lifeblood: listlogs: 2002v05n047-news


ig-news-digest        monday, february 25 2002        volume 05 : number 047

today's subjects:
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  [ig-news] punk planet -- amy interview  [april haitsuka <grimmy7@earthlink]
  re: [ig-news] ig in big d                          [bonedoc1@earthlink.net]

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date: sun, 24 feb 2002 12:34:02 +0800
from: april haitsuka <grimmy7@earthlink.net>
subject: [ig-news] punk planet -- amy interview

[sherlyn's note: this message was originally sent to the indigo
girls mailing list at netspace.org.]


i just happened to see this magazine at borders. it has some insightful
comments from amy about lilith fair, the state of the recording industry,
and why radio doesn't play indigo girls anymore.

april

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

punk planet #47
feb. 2002

amy ray leads two lives. the first is as one half of the indigo girls, the
folk pop duo she formed with musical partner emily saliers in the mid-'80s
when they both played the atlanta coffeehouse circuit. from there, they
went on to release eight albums on epic records, score radio hits, win a
grammy, tour relentlessly and play arenas as lilith fair headliners.

the key to the indigo girls' popularity is the juxtaposition of their two
personalities. saliers' gentler singing style and knack for ballads
directly compliments ray: she's a punk rocker at heart and her raw vocals
and fierce guitar playing gives her band its much-needed kick.

that sensibility fuels ray's second life as the proprietor of daemon
records, the independent label in operation for about 11years -- almost as
long as she's been an indigo girl. based in decatur, georgia, daemon's
mission has long been to nurture women songwriters and female-fronted bands
with styles and attitudes that are not easily categorized by mainstream
label marketing departments. included on the roster are the southern pop
band rock*a*teens, acoustic songwriter rose polenzani, and the all-girl
surf rock combo the moto-litas.

a recent addition to the list is ray herself. earlier this year, daemon
released her first solo album, stag, a collection of straightforward garage
punk that paired her with the southern lesbian punks the butchies as well
as the rock*a*teens, josephine wiggs of the breeders, kate schellenbach of
luscious jackson and veteran rocker joan jett. to the unsuspecting indigo
girls fan, it's a bolder and, in some sense, raunchier side of ray. one
song features a chorus taunting rolling stone publisher jann wenner for his
role in media sexism (lucystoners") and other songs stare down gender
complexity, teenage violence and self-hate.

uniting ray's life as an indie label chief and a major label artist is
activism. the indigo girls consistently are on the road campaigning for a
litany of worthy causes including the environment, the prevention of
nuclear waste dumping on native american lands, saving the yellowstone
buffalo, advocating low-power, non-commercial fm radio and countless other
political and cultural grassroots goals. this summer, ray -- backed by the
butchies -- headlined ladyfest midwest in chicago, the four-day
women-oriented music and arts festival. she is a shining example of how
mainstream success can indeed support a radical spirit.

interview by mark guarino

when you decided to release your first solo record, why not put it out on
epic that perhaps would have promoted it and gotten you airplay?

part of the reason i wanted to do this record was to be on an independent
label and to support my own label. and i felt like i've gotten a lot out of
being on a major label but i wouldn't say there's a great incentive for me
to be on one right now. i think it's sort of obsolete, actually. because
they're just not in state of artist development or any sort of loyalty --
although i didn't expect that either, i knew i was making a deal with the
devil [laughs]. i feel like i've had a label for 11 years and if i didn't
put my own record out on it, how much faith am i showing for my own label,
you know?

why did it take so long?

i just think i'm just late in my development. because i think it took me a
long time where i felt comfortable stepping away as the person running the
label, number one. and it's not the reason i started it. i started it to
work with other artists, people i consider to be great mentors of mine as
far as songwriters. but then i got to a point where my songs got to be in a
place where i wanted to do them by myself, so i felt ready. i felt more
confident to go into the studio and really be in charge of a project
without having emily there. i had worked with her for so long at that
point, it was really easy to fall back on her musically. also i needed a
break from the big studio, the big this, the big that and emily was all for
it. she was "yeah, i think it'll be good for you."

your indigo girls records seem to, more and more, be split down the middle
between your and her songs. so was it just the fact it made more sense to
get all your songs to fill one record for once?

i think we've always split it up that way but i think that, as we get
older, we definitely are polarized a little bit more in some ways. and so
yeah, i think i was in a mode of not really thinking in terms of a lot of
harmony. what indigo girls really does best is harmony and that kind of
interplay and i didn't want to necessarily pull us in another direction
that i don't think is our forte. the next record we're getting ready to
work on is all rootsy and completely harmony-based and so for me, it was
good because i got the other stuff out of my system. i feel really loyal to
the purist approach to this record.

when you toured with stag, did you discover you now had two audiences: one
that knew you as an indigo girl and the other as the leader of this punk
rock band?

yeah, i think so! i think a lot of it had to do with being on road with the
butchies for a while. their audience is slightly younger and edgier in some
ways and more women. it made me really look at the indigo girls audience
because our audience is really diverse as far as age and everything. i
appreciate that. but i definitely have found a slightly different audience
with the butchies. it's the same people who come to an indigo girls show
early to hear the opening band when we have a punk band open for us
[laughs]. they want to hear indie stuff and i recognize a lot of the
people. and then there's indigo girls fans that didn't know if they'd like
it and then ended up really liking it and there's butchies fans who
definitely didn't know who i was. it's been good.

what's been the advantage of having this record on an indie and why is now
a better time to do that than before?

we've gone through a lot of the process of trying to figure out where the
label is as far as what our function is. and i think we've we got to this
place where our vision is community based. we're trying to build coalitions
among other labels; we're trying to build this infrastructure; and we're
also very political. we got to a point where it's really working and coming
together.  i never felt like major labels were the best thing in world. i
felt like we got lucky and we got into a situation that's better than most
and got a lot out of it. i might not do it the same way again, but i'm one
person in a partnership. but i just think right now, there's all this space
created at the bottom by all the mergers at the top and people are really
disgusted. [laughs] i think everybody's kind of going "wait a minute, we do
have to strengthen this infrastructure." it's not like i haven't said that
all along, but it's like there's a point where you feel like other people
are starting to understand it too and it makes you excited. i i guess i
feel like there's more energy down here than there has been. in the last
few years, i felt like this energy has been growing and people understand
it better and artists are coming back and participating. kathleen hanna
comes back with le tigre and i see that as a really conscious effort to
participate in a bigger way than what she had been doing with julie ruin.
the butchies made me feel that way. there's something about that when that
starts happening with people that i look up to, that i think "ok, this is
exciting. maybe there's more revolutionary stuff happening." and all the
protests against globalism, all this stuff starting to happen. college kids
and high school kids are really savvy and i think more politically involved
than my age group was.

i've always thought that with the number of major labels diminishing to
single digits, that will only mean a renaissance of independent labels.
that's one positive result.

exactly, yeah.

and if you think about when the indigo girls started in the late '80s, a
folk-based band could get on the radio. it made sense to be on a major
because the climate was so different.

i think at that time, it would have made sense to be on a major label for
any group, probably. but i think you're right-for us we were putting out
independent records and getting college radio play and booking our own
tours and everything seemed great except that we were really overextended
and busy and our following was getting bigger. and i felt tired at one
point and thought, oh man, i need some help." i don't think i was smart
enough at the time to put my politics and my career together in a way that
was politicized. i think i was like, "well, they're giving us creative
freedom and they're signing pearl jam." it was a label that had signed
pearl jam, oasis, rage against the machine, and indigo girls all within a
three-year period. i don't know, i felt like they were developing artists
- -- they honestly were. and then it all started falling apart. when they
started firing certain people who you think are integral to the integrity
of a label, it's kind of like you felt they're losing their edge. and
that's what happened to them, honestly.

you played lilith fair but also ladyfest, a festival that's arguably the
independent equivalent. from being on both stages, what was the difference?

lilith fair was this very mainstream experience. it was very, very
corporate but at the same time it was a great thing. there was probably
more diversity than it was given credit for having. i think there was lot
of effort put into that, but it's hard to do when it's so corporate because
there's a lot of groups that aren't going to participate. ladyfest and the
michigan women's [sic] festival are things that are more radical, they are
a lot more holistic because they include this idea if you want autonomy and
if you want a strong presence of women in the industry, you have to teach
people how to run sound and how to fix their guitars, and you have to
network about booking. it's everything. it's a workshop. lilith was a lot
of music and then, things for sale. [laughs]

did lilith change your perception about a woman's place in the music
industry for better or for worse? afterwards, did you feel exposed to wider
audience or did you end up feeling more marginalized as simply a "female
artist?"

for us, it was a shot in the arm for our career. we were definitely exposed
to an audience that was much more mainstream than our normal audience.
because we were on stage with people that had radio hits. i think (lilith
organizer] sarah mclachlan's perspective when she was planning this was no
one will play women together. promoters won't put two women bills together;
we're having a lot of trouble with radio play. but actually, it really
coincided with a huge spike in women and radio play. if you look at the
timing, i'm not sure lilith created the trend, i think it built upon it.
for us, it really helped. but definitely, we suffered a backlash for it. a
lot of women have been completely marginalized at this point and taken out
of the radio format that was once very kind to women. even if you're a rock
band and a women [sic] playing rock music, they won't play you. so, in that
way, i don't regret that it all happened but you have to figure out as a
woman, how do you take what was going on and make it work afterward? me and
emily, of course, we came before and we'll be after it. we just do our
thing and sometimes it's really working in a mainstream way and sometimes
it's not. we definitely saw a backlash against us at radio.

why do you think that happened?

part of it has to do with the 1996 federal telecommunications act and it
finally caught up to everybody. the mergers created such an
advertising-driven radio station sort of vibe that everything was marketing
and demographics. when you are at the mercy of marketing, you're at the
mercy of them deciding what the trends are. and they get sick of any trend.
and they'll get sick of white boys playing alternative music and it'll be a
bummer for them. they ruin everything. they play to death every song, they
put all the groups that sound alike into one pool. so at one point they
said, "well i'm sick of hearing that lilith fair stuff." well what was
"that lilith fair stuff exactly? does that mean you don't want to hear
anymore paula cole or you don't want to hear sheryl crow -- they're two
different artists. it's like me saying, "i don't want to hear anymore white
boys playing alternative music." and somebody else would be like, "does
that mean you don't like green day or the offspring -- they're two
different bands, you know [laughs]. i just think advertising-driven radio
marginalizes anybody and it also commodifies everyone. and it's sexist in a
way, probably because white men are in charge of advertising and so women
are always going to be left out more than a man is, in that situation. but
men are still going to be commodified, too.

it also affects the images we're seeing of women from the major labels:
mostly hot-bodied jailbait.

yeah. it's a woman who's more submissive. i think radio is like, "we don't
want to hear a woman if she's being aggressive and dominant. we want to
hear a woman that's buying into what she's supposed to be doing." women
playing rock in a truly aggressive and revolutionary way, that's not going
to be get on the radio. [laughs] if it does, it's probably somebody that is
so comprised in a business way where they're willing to do every single
promotion that comes up. it's humiliating at this point what they ask you
to do. we can't stomach it. we don't get on radio because at some point we
say, "we're not going to play the stupid christmas show with 500 bands that
aren't anything like us where the audience basically hates us and we're not
going to play the picnic with the chicken baskets." and when we started
saying no, it was kind of like, all of the sudden, no more radio play for
indigo girls. it's not based on music. even if they love you, it's like
they love to other people who are willing to do anything. some of these
bands, i can't believe what they'll do.

and for women, that especially means sexing up to an almost cartoonish
dimension.

yeah, unfortunately. i think if you want to do that, it's okay. i feel
really strongly about a woman doing what she wants to do. madonna's huge
because of her image and the way she works the media and that's her own
right. but at some point you think, god they're not going to play the
overweight husker du-looking woman band, it ain't gonna happen. [laughs] or
the woman in the wheelchair. i mean there's not a woman john popper.

will the indigo girls ever become a daemon band?

the indigo girls will never be on daemon because it's too weighted on my
side. but we might do something indie. we don't really know what we want to
do after we finish this deal. but i know that daemon is something i
understand better. i'd like the label to grow, but i'm not interested in
having a bunch of bands sell 100,000 records. i want to have bands that
need an opportunity and need a label to sell 5,000 copies and that's okay.
that's what i want to be.

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date: sun, 24 feb 2002 23:20:36 -0700
from: bonedoc1@earthlink.net
subject: re: [ig-news] ig in big d

great show.  best i've ever seen of them.  fun to see them up so close.
  i got great photos
http://www.bonedoc1.net/snipe/index.php?cat_id=57&action=images
or just http://www.bonedoc1.net and follow the links until you find the ig

(please don't use the photos without permission,  thanks)

- --diane

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please send feedback, questions etc to owner-ig-news@smoe.org.
submissions are welcome - please send these to ig-news@smoe.org.
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end of ig-news-digest v5 #47
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