Amy Holtan Interviews Pocket (Transcript August 2012)by newghos on 06/11/2012
Mona Ozone Pop Opus #1/6
Extended/Original Transcript from August 2012 Collective Palate Post
AH: Tell me a bit about yourselves?
P: All my selves have bits to tell!
All cleverness aside though, in description ; I suppose I’m this kid who, for some reason, writing and recording and generally doing my own thing has been the only common thread no matter what’s happening, or where, or what. Even when there’s no identity or context to hold on to, it still seems to be there. I guess that gives some preface? It’s a common problem not just for myself but I believe generally for others around my age- not having a home to hold on to. Luckily I’ve been able to construct some sort of portable spirit- oriented place for myself- a surrogate feeling of home …..where expression becomes a constant and helpful tool in that sense, for you wherever or whoever you may be, I know that little bit is not necessarily biographical, but I know people can relate to that directly, which is more of a real goal: to be relate-able. That’s more important than where I am from, or my name or background I think.
AH: Like Alice Glass of Crystal Castles, your vocals are muffled and your lyrics lay buried by the songs— but when reading the lyrics sheets, fans can find that your lyrics actually are very well thought out and thorough. Why do you choose this relationship between your lyrics and your music?
P: Yea, there’s several ways to go about answering that; I think its not only a combination of both subconscious and conscious decisions but its also a conceptual and formal thing as well. First, I guess in the most primitive, pragmatic and straight forward sense, when I was first mixing work, I had this shitty… I dunno, Mackie 1202 vlz board, or something similar, and the mid knob was permanently stuck in a lower-mid “muffle” range, as I think the last person who owned it probably spilled soda or candy gel on it or something… but basically, I didn’t know what I was doing and was just sort of desperate to get something down on record and was not really caring about issues of sound dynamics or balancing anything, no EQ or anything like that, because as a kid you don’t really care you just want to experiment… you just have to expel whatever is inside- but I initially was used to this stuck knob on this board and just sort of received by default-or by chance rather- this certain output- and I think from then on once I got better equipment to mess around with, I sort of would gravitate to that lower mid just as a setting or place that I was familiar with in my ear, even if I had the option for perfectly clear sound. So that’s probably the more straight-forward, more technical reason behind the vocals being obscured. Another cause is more likely- that when I’m placing vocals, I’m more concerned about the melodic content, not necessarily the enunciation and there are a few artists I think that are well known for not necessarily knowing what they are saying but the feeling or the melodic content really comes through strongly, and I hope that’s at least what comes through on my end. I hope that’s one of the few things that’s communicated clearly. I see the voice as needing to be another instrument layer, not necessarily precise and clear airline safety instructions… so you could interpret my inability to enunciate as an aesthetic/or formal device I suppose as well if you wanted to read into it that far. Probably, more unconsciously that’s my way of avoiding the possibility of my voice being heard. I know my dad often told me to “Enunciate!” when I was growing up, I had lots of orthodontal surgery over the years and I also have some pretty major hearing loss, near deafness in my right ear…and so this combination of things..I wore headgear around and…. I felt extremely vulnerable in general about all of those things growing up (who doesn’t?) but to put all that in summation- I had a really negative, destructive relationship with nearly almost everyone at that period in my life, including him, so that initial inability to speak up and be heard is probably an issue that’s been trying to heal itself out or be resolved through my work the past several years, even if the actual lyrical content is clearer than the sonic content might be. It’s this case of ‘I have lots to say- I just don’t like speaking.’ Each album I create though seems on the trajectory to becoming more “here I am!” (Hear I am?). Although I believe you can be heard without shouting. Silence is loud also. Softness can be extremely intimidating, powerful. Being in a feminine space is very very very rare in our world. Everyone already has a blowhorn, why not show them the contrast to that? Most people you have to remind them of that. That is one of my aims.
But, it is true that the relationship between words and how they are being spoken is complex. I mean, I might go so far to say also that its a conceptual, conscious choice to communicate that as well, because right now, at least in a philosophical, theoretical sense, I could go out on a limb and say that most of what’s happening today in our country reflects a lack or a loss of voice- it appears our collective spirit is barely holding up at times, or rather people are going elsewhere with it- saying things on the internet but no where else. We may be all saying very immediate, crucial things- about our collective well being, about our environmental and even future well-being, but its all underground, it’s being muffled or obscured, at least at this point in time as of this writing (2012) or its shrouded in cynicism and apathy- both of those energetic overtones are also devices of self quieting, self-oppression. It takes more strength to squeak out a truth than it does to shout out a lie- a ‘lie’ being in this sense- more insulation and cover up from the real root problem- Big Media is notorious for this. I think everyone is aware of it at this point, especially with Occupy gaining visibility across nations. More people are waking up to it slowly, but everything is connected. Human spirit and all industries are connected by and through what is happening, and I could argue it is a generational issue too, although that is debateable. That’s why we had some amazing music happening in the 1960’s- there was a resurgence of people breaking through, there was reform, there was “revolution”. ‘Revolution’ has since become a dirty word because of the cynicism that has since clouded up spirit since then. True subculture died in 1993 I really believe, so its no accident that spirit has become very jumbled, that these voices- collectively, individually, at large, are hidden under a layer of something, even if self-imposed. There’s a collective consciousness that considers expression embarrassing to preserve the status quo. That’s pretty toxic, and I think people are aware of it but it hasn’t risen to the surface yet completely. This is also all my own interpretation, so take what you want from it.
People I think are more horrified than ever to express, but it’s also more necessary than ever- and not in a commercial sense of expression- not as a means to make cash, but more out of a sense of truth and purpose. That’s something that has definitely been lost amongst my generation. But I also believe that in whole, generally speaking our generation isn’t as hypocritical, (that’s a general statement) which is a departure from the Baby boomers and gen X. So we at least got that going for us, in my opinion. But if you study psychology you will see that its the process of healing. Things have to rise to the surface. Apathy comes before Anger, which comes before action, which comes before healing (and of course which comes before that politically-charged word “change”) When I was in school, Professors would fail you for saying “um” in your speech at a wrong point or pause- there was a heavy feeling in the air that the closest thing I can ascribe to it is a lot of this “you need to be perfect”. “you are not allowed to make mistakes” type of vibe that was unspoken and growing up I really fought to keep myself from falling into that level of judgment against myself and others, and now I think I emphasize mistakes if only for the reason that that is where the gold is, that is what makes me, me. I have since come to really embrace the awkward, the experimental, the mistakes, that’s what will always, time and again, allow you to create the things that are truly meaningful. Look at the best and you will always see them fall on their face- And coincidentally, paradoxically that has proven to be a really safe ground to stand on- allow yourself to make as many mistakes as you want, and faster if possible. It’s kind of no surprise to me at this point- I make mistakes all the time in other realms of my life. I get rejected on a daily basis by people I try to become friends with or learn something from and I’m always usually thankful when it goes wrong or painful, if I get ignored or just avoided for being my true awkward self- it teaches me forgiveness for others at the least, forgiveness to myself as a muscle to keep fit. It’s actually a win-win scenario at the most basic root, even though it’s painful sometimes. That’s just an example. So mistakes, yea the best stuff comes from that. There is nothing uglier to me than a certain brand of perfect-perfection.
So in a round-about way in talking about voice, clarity and vocals and lyrics as expression and direct communication, I think you can read many levels into that…This there’s actually tons of great books out there about this very thing- one of my favorite Authors- Albert Borgmann wrote this book called Crossing the Postmodern Divide– its about finding solutions to bringing back true meaning that’s buried under layers of rules that have been falsely imposed, socially, fearfully-constructed, using what’s left to construct your own meaning in an otherwise generally destructive environment (or in more complex terms- the left-over decay from postmodernism/cynicism and bi-products of mass consumerism and oppression) sorry to get big and meta conceptual there- but it’s a philosophy book if that helps explain the confusion any easier…But to sum up that extended explanation;
It really does take courage to squeak, and I can’t overstate that courage enough. I guess for myself I hope I can develop further to squeak louder, squeak clearer, when you do that you exist as an example for others to do the same. That will always be the goal. I’m also sort of a quiet person in real interactions, I’d rather listen than say much, but I also try to exercise caution with my words in everyday interactions, (Just not in interviews! haha) So I guess in a final sense, that’s also sort a reflection of that- the purpose of saying something but in order to understand the importance, you have to dig a little bit to get to it. Right here I am giving it all out to you, but in the work, its good to make the hidden elements require a little digging. It’s a safety measure. It’s a teacher. Its something that changes as, and when, I do.
AH: You’ve said that Tobacco is one of your influences. At what point to do you realize a sound of yours is influenced by somebody else— is it conscious? Does it happen before the creation, or is it realized after?
P: I think there are definitely certain works that really effect you- stick with you immediately or soon after several listens. Some work I can recognize will click with me instantly, even if it hasn’t sunk in- BSMR/Tobacco’s stuff was one of those initial instant impressions. (Although right now with the nostalgia loop sort of already closed, I can see why its difficult for people to embrace the stylistic side now with all the pre associations of anything stylistically if you were just introduced to it today, but a few years ago it really was very clear that that work was definitely a mark of something very different and it stood out!) But with other artists- sometimes then that becomes an argument of if they are using analog tape, or the type of instruments or whatever they are using. Sometimes it can be as simple as that- and if you like something enough, eventually you will come to draw something from it, even if very remotely or even in just a feeling sense.
I went through, or rather, “got” this thing a couple of years ago called Depersonalization Derealization Disorder and it changed the way I thought about music, because I would listen to my favorite albums, and while I could no longer sense the atmosphere the work was creating, I instead started to hear what each specific instrument and the combination of instruments and how the “objective” elements in the work came together in a pattern. It actually enhanced my understanding of arranging and playing in a way that I never would have understood from an emotional or aesthetic or ‘color’ standpoint. In that sense, it’s become definitely more conscious when I sit down and listen to someone’s work and seek out what I wish to draw from it. For example, I would sit down and listen to Revolver by the Beatles or something like that, and while I couldn’t “feel” the song- I still felt incredibly intimate with those 4 tracks or 8 tracks- or whatever it was they were using- its like I understood how the pieces in them came together to create the thing that everyone else was feeling- even if I had no understanding of the feeling of the atmospheric half, I understood the elements that made that up- which instruments came in where and how certain combinations of instruments at certain times made that feeling that I used to be able to experience also. It was a very profound shift in how I thought about music, it started to be seen as this game of infinite possibilities, where as in the past It was purely an intuitive feeling- an overwhelming emotional experience that I had difficulty restraining. Even though it wasn’t really by choice, I certainly learned a ton from taking sometime to look at how they put the tracks down-what instruments happen where. That for sure has really expanded my study about how I go about creating new things, and I feel like that has been reflected in my newer work too- its more compartmentalized, maybe less feeling-oriented. Before I just sort of would pick up something and then overlay it with something else and etc go from there- an impressionist/reductionist process- but it was all intuitive. The process personally is still intuitive, but now when I think I want to create a certain sound I think a bit more about which instruments I want to choose and where. It’s changed slightly. So I guess through describing personal process- that’s really how I think about influences in a conscious sense.
AH: Also, rather than adopting Tobacco’s sound, your music only lightly resembles his. I actually would say your sound reminds me more of Avey Tare’s than Tobacco’s. Are there any influences others have heard in your music that you didn’t realize until somebody else pointed it out? If so, do you ever agree that these influences slipped into your work unnoticed?
P: Oh of course- I don’t sound anything like Tobacco at all whatsoever! [Laughs] Wow. Well, I think our minds are all just banks for all the minutia of every experience we take in, so of course there are influences that one may not be completely aware of, or associations that pop up afterwards. I know I had a couple songs earlier on where I was trying to figure out phrasing for them and I would keep comin’ up upon familiar patterns and ways of saying something and then I’d get some space between the process or set them down and come pick them up later and it would hit me like “oh, that is very similar to this XYZ song” or the way I would say a certain word felt similar but even when in reality, it was still not even close to the song- but there was a shared sense, maybe a common vernacular it drew from which I would find popping up in my own stuff. It happens regularly in the whole Americana vein- when you think of delta blues, folk, definitely- that sort of thing. Yet, In a way its necessary to fill your brain with things that really resonate with you, ‘The Greats’, studying as much a variety, early on, so that becomes imbedded in you, and from there you can draw out what you need from all that in your own individual process, thereby creating your own way of doing something, even if unconsciously. I actually haven’t listened too much to Avey Tare or Alice Glass’s stuff so I cant vouch for them as conscious influences, but I can see how easy it can be to associate certain elements with other elements or maybe certain female vocals with other female vocals and that sort of thing. One thing I’ve been working on lately is to separate myself from more of the complex “frilly” guitar arrangements- not that those are necessarily “female”- (whatever that means), but rather sort of trying to leave ‘classicalish’ or ‘jazzyish’ or progressivish-guitar pieces, and instead going for more simplified, gut-lust, butt-riff stadium-loose type point blank songs. Haha, Whos influenced that? I’ll have yet to figure out. Sometimes you can step away and see those influences come into place with some distance- but nothing is clear before hand. It takes time I think to pick out specifics. Or maybe it’s the influence-ers of your influences that influence you?
AH: You have a lot of music out there. How do you keep your creative juices flowing to continuously put out music?
P: This might sound anti-social, but I think the only reason that I get stuff done is ’cause I’m kind of an isolated person. I’m still looking for a place to feel at home. I’ve moved around a ton, at least once every couple of years the past 6 or so years sort of by accident really, and I just finished a tour this month…things like that- so its really easy to not have a sense of place or home- and because of that there’s not a lot of opportunity for others or outsiders to convince me that I need to be doing something else with my life! haha. I probably wouldn’t waste any time sticking around people who would say that type of thing anyhow, I don’t want to have to waste energy convincing someone who can’t see the value in something, (and I shouldn’t have to), so I usually just say, “thanks, but no thanks”. Another thing is that I started teaching myself how to record pretty early on, so by the time I got to highschool I had a semi-solid Idea of just getting things down on tape. I turned 25 this year, so from a life style standpoint as well I haven’t been in the right place yet to have any large responsibilities come crowding in my space- I don’t have any family or career commitments aside from what I choose to create for myself-which so far has been not much- that’s actually more of a curse than a blessing sometimes- I might have time freedom, but I feel homeless because of that! and its sort of a catch-22: I write songs about being lonely, but I cant meet people cause I’m either traveling or recording!- nah, that’s an exaggeration, but there is truth to it in some form…It’s more of a choice, I haven’t chosen to really commit to anyone else yet. I still have to get myself figured out on some base level first… thats an ever changing challenge that I have to accept. I hope its not an excuse! [Laughs] I’ll decide what I want eventually. For now all I want is to get things down on tape. And thats an ever revolving carousel… An Endless one, as I feel like I have no choice sometimes..it just comes out and its a necessity to get it down.
But basically the reason material gets out, is in two parts- really comes down to one, ignoring what other people say, as well as two; being addicted to creating. In a way it’s actually not a choice for me personally. I thought it was, and I wished with my all that it was a choice..I have so called prayed that I could just stop doing it- I really fought it hard when I was in school, I pretended that I didn’t do all this stuff in my free time, and really I’m just starting to come around to accepting and working with the fact that I can’t NOT create, I can’t not deny this.. I can’t deny these things that come out. It’s a form of expelling/cleaning out/transmuting whatever is inside. To say it in a vulgar sense- physiologically our bodies are not meant to hold in our bi-products, ‘Shit or Die’ essentially- It’s the exact same thing. The faucet is hard to turn off and I honestly didn’t choose to be this channel but I am it so I might as well go with it… and everything else gets pushed aside for it. You can call it something else, being a neurotic. I don’t care cause I know someone out there will need what I’m putting out.
There was a period of time when I was studying architecture in school and I was in Denmark giving this ‘Capital T’- thesis presentation and I felt so embarrassed and horrified that instead of being in the studio for architecture, I would do the minimum and then I sneaked off and I wrote music and did all this stuff instead and I was seriously obsessed with it that I never stayed for any of the other presentations or social events after class and didn’t really care about what else was going on in terms of the social community or being involved in it. I probably appeared like an arrogant asshole for all I know… I knew all about theory and history and design concepts but I didn’t want to interact with anyone..because I knew it wasn’t me. I was holding up a face to just survive, and I knew I was in-congruent and that was a huge battle for me that I almost didn’t survive through. I didn’t tell anyone because I was sooo scared and ashamed and horrified that this was the real me. Gasp. A musician. Such a dirty word these days. Such a shame. I’m completely Imperfect. Not an ‘architect’ archetype basically, except in the framework I am committed to- which is funny considering that what I do sonically is very much architect-ing. I didn’t want anyone to know I wrote music or played an instrument-and….leading a double life was extremely exhausting, especially since its so core. I felt I couldn’t let anyone in and it really closed me off. I tried to hide it for so many years. Even up until recently, I would sort of quiver and flinch when I shared with people that I performed and wrote and would produce work, which is sort of confusing since I feel personally pretty confident in my abilities when I was alone, and I definitely have had the weird and uncomfortable experience of emasculating others in different ways with those skills, that might sound arrogant, but I really don’t mean it that way because I derive no pleasure from it, and it actually hurts me, so this conflict of confidence was really weird for me, and I have been working on empowering myself with that, letting the rest fall away. I still really struggle with sharing my music in general, and am getting better at feeling ok with “No, this is me, I have to accept that this stuff is here, and I can’t suffocate what is coming out. It will kill me. I have to accept that as ’embarrassing’ I believe musicians to be, which has been a brainwashed, external belief that has been imposed upon me growing up with really cynical peers and family…that I kind of have to step up to whats happening inside. When the calling comes and you don’t answer the phone there are painful consequences. I’m glad I am still here and had the courage to say I’m not going to hide from it.
It was something about being public and visible that I really struggled with and have just only recently found the courage to be present and open with. That was a difficult challenge to grow through, it sounds ridiculous in retrospect but there’s such a stigma to having that need to express yourself that you believe exists when you are in that place where you can’t come to terms with being comfortable with your own nature- that I think may be difficult to understand from the outside the person having that experience, but especially in my family- which is a paradox cause my family is really heavy into music, but so much that you can’t really live up to any expectation of what is “good” so I really tried to separate myself from that anxiety and that toxicity. I really felt like if I told anyone I was a ‘musician’ in all my time hiding away from everyone that I would be completely shunned- this sense that my family thought it was a joke. Lots of people think its a joke. The fraud complex. It sounds ridiculous now, but its really true. You never know- There’s probably tons of John Lennon’s, Neil Young’s out there hiding because of what’s in the air. So you have to fight that and just believe in yourself. I had a lot of pressure to be “professional”. I felt that I had to be an architect to survive and be accepted, and in a ancient cave man sense, when you go outside the tribe, it means death. That is not so anymore cause I built my self up strong enough to go past that, but you really do have to have the courage to go against deep ancestral programming and say “no, I’m not going to listen to you”- it feels like life or death inside but you have to do it if you ever want to actually be who you came here to be. Its the most terrifying thing I think any human being can experience. Things are changing though.
So really only recently have I come to terms and really struggled to accept that this is nature to me, that I need to share it, and that maybe someone will take something from it- that it may benefit someone else, and that has actually proven itself to me over time. I’ve started to get letters from a couple people, and I don’t even have that many people who actually know, so that is surprising enough and I am very greatful and humbled. I got a letter recently from this boy in England who said the work I did really affected him, and he wanted to make that personal connection by writing me . It’s things like that that make you keep going, even if you are doing it for that one person out there who really derives value from it. So, in a nutshell, that also is a process in itself, being your true self despite all the stigma against it (even if it just exists in your own mind). But yea I guess, all I can say really is definitely ignore as many people as you can! haha, unless of course they are somewhere where you want to be, and even then sometimes those people who are were you want to be are not someone you should look up to, but listen intently to their lessons- what mistakes did they make? I like seeing in retrospect that I’m making the same mistakes as people I look up to…. And, well, otherwise just do what you feel like and that is all that you need to create, the rest should come without planning or thought, just naturally. Way too many people plan for things that never happen- planning has a place and time but not in the moment when things are made. You already have everything you need to create. You don’t need to have, be, or do anything else, than what you are at this moment to create.
AH: A lot of the time, you hear about musicians finding themselves through an album or song that initially sparks their passion for creating music. Did you ever have this experience— if so, what was it (and what did it do to you)?
P: I was really fortunate to grow up from day one surrounded with a ton of great music, and discovering new things just sort of happened just effortlessly growing up. I had a couple of milestone moments I guess- I found my mothers GoGo’s and Neil Young records when I was about six or seven and got hooked on those and would come home everyday after school and play them on the player. Especially the last day of school before summer I would put on Vacation and just blast it through the house and that became my little personal childhood tradition for years and I’d turn it off before mom or dad came home- just ridiculous things- Lots of things like that. My sister and I had a tape collection that we would play and record over before in our tiny little room (she slept in a drawer) and we shared and would overdub and play with this stereo set up my dad put in our room to these tapes before CDs came out- just weird stuff on those cassettes, and we sang to the lion king cassette I rememeber very clearly! Before the internet came around we had some really great record shops in my home town and I got hooked on stuff like super furry animals, I don’t really want to name names but I guess to give a better sense… I guess-we had lots of metal, folk around when I was starting preteen-hood, and that was a huge deal to me as a developing kid- Most of my middle school memories are attached to Mellow Gold, Paranoia stuff around then that really lended a type of surrealism to my changing hormonal experience! Haha. We would go up into the cascade mountains and put on mellow gold at night, where it was total pure darkness and we’d have a campfire with no one around in the old growth and just play Mellow Gold. I feel so fortunate to have memories like that. Lots of Quasi growing up, I was really into, cause they lived in the nearest city, and my dad was really into Sleater Kinney, so (Ironically) I got this female influencing thing happening, even though I grew up in a really dis empowering, misogynistic environment, it was a weird mixture of things. I was about 14 when I saw them, and the whole Portland scene was blowing up and I would go up to portland almost every weekend and would find or hear of something of interest at any of the record stores. Shows that would come through or local bands. Lots of bands in my highschool too who were “big wigs” but they all… I felt shameful and embarrassed. I felt like “well I can play too…”….. and it was just this cynical environment, which I felt I was running away from when I moved to Philadelphia. I had to get away from that northwest vibe which can be dark sometimes, competitive…not collaborative, which was my true desire. I try my best not to come at this whole thing with judgement, but sometimes I do succumb to that, and at least I am honest about it. But there is a kind of coldness in the community that can be felt at times. I felt drawn to philly because its so open and collaborative, “were all in this together” feeling- a mutual respect in the community overall, I really felt drawn to, and the artists that lived there, both visual- new media artists and of course artists music-wise.
In terms of structural influences, and the study of songwriting, I’m really huge on Brian Wilson from a song writing stand point. Alot of his work incorporates alot of jazz and progressive stuff, lots of classical stuff which I was trained on, so he was a big one for me too, but not necessarily in an etheric way, like a lot of bands are really bastardizing the whole over-reverb thing (and I am guilty of that too, I admit it) But its kind of cliche- like you would walk into a store like an urban outfitters or something, and it all sounds identical, which I assume is similar to all the singles that were a result from the whole Phil Spector phenomena of the early 60s and THAT kind of reverb back then, and not this weird pro tools reverb, which all sounds uniform and ubiquitous…sounds very similar on all the new digital stuff. But that’s a tangent…and hey at least we have the tools and don’t have to build our own echo chambers in our garages or whatever….you know? Pet sounds is the only reason we even have reverb in protools! …but… ok back to the main question of finding yourself through an album…
I wouldn’t really say any of the music I heard made me want to create more music but it just infused my experience of what music is and what it could mean, how I could think about it differently. I studied loads of classical and jazz music mainly as well and I think that material really shaped my idea of how to create and the feeling of creating something that was satisfying on a deeper level- Andres Segovia, Django Reinhardt were big ones for me when I was learning too. Yea, I’ll stop name dropping though…
But getting back to creating- I think more than any specific albums, more collaborative experiences for me shaped the idea of wanting to create certain things- when I was in highschool I joined this jazz-“metamorphic rock” group which was kind of this weird progressive rock jam band, and we had these weird complex arrangements nestled inside this simple structure and that was a really great challenge at the time, we pulled from a bunch of different elements, there was a mandolin player, and it just was really interesting for what it was as a high school group back then, and it was great to be working with dudes, and I really felt protected by them and that was a great time . It was a really good fusion of a bunch of different things for us, it kept us awake. I think that experience more than anything sort of shaped the direction I started going- in doing my own thing. I also was in this girl pop group called the Lentigos which was also sort of the other half of that feeling- it was much more basic and visceral, rooted in a bunch of pure punk sensibility, classic pop simplicity and innocence, but not really riott grrll stuff- Just weirdo girls having fun, innocent, non-militant flavor. But ultimately, patriarchy wasn’t hip to that, which was also a force that sort of shaped me in an unfortunate, reductive way. Collaborative instances like those with other musicians and a bunch of others I think more clearly defined my own process for myself, both positive and negative more than any specific recording. But breaking up with those groups was also really traumatic for me because it meant alot for me as a high schooler or whatever, at the time. And I still sometimes have this sense of “gosh, can I really collaborate with people and trust them?” Its something I am still trying to “shut the door on the past” in many ways. It will happen in its own time, I’m not going to worry about it. It’s not victimization or anything, its an opportunity for something else to learn and work through in the mean time.
AH: If you had a limitless budget, the help of any musicians or artists you wanted, and all the time in the world, is there any crazy dream to create something that you’d bring to reality? If so, what would you do?
If I haven’t already written a book for you today…. ok I’ll try to restrain myself on this question, but I’m offering no guarantees! I spend too much time thinking about my ideal scenarios, because they get me excited even if there is little sensibility in them and little possibility of them ever happening, I still love being in that place, because I’d rather be the kind of person who not just hopes for things, but really strives for them, makes mistakes and gets embarrassed along the way but still does what I can to try to make something happen with action and ignore all hopelessness in favor of effort, rather than deny wanting something in the first place, I can’t suppress my passion or excitement for things very well. I’d rather feel the disappointment over and over again than to not be able to feel at all, or not hope for something larger at this point, because I have definitely been numb and those days were lost and very painful. Some of the worst you can imagine, and its an ongoing struggle. But overall, Hey, I do stupid things like follow my dreams! [Laughs] But I can’t blame anything for having those desires and doing what I can for them, because I don’t know where those desires come from and all I can do is try my best to allow them to come through and take action on them.
So, well, first off, I’ve had this dream for a while that after a certain point I would assemble my 10 or 12 favorite artists or ideal collaborators, we’d all take out some time together in a perfect world where schedules aligned, (or somehow arranged it for specific days or weeks where a certain set of people could work on it?)- and we’d each write one song and everyone else but the artist that wrote that song would record that artists’ song, so the end album would be 12 songs of basically 12 incredible artists covering each other- each song containing a slightly different version of a super group. It would be pragmatically ridiculous but I still think it would be incredible- all the artistic cross contamination and chance operations that would result- of course it would be probably hell with all those people trying to decide on one thing unless it was real dirty quick and dry- but that’s as close as any definition of Heaven could get for me personally- its basically pure music, true tribe- soul porn in imagination. The funny thing is that the ideal roster of artists I have in mind would probably just be this crazy surprise and something that others would look forward to as well. But also in reality, in terms of marketability it would be a score!- and yea, the idea of this super community, intense cross pollination would be just astounding, especially in contrast to our competitive, individualistic landscape… But I’m not saying it would be like ‘Save the Children’ or anything like that. But a mass collaboration definitely, something to bring meaningful community back for sure, but this time with incredible artistic output!
A more manageable alternative ideal for me is to write an album and then have one of my favorite or a few of my favorite musicians just record the songs I wrote in their own way- that’s a totally hedonistic and egocentric vision as well, but I’ve seen a couple musicians do it before, with awesome results, and in a funny way its actually not ego-centric at all because you as the individual are removed from the process- its your work but the process of constructing it and layering and adding elements to it would be instead the process of building it and getting it on record would be the process of others you respect and in turn you would look forward to their interpretation or output of it.
I think a third ideal scenario would just to be going into producing. I’m barely started in my own “career”- if that’s even a word that carries meaning anymore- but I am already thinking about producing someone else’s work, I really love being behind the scenes on things- I don’t mind being on stage or whatever but I prefer being in the back- tweaking directions of things- magic happens there equally as it does in the forefront, if not more maybe. I think it would be fun to give some input or shape the sound of someone else’s work, bring out the awesome mistakes, and translate them into meaningful things. I know I would love to be pushed and challenged to get my best out through someone else’s oversight and direction, I think it would be an even better challenge to try to bring out someone else’s best- that might give me a meta-view on my own process as well in a weird way. I would definitely like to pursue that avenue at some point. Lots of people have approached me to remix my stuff but that’s not the same as going in and shaping a sound with them creatively. So… there’s a distinction. If I already produce all of my work…why not help someone else? I might be headed that way in a short period of time… The doors are really wide open.
To get progressively simpler in my answers to this question- I would just be happy, greatful to have the option of collaborating with someone I admire. I’m so far away from that it seems, but I still believe it will happen someday, I know at least I feel worthy of it, even if I don’t have any expectations about it. Its something I can believe I can look forward to at some point, if I can get clear and resolved about the possibility.
AH: Do you have any (more realistic) goals that you aim to reach musically or artistically in the near future?
P: None of my goals are realistic! That’s inherently how I define goals, haha. But I guess to be a little more tethered to earth, right now I’m working on this album called ‘Sublation’, which originally I was going to make it be this concept work where people submit their sounds and I’d basically put together 12 songs that I’d have written the structures to but use everyone else’s input as the materials to build the structure. Not necessarily crowd sourcing but instead rather- a better way of defining it would be, ‘consented input’ or ‘collective participation’ (I think crowd sourcing is a problematic, exploitative and conflicted practice….) but anyways, this work would become this architectural project with the end result being these ‘Pop Opuses’- clear melody but still very texturally diverse that ultimately connect. Right now I’m waiting to hear back on this proposal for funding and other resources as of now, but even if the project doesn’t come through on that plane, I’m still going to follow through and create my own version of it, create my own input, even if it takes an additional year or two.. or just have a miniaturized open call for input, and which ever way it goes I’m going to make sure its worth listening to, as both this conceptual back story, as well as an aesthetic, viscerally enjoyable piece. I already put out the first set of pop opuses and I’m working on the rest of the set now. I want them all to string together like this giant baroque pop narrative that you can listen to on repeat- just one long piece but also understood in smaller sections and within the context of the whole; like this rhizomatic experience. I think the concept album is on its way to dying- singles will become more of a normalcy, and this is my way of sort of bridging that decay…I could be wrong, I can have singles that fit into the whole as a piece, but are just as good as singles and just sort of see it as this piece that you can adjust the lengths to and come in at anytime and you can see it in any form you can imagine- a 2 minute song, a 30 second symphony, an hour long mega song… that’s sort of the idea behind it as not being purely conceptual, but could also be a concept within a concept of a non concept… I don’t know if that makes sense? [Laughs] I hope to have it completed by December of this next year. Its the biggest thing I am attempting to do, and will do. By the end of August I’ll be back in Philly and hopefully from there I’ll hunker down and lay it straight. I’m really excited to get to work on it. I considered going to Eugene, Oregon to finish the record but I think its imperative to be in Philly, because Philly is by nature this rhizomatic place of different colors and experiences and textures, (like a perverted Russian doll? if that makes any sense…) and I think its probably a positive thing to surround myself with what I’m needing to expel when going into the “woman cave of my working world” haha. Plus I want to finish a record where I started it. I’ve already recorded it at five different houses, and that’s also part of the work- each place has a different flavor that I am contributing to different parts of it. This will all make much more sense when its available to listen to, I promise! [Laughs]
Also beyond that, I hope to keep figuring out ways to keep playing to larger and larger avenues. It’s tricky when you are just sort of starting out by yourself, and you don’t come with a community, and you are an isolated person…but determination is on my side with that. But I also know that there is limitation inherant in touring and it can limit your creativity and your reach paradoxically- I remember the beatles complaining that touring just really was not in their favor…beach boys too- they understood that you can’t always do the best work consistently when that is an obstacle to be dealt with.. The Beatles were able to do more with less touring because the model back then allowed for it. I don’t know what the future holds..
A really big goal would be to get together a solid band too. Right now since my recording project is basically me- I am my own band, my own engineer, my own producer, my own mixer-master-er, being your own booker, web designer etc. is limiting. Freedom limits me! I’d love to be able to feel like I can have some back up, really valued support. It’s ridiculous to do it all yourself, its unnecessary. But it’s also really difficult to find the right people, to call in the right people. Its been pretty disappointing out there as of writing this, so I’m keeping my chin up that I can attract the right help- people who really want to engage with it on a different level- finding the right people who can bring their own spin to it in a way that I can get with and that is jelly for all of us. That is a challenge- finding solid backup who is with you on all levels, and who can understand complexity and simplicity diametrically but also with the necessary skills. Its an extremely rare combination to find someone who understands that, and so I am trying to keep an open mind, maybe I have some limiting beliefs that I need to shift first. I have not yet met those people yet and I really hope they come out of the woodwork at some point. I promise… I am not pretentious for saying that! [Laughs] its really more of a pragmatic thing: “Can you seriously play this part that fast and make this weird ass jazzy 7th, 9th distorted achromatic psycho chord, but also not show off like that guy in Waynes world and play a simple three note ditty and sustain it as well also?” You know, you got to have people who understand both sides of the polarity….you need a Mccartney and a Django…and someone who can see that Mccartney may actually be the more complex one of the two haha. Its appears to be a monumental challenge but I don’t want to have to resort to believing that either, challenges are for a reason and there’s a solution somewhere. I also don’t want to think its because I’m a chick because I know that’s false way out, that’s resistance or avoidance… of looking at things, but it is still possible. I know I will find those people sooner the quicker I say “no” to the people I know I don’t work around. It’s simple really. I make it sound more difficult than it is.
I tried a few years ago to get some time in as an intern at numerous studios to study sound engineering because I was really interested in different types of equipment and I wanted to expand my knowledge about different tape machines and compressors-and boards-and condenser mics-and just techie-head BS- things like that, I had been trolling on gear sluts for several years (but my psuedonym was made to make it appear that I was 60 year old male baby boomer) and I wanted to really get in and interact on a tangible level…I was super curious and it was a conflict of access for me- I mean It wasn’t practical to just go out and buy a several thousand dollar Ampex machine or a UA LA-2A or any of that shit- just to get some practice and gain a deeper understanding of the whole process of the mechanics of it all- so I wanted to step into these studios to be able to interact with this equipment in an immediate sense- and I was told by several studios that “they weren’t used to having a girl around” despite being familiar and super curious and dedicated to expanding and learning and satisfying that curiosity (in theory) with a bunch of the equipment- one blatantly told me he couldn’t have me as intern because “I was a girl” which is always kind of a point blank insult to any intelligence, or character-led experience, or work ethic, or numerous things that you may have in your knapsack. I kept a bunch of my sexist, discrimination rejection letters as a demented, or humorous record of all these unfortunate outcomes. Luckily that kind of bullshit doesn’t really effect my confidence in what I trust I understand from a technical point of view-I also have the awareness to say that there’s way too much I don’t know at all, as well…but I mean after a while, with repeat offenses, you learn to just let it go cause there’s no reason to battle ignorance or other people’s projections of fear. And, conversely, if I had gotten a chance to learn these things at a studio it probably would have set other things off course, and as a result, I learned a bunch more about how to do things improperly- which in turn became part of the work, part of the good mistakes, so I try to believe everything happens for a reason, even if the end benefit is initially disguised as a problem. I generally am drawn to the type of people who are autodidacts anyways, so I guess it only makes sense that I stay on that path myself. And I trust at some point it will happen without me asking. Before I die, I will get to go into someplace I can’t imagine- like Western Recorders or Oceans Way or something- and physically hug the compressors and consoles! [Laughs] Just you wait and see! [Laughs] Although I am sure they wouldn’t appreciate me doing that… maybe symbolically though.. with my loving energy I can “hug”. Ok now I just sound like a weirdo. As if I didn’t already sound like one….
AH: If you could share any idea or belief through your music, what would that be? Is there one you already try to share?
P: I’m going to refrain from ascribing any meaning to what I do. I hope people can derive their own meaning from the work. It could mean anything, a bunch of things, nothing. It could be saying a ton or nothing at all, maybe both at the same time. It is (or I am) being direct and evasive. It could be nihilistic, who knows? Were all growing, were all learning, it could be meaningful. I have no idea? Of course there are stories behind some of the songs but I wouldn’t want to off put meaning that someone else already gifted a song with… Their ability to add their own interpretation to the song is part of the gift, part of the value inherent in sharing. Also, people are going to feel the songs differently. I just know this out of my own experience. I haven’t been able to feel a Neil Young song the same way that I did even a couple of years ago- part of that is the Depersonalization Derealization thing I mentioned, and other part could just be some other form of projection or where I am at in space/time. You can’t control other peoples projections or feelings associated with the work, so why should I attempt to?
AH: Define your music in 3 words.
P:To borrow the phrase of R Steevie Moore who I revere greatly, who also sort of has a community following in Philly: Klu.Klux.Glam!.- although its not really glam at all? [Laughs] how Original! Sorry, that’s all I got today, I’m a little pooped from this book I just wrote you.