not too long after the release of her first solo record, Grandmother's
Tea Leaves ('93), my first interview with Emily Bezar mostly dealt with
her background, her formative influences, and that album. Conducted
by snail mail in March 1995, the interview - her first printed interview
ever! - ran in (UK) Rubberneck # 18, June 1995.
the time of the release of her third album, Four Walls Bending, I had
the opportunity to ask her a few questions for an interview which appeared
- in Italian language - in Blow Up magazine # 19, December 1999. Due
to space constraints (plus the fact that the interview ran alongside
my conversation with Amy X Neuburg about the recently released Sports!
Chips! Booty! CD) the interview was definitely more on the brief side
than I would have preferred.
by e-mail during December 1999, the interview appears here in English
for the first time.
new album sounds massive but warm - when I push the volume up it never
seems to be "too loud" (hope my neighbours agree): does analog
make such a huge difference?
me "warm" means: does this sound seduce you forward? Do you
want to dive into the sound? I think that a soundworld with a balanced
frequency spectrum will always seem inviting, even at high volume. Yes,
some artifacts of digital recording do cause ear fatigue, but I think
it's always so much more about the instruments, the mix, the relative
levels. Cellos or piccolos at midnight, analog OR digital... you tell
me which your neighbors will scream about!?! Yes, Four Walls was recorded
and mixed to tape, so maybe the analog tape compression "warmed"
it up, but I started out with some pretty dark colors. Much of the electronic
sound on this album was created with an old Sequential analog synth
and the guitars were recorded with very little digital processing. One
earthy metaphor that I keep coming back to when I hear the sonic contrast
between this album and my last: Somehow the analog recording process
made my textures seem more "stewed", more cooked. Like all
the elements got bound and coated with this nice juice in the pot. Oh
now I'm hungry...
Grandmother's Tea Leaves it seems to me that your albums have progressively
become more "rhythmically grounded". How do you consider rhythm
when it comes to your current concept of music?
GTL was really just about me and the little world in my head at the
time. I could exist in a constantly shifting time grid because I was
conductor, accompanist and soloist all at once. Power! But with Moon...
I began to work other players into the fabric, and because I wanted
us all to have some fun, I didn't compose every note for them. The rhapsodic
feel that GTL swims around in was just not possible for me to achieve
on a multitrack band recording with that depth of complexity in arrangement
and form. I never wanted the band to just paddle in my wake and try
to play catch-up. And in writing the new album I found myself moving
even more toward arrangements where the piano was just an ornamental
color, not the main rhythmic engine as it had been in the past. So,
the groove responsibilities fell to Andrew and Steve and they put down
more solid roots that I ever could have as pianist alone.
read that on the new album some of your past musical influences, such
as Pink Floyd and Joni Mitchell, are revisited. True? If so, I think
by now they've been incorporated into your own style: I don't hear Pink
Floyd - maybe a bit of Mitchell, especially in the mood of Black Sand,
which reminded me a bit of the B section of Banquet, off For The Roses...
only know what music I listened to a lot early on... I never know what
really stuck with me. I do think my connection to Joni is a very deep
one. I always respond to her on every possible level. Hejira is my pure
sonic drug, Hissing: I'm in intellectual awe... and then there are the
emotional killers for me: Blue, Court and Spark. My rock influences?
With Pink Floyd I think I absorbed their grandeur and electronic sweep
in a kind of general way - their unselfconscious "majesty"
maybe. One thing I know for sure: on Four Walls Bending this band, these
players bring another 3 very distinct musical histories to the music.
I really said to them: "Here are the songs, here is what I want
to do with the keyboards, here is my state of mind when I sing them...
now make them your own, help me build a cathedral."
or lyrics? This time, which came first?
definitely the music. In fact, I was still working on lyrics after many
of the bands' parts had been recorded. Which is NOT to say that my vocal
melodies came last. They almost always come at the same time as the
basic harmonic/rhythmic outlines. They often have some crucial small
phrases attached to them that will become the genesis for the mood,
the tone etc. But I feel so much more "fluid" as a composer
than as a lyricist (in the sense that the music pours out where my words
are more crafted) that I've always thought I should be writing more
instrumental stuff. In fact, there was to be an electronic instrumental
suite on this record but we ran out of space on the disc and time in
the studio to mix it. And I felt that the album was becoming so cohesive
as a sung 10-song cycle that I decided to wait and group the instrumentals
on a future release.
told me that you consider this album to be your "most 'likeable'
yet". But it's a million miles away from what's on the charts!
Who do you consider, today, to be doing valuable work when it comes
to the song form?
the new album is easier to finish at one meal? There seems to be some
magical balance of the familiar and the new for a "first listen"
to take hold in most people's hearing. Did I hit that ratio? I don't
know. What I write always seems perfectly likeable, congruent and consonant
to my own ears, but that's the composer's biggest challenge, isn't it?
To convince everyone that your own wacked-out internal logic is the
only possible path the music could take. As for the charts, I don't
know what's on them these days but I'd be pretty sure they all look
and twist like Ricky Martin! Song form today? I wish I had more time
to listen to everything. Radiohead's OK Computer stunned me back into
listening to modern rock. I think it is the best and the only true rock
Opera. I love Bjork's albums in their "sound as song-form"
ambitions. Homogenic is a brilliant blueprint for the pop music of 2005.
Beppe Colli 1999 - 2004
| Nov. 24, 2004