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Kristin Hersh

Unlike many with over a quarter of a century of music making under their belts (from Throwing Muses in the Early ‘80s to, more recently, her 50FootWave outfit) Kristin Hersh has continued to release consistently fine music throughout her career – despite her ongoing struggle with Bi-Polar disorder – in fact it could be argued her material is actually getting better, like her latest project, the excellent book/CD release Crooked (more here). We freely admit, we're fans here at TM-Towers but editor Andy Basire didn't excalty cover himself in glory when committing the cardinal journalism error of spelling her name wrong in his email approach - which she graciously corrects, telling us ‘it's Kristin with an ‘i’, but don’t feel bad, everybody misspells it’ (doh!). Suitably embarrassed our Editor went on to ask what she remembered about her early Throwing Muses days, in particular the late ‘80s/early ‘90s when both The Muses and label-mates the Pixies were hugely popular in the UK. That must have been an exciting time?

Kristin: “I remember a lot about the early Throwing Muses days... That's why I wrote Paradoxical Undressing (Rat Girl here in the U.S.). Too much to put down here... We were young and enthusiastic and troubled and poor, like any teenager in any band ever. Ivo Watts-Russell signed us to 4AD when we were 19 and living in Boston. He was a real music lover and he refused to cheat people. Very rare in the music business. We never felt hugely popular, we were always surprised when people came to shows and we never got so used to it that we began to expect it. The exciting part is always the music anyway. When I bring a new song to the band and hear them play it for the first time, whether we're in a studio or a garage, that's the real thrill.”

Total Music: Do you still see or plan to work with Tanya again (Kristin and Tanya Donelly originally formed Throwing Muses together, Donnelly left in 1992 to play with the Breeders and ultimately form Belly)?

Kristin: “We see each other a lot (we're stepsisters, so her daughters are my nieces and my sons are her nephews) and we play together every couple of years. We're very close.”

Total Music: Bi-polar disorder effects people in many different ways. How do you feel your particular manifestation of bi-polar affects your creativity?

Throwing MusesKristin: “I try not to write songs when I'm out of balance. The only time the songs develop in a clean, uncensored way is when my mind is clear. Mania and depression may have given me an extreme emotional vocabulary, but an unbalanced mind isn't capable of making timeless, universal art, in my opinion. It just thinks it can.”

Total Music: Your vocals can be incredibly visceral, this must be physically hard to maintain?

Kristin: “Vocals are an instrument like any other, you just can't tune them. I scream and yell for extended tours all the time (my life has been one long extended tour!) but nerves are the only thing that will shatter my voice. I can play with 50FootWave for years and show no ill effects, but one cold, nerve-wracking solo show with a lot of high notes in it and my voice is shot. Talking will ruin my voice, too, because I'm so shy that I'm always tense when talking to other people.”

Total Music: You are incredibly prolific, is this a blessing or a curse?

Kristin: “Both. I got a lot of shit for wanting to record and release so much music in the past, but now that CASHmusic has replaced the traditional industry model for me, I can release as much music as I want. If only recording studios were a little cheaper, it might be a little easier.”

Total Music: CASHmusic is a groundbreaking idea (along the same lines as the model used by Radiohead), which has been going now for a few years, is it working the way you had hoped?

Kristin: “It has changed everything for me. I no longer have to work to impress a record company executive who's trying to impress a radio programmer who's trying to impress the lowest common denominator (which probably doesn't even exist). Now I work for the listeners and that's all, so I do what the song tells me to.”

808 State V. 1980's

Total Music: The new album/book Crooked is a ground breaking idea (especially for those of us that miss the old days of gatefold album covers filled with fantastic art and tons of info), is this a cost effective way of releasing music?

Kristin: “I think if product has inherent value, then people are usually willing to pay for it. The Friday Project (the publishers of the Crooked book) decided that it was a viable release and I trust them.”

Total Music: These sort of projects, alongside the Works in Progress (WIP) subscriptions you offer on your web site, are clearly the way forward for artists with a following - as the large record companies seem to be spending more and more time just repackaging old material these days - but how would you set about starting out today?

Kristin: “50FootWave started from scratch a few years ago. We play live, we give music away (more here) and we communicate with people via Twitter and Facebook.”

Total Music: What's on your 'to do' list for the next few years?

Kristin: “Work the Paradoxical Undressing/Rat Girl book with spoken word and music shows, work Crooked, release With Love from the Men's Room (the upcoming 50FootWave EP) and finish the new Throwing Muses record. Then start all over again!”

Crooked is out now on The Friday Project. For more information on this and other upcoming releases go to www.kristinhersh.com

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