Kristin Hersh - Interviews - Soundblab

Kristin Hersh

by Rob Taylor Rating: Release Date:

On the eve of her new release, Wyatt at Coyote Palace, Kristin Hersh spoke with Soundblab about her new mixed media release – a book and double album titled ‘Wyatt at Coyote Palace’,  containing 22 songs and essays and reflections about Kristin’s life with music, art and family.

Hello is that Kristin ? It’s Rob from Australia.

Hi. Sounds like you’re next door !

Yes it does, though its pouring rain here and quite loud.

Its pouring here too, and I’m sitting at the beach in that pouring rain (laughs) I have my bathing suit underneath my clothes, I had big plans but … but its too wild

There’s an anecdote in Wyatt at Coyote Palace of you passing out at the beach, and awaking amidst the seaweed and foamy water, as you were being washed out to sea !

Everything in the book is true, everything in the songs is true too. I haven’t got the kind of brain to invent anything, so I just write the stuff down that happens. The things that happened are so bizarre, you can’t make those things up.

Yeah, in the book you said you were almost electrocuted by your microphone. Having reached a venue during a wild storm, and plugging your guitar amp into a dirty socket, your lips on the mic sent volts through your body ! You say this is not an unfamiliar event because you’ve been tasered by cow fences in your locale in Rhode Island ?

Ha ! That was actually while I was making this record ! I was playing ‘til two in the morning because I didn’t want to go home, and I live just up the street [from the studio] and I walk in the snow. The engineer got sick of me, and I had to leave, and out in the country it’s really dark so I walked straight into the freakin’ cow fence and got tasered out into the snow !  

I found that it knocked entire sessions out of my head. When it was time to mix the record, I couldn’t remember how many songs I had recorded. I thought it was maybe 15 or 20 songs, and it was twice as many.

I was wondering whether you were serious about that ?

Well, I record a lot of songs (laughs)

There’s mention of near death experiences in your book as well ?

[A] friend of mine…. pointed out most of my stories and my band mates stories [from Throwing Muses] involve us nearly dying and we think its really funny. So when I started writing it down I realised, well, we don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take life seriously. If life isn’t love and work, I don’t know what else it would be. They’re gravely serious to us and popular culture does not take this kind of thing seriously.  We can’t possibly take ourselves seriously, so that’s the line the book took …..

And when you and your peer group were teenagers. Kids doing coke in the summer and pot in the winter ? Eating gazpacho with the hookers ?

That’s island life for you. Yeah I’m sitting on the island now, and they’re moving from coke to pot and you can see the difference in people. I’ve often wondered that…. they call it a ‘high’, they don’t look high, they look low ! I was never much of a drug user because I was raised by hippies .. I had no interest.

Wyatt at Coyote Palace is a great album by the way and thanks for sharing it.

Oh, thank you !

I’ve seen videoclips of you singing in smaller venues such as bookstores and cafes, and I know the last time you were here (Australia) you played a few smaller venues. Do you think your newer solo material lends itself to a smaller, more intimate setting ?

I do love that, they say the word ‘intimate’ for a good reason. It’s making a point to sit in a room with the people, and to speak to them as if we’re having a conversation. You have to trust that I’m not going to lie to you, mislead you and hurt your feelings. It’s important that you know that I’m not an asshole. We’re working together to make something nice.

As for Australia, that Katoomba show, it was like walking into the Titanic [like art deco], amazing and beautiful. You can play that kind of show in Australia. You guys are just too wonderful, and you’re musically literate too. That makes a real difference.

So, what’s poignant about Wyatt at Coyote Palace is the philosophical observations of your sons, Wyatt and Bo, as they try to make sense of finality, of ending, and ultimately of renewal because its hard otherwise for them to grapple with these issues ? Bo talking of snakes that shed their skin to avoid suffocation, and Wyatt who spoke to you about crossing an imaginary threshold into a new world.

If you don’t engage in the finite, then there’s no hardship, there’s no point. If we weren’t finite beings we wouldn’t be able to grasp the heartbreak inherent in what this place is, and we also wouldn’t engage in the highs, so Wyatt was right I just didn’t want to admit it.

I wouldn’t have made it through this time if it was not for that concept and Wyatt said it to me ‘’you don’t think you’re going to make it over this last hurdle do you ? Everyone says you’re doing so well, you know, but you don’t think you’re gonna make the last hurdle do you ?’’ I said ‘’No, how did you know ?’’ He said “because when the unthinkable happens, you die, and you’re the only one who can see your own death right now. You’ll make it over the hurdle and start a new life’’

He sounds like a very insightful young man ?

He is, he’s had a rough time and it’s informed his protective nature, which is a nice response to a tough time.

On the new album, as with your other solo material, there’s the characteristic quiet/loud dynamics, radical shifts from dark to light ?

You’re so right, its always there, I was always thought it was a completion – you begin with the dark, you can’t have one without the other. It would be half-assed and wouldn’t tell the complete truth.

That’s just how the songs write themselves. It feels good but I don’t do it in real life.  I’m just a nice lady the whole time ! I really am, its not healthy ! (laughs)

The book format with CDs. Is this what you prefer now ?

I like books books better than cds. They’re still a valuable thing to give someone. Beautiful graphics something nice beautiful to hold.

Whereas if you hand someone a cd, it’s a piece of plastic, and it implies they’ll adopt your soundtrack, which is a bit presumptuous. Suggesting that they adopt your religion. Now, I sneak cds into book hoping they’ll adopt my religion ! (Laughs)

I just do what I want to do now. I have lots of books to read from, and songs to play, so I sit there and do whatever I want.

Full artistic control ? You do play everything yourself on the new album ?

The sounds of having no friends I guess (laughs)

I seriously doubt that. Does the solitude appeal to you ?

Its focus I suppose. It doesn’t feel like solitude, theres so much noise in my head. [Kristin says something about studio time as a fresh palette]

Its selfish. I wish I could spend the rest of my life in the studio, however its very expensive, and what I do is promotional at best. CDs don’t sell, and so when people pay my recording costs I give them the music for nothing and right now the maths is just fine. I’m listener supported. ‘Strange Angels’ [her listener support base] pay my recording costs.

Well, I love the new album, but by a whisker, Sunny Border Blue is still my favourite

Yeah ? Sunny border blue is my favourite ! That's a brutal one ! Thank you.

I’m glad you let me yell through you  !

My pleasure. It was great speaking with you

It was lovely speaking with you. Thank you so much. Hope to see you soon bye bye


Kristin Hersh Tour in support of Wyatt At The Coyote Palace:

Nov. 1 - Dundalk, Spirit Store
Nov. 2 - Dublin, Pavilion Theatre
Nov. 3 - Cork, Triskel Christchurch
Nov. 4 - Galway, Roisin Dubh
Nov. 5 - Limerick, Dolan’s Warehouse
Nov. 7 - Portsmouth, Wedgwood Rooms
Nov. 8 - Bristol, Lantern Theatre
Nov. 9 - Exeter, Phoenix
Nov. 10 - Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach
Nov. 11 - Aldershot, West End Centre
Nov. 12 - Louder Than Words Festival, Manchester
Nov. 13 - Manchester, Gorilla
Nov. 14 - Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
Nov. 15 - Birmingham, Glee Club
Nov. 16 - York, Crescent
Nov. 17 - Edinburgh, Summerhall
Nov. 18 - Glasgow, The Mackintosh Church
Nov. 19 - Liverpool, Philharmonic Music Hall
Nov. 20 - Hebden Bridge, Trades Club
Nov. 21 - Norwich, Arts Centre
Nov. 22 - Brighton, Komedia
Nov. 23 - London, St John in Bethnal Green
Nov. 24 - London, St John in Bethnal Green
Nov. 25 - Folkestone, Literary Festival

Nov 29 - The Triple Door - Seattle, WA
Nov 30 - Mississippi Studios - Portland, OR
Dec 3 - Swedish American Hall - San Francisco, CA
Dec 4 - Echoplex - Los Angeles, CA
Dec 5 - Brick 15 - Del Mar, CA
Dec 8 - Swallow Hill Music - Denver, CO
Dec 9 - Cedar Cultural Center - Minneapolis, MN
Dec 10 - Space - Evanston, IL
Dec 11 - Music Box Supper Club - Cleveland, OH
Dec 13 - Club Café - Pittsburgh, PA
Dec 14 - Jammin Java - Vienna, VA
Dec 15 - Tin Angel - Philadelphia, PA
Dec 17 - Rough Trade - Brooklyn, NY
Dec 18 - The Sinclair - Cambridge, MA  

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