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Girly Chat with Liz Phair

Liz Phair Interview

Terry McManus Interview

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Note: Liz Phair’s new record Exile in Guyville, was reviewed by a guy who she knows personally and may or may not like and he called her a “well-off brat” among other things in Spin. She wrote a letter to the editor but they added a reference which mentioned the guy’s name. This pissed Liz off. Let me also just say that the review was generic, could have applied to dozens of records, and certainly didn’t hint in any way at how special her record is.

Liz Phair in 1993. Photo by Gail O’Hara

chickfactor: let’s talk about the letter.

liz: I wrote the letter because peter margasak should never have reviewed my album. he lives in my town. he knows me. it was a slag all the way through between the lines. safely charted in a good review.

cf: what about it made you angry?

liz: it was the good old boy network. he asked for it apparently, he asked spin if he could do it because he knew me. it was a poorly written review which focused on me and my characteristics as a person assuming that all of this material was autobiographical. he didn’t even credit me with production, which I coproduced the album, and since he knows both brad and me well, it wouldn’t have been hard just to ask. he basically didn’t research it. he told me straight out that he didn’t listen to lyrics. there was a lot of it I had a problem with but especially because of the way in which he phrased things, and this never would have been the case with someone who didn’t know me and just reviewed the album and the music. it pissed me off badly. this pisses me off again. everything about this whole thing all the way around pisses me off. it’s like this cloud of idiocy is hanging over this entire incident. it’s pathetic.

cf: what do you mean by good old boy network?

liz: things being done the way they’ve always been done. there’s a real nasty inside twist to all of this. the whole rock criticism SLASH journalism thing — note the irony in my voice — has been run according to certain unwritten rules, guidelines, which I find not only bring down the writing to the least common demonimator… hang on, I’m pissed. ask me another question. I’ll get back to that.

cf: what do you like about chicago?

liz: I like the lake. I like the visual space. I like the fact that it’s cheap and I can live relatively well without — I don’t live relatively well though. but I could if I got my shit half together. I like the fact that my parents live there and grew up in and around the city, I feel very much connected to a lot of places there, but the winter sucks and it’s not nearly as fun as new york and it’s not nearly as community-oriented. it’s neighborhood-oriented and everyone sort of mistakes that for community, but more or less that’s just a residential identity.

cf: what else do you dislike about it?

liz: the midwestern mentality, the sort of “we’re just regular average people” pretentiousness. “I’m just a regular guy. just doing my thing. no big deal.” it’s not a city that encourages a colorful lifestyle and/or approach to… I’m not being articulate at all… this whole thing threw me badly. I can’t believe they did that. it’s just so stupid. it’s so frustrating. I can’t stand the idea that any time I even try to take an active role in any kind of press, it backfires almost as if it’s intentional. as if there’s this, “you’re the talent, shut up and take it.” I hate that. that’s the good old boy network.

cf: so you’re not looking forward to the barrage of press about to be heaped upon you?

liz: not at all. the first couple of times I was in the press, I thought it was the most insanely cool thing, to see yourself reviewed, especially positively. really feeling that you’ve left a mark somewhere. but now, when I see articles that really put a positive twist on me, they take three or four of my sentences and they combine them into one, and it’s this beautifully articulated thought, and I think if someone wanted to make this a negative slant, it would be astoundingly easy just to turn my words into something horrifying. I don’t watch every word I say, obviously. it’s scary. there’s a lot of other stuff going on, it’s not just about whether they like it or don’t like it. there’s a lot of other cogs and wheels at work, and that can be unnerving. it makes you feel like there’s an acutal being — the press is an entity, and has a body and a brain and a bloodstream — do you know what I mean? it’s frightening.

cf: do you go see lots of bands?

liz: no! I should go see more. I stopped going because it became like going to work. why go to the office after you were at the office? I miss that now. I’m feeling like I need to figure out which shows are worth seeing and go see those. the radio can only do so much.

cf: what do you do when you’re not making music?

liz: I hang out with my friends. I read. I watch movies. I go running. I carouse about the city. I write songs. I play guitar incessantly. I fantasize. I masturbate. I shower. I change my hairstyle. I change my outfit. I think about what I’d do if I had the money to… go horseback riding.

cf: what kind of movies do you like?

liz: I like anything from big blockbuster hits — I love star wars and terminator 2 — to drowning by numbers to… joel and ethan coen were big faves of mine for a while. jane campion’s films are amazing. I really like — same with music — a ton of different things. it’s not just entertainment value, it’s got to have levels to it. there’s got to be something in it that I can attach to and trust and suspend my disbelief and really get into the movie. I’m often watching movies from the point of view of making them, thinking about those kind of decisions while I’m watching it, and a good movie will allow me to do both at the same time. a bad movie is when I’m stuck in one realm or the other.

cf: what kind of books do you like?

liz: I used to not like fiction. I was really into books on theories of chaos and quantum mechanics and stuff, books like brief history of time — I love that book. then I started getting back into fiction. I just read the english patient, that was an excellent book, I liked that a lot. I like brief books, I don’t like really long ones, sagas are not my thing. it’s sort of like the way I write music, I chop, I like books that sort of go from one thing to another and keep returning, kind of like a collage mentality. literature, same thing.

cf: what’s the meanest thing you ever did?

liz: I spent a few years putting my parents through hell, not telling them where I was going to be, staying out and not coming home, pointedly torturing them, because I needed to establish my independence or something really stupid like that. the more I realized that they were worried, the more I was determined to break them of this by overkill. if I could just scare them enough, they’d have to get numb and not care where I was at any given moment. but that didn’t work, they always cared. but now we get along wonderfully.

cf: are you an only child?

liz: no, I have a wacky brother. wacky is the right word. he’s a financial consultant with a penchant for german models and long black leather coats.

cf: if you could legalize one drug, what would it be?

liz: marijuana of course. we need stress relievers!

cf: what instruments do you play, apart from guitar?

liz: piano. I’d love to say just about any string instrument I can get my hands on because I’ve never felt like you have to be good at playing an instrument to actually write songs on it. I mean, you could do it on a three-note, rhythmic basis, you could sort of have a rolling series of notes or something. this summer, I was thinking of grabbing my friends violin and a cello and taking it out with my four-track when I’m demoing some of the stuff for the next album, just because it’s often really helpful to start out on a different instrument to get back to basic song structure. to disallow yourself the kind of tricks and proficiencies that you have already. I have an electric and a classical guitar, which I alternate between when I need to write different songs, they produce different kinds of songs, and it’s good to keep changing your vehicle like that. for all you little songsters out there.

when did you start playing music?

liz: I was on the piano by the time I was four or five, piddling around. we always had a piano and my mother used to play. then I began to take lessons, in cincinnati and in england. I think I took recorder, I was in choir, stuff like that.

cf: when did you live in england?

liz: when I was in 2nd grade. in sheffield. it was a really great experience, but damp and dismal sometimes. it’s one of those experiences you look back on and you can’t believe how much you retain. my mother dragged us into every fucking cathedral in the british isles.

cf: who is in your band?

liz: no one. I have no band. I work with other musicians. I record my album with other musicians. brad wood (from shrimp boat) was the drummer and bass player and organ player and coproducer. he runs idful studios in chicago. a multitalented kind of guy.

guyville sounds quite different from the girly sound stuff. what prompted the change in approach?

liz: I’d done three tapes girly sound style, and I’d begun to work in the studio. I was going to record an album and put it out on feel good all over with john henderson and we were starting to work with brad, and that mix, that little personality trio didn’t quite work out. john and I just kept clashing on how we wanted it to sound. he couldn’t get the best out of me and I couldn’t get my freedom from him, and it just dissolved. and I wanted to make that album. once I get started on something and I’ve been thwarted, I become obsessed with completing well something I started and knew I could do.

cf: you said in our first chat that you consciously made it a “rock” album.

liz: the whole battle between me and john really was that he wanted a far more sparse and vulernable sound. he envisioned my songs recorded at their barest essential and always liked it when my voice was sort of fluttery. he would deny this — I know he would — but would have to concede that to an extent I really wanted to have more of my energy and aggressiveness, and I love rock… I mean christ, I was going to AC/DC concerts, I was really into that stuff, so as much as that isn’t a part of my songwriting style, it’s definitely a part of the music that I like. so I just wanted something that kicked some ass, and what nicely happened is, it still has a lot of girly sound elements in it considering what I thought I was actually making. which is wonderful and i can credit brad with reigning me enough to make sure that happened. but we were pretty clear-headed about what we were trying to do.

cf: how did you end up on matador?

liz: I asked brad what the coolest indie label was. I’m like, “if you coudl be on any indie label, what would it be?” matador, immediately, he says. so i called [wisecracking matador bigwig] gerard, and luckily he’d heard of the girly sound tapes, and said hell yeah, send us a tape. sent him a tape, he loved it, and said go with it. then I told him of course that I’d become compelled to make a double album [heehee]. I love matador cause they’re just like, “OK liz, OK, well, why don’t you try it,” and I’m sure they’re just sitting on the phone like, “jesus fucking christ, she wants to do what?! what kind of schlock have we just gotten ourselves involved in?” but it worked out just wonderfully.

cf: you said before that you might go back to doing something girly sound-esque in the future, right?

liz: I was just telling gerard about doing 8-track next time. I’m going to do another one-off with matador. I want to do something that’s different but not simply for the sake of being different. it’s really hard, your second album is doomed to fail. it’s that sophomore slump, it’s gonna happen, they won’t like it, it isn’t what they expect, it’s not what they want, they want you to do something else, you know something’s going to be wrong. so I figure that gives me ulitmate freedom to do anything I want. I like to play the extremes. I miss the privacy of 8-track stuff. I could see recording on 8-track by myself and then bringing it to brad and adding stuff to it to give a sort of weird… anything I record by myself has a different feel — and it’s not just sonically, it has a different emotional impact — than anything I record with someone else mostly because I’m a very self-conscious performer. so when I’m alone, you get a sort of space and atmosphere that you cannot recreate in the studio, it’s impossible for me at this comfort level of performing. it interests me, I want to see what I can do with it again. I feel out of touch with that.

cf: the girly sound tapes were unavailable to consumers. you just sent them out to a couple of friends and they’ve been duplicated like a million times.

liz: yeah, then tae put in chemical imbalance that everyone should write me and ask for tapes: the worst fucking nightmare of my life. I have all these letters — “please send me girly sound tapes” — and I haven’t sent them back yet and I have to get organized…

cf: return to sender.

liz: I’m going to go to hell for it one way or the other. there’s all these angry 16-year-old virginians who are going to kick my ass someday.

cf: have you considered releasing the girly sound stuff?

liz: yes, I have spoken to simple machines about it.

cf: are you actually five foot two?

liz: yes.

cf: what’s the last record you played?

liz: marvin gaye’s greatest hits.

cf: have you ever been arrested?

liz: no.

cf: if you had a rider, what would be in it?

liz: tommy tar just told me that clean towels are in their rider, and every gig they play, they get a new clean towel, and he seemed so pleased with this. so a clean towel sounds good, a really well-prepared vegetarian meal, really beautiful 14-year-old boys, at least two, wearing loincloths only, and a personal masseuse; I’d need a massage before and after each gig.

cf: no fancy chemicals or libations?

liz: I want them available to me. but I mean, I don’t give a shit about that. it’s probably not healthy for the workplace, you can get that later. I want to be soothed because giggling is not a soothing thing for me. so I want soothing elements around me, maybe like aromatherapy.

cf: so you’ve only played like eight shows?

liz: I think it’s nine. I was counting it up the other day.

cf: do you have plans to tour?

liz: yeah. I’m haggling with matador as to how little I can get away with. I think I blabbed in some interview somewhere that matador was just going to have to get used to the idea that I was a video artist and i just wasn’t going to tour, and now that I’ve seen the video, I’m thinking, well, touring is probably a real good idea, we just have to work out the details of who and where and when and can I have my own car and just sort of show up with my little amp. that would be fine. if I could get a car, it was just me, and I bought — they bought me a decent amp, and I could just drive and show up, that wouldn’t be so bad, but I don’t want to tour with anyone else. I can’t imagine being in a car with anyone else. I like privacy — privacy and the freedom to go when and where I want to go, boy that matters to me a lot. I get really trapped-feeling easily and it’s bad. it’s not good for my constitution. ask me a dirty question. ask me about tv violence or teen pregnancy.

cf: let’s talk about tv violence.

liz: that’s actually not so good cause I don’t watch a lot of tv. I’m all for it.

let’s talk about spin.

liz: we have different approaches to the same issues. and ne’er the two shall meet. I feel like I’m running a parallel lline. the point of the letter was that I didn’t mention his name. it was the classy thing to do. I was pissed at margasak about that article but the point was I didn’t mention who it was about in my letter, that was my main fucking point. it’s 150 words exactly, and that wasn’t easy, to create a fable with some rhythm and humor and slagging both at him and me, you know I poked fun at myself, it was a beautiful little piece. it doesn’t need to reference back. I was trying to do something that would get back at the people who would get it. you know, it wasn’t going to be like, “liz phair, nagging and ragging,” that’s exactly what I was going to prove I wasn’t going to do. and now, no fault of my own, they stick in this fucking sic paragraph or sentence that clearly breaks up the fucking rhythm of the fable!

cf: do you have a problem with the way women are treated in the “rock press”?

liz: I haven’t been in the rock press enough to get pissed off about it. I have more trouble with the way women are treated by individuals in the business. I also have a problem with the way artists are in the business. and if I were a business person I’d probably have a problem with the way business people are treated by the artist. I find myself in a circumstance that’s slightly unusual.

cf: let’s talk about riot grrrls.

liz: ok, but I’m going to start eating your salad if you’re not careful.

cf: please. go right ahead.

liz: really? cool. riot grrrls. who are they? where did they come from? it’s so sad. I could see that coming a mile away. they were just putting themselves up like donkeys on the wall. I really admire them for it, but it was like throw the dart at the riot grrrls. anytime anybody sticks their neck out like that, the bullets fly, I suppose because there’s a lot of people out there who need something to write about and they’ve lost their vision, so they become reactionary. instead of formulating their own stands based on what they experience or see, they wait for someone to do something and they rip it down or build it up. it’s too bad. it’s a really passive way to approach your job.

cf: yep. there’s a lot of people writing about thing they don’t know or care about and just sort of missing the point of their subject matter.

liz: and even after they miss it, they don’t care. that’s exactly how I feel right now with the whole spin thing. my point was entirely missed by everyone spanning the entirety of this incident. there’s nothing I can do, they don’t get it, they’re not going to get it ever. I’m just going to shut up. everyone told me, liz, just shut up, don’t fight it just shut up.

cf: who told you to shut up?

liz: who? all my friends. in fact there was a whole big town witch hunt for me after that peter margasak incident because everyone’s like, “the only thing he’s ever wanted to be in his entire life is a rock critic and I can’t believe you’d call and now he can’t work for spin anymore!” and I didn’t even know any of this had happened. these were people I considered friends of mine, who didn’t even bother — they basically attacked me in a group at the rainbow club publicly. one of them was a man I’d gone out with for a year who didn’t even ask me what had happened but at the bar, drinks in hand, which to me is a heinous crime — you never discuss anything serious drinks in hand, especially not with a bunch of people around. I just felt like I was getting stoned — do you know what I mean? it was really gross, watching these people who say how much they hate the crowd mentality and here they were manifesting all the bigotry and ignorance that they supposedly despise. “all he’s ever wanted is to be a rock critic”? that was a lame fucking review. give me a break, peter, I’ll go through it with my little pencil and show you how to write it better. that was sad. craig marks [music editor] never should have given it to peter. I talked to him on the phone and he said something to the effect of, well, I feel like I could review people that I know objectively and that was his justification for it, and I was like, but craig, do you think that you should? and he was like, yeah, I think that gives me better insight. peter margasak doesn’t know shit about me as an artist, all he knows about me is through social channels, and you should watch your fucking assignments. some guy calls up who knows her, why’s he doing this? and when you get the review, doesn’t that tell you anything? why did he do it like that? if they don’t get those fucking signals, they’re just blind. if they did get those signals and they let it go through, they’re assholes. I stand by that. I have no doubt they’re assholes. watch your ass, boys.

cf: what makes you ill about pop culture?

liz: the fact that we need it and despise it at the same time. addictions like that nauseate me.

cf: you write songs using literary elements such as characters, conflict, etc. have you done much nonmusic writing or do you just have a knack for writing?

liz: both. it’s a knack. I have but it’s also a hell of a lot of practice and a hell of a lot of training. I always wanted to be a poet, along with everything else I wanted to be, but i was a really bad poet. I was a really indulgent, pretentious poet. for some reason, songs, because I had considerations like brevity and peer pressure — I heard everyone discussing songs they liked and hearing where the artist just ran on and on. practice has a lot to do with it. you make song after songand you get a feel for what’s gratuitous and what’s not. it’s a love of words, I’m very conscious of every single word — there’s not a single one in there that isn’t supposed to be there. at this point, I’m completely on top of it. now I’m moving toward — everything will still probably rhyme and have that sort of syncopation that I love but I’m starting to tear that down a little bit too. I was wondering if people had thought I’d lost my ability to tie it all up in a neat and catchy package but I still have plenty of that in me. I just find it more interesting at this point to not necessarily rhyme but to evoke a phrase or a sound. instead of producing actual symmetry, to hint at it or imply it or lead you slightly on a crooked path instead of my usual really tightly structured style.

cf: and the fact that you revise/change songs all the time.

liz: all the time. I’m constantly changing and rewriting my songs. I constantly pilfer my old material.

cf: are therea any lyricists you think are talented?

liz: mick jagger. I really do. swear to god. he’s the one that comes to mind cause it’s pertinent to speak about him. I think pavement’s pretty damn fine in that department. joni mitchell. these are just off the top of my head. there’s billions. sometimes it’s just in one song that they hit it but I was really blown away by the lyrics on exile — it’s so real, him, that time, that place, that life, street slang half the time, and half of it’s references to R&B stuff, half of it’s sexual without being explicit. I can’t believe people don’t know the lyrics to that — I don’t know all of them but I know a hell of a lot. you can decipher it to some extent and it’s just brilliant.

cf: do you think people pay attention to lyrics?

liz: I thought everybody did. I had no idea that most people don’t, but I’m learning fast. it’s sad. I don’t know why you wouldn’t get as much out of something as you could. lyrics matter so much to me I can’t even begin to say. I can’t say I’m more in love with lyrics than I am with chord structure cause the sound is incredibly important to me, but I feel closer to lyrics. with sounds, it’s a different process for me that involves instinct rather than leveled ability. I’m faster at wordplay than I am at chordplay, but I’m getting there.

cf: I guess the standards for lyrics are just so low on a mainstream level that it’s always really shocking when someone like you or mark eitzel or even morrissey comes along. having someone say something funny or insightful even is just so rare.

liz: god, that’s what I hope. I knew no one was going to get half of it or see the way I did, somehow I feel like a work is richer just because you put it in. even if they never catch it, there’s some intuitive sense for a listener that something just happened, they don’t know what. I’m a big believer that a lot of information is processed without your conscious self knowing it. I’m hoping to sink in. it’s catchy, you’re singing along, pretty soon you’re singing the words, you’re not really sure what you’re singing.

cf: when describing your record to people who haven’t heard it, mainly guys, they always go, well, it is like a male-bashing album? and I’m like no no no! it’s like a well-rounded view. do you get that?

liz: god, totally. all the time. if I see “I want to be your blowjob queen” quoted one more time I think I’m going to vomit. this is people not doing their job. a lot of rock critics are pulling these half-assed lines out cause they’re easy to pull out and saying like, “you put em in there, they’re obviously very telling lines.” I actually trust that you totally understand the record completely and I have no reason to know that. I can just tell. you get it. maybe it’s the kind of album that only some people are going to get. that’s fine, that’s how life is. but it’s not a male-bash. I love men more than anything. and I’m not writing about every fucked-up relationship I’ve ever had — this is a specific thing I’m doing. I had many happy relationships where I broke up with my boyfriends, mostly, I think I’ve only been broken up with once. people take things so literally and so at face vaule that I used to bitch about not getting the credit for the creativity I possess. it doesn’t just fly out of me, I work really hard on this stuff, I think about it a lot. I put a lot of energy into creating it. it isn’t like, “oh wow, she just kinda has a facility for it, it just kinda pops out of her,” and I think that’s a really sexist thing to say. if it were a man saying the same things, people would assume that there was intent behind it, that it was constructed, and he was conscious of his construction. traditionally, women are just like, “oh I don’t know, I just came up with it,” when they really did try very hard. and a lot of men just took that comment at face value and believed them.

cf: if you had one week left to live, what would you do?

liz: I would do everything that I normally do, I would just do it at a level never before realized. I would chill with myself, sit quietly and think a lot, then party my mind out, and love my parents and say goodbye and thank them. I like my life, I like what I do, I would just do it amped.

cf: what advice do you have for young artists?

liz: stick to songwriting. care about the music. never let that go — now I sound like I’m fucking preaching. you lose sight of it so quickly, you get involved in the image, which is fine and legitimate, and it’s an art form. you get involved in the performance, in the transcendence of playing together and making music and coming up with this product and videos and interviews — lots of groovy things to be distracted by — all of them legitimate expressions. but songwriting, music, lyrics — don’t stray from that.

cf: what inspires you?

liz: I don’t know. I’m naturally inspired. there are times when I’m not, and I feel dead. emotions are the most inspriational thing for me. it keeps me healthy.

cf: what makes you angry?

liz: a lot makes me angry. I spent a lot more time as a young adult getting angry for specific reasons. I had sort of an ideology that, when offended, would burst into rage. but now I honestly wait until I feel something’s amiss — I am turning more and more female in that sense, trusting instinct far more than i used to. I buy into that wholeheartedly. you go by your gut and if your gut starts to feel uneasy, something’s wrong. it’s like, as a 26-year-old, I can choose when to let my anger grip me and when not to in most situations, and I’ll let it roll when I’ve felt somehow subconsciously before consciously that it’s been triggered. I know that then something’s amiss, instead of hearing something, realizing it should probably piss you off, and then getting pissed off about it. what makes me angry? anytime anyone’s a dick or an asshole or a cunt or catty or lying. I hate being deceived and I’m often deceived, I’m incredibly gullible. my imagination can encompass a lot of lunacy before I realize that someone’s bullshitting me. anytime someone treats me with less respect than I deserve, anytime anyone manipulates someone. I hate manipulative people. that’s a really frightening characteristic. people that don’t wish you well and make out to be your friend, that’s really spooky.

cf: what’s more important to you, money or power?

liz: they’re both important to me. I’m going to say power actually because in my mind power is being able not to use power. I feel my most powerful when I don’t need to prove anything — that is serious power. when no one can ruffle you cause you’re basically self-sufficient. power isn’t about being able to pull strings — although that helps a lot — power really honestly is about being happy and knowing yourself and knowing what you believe in. that’s just ultimate power — no one can touch that, you can die with power like that. power is being able to believe in something. someone can take your money away, you could spend it poorly, it could corrupt you, but with a strong self, you’ll do ok.

cf: are women more feminist now than they used to be?

liz: yes. if I think about my mother and her friends, and listening to her talk about how she never ever thought to think of herself as inferior, it never occurred to her to be inferior, or that she shouldn’t do everything she wanted to do, then I realized what came with that was the expectation that she would marry and have children and probably not work. I think feminism now means something that we are more entrenched in. I think women always respected themselves more than we think they did now — we look back and we think they were cowering fools, and I don’t think they were at all. I think there were as many strong women then as there are today. but I don’t think there was the unity of thought that we have now, and that’s feminism. the communication between women saying this is happening to all of us and this shouldn’t. that’s feminism cause that’s reaching up and beyond the personal circumstances and arriving at something collective.

cf: is “open season” a feminist song?

liz: totally. feminism in my life isn’t relegated to books or discussions, it’s all mixed in. that’s one of the beauties of being older rather than younger, your whole life fuses, your thoughts are combined, everything overarches everything and there’s all these connecting ideas that were disjointed before. there was your feminist mentality, your daddy’s-little-girl mentality, your I’m-an-intellectual mentality — all sorts of things that were separated, you parceled yourself off as a young person, whereas now feminism is the way I sit, it’s the way I perk up when I can tell that no one’s paying attention to what I say. how I live, how I breathe.

cf: so you were supposed to do a working holidays single, but you’re not, right?

liz: do we have to talk about that?

cf: no.

liz: here’s one of those ways in which I was weak. liz has an inability to work under assignment.

cf: that’s not a weakness.

liz: it’s totally a weakness. it was a positive thing, I wanted to do it, I was glad to be asked, and I fucked up. I totally couldn’t write it. it turned into this song called “beast of spring” that took me longer — I’ve never taken so long to write a song in my life, ever, and it doesn’t sound any different from any other songs. I mean, it’s good. all of its transitions run smoothly.

cf: how long did it take?

liz: it took about a month and a half to write, maybe more than that. it was like the oil painting that would never finish. I couldn’t fucking write that song, it was horrifying. so I know they’re really pissed at me and I’ll have to figure out some way to make it up to them. but it was just a big blunder on my part.

cf: what’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?

liz: I was supposed to go to show-and-tell when I was really little. I had an alarm clock I was bringing to school and it just started going off and I refused to acknowledge that I was the one with the going-off alarm, I kept staring out the window and trying to muffle the sound and everyone’s like searching all cover the bus and I’m starting to cry while still refusing to acknowledge, I’m like no, it’s not in my bag. to the death, I would have denied that it was me. another good embarrassing moment. you want something sexual I know. when I lost my virginity, I told the guy right beforehand — he was a sweet, wonderful guy, completely understanding — I said something really really dumb. I was like, my ex-boyfriend says that if you aren’t nice to me he’s going to come beat you up. in bed, right before I’m losing my virginity. he’s like, OK… I’ll be nice. it was completely ridiculous. I was totally nervous. I always wanted to have sex, I’d been a lusty child for a long time but I was convinced that because I was so small, that I would be ripped apart and have to go to the hospital if I ever had sex. I literally waited till college. I was so scared and it was nothing! it was fun! I was really afraid that I’d be physically damaged somehow. it was nothing. as doctor ruth once said [in a dr. ruth accent], “the vagina can accommodate a penis of any size or shape.”

cf: what are your best qualities?

liz: my intelligence and my impishness.

cf: what do you mean by impishness?

liz: without being evil, completely irreverent. I’m mischevious. I like to throw little monkey wrenches here and there, nothing big. I like to do the unexpected. I like surprises. I like things that change. I like excitement and unpredictability. a storm, a power outage, anything to come along and keep things slightly dangerous. when the guys start driving in the car really too fast, I’m going, “no no no, stop stop stop,” but I’m completely loving it. I’m an imp, an elf, I was probably a changeling at birth, look at these ears.

cf: have you ever thought about lying in interviews and making stuff up?

liz: I’m not good at that. I could. I’ve thought about it of course. I wanted to, all the urge boys do that so well. I can’t. I would blunder and trip all over myself. I make a better storyteller. I embellish. reality is slightly bendable.

cf: thanks a skadillion.

Interview by Gail O’Hara
Chickfactor #3, Spring 1993

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