The Pleased Interview

The Pleased
interview by Alexander Laurence

The Pleased formed amidst the green fields of Northern California. Their live performances received much attention from the press and fans before they had even put a record out.

The Pleased are a group of people which multifaceted backgrounds. Guitarist/vocalist Noah Georgeson studied with composer Terry Riley at Mills College and earned a master's degree in music. He met keyboardist Joanna Newsom at Mills College who was also dabbling in classical music and pop culture. Georgeson had already known Englishman Rich Good (guitar/vocals), from his previous trips to the UK. They talked often about a fantastic band that they would form one day, when they lived in the same city. Good finally moved to the Bay Area in 1999 and the Pleased came to be. They soon enlisted Jersey native Genaro Vergoglini (drums), and Luckey Remington, from Oregon.

I talked to the band during a recent gig in Los Angeles.

AL: How did you come to do music?
Rich: It was through hearing Elvis, probably. My dad would play his records, while I would play along on guitar. So there you are. No one ever knew that. That's how I learned to play guitar basically. I used to listen to Elvis and to The Shadows. Scottie Moore was an amazing guitarist.
AL: How long has the band been together and when did meet each other?
Noah: I have known Rich Good for the longest even though he is from England. We met through mutual friends. We were in a band that played one show years ago. We used a rake as a microphone stand. It was a joke but it was fun. Rich was over from England for a week. A few years later Rich moved here permanently. We started playing music soon after. There was no grand plan. We were destined to make music.
AL: When did you form The Pleased?
Rich: There was that time when Noah visited me in England in 1999. We didn't do anything. We talked about forming a real band around that time. Soon after, I bought a plane ticket.
AL: Did you write some songs back then that ended up on one of The Pleased records?
Noah: I probably wrote a song or two that I intended to play with Rich. There is no recording of them. I was staying in England for a while. I had a little amount of equipment that I would play around with. Those songs are gone and forgotten. I got to stay there often because I have some family in Scotland.
AL: How do the songs get written now?
Luckey:: It varies. Sometimes the songs come out of nowhere. Sometimes we are just messing around with parts and bits. Sometimes someone will write a part and bring it to the rest of us. We will work on it. It develops from there. There is no set standard. We have no rules. We are not a jam band. It either happens right away or it doesn't happen at all.
AL: No one member writes all the songs?
Rich: You could say that Noah predominantly writes all the songs. But a song like "No Style" came directly from Luckey. Everyone in the band has started a song. I think that our music is very collaborative. If you listen to the music, you can see that the five or six members of the group write their own parts.
AL: Some bands are very loud and the music fills up the space. Your band leaves more gaps where different members can play.
Noah: It feels like I hardly play anymore. I am singing far more than playing. That is good. We have six people now. If we were all playing always, it would be ridiculous. It would be a wall of sound. The way we play allows us a range of dynamics.
AL: Do you write all the lyrics?
Noah: The songs I sing I generally write all the lyrics. Rich sings his songs. When we practice we will suggest lyrics or lyrics will be misheard. Then it's a joke. Some line will come out, and a whole song will be written around a phrase that someone will create by mishearing a lyric. Even in that way we are egalitarian.
AL: How many records have you done?
Noah: Officially we haven't done any other albums. We claim that other record is a double EP. We didn't want to call it an album. It had fifteen songs. It didn't have that feeling of an album. It wasn't made as one coherent piece of music. It was recorded at different places and at different times. So it was disjointed. That wasn't our real first album. "Don't Make Things" is actually an album. There is an arc to it. When we played the first shows supporting this album, it felt like we were starting over again.
AL: You had already played shows in England. How did that come about?
Noah: Various reasons. We have an agent there. Rich is from there. We had places to stay. That made it easier. We sort of cobbled it together ourselves. We had help from a booking agent. He showed us how we could borrow gear from other bands that we would play with. We went over there for a few weeks. Then we did it again against all better judgment. It took us a few years to find our sound.
AL: When did you think it was going somewhere?
Noah: We always thought it was going somewhere. But when we were working on the album, and it was shaping up, we were happy with what we were hearing. Now that we have the album as a landmark it has affected our live show a lot. Because we have this tangible thing that we can listen to. That is our ideal sound. We could sound like that live. It's more important to bring the feeling and the esthetics of the album across live.
AL: When did you record the album and how many songs did you record?
Luckey:: We recorded it in summer 2003. It was mostly during July and August. It took about six weeks. We recorded all fourteen tracks then. There are twelve songs and two instrumental tracks. We didn't do any more songs than that.
AL: How did you figure what songs were going to be on this record?
Noah: We had already culled out all the songs that we didn't want to be playing anyway. Some albums now are only thirty minutes long. Our album is like fifty minutes long. We could have cut three or four songs out and it would have still have been album length, but we didn't want to. We did all the songs we had.
AL: Is there an interest in the band as big in the States as it is in England?
Joanna: We were really big about a year ago in England. There was a lot of buzz. There was a movement that people associated us with. We are excited about the new wave of people now writing about us in America because it doesn't seem to be fueled by buzz or a movement. It's just about people hearing the record and liking it in and of itself. It's a different type of attention. The articles have a few more words and a lot less pictures. People are more into the construction of the songs and the instruments that we use. People are more into the lyrics as opposed to what we are wearing.
AL: What about the music scene in San Francisco. Has the support been there for new music?
Noah: We have felt that the support has not been there for many years. It is starting to get better. There are a lot of local bands but people don't care. There is a good electronic and hiphop scene. We have played so many shows in San Francisco. There hasn't been a consistency to the show. It's not the same people at the shows. It's fine that it is diverse. There hasn't been a vibe with supporting local groups for years, and that's starting to change.
AL: Did you all come from musical families?
Luckey:: I was in the high school band. But my parents are not musicians and they never forced us to learn anything. I grew up on show tunes. My brothers were in the high school symphonic band, marching band, and jazz band. Because of that I got into playing music. Later I was in some cover bands.
Noah: My family was really supportive of doing music. My mom played guitar and wrote songs. She was offered a record deal with some big label when she was sixteen. But she was really shy. She was a folk singer. She turned it down. She was really encouraging of my musical endeavors. She wanted me to take guitar and piano lessons. I played classical guitar for many years. I got sick of it. I got a Master's degree from Mills College in composition last year. I have taken several different routes in music simultaneously, studying classical, avant-garde music, and more popular music.
AL: Are there any bands that you liked when growing up?
Luckey:: I liked Guns and Roses, Beach Boys, and Beasties Boys.
Noah: When I was ten I liked Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, and maybe Weird Al Yankowitz. Maybe Rick Springfield at some point.
Rich: I took a horrible musical path. I grew up listening to classical music. It was great. Being a teenager you have to discover what popular music was. But I went down all the wrong roads. I saw Top of The Pops all the time. But I didn't have a good guide to the good records, so I went through a lot of bad metal. I have been everywhere. Along the way I have always liked Roxy Music. I liked an album cover and I bought a tape of theirs when I was twelve years old.
Joanna: I used to love Paula Abdul. I lead a Paula Abdul dance troupe. We choreographed dances exclusively to Paula Abdul songs and performed them outside the auditorium on the lawn by the school.
AL: Do you read a lot of books?
Rich: I just read books about rock music.
Noah: I am into Borges. I got into him through Umberto Eco, who is a contemporary Italian writer. I like the complexity of those writers. That sort of stuff holds my interest.
Luckey: I like Ken Kesey's books. I went to the same high school as Ken Kesey.
AL: A lot of the music done in the 1960s and 1970s, and some early Britpop bands inspire your band. Does it seem weird that now you are playing with Arthur Lee and Love, and bands like Placebo?
Rich: Playing with Love was the coolest thing ever. It was Luckey's birthday. It was the first time in years that I had been moved by a concert.
Noah: We were told before the show that we were not allowed to speak to Arthur Lee. But he turned out to be pretty easy going. I didn't speak to him much at all. He was cruising around with his scarf and hat. He was incredible.
AL: Were you guys into Placebo?
Noah: I don't think Placebo has been much of an influence. I love Suede. They are one of my favorite bands of all time. I think they did the glam thing better than Placebo. Placebo is cool but I was never into them. Everybody has their glam period. I was glad to get out the other side.
Rich: There is a Scottish band called Life Without Buildings that people should know about.
AL: Are there any other bands that you have played with that you liked?
Luckey:: We really like The Walkmen.
Noah: There is a local band called Bright Black. Joanna has played with them a few times. She did a tour with them. They are incredible. We all like quiet music. We don't go to rock shows all that much.
AL: Who does your website?
Rich: I do the website. I have no idea what it's about. It's all about the band. It's completely interactive. You can locate any member of The Pleased. There is a message board.
AL: Do you read the messages?
Noah: There is some guy out there who has decided that we are rich. It's a rumor. He thinks that since we are rich we haven't earned what we have got. We are into health, not wealth.
AL: Have other bands or well-known people come to your shows?
Rich: Some guys from the Mister Show. Jack Black came to one of the shows. He was stalking Joanna.
Luckey:: Members of Travis came to one of our shows. They bought a CD too.
AL: Devendra Banhart shows up a lot to your shows.
Noah: I played with Devendra at his first show in San Francisco. It was at an Ethiopian restaurant. It was amazing. Devendra was shaking a dried seedpod. He kept stopping and starting. He wasn't the polished professional he is today. He always incredible. He is a friend and a fan.
AL: What are your songs about?
Rich: We don't write a lot of standard pop love songs. It's important to us that the lyrics are good. We like to approach things that are not approached in pop songs. We like to do things with language.
AL: Why is the record called "Don't Make Things?"
Noah: We made a thing and it's called "Don't Make Things." It's sort of contradictory. We put that out there so people can think about what it means. We want people to make good things. I hope it resonates on some level.
AL: Who does the artwork for the album?
Noah: Again it is collaborative, but Rich is the one who makes it happen. He makes it look good. We all decide what we want. Rich actually is the one who makes it look good.
AL: Did you work with a producer?
Rich: Noah is the producer. Our band is very collaborative that everyone sticks their oar in.
Noah: We like doing everything ourselves. We don't like outside voices.
AL: If people come to see you in 2004, what should they expect to see?
Noah: We already have a new song. We are a rock band and we play rock music. We play stuff outside the vocabulary of rock music. That is what people should expect: there will be interesting things on each song.
Rich: We are not going to play the album from song one to song fourteen. They are probably going to get songs that they have never heard. We are one of those bands who are constantly coming up with stuff. Once we have a song in some sort of shape, we are going to try it out.
AL: Are there any cool places to hang out in San Francisco?
Joanna: We just like to sit in the garden and drink tea.
Noah: We like the Hemlock Tavern because it's small and cozy. It is a good place for all types of music.
AL: Any shout outs to the people?
Rich: We love everyone.
photos by Danna Kinsky

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Gilbert Sorrentino Interview

Gilbert Sorrentino Interview

by Alexander Laurence
(c) 1994

  1. The Oulipo has come into focus in the past ten years. What is your own interest in this group concerned mainly with formalism? Under The Shadow seems to point in that direction of structures and constraints.

    GS: I've always been interested in the formal, despite the fact that the word "formalism" as it is now used to describe a certain kind of mummified poetry, is not what I have in mind. My sense of the formal is that of a structure or series of structures that can, if one is lucky enough, generate "content," or, if you please, the wholeness of the work itself. Almost all of my books are written under the influence of some sort of preconceived constraint or set of rules. Some of these are loose and flexible, like the time scheme in Steelwork, and others are quite rigorous, like the alphabetical framework in Misterioso. My interest in Oulipo dates back maybe 10 years or so, when I became aware of what they were up to - I had, quite mistakenly, thought it a group somewhat involved with surrealism. But their concern with formal structures as permissive of and conducive to compositional freedom was right up my alley. Under the Shadow has a structure based upon the drawings done for Raymond Roussel's Nouvelles Impressions D'Afrique by H. A. Zo, drawings that, incidentally, have nothing to do with the text, but which, oddly enough, make a text of their own, a fragmented and discontinuous one, but a text nonetheless. Under the Shadow is Zo's "story" as it can be pulled out of his pedestrian but really haunting drawings.

  2. In the wake of the media overload and the Joycean overlap, how does art compete with popular culture? What is exactly the position of novel writing in such a cultural situation?

    GS: I think that art has always existed with, if not competed with popular culture. When the court was reading "The Canterbury Tales," the illiterates in the street were singing folk tales and watching jugglers and clowns and God knows what. It's always been this way and probably always will be--the novel has somehow been posited for us as a kind of "mass item" and if it sells only 1500 copies is seen as a failure. I don't know if that's even a reasonably intelligent way of thinking. A novel, even a lousy novel, can't command the audience of the least successful TV sitcom, and yet such a form is "supposed to." Outside of the dreary rubbish that is churned out by god knows how many hacks of varying degrees of talent, the novel is, it seems to me, a very special and rarefied kind of literary form, and was, for a brief moment only, wide-ranging in its sociocultural influence. For the most part, it has always been an acquired taste and it asks a good deal from its audience. Our great contemporary problem is in separating that which is really serious from that which is either frivolously and fashionably "radical" and that which is a kind of literary analogy to the Letterman show. It's not that there is pop culture around, it's that so few people can see the difference between it and the high culture, if you will. Morton Feldman is not Stephen Sondheim. The latter is a wonderful what-he-is, but he is not what-he-is-not. To pretend that he is is to insult Feldman and embarrass Sondheim, to enact a process of homogenization that is something like pretending that David Mamet, say, breathes the same air as Samuel Beckett. People used to understand, it seems to me, that there is, at any given time, a handful of superb writers or painters or whatever--and then there are all the rest. Nothing wrong with that. But it now makes people very uncomfortable, very edgy, as if the very idea of a Matisse or a Charles Ives or a Thelonious Monk is an affront to the notion of "ain't everything just great!" We have the spectacle, then, of perfectly nice, respectable, harmless writers, etc., being accorded the status of important artists. I saw, for instance, maybe a year ago or so, a long piece in The New York Times on the writers who worked on some hero-with-guns movie. Essentially a pleasant bunch of middle-class professionals, with the aspirations of, I'd guess, very successful cardiac surgeons. Workmen, in a sense, who do what they're told to make a very good living. Not a shred of imaginative power left in them. But the piece dealt with them in the same way that the paper deals with Sharon Stone, Leonard Bernstein, Mark Rothko, Merce Cunningham, etc., etc. It's sort of all swell! My point, if I haven't yet made it, is that while it's all right to think of something as delicious as Dallas or Dynasty as, well, delicious, it's not a good idea to confuse them with Jean Genet. Essentially, the novelist, the serious novelist, should do what he can do and simply forgo the idea of a substantial audience.

  3. Do the ideas of William S. Burroughs translate into literature, or are they just tools for popular culture?

    GS: Burroughs has translated his ideas into his own literature, but they seem to stop there. As far as Burroughs and pop culture go, I really have no clear idea of how they mesh or how one influences the other. Burroughs is a legitimate artist, but he is not as good as his admirers think and he is nowhere near as bad as the people who have never read him believe. Of course, Naked Lunch, is the text that most people read, while the rest of Burroughs more or less languishes, even though his trilogy, The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded, and Nova Express are his best books. But Naked Lunch appeals to the juvenile mind that wants to think of it as the crazy work of a really crazy guy full of smack and writing in a daze--Burroughs as Rimbaud on heroin! Then there's the school that thinks of Naked Lunch as a "satire" on authoritarianism and the state. But the text of Naked Lunch presents the reader with a classic aporia: it does not quite mean to say what we mean it to say. There is something vaguely "insincere" about it. By that I mean that Naked Lunch sends a number of conflicting messages, the most salient of which can be phrased--simplistically and reductively, I grant you--"Oh, how terrifying and horrible and impossible to tolerate is this destructive addiction to heroin ... you dumb squares!" So the referential function of the text works one way and metalingual function another. Naked Lunch, however,succeeds because of this conflict, i.e., Burroughs as good as tells the reader that the latter is in the hands of a con man, he is a mark. And what is the role of a mark? To believe the con, to think himself, as a matter of fact, superior to the con. That's precisely how he gets conned. The ideal specimen of the reader revealed as a mark is seen in the biography of Burroughs by Ted Morgan, Literary Outlaw. You can see Morgan figuratively handing over his money.

  4. What is your impression of the term "postmodernism?"

    GS: It's a really imprecise term, despite the work of Lyotard, Jameson, Guattari, etc., etc. I tend to think of it as an extension of the problems of unresolvability, indeterminacy and fragmentation proffered in the texts of high modernism. What is more "postmodern" than Finnegans Wake or Watt or At Swim-Two-Birds? Yet they are all arguably modern texts. Borrowings, quotations, inter- and intratextualities, references, collage, fragmentation, indeterminacies, ambiguities--they're all present in these texts. Yet they are all present in "postmodern" texts as well. One can't even mention irony, since modernist texts are full of it and some postmodern texts, like Creeley's late prose, reveal no irony at all. Maybe a better term would be late-late modernism, or contemporary modernism. You know that you're in terminological trouble when you hear clothing styles being described as "postmodern" and movie reviewers blather about "deconstruction" when you realize that they mean satire.

  5. Why were the elements of Black Mountain available to writers in the 1950s and not now? I don't want to suggest the notion of "the good old days" which just blurs the actuality, but were there stronger talents in that time, or has economics ruined the state of today's art?

    GS: Hard to answer this question. I was on a panel a little while ago with Robert Creeley, and we were both being asked versions of your question. Apparently, young people are enormously interested in "how things were" in the Fifties. Creeley said something much to the point, to the effect that we all took art very seriously in those days, we were absolutely committed. He's right, of course, there was a sense then among young artists that we were writing for our lives--but maybe more importantly, there was a really drab "establishment" in place at that time--artistic and social and political--and young artists felt, rightly or wrongly, that they were destroying it, "deforming the ideogram," as Jakobson says.

  6. Experimental writing has been undermined by lazy readers and corporate tendencies of editors and publishers. How accurate is the previous statement?

    GS: Absolutely accurate. But it's always been absolutely accurate. Joyce, Pound, and Williams commanded the smallest of audiences and were shunned by what we now think of as "major" publishing houses. Publishers have always been craven when the odds are not in their favor, it's just enhanced nowadays because there is so much money to be made if the publisher can hit the shit machine. What is most surprising to me is the number of--what can I call them?-- "absent" books published. These are books that have no literary merit, no spirit of aesthetic adventure, no rough but interesting formal design, and--this is most important--no chance of commercial success! That's what is so amazing to me--not the number of Judith Krantz-like novels published, nor the Calvin Trillin-Garrison Keillor warm and wise and witty and wonderful malarkey, but the novels that just lie there: life and love in a small town in Northern California, sexual awakening in a Baptist family in Pennsylvania--daughter flees to Greenwich Village, meets bum who makes her pregnant, discovers feminism--and on and on. Were I running these houses, I'd can all these editors in a minute. If they can't make millions, would be my thinking, I'll be God damned if they're going to put out excrement that will only break even, i.e., if we want to break even, I'd say, let's publish BOOKS. But, of course, the chances are that the people who own these houses would not know a book if it buggered them.

  7. Mulligan Stew is a parody of several literary cultures. Can this process have any meaning for readers who don't understand what's going on before their eyes? Can this sort of book still be written today?

    GS: A parody only works if the reader or viewer is aware of the model that is being parodied. Sure, a book like this can be written today, but since there seem to be fewer readers, there will be fewer people who get the parody. Literature feeds on itself and people have to learn to read if they want to be readers. You can only learn to read by reading, but you can read only if you've learn how.

  8. How has your writing process changed? Since you moved to California in 1982, have you mellowed out and become an ornament of the university?

    GS: I work the same way that I've always worked, or so I think, that is, I try to set aside a certain amount of time each day, if I can manage it, to write in. I'd like very much to be an "ornament of the university" by which I assume you mean that I would be a kind of sage and wondrous presence on campus, teaching no classes, advising no students, reading no papers, but more or less there as resident Old Artist. Unfortunately, it's not the case. Stanford requires the same teaching load to be borne by everybody, scholar, artist, or nitwit, so that's too bad. But I still have enough time to work. As for mellowing out, as you put it, California--at least the Bay Area--is so utterly antithetical to me that I find myself, at all times, struggling against its cuteness, its apathy, its general air of paralysis, its relentless small-townishness, so that it's hard to imagine being mellowed out while in the throes of battle. I don't quite know what it is about the place but the entire Bay Area, with the source of infection being, of course, that citadel of provincialism, San Francisco, has the air of an amateur stage production set in sinister natural surroundings. I had a student some time ago who said that the sun out here gave her the creeps. I'd agree, but with elaboration, that is, the sun shining on a street crafts-exhibition, complete with wine and local "performers." Now that is hell on earth.

  9. How does music influence you as a writer? You have made many references to jazz and classical music. Are you a musician yourself?

    GS: It doesn't influence me at all, that is, any references to music in my work are just that, references, and my work is not musically structured in any way. I'm not a musician, but have fooled around, emphasis on the "fooled," with the tenor saxophone when I was in my late teens, and I have been a listener to jazz since I was 14. Classical music came later. It's hard for me to make any kind of useful remarks about music in other writers' work, although it is quite clearly an important structural element of Zukofsky's A.

  10. How do you see the relation of high art to popular culture? Does Mulligan Stew have any relevance for a society where literature doesn't influence the culture?

    GS: I think I've more or less answered this already. They are both quite certainly present, and, as such, can be seen and talked about and so on and so forth. But it is bad news to confuse one with the another or to think that to know about one is to know about the other. If you only know the British poets of the 18th century and you've never watched TV, you don't "see" certain things in the culture of the society--and if you have memorized lines from lots of movies and you've never read The Iliad you are lacking in general education as a Western person. That is just that. As far as Mulligan Stew goes, its relevance to this essentially letterless society is the relevance of any and all literature to this society. Of course, "society" is a catchall word and includes everybody, the whole shebang, that is, the ill-educated person in the famous "inner city" (what a phrase, and how it indicates the contempt in which city living is and was held by the pitiful suburbs!) is no more distant from literature than a professor of electrical engineering, say, or a corporate attorney. Literature is there for those who want it and for those who don't want it there are dozen of substitutes. That is simply life, as they say, and there's no use wringing one's hands about it. The greatest problem, if it is a problem at all in this huge amusement park in which we live, is that the so-called educated stratum of society comprises people who are not in possession of the same materials, so that Mulligan Stew may not speak at all to people who are highly educated in one specific field--for instance, I cannot imagine it being read by Michael Milken, although I could very wrong. But I don't think I'd be wrong to say that it would not be read by Teddy Kennedy or Newt Gingrich or Jack Kevorkian or the chief of marketing at Coca-cola.

  11. What is one to make of the success/failure of the writings of Edward Dahlberg?

    GS: Dahlberg is a writer whose work cannot be tamed or reduced or assimilated. He is a subversive and destructive master of prose, who is, at his best, so good that he takes your breath away. He is also zany, goofy, loopy, misogynistic, deeply prejudiced, bitter, nasty, paranoid and absolutely unfair. He has no politics that any politician could possibly find useful, and he is a great agent of the truth that only art can purvey. He is a great American writer, astonishingly original, a virtuoso without peers, and probably much too good for us. That he is hardly known and hardly read, that he is virtually ignored by academics, that he is still rather regularly mocked and patronized by literary scum, all testifies to our unerring vulgarity as a people--our vulgarity and stupidity. The circumstances of his life turned him into a desolate, half-crazed misanthrope, but as an artist he is the very definition of integrity and purity. Ten or fifteen pages of Because I Was Flesh or Can These Bones Live is a terrific antidote to the utterly fake prose that one is liable to bump into in the pages of The New Yorker, say, that "well-written" prose of the nightmare market. He will not play ball.

  12. Can you re-evaluate the beats? Are they nothing now but a cultural pose of rebellion?

    GS: The beats can only be understood as a single manifestation, in the fifties, of the general dissatisfaction, among young, unknown artists, with the given norms of art then in ascendance. They have been distorted out of all reality by the popular media, probably because they make "good copy," but they were no less distorted at the time they emerged. Some of them did good work, some not, but that is the case with all "movements." That they were especially iconoclastic is an idea that will not wash, when one considers the remarkable innovations, the formal attacks on the norms of literature present at the time, by such writers as Olson, Creeley, O'Hara, Spicer, and so on. Strangely enough, some of the most compelling beat writers are more or less forgotten now--Ray Bremser for one, and then, of course, there is Irving Rosenthal, whose single book, long out of print and almost impossible to find, Sheeper, is perhaps the most elegant single work to emerge from that era. To talk about the beats without acknowledging these writers is to assume that the propaganda about that era is the truth about that era. This is all further complicated by the historical blurring that occurs when non-beat writers are lumped in with beat writers, when we are told that such writers as Amiri Baraka, William Burroughs, Michael McClure, even Gary Snyder, are beat writers. That's like saying that Raymond Roussel was a surrealist. Again, to understand the beats, you have understand the general cultural ferment that was going on in the arts in the fifties, the restlessness, the boredom, the unintentional comedy of an era that proffered Randall Jarrell as a very important poet and that valorized Robert Frost to the detriment of William Carlos Williams.

  13. What is your opinion of creative writing workshops?

    GS: Creative writing workshops are useful in that they tend to bring together young writers who have nobody to talk to. Otherwise, I can say only that in my own experience of them, it is rare that bad writers can be helped or that good writers could not do as well without ever seeing a workshop. Of course, bad writers can often be helped to make marketable products by sheer dint of dogged revision and the mastery of certain modes of "craft," and good writers can be so regularly assailed--by instructors, colleagues, or both and/or mature, become dejected and confused as to the quality of their writing.

  14. Can satire still be written in the age of multi-culturalism, political correctness, and respect for women and minorities?

    GS: If a writer worries about political correctness, it's probable that he won't be able to write satire, since satire, by its very nature, offends somebody or something. In our time, satire, in all media, tends to be very tame. The targets are almost always predictable--idiots of the right or left--or stars and celebrities. We are given satirical treatments of people like Madonna or Prince Charles or Teddy Kennedy or Clarence Thomas! You see the sickening spectacle of the victims of the satire laughing it up with those who satirize them--this is surely a dead giveaway that the satire has no teeth. Satire should wound, draw blood, even destroy. Some guy on Saturday Night Live, I understand, used to "satirize" George Bush, and Bush invited him to the White House! Sure, satire can indeed be written now, but the satirist must be willing to be despised and assaulted. Satire is heartless and anarchic. If it's not it's just another mode of entertainment in the great world of entertainment that the United States has become. This kind of juvenile "fun-poking" used to be the province of Mad magazine--fun for the kiddies. Now we have David Letterman "satirizing" his "guests" before they all run down to the bank en masse. On the other hand, maybe we're too far gone for satire, too corrupt, too Goddamned dumb.

  15. Joseph McElroy and Harry Mathews seem to be writers that are the most similar to you. All of you are unclassifiable and difficult. There are no real labels for writers outside of black comedy, post-modern, or post-post schools.

    GS: No comment, really. I don't much understand groupings and I don't even know if they're legitimate. I do what I feel like doing when I feel like doing it. My new book, for instance, Red The Fiend, is not only unlike anything that any of the writers you mention has done, it's not like anything that I have done. One of the very best things about being as artist is that you don't have to care about anybody's expectations. If people don't like what you've done, they can, to paraphrase Edward Dahlberg, go read another book.

  16. Lita Hornick called you "a literary hitman" or "a Mafioso." What was that about? I am guessing that it had something to do with the situation surrounding Kulchur?

    GS: I've told my side of the story in reference to Kulchur and Lita Hornick has told hers in the 1978 volume, The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History, so there's no point in rehearsing it again. I wasn't aware of the "literary hit man" or "literary mafioso" business, but the best-kept secret in America is that Italian-Americans may be insulted and maligned at will, any time, and in all strata of society, by the uneducated, the semi-educated, the highly educated and the over-educated. Italian-Americans don't, as a rule, care much, save for a few halfhearted attempts at official complaint by scattered organizations, probably because they have always viewed American society at large with a suspicious eye. Here's a society that gives lip service to children, women and the family, yet despises all these things--this is very un-Italian. It may also have to do with Italian-Americans' sense of their own past, I don't know. Italians have been around for a long time and the sense that society is, in essence, a kind of bust, permeates their lives. My father's family comes from a town in Sicily, Sciacca, that has been there since about 750 B.C. I'm not implying that this fact has anything to do with my "primary" makeup, since I'm absolutely American in every way, but such a heritage is given one in unspoken ways, and American culture seems oddly ephemeral when set against such an instance of fact. I mean to say that Italian-Americans somehow know who they are, without much to-do about it, and the Mafia gags seem, to most of them--of us--evidence of a supreme vulgarity. But Lita Hornick was not, in my recollection, what one would consider socially adept.

  17. What is the main concern of a writer?

    GS: The main concern of a writer, if you mean a writer as artist, is to make art. He must have the luxury of being permitted to do this, just as the physicist is permitted to do physics and the surgeon to operate. An artist makes things. All else that he does, in his role as an artist, is incidental, accidental, or peripheral. If he worries about being an anachronism then he should quit writing and do something else.

  18. You spoke of Edward Dahlberg as "clearing the ground." Attacking what needed to be attacked. In a similar way, have you felt that you've cleared the ground with your own work, and are saying what you want to say?

    GS: I don't have that sort of view of my own work, and I don't know whether I've "cleared the ground" at all. I've done what I've done best I could given the circumstances granted me and although I sometimes wish that I'd been better at what I attempted to do I can't imagine doing anything other than what I've done. Donald Barthelme says in one of his stories that the function of an artist is to fail. He is, of course, right. No artist ever conceptualizes his vision and he knows that this is the fact as he begins the process of conceptualization, since the vision that serves as the impetus of the work is changed, reformed, corrupted, dissolved, and so on in the act of making the work. As the work is made, the vision is transformed, and the final work is that which has been made despite the vision. So all is really a drive against an ideal, and the artist knows this as it occurs--he fails as he works and the failure is apparent to him.

  19. Are there any writers that you approve of?

    GS: I don't much like to make lists of writers I like or dislike, but at this stage of my life I can say that the writers I like are usually writers who are nothing at all like me. And I usually say, "This writer can really write, I wonder why I don't write this way?" In the back of my mind I know that were I to write this way, I wouldn't really be writing, but exercising my intelligence in a display of self-betrayal.

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Gilbert Sorrentino RIP 1929-2006

Gilbert Sorrentino was a good friend of mine. I knew him for almost twenty years. He was a big inspiration to me as a writer. I became good friends with his son, Chris. I saw him do a reading at the Brooklyn Library in November 2004. Sorrentino made me want to become a writer when I read Mulligan Stew in 1984. His other books are Steelwork, The Sky Changes, Blue Pastorale, and many more.

Gilbert Sorrentino, author, critic, professor

NEW YORK -- Gilbert Sorrentino, a Brooklyn-born poet, novelist, literary critic and professor whose erudite work drew frequent praise and occasional scorn but never a wide audience, died on Thursday in Brooklyn. He was 77. The cause was lung cancer, said his son Christopher. Sorrentino was a tenured professor for two decades at Stanford University, where he taught English literature and creative writing, even though he had never finished college. Of more than 20 literary works, his most commercially successful was the novel "Mulligan Stew," which was named by The New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of 1979. -- new york times
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Foetus is my best friend

Interview with Jim Thirwell aka Foetus
By Alexander Laurence

Photograph by
Johanna St. Michaels

He's a legend. You've Got Foetus On Your Breath, Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel, Foetus Interruptus, Foetus Uber Alles, Foetus Inc - all of these titles are actually the pseudonym of one person, Australian-born Jim Thirlwell, who is also known as Jim Foetus and Clint Ruin.

After founding his own record company, Self Immolation, in 1980, he set about 'recording works of aggression, insight and inspiration'. Backed with musical slogans such as 'positive negativism' and 'bleed now pay later', Foetus released a series of albums, several of which appeared through Stevo's Some Bizarre Records. With stark one-word titles such as Deaf, Ache, Hole, and Nail, Thirlwell presented a harrowing aural netherworld of death, lust, disease and spiritual decay. In November 1983, Foetus undertook a rare tour, performing with Marc Almond, Nick Cave, and Lydia Lunch in the short-lived Immaculate Consumptive.

Apart from these soul mates, Foetus has also played live with the Swans' Roli Mossiman as Wiseblood (who released Dirtdish in 1986), Lydia Lunch in Stinkfist, and appeared on albums by several artists including The The, Einsturzende Neubauten, Nurse With Wound, Marc and The Mambas, and also Annie Hogan. Thirlwell also records instrumental work as Steroid Maximus, releasing Quilombo (1991) and Gonwanaland (1992) on the Big Cat label. In 1995 Thirlwell announced plans to release his first studio album in seven years. The result was Gash, an album that led to a reappraisal of his work as one of the key figures in the development of the 'Industrial' music movement.

After several tours in the 1990s and major label releases, Thirwell moved to Brooklyn and set up a studio. He spent time Djing and remixing for the likes of Nine Inch Nails. This year sees him touring in the United States and a new album, FLOW. He has his website (www.foetus.org), where you can find he has released an instrumental album called MANOREXIA. The rest of the year sees Foetus touring and continuing to perform his work. His album art is also part of an art show at Exit Art in New York City. I met him in the East Village at Veniero's at the end of July.

AL: Since back in the early 1980s you were working for Virgin Records. Did you learn about distribution there, and apply it to you own label and your own band?

FOETUS: I was already working with Nurse With Wound. They were already putting out records. That was the early days of the DIY thing. When I moved to London, that is when they started Rough Trade. There wasn't a deluge of music in those days. It was possible to own every independent single there was.

Rough Trade released all this pure noise stuff, like File Under Pop. Then they did Swell Maps. Then people started bringing in their own records and it was very accessible. Bands like Scritti Politti, who were very different then... they were very angular and avant garde.

At that time I met Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound. When the first record came out, he came in the shop and asked me if I knew anything about it. He was impressed that I knew what it was. Through that I was able to use the same studio to record the first Foetus single. I recorded it in a day. In those days you press it up and deliver the copies to whoever would take them. I was squatting at the time. I hand delivered them to Virgin where I worked. I went back to the studios where I made this press release with a lot of disinformation. I created this whole mythology about who Foetus was.

AL: Yeah, there was a time when nobody knew who Foetus was. How long did that go on for?

FOETUS: I was trying to create a mystique. I wanted to have a corporate identity. I didn't want it to be "Please play my little single…" I wanted to say to people that I am the representative for Self Immolation Records. This is a band we have called Foetus Under Glass. That was the first record.

John Peel had played it early on. I made a thousand of them. Sold out. And put the money into the next single. Did the first six records on that scale. I wanted the purity of the records to stand on their own. I didn't want the purity to be tainted by being presented as this person who was an image who is attached to this record. It's all about that now. Building up the image and knocking it down. I shunned away from that.

AL: When did Foeutus play the first live show?

FOETUS: It wasn't until 1988. I played live with tapes for many years. The first full band was for the European tour in 1988. I just picked out random people to play with me in the East Village. Roli Mossiman played with me in Wiseblood. I toured a few times in the early 1990s. I was doing a lot of studio work and remixing. Side projects like Steroid Maximus and Wiseblood. A few live albums. Doing remixing took a long time, and I just started to do new Foetus material. It took a long time to negotiate a deal with Columbia, and Gash came out in 1995. We toured on that for a few years. The relationship with Columbia fell apart and only one album came out.

AL: When did you build a studio?

FOETUS: I didn't start getting equipment until the late 1980s. I was itinerant before that. I worked in recording studios. In London, most of the time I squatted. I moved around a lot. It didn't occur to me to put money into equipment. It was only when sampling technology became available, I started thinking about getting some gear.

Before that I worked in a way that pre-dated sampling: tape loops and effects. When sampling came along it was a way of organizing what I had already been doing before. With some of the soundtracks I did at the time, some of it was source material and some was already composed. With the later Richard Kern films, I had the visuals in front of me and I would compose to the edits. That is the way people usually do it, they watch the film and play to the edits.

AL: How did you get involved with Richard Kern?

FOETUS: We met him around here. Me and Lydia Lunch lived two blocks away from here on East 12th street. Lydia was putting together a series at the Pyramid Club of performers. He was doing some performances with Brian Moran at the time called Blood Boy. Lydia had an idea for a film which became Right Side of My Brain. They started collaborating and filming at that place which is now the Old Devil Moon restaurant. We lived in that place. When you sit in that place, you are sitting in what used to be our bedroom.

AL: Did you do all the artwork for your albums?

FOETUS: I went to art school and I did a little painting there and screen printing, in Melbourne, where I'm from. It was a good place to try some ideas and medium. That was where I discovered the Foetus look. It crystallized. I was working with blocky elements and taking images and reducing them to tonal dropout. So that they were flat planes. A lot of my work comes from working with screen prints and how you have to make templates. I kept that look all along. I like flatness and big slabs of color. I like the color palette of red, white and black.

AL: Was Andy Warhol an influence?

FOETUS: I was aware of him and I always loved his aesthetic and perversity. And of course the whole Warhol image. The Factory was so romantic. My art influences were also propaganda and comic books and packaging. All those things contributed to the look.

I liked the shock value of propaganda. I like Chinese Art and Russian Constructivism. That was a big part of it too. I would do things that were variations on a theme. I would do all my typography by hand. Hand lettering and everything by hand. I didn't know anything about actual layout and camera-ready art. I just faked it using transparent paper. Somehow it worked and registered, mostly because I did it rather meticulously. I don't do much art outside of my record sleeves. That gives vent to everything I want do. I would love to do commissions and work for other people. There is an album art show right now at Exit Art. I have a wall of about 25 sleeves up there.

AL: How did you compose some of the new songs on Flow? You have admitted to not really being a musician. You don't sit around with an acoustic guitar thinking up songs. The new record seems like a mix of jazz and film noir soundtracks.

FOETUS: There has been jazz flavor throughout my work, ever since the early stuff. I have become more sophisticated in how to realize doing that. The same is true of the cinematic feel. I have just gotten better and translated what is in my head. Now I just let the song write itself. Like "Blaze of God" for instance, I heard that in a dream. I had the whole thing in my head. I ran downstairs and recorded the bass line and scribbled down some ideas. Then it was merely fleshing out what I had heard. Most dreams you remember vividly and then they are gone. Hopefully you can snap it back. Sometimes I will have the whole song in my head, and other times I will be working with sounds and that will evoke something else. Sometimes I will have a title, like "The Mean Machine," and then it's basically filling in the blanks with some emotion and some idea of what I wanted to put across. I don't have a formula.

AL: Have any these recent industrial acts acknowledged your influence?

FOETUS: I have remixed a couple of song by Trent Reznor, "Wish" and "Mr. Self-Destruct." I have remixed also Marilyn Manson and a few other people. I think a few of those people would acknowledge that they heard my records. But as far as being the Godfather of industrial music: I don't know anyone who embraces the industrial tag. Nobody wants to be categorized. Industrial was the name of Throbbing Gristle's record label. When Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Dept. came along it was natural to call it "Industrial" because they were. It was more about an esthetic and a mindset back then. Then it turned into dance music with a distortion box. How I fit into that I don't know. I don't feel a kinship with any of it.

AL: You mentioned before that you were influenced also by Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and Minimalism. I thought that when you play some of those arpeggios repeatedly, just listening to it, you start to hallucinate and break through to some other place.

FOETUS: Oh yeah. I definitely have done stuff like that. With Wiseblood, there was a track called "Death Rape 2000." It was just three chord repeated for eight minutes. There's also the track "Diablos Musica" which is just the tri-tone repeated, which is supposed to evoke the devil. It was a chord that was banned in the 15th century. It's similar to what Glenn Branca does with overtones. After a while you veg out on them and you start hearing different things. It's like when you are tripping on acid: music takes you on a journey around the world even though you keep hearing the same notes over and over. Things start to shift. After a while it becomes transcendent.

AL: That is like Glass and Reich too.

FOETUS: When I first saw Steve Reich's concert in London in 1979. It was a performance in drumming. That was truly transcendent music. I felt like I was going to ascend through the ceiling. If that feeling comes through in my own music. I could point to very early songs and it's so obvious that was what I was thinking about. On the first album has tape loops and musique concrete. I had prepared pianos. I was into Stockhausen and John Cage. You wouldn't know it now. All those ideas I have internalized. You find a different voice.

AL: What other plans do you have?

FOETUS: I just finished a 20-date American tour. Then I am going over to Europe for five weeks. I did a DJ gig in LA at the Fetish Ball. When I DJ I usually play soundtracks and crime stuff. I try to create an atmosphere of espionage. I am also lining up some other events in LA during November. There will be a Flow Remix album. There will be a tribute show to that album. I am curating it. It will be the most extravagant record release you can imagine. Next year I will be performing Manorexia. It is another project of mine. The CD I have just released through my website and selling it on the road. It's all instrumental. It will be a small string section and percussion.

AL: There's a flood of activity.

FOETUS: Things tend to bottleneck with me. All things come out at once. Then there's trouble about distribution, up to a point where, I just want to get something out there, because people think I am dead. There's another Steroid Maximus album that will come out next year. Thirsty Ear are doing Flow, and then Blow: the remix album. I am doing the Manorexia album myself through the website.

AL: Any other advice?

FOETUS: Buy the records. Go to the website. It's an ever-growing monolith of everything you didn't want to know about Foetus. I have this friend, Daniel Jones, who lives in Chicago and is the ultimate Fetal Maniac. He started the website. Someone told me about it. I found out about records that I didn't know existed. I didn't know I was on some of these records. I was impressed. So I started to contribute content to it. It has now become the official site.

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Cranes - An Interview with Alison Shaw
by Alexander Laurence

Cranes are a band from Portsmouth, England. They started over ten years ago when they released Wings of Joy in 1991. The main members Alison Shaw and Jim Shaw created music that was distinct and original. They were noticed by Robert Smith of The Cure who asked them to open for The Cure on a few mammoth tours. They released a several more albums Forever (1993), Loved (1994), Population Four (1997) before taking a long break. Touring and numerous side projects has created a fan base that is quite international.

Now, with the 2001 release of Future Songs the excitement is back. Alison Shaw's vocals sound as fresh as ever, full of smart optimism and internal struggle alike. The new material updates the band's sound with dub beats , and Alison Shaw's mantra-like singing.

The live show mixed new material with older favorites. Cranes seem at the top of their game. They are a band pleased with their past but ready to launch into a new era. The five members create an atmosphere that is precious and evocative. I was able to talk to Alison Shaw when they were in San Francisco recently during a month long tour of the USA. They have just released a remix album Submarine that is available from Instinct Records. Alison was very talkative and open to discussing her music and her life on the road. We had a cup of tea talked about the return of Cranes.


AL: There has been about a five year period where Cranes were silent. Now you have a new album, Future Songs. Where have you been?

Alison: We had about a year where we didn't do any Cranes stuff. We felt like we needed a break. I moved to London. I did a drama course for two years. Since Jim and I are brother and sister we could never quite break up altogether. After a while we started writing songs again. We have five people in the band now. It's quite new. Paul Smith played with us since 1955 but in those days he used to play on a few songs. When Mark, our original guitarist, left, Paul took over since then. John Callender joined us recently on drums and Ben Baxter just joined as the bass player.

AL: Future Songs seems less about song structure and seems more experimental?

Alison: Yes. It is less guitar oriented this album. It is more atmosphere based. It was five years since the previous album. So naturally it was going to be different. We try to have each album have its own identity. After the last album we wanted to draw a line. Future Songs is the beginning of a separate phase I think.

AL: It sounds more like a movie soundtrack. How did you write these songs?

Alison: Yeah. I write all the lyrics. Some songs are written on an acoustic guitar. Jim usually works with guitar or drums or samples. You create one particular sound then you build around it. There's something interesting about that sound. We usually work with layers of sounds, one on top of another. Then all four of us play together.

AL: Is there a palette of sounds that you draw from?

Alison: Not really. We just used whatever came up during the period that we were doing that particular song. We did record some outside noises. We put a microphone in the back garden and we just left it up overnight. We got some street sounds and a bird flapping its wings. We recorded the album in a home studio. The rest of band lives in Portsmouth, so I go back there when we are rehearsing.

AL: What is Portsmouth like and how does that influence the music?

Alison: It's on the south coast. It's by the sea. I don't think that it affects our sound that much. I think that maybe when we started the band it affected us because we were quite isolated. We weren't really part of any of the scenes in London, or Manchester, or Scotland. We were doing our own thing that wasn't connected to anything else going on at the time. These days I don't think that the city has any affect on what we sound like.

AL: Did you grow up there listening to music?

Alison: I used to listen to Nick Cave when I was growing up. I used to like New Order I supposed. I think that I had one Einsturzende Neubauten and one Gun Club record. I never really caught on to Cocteau Twins till much later on. I really like their album "Heaven or Las Vegas." For some reason I didn't listen to them early on. I was probably afraid of comparisons to them early on, or I didn't want to be influenced by her, because she was such a strong sound. I didn't listen to them to later.

AL: Are your lyrics more personal or do you use words as sounds?

Alison: I used to be really shy about being clear with what I was saying. In a couple of songs the sound of the tune is more important than what I am saying. More recently I think the songs are a lot more formed. The songs are usually about something even if it's only a simple concept. It's usually connected to something personal. I think the singing is quite clear on this album. I used to think that in the past as well. When I listen to our earlier albums I think "God, why didn't I sing that more clearly."

AL: Your voice is quite distinct and you know it's Cranes almost right away. I think that your voice sounds more like American Country singers than anything in pop music.

Alison: Right. Some of our songs aren't quite story-based. For instance, the song "Sunrise" on the new album, although I sing in the first person, it's not really me. It's a character. And like "Lilies" which is an older song is another example of a song sung in character. Some people expect us to be more somber than we are. Even though some songs we do are down tempo we try to give things an uplift to it. We hate things that are just gloom and doom. Our natural instinct is to try to see things positive.

AL: Some of your song's structure break down and set us free.

Alison: Yeah, that would be good.

AL: How has the tour going so far?

Alison: I am doing fine. We had a day off yesterday. We did an instore performance at Amoeba. We have done a few. We played at a record store in Portland. There's a bunch of people whom we've met before or who have seen us before. It's nice when someone who has seen us before brings a friend that has never seen us before. Then you get a good combination. It's like a whole new crowd sounding up and liking what you are doing who wouldn't normally show up. A few Goth people show up but not everyone is like that.

AL: Many people here associate you and Cranes with The Cure because some of them saw you as an opening act for them. Have The Cure retired? Do you still keep in contact with Robert Smith and The Cure?

Alison: We hadn't heard from them for a long time, probably five years. A few weeks ago, their manager called and asked us to play a show with them in Hyde Park in the summer. I think it is July 27th. So we are actually going to play a gig with them. They are doing festivals this summer in Europe. I thought that they had split up. Because Robert is always saying "I am not doing any more tours." But it seems that they are. I thought that Robert was going to do a solo project.

AL: When you play these festivals I guess that you run into many other bands that you would not meet otherwise. Does any of these bands come up to you and say I have been a secret Cranes fan all these years?

Alison: That does happen sometimes. We played Belgium last summer. Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy turned out to have a couple of our albums. He said that he had come to see us play a few times.

AL: You were on the BMG label before. What is like having your own label, Dadaphonic?

Alison: It's quite cool to do it ourselves. When we wrote these songs we definitely didn't want to go around to record companies and say "Will you please release our record?" We thought that the most natural thing we could do was to find a distributor, a manufacturer, and do it ourselves. We didn't think about beyond the UK initially. We didn't know that anyone else would be interested. But then we started to get approached from label from other countries. They said that they wanted to put out the record after they heard it. We managed to get it released in Belgium, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Italy.... And that led to Instinct Records. Actually we were going to play CMJ last September but that was canceled. We stayed in touch and we just released it a few months later.

AL: Since you have this Remix CD do you ever follow any of the DJ culture and the clubs?

Alison: Yeah. I did have a drum and bass phase. I went out with a DJ five years ago who played jungle and drum and bass. So I was exposed to this whole other culture that I did enjoy. I did go to clubs and I did enjoy that. I probably listen to more electronica based stuff these days that are more laid back. I like more experimental stuff than guitar based stuff. I do like nice guitar songs like the new Neil Halstead album. I really like that one.

AL: Do you think that people listen to your music as come down music or stoner music?

Alison: Yeah. I reckon.

AL: I just saw "Spiderman" a few hours ago. Are there any films that you like?

Alison: Yeah. A friend just bought me a present. It was a DVD of "Amelie." Did you see that? It's a French film and it's really nice. But we haven't had any time on this tour to see any films. We are either driving or just arriving at the venue in time to play the show. We are in two vans. One is for the equipment and one is for us. So there are no videos. We just sleep or read a book or write in our diaries.

AL: Are there any writers that you like?

Alison: When I was at college, like recently, it was quite good, because I had stopped reading for a few years, but for the course work there was a lot of reading to do. I read almost every classic play that you could imagine. So we started with the Greeks: Sophocles and Euripides. I read "Medea."

AL: You did a spoken word album about Orestes and Electra. You like the grand stories?

Alison: It was quite weird during this drama course that I did when we came across the same story that we did on that CD project. I already knew what was going which was quite funny. I also like American writers like Tennessee Williams. I have read a lot of Shakespeare.

AL: Were you going to be an actor?

Alison: It came to a point where we weren't doing Cranes anymore. I didn't know what I was doing. My best friend, Tania, is a director. I was talking to her one day. I asked her what should I do with myself. She said why don't you try a voice class because I have never had any formal training as a singer. I never did any classes at all. So I started with just voice class. I really got along with the teacher. I recognized some of the things that she was teaching as stuff I had already come across just from being a singer in a band. Just some things that you do to get a song across. I realized that there was a method to it. The teacher suggested that I should audition for a course that was coming up. I hadn't really planned it. Also we have been in contact with a few directors because we have had our songs used in films. It was a hobby. I didn't imagine that I was suddenly going to become an actor. I wouldn't want to do that. I enjoyed what I learned and I enjoyed meeting people again. I had become a bit too insular. Because it was always "Cranes, Cranes, Cranes..." I needed to break out of it and have a different life for a while.

AL: Did you grow up in a musical family?

Alison: Not really. My Dad plays trumpet. We had him play on one of our records.

AL: Do you have any other hobbies like yoga or sewing?

Alison: You must have read a previous interview? Because that is a few things that I do: I do yoga and I do sewing. I like cooking and cycling. My sister is quite into hiking and cycling. She drags me out into the country.

AL: What do you love about music?

Alison: It's finding a sound that represents how you feel. It's a way of expressing something. When the piano makes a sound or a note that might resonate with you or trip off an idea. That might tip off an emotion and give you a picture in your mind of a particular place or a person or a smell. I like the unexpectedness of music. When you can come across a sound that will trigger off something. I like that you can lose yourself in music. I like when you listen to other people's music you find yourself in their world for a while. I like that it's a simple process as well. A person and a guitar can create a whole world. They can conjure up something that didn't exist before. Even if it is a simple song, it can be quite meaningful. People can see it separately and differently.

AL: Do you like any new records?

Alison: I like For Stars. They are playing now upstairs. We have been playing with them and touring for ten shows. Their album is really nice. Personally I like Boards of Canada. There's a German group called Funkster that I really like. I like Zero 7.



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