Tuesday, June 24, 2008

what you didn't read, or Liz in the Afternoon: The Oral History (Director's Cut)

so a week ago my Liz Phair piece popped at the Village Voice. and though no one left comments on that site, it was a topic of conversation a few other places on the Web.
overall, the reaction wasn't too bad, and it was interesting to see the lines of discussion. I didn't even really mind being called an "asshole" or "cowardly," because those remarks obviously came from folks overly protective of a woman they've never met, but nonetheless love.
trust me - Liz Phair can take care of herself.

a few folks made mention of the structure/style I chose for the piece. and yes, I was quite restricted by the amount of space available in the print version, but even if I was given five times the space (as you're about to see), I still would've presented as an oral history as I don't see a particularly strong "angle" with this reissue, I don't necessarily believe that my comments on the reissue would provide a whole hell of a lot of insight into a disc that's been listened to and written about thousands of times, a disc that's held so close, so subjectively by so, so many.
and frankly, I like listening to Liz Phair talk. and I think she does provide that hard-to-find insight and her words, not mine, should be given as much space as possible.

(yes, my original intro was also longer than what was printed, but I don't know that the extra words add a whole lot there either. but in case you're curious, if my writing session had a soundtrack it was the last song off the Wrens' Meadowlands album, "This Is Not What You Had Planned.")

so Liz played San Fran last night (good review, with pics, by Jennifer Maerz) and will play New York Wednesday and Thursday. tonight's she's in Chicago, the figurative scene of the crime, and today, as Liz Phair flew towards home, the 15th anniversary edition of Exile in Guyville was officially released.

here's the expanded version of what she had to say about it:

“I’ve been on a major label, and as much as people think, ‘Oh, that doesn’t make a difference,’ it makes a huge difference. I haven’t been able to be the orchestrator of my own career for a while.”

“You know what it is? You’ve got to go into my head for a second to understand that because it’s not . . . I’m right-brained. Heavily right-brained. Heavily right-brained. Nick has told me that because Nick is in a class where they discuss this, and he gave me the long, 100 question quiz (laughs). I was shocked. I thought I was more whole-brained, but I’m not. I’m very right-brained.
“To break it down simply, left-brain would think about the past, where it’s been, and then think about the future and where it’s going. I don’t do that. I am right here, right now, and that’s how I understand the world.
“That’s what you’re probably good at is contextualizing the overarching thing of it.”

“What I did was – and this is my directorial idea – it’s a little cheap shot because I think men really cared about that record personally and emotionally, but as I was talking to people I noticed that women, every one of them, would come up and say, ‘I had this terrible break-up and I listened to that record and you helped me out so much. I don’t think I would’ve gotten through it.’ And the men that came up, really had things like, ‘Yeah, ’93 was this really cool time and you know I remember I was in New York . . . da da da da da . . .’ and it was more about the context of the scene.
“And I kind of had this neat idea that I would recreate Guyville. So 6/8ths of the documentary is a documentary talking to the very specific people who related in my world to that record. And they’re the talking heads and they’re the ones we discuss all this stuff with. Some of them weren’t fans, some of them were. Some I just worked with. And then, about 2/3rds or more of the way through, it just stops. And then it just goes close-up of woman after woman just telling me their personal stories. Because you get the whole historical context and you know major label versus indie label and what happened with that record and who recorded it and who’s responsible for the way it sounds and ‘Fuck Oasis’ and all this kind of stuff. And then all that stops because just the sort of the game in my mind was that women experience music differently than men. . . . I don’t know that that’s true but I took a directorial little liberty there. And so I stop with the format and I just go to the personal, intimate experiences these women had. And they’re more close-up and the guys are more like a wide-shot with me. And that’s how I handled that. Because I think ultimately, when we listen to it, I think that’s the experience I will have. It’ll be very emotional and personal and it will relate to the emotions that I’m hearing in the songs and the emotion of the music, and I won’t remember ’93 and I won’t remember major versus indie and I won’t remember putting that record out and when that happened. I will just respond to the heart.”

“It’s like you’re in Guyville again. You’re kind of like in the Guyville bubble and then, when you just can’t take it anymore, the beautiful women come in and it’s kind of a palate cleanser (laughs). And they sort of have the final say.
“And they say it without arguing. They don’t argue back and forth about it. The guys all tend to be like, ‘Nah, that’s not how it happened.’ And the women don’t argue about it. The women are just, ‘This was my personal, intimate, private experience.’ It’s interesting.”

“But this is the moment. We’re having a moment, the right moment.”

“By the way, Steve Albini looks hot. He didn’t used to look hot.”

“A lot of Guyville is about venting anger. Or frustration with men in general.”

“I believe that the bubble we’re in right now, just you and me, is also impacted by the larger bubble of the construct. There’s a bubble of us just here at this table. Two people. And there’s the bubble of you’re the interviewer and I’m the interviewee. And then there’s the larger bubble of like rock stars versus people that buy the music. Then there’s the bigger bubble of like society liking music. And I think my theory about life is, ‘We’re always impacted by all the bubbles.’”

“That record could not have been more about the fact that at that time I wasn’t in control of my own sexuality as much as I was using it. And it was kind of using me, too.”

“I think the culture makes you believe that you should feel a certain way every step of the way, and how far you digress from that norm is how you feel about yourself. And I think a lot of it’s based on biology and rites of passage, but a lot of it’s also based on selling things.”

“I think the girls half the time are like, ‘I totally love this guy because he’s friends with the cool people and I just think he’s so dreamy,’ and if they were going out with him and his best friend was the next dreamy guy, they’d ditch him in a heartbeat and his little heart would be broken because he trusted that. And they’re like, ‘Well, that’s so not what I’m about now.’ Like, it’s just heartless in certain ways. Like they’re fickle . . .
“I think you’d be surprised at what goes on. It has been my theory for as long as I’ve been making art. You would be surprised at what goes on in the mind of women. And young women especially because I think . . . I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if there hadn’t been thousands of years of repercussions for thinking about wanting and acting on sexual urges for women, the landscape might look different. And I’m betting as time creeps along and repercussions change . . . Already you don’t have to get pregnant anymore. Already you can make your own money, even without a man. And we’re just starting to accept that you can have children without a man.”

“Are we really going to go back and say like young men are interested in sex and young women are interested in love? Because I just don’t think that that’s really true. Based on the women that I know and what they’ll tell me and what they won’t tell their guys. And I know tons of women, tons of women, a shocking amount, a depressing amount actually, who have been unfaithful and will never tell. And these guys think that it’s the province of men. And I am telling you it is not. And that is one of those legends, the urban myth that goes on forever, that like men have these sexual needs. ‘They’re just sexual, honey. I love you.’ It’s bullshit. And I really do think that when the consequences are off it’s going to look different than what we think it looks. Like, you know, every age has its paradigms it holds and espouses and believes are true. This is just how it is. And every age is rendered obsolete by the next stage and I think gender roles, gender feelings, what we assume about men and women, are going to change a lot.”

“Do I feel like a man? No. I definitely lead with like my emotions. I trust my emotions more. I think there are chemical differences.”
"I feel like I participated in what the truth [is] for young women in their sexuality with that record. Is that going to hold true later? I don't know. But I participated in the grand bubble of: 'What is the truth for young women and their sexuality?' I think that's why women responded to it, because they said: 'Yeah, that is true for me, but I would never say it.' "
“Preaching sucks. It will always sucks. It still sucks. It will always suck. Unless you’re a very good preacher.”

“There’s so many beautiful people in New York City. I’m sorry. It’s hard not to look at people. There are just hot people everywhere.”

“Good. That’s the one request I make for this interview. You made the Guyville request. I want this (the recorder) running the whole time.”

“But you’re wrong. Because I was . . . Does that come across as aggressive? Let me try it again. Well, actually . . . (laughs).”

“No, it’s good to have security because there’s nothing more destructive to creative output than fear.”

"You're totally wrong—100 percent. And I have to tell you, you're wrong about that other thing, too, but we'll get back to that."
“There’s a moment when your manager and your lawyer say, ‘Look, I am really sorry. This is like one of the shittiest things I’ve ever seen, but there’s nothing we can do.’ And I just said to myself, ‘All right, I will not make another record for this person. Ever.’ You know what I mean? Ever. And I don’t care if that means forever, but that strength . . . Everything I’m doing right now came from a really bad moment in my life where I just decided, ‘I will learn another trade. I will fucking come up with something. I trust in myself. I know I can come up with something and I will not give this person another record. No matter what.’”

“I went down. I went deep. But I started like thinking about life on a whole different level. I started thinking about my life outside of me as the label of Liz Phair, you know, and I started thinking about, ‘Who the fuck am I outside this whole music thing?’ And I found out a little bit more about who that was, you know. And like I came out of it so much better, so much stronger, so much happier for having made a really tough decision just within myself.”

“No, because Oberlin was such a feminist madhouse. I have been totally indoctrinated. I came from a very conservative suburb of Chicago and had the whole societal norm flipped on its head where lesbians became like the king of the campus and everything was inverted. Everyone was like, ‘How can you believe that?’ You know, that’s indoctrination. And so I knew pretty much that we were supposed to look critically at society, and look at the way gender roles played out in our society. So there was definitely an element when I made Guyville that I was aware that I was going to appropriate ‘guy rock’ to turn it on its head a little bit. But the songs came from an emotional place.”

“Guyville was a specific scene in Chicago - predominately male, indie rock - and they had their little establishment of like who was cool, who was in it, who played in what band. Each one wore their record collection, so to speak, like a badge of honor. Like, ‘This is my identity. This is what I’m into and I know a lot about it.’ And that was Guyville pretty much. And anyone around it, like the girlfriends of those people, either really dug music and their own like collections or didn’t and were just girlfriends or were guys who liked to hang out in those bars in that area but weren’t really musicheads.
“But Guyville was the musichead, indie rock establishment downtown in Chicago. And I think Guyville existed at Oberlin too, but it wasn’t quite as defined for me as it was living in Wicker Park. Because it felt very . . . It was supposedly alternative but it was just so oppressive, so dogmatic. Like, ‘This is what we like, this is what we don’t. This is what is cool, this is what is not.’ And like what’s the difference between that and mainstream? How is that alternative?”

“I thought it was a response. I mean, half the songs are about how much I hate them and describing them and talking about them. Like ‘Glory’ was basically about Steve Albini and describing his figure that he cut in that scene and ‘Help Me Mary’ was all about those guys and what it felt like to be a girl in the room when they came through, and how I felt they placed me. And like things never said about the gossip that went around about that. I mean, there’s a billion songs. ‘Mesmerizing,’ well, it’s not so much about Guyville per se, but like ‘Girls Girls Girls’ is one hundred percent about Guyville and the way that I like sort of tried to say like, ‘Yeah, maybe you do have me over a barrel in some respects but I’m using you too kind of thing.’ Like I was definitely responding to what I felt was unfair treatment. Or being overlooked.”

“It was just like: ‘Really? Okay, so you guys are into music. Watch - I can make music.’ It was kind of like frustration . . . One of the things I noticed when I went back to do the documentary was they all talk a lot. And you can actually see it on film sometimes, a lot of people that I interviewed, and these are the people that I was dealing with back when I was making Guyville. In that time period, these were the men in my life, so to speak. Like, they get anxious. You can see them physically like waiting for me to stop talking. And it’s funny. Like I’m not supposed to talk. And whether these are the kind of people I was hanging out with or how this came to be . . . I don’t know exactly what that says about me or about them, but by the time I made Guyville I was really just like, ‘Fuck you!’ So they were a big part of who I was showing off to, in a sense.”

“What it did was it reminded me of like, ‘Oh my God, do I remember this period of my life where I just listen?’ And I think it made me a better musician. I think it made me a better artist because I absorbed so much of their . . . you know . . . what’s the noun for pedantic? (laughs) You know, like what’s the noun for pedagogy? Like they would say, ‘Listen to this. This is very cool because of this. Or so and so sounds like this because they listened and admired the sound of this song that so and so recorded in Memphis, blah blah blah blah blah.’ And I can just remember, for such a loud record in terms of personal expression, I had come from a very quiet time of like listening a lot. Which is not such a bad thing. You learn a lot when you listen, but you also can get really tired and frustrated of it.”

“When I listen to Guyville I think about that this is my bursting out being, because I filled up as much as I could possibly fill up. And I was damn sick of listening.”

“When you get the documentary you’ll know exactly who it is, and it’s exactly who I pretended was Mick Jagger and that was my response to Exile on Main St. was I pretended Mick was this guy, and I was trying to talk to him and tell him how I saw him. Like if Mick was seeing this, that was so typical of this guy’s life that he easily could’ve been the Mick character from Exile on Main St., and that’s, in my little stalker craziness, how I worked it out.”

“There isn’t one synopsis that will cover the record in terms of: ‘Was it made in reaction to the scene? Was it made as a feminist statement? Was it made as a love record to try to talk to someone that I wanted to pay attention to me?’ It was all of those things. Like: ‘Is it true?’ Yes. ‘Did I make shit up?’ Yes. You know what I mean? The problem is, in the years and years of talking about this, is that what’s true is a multiple thing. There are many things going on in it because it was organic. It was born of a number of things and it expresses a number of things. Not every song is pissed off and not every song is sexual and not every song is . . . even a rock song.

“And I totally talk in the documentary about like who I made it for and talk to him about it. And he was funny. He was like, ‘Well . . .’ He won’t totally accept that I . . . And at the time, I remember he was at a bar once and he used to refer to it as, you know, ‘How’s my record doing?’ Like, he kind of knew but even he is right. When I went back and talked to him about it, like I did do it for him, but there’s a lot of other people those songs are written about besides him as well. Like not every song was written specifically for him, but at that moment I tied it all in to the feelings I had about him, and he also represented Guyville to me. Whereas, if you asked him, he’d be like: ‘I wasn’t part of Guyville at all. I was completely against it.’ At the same time, from my point of view, coming from the suburbs, it all looked kind of part and parcel of the same zone to me, this downtown world that I knew nothing about, that I kind of dropped into. And then when I pulled back out of that scene, the Guyville sound stopped and then all the fans got upset. They were like, ‘Where’s this thing, you know, that we were so tied to?’ And I wasn’t going to see it anymore. I went and got married and had a baby and lived in Lincoln Park and a whole different thing was going on in my life.”

“I was in my therapist’s office one day and when I first went to therapy it was because I was dating someone for a really long time, and I loved him very much but we had a very big age difference and it was really challenging to try to say, ‘I want this kind of life,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, I’m not ready for that.’ And we both really loved each other so we went initially to try to work on that, and then I kept going just for myself. Actually like we broke up, looking at it, thinking like, ‘This isn’t going to work,’ then we got back together six months later and the minute we got back together I kind of knew that wasn’t a good idea. So I called the guy up and I’m like, ‘Can I come in?’ And I spent a long time being sad with him, talking about that and going through all these different emotions. And I felt vulnerable and I wasn’t in my double bird stance at all. And a year passed or so. I was getting stronger. I was coming back together and feeling good, and something had pissed me off and I was talking about it to him. And I got in the double bird stance and he saw it and he said something like, ‘God damn, you’re like a laser when you do that.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ And he was like, ‘No, it’s thrilling. It’s like incredible when you do that.’ And it hit me, and it kind of irritated me. I’m like, ‘Why does everybody fucking like it when I’m so pissed off?’ Because I don’t like feeling like that.
“You know, when I left Guyville, so to speak, I was happy to get out of there. I don’t want to live my life like that. I try very hard not to. You know, I avoid situations that could laser focus me like that, but for some reason I have this thing in me - maybe it’s living with my difficult brother when I was growing up - that this extra special angry gene comes in and it’s like, ‘Well, that’s something like impressive.’ Maybe it’s my most impressive . . . Like there may be something to that. And I understand. Like Julia Roberts, she just needs to do romantic comedies. Now that probably upsets her, you know (laughs). She probably feels that there’s more dimensions to her. But maybe I’m stuck being, in terms of a public person, best as this weird, laser-focused, pissed-off persona. I can accept that.”

“I’ll tell you what I’m into now, what I think I’d like to give because it’s what I like best. Nick and I are reading this book called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. And it was given to us by my godmother for Christmas. I don’t think I wrote her a thank you note. I forgot about that. I often say that if there’s the traditional sense of heaven, St. Peter will be like, ‘Absolutely. Come on in after you write the 625 thank you notes that you owe.’
“So it’s a book that the language – he says like ‘Shit,’ and he says other things. He talks about sex and he talks about stuff and my son’s only 11 so I’m kind of like . . . And he says really hard truths about life in a very funny, casual way. And the first night I was reading it – Nick can read to himself. He reads lots of stuff, but it’s a ritual we have every night. I read to him. And we get into these serial novels together. It’s a big deal. And I’m thinking as I’m reading it, like, you know that feeling of ‘I don’t know if I should be reading this.’ And I look at Nick like, and he’s looking at me like, ‘I know.’ Because it’s talking about alcoholism, you know, on the reservation and Rowdy’s father beats him and all this kind of stuff that each topic we could stop and have a sort of parent to child discussion about. Nick’s smart. He gets a lot of it.
“And I put the book down and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if we should read this.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, it may be too bad.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t want you to . . . What do you think?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I know what you mean, but you know . . .’ And I’m like, ‘But I kind of like it.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, I kind of do, too.’ And I found myself the next day really looking forward to reading more.
“And it’s the same thing about the Dean Wareham book that I read. I didn’t particularly love the voice of the person that was saying these things that he was doing. At the same time, the honesty. . . I found myself saying, ‘What would my life look like on paper if I didn’t get to contextualize it in the way of, ‘Yeah, well, but I was feeling this, and this had happened to me so that’s why I did that.’ If I didn’t get to say that. If I just had to say what the fuck I did. Because part of me thinks he wrote that book almost as a therapeutic challenge. ‘Don’t explain it away. Don’t make excuses for what you’ve done. Just say what you’ve done, you know what I mean?’
“It kind of was like that, and I thought about that, that kind of honesty, which is a challenge at any age. Real fucking big challenge, because the older you get the more you can explain it. The more you can rationalize or contextualize it or not feel it even as you say it.
“What’s interesting to me right now is not to go put myself in a fucked up place, but to sit and say, ‘Honestly Liz, now that you’ve wrote those pretty words that rhyme, tell me what they really mean. Tell me really what the fuck, you know . . .’ Because a lot of my songs have that underneath it, but then they come out glazed. In a beauteous glaze of skill and artistry, and I say to myself, ‘Now, I’m not interested in that anymore.’
“And the inspiring things to me right are things like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. That tone of voice completely gets to me, and I think, ‘What a fucking great thing for anybody.’ Like you said, you need to confess a little bit. I believe that. When you have a conversation, if you ask of someone, you have to give. And I think as an artist that I can ask myself to give that. And that would be a worthy goal, because at some level art is supposed to make you connect to it and see either yourself differently or the world differently. Like it helps you open up and be like, ‘I am feeling that. I have been there. I have done that.’ You know, to cut through the lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves. And I think that interests me right now.”

“I just think it sounds so fucking cute. Listen to how cute that is.”

“I’m sorry. When I say, ‘You’re wrong,’ it’s because I think we’re like in a fun debate.”

“Don’t you ever look at hot people accidentally?”

“I don’t get depressed like that. I have really good serotonin levels.”

“We’re at cross purposes because of motherhood. Motherhood brings out and challenges you to be wise, loving, a role model, patient, nurturing . . .”

“Patience (laughs). That’s like the one that I keep working on and keep working on. It’s like, ‘And then what happens in the video game? Uh-huh,’ you know. You’re driving, there’s calls coming in because you’re not at work because you want to spend time with your son, but that means you have to text back people. And then your son’s like asking you these random questions about the universe like, ‘If you could be a color of spaceship, just tell me exactly like the best spaceship you could possibly imagine being.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t really imagine being a spaceship.’”

“When I made Guyville, I literally had nothing to do all day but sit around in my janky apartment, where the neighbors were crackheads and I could play as loud as I wanted. It didn’t matter because they were all yelling and screaming too, and I could literally indulge in my own fantasy world 24/7. Nothing interrupted that because I didn’t pay taxes, I wasn’t driving a car, I didn’t have a cell phone. I didn’t have any responsibilities. I had intentionally left society, so to speak, to live in an arts world. It was predominately nighttime. Had no money. I really didn’t show up to any family things that I was supposed to, or at least I didn’t do it very well. And I never left the fantasy of my point of view.”

“Isn’t it funny that ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ was written about John Henderson?
“John told me something once upon a time that the best records always have a wide variety of like really old stuff, medium old stuff and stuff you’re writing now. And I’ve kind of believed that. I don’t know that that’s true, but I’ve always sort of used that as just a general . . . just like any professor you have in college tells you something about your profession. That’s one I held onto, that the best records should have sort of a wide – what do you call it? What am I trying to say? Wide range of when they were written. I can’t think of a better way to describe it.”

“Some of those songs that were on Girlysound were written in high school. They weren’t all written when I recorded them. I’ve been writing songs since I was in 8th grade.”

“I have no fucking clue. I don’t know. Remember? Left brain, right brain? (laughs) I have no memory. Like I have a terrible memory.”

“’Soap Star Joe’ is pretty old. I might’ve written that the summer after senior year of high school. I don’t know that. Like you don’t want to get into dates and times with me.”

“’Girls Girls Girls’ is old. ‘Gunshy’ is really old. A lot of stuff that’s really old came out on Whip-smart, too.”

“You know what else I do? I rewrite songs a lot.”

“Well, you asked me like how come the guitar isn’t therapy for you, and it is, but what I’m trying to tell you about the therapy is that it’s a therapy for different issues and not the ones that people associate with me all the time. Like, if I had a guitar here I’d play you one of the most therapeutic ones I just wrote, and that was about having sex with my new boyfriend for the first time since leaving my last boyfriend which put it like almost a year and a half. So I’ve been really frozen up, and like what it meant to me, how hard it was, even though I liked him, to actually have sex with him. Then the chorus goes, ‘Can you understand how ice feels when it melts/Or how a dog feels by itself/Well, that’s how I am/Can you sympathize with lightbulbs that burn in subway tunnels/Far from anyone around to see them.’
“Like, I’m talking about my sexuality and my love being closed off, being like kept alive like a subway light, just burning for no particular reason. ‘Can you understand,’ and then like ‘It’s a bittersweet reminder that in every new kiss and trust that we build/,there’s an old trust that’s dying.’ And I was trying to talk about . . . Because I came home that night from having sex, like feeling really mixed up because I didn’t feel like myself in bed with him. I didn’t know what he thought of me, if this is what he thinks my sexuality’s like, but I was trying to explain, ‘This is my sexuality under these circumstances.’ Like this is what is happening to me. So those kind of songs are still therapeutic and I need them, but do they make great rock? Do they go, ‘Yeah, Liz Phair’s back?’ Not really.”

“It was just like my year abroad inwardly. But the anger and the frustration could go back to childhood with my brother. Like, it didn’t just happen overnight. It wasn’t like, ‘You know, I’ve been working my whole life to untie the knots that were tied one by one.’
"This song ['Canary'] is a perfect example. This isn't talking about a guy; it's talking about me and my home life with my family, having this stressful relationship with this quasi-abusive brother, and trying to be a good little girl for everyone while all this shit was going on inside me. And I had these contrary feelings and inappropriate thoughts, and my piano was where I would go. I was allowed to practice piano, so instead of practicing, I was making up these subversive songs. This is probably fucking the oldest one on Guyville, now that we come to it, because I can see myself in my parents' house, and what I'm saying is: 'Send it up on fire in the music, up to the heavens. I will be deaf and stop listening to you all before I will shut up. Deaf before dawn.'
“And it’s about the fire of sitting in that room with all these teenage emotions just shooting straight up in the music that I was writing with my mother in the kitchen preparing dinner, my brother somewhere else in the house, and just shit going down and this is where I went. And I couldn’t go anywhere, but I could sit at the piano and send it upward. And that’s what that song’s about. And there is a part in there, there is a line in there about sex. Like, ‘I come when you circle the cherry/I sing like a good canary,’ but that’s acknowledging that even later.’ I think that would’ve been a line added later . . . rewritten, in a sense, to describe . . . I’m still there. I’m still stuck in a context where I have no voice, but I’m inside here somewhere.”

“I did this one photo shoot for some magazine where they said, ‘Let’s do a photo shoot of all the singers’ - like John Mayer did one – ‘at their earlier jobs.’ So I got really excited. I’m like, ‘I’m going to draw.’ I did this charcoal drawing. It got all over my pretty white blouse and got on my face and stuff, and I realized I was going to complete this drawing because I thought they wanted me to do it. I was really into it. There was this jazz musician guy that I was drawing, and like I got halfway through it and they were like, ‘That’s enough.’
“And it really kind of hurt my feelings because I thought it was a really good drawing that I was doing. I thought, ‘People are going to be impressed that I could do that drawing, and that it was cool to watch it being done right there.’ And it kind of bummed me out because I just was like, ‘Okay. Glad you got your shot.’ You know what I mean? It hurt. And I knew what photo shoots were about, but for some reason I thought for five seconds that someone would be like, ‘Wow, she’s really drawing. Right here in front of us.’ They didn’t give a shit.”

“I stopped reading press after Exile in Guyville because I couldn’t write Whip-Smart. Whip-Smart was originally going to be like twelve songs about the industry and what it was like to be seen and what it was like to be famous. And my lawyer/accountant was like, ‘Liz, nobody wants to hear twelve songs about the industry.’ So I realized I couldn’t read that shit anymore because, you know, the first go around I read everything. You know, I read everything, and then I just had to stop. I never picked it up since. Like occasionally someone will give me something, but I can’t . . . Like I can’t, I can’t live my life . . . but here we are doing this so I guess I participate in being famous, but I don’t expect for this record to be famous again. And I’m certainly not going for it. Like fame, like I can easily live without.
“I found, to me, I’m an observer. And I like it in my neighborhood when I don’t feel people looking at me. I don’t like people looking at me. It annoys me. It breaks the flow of me looking at everybody else, and that’s who I am essentially. I’m the observer. I’m the artist. I’m the one watching. And if I’m being watched, that’s when I start to get bitchy. That’s when I start to get diva-y. That’s when I start to get all upset because I need the quiet and dreamerness . . .
“Like you said about hibernating. I hibernate as I go. Like I’m in a little bubble. And if people are watching me, I can feel it and it breaks my bubble. Like it’s noise and it breaks my bubble. And I think, honestly, at my age it’s totally appropriate to be less famous but more artistic.”

“The best thing about my life right now, and I couldn’t have said this for last ten years, I’d be doing exactly what the fuck I’m doing right now, I’d just be in a much better mood all the time. Like everything I’m doing right now, I want to be doing, and I enjoy doing. And I can’t remember the last time I could say that, if ever.”

"OK, now listen. This probably sounds hollow coming from people who get written about, but it's true: You cannot look at an interview, or pages on . . . a piece of paper, an interview, and freak out about it. Like, you can't look at what a politician says in one context and freak out about it. We love to do that. We love to be like: 'Oh, my God. So everything that you've done now has not been creative . . .' "
“I mean, I’m not going to get upset about it, but I think that you’re being a little overreactive about it.”

“Just a second. The tone in this room has gone antagonistic.”

“I’m not trying to undermine the value of interviews or articles or anything, but I am trying to humanize the idea that people say things, and you have to try to interpret what they’re saying. You cannot hold people . . . I mean, honestly, could you be in a relationship with your spouse if everything she said were written in stone and she could never take it back or say, ‘Well, what I meant was . . .’ Like really, would you have any relationships or friendships left?”

“Here’s my thing with journalists and stuff. Why must it be an antagonistic relationship? Why can’t we all be trying to understand rather than say, ‘Well, you said this.’ ‘Well, what does that mean?’ Like, why does it ever get there? Why can’t it be like, ‘Well, I was wondering . . .’ ‘Did you really mean that it was not creative?’ How come you take the tone of authority like, ‘Well, you said on June 23rd. . .’ Like couldn’t you say, ‘Well, this kind of . . . did you mean that?’ In like a nicer tone. Why does it become like, ‘I’m catching you . . . ?’”

"Rod Stewart—I mean, he used to make, like, brilliant music, right? And then he kind of went the whole celebrity route, and he stopped making brilliant music. But I wasn't mad at him. [Laughs] I didn't go, like: 'You fuckhead! You fuckwit!' Like, I don't get that. Like, I don't get people . . . Like, I just stopped buying records, which to me is the appropriate response. But taking it personally . . .” "
“I can’t live my life to make other people feel better.”

"You've asked me to accept responsibility for one dumb line in a Billboard interview. It's a fucking interview in a magazine."

“Anyone who buys my records knows that I care about the music and I try. Sometimes I fail, but I definitely try. I do my best, but like how it can be . . . I mean, shit, I get all the magazines too and I read the articles and I go through and I’m like, ‘Oh well, it was a blow off article.’ Or like, ‘Oh, this is sort of a fake interview,’ or whatever. But I just don’t understand why people get upset. I don’t get upset, so maybe that’s why I can’t empathize. I don’t get angry at people I don’t know. I get angry at people that I have a personal relationship in my life.”

“Get mad at the record, but don’t get mad at me because you don’t know me. You can’t have a personal relationship with me until you know me.
“Get mad at the record. Throw it across the room. Get really angry at it. Step on it. Burn it. You can do whatever you want. But, like, it is unhealthy for someone to assume that they know someone, or have any . . . when they don’t know me. Like that’s just inappropriate.”

“Shit. Honestly, my boyfriend said something like this to me at Valentine’s Day. He’s like, ‘You can’t say what you say in interviews. You have to say this, that and the other thing, because it’s coming across really badly.’ Something about Guyville. I can’t remember what it was. See, I didn’t even really take it in. I was just so affronted that it was Valentine’s Day and he was taking that moment to critique my interviewing. But I can promise you I will never learn this lesson. I will stick my foot in my mouth until I die. That’s just who I’m going to be.”

“Do you think that the person who would know what to tell you in an interview could write Exile in Guyville? Do you think the person who would know how to send a polished image out into the world would fucking write that thing?
"I'm a messy, crazy, do-what-I- fucking-want pain in the ass. And, like, I will be forever. And hopefully, one of these days, I'll do something that people are grateful for again. But, like, I cannot be two things—I cannot be this polished person that does what's right and does what I'm supposed to that'll make everyone feel good, and do the work that says 'Fuck you!' with the double guns."

“I honestly want to give people the best that I can in terms of opening myself up, if that’s something that I’m able to do. And like I said, I’ll definitely do my best. I never go in trying to make a shitty record, but sometimes I’m interested in one thing and sometimes I’m interested in another.”

“See, a polished persona would not let you take a picture of her in a bathrobe, but I’m willing.”

“Look out, I’m perfuming, so stand back.”
"They want me to do a whole top-to-bottom Exile show. Like, play the whole record. That's, like, a record-label thought that they had."

“We’ve got to go. Come on. Take a picture of us in the bathroom.”

Sunday, June 22, 2008

baseball videos

somebody's napping and somebody's not.
which seems as good a time as any to post a couple of videos whose subject material feels like a past life almost (but while we're on the topic, did anyone realize what kind of young pitching the Reds bring to the table? they play 81 games a year in the most hitter-friendly NL park not located in Colorado, but Edinson Volquez and Daryl Thompson (in his major league debut) sure enough shut down the Yankees. and Johnny Cueto's doing a good job if Internet updates can be trusted).

Steve Wynn (the Miracle 3, Dream Syndicate) and Scott McCaughey (Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows and longtime hired gun of R.E.M.), along with Peter Buck (R.E.M., Minus 5) and Linda Pitmon (Miracle 3, Zuzu's Petals), performed as The Baseball Project on Friday's broadcast of the Late Show with David Letterman. album comes out July 8th (when McCaughey and Buck will be in Europe (but not with Chris Stein - see below)).

second (and dare I say most important):
just a little more than a week remains to vote for the incomparable Rowbear Huffman in his quest to journey to New York City to lead the Yankee Stadium crowd in a rousing version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch of this season's All-Star game.
you may vote up to 25 times per e-mail address, and the deadline is June 30 (Rowbear is the handsome, sepia-toned fellow in the submission entitled "Katie Casey Harmonica.").
the top three of these nine semi-finalists wing their way north (assuming all three live south of the Big Apple - Rowbear certainly does) to slug it out towards a final singalong leader, so we've got a good chance here. and not only is 'bear deserving of all good things that come his way, selfishly I'd like to see him up here in my city of residence so please take the time to make your selection one, two or (preferably) twenty-five times.

and finally, one more piece of free reading for the end (or beginning) of the week (depending on how your calendar turns): a long Q and A with Blondie's Chris Stein at villagevoice.com. Blondie plays the Nokia Theatre tonight (and no, no one offered me tickets, but thanks for asking) before heading to all sorts of interesting European and Asian destinations. lots of Cormac McCarthy talk in this one.
sometimes you never know.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


the much anticipated Liz Phair piece made its Internet debut just before midnight on Tuesday.

in case your head's buried underneath an indie rock, the 15th anniversary re-issue of Phair's classic Exile in Guyville becomes available next Tuesday, June 24th.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

unlike, say, last Tuesday

it's an almost beautiful day in New York (well, for everyone except Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto (I assume the trio has flown back to town by now). I feel pretty sure Peterson can land another job as soon as he wants one. although belated, his exit still smarts with a tinge of "I didn't hire you so you're gone.").
the temp's in the upper 70s, it's just a little cloudy, and even the rather large, oddly-shaped grandmother in the perpetual housedress next door is out on her deck tending to any number of potted plants.

and Turner Classic is spending most of the East Coast daylight hours broadcasting Elvis Presley movies, though I have no idea why today might be significant (sure, it would've been Vernon and Gladys' 75th wedding anniversary and Viva Las Vegas opened on June 17, 1964, but since Turner isn't playing Viva Las Vegas I doubt that's the reason - maybe they're celebrating Sadie Kimbrough's birthday. (happy birthday Sadie!).
Jailhouse Rock's on now (not sure how I forgot that Disney regular Dean Jones was in this), followed by It Happened At The World's Fair (Vicky Tiu is adorable as Sue-Lin), Kissin' Cousins, Girl Happy and Spinout.
(notice the absence of my favorite Presley movie, King Creole)

Friday, June 13, 2008

more menomena pics

from the Brooklyn rooftop during the November 11th Possibly 4th Street session.

yeah, I've probably got the television on more than I should

not necessarily watching it but, you know, it's still distracting for anything other than straight transcribing.
but when there's a Marx Brothers movie on (Night in Casablanca started five minutes ago on Turner Classic (my God, Harpo looks old)), what choice do you have?

tickets for Bob Dylan's first ever headlining show in Brooklyn went on sale this morning at 10 and were gone before 10:05.
conversely, Emmylou Harris, who provided the integral backing vocals on Dylan's Desire album, is playing two shows at Town Hall next week, Wednesday and Thursday. and not only are tickets now selling two-for-one, but I was just able to pull Row K in the orchestra section. that's not even halfway full.
(I saw Ms. Harris picking up her tickets in the MSG lobby for Wednesday night's Plant/Krauss show)

two more things to read: a Possibly 4th Street episode with Menomena (I think the piece turned out pretty well, though we were a few hours late getting started that morning due to some Grand Army Plaza confusion as there are actually two Grand Army Plazas within the five boroughs - there’s, of course, the towering arch within the impressively wide traffic circle above Prospect Park in Brooklyn. and then there’s the other Grand Army Plaza, the decidedly lesser known square nestled between the Apple store and the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue, the permanent residence of a gold-leaf-wrapped statue of Civil War General (and burner of Atlanta) William Tecumseh Sherman) and my first album review in a quite a while - Jakob Dylan's Seeing Things - for Cleveland Scene.

(by the way, Harpo's not the only Marx Brother looking old in this one)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

at home, sweating, fighting paranoia

of course, having Donnie Darko on the television (courtesy of the Sundance Channel) probably doesn't help with the latter.

a big night, even for New York.

Death Cab for Cutie, The Breeders, Jakob Dylan and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

I think I might stay home.

it looks like the Liz Phair piece (an interesting one, I promise) may be finally finished (next week, my precious, next week) and I'm currently transcribing an interview with Blondie's Chris Stein (stuff you didn't know: he's a huge reader. Nabokov. Cormac. and throws the f-bomb more than I do).

recently published (as of this morning): a long Q and A with bassist Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend (they're playing Summerstage this Saturday (it's actually a big week: Plant/Krauss is a two-night thing. Isaac Hayes (free) on Thursday. Centro-matic and Sun Kil Moon on friday. Mission of Burma on Saturday and Sunday. and I'm probably forgetting some stuffs))

and if you're sitting there saying to yourself, 'Boy, I wish there was something I could do for this guy,' then try this:
longtime friend Rowbear Huffman, member of Club Wig and founding father of the much underrated Opus Dopus (from the pre-nyc, Tuscaloosa era), has entered a contest sponsored by Baby Ruth (yes, the candy bar maker). and it appears the grand prize is an opportunity to sing "take me out to the ballgame" right here in the big city. specifically the 7th inning stretch of the all-star game at Yankee Stadium.
and Bear's already made the list of top ten finalists (congrats Rowbear!).
all he needs now is more votes than the other nine contestants and he's winging his way northward (and the weather will probably have broken by then. and if not, it'll still likely be cooler than Alabama).
(go here - Rowbear is the sepiatone entry fourth from the left on the top row singing "Katie Casey Harmonica."_
you can vote up to 25 times per e-mail address, and I'd appreciate you doing so as Rowbear's not only talented (as you can see from the video), he's also what you might call "real good people," and deserving of all manner of fine things that come his way.

last concert I ever saw: the sadies

Big Apple BBQ Festival
Madison Square Park
New York, NY
June 8, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

non-occupational hazard

so yes, most days that you stay home, sleep late if you want, create your own schedule (within reason and due dates, of course), life is pretty damn sweet.

and then there are 90+ degree days in New York City.
without a/c.

sure, I'm from the South, and though any full-time living there is just about a decade and a half in the rearview mirrow, I think I've got enough 90+ days (months of 28 days out of 30), enough days of running 10+ miles in that kind of heat, that I like to think I've built up some kind of immunity.
and to an extent I have.

but the bad days in New York - usually no more than three to five days every summer - are a different animal indeed.
whether it's all the people or all the machinery underground or that kind of overwhelming claustrophobic sense, some days are really just short of unbearable.

solutions that help but really don't do the entire trick: lots of liquids (Mtn Dew and Gatorade in my case), multiple cold (well, cool, not cold, really - I just can't do cold) showers and, in really, really bad situations, multiple trips to the frozen foods section of the local grocer (you have never seen someone take so long to decide on ice cream).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I sing of movies glad and big

so I'm at home. most all day, most all days. and something's got to be on the television keeping me company (I can't always tell whether or not the French Open is tape-delayed or not. today they're showing Monfils-Federer (w/ Monfils winning), then next thing I know they're showing Federer-Gonzalez which was over yesterday).

so yesterday one of the HBO channels ran Money Train twice. and I like movies with a New York setting (New Orleans setting, too), though very little above ground spoke New York and I imagine most of the subway footage, particularly the wreck of the money train, was actually filmed here).
so I've got it on, to keep me company, and for the first time realize that Robert Blake is a convicted murderer, Wesley Snipes a convicted tax cheat. and I'm guessing that Woody Harrelson's been convicted of something.
I also, for the first time, realize that Chris Cooper is the extremely awful bad guy who goes around burning transit workers (like Jennifer Lopez) in their ticket booths.

today it's American Beauty. a better movie, of course, but particularly I'm reminded of Chris Cooper's role as the whacked-out former Marine next door (married to an under-utilized Allison Janney) and Atlanta native Alan Ball as screenwriter (just a couple years before Six Feet Under).
and boy, Wes Bentley kind of disappeared, eh? (no need to dwell on Peter Gallagher, but) isn't Thora Birch a great name?

recent (as in already this week) pubs: a long Q and A with Waco Brother and Mekons member Jon Langford and the much-awaited (well, rare at the very least as I don't believe he's given many, if any, other domestic interviews for print in '08) Robert Plant piece for the Voice.