Thank you Heidi for coming to AV Deck for a quick chat - 4ad recently release rr arggh (jo cannot get sentence out)
4ad have recently released
... a retrospective of your songs called Pomegranate , so how does that feel?
how does it feel? It was great, really flattering to be asked - it made me feel on the one hand very kind of established and on the other hand kind of elderly, kind of wow have I got to the point where people want to look back on what Ive done? and actually compiling all the songs for it was actually quite difficult thing to do on an emotional level, I don't know if you can imagine this scene, you get to a certain age and suddenly youre called upon to justify everything youve ever done in your whole life and of course the songs aren't in isolation - theyre all connected up emotionally with certain points in one life, so you have to look back and think was this worth doing and did I do this right? am I a complete jerk, am I heading to what I want to?
was it hard to get the balance of the songs
yeah, the hardest part was looking at the songs youre sitting down listening to them, letting them confront me and say here I am from your past you know, this voice from the past coming at me and really what I ended up doing in the end was picking the songs that I still like, the ones you listen to that you feel you enjoy still and it was all the ones that dont make me wince, basically!
Ivo was involved as well wasnt he?
Yeah, Ivo did an order and he shipped it up to me immediately and said I havent even listened to this, I know its the right order, blah blah blah and I listened to it and I thought it was all the really sad songs and I thought there were quite a few things he picked out like he decided to put North Shore Train on and I could go for that cause it was one of the first things Ivo would have heard of mine as my introduction to 4ad really and Mercury was another song Ivo picked which I wouldnt have picked, as Im a bit embarrassed about the morbid nature of the lyrics and I thought, well if Ivo can handle it then Ill go with this. Really the compilation is a mixture of his order and my order, my order was really irritatingly cheerful , I picked all the happy ones cause that was the mood I was in, so then I just combined the two.
so like, seeing the finished cd, were you happy with how its come out?
its beautiful! its really beautiful
going back to Creation, how did you get involved with all that?
I was involved with a circle of people who knew Alan McGee, well actually there were the Weather Prophets who were finishing recording an album and they finished a day early, and I got this phone call saying hey were in this big posh studio, do you wanna come in and make a demo? well in the face of that it was very difficult to say no Im not ready so and I went and did it and I said lets hold off with this demo, I want to wait and think what I want to do with it and the next thing I knew the engineer had been raving about it to McGee and he requested a copy of it and I didnt know about any of this until fairly late on, a copy was passed to him and I was in the middle of making dinner, and he said do you wanna make an album? and it was a great surprise
You ended up playing at the Doing it for the Kids gig, I think that was probably the first time I saw you live in 1987-88. How far into your Creation time was that? (oops I made it sound like a jail sentence!!)
I was doing my time at Creation... I guess theyd put out Below the Waves as one when in fact it is two, and really they should separate them because they actually bear no relationship to each other so it must have been after the second album as the first was 86 and the second one must have been 87
So the people you were playing with at the time - is it true you were made to play with the Creation in-house band?
no, I chose the people I wanted to work with. I took the step of.... well I annoyed Laurence from Felt, I think I had his blessing in the end - I asked to work with one of the members of Felt, it was Martin Duffy cause I really liked his keyboard playing and I knew Laurence wouldnt allow any of the band to work with anyone else so I guess it was a bit of a compliment that he ended up with me!
You ended up on 4ad, how did that happen?
Its a Felt connection, I don;t know if you remember, there was a bout of the last ever Felt gigs that went on for about a year and I was playing support for Lawrence and Ivo saw me perform, I remember seeing this guy, very tightly buttoned up, inappropriately warm coat sort of staring at me, it put me off so much I just closed my eyes and then I found out afterwards it was Ivo!
So what happened next?
Well I got a phone call from Ivo, he was so nice on the phone, he was so genuine so I thought it would be lovely to work with this man, he invited me to sing on Blood the last This Mortal Coil record, and I was very nervous about it , it was like well send me the tapes and Ill work on the songs - what happens if I come into the studio and you dont like it? and Ivos reply was really honest and just really genuine, and he said I suppose we look at each other, get embarrassed and call it a day! and I thought that was a such a normal human response that it impressed me
You ended up working with people like Terry Bickers, Martin McCarrick and Laurence O Keeffe, did that come about by them being bands you played with, how did you get involved? Terry bickers didnt work with that many people did he?
no, well Ive always got my antenna out for good musicians and Ive always worked with people Ive seen in action and Ive really enjoyed what they have done, so I remember Terry from the House of Love, which of course was another Creation band and we played the ICA together and I loved his playing and I remember I was having a conversation at a very boring party and terry just kneeled down and talked to me and just saved my life at this party and I think that's how it came about that I asked him to work with me... Martin McCarrick.. he was Ivos suggestion as I was looking for a cellist and Laurence o Keeffe, that was another Creation connection - he was working with the Jazz Butcher and I thought that guy is one hell of a bass player and I really really wanted to work with Laurence, and I got to be friends with him and I worked with him a lot
I noticed his name popped up a lot on the credits
Yeah I love working with him, hes really spontaneous being a musician and he did once... he can be an awkward bugger, he told me once he was gonna get a t-shirt made with caution, irritant made on it, I told him it was a good idea!
So, the track The Devil - a lot of people have been commenting on why it wasnt included on Pomegranate - was there a reason for this?
Yeah, when I was going through all of the songs I really wanted it to be a reflection of the songs that people will have heard before and The Devil was a little side trip, it was working with Brendan Perry
ooh I didnt know that
Yeah, he produced it and hes played on it as well - there's two guitarists, my brother and Brendan does some guitar on it. We were going to do Some Velvet Morning me and Brendan and there was this whole sort of trip - we went off to Ireland and went to Brendan's studio and did all these various songs, we did about 3 or 4, and The Devil was the only one that actually got finished, so it sort of felt like a side trip to the rest of the Heidi Berry story, so in a way, it would be nice to see The Devil come out in some way but I think it will be in another context.
So would you think of a rarities album, with B-sides and album tracks and Creation tracks?
Yeah, theres a lot of odd-bod stuff. I was going through my archive the other day for wont of a better word, and theres a lot of rarities, weird stuff, for one reason or another just didnt fit in an album context and may have come out in very limited edition singles and stuff,. but yeah, one day....
In the Pomegranate sleeve notes it also said youve been producing music for some BBC documentaries, is that music ever going to be made available?
Well, the thing is, the music is very very interesting - I was working, co-writing with this composer Andy C(?????) who was a very exact and demanding person to work with - in a good way, in a really good way - I learned a hell of a lot working with Andy - he would have me, well he doesnt tune any of his keyboards his instruments, theyre all just whatever there was no standard tuning he doesnt like to perform with complete tracks so Id start singing something and hed say oh my god you cant do it like that, youre syncopating it and Id be thinking how can I be syncopating when theres NO BEAT! it was very interesting but we ended up with those because it was those BBC2 things, Naked and something called Generations they were all very very short little pieces - as short as they had to be to fit into the little bits of films, so what Id like to do is expand on those at some point and actually just elongate the ideas and it would be fantastic to put them out
Youve been compared to a lot of people, from Sandy Denny to the Velvet Underground - youre thought of pretty highly - how does this make you feel?
Well there's two things youve just said - no three things - I mean, Sandy Denny - WOW!
Velvet Underground - wow Im impressed that people would say that and then the third thing, if Im thought highly of wow! I dont know what to say, its very very flattering! But I also think that in terms of influences I feel that Ive been doing it long enough that I dont need to be compared to anybody... surely if somebody says Heidi Berry, or even just listens to a record of mine even if theyve never heard of me, surely it has its own thing by now?
Youre making music that goes against all the commercial trends and thats good, cause youre writing for yourself and not how anyone else would have done - would you have liked to release more singles?
On one hand yeah, but on the other Id have liked it to have been some weird shit thing that breaks all the conventions like a Laurie Anderson O Superman you know, Id like something really really leftfield. We did try and make one of the songs on Miracle a single - this was Ivo, he was basically trying to help me with my career but what happened was that we went back and forth into studios, mixing and redoing, and it was just sounding trashier and trashier and in the end I just said Ivo, I cant.... and I couldnt even finish my sentence and he said come on Heidi, whats going on here? I said I just feel... dirty? he said yeah! and basically that was the feeling, that Id love to release a single, but Im probably such an old git that Id only wanna do it on my terms
Youve covered Kristin Hershs Your Ghost live
God yeah, live, Id hate Kristin to be in the audience, Id be terrified in case she hated it
It sounded really really good though, especially with the extra vocals - Ive only ever heard Kristin sing it solo, its nice to hear it with a bit of depth to it! What made you choose to cover it?
its just such a bloody brilliant song, the imagery in it is .... I have no idea if I I have the same take on it as Kristin, the thoughts going through her mind when she wrote it - I just got this image of sitting in front of an open fire place, in your nightgown, thinking should you or should you not phone this person from your past... its just like... god Ive done that! Ive done it! and the idea of being haunted by someone who is still living is an extraordinary idea, so.... it had resonance for me so that's why I wanted to do it. Anybody else.. Yeah, I started to play live this Chip Taylor song Angel of the Morning I was thinking of doing that, but theres some rap record and theyve stolen the melody, so I thought I cant do that! But its a fantastic fantastic song!
Of course theres the Bob Mould song you do as well
oh Up In The Air - I havent done that for years! Its a great song. Words. If someone has got really good words, if they say something in a way I never could, which is pretty frequent then you just think yes! you put it so well and Id love to put myself into that song and become that song for a while
So what do you think of the Hope Blister version of Only Human?
It was good! really good! I really liked it - its funny hearing your words come out of someone else's mouth but I was gobsmacked, completely flattered
Did you know about it before it happened?
yeah, because I got a phone call, saying can we have the lyrics and then I got another phone call can we change the lyrics just a few prepositions to make it more personal to the singer but sure, I take liberties with other peoples songs so I think that in order to sing a song sometimes you have to change it a little bit. You know the two versions of Respect, there's the Otis Redding version and then there's the Aretha Franklin version, and all she does is change a few little words and suddenly... you know, his song is about a victim you know, hey Im a victim,please give me a little bit of respect spend all my money run thorough our bank account, bring lots of guys home when Im not home, but please give me a little respect but Arethas is a command, its wonderful - I think you have to do that with some.
So the current band youre playing with at the moment, can you tell us more about them? How long youve been playing with them... I know theres your brother
Yeah, I wasnt gonna work with Chris for a long time, you know not falling out or anything like that, it just kind of seemed like time for Chris to do his thing and me to do my thing separately and I was working with Patrick Fitzgerald from Kitchens of Distinction and we were doing this project the Lost Girls, as he put it because after all Heidi, thats what we are little lost girls and it was just the two of us, then we started playing live and we introduced a guitarist Ashley Wood and worked with my old friend, drummer Dave Morgan and a bass played Kim Smith so there were five of us playing live as the Lost Girls, like the Lost Girls the Lost Album - one day it will come out!
So theres an album recorded?
Yeah! It was good - very good! It was very electric and I had all my distortion pedals going on and lots of very loud guitar and it was fun! and we covered Anarchy in the UK and other things like that, which was good fun live, so thats where Ashley comes from. Im working with Ashley at the moment hes a wonderful guitarist and singer as well, we have fun with the harmonies, and then my friend Jill who Ive done a lot of work with, shes a violinist, she has a quartet who have been developing their band for a couple of year,s and theyre such a good quartet - the strings are just lovely - so I did all the strings for the concert we did the other week.. month?
it did sound amazing - it complemented the songs so well
The nice thing about strings is that theyre like very much like voices. So I had this idea that the next thing I wanted to do would be about voices and I just thought nah cause sometimes if I write a song I just get trapped in one melodic band and everything else is sort of stacked around me and I have to stick there and I like to kind of be able to move around so to have the strings doing what the vocals will do and holding that down is really good. and last of all I got my brother in, and I thought lets do something for old times sake but what Id like to see me doing is a band thats not at all conventional - having very strong electric guitar mixed with a string quartet. It sounds pretty damn cool to me
Theres all the other projects you were involved with - you just mentioned the Lost Girls, what about Aeroplane? How did you come about doing these?
Aeroplane I was asked, I was invited to write this little dancey thing - it kinda works but I think my part works less than the others but it was an experiment and it was fun!
So you don't have a label at the moment? so what do you plan to do, are you gonna start your own label?
no I dont have a label at the moment to pick up my stuff.. what Im gonna do is just write - Ive given myself until the end of July to write and arrange all of the parts to the songs, Ive got an albums worth of new stuff which is very dark and peculiar
did you play a new song at the last gig?
yeah, I played lots of new songs and Im not sure, what Im gonna do is just get it all demoed. the nice thing about doing it in the current line up is its really pretty easy to do a simple demo because the strings actually work as a unit so we can mic them up separately but record it all at once so all of this ridiculous studio time wont be an issue. but yeah, just demo everything and if I have to put it out myself I will do and hopefully its gonna be so damned amazing that people are gonna be clamouring to get hold of it
hopefully yeah, the songs played live sounded great!
Youre originally from Boston, how did you end up in London?
Boring story - I ended up in London because my mum married an englishman and he hadnt been back to England for a very long time, so the whole family moved to London, so Ive lived in London longer than a lot of people who are native English people!
Im not gonna say! A loooong time! Long enough to see London change
In what way? in a good or bad way?
I think its become less particular, it used to have a personality which was very much its own and now elements of other cities have crept in, its a lot more like New York these days.
I know what you mean, I took friends from Glasgow walking around Westminster, where some of the really old houses are, air raid shelters... it has so much character, unlike the centre which is full of ads....
when I first moved to London, you go into a pub and there would be sawdust on the floor and there would be - I aint that old! - there would be a piano in the corner and people could play it! Ordinary people could walk into the pub and play the piano! Nobody knows how to bloody play instruments any more, except people who want to be musicians, and I thought it was a really nice thing that people could play and sing. Nowadays pubs are bars and hideous bouncers on the door, I think those people should be re-trained. Most of them are so rude and so nasty, and thats a shame
and of course theres blaring out jukeboxes, the latest one being like the internet... you can select the tracks you want, the machine downloads it overnight and you get to hear it the next day!!
It guarantees you have to go to the pub twice! I dont mind that, I like loud music , I like noise and I like people having a good time, but I dunno... I think London has lost something since the 70s - definitely.
The very last song on Pomegranate is Needles Eye and on the sleevenotes you say that North Shore Train was the start of your journey to 4ad and this was the end, and then it finishes with the most amazing howl ... is that you paving the way forward to what youre gonna do now?
It was called Howl to begin with but I changed it. It was one of those things where I had to write it almost as a sort of healing thing you know, kind of cathartic, which makes me sound like a pretentious idiot, but thats what it was all about and it was all about feeling disturbed and rootless because Id felt really happy with 4ad and it was thinking about what's important in my life and who am I actually and all the terrible sort of fear that comes in - youre moving on one path until the rug is pulled out from under your feet and you think waah! what am I doing! so yeah, that song was really good for me and Im gonna carry that with me... its not indicative of what Im gonna do but it clears the way for a lot of new thought from me.
Thanks for chatting Heidi and hopefully see you live again soon!
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Special thanks for help with the questions for this interview go to Pete Clark, Nic Vayle, Rikki, William Alberque and Jeff Keibel