Kristin Hersh

Hello and welcome to AVdeck, the Beggars Group Internet radio station. Today I am joined by one of 4AD's longest standing artists, Kristin Hersh.

Kristin, welcome to the AVdeck studio

Kristin - Thank you

How are you? What have you been up to recently?

Kristin - Well I was travelling around Europe doing press.

What was your most memorable experience from the last few days?

Kristin - I was on the air in Italy speaking with a lovely man and then something flew out of his head across the room in the middle of the interview, it turned out to be his teeth, which he explained on the air so I felt kind of bad for him, he was blushing.
I couldn't have imagined what had flown out of his head. So he spent the rest of the interview jamming his fist in his mouth trying to get them back in.

You've just played a gig at the Underworld in London, how was it?

Kristin - It was great it was about 2 hours long I found out later but I didn't feel it. Everybody else was standing and I was sitting in a chair so it didn't hurt me too bad.

Was it busy?

Kristin - It was lovely, it was packed and sweaty and that's how I like it.

What was the audience like, were they receptive? Warm and friendly?

Kristin - They were angel people, I mean they act like I'm a dinosaur on the one hand but I’m only 34, I haven't been around THAT long. But they knew all the words to all the songs even the new ones, I'm not sure how they managed that giving that the record isn't even released.

I think it was obvious from your gig that you and Throwing Muses have an extremely loyal fan base - people will travel thousands of miles to see you, and you also have the fantastic Throwing Music web site, which is very interactive and has a very loyal community.
Back in May last year there was an event called the Gut Pageant. Can you explain to our listeners what this was and how it came about?

Kristin - My band was on tour I think for the last time probably, we realised that we could not afford to make records or tour any longer and so we did a tour where we just took requests, for about 3 hours we sat on stage so that we will have played every song anybody ever wanted to hear from us before we died.
And in some hotel room we were watching a cowboy movie where a woman named Belle, had her club and her show and the cowboys would come to her club to see her show and she got to go home every night. We pointed at the TV and said that's what we want, and so our manager started to work on it then trying to bring about a situation where the band could be out of work long enough to rehearse for a week and then have all our fans come to us in one city and unfortunately because of cost it always has to be in America.
But we've done it a few times now and people fly in from New Zealand, from Sweden, they hitch hike from Canada. It's lovely and we feed them and stuff and we sign things.
I do an acoustic set and then the band plays and we had all the incarnations of the band play.
It was really nice, the only sad part is that every time you look at your set list the songs get older and older there's never a new song to play, it makes you feel dead for lack of a better word, like you're a ghost of your former band, but it's nice to play Belle for a while.

How did you feel after the initial gig? Was it strange to play Throwing Muses songs again with the band you'd spent most of your life playing with?

Kristin - That's just it it wasn't strange at all, I couldn't even be as excited as I wanted to be because it just felt like home, like here I am back at work with my friends, doing what I should be doing and then that was it, when it was over, it was really over.

When do you think you'll do any more of these events?

Kristin - We have one scheduled for May, tentatively in San Francisco, we’re still making that up so it might not be the case.

Do you think you'll ever do any in Europe?

Kristin - It would be great but if we did it would probably be here in London, it's just a matter of flying people over and putting them up and the reason we're not a band is because we have no money. We need a sugar daddy or some of us to win the lottery.

For your new album ‘Sunny Border Blue’‚ you produced, wrote and played all the instruments for all the tracks except ’Trouble’‚ which is pretty impressive. Was it a conscious decision to do everything yourself?

Kristin - It was conscious, it was just not necessarily what I would have chosen and again it's a financial thing. If I had anyone play on it it would be my own band, I can't do that, I'm a little bit too shy to work with a bunch of session people and then again if you brought somebody in and their instrument wasn't quite right and you tell them the part you wanted them to play and they didn't play it quite right and you pay them money you don't really have it just seems silly. So it's easier for me to listen back to whatever the basic track is for me whether it's a bass part or drum part or guitar part or a vocal and just run back in play something else on top, run into the control room and say it's not right I'm going to do it again. It's just faster and easier and I maintain an incredible amount of focus which, it sounds like a good thing but it borders on obsession.
Other people might lighten that burden and make me less obsessive about it which I may be able to do in the future but for this record it worked.

Did you find it a challenge to do everything yourself?

Kristin - It was really fun, it’s not rocket science, my parts aren’t drummers parts or bassists parts, apparently I play everything like a guitarist, but that made it easier to mix the band elements down and focus on the acoustic guitar and vocal, because I have to tour solo acoustic I don’t want to be missing the band sounds.
If I was really in love with the bands sounds I would never have turned them down and I would have toured it feeling pathetic

Most of the songs on your new album are about painful past experiences and some of your lyrics are quite striking and very hard hitting, for example the line “How’d I trust a band who’d leave me one by one” from the track ‘Listerine’ is a reference to Throwing Muses.
Was this album a way of leaving the past behind you, of getting out all the bad feelings and problems you've felt previously?

Kristin - It got out a lot of bad feelings, I don't think those are pasts that I can leave behind and that's why they came up. I thought I had, I thought I was done, I'm a very nice happy person, I'm not hard to live with or moody and that's because I put all of that garbage into songs and songs don't judge experience as negative or positive they just play it back to you and they make it big and I can take big when it's in music. I can't really take it in my life when it relates to those harsh experiences that are my tragedies and the three things that came up in this record, the loss of my son, the loss of my band and trouble in my marriage are not things I'm ever going to get over, they're on going tragedies and the songs have a right to bring them up if they want. I don't think I would have decided to talk about them because I don't like talking about feelings, but the songs take my stories and they mix them up with dreams and images and they make their own point and pretty soon my life experiences that lead to the songs will fall away and only the song will be left and that's what I share with other people. So it's kind of something that happens between me and the listener, it's no longer self expression so the tragedies are not something that I'll be reliving every night.

What were the reactions from people like David Narcizo?

Kristin - I did have to deal with personal fall out, but people are so nice. I thought that maybe people would, like my band members or my husband, would just kind of hit me, which I deserved. But their reaction was more like “are you ok? because you should be and nothing horrible has gone down.” I mean even my son is here and alive, he's 15 and a great person so the sense of loss I have is nothing irreparable.

It's a well known fact you bring your family with you on all your promo tours and on the road. Your children have been brought up in a very musical environment. Do any of them have aspirations to become musicians or rock stars like their mum?

Kristin - The little ones talk about it, but I think a lot of little kids do and for them it's also kind of this given, like they don't know that people can do other things. Their uncles are my band members and their aunt is my sister Tanya who's a musician and all the adults they know have records out. I'm not sure they know you're allowed to do anything else. But even my 15 year old, who I figured would be the most likely to rebel and become a business man, my baby handed me the bass the other day and asked me to play the bass line to ‘Hey Bulldog’ the Beatles song. My 15 years old grabbed the bass and just kind of went bm bm bm bm bm. It was like when did you learn to play bass and when were you going to tell me and he just kind of shrugged it off so, maybe that's something that happens behind your back even when you are in the music business. Maybe he'll start a band and he's not going to talk to me about it. Never come to our shows please.

Out of all the songs you have written, is there one that you're most proud of? One that you look back on and say “yeah! I wrote that!”

Kristin - Well they're more like kids, you never know really what they're going to do next. They seem to go on and have lives of their own and they become other peoples soundtracks and somebody will tell me something that the song did for them or I'll play it again and learn something else from it, they don't end, unless they suck, I've written sucky songs that have stopped immediately but there are songs that just go on and on. They're like people they walk into the room and you don't limit them to their past experiences they're there with more potential that you could learn from.
Sorry it's a long lame answer of saying no. But I'm always most excited about the next one and hoping it's going to be perfect, hoping I can achieve the depth that usually comes with complexity in a simple way. I would really like a song to be simple enough for anyone to get it, to just thump you in the chest no matter who you are, with depth, and it hasn't happened yet.

The Underworld gig was actually sold out a good month before it happened, obviously many more people would love to see you, will you be doing a full “Sunny Border Blue” tour?

Kristin - Yeah, I tour non stop so you'll be sick of me by the time I'm ready to make another record but we should be here in April or May I think.

Kristin thanks for taking the time to come and chat with us,

Kristin - Thank you.

Good luck with the album, we hope to see you again in April.

Kristin - Great.