter) I wrote the songs on the Muses last tour. I would bring my acoustic guitar back to the hotel room every night. It's kind of a globe trotting record, it starts in Scotland, I think, and ends up somewhere around probably New Zealand (laughs) or Hawaii or something, and took the songs back home and recorded them in the horse stable down the road, I didn't think they would be released as a record or anything. But the people who had copies somehow let them fall into the hands of record company executives who wanted to release them. I said said no, because they're mine, but I did make a record about them. I did it in the same stable I did the demo in because the atmosphere had to remain special and intimate, but it felt less like someone stealing my diaries and publishing them.
Hows the tour been going?
Great. It's not like touring with a rock band--people sit in chairs. I don't have any friends or equipment of volume on stage, just me. That kinda removes the whole "show" aspect of it which is nice. Just me and the chair, and you have to look at me! The songs become the show, which is how it should be, and you have to follow every melodic line, every emotional idea, or you don't get your money's worth.
How do you cope with touring and having a family?
It's not easy, I don't like to bitch about stuff like that because I'm blessed that way, I have a beautiful family and I'm in my favourite band. At the same time I don't recommend it.. I never sleep and something is always suffering. so we struggle every day. I think about maybe not doing it anymore, about giving the children to people who could take better care of them, but in the end I'm mother that the kids want so they take the bitter with the sweet. They listen to the music and they go on tour sometimes, so I figure even if it hasn't really been done before, it feels OK most of the time.
What's happening with the Throwing Muses next?
We recorded our next record right after I made Hips and Makers, it just had to be put on hold while I worked on this record, which I didn't expect to have to do so extensively. It should come out by the end of the year, I think.
Is it much different from previous Muses stuff?
Usually they do sound real different. I'm the last person you should ask about that! It has been described as a cross between House Tornado and Dark Side of the Moon. It's like a rock trio, definitely, but it's not the live approach that Red Heaven was. It's more produced, it's calmer and sweeter and groovier.
How's your attitude to your music changed since you started playing with the Muses up to now?
I've gotten cleaner and cleaner as a person, so the music speaks a little more clearly. I don't have my manic psycho-garbage mixed up with the songs. I'm not afraid to let the songs say what they want anymore so the lack of censorship on my part makes them a little more universal, and maybe a little more confusing, but all the better for it.
Are you going to be working with Bob Mould again?
If I want that sound again! We toured with Sugar, we did a double bill on the West Coast of the US and that is a great way to work together because you get to support each other. He's incredible, he's one of the best voices in the business. He's got a great pop ear for writing. He's been on the road and he wants to spend as much time as possible in his house in Austin. Makes a lot of money, spends no money and goes home as often as he can.
What's your motivation to keep on playing?
(laughs) The songs keep on writing themselves and I really love them, it's as close as I get to a religion, but I don't have the inclinations that other people seem to have as far as the business is concerned. I don't like the idea of "famous people." I don't like what the radio plays for the most part, I wish could mail out (my) songs...Unfortunately they gotta use your face so I do that part as well as I can.
What music have you been listening to?
The Latin Playboys is my favourite thing right now. It's an amazing organic work which sounds like Mexican folk songs produced in an almost experimental way. They went into their kitchen and started banging on Pots and pans and just taped it, put songs onto it. Best thing out in years, and for that reason will probably get no attention whatsoever!
Have you heard much New Zealand music?
Not yet. Wherever I go they just play me American stuff. All I know is the Chills, cos a fiend of mine produced them and the Abel Tasmans cos we played with them. I'm going to go to my record company and rake through their files and bring some new stuff home.
Are you ever going to be playing in Dunedin?
I think the Muses will next year. We're supposed to go a week plus here, so...
How's New Zealand been for you?
Ah, man. It's paradise, amazing. I was looking for a place to run away to a few years ago and Bob Mould said "New Zealand, it's heaven on Earth," and it really is, the place just buzzes, unspoiled is an understatement.
Anymore solo stuff?
Yeah, since it only took two weeks this time. It doesn't take too much time out of the muses. I guess I'll just slip into the studio after the next time with the Muses, and then just keel over and die.
Nirvana have broken a lot of ground and kids are getting into bands like Sugar and Belly, but they haven't really heard of earlier bands like the Muses or Husker Du. It doesn't seem to have broken out into the main stream. Well as "alternative" a they want to call themselves, the kids aren't really being allows to hear anything that isn't pop music--Belly is pop and Sugar is pop and Nirvana was pop. You can have distorted guitars and people say it's alternative but you can't break out of pop music's constructs and still get extensive radio play and media coverage. That's cool, we're not really looking for that, we just want to play music that's the best it can possibly be. So we let them play their own games and market it however they can. We hope people are allowed to hear (our music) but we're not gonna change it or make it easier because it wouldn't be fair or worth it. We have plenty of pockets were we're very well known but to do it nationally or internationally, you have to follow a few more rules.
Do you ever encounter any sexism at shows?
Yeah, I'm sure I do, I'm beginning to think I have two years encountering sexism without really realising it. Women who are well known as musicians are usually very two dimensional, they are characters that we understand. Whether that character is a bimbo or a jock or an artist slash poet (laughs), they're goofy two dimensional roles that aren't like real people at all. Men are allowed to write songs about people and women are allowed to write songs about women. I've had to do a hell of a lot of fashion shoot which I really philosophically disagree with and I quit doing them, but I have to play as much of the game as I allow myself to in order to get the music heard. But it's not unlike the rest of the world, so I'm not as up in arms about it as I could be.
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