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Lisa Germano - Interview

  by David McNamee

published: 18 / 4 / 2003

Lisa Germano - Interview


Former 4AD star Lisa Germano has not released an album for the last five years, but is now back with a new record 'Lullaby for Liquid Pig' and also 'Best of' and rarities compilations. David McNamee talks to her about her comeback

"1958 – born into an italian-american catholic family in indiana in a weird small town of diversity: white trash, highbrow symphony concerts, italian over-emotional passion for everything, to perverts in the park. music everywhere… my folks being musicians and teachers who did recently write the hit song “in the wrong lane” among others (not yet released).." I’ve been trying not to write this article for seven years. I’ve had an unconsummated crush on the music of Lisa Germano since hearing her 1996 relationship concept album 'Excerpts from A Love Circus'. She occupies a similar position in my emotional landscape to the teenage Lauren Laverne (cobra-eyed, waiflike and made out of wire; me, as a 17 year old if I’d been a girl and not some insufferable fool who believed you could divine some inner purity through hating yourself) and the suicide pop of Trembling Blue Stars. Musically she fills the same holes in my soul that L’Altra’s perfumed sway of sound (at all times Lisa’s self-produced, home recorded music never sounds anything less than as if it was dreamed into being) and 'Amelie' composer Yann Tierson (with whom Lisa collaborated recently) do. "1960’s – wrote my own tragic opera on the piano REALLY getting into the punishment torture princes and princess thing... with six kids fighting for attention we formed the band 'The Jack Beany Benny Club' and wrote songs about poop and snot." Despite releasing a string of acclaimed, elegantly bruising dream pop (although, if you’re put off by inaccurate shoegazing connotations, ‘prism pop’ will do) albums throughout the 90's, little has been heard from Lisa since falling off the 4AD map with the aptly-titled 'Slide' album. There was the OP8 collaboration with Giant Sand, and a string of session work as backing singer and violinist for David Bowie, Eels, Neil Finn, among others. 'Lullaby for Liquid Pig' is her first album in five years, it’s accompanied by two unofficial compilations – 'Concentrated', a best of; and a rarities collection titled 'Rare, Unusual or Just Plain Bad Songs' – available on CDR via her website. Culled from a 12 year recorded history, these collections are amazingly coherent given not only the musical, but the psychological extremes – from giddy love-drugged Lisa, to almost EST levels of depression and self-loathing (gorgeously sung, beautifully arranged… possessed of a remarkable clarity and a near out-of-body ability to mock and hector oneself) and the fairytale-like recent documentation of her affair with alcoholism – that their author has persevered with throughout that period. 'Concentrated' refreshingly glosses over the cute Phoebe-from-<'Friends' zaniness of some of her singles and best known moments, peeling back the covers on a magical and cruelly ignored body of work. Themes for ‘Lullaby For Liquid Pig’ are: love, craving and dependency. Of course, her music is always about love (she sometimes sounds sick of feeling, but amazingly never in fear of it) because that’s the energy this stuff runs on, but mostly this one is about dependency. Damning, devotional, consoling and courageous, 'Lullaby…' is a mind knotted up in questions, craving sleep and singing itself back to the edges of sanity. Home-recorded and self-produced, it sounds incredibly intimate, like you’re lying in bed with her, drunk on sleep. Sleep as a metaphor for alcohol and alcohol as a metaphor for dependency and love. Exhausted to the ends of my nerves, I want to drink deep from this – an elixir dripping from butterfly-stung lips - and never wake up. A dream of music. I don’t hate being alive, just being awake. "1970’s – high school… lost my identity as a writer or princess and became a cheerleader… BAD TIMES…" DM: You talk about joining the cheerleading team but being kicked out for not smiling enough. Why did you want to be a cheerleader? Do you still want to be a cheerleader? You write about princesses a lot and cheerleaders seem to be like American princesses. LG: I don’t see this relationship. Cheerleaders need to be positive and full of confidence so they can get other people into the game, even when their team is losing. I couldn’t do this because when I was a cheerleader I couldn’t put on the act and smile enough, pretend we’re going to win. When I think of a princess I think of a sad, beautiful victim from fairy tales. As a child I would pretend I was a lost or kidnapped princess and that my family had been murdered and the bad queen murderer who wanted power over our kingdom got joy in torturing me. I even got strawberry captain crunch bars and mushed ‘em up in a bowl so it looked like blood ice cream and this bad queen would make me drink it saying it was the blood of my family and my prince so I would give up hope. Well, always then the prince would come and kill her and save me. Cheerleading was no way near this much fun. I don’t think there are any American princesses because America is not a very magical place. "1980’s – so obsessed with “the dream” and not doing it that the only way to make it real was to give it up and be punished – back to the princess torture thing and yes, the beginning of LOTS of problems…" PB : Why have you been away for so long? Your last album, “Slide”, even though it was so beautifully produced and crafted, seemed so emotionally stark. It sounded really naked, like it was made by someone who could feel themselves crashing. After that album did you find it hard to return to your own music? LG : My last record 'Slide' was a more positive record than the past ones, not as emotionally charged. I was actually seeing life positively, not from as sad a place as usual and was very curious about if there is life in different dimensions; do people vibrate at different frequencies; if you don’t like the wave you’re on can you go to another one; angels (positive thoughts) around to combat living in fear and are there aliens sending us messages of light and love? Probably these songs didn’t make any sense to most people, ha. But I felt it was good to explore and express the curiosity around them. Being curious comes from a very different place compared to being needy for answers. “Lullaby For Liquid Pig” comes from that thirsty for answer place and that place is always more intimate and the feelings that come from that place are more immediate because you need comfort NOW… The title of the new album sounds quite loaded. I don’t drink anymore cos I don’t like trying to enjoy feeling down, and I don’t like the kind of person I am when I’m drunk, but this is the kind of record I’d put on when coming down from a wine-binge - trying to lull yourself to sleep cos you don’t want to be awake anymore. I’d be scared to listen to it in that state though, it sounds too full of truth and self-aware to a point that’s way past feelings of embarrassment and it’s the kind of record which sounds like its giving you a damn good talking to. I was trying to work out for ages why this album sounds so intimate -like you’d written and recorded it in your bed - because the songs sound like you wrote and recorded them to play back to yourself in those moments. In 'Party Time' the song paints the picture of someone who is very sociable and uses drink for fun and party, but it’s the loneliest song on the album. 'Lullaby For Liquid Pig' came about by writing songs trying to figure out why relationships were failing, my fault, their fault, anyone’s fault? Lots of questions that would keep me from sleeping, so they became lullabies of questions. Liquid pig refers to being too thirsty for anything that would make a person in this state of loneliness feel better while they figure this out, one of them including turning to alcohol. It’s not a record about forgiving yourself, but as you said giving yourself a damn good talking to, because you can’t change your behavior until you really see it, stripped away, all alone there. PB : Do you find it hard to write when you’re depressed? There’s so much strength in your voice, you never sound fragile at all. A lot of your songs that deal with depression sound like you’re reporting on them after the event – which is why they sometimes almost sound mocking, like you’re chiding yourself rather than just wallowing in self pity or something. When you sing you sound like such a strong person, like nothing could hurt you, but that stuff has. LG : Often I get my best original lyric ideas and melodies when I’m depressed, because there is such an immediate need for companionship. When and if a song then has hope for me that it did mean something, I can finish it when I’m not so down and strip away what may have been overemotional and gets in the way of what the song is really trying to communicate. Sometimes I have a need to mock myself. If I can make me see how ridiculous my actions may be, I can laugh at myself and hopefully see clearer... it’s a way of seriously trying not to take yourself so seriously, so you see possibilities for change. Even the title 'Lullaby For Liquid Pig' came about by me laughing at myself for the way I was acting the past few years, drinking too much here and there, sucking out life from my friends, needing them too much. To laugh at myself helped me see and realize why some of these friends didn’t want to be around me. "Late 1980s – being now depressed and agoraphobic, playing at “the little nashville opry” ---talk about weird--- met John Mellencamp in my hee haw outfit… long story… and he asked me to join his BAND??????? so the beginning of REAL life, fun, horror, THERAPY, and change began… hence… my own records…" PB : How did it feel putting your compilation albums together and listening to those songs again now? Do you feel like the same person who made those albums ten years ago? If you could talk to that girl now, what would you tell her? LG : If I could talk to that girl now who wrote these records I would just look in the mirror, as I am not all that different. Although I would say, man you are getting O L D, and what are you going to do for a living when you grow up?” PB : The last girl I liked once sent me something really beautiful, which was a list of all the things that made her happy. It made me happy too. Can you do the same? Lists are ace. LG : Strangely enough I feel that giving you a list of what makes me happy actually is too personal. But I will say my favorite time of the day is the first cup of great coffee, listening to the cats eat their breakfast.... these kitty eating sounds make me very happy. PB : Thank you

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Lisa Germano - Interview

Lisa Germano - Interview

Lisa Germano - Interview

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