Originally published on Swizzle-Stick.com (May 2000)
Nobody was more surprised by the breakup of Veruca Salt’s songwriting partnership of Louise Post and Nina Gordon than I was. Having watched the two grow from indie rock newcomers to arena rock queens, I just always assumed I’d grow old watching the band release hit album after hit album. Such would not be the case. Amid an avalanche of rumors (none of which will be discussed here), Louise and Nina ended their songwriting marriage in ’97 following a headlining world tour. The Internet fueled many rumors about what would become of the band. Louise was rumored to be putting together a supergroup of sorts (supergroup in my eyes anyway) that would feature bassist Kevin Tihista (formerly of Triple Fast Action) and drummer Kelli Scott (formerly of Failure). The band, if you believed what you read, was going to be called The Louise Post Experience. Nina, meanwhile, was said to be working on a solo album with Bob Rock producing.
Many months passed with no new news. Every once in a while a tidbit about Nina would leak out — she had been seen recording demos in Boston; she was writing an album for “soccer moms”; the budget for her solo debut was around a million dollars. News about Louise, however, was hard to come by. Then, in the fall of ’99, Beyond Records announced it had signed Veruca Salt (Louise decided to keep the name because, in her eyes, Veruca Salt wasn’t done yet) and was sending the band on a promotional tour in the winter. That was my — and the rest of the world’s — first introduction to the newcomers — Stephen Fitzpatrick (guitars), Tasty J (Jimmy Madla, drums), and Suzanne Sokel (bass).
Veruca Salt, the 2000 model, recently released it’s third album (first with the new line-up) titled Resolver. The album is an honest and often biting look into the past few year’s of Louise’s life, both the breakup of Veruca Salt and the breakup with one-time boyfriend Dave Grohl. For a complete review of Resolver, check out the REVIEWS section.
I recently had the chance to talk with the band aboard their tour bus on the first night of their headlining tour. At the time of our conversation, Resolver had yet to be released.
Did you notice that a lot of people were singing along to material that hasn”t officially been released?
Louise: Yeah, singing back songs that the demos have leaked. People know the demos and that is disturbing to me. I don’t know who leaked them, they were not meant for release. It”s flattering that people know songs that were never finished, but it”s not the way I want people to hear these songs. There are certain songs, like “Fragile,” that we didn’t put on the album that I’m glad people know because even as a stripped-down demo, I’m proud of it so I don’t mind if people have heard it. But other songs, like “Cadillac Tears,” those are the rough vocals and those were never meant to be heard by anyone. They are not finished; there are vocals on the chorus that aren’t on there. We actually tracked the entire song, but never mixed it, so we’re going to do it as a B-side eventually, although I”m not sure when the B-side thing is going to come about because our situation in Europe is kind of nebulous right now and that’s where B-sides come into play.
People mainly sing along to past songs which they know by heart. We’ve been playing a lot of old material simply because that’s what people know and this is a transitional time. Resolver is our baby and we want to be able to play all those songs and get to the next level. I certainly feel more current and more connected if we’re playing new material.
Do you think some people still don”t know that there has been a change in the Veruca Salt line up?
Louise: A lot of people have no idea.
Suzanne: This girl came up to me today and said “Seether was the first song of yours I ever heard.”
Louise: Suzi’s going to have a t-shirt that on the front says, “I am not Nina” and on the back says, “I am not Louise.” My friend last night said she’s planning on making Suzanne a shirt that says “Nicer than Nina.” One of our fans gave Suzanne nametags so she could write, “Hello, my name is Suzanne.”
So yeah, a lot of people have no clue. I thought the transition would be super awkward, but it’s just been much more natural than I would have anticipated. I think that I’ve been so focused on my own intense insular Veruca Salt world that I assumed that it’s a big deal to everybody. The reality is that a lot of people don’t know the band yet. There’s a huge world of people who may be familiar with songs that have been on the radio but they still don’t know the band, which is a big part of why I want to make more records. Veruca Salt is not done yet, there’s a lot more to be written, released, expressed . . . and a lot more records to be sold.
Did you see that advance copies of Resolver were on E-Bay ?
Louise: No, is that true too?
Stephen: That blows.
Louise: Whoa, way to make my day.
Stephen: A lot of people will probably go out and buy it anyway.
In a way it must be kind of flattering that people want to be first person on the block to own it and will spend whatever it takes to get it.
Louise: In that sense it’s really cool that it’s out there and people are scrambling to get it now before it comes out. It’s better than it not being of interest. I think this is the best Veruca Salt record to date. I’m so absolutely psyched about it and so proud of it that the more people that hear it, the better.
So how did the current line-up come together?
Tasty J: Louise was doing some demos with Kevin Tihista (ex-Triple Fast Action). They wanted a drummer to come in. I was working as a chef and Louise called me and asked if I would play on some demos. I wasn’t in the band, I was just going to come in and play. We practiced and it just felt so good and so natural that it was obvious that I needed to quit my job and join the band. I feel lucky every day to be part of this band.
Louise: You rule! Kevin and I were playing together and it started out really nicely. We had a great connection, I’m just a little angry with him now. For a long time we were very close friends and I was collaborating with him. Remember “Hate the Way,” the song you liked a lot? Kevin was a big fan of that song. We were on that tour with Triple Fast Action and, at one point, during soundcheck, Kevin turned to me – I don’t think he had ever spoken a word to me – and said, “Hey Louise. What’s that song that you play in the encore?” I knew immediately what he was talking about, so I said, “Hate the Way.” And he said, “I love that song. That’s my favorite song.” I said, “That”s your favorite song of ours?” And he said, “No, that’s my favorite song EVER.”
So when Triple Fast Action was breaking up and I was splitting up with Nina, I went up to Kevin at Thurston’s one night in Chicago and said, “Do you want to get together and play?” He was really into what I was doing then and I was a strong advocate of what he was doing and encouraging him. We had a nice connection.
We did some demos with Kelli Scott (ex-Failure). Kelli lived in L.A. and he is more a career drummer than clearly wanting to be in a band and I wanted to rebuild this band with people who were absolutely committed and wanted to grow into the identity with me. This is such a sacred vessel for me. After Kelli came and did some demos – I had to pay for his ticket and pay him while he was in Chicago – Kevin said, “You know, there are drummers in Chicago – really good ones.” I said, “Like who?” He said, “Like Jimmy.” I said, “Jimmy plays drums?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Does he hit hard?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “Is he good?” And he said, “Yeah.” I said, “Let’s play with him.”
Tasty J: We had known each other for at least 3 or 4 months before you even realized that I played drums. On all those videotapes, we’re always at the same parties.
Louise: I was videotaping during that time because I was right off tour and was always carrying my camera around. It’s funny to look back on them because Jimmy is in there for like just a second. But we didn’t really know each other then.
Tasty J: And I was always in a dress.
Louise: He was always in drag and I was really upset when I saw him in boy clothes. I can’t imagine that now, because I’m so used to you as a guy, but I remember the first time I saw him in boy clothes I was uncomfortable (laughs). So Jimmy started working on the album right away.
Stephen: And then I came along. I’m a friend of Brian’s. We went to grade school together. When I met Louise, we hung out a lot and played songs together. Eventually, when Kevin left, Louise needed a bass player, so I started playing bass. And then . . .
Louise: Enter Suzanne and we didn’t need a bass player anymore.
Stephen: So then I switched to playing guitar.
Louise: For a while, there was a period of about a year, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to play with another woman. For obvious reasons, I felt a little weary. Socially and otherwise I was pretty much surrounded by guys. In the studio, there was like 10 guys and me. That got old. Kevin is probably the only guy who can sing close to the way that would have made sense for me not to play with another women. I also just really missed female company.
Suzi comes from the same school of thought, if I can speak for her, where she is kind of untrusting of women and hasn’t had real positive experiences with women. We both approached it with trepidation and have become very close throughout. Essentially, she started playing with us and our vocal connection was magical. I saw Jimmy and Stephen look at each other when we were playing “I’m Taking Europe with Me” and I saw it happen and I felt it and it was sort of a no-brainer. That’s how it happened in all these cases. There was no way I was going to put out some billboard for Veruca Salt auditions. It couldn’t happen any other way but very organically. There is so much trust involved. It happened slowly and ultimately things happen for a reason.
Obviously Nina is doing what she needs to do and, from what I understand and have heard, has made a record that is along the lines of her main aesthetic – her pop aesthetic – and I needed to make more Veruca Salt records. I needed people with me who were going to form the band that is going to have the longevity to make a plethora of Veruca Salt records. I went towards it like a pioneer carrying the torch for Veruca Salt and risking everything, balls to the wall, this record is going to happen and be the most honest record to date. We all collectively believe in this record so much. I think all of our minds are geared towards the evolution of the band and continuing to work together.
What happened to Steve Lack?
Louise: He just sort of disappeared. What he told me is that he wanted to play music with me and work with me but that he didn’t want to make another album. He didn’t want anything to do with management, lawyers, and labels. He was very disillusioned by the process. It conflicted with the way he wanted to live his life. He never seemed to believe in the system that we had entered. He was always sort of a detractor and antagonist when going to the major label and making the next album. He really wasn’t happy and that was painfully clear. I did get an e-mail from his dad, who is a huge Veruca Salt fan, and he mentioned in it that he missed the band and that Steve missed the music. I love Steve dearly and I hope that we’re friends for life. I think that we will be, we’ve just been out of touch for a while.
When did the songs that you were working on turn from demos into what was gong to appear on the album? How soon after the breakup did you start writing new material?
Louise: I was already writing. I had like 15 songs ready to go. I was ready to record, ready to do demos. I had already done some actually, in L.A, during the fall when we first came back from New Zealand. I called the band and asked if they wanted to come out to L.A. because we had some time off. They didn’t come and I think that sort of hinted towards the dissolution of that incarnation of the band. It was the first time that I had ever recorded stuff on my own and produced my own stuff. It was really important to me. I didn’t realize at that time that we were already growing apart significantly.
Then it was just a matter of writing so many songs, tracking so many songs, then writing more songs in the studio. It got to the point where Brian was saying, “You guys have to stop writing songs.” He was pulling his hair out. We tracked a lot of songs but then we just had to drop off and let some songs go. It almost came to blows with me and Brian about what songs would be on the album. He cares so deeply about the record. Ultimately we were all happy with the ones that we decided to put on the record and the other ones will find a place on B-sides or on the next album.
Veruca Salt has always released lots of non-album B-sides, which I always thought was very cool.
Louise: I know that you respond to stuff that is personal and raw in it’s expression, whether it’s production or otherwise. On the last record, there were a lot of songs that, frankly, Nina didn’t deem worthy of filling out. It was a partnership so we both had to feel excited about certain songs. It was a really shitty experience because I knew that I was writing great songs but I didn’t have her confidence. She was clearly trying to dominate the songs on the record and that was the beginning of the end for us. I can’t live like that.
Was there a final moment between you and Nina that caused the breakup of the band?
Louise: There was a moment on tour in the fall of ’97 when I knew that I could never trust her again. We somehow still struggled along for some time. The stuff that went on between us is the kind of thing that would go on in a marriage. Everything was there but the ring. We had the contract, we had the commitment and the supposed commitment to communicate honestly to one another. When that broke down on her end, it was over for me. It was finally she who left the band, but in my mind, the trust had been destroyed earlier on. As in any marriage, you don’t want to air dirty laundry publicly. It’s not anyone’s business. I’ve moved on. It’s been two years. I love this band, I love these songs, and I love this record. I”m not going to let anything break my stride.
How did you manage to hook up with Beyond Records?
Louise: We went to Geffen and asked if we could be released and they granted us that wish, thankfully, which made me a free agent. I had my masters in hand and I could go anywhere I wanted to. Beyond came forward at the perfect moment when other labels had shown interest but had then passed on the record. I was so indignant; I felt like, “How dare you pass on this? This is the best record you’re going to release next year.” I had no patience for any of that. Beyond said, “This is the greatest record and we have to have it. And we’re going to offer you a joint venture so that you can have your own label. This will be the best record deal you’ve ever experienced.” I was like, “Okay, let’s go.” It”s a great home. With my management and my label, I feel like this is the best place for Veruca Salt to be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What are you going to do with your own label?
Louise: Eventually sign new bands to it. If I decide to do an acoustic album, or anyone in this band does side projects, that would be a great place to put them out on. Nikki Sixx also has a joint venture deal with Beyond and he has Americoma Records and he is putting out his band 58. It’s out on his label. It doesn’t sound like Motley Crue. Now I have Velveteen Records and I’m really excited about it.
So are you going to hang out with Nikki Sixx now?
Louise: I haven”t hung with him, but he loves the record!
Does that mean Veruca Salt will play part of the Motley Crue/Megadeth summer tour?
Louise: (laughs) No, but you know what we are doing? We’re playing the Chicago Speedway Rockfest with Metallica. I’ve played with Metallica before in the strangest of circumstances – at that Molson Golden fest in Northern Canada. Suzanne is psyched because we get to play with Metallica. They were one of the most inspiring bands I’ve ever seen live. They got me on a wireless system. They got me crossing the stage. We called it Panther Rock when we saw them play. It inspired the entire Eight Arms to Hold You tour. We’re going to play with them, Kid Rock, Korn. We’re the only chick-fronted band that’s going to be playing on that show.
Speaking of that, there are so few female fronted bands out right now, where as when Veruca Salt came out we were on the heels of so many bands fronted by women. Now we are carrying the torch and I want to be the inspiration for a lot more girls to start playing. We have to put a stop to this really nauseating Britney Spears situation, although Jimmy does have a picture of her in his bunk.
What is happening with the Chicago music scene these days?
Louise: There is a lot happening right now. Apparently the Cells are amazing.
Suzanne: They are GREAT! I wish they could come out with us.
Louise: Local H, I think, is soaring to new heights. I just saw a show at the Metro. I was so blown away that I had to leave after a few songs and then come back and finish watching them. They were so powerful. Scott Lucas had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He’s really developed into a powerful force. I feel that I’ve grown up with him in a way in the scene and as far as songwriting. I think that what he is doing now is the mark of a really sophisticated songwriter and performer.
We”re also all huge fans of the Cupcakes album. We can’t tour with them enough.
Brian is making his new record.
Tasty J: And Nash Kato has a new record.
Louise: Hopefully he’ll come out with us on the road for a little while. I sang on the title track of his record. I’m the girl who sounds like she is 5.
Louise: And Rockit Girl, who is just getting their start, I think they are going to be a powerful force.
Was it strange for you to open for Filter, considering that your boyfriend/producer used to be in the band?
Louise: Yeah. We were offered the tour. We hadn’t planned to go out for a few weeks and I told our management that we didn’t want the tour. They called back and said that it was very important that we do it. I had to buckle. Ultimately it was a great thing for us. We got to go on for 45 minutes every night, play our songs, get to be a better band, get to know each other on stage, grow up in front of 1,000 people every night. I wouldn’t trade it for anything now. The Filter guys were great to us. Their crew was great. It was an easy tour. It was not easy in that we were working hard. It got us ready for our headlining tour. Hardcore fans come to the show with homemade Veruca Salt shirts that I wish I had at my merchandise table. They spend so much time on them and they are so good. That’s enough to be on tour, those are the moments where it all makes sense.
What were Brian’s feelings about you touring with Filter?
Louise: He took it in stride. He knew it was good for us. Initially I felt like it was a betrayal. I can’t imagine him going on tour with Nina and feeling too psyched about it. But, ultimately, it was what it was, and it was a great experience for all of us. Brian is working so hard on his album right now so he’s very focused. He has a one-track mind. So everything is cool.
And finally . . . the question that all your fans want to know the answer to . . . are you ever going to get on the Internet and communicate with your fans?
Louise: Yeah. I want to so badly, but I don’t have a computer. Any time I get on somebody’s computer, I end up crashing it. I need my own computer so I can be uninterrupted and just chat with people. You can tell people that is my intention but I haven’t been able to.