Q&A With PJ Harvey

pjharvey350

A Woman A Man Walked By may be the first collaboration credited to PJ Harvey & John Parish in more than a decade—the pair issued Dance Hall At Louse Point in 1996—but it’s hardly an occasional partnership. Parish and Harvey began working together in Somerset, England, band Automatic Dlamini in the late ’80s, when the latter was 18 years old; Parish continued to work with Harvey on several of her solo albums as a producer and multi-instrumentalist. Their close musical relationship comes to full fruition on A Woman A Man Walked By (released last month on Island), a wide-ranging album that matches Parish’s music with Harvey’s lyrics and vocals, with assistance from bassist Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart, Frank Black), drummer Carla Azar (Autolux) and Italian guitarist Giovanni Ferrario. MAGNET spoke to Parish and Harvey (read yesterday’s interview with him) about their long-distance collaboration, the process behind the album and a curious mermaid suit.

“A Woman A Man Walked By/The Crow Knows Where All The Little Children Go”:

MAGNET: You and John have been collaborating for 20 years. What keeps you two coming back to each other? It’s an unusual partnership that can last 20 years and still be fresh, relevant and functional.
Harvey: It is an unusual partnership, and the relationship we have is very rare, I realize that more and more as I get older. That’s why we keep coming back to each other; it’s a special working relationship but also friendship as well. John’s always been, from the first time I met him, someone I respected enormously, and his judgment, I think, is very keen. I trust him implicitly. He has extraordinarily good ear for judging what’s good and bad with music. I value his opinion and judgments just on the stuff of life, reallyhe’s a remarkable human being and I realize that more as I get older. But throughout our friendship, even if I’m not working with him on a particular project, he’s always one of the first people I’ll send my new songs to in order to get feedback and to help me gauge what’s good and what isn’t. John, Flood and Mick Harvey—those are my three people I’ll send songs to before anybody else because I know them so well and they know me so well, we have this relationship where they can be completely, honestly critical of my work and I can return that and it’s all done in the right spirit, if you know what I mean.

If it makes you feel even better, he uses almost exactly the same words to describe how he feels about working with you. He said, “It’s a delicate thing to deliver really honest feedback to somebody without damaging their confidence”—there’s a balance to how it’s done. He told me a funny story about touring with youthat on the To Bring You My Love tour you went on one night in a mermaid’s costume, and it freaked him out, and he told you backstage afterward it freaked him out. And …
And I never wore it again. [Laughs] That’s true … my extravagant creation that had been made months beforehand. Well, we had a good laugh about it, and I never wore it again. On a more serious note, very often I might send John demos of my own new songs, and there may be songs that he doesn’t think are good. And it doesn’t mean I’ll always go with thathe’s usually right, unfortunatelybut I might go ahead and record it anyway, because it’s something that I just need to do. And he’ll do the same; work that he might feel he believes in and has to do, so we can also critique each other’s work but then ignore it, take it on board but then carry on the way we were going anyway. We’ve both done that in the past, too. That’s another important part of this equation; we’re not at each other’s beck and call. We value each other enormously and take each other’s opinion on board as we go.

Continue reading “Q&A With PJ Harvey”

Wrens Watch, April 13, 2009

wrenswatch9211111We’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Phil Fondacaro.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—three months ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here). When we checked in with Bissell seven weeks ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pagesA month ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. Three weeks ago, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who two weeks ago apologized (profanely) and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for last week. After not delivering, he said he’d come through this week. Guess not. We’re starting to take this personally.

Lost Classics: The Geraldine Fibbers “Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

:: THE GERALDINE FIBBERS
Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home // Virgin, 1995

geraldinefibbers360 In mid-’90s Los Angeles, there was hardly a more punk-rock thing to do than sprinkle some country influences into your sound. Bands such as Mary’s Danish and X flirted with it, but the Geraldine Fibbers embraced it, pushed it into the gutter and gave it a night to remember. Led by the husky vocals of Carla Bozulich, the Fibbers’ warped alt-country twang haunted the City of Angels like ghosts of California country’s past, full of grinding violin and poisoned tales of junkies, madness and lost innocence. It wasn’t quite what Gram Parsons had in mind, but that was the point.

Catching Up: After enlisting guitarist Nels Cline for 1997’s more rock-oriented follow-up Butch, the Fibbers folded. Bozulich has continued to collaborate with Cline (now a member of Wilco) while pursuing a solo career.

“Dragon Lady”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/DragonLady.mp3

Grand Duchy Cultural Position #11: Carbon/Silicon

grandlogo150c2120bcGrand Duchy is the latest venture from Charles Thompson (a.k.a Frank Black, a.k.a. Black Francis). It’s a duo with his wife Violet Clark that explores relatively off-road terrain for Thompson: high-gloss new wave and vampish synth pop. Grand Duchy’s playful and slightly Euro-affected debut album, Petits Four, is out April 14 on Cooking Vinyl. Thompson and Clark are guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week. Read our Q&A with them.

carbon540b

We present to you a playful, genre-bending musical duo, much like ourselves, who are very, very dear to our hearts. Much like ourselves! Carbon/Silicon is Mick Jones (from the legendary Clash and Big Audio Dynamite) and Tony James (from Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik). I know—incredible, right? Violet has long admired the realism of Jones’ vocal stylings. You can tell when he’s jumping up and down or tapping his foot while singing. The way it joggles his voice, it’s so visceral. James majored in math and computing in college. A confindent bassist (he created the “space bass” sound in Sigue Sigue), James has dallied on the fringes of pop punk for a few decades now.

What make these heroes heroic is that, for all their combined age and experience, the music and the methods of creation are neither jaded nor humorless, nor rooted in past glories. The premise of this band is to embrace, rather than fight, the eminence of the Internet, which is in direct contradiction to the fear and denial of the record labels, who still think they’re fighting the good fight against illegal downloading. Carbon/Silicon make rock music, but they’re making it on their laptops; they release many of their projects as digital-download only; they engage in file sharing; they sample. And their stance on illegal downloading? You can get it all for free from their website! Jones and James aren’t in it for the money.

Carbon/Silicon lyrics often have political overtones, I can’t lie. It’s clear that Jones is disillusioned and feels politically disenfranchised at times, but he expresses these feelings in ways that are both though-provoking and drenched in wit. And the massively catchy “The News” from 2007’s The Last Post exudes a surprisingly youthful air of utopian idealism. What Carbon/Silicon song are Grand Duchy listening to right now? An epic eight-minute, 45-second song based on the science-fiction novel Snow Crash entitled “Buckethead.”

P.S. Black Franics has been a huge Mick Jones fan for years and would be thrilled to have him—or the full Carbon/Silcon duo—produce a Grand Duchy record.

“Buckethead” (download):

MP3 At 3PM: John Vanderslice

johnvandeslice370It’s entirely possible that “Fetal Horses” is John Vanderslice‘s answer to the Stones’ “Wild Horses.” The track from Vanderslice’s forthcoming album Romanian Names (Dead Oceans, due May 19) makes it clear he’s the anti-Mick. Instead of refusing to be dragged away from love, he’s galloping in circles trying not to get involved. Vanderslice, who operates the famously all-analog studio Tiny Telephone in San Francisco (host over the years to Spoon, Death Cab and Beulah—holler at us, Miles Kurosky, because you are missed—and others), just finished a tour with the Mountain Goats and will hit the road again in May. Follow him following Shaq on his Twitter page.

“Fetal Horses” (download):

In The News: Beck, Conor Oberst, Flipper, Son Volt, Matthew Sweet/Susanna Hoffs And Free MP3s

sweet_hoffs550On April 14, Beck revives his One Foot In The Grave, the indie follow-up to 1994 major-label debut Mellow Gold, with a deluxe reissue. It includes 13 previously unreleased tracks from the original LP’s sessions as well as three additional songs from an out-of-print seven-inch … As we told you before, Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band are set to release Outer South next month on Merge. Starting Wednesday, One Of My Kind, a documentary about the band, will be available as a free stream or download via a handful of websites, including Oberst’s and Merge’s. Download “Nikorette” … Legendary punks Flipper, the self-proclaimed “band that simply refuses to die,” is releasing two new records May 19 on MVD Entertainment: a studio effort called Love and a live disc titled Fight. Fun Flipper Fact: Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic had been playing with the band since 2006 but recently gave notice that he was leaving … Alt-country pioneers Son Volt (well, founder Jay Farrar and some other guys) return with the atypically named American Central Dust (Rounder) July 7. Expect sounds ranging from rootsy to twangy … Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (pictured) had such a good time with their first covers record, 2006’s Under The Covers, they decided to reconvene for Under The Covers Vol. 2 (Shout! Factory), out July 21. We’ll leave it up to you whether you really need to hear their versions of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth,” Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and Yes’ “I’ve Seen All Good People” … Unless you’ve been living under an indie rock, you surely know April 18 is Record Story Day and bands galore are celebrating with special release. Two more: Black Kids’ limited-edition 10-inch vinyl of demos for the 2007 Wizard Of Ahhhs EP and the Dandy WarholsEarth To The Remix E.P. Volume Two, which, as the title implies, features four more remixes of tunes from last year’s Earth To The Dandy Warhols. A digital version of the Dandys’ effort will be available April 21. Download “The Monster Mish”Damon And Naomi, Saint Etienne, Laurie Anderson, Jarboe and others are featured on a Scott Walker tribute LP, out next month on Lakeshore Records. The CD accompanies 30th Century Man, a Walker documentary directed by Stephen Kijak … Civilized (Bloated Wife), the third album from the preciously monikered stellastarr*, is set for July 7. The first single, “Graffiti Eyes,” will be available on iTunes April 20 and featured on Gossip Girl that night. Set your DVRs if you must. Download “Sweet Troubled Soul (James Iha Mix)” … And continuing a tradition of defiling hallowed baseball venues with mediocre, cash-grab concerts—like Dave Matthews and Jimmy Buffett gigs at Wrigley Field or, worse, the upcoming Billy Joel/Elton John and Rascal Flatts shows at the Friendly Confines—iconic jam band Phish invades Fenway Park May 31. To be fair, Bruce Springsteen played Fenway once, and the Police played Wrigley last summer. But why can’t we just let these shrines to the national pastime serve their original purpose?

John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/GimmeSomeTruth.mp3

Q&A With John Parish

johnparish330A Woman A Man Walked By may be the first collaboration credited to PJ Harvey & John Parish in more than a decade—the pair issued Dance Hall At Louse Point in 1996—but it’s hardly an occasional partnership. Parish and Harvey began working together in Somerset, England, band Automatic Dlamini in the late ’80s, when the latter was 18 years old; Parish continued to work with Harvey on several of her solo albums as a producer and multi-instrumentalist. Their close musical relationship comes to full fruition on A Woman A Man Walked By (released last month on Island), a wide-ranging album that matches Parish’s music with Harvey’s lyrics and vocals, with assistance from bassist Eric Drew Feldman (Captain Beefheart, Frank Black), drummer Carla Azar (Autolux) and Italian guitarist Giovanni Ferrario. MAGNET spoke to Parish and Harvey (check in tomorrow for her interview) about their long-distance collaboration, the process behind the album and a curious mermaid suit.

“Black Hearted Love”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/BlackHeartedLove.mp3

MAGNET: I wanted to get your take on the album title, A Woman A Man Walked By. Seems like the perfect description: a man and woman did walk by, they made an album, then they went their separate ways, as they usually do. Fair statement or kind of a banal one?
Parish: [Laughs] It’s a fair interpretation, but I never considered it like that. The title’s actually inspired by a Don Van Vliet painting: A Woman A Dog Walked By, which made me laugh. Calling it A Woman A Man Walked By gives it several other interpretations. I think both Polly and I were surprised by how long it had actually been since our last official collaboration, Dance Hall At Louse Point. Because we consider that pretty much everything we do musically is a collaboration to some degree. Even if we’re not officially working on records together, we’re sending each other the demos we’re working on. We use each other as touchstones constantly. So it doesn’t feel as if it’s been a 12-year gap between records. It’s only when you look at it on paper where you realize, “This is how it appears to people.”

Given that you two do have this constant collaboration going on, visible or not, how did this process different from Louse Point but even To Bring You My Love and White Chalk, which were collaborations to some degree?
There’s a noticeable difference when we’re working together as co-writers on a project versus when I’m involved as a producer. Simply in the same way that it’s different to producing an album for someone else as it is to writing my own music and records. Obviously it’s easier to have a degree of objectivity as a producer, and it’s not my material I’m thinking about. It’s a different thing. As co-writers, we use each other as co-producers as well, in that we need a view into what the other person’s doing. I use Polly to judge my music, and she uses me to judge her singing on top of it. So it is different when we work together on a co-written project, but practically, the way this one took shape is very similar to how Dance Hall At Louse Point took shape in that I wrote the music first. There were comprehensive recordings made of the instrumental tracks before I sent them to Polly, and then Polly independently wrote the lyrics, sang the vocals, then sent me back the recording of what she’d done. The same process we’d used on Louse Point, really; but the main difference with this one is that we both progressed—it has been 12 years—as writers and artists, and that’s demonstrated in the new album.

Continue reading “Q&A With John Parish”

Lost Classics: Calvin Johnson

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

calvin-johnon355b

Sleater-Kinney and riot grrrls brought Olympia, Wash., national attention, but the city’s music scene was thriving long before that, thanks in part to Calvin Johnson and K Records. Johnson co-founded K in 1982, intent on issuing cassettes from Olympia bands, including his own trio. Beat Happening defined the early K ethos: Bury talent beneath miles of DIY ethic and gleefully sound as if you could barely hold it together. K’s International Pop Underground seven-inch series and week-long 1991 festival showcased bands such as Bratmobile, Bikini Kill and Heavenly. Johnson opened Dub Narcotic Studio in 1993; subsequently, many K releases began to lose their ramshackle quality, though not their trademark brevity. Roster acts such as Modest Mouse and Mirah also shifted the label away from being solely a clearinghouse for lo-fi DIY pop.

Catching Up:
K continues to release records and serve as a music distributor. Johnson has released three solo records, the latest of which, 2007’s Calvin Johnson & The Sons Of Soil, reprises material from his various combos over the years. He’s currently touring as the frontman of a new band called the Hive Dwellers.

:: THE HALO BENDERS
The Rebels Not In // K, 1998

This collaboration between Johnson and Built To Spill’s Doug Martsch merged the playful spirit of early K with higher-end production. With the Halo Benders, Johnson and Martsch also moved further from their respective comfort zones and settled on a jubilant middle ground. In Martsch, Johnson finally found a foil for his comically low and wobbly baritone. On album opener “Virginia Reel Around The Fountain,” they sing in opposing rhythms and cadences yet still manage to arrive at the song’s conclusion in unison and with obvious delight.

“Virginia Reel Around The Fountain”:

Grand Duchy Cultural Position #10: Health And Healing In The 21st Century

grandlogo150c2120bcGrand Duchy is the latest venture from Charles Thompson (a.k.a Frank Black, a.k.a. Black Francis). It’s a duo with his wife Violet Clark that explores relatively off-road terrain for Thompson: high-gloss new wave and vampish synth pop. Grand Duchy’s playful and slightly Euro-affected debut album, Petits Four, is out April 14 on Cooking Vinyl. Thompson and Clark are guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week. Read our Q&A with them.

hmeopathy520Grand Duchy are a band who seeks solace in The Future. We are impatient with the inefficient and dubious methods of The Past, such as plastic bags, Vaseline, Sheetrock, animal testing, war, shoulder pads and sitcoms. And our intolerance levels spike stratospherically when we ponder the at-times barbaric and backward practices of Western medicine. Medical practices in the West are seemingly founded on the principle of waiting until someone is already fairly fucked, then stepping in and applying band-aids like inundating a person with prescription meds and relying on invasive surgeries.

Don’t get us wrong: There are times obviously when a surgery saves a life, and it’s a miracle. But what seems to still be neglected time and again in facilities all over the United States and Europe—even though it is the 21st century and we should know better by now—is the mind-body connection, starting with the actual experience of being in a “healthcare” facility. These places do not engender wellness. One feels sad, fearful and sick in a typical hospital or clinic. We have felt lonely and neglected at our most vulnerable times in these places. We believe that a hospital should bend all its resources and qualities toward the sacred upliftment of the patient. Through the focused utilization of light, sound and color, a health facility can create an environment conducive to healing and the thinking of optimistic thoughts of health. Taking cues from the luxurious tendencies of health spas, the new hospitals could deploy fresh flowers, classical music, soothing neutrals or rainbow hues, scents culled from nature and an abundance of natural light, plus a loving touch from caregivers, to revolutionize the healing experience. We predict that if hospitals and clinics were to evolve into healing spas, we would see a dramatic reduction in sickness and death and an increase in hope and joy in people’s lives.

In the realm of the Grand Duchy, we are beginning to take those steps and are starting to do things a little differently. We have begun to put the focus on preventative health care by toning the mind and the emotions. Chronic emotional imbalances then do not have a chance to matriculate into physical debilities. It’s all very civilized.

We believe that much illness is rooted in emotional imbalances that get neglected in the fast pace of modern life and fester, finally revealing themseves bodily in the form of ulcers, sleep disorders, depressions, heart ailments, eating phobias, phobias of all sorts, vague pains and cancers. Psychological counseling is something we do not at all scoff at, yet it is only a partial answer as it requires patience and fortitude, taking weeks, months or years to accumulate relief. This seems inefficient in the sense that emotional relief is something needed ASAP due to the uncomfortable nature of suffering and struggle—not to mention the way such suffering interferes with the living of one’s life, which should be fun and joyous above all else.

That is why, in the Grand Duchy, we have begun to rely on futuristic (and by this we mean to say non-invasive and preventative) methods of emotional relief. We devote time to the study of homeopathics, flower essences, acupuncture, reiki and other forms of energetic medicine that align the energetic meridians and nerve impulses of the person to soothe torments and enhance well-being. Of particular interest to us lately is an exciting form of energy healing known as EFT, or the Emotional Freedom Technique. Developed by Gary Craig in the ’80s and emerging from the principles of acupuncture and acupressure, EFT is a method of balancing one’s energies so that they settle back into normal patterns and do not evolve into illness. It involves tapping on a specific sequence of acupressure points meant to diffuse the negative “charge” of past events or beliefs that cause one to suffer and be in a state of dis-ease. By tapping the points, the charge is diffused, and peace returns. We have had success using this method to treat pain, fears and upsets of all sorts.

MP3 At 3PM: Crooked Fingers

crookedfingers400Since the 1998 breakup of his prototypical indie-rock outfit Archers Of Loaf, Eric Bachmann has made sure that Crooked Fingers are anti-label in every sense of the word. Not only do they insist on releasing music without a record company (recent material has been issued through iTunes, eMusic and their own website), but they’re also the ultimate genre-hoppers. They can handle everything from Mexicali rock to Iberian folk to old-school Americana, all in the same song. So it’s no surprise that “Phony Revolutions,” a track from last year’s Forfeit/Fortune, manages to combine Spanish horns and Chinese words into one wonderfully weird song. Crooked Fingers are currently opening for Neko Case (who duets on Forfeit/Fortune closer “Your Control”); read Bachmann’s tour diary here.

“Phony Revolutions” (download):