Originally published in Alive (August 2, 2002)
If you’re like me, you cringe when one of your favorite artists releases a “best of” collection. Without a doubt, it’s only going to be made up of popular singles, a few songs the label or artist thinks should have been singles, and maybe a remix, a live song, or a new song tossed in just to make sure the CD flies off the shelves into the hands of true fans. “Best of” collections are usually put out for one of two reasons: a) the artist is trying to fulfill a contract and agrees to the release to be freed from the strangehold of the label, or b) the artist needs more time to put together new material.
But Juliana Hatfield’s recent release, Gold Stars 1992-2002 (Zoe/Rounder), isn’t so much a “best of” collection as a thank-you to fans for following her solo career up to this point. Even for the person who owns all of Juliana’s albums, there are more than a few rare and previously unreleased songs that make the 20-track collection worthwhile. Sure, the hits that made her popular in the mid ’90s are well represented (“My Sister”, “Spin the Bottle”, “Universal Heartbeat”), but there are also two live covers (the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”), four brand-new songs and two songs that were written for an album – God’s Foot – that was never released.
“I didn’t want to say ‘best of’ because there is so much more music that I’m going to make,” Juliana explained during a telephone interview last week from her Boston home. “I wanted to put the dates on it, the 10-year period, so that in another 10 years I can put out another record like it. It would be silly to have ‘the best of’ when I feel like I’m only in the middle of my career.”
After recording and touring for a decade, other artists might be taking a breather, but Juliana’s never been busier. In the past two years, she’s found time to write and record two full-length albums (Beautiful Creature and Total System Failure, under the moniker Juliana’s Pony), record and tour with the reunited Blake Babies, and put together a new side project called Some Girls with fellow Blake Babies alumna Freda Love (drums) and newcomer Heidi Gluck (bass).
“Reuniting with the Blake Babies last year made me remember how fun it was to play with Freda. At the end of the Blake Babies tour, it was pretty clear that was the last of the Blake Babies and that there was no reason to ever do that again. But I continued to talk to Freda about possibly trying to write some songs together,” Juliana said. “We wrote some songs and she brought along this girl she knew, Heidi, to play bass on the first batch of the demos that we made. Heidi was so great that we asked her if she’d be part of the band.”
Some Girls has an album’s worth of material wrapped up, which is just waiting to be released. Juliana doesn’t rule out the possibility of Zoe/Rounder putting out the record, though she says the trio is keeping it’s options open.
One thing that is set in stone is that Some Girls will not be anything more than a side project. “It would be impossible to do it full time just because Freda’s got a busy life back in Indiana, and I don’t think she can really devote the time necessary to doing it,” Juliana said. “And the amount of time that we’re going to be able to tour is really not enough to keep be occupied. I’d be way too restless. I’ve written so many songs of my own that I’m already thinking about making another record.”
Before the next solo record is written and recorded, Juliana plans to take a well-deserved break. “Usually, as soon as I’ve got a record out, I’ll tour and then I’ll immediately start working on the next record,” she said. “Once this tour is over, I’m giving myself time to conceive of a new record and write it.”
“I feel like there’s really good stuff on all of my albums, but that they are all somewhat spotty; none of them are really truly great all the way through,” she continued. “I want to make a record that is great all the way through and that makes sense as an album.”
Her fans will be anxiously awaiting that masterpiece.
BONUS: Because the above was to preview the Some Girls show in Columbus, Ohio, there was some things that we talked about that didn’t make sense to include in that feature. So, I took the Q&A and posted the entire interview transcript on my own website. Here is that interview.
Originally published on Swizzle-Stick.com (August 15, 2002)
After the Blake Babies broke up in the early ’90s, Juliana Hatfield enjoyed a successful solo career. Now, ten years into that career, Juliana has just released a collection of songs that document the past ten years. Additionally, she’s working on a new side project called Some Girls.
You’re going out with Some Girls. Are you going to be doing Some Girls stuff, your stuff, a combination?
I’ll be doing stuff from my records and a few of the new Some Girls songs that we’ve written.
Will there be a full-scale Some Girls tour later this year?
We don’t know. We don’t when the record is going to come out or how the record will come out. It depends on when that happens and if we can coordinate all of our schedules. I think we’d all like to do more.
So Rounder isn’t definitely putting it out?
We’re not sure who is going to put it out. I’m not saying that Rounder is not going to put it out. There are probably other options that we haven’t explored.
This tour is to promote the new collection of songs?
Yeah, it’s also a way to introduce people to the idea of the Some Girls band.
You want it to be Some Girls and not Some Girls featuring Juliana Hatfield.
I’d like it to be. When we put out the record it’s not going to have my name on the cover.
Is this something that came about when the Blake Babies reunited?
Reuniting with the Blake Babies made me remember how fun it was to play with Freda. The end of the Blake Babies tour, it was pretty clear that was the last of the Blake Babies and that there was no reason to ever do that again. But, I continued to talk to Freda about possibly trying to write some songs together and see what happened. We wrote some songs and she brought along this girl that she knew – Heidi Gluck – to play bass on the first batch of the demos that we made of these songs. Heidi was so great that we asked her if she’d be part of the band. After that we wrote some more songs, enough to make a record, and then we made a record.
So it was collaborative effort?
Yeah. I wrote some of the songs myself but a lot of it was co-written. And the way it came together in the studio, it was definitely collaborative.
Is Some Girls something that may become a full-time commitment?
I doubt it. I think it would be impossible to do it full time just because Freda’s got a busy life back in Indiana and I don’t think she can really devote her time to doing that. And the amount of time that we’re going to be able to tour is really not enough to keep me occupied and I’ll be way too restless. I’ve written so many songs of my own that I’m already thinking about making another record.
Do you have any additional projects that you are working on?
Not at the moment.
You’ve guested on a few other CDs. No more guest spots coming up in the near future?
I’m on David Garza’s last record. I’m on John Doe’s new record too but I don’t think it’s out yet. People ask me to sing on their records I’ll do that kind of thing. It’s casual.
Whose idea was it to put out Gold Stars? Was it the label’s idea or yours?
It was the label’s idea. They suggested tracks. I think it was them in collaboration with my manager. They came up with a list.
Did you have any say into it?
Ohhhhhh yes. Pretty much their choices were pretty good, I only had to veto a few songs. I just kind of switched it around a little bit.
The reason I think it’s a good representation is that usually “Best of” collections tend to come out when an artist is trying to get out of a contract or are trying to buy time while they write new songs. This, however, is a collection and it seems like it’s a gift to the fans. There are unreleased songs and live stuff that even the fans might not have.
I didn’t want to say “Best of” because there is so much more music I’m going to make. I wanted to put the dates on it, the ten-year period, so that in another ten years I can put out another record like that. It would be silly to have THE “Best of” when I feel like I’m just in the middle of my career.
Did you ever think in 1992 that you’d be putting out a collection of songs like this that represented ten years of making music?
No, I never really thought past tomorrow. I never really thought too much about the future.
In the past two or three years you’ve put out a double album, you wrote, recorded and toured with the Blake Babies, and now you’ve got the Some Girls stuff and the promotion for “Gold Stars”, are you ready to take a break?
I think I’m taking a break right now. Usually, as soon as I’ve got a record out I’ll tour and then I’ll immediately start working on the next record. Once this tour is over I’m giving myself time to conceive of a new record and write it. I’m sort of deliberately gonna leave myself more time than I usually do to make the next record because I want to get out of the cycle of doing it, doing it, doing it. I want to think more about what I’m trying to do, put it together carefully.
I feel like there’s really good stuff on all of my albums but I think that they are all kind of spotty; none of them are really truly great all the way through. I want to make a record that is great all the way through and that makes sense as an album.
Are you scared to do that? If you make a great album all the way through then you’ll have to follow it up with an album that’s even better.
No, I’m not scared. You can always do better, no matter how great you are. If you make a masterpiece that gives you the freedom to be weird and avant-garde the next time.
Gold Stars features a few covers. I know that you’ve been known to do some covers in concert. Any thought to ever putting out an album strictly of cover songs?
Yeah, I’ve thought about it. I think about it a lot. I have a lot of ideas for albums. I have a lot songs of my own that I’d rather record those and put those out at this time. Maybe one day I’ll do the covers album.
Is there a favorite cover that you particularly like to play?
It really changes all the time. I’ll do one for a while and then I’ll retire it.
Will you be playing any new covers on this forthcoming tour?
Yeah, but I don’t want to give them away. It’s fun to see if people recognize them.
Do you ever play a cover song that people don’t recognize?
There’s always some people that don’t recognize it. There are always a few that do. If it’s something that is really obscure, a lot of times there’s just a few people that notably recognize it and they probably feel very excited that they are the only ones that know what it is.
I was doing this Dot Allison song. Have you ever heard of her? Not a lot of people knew that but a few people did. There are always people who know any given cover song.
Are there any covers that you play at home that you are afraid to bust out in public?
Hmmm …. Well, it’s not that I’d be embarrassed … we did “Voices Carry.” It’s a great song, it’s good songwriting. If it’s a good song, even if there is cheesy production or done by a schlocky group, it can be good live if the songwriting is solid.
It’s interesting to see how Aimee Mann’s career has gone from ‘Til Tuesday to the point where it’s at today.
Yeah, she’s got the total cred now. She was always a really good songwriter from the beginning, I liked ‘Til Tuesday a lot.
You have been outspoken of your love for the band Verbena. I know that, for a time, there was a rumor that you were going to join the band and play bass for them. Any truth to that rumor?
No, I kind of tried out on bass. I learned a bunch of songs, I jammed with them. We just went through a bunch of the songs. I actually started dating the singer after that so that’s when we decided that I shouldn’t be the bass player. That’s when I introduced them to Mikey, who was my bass player at the time. They started playing with Mikey and then Mikey got engaged to Anne-Marie the girl in the band. They hooked up for a while and then they broke up. Now they finally got this guy Nick who has been playing with them for a while. Then, we got Daniel, the original Verbena bass player, to play bass on the Blake Babies tour.
I met Daniel many years ago, when he was still in Verbena. Doesn’t he have a band of his own called Cutgrass?
Yeah. It’s country-rock but kind of just rock. Some of it is a little Neil Young-ish. Some of it is cool rock and roll. Some of it is a little bit country. It’s pretty good. The reason I met any of them is through John Strohm, he lives in Birmingham so he knows all those guys and Daniel is one of his best friends. He knew all the Verbena people. When I tried out, I had been talking up their record “Souls for Sale” in the press and stuff and just telling them how much I loved them. When they were looking for a bass player they were like “Oh, she likes us” and they called me up.
One of the bands that you turned me onto was Queens of the Stone Age. You listed them in your “Favorites of 1998” list in Rolling Stone. I had never heard of them before then but I figured that you must know what you’re talking about.
I forgot about how I heard about that record. John Strohm usually tells me about a lot of cool stuff. He used to work in a record store so he’d know. I liked Kyuss. I think that’s how I heard of them.
Have you heard the new Queens of the Stone Age record?
No, have you?
Yeah. Actually, the way that I got it was that I downloaded it. That leads me to the next subject I wanted to talk to you about – the rage of the recording industry these days, file sharing. What is your take on the whole thing?
It’s complicated. I can’t complain too much. I don’t have a computer so I don’t download anything. But I think it’s like back in the ’80s when people had turntables and played records and we’d tape albums and give it to our friends. We’d make a copy of the record album onto a cassette. I took part in that kind of stuff, but I’d go and buy the record too because I wanted to have it and I wanted to support the band.
Most of the money that is being made is going to the record company and the executives so I’m like, “Good. Power to the people.” The musicians make such a tiny royalty rate anyway, keep the money out of the hands of the greedy fuckers in the record company. But, the tiny percentage that the bands do get, that’s what they have to try to live off. I’m not really sure what to think. But I do feel really strongly about one part that I think is really bad. It gives people the freedom to have whatever they want and to have unauthorized recordings that maybe the artist doesn’t approve and doesn’t want out there.
For example I made this record that I was calling “God’s Foot.” There was never any really definitive version because when I realized that it wasn’t going to come out, I just left all the songs and I never chose the mixes and I didn’t make a sequence. There were definitely songs that I wanted to throw out and not have people hear. So I find out that there is at least one version of the album that is being traded or sold on the internet and it’s got songs on it that I didn’t want people to hear. Somebody just chose any random sequence and just slapped them on there Sequencing, I think, is a really important part of the way an album works and I feel personally offended that someone would slap a bunch of these songs on and call it “God’s Foot” and put it out there. That’s all I have. My artistic vision and the power over my art is all that I have and people are taking the only thing that I have control over away from me and that really, really offends me. That’s all an artist has. It’s like someone taking a Van Gogh painting that’s not finished and slapping some colors on it and giving it a name and saying “this is the way it is.” I’m no Van Gogh but it’s just a question what intellectual property means and what rights does an artist have over a creative presentation of something.
There are pros and cons though. I was glad that people were able to hear the songs that I was proud of. That’s the only way people are ever going to hear them. I was in a bind. I couldn’t release the songs and the label wasn’t going to release them so I’m glad people heard them. At the same time, I felt abused. People were taking my stuff and doing what they wanted to do with it. But I’m sure the intentions were good. I don’t know if it was being sold. If people are selling it, that’s a whole other thing. That’s just bad if people are making money off my work and I’m not getting a dime.
It’s kind of like the Dave Matthews situation where he recorded a bunch of songs that he wound up not liking, scraped everything and then rerecorded the songs. It came down to the fact that the original material leaked out and fans could download it if they wanted to but many chose not to because Dave Matthews told his fans that the material wasn’t the greatest and he wasn’t really proud of it.
I wish I had the kind of power and influence Dave Matthews has. I wish I had the funds to be able to throw away an album and rerecord it again. I don’t have that kind of money. It’s great that the followers, the acolytes, respect what he wants, but he still had to re-record the whole damn thing. That’s sad.
People think they should have the power but maybe they shouldn’t. I think an artist should be able to control their output. If an artist doesn’t want anyone to have it until it’s in the stores, they should be able to make that a rule.
Do you have any idea of how the “God’s Foot” songs got out there?
No. I have no idea. I never put a definitive sequence of songs and said, “Okay, this is God’s Foot.” It was just all the songs that I had recorded for the sessions that I was calling “God’s Foot.” That’s why I hate the internet; it gives people the anonymity to do bad things anonymously. I’m not just talking about the music business. I’m also talking about the whole identity theft problem. People can punch in any old name and request perverted material be sent to someone else’s house. Anyone can do anything and that’s bad.
The internet is also a great tool.
In what way?
I’m able to run a website where I have global distribution without having to sell any ads, take the ‘zine to the printer, and find a way to distribute it. All I do is update a page every now and again and the whole world can read the new content instantaneously.
On the other side of that, there’s also probably a lot of terrible writers who shouldn’t be able to have printed work up there. Doesn’t that take away from the people who are talented? Everybody shouldn’t be able to do that.
Music is the same way. The internet has now made everybody a rock star. All it takes is a thousand bucks to get some CDs manufactured and you too can be a recording star. A lot of bad music floats through the Swizzle-Stick door that wouldn’t have ten years ago, before recording and manufacturing music became so cheap.
That’s something I wonder about. CDs are so cheap to make. The CDs that Sony or Warner Bros or Universal of Disney manufactures cost a tiny bit more than the person at home burning a CD, but why are people shelling out $18 a CD? Why do people accept that? That’s one reason why I think it’s understandable that people would rather get a CD for free. It’s insane the mark-up of a CD. A CD costs so little to manufacture and yet these record companies are charging $16, $17, $18 for one CD. I refuse to pay that. I won’t pay $18 for something I can get for so much less. Why are people buying CDs? They are stupid to pay that much money.
Well, they’re not anymore. They are downloading everything.
You can’t blame them for not wanting to spend that kind of money. I refuse on principle. Not that I’m poverty stricken, but if I see something that I want to buy and it’s even $16, I say no, just on principle because all the money is going to the wrong people.
If the power can be eased out of the greedy white men, that’s great but I don’t think it’s really working like that. They are still rich and the artists are still struggling. But artists have always struggled and they always will. People have always copied and traded records. That’s not a completely new concept.
Do you feel comfortable now with a small label like Rounder?
People always ask me that. I say yes, it’s more comfortable working at this lower level, out of the glare company. It’s very comfortable for me. They are really cool and laid back. Everything is at a more manageable level. It’s nice. But, I also have to say that there are pros and cons in the independent world and pros and cons in the major label world. Neither one is better than the other. I’m just relieved to be here now and not playing that game in the music industry that people play.
It’s a shame that I have to ask you this question in 2002, but back when you were scoring hit singles (the mid-90s), there were a ton of women-led rock bands. What happened?
That’s why I never trusted the attention from the people that were excited about women in rock. I knew it was just a novelty. People were just looking at me like a novelty, looking at the whole wave of women fronting bands as a novelty. I learned to cringe when I heard the phrase “women in rock”. It’s like ghettoizing me, it was so offensive. Why do I have to be labeled in that way when men aren’t labeled in that way? I was just trying to be equal to the men and everybody else but a lot of people wouldn’t let me. In one way I’m glad all that hype has died down for all of us.
It’s too bad though because when the hype died down …
… so did the good music. Exactly. I guess people are just going to have to search on their own for stuff that is out there.
There are 3 new songs on Gold Stars. Were those written specifically for the collection or were they songs that you had laying around that were done?
They were kind of lying around. I have a lot of stuff recorded because I’m constantly writing and demoing stuff. These songs were recorded and I thought they’d work well on the album. I used two different producers so I was trying to make them as good as I could because I thought I’d be able to use them in some way. They weren’t as casual as just the quick demo.
Last question. Will you ever revisit the Juliana’s Pony project and put something else out?
It’s possible that that could happen again.
It’s cool to hear something different like that every once in a while.
It’s cool to do something like that once in a while.