|THE ARCHIVE ORGAN INTERVIEW... LONDON - EARLY 90'S HOME|
BACK IN THE EARLY 90'S (94?) BEFORE WE ALL HAD THE INTERNET AND THERE WAS
SOME KID NO ONE REALLY KNEW CALLED ELLIOTT SMITH, WE MET UP WITH MARY LOU
LORD. HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED..
MARY LOU LORD is in town for a couple of days to promote her new album, play a gig, record a radio session..... We're over in a North London terraced house (where Wiiija Records is run out of a bedroom) on a Sunny Sunday afternoon. Mary Lou played the Splash club the evening before and she's telling me about how one of her heroes, The Bevis Frond, happened to turn up to play a couple of songs at the gig....
He just stopped by the venue in the afternoon and left a note for me... well let me tell you the whole story, I wrote him a letter about three years ago, just a fan letter I guess, and he wrote back and sent a poster and signed it, which was really cool... and then I called him and talked to him in person about a week before the record came out, I just said, "hello, my name is Mary Lou, and I just recorded this little EP and I recorded a couple of your songs" and he just said something like "oh, that's great" He was really nice about it, and then I sent him a couple of singles and my EP and he wrote back again and we kept in touch a little and then when I knew I was coming over, I gave him a call and said "why don't you bring your guitar to the show and maybe we can work something out" and to my amazement he came down and we rehearsed in the afternoon. We did a Neil Young song, a couple of my songs and a couple of his songs and it was amazing..I wish that we had taped it - I got some photos and I really wish I had a tape. I'd bet that someone did tape it I hope so! If you know someone who did I'd really love a copy
Hey, if any of you readers out there have a tape of Mary Lou and Bevis Frond playing together then please send a copy here to Organ or directly over to Mary Lou - it'd make her very happy
It was just great to meet him, I'd never met him before
So how did you get into his music then? Is he that known in America? (this is a bit strange for us Organs, we know Nick AKA Bevis has a cult follwing but most days we just see Nick picking his kids up from the school by our house in North London)
No, not really, here and there you know, underground, radio stations...
We talk about Bevis Frond, well Mary glows about Bevis Frond for a bit and how great his albums are and things like that (she glows about everthing really...) So what else are you up to besides doing a gig at the Splash with Bevis Frond?
Well I'm just over here to do a few shows and really say hello to England, then I'm going back to Seattle on Tuesday and then I'm going on a tour in America with this kid called Elliott Smith who sings with a sort of punk band called Heatmiser and he's got a seven inch out on Kill Rock Stars and we're going to do like a two month tour of the States...
How did you jump from the busking scene to the world of Kill Rock Stars?
Oh well, I was busking for a long time and what happened was, when I first began my busking career or whatever, I was playing this sort of epic ballads, folk ballads..The Ballad Of Him and The Ballad Of That and these two chord progressions that went on for... god...eleven, twelve minutes because I was really lousy at remembering chord progressions..... So I was playing folk songs for ages and then I went back to America...
So you were doing that over here?
Yeah, I was over here and I was hanging out with like fifty-five year old dudes with beards and Martin guitars and going down the Coffee Shop to see Andy Irvine and Paul Brady and stuff like that and these kids would come pass and they's throw Beat Happening cassettes and things like that in my guitar case and they say things like, hey you can do this too, get out of the folk club, play this, come and hang out with us and I thought, yeah, it sounds like I could play that, it sounds kinda fun - because my technical abilities are extremely limited because I really hadn't been playing that long and these tapes they were giving me, the music sounded like it was coming from the same place as the folk I Was listening to but it was more of an exciting, youthful approach. So then what happened was that I started to get into more lo-fi stuff I'd guess you'd call it now....
Did you deliberately move to Olympia to hook up with that K scene then?
No, what happened
was that I was busking around and a friend of mine introduced me to Kathleen
Hanna over the phone - she's the singer from Bikini Kill - and she's from
Olympia and I really didn't know too much about what was going on in Olympia
other than previously I had run into this girl in a subway, she was a Scottish
girl and she was on her way to the K fest and I said "What's K?" and she
gave me a compilation tape and I thought
These things really do spread as a word of mouth thing don't they?
Yeah....I really like that. So I was at this party in Boston, and it was kind of a lame party you know and I was kind of fucked up, and I saw this girl on the couch and she was just so amazing looking and I just went up to her and started playing with her hair and she pulled me into the bathroom and she had a wig on and she took it off and she had these really long beautiful braids underneath and so I asked her why she wore it, and she just said that it was fun - so I said "who are you?" and she said "Tonuviel", (yeah, I know, I probably got that wrong! you come here and type this, it's cold you know!) so I said "where are you from?" and she said Olympia and I said, Olympia, I know somebody in Olympia and she said "Who do you know?" and I said, Kathleen Hanna, she's the singer in Bikini Kill and she said "Oh my god, she's on my record label" and I said you own Kill Rock Stars? And she said "I'm the other half" and I was amazed and she explained how she ran kill Rock Stars with Slim and I said "Why are you here at this awful party full of terrible people?" And so we left right there and then and we hung out together that whole summer and she would come and see me playing in Harvard Square or in the subway and she'd really like it and she's turn me on to even more bands and we hung out together and then she moved to Seattle and one day she called up and said "Mary Lou, I'm really lonesome for your voice, will you make me a tape?" So I made her this compilation tape of some of my songs and covers and things and then she said Mary Lou can we put one of your songs on a compilation? And I said yeah, sure and that song was something called Camden Town Rain and then after she had been in Seattle for a while she called up and said Mary Lou, I'm lonesome for you, why don't you come up and visit? So I did and then I went down to Olympia because Slim was there and I met Slim for the very first time and Kathy and Toby and Donna from Bikini Kill and we all got on really well and Slim said why don't you just move to Olympia, because I was having trouble writing songs and he said "you've got to get out of the subway" - I was playing down there eight hours a day, seven days a week
Did you find yourself busking for the money rather than the enjoyment
Yeah, it did get to a point where I was playing to try and keep my head above water, but it's also very addictive and so I moved to Olympia and Slim helped me find a job at this cafe so it seemed like the right thing to do... but while I was living in Olympia I really did miss the subways - so I lived in Olympia for about a year
Were subways the only place you could busk then?
Well the subway is a great place to do it, especially in the winter because it's hard to play outside when your hands are too cold, but Olympia is so small that'd you'd stick out like an idiot on the street
Yeah, there's nothing worse than busking when everybody knows you
I know - anyway, that's how I got to Olympia and met Kill Rock Stars.
So you got onto Kill Rock Stars and you've got this new record out...what happens next?
don't really know, I've tried not to think about it too much
I hear rumours that you're being chased by lots of big labels
Yeah, that's happening, there's been quite a few checking me out
Is that something you're into?
Well yeah, it could be, but right now, the EP is doing really well on Kill Rock Stars and this is the first time that Slim has actually been able to stretch out and maybe take it beyond the convention...because a lot of the bands on his label are not really wanting to....you know what I mean
They don't really feel they want to go for 'it'?
Yeah I guess
that's a way of putting it - so with me, it's really given him a full ability
to take the label a little bit further because I am willing to do interviews
and I am willing to go to England to help promote the record and do things
like that, I want to tour and maybe try and get on the radio a bit more
than his other bands do. Slim doesn't understand everything I'm doing,
it was like pulling teeth trying to get him to let me put out the
Is it happening? Is it getting played on the radio?
Yeah, it's doing
really really well - and I'd love to stay with Kill Rock Stars just to
have my music do well on it's own merit than have a major label come in
and sort of scoop it up and then have people say that's why it happened...you
know what I mean?
I mean, I would love to see Kill Rock Stars just keep growing on it's own
Has there been some suggestion that a major label would take this new record on?
Well I'm sure that they would love to but it's something that Slim and I agreed we wouldn't let happen because I want to know where I stand without the help of a major label and all the bullshit that's involved - I want it to happen organically and to see where it's going, I'd like to see how far we can all go on Kill Rock Stars, just on the fact that it's good and for people to be respecting it because of the music and not because someone somewhere is pulling strings....
you get involved in the running of your things over at Kill Rock Stars?
So you're still busking then?
Yeah - I like the busking because you're in touch with real people, you get to look into their eyes and know what they really think and It's really nice when they throw a Dollar in the hat, it's a real reaction - it's real time art
Do people deliberately come to see you now? I've always thought people should organize busking tours for themselves, they could just tell you by sending flyers out to fanzines and things like that that they're going to be in a certain square on a certain day and people could just turn up
Yeah I've done that, I've got a friend who's got Internet and he calls me up everyday and says "hey are you going to play today?" and I'll tell him where I'm going to be and he'll put the word out on the Internet
That's a great marriage of technology and do it yourself spirit
Yeah, I'll say I'm going to go up to the square tonight and a few people might show up specially to see me, which is really great...
Actually works then?
Yeah, people know where they can find me - there's one particular place I like to play, Park Street on the Red Line, this is in Boston, and there's a venue there just right above it and I just happened to be playing there after concerts, I knew these concerts were taking place but I could never afford to go myself so - one of them was Dinosaur Jnr. and one of the one of them was Bob Dylan and I just got to play to lots of people who were going to the shows which was pretty cool and the time that Dinosaur jnr. were playing I just said off the top of my head in between songs that I had a record coming out and that i was on tour with Dinosaur Jnr. and that I was just playing the nearest subway or bus stop to their show everynight and as I was saying it I was thinking hey, I can really do that, so... and then I played the subway in Boston again after the Bob Dylan show and in the paper a few days letter there was a review of Bob Dylan and the guy had spent half an hour watching me and the way he wrote the review made it look like I had opened up for Bob Dylan or that he'd opened up for me and it was just great to see that...it was double cool because Slim really loves Bob Dylan so he really liked it
I've got to bring up the thing that's really got you known over here in the British press is the incident with Courtney Love
I've got to ask what really happened?
oh....oh..well...it's not really something that I think is important to me....or to what I'm doing now. It goes back to something that happened in my past and I really don't think it's that important to talk about it.
It's the sort of thing that the English music press thrive on - the cult of personality rather than the music (we all do actually...maybe?)
Well yeah, it's bizarre because she opened up a whole can of worms from a long time ago and although I could probably run with it and use it as publicity to sell lots of records I'd rather keep that past shut. I tried to make it all go away, tried to make myself believe that it almost never happened and she reopened up this whole can of beans or whatever, and the result of her doing that is that it's all coming back at me and it's something I just really want to close - it has nothing to do with my record, can we just not talk about it please.
You see the thing about England is we don't have any radio worth talking about, there's a couple of good pirate stations in London now but that's all, the national radio is mostly rubbish and the first thing you hear about a new singer or a band is some sort of news story or at best an inaccurate review of their music
Yeah, I've heard that it's really bad over here to actually hear new music unless it's passed around on tapes and things....
So most people reading this might have read some story about you and Kurt and Courtney but they probably haven't heard your music or read about your music even...how would you explain it to them?
Oh well...that's tough...
You've talked about lots of different bands, Bevis Frond, Dinosaur Jnr, Bikini Kill.... that's an intriguing mix for a start...should people look there for clues?
Well I really don't know if they should...um...well my music is pretty simple, it's easily digested, it's easy to understand, I think there's a lot of interesting colours in my music...I do a lot more than what you'll find on the EP..... I hope people don't just think of me in terms of that EP... I've got so many things inside me - I'm pleased with the record but there's lots more to me than that, can you just tape it and give it to people for me?
There you have it, some words with Mary Lou.... the only way you can find out more right now is to write to Kill Rock Sars and make direct contact..... Mary Lou c/o KILL ROCK STARS