18 December 2020
Suppose somebody asks me to write KRISTIN HERSH‘s curriculum vitae (nobody
will ask me, but I like the idea, so I’m doing it anyway) it would read like this…
Daughter of unconventional hippies. Independent teenager. Former bipolar disorder sufferer. Founder (along with her stepsister Tanya Donelly) of legendary Rhode Island guitar pop/rock band Throwing Muses, 30 years ago. Anti-rock star.
Compelling wordsmith. Emotive tunesmith. Mesmeric voice. Open-hearted writer. Intriguing poet. Natural born mother. Positive, realistic thinker. Sonic dreamer. Social personality. Owner of magnificent eyes. A rat girl that still doesn’t want to grow up. Author of one of the best records with Sun Racket and of one of the best singles with Dark Blue this year. Two comforting highlights in this science-fiction-like 2020…
Hello Kristin, so thrilled
you want to do this…
What or who made you decide to call the new arresting and
highly acclaimed THROWING MUSES album SUN RACKET?
“Titling records is obviously an artificial aesthetic move, based loosely around the
idea that we press lp’s with 6 songs per side and then sell them to teenagers, as if
we went back in time to the ’60s. So I tend to draw a blank unless a title shouts itself
out at some point in the recording process.
This one was shouted out by my drummer, across the mixing desk, as the song,
Bo Diddley Bridge played loudly through the speakers: “WHAT ARE YOU SAYING IN
THE SECOND VERSE? IS IT A GOOD RECORD TITLE?” And what I was saying was, of
course, “sun racket.”
Does the record’s cover sleeve reflects in, any way, the LP’s title?
“I took the cover photo here in California while my son was surfing down the street.
I loved the crappiness and the beauty. Kind of what I love about my bands: crappiness
and beauty. We never wanted to be rock stars; in fact, we don’t want to be looked at at
all. We just love music and we love each other. I lucked out when I found musicians like me, all about crappiness and beauty. The opposite of show-offs.”
The rockin’ tracks on the record sound garage-esque and pretty rough. A different resonance from anything else before. Is something wrong with my ears?
“There were two sonic vocabularies on this record, which were completely opposed. One distorted and hypnotic, recorded in New England; the other fragile and detailed, recorded in LA. Rather than try to blend heavy and light, I just let them contrast each other, which makes them both seem more extreme. And yeah, that makes you feel like there’s something wrong with your ears!”
On closing track SUE’S there’s a brilliant line “The devil has no soul / doesn’t
love who he fucks”. Is the devil you sing about a real person?
“I think we all embody devils when we let hate play out in our lives.
Empathy, even with darkness, is a better quality to move toward.”
I can’t think of any other album that came out with a visual film featuring haunting visual accompaniments to the songs. Who came up with the inventive idea and how did its film-noir content develop?
“My son Ryder shot footage in the studio and a filmmaker used on-location landscapes to create these films. Very textured and moody, which serves Sun Racket’s buoyancy. We’re all shy, private musicians who don’t want to interfere with songs, so a visual mood piece will reflect that ethos better than a “rock video.”
The full album in visuals right here
The album was recorded with the same band as the one you worked with for
about 30 years now. That’s longer than most marriages last. What’s the secret?
“I love and trust Dave and Bernie to the point where I want to live up to their expectations, so I ask even more of myself than I demand when I work alone. We have FUN, which is a dirty word in this industry devoted to its dumbing down and then calling that dumb “fun.” Real fun is insightful and smart, just like my bandmates.”
Is Kristin Hersh the same person as 30 years ago,
if not, in what way did she changed?
“I wrote a book based on my teenage diary that was reviewed well, based on my ability to “capture a teenager’s voice.” Then these journalists interviewed me and realized that I didn’t “capture” anything; I just never grew up…”
What did you feel the very moment the fall of Trump was announced, Kristin?
“Relief. The slipping into hate my country was doing was evidence of the devils in “Sue’s.” We don’t have time for division.”
Suppose you were asked to rewrite and put new music to the National USA Anthem. No restrictions whatsoever. What would be the outcome, in sound and vision?
“I think a quiet, humble instrumental would serve America well. My poor country is mired in its entertainment industry, which could be an unpretentious fairy tale, but we need to shake off money, status, fame and fear in order to embrace that in a healthy way. “Stars” of all kinds are evidence of the bought-and-paid-for spotlight that convinces people that their attention is not reflective of their own idiosyncrasies. All we have is our perception; to give away that power to people with marketing money erases our culture and ourselves.”
Many artists came up with covers of their favorite songs in these surreal,
lockdown times. Which song would you pick to cover, Kristin?
“I’m not usually moved to cover songs because I write too many! And because if I love a song, I want to listen to it, not get in the way. But people make me cover songs, anyway, mostly for charity. I never say no to charity or a benefit. I’ve covered Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” and Nick Drake’s “Fly.” Apparently 50 Foot Wave covered “Somebody to Love,” because my drummer just sent it to me, but neither of us have any memory of doing this.”
Social media: a blessing or a pain in the ass?
“I loved Twitter at first, when it was like passing notes to crack each other up. Now, of course, it’s been taken over by noisy people who love to hate. I’m just careful to only say what I mean and only listen to those who mean what they say. I won’t abandon ship until all the quiet, thoughtful people have done so. Right now, we need each other too much to give up.”
What is the best track and album you heard in 2020?
I read somewhere that you will write a book ‘about raising kids on the road while touring’. As a parent myself, I’m really curious. Can you tell us more about the project, Kristin?
“My publishing company asked for a book about raising kids on a bus, which SOUNDS interesting until you think, “Well, I’ve seen kids and I’ve seen buses…” You know, not exactly the action-packed adventure they were imagining. But with 4 sons, this book spans 30 years, and when you have that much time to work with, you can edit out all the boring stuff. So it DID turn out to be pretty exciting after all.
I just finished the copy edit and cover, so it’s not mine anymore. A tough book to let go
of, as my youngest son turned 18 yesterday. I really have to face letting them go now. It’s sooooo hard. My sons are my heroes and I’ve had a child on my hip since *I* was a child. Maybe I’ll finally have to grow up.”
What and/or who, made you laugh crazily, and what and/or
who made you cry your eyes out the past 12 months?
“I don’t have anyone in my inner circle — friends, children, lovers and bandmates —
who haven’t done both. Sounds kind of intense putting it that way, but I only cry FOR
them, not because of them. I lucked out here on earth. I’m not safe in any way — physically, financially, artistically or emotionally — but your own raw life is the only art,
the only success, the real high. ”
Thank you very much for this interview, Kristin.
May the road rise with you, your family, your music
and your band in 2021
For the Rat Girl…
(photo on top: via Shameless Promotion PR)