By Christine Fontana
Playgirl, December 2003
PLAYGIRL: What took you five years to give us another album?
LIZ PHAIR: There was a lot of stuff going on. I was recently divorced early on in that five-year period, then I moved to California. We went through different management and stuff like that.
How does the new album represent you personally
I think it’s sort of a “re-coming” of age, in a funny way. After being married, having a child and being settled in one kind of life and then uprooting myself and doing a whole different thing, which was moving out to California.
You have a song called “Rock Me”, where you sing about romance with a younger guy. Is this something personal for you or is this fantasy?
No, that was personal! [Laughs] I think it’s something that a lot of single women in their thirties find… It’s like they appreciate you for what you are rather than being threatened by you or not wanting the baggage. I’m not sure what the long-term implications are, but just for sort of a fun, get together sort of thing, it works fabulously for me!
Tell us about the song “H.W.C.” which stands for “Hot White Come”.
That’s just a song I wrote because I was having a really great relationship at the time. I think for me it took till my thirties, or late twenties, before I was really feeling like I was having the kind of sex I wanted to have. I didn’t fee afraid, I felt in control but at the same time I could be swept away. I just think it’s a reflection of being in a great place and really, really loving somebody, and for me it’s kind of a little political, only after the fact. When I wrote it, it was just spontaneous. My decision to put it on the record, even though a lot of people, like the earlier executives, sort of balked at the subject matter, was because all my friends understood it. Every time I played that song, all my girl friends, even the moms, would be like, “Ohmigod! Play that again!” You should be able to have those kind of sentiments and verbalize them. That’s what rock and roll’s really all about.
How do you feel being a pioneer for bringing those kinds of songs forward?
I feel proud of that fact. A friend of mine, who’s a woman, was concerned about “Hot White Come”, and asked me how it will affect Nick, my little boy, and do I ever worry about that. And I see her point, but… he’s really not a part of my music life at all. He really is living his life with just a normal mom. I’ve already done the damage with my earlier stuff before he was even born; there’s no getting around that. And I’m personally the kind of person that feels that a woman who is whole and happy and healthy and likes her life and engages in life is the best kind of mom you could be, whatever that is. He will understand the context of that material because he understands all this other stuff and that I read — I read a lot of feminist literature and I kind of make my own way in life. It’s kind of like, why shouldn’t there be songs out there about women totally loving sex their own way?
Who has been your idol and your inspiration?
Easily Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. They’re just miles away from anybody else.
Who would be your fantasy date?
[Laughs] I’m gonna go with my old stand-by, Keanu Reeves.
Does he know that yet?
I’ve said it enough! I don’t want him to come knocking on the door. I’d like to hang out, I’d like to ride on the back of a motorcycle, I’d like to go all the way, you know.
What is your favorite man-hating song?
[Sings] These Boots are Made for Walkin’!
What about your favorite man-loving song?
Oh, boy, I like “Preacher’s Son”. [Sings] The only one who could ever reach me, Was the son of a preacher man; Yes he was, he was, ooh, yes he was… ‘Cause it’s sexy sounding and totally beautiful.
What are some turn-ons for you?
I like someone who has athletic abilities. Someone who can be kind of in charge but at the same time values a woman’s place. I like strength of character. I like someone that I can admire, someone who’s just sensual, who’s tactile and physical and loving.
Cologne! When you’re supposed to sit there and listen to them the whole time — you know, men who need to be admired without being able to return the favor.
What methods of seduction do you use to lure a man?
I always go for that electro-chemical boom. And if that is there, which doesn’t happen that often, I mean really good electro-chemical boom, that’s who I’ll be with. And then I’ll be like, OK, well, we’ll work out all the other relationship stuff later. And that doesn’t make for long-lasting relationships. As I’m older and I wanna have a good relationship, look at my parents and their friends and they have these great lives — I’m not sure ou can base it on the electro-chemical boom, can you? You’re supposed to base it on other things. Now that I’m trying to find someone that I can be friends with for a long period of time, I don’t know how to seduce them! I’m all discombobulated, ’cause I know how to do all the animal instinct stuff, but I don’t know how to do the slow burn. I’m trying to learn all new ways and it’s kind of awkward right now.
What are some of the best parties you’ve ever attended?
Ooh! I attended a fabulous one, a post-Oscar one. It was such a perfect party! There were real hard-core celebrities and there were lots of people that I knew there, and there was a sense that there were drugs going on, and it was all absolutely above board at the same time! [Laughs] It was a fabulous house, way up in the hills. And I had a fun little make-out session and had some great flirtation with more than one guy! [Laughs] It was everyone that I would ever want to see in L.A. at one party, it was great. And I was wearing a loner — a perfect Stella McCartney dress and shoes.
What mistake do women make with men that drives you mad?
We fall in love and occassionally a dynamic will creep up in the relationship that really undermines a woman’s self-esteem. The guy doesn’t really know he’s doing it necessarily, it’s just the way his dad treated his mom or something like that. A friend of mine who’s a very strong, interesting, intelligent, great person, suddenly she becomes insecure and she’s beaten down psychologically. I don’t know why exactly this happens… it must be the sex or something? But it kind of turns you into a ball of low self-esteem. It’s more of a tragedy than a mistake, but it sneaks up and it happened to me. I don’t know why. Ask the columnist in your magazine, whoever is the helpful Dr. So and So because I want to know! [Laughs] It’s like the analogy: If you drop a frog into boiling water, the frog will jump out. But if you just put the frog in the bottom of the pan and increase the heat slowly, the frog will just stay there going, “Gosh, it’s uncomfortable; boy, is it uncomfortable!” You know, that’s one of the biggest mistakes.
Why did you turn down an offer to pose for Playboy magazine?
If I ever use my nudity, I want to do it my own way. I don’t want to just fit myself into the way they view women, which is to me, kind of a narrow band of erotica. Everybody has to sort of pose the same way. It’s the same male eye they’re catering to, and if I did it, I’d like to do it in a way that reflected my own sense of what’s erotic and hot.
If you were to be reincarnated one day, who would you come back as?
That’s a hard one. I’d like to be me, I just wish I had more money and connections and the ability to travel to see all the cool parts of the world.
What are you most proud of far?
My close, long-term friends and my relationships with my family. It’s a cliché, but it’s so true. It’s the people you’ve known the longest and you’ve loved the most. If I’m happy, it’s because I’m seeing my friends and I’m hanging out with the people that I love that I’ve known forever. It’s kind of like “It’s a Wonderful Life”. You are always rich if you have friends.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Breaking down some walls or having helped pushed them. I want to be remembered for making women feel a little stronger and thinking better about themselves.
Featured Image: Liz Phair (Photo: Phil Poynter)