Sunday, March 31, 2013

20 Questions With Juliana Hatfield

(March 31, 2012)

hello, richard. this is juliana. thanks for contributing to my new albummaking. i've put my answers below your questions:

-----Original Message-----
From: "Goodman, Richard"
Sent: Mar 31, 2012 5:57 PM
To: ""
Subject: 20 Questions

Thanks for offering the 20 Questions as a pledge option.   It’s a fun way for us to interact with you!  Below are my 20 Questions as well as my name/contact info in case you need to verify the purchase.  Forgive me if I ask something you already covered in your book, since I haven’t read it yet (It is on my “To Read” bookshelf, ahead of Steve Martin’s autobiography and his latest fiction book but behind Robert B. Parker’s final Spenser book). 

Also, I know you won’t be responding with dissertations, so I’ll keep the questions mostly fluffy with a couple more serious things thrown in but if I ask something too personal or you don’t feel like answering, I understand - just go ahead and plead the 5th.  Thanks for taking the time to do this!  I really appreciate your responses, whatever they may be.  Hope you are doing well and enjoying working on the new album.  Take care!

# 1- You’ve played several venues in Virginia.  For example, I’ve seen you perform at IOTA, the 9:30 Club, the Birchmere, Mary Washington College and RFK Stadium.  Do you have a favorite Virginia venue?

i always like to go to the IOTA. the guy who runs the place is a sweetheart and always makes us feel at home. and he always has really interesting/fun things to talk about. and the crowd is always super nice. and i like the smallness, the cozyness, of the space.

# 2- Mountains, plains or sea shores?

the sea! (i grew up steps away from the atlantic ocean)

# 3- Do you think you have an obligation to your fans to produce something they will like or do you think fans are obligated to follow an artist on whatever path they feel like following?

i feel like my number-one obligation is to be true to myself and to not fake anything; to be honest is paramount. if i am expressing myself authentically, some people will appreciate it, and will see themselves in the music. there will always be some people who don't like whatever i do, but i can't help that. it happens no matter what i do.

# 4- Something I always wonder about with musicians- does the music come first or the lyrics?  I understand that it might be different for each song but in general, which comes first?

it's kind of both but in different places--i am always working on words but also on bits of music-- but not together-- and when i start to sit down to compose songs, i can draw from both places--from all the random pieces of lyrical ideas and from all the random bits of music parts,,and i can start to bring them together. it's like putting puzzles together.

# 5- One of the things I like about your live shows is that you throw in some covers from an artist you like, such as a Neil Young or Buffalo Tom song or a snippet from Camper Van Beethoven.  I owe you an immense debt for introducing me to The Jayhawks.  Their “Smile” and “Tomorrow The Green Grass” albums are two of my all-time favorites.  What else could you recommend to me that is a bit upbeat?  (For reference, right now I’m listening to some old Lush albums, the new Black Keys and the new Ministry album and I think I want to pull out some old Supertramp, Dandy Warhols and Modest Mouse this weekend.)

i really like the new nada surf album, "the stars are indifferent to astronomy".

# 6- What was your favorite book that you read last year, for entertainment rather than educational reasons?

i liked "the colossus of new york" by colson whitehead. it's  a few years old.

# 7- So which is it- is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all?

sometimes i wonder.

# 8- When you drink alcohol, what is your drink of choice?

whiskey or dry white wine or beer--nothing sweet or mixed.

# 9- If you got a sugar craving, what would likely be the sweet thing that tempted you?  (Similar to the way vegetarians have a temptation-trigger food, usually bacon for some reason.)

ice cream (and by the way, i've been a vegetarian forever and i never ever have meat cravings/temptations-i think meat is gross, period. that's why i am a vegetarian!)

# 10- Do you have some good friends you can rely on and talk to whenever you need some comfort?

there are people i could talk to, but i usually don't reach out to them when i should. i deal with a lot of stuff on my own. 

# 11- What do you do to relieve stress or depression?

mostly i just wait for it to pass. but exercise and sauna are temporarily good for stress. 

# 12- The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. What do you do? 

i'm really good at making myself invisible.

# 13- Not that I ever want you to stop performing and recording music, but if for some terrible reason you decide to do that, what would you miss most about it?  If I was lucky enough to be musically skilled, I think what I’d miss might perhaps be the fan reaction from a live show or the process of plucking an entirely original song from the ether of the universe, creating something new that had not existed prior to my efforts. 

writing and recording has always been more fulfilling to me than playing live in front of audiences. i'm a really shy and quiet person who likes to be alone so being out in front of people was always problematic, to say the least. i think i can always write and record so i could be content to do that for the rest of my life.

# 14- Your taste in movies seems to be eclectic, to say the least, which is something I commend.  How could I not be a fan of someone who watches not only Taken, Double Indemnity and Jennifer’s Body but also His Girl Friday, Jane Eyre and Morning Glory?  Who are your all-time favorite male and female actors/movie stars?

there's so many, it's hard to name favorites. modern actors i like are ewan mcgregor and patricia arquette- i would go to see anything they are in.

# 15- Only three of your songs can be saved from disappearing forever.  Which three would they be?

it's too hard to pick favorites! don't make me!

# 16- Does grammar and spelling matter in the age of texting and Facebook status updates and if so, why?

it should matter. it's the language. we need to know how to write it, how to communicate clearly enough to be understood. otherwise, society is breaking down. 

# 17- From what I’ve seen you post in various places, your skill as a painter seems to be steadily increasing.  How often do you work at it?  In other words do you paint all the time or just whenever the mood hits you?

i have been in a full-time post-graduate art school program this year . so i have been really working at it. 

# 18- In terms of painting and drawing, what artists or eras inspire you?  Do you consciously decide to try to do a Rothko-like piece, something Warhol-ic  or in the style of Manet or does it just come out on the page/canvas spontaneously?

i work intuitively and by that i mean that i do not consciously try to do anything that looks or feels like anyone else. it's the same with my music; i listen to my own inner creative urge; i try to express what is coming from inside of me. 

# 19- I’m about to go on a trip to Spain next week so I’m curious what foreign country you like the most and why.

i like sweden a lot. people seem healthy and beautiful (even the ugly people are beautiful). there's an easier pace over there; not a slowness but an appreciation of the rhythms of life. a quality of life thing that is hard to put into words; something you don't feel in this country.

# 20- Am I allowed to share your answers with my friends?



At first, I was pretty thrilled with the answers I got for my 20 questions pledge, considering I paid just $20, since was getting correspondence directly from Juliana and not an assistant or form letter.  Then she posted one of the replies she sent another pledger (see below) and I was a little less thrilled because his word count was much higher than mine and we all paid the same price.  It made me wonder “Did I ask stupid questions?” and “Did everyone get a lengthy response and I was an after- thought?”  Also, “Did I ask really stupid questions that she’ heard a million times?”  Then I thought about it again and figured the whole idea was to help Juliana raises funds to produce her album and I helped with that goal.  I should not feel bad that my letter wasn’t as interesting or worth sharing like someone else’s letter.  I should be happy that I got to see the extra info and that I helped her do something she wanted, which is to get the album made.  (But really, it’s because my questions were stupid, isn’t it?)

 Subject: Juliana Hatfield: Covers Album project update: a bit on "bed"

Hello from PledgeMusic, Juliana Hatfield posted a new update for Covers Album: a bit on "bed"

here is a transcript of one of the 20 questions and my answers—i thought some of you who are fans of “bed” might be interested (also fyi we are going to be dipping into “bed” at the june 27th show[s]):

1) I recently found myself in a conversation with someone who insisted that the illegal downloading of music only hurt the record companies. “The artists make most of their money from touring,” he argued. Please respond.

it’s not true in my case—-i don’t draw big crowds and so it’s actually really hard for me to make any money on tour unless i tour by myself, with no band and no more than a one-person crew ( a guy who does sound and tour manages—i thank god i found someone who can do both important jobs really well at the same time [saves money not having to pay two separate people to do the two jobs]). i have gone on the road with absolutely no crew (to maximize my earning potential) and i can tell you that it’s really not fun at all or healthy having to do everything by myself—all the driving, moving/loading equipment in and out, trying to get paid at the end of the night, getting directions and planning to get to each venue on time, booking hotels in each city, counting and setting up t-shirts/CDs (merch), doing interviews, patiently and gratefully and sometimes happily talking to and signing multiple things for all the fans who want it (this, sadly, regrettably, takes up precious time which i could alternatively be using to take care of all the other multiple things that endlessly and unfortunately need taking care of when you are the talent, the tour manager, the roadie, etc. etc), not to mention playing the gig without a band or anyone to back me up. etc., etc. i’m not complaining—-i’m just saying that your source is wrong/misinformed/ignorant/brainwashed. some people (madonna, radiohead, and many more lesser-known artists who are not me but who draw better than i do) make tons on the road but i don’t make much playing live, when you take into account all the expenses of bringing a band on the road (renting van/bus, tolls, parking, gas, airplane tickets, paying everyone decently, hotels, per diems, etc. etc. etc.). since i own most of my masters, post-atlantic records, and i am paid directly for any purchases of my music, i think my job/life would be easier if everyone who downloaded any of my music paid for it.. if they did, i could tour more—-i would have more money with which to go on the road properly and slightly comfortably—and if i were a bit more comfortable on the road i would be happier and healthier and i would play better and i would play/go on the road more often. but i do have to say that it is impossible to calculate how many people have been turned on to my music for the first time via illegal/unpaid download. it is good to win new fans but it does seem that not many new fans are coming out to my shows so i don’t know how much all the unpaid music is benefiting me.

2) “I Got No Idols.” What’s the story behind it? The first verse seems to respond to the media-hyped virginity brouhaha you found yourself in after the Interview interview (“you may think we all need that stuff/but I don’t think about it much”) while the second verse tackles false gods as well as how some ardent fans may perceive you (“but I’m a liar, that’s the truth/go home and think it through”).

it was existential. (‘become what you are", the title, was taken from nietszche, you know). i think i was trying to be tough, or to appear tough. to mask my fragility/weakness by claiming to not need anyone. and to not be impressed by anyone. but then acknowledging/admitting my weakness and fragility (when i do i have to leave the room/i’m scared of what i might do’—i might get weak in the knees, i might fall in love). i am trying to convince myself while trying to convince the listener—that i am a lone wolf. but not really believing it 100%, even as i am saying it). i don’t remember the specifics of what was going through my head. i think i was thinking of sonic youth and “kill yr. idols”, on one level trying/wanting to be ‘cool’ like them. i think you are right about the second verse. i wasn’t comfortable in the role of rock or pop star or objectifiable object and i thought it was all really stupid in a w ay and i never was any good at it because i could never believe the hype .

3) After Atlantic, you released an EP on Bar-None and then wound up on Zoe Records for quite a while. Were you under contract? Were they a series of one-off deals?

i think the bar none thing was a one-off license for a few years. and each of the zoe/rounder records was a several-year license, and after each term the ownership of the masters reverted back to me. i think there might have been a contract with zoe/rounder for a series of multi-year licenses rather than one contract for each album.

4) Why the title Bed?

there was no good reason for the title. i think i just liked the sound of it, and i was thinking that bed is so evocative of so many things. and i was kind of depressed and bed is where you lie for long periods of time without getting up/out when you are depressed and also bed is where a lot of the stuff that i reference in the songs—dreams, fantasies, retreat, sickness, recuperating, sex/love—happens. kind of dumb/simpleminded, i know.

5) Many of the Bed songs sound like you’re coming to terms (consciously or subconsciously) with leaving Atlantic. (For instance, in “Swan Song,” “you can’t fire me because I quit.”) Do you agree or disagree?

it was definitely my “i hate the music business” album, for sure. most people don’t get that about it. they think it’s all about some guy or guys (well i admit that ‘i want to want you’ and ‘sneaking around’ were about specific guys) and not a series of metaphors for hating the record company and the industry (and the public) who dropped me/failed me/bailed on me.

For these next 10 questions – whatever you would care to share about the songs (inspiration for them, a memory from the recording session, etc.).

6) “Down on Me.”

trying to make myself feel better about being written off—-trying to depersonalize it (“i think it is a fad so i don’t feel so bad anymore”) as a way to rationalize my falling out of favor as merely a trend and not having anything to do with me personally or with my deficiencies but never really believing it wasn’t simply my own failings , as an artist or performer or person or whatever. there’s so much hurt and bitterness --that i can’t disguise--in this song.

7) “I Want to Want You.”

that’s about a guy that i got involved with too quickly. i got scared and pulled away. it seemed so easy for him to want to be with me and to think that for us to be together was simple and sensible. but for me, being with someone is always problematic and overwhelmingly complicated, because of my deep-seated emotional problems (of which he was understandably not fully aware, that early in the game). he seemed, from my standpoint, to like me too much; too much for me to handle. he wanted to be my boyfriend. i wanted to want it as much as he wanted it—because there was no real reason not to. he was great, a really cool guy, a good guy. i felt really bad about it.

8) “Swan Song”

that’s the classic “you can’t fire me because i quit” scenario. i tell everyone that i begged atlantic records to let me out of my contract, to set me free, and i did—i did have that meeting with one of the big cheeses. but in the end what it amounts to is that they dropped me—they agreed to let me go --which means that they dropped me. i had read a book compiling real actual suicide notes and one of them said, simply, concisely: dear bill, i hate you. love, jane. (those weren’t the names--i can’t remember the names , but you get the point) . i thought that to use the names of jack and diane form the john cougar song would be funny—like, this is what happened to those two young lovers—they grew up and it all went to shit.

9) “Sneaking Around.” This is obviously about the relationship you write about in your memoir. I have no intention of going down that route, though, so… what led you to borrow the intro from “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”?

i am not sure which relationship you are referring to from the book? referencing the tom petty/stevie nicks thing was just out of the blue, spur of the moment dumbness/laziness. it gets me going sometimes to borrow a melody or bit from somewhere else—gets a song started when i am stuck.

10) “Backseat.”

feeling sad, trying to comfort myself, feeling like my life was out of my control, car/driving metaphors but also literally thinking of the blake babies tour in which ‘the perfect prescription’ was in heavy rotation, listening to it at night in the van, also generally how music/moving car/touring is/was a comfort

11) “Live It Up.”

this is the newly-hardened and -cynical me warning all up and coming young artists to watch out for the sharks and vultures (‘enjoy it now’ -type of thing -‘because it won’t last; they will stop caring about you’ and paying attention to you)

12) “You Are the Camera.” (This is one of my favorite songs of yours, by the way.)

contemplating identity personally and professionally—discomfort with being an objectified (female/sexual) object, confusion about my own identity and also about what the entertainment industry and the public wanted from me, etc. (sorry i don’t have more musical or recording comments)(or i could say that since we had to do this record really quick/cheap, i ended up using all of my few vocal takes all at once; i would sing a song 3 or 4 times and then to save time i would throw them all on a song without going through the trouble of comping them or having to listen down to all and choose the best one or the best bits…so you can hear in at least one place that two of the vocal are singing slightly different words (the reading the diary part) because i wasn’t sure about the words here- i couldn’t decide which i liked better, so on one vocal take i sang one version and on another i sang another version and they both ended up together.

13) “Running Out.”

sad again, trying to comfort myself (sometimes when i say “you” in a song i mean “me” but i like to alternate between “you” and “me” so that people don’t think i am totally self-absorbed. sometimes, though, of course, “you” means “you”. oh, and also, i get so sick of people saying “i’m a survivor” or “she’s/he’s a survivor” like only certain people have a claim to that distinction—as if to imply that some people haven’t suffered enough as much as others --but i think that everyone suffers in his/her own way, and that everyone has a hard time sometimes, and that it isn’t always obvious who is having a hard time, and so everyone should be treated kindly and compassionately, in theory. “promises are nothing”--i might have been thinking of/referring to the record company there, among other things/entities/people

14) “Bad Day.”

i see myself as a saboteur of relationships. also my brother and i had been held up at gunpoint behind fort apache studios one afternoon and that made itself into the song. (the gun part). it was the first and only time i’d been mugged. there were about five kids—teenagers—and they pointed the gun at my brother’s head. we calmly gave them our wallets and then they ran away. i felt so grateful to them for having not shot us (or my dog, who was with me and off-leash and running around). somehow this became part of a larger bad day idea and also i guess i drew a line from the the muggers back to a bad boyfriend, maybe, and in doing so was able to empathize w/the bad boyfriend by understanding that we are all damaged somehow by something—by things in our pasts/childhoods/past lives—-so we are not to blame for all of our damaging relationship behaviors.

15) “Let’s Blow It All.”

this is a made-up story about a band getting signed w/the knowledge of how it will end. -taking their money and spending it on good stuff , knowing that there will be no more money or glory coming--knowing that the record company doesn’t care about the band personally—and the band somehow empowering themselves this way. by not getting attached (to the attention or the necessarily short-lived glory, or something)

16) God’s Foot. If Atlantic decided to release those sessions in total – would you be okay with it? (If nothing else, it seems like it would be a perfect fit with Rhino’s Handmade series.)

i guess so.

17) How did you discover Pledge Music?

a friend told me about it.—a friend who knows the guys who run it. he set up a phone call meeting with them so i could ask questions and see what it was all about, since i hadn’t really researched it. during the short phone call they totally sold me on the idea and i was in.

18) What one question would you ask you that few, if any, interviewers ever have?

i can’t think of anything.

19) From your side of the fence, as an artist, how has the music industry most changed in the past 15 years? (Pre-Napster to now, basically.)

people used to be wary about selling out—in my scene it was important to have integrity and to not sell out. now that seems like an antiquated idea,—now the goal is to sell out—sellouts are admired.

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