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Lisa GermanoAnother production team, what did Tchad Blake bring to Slide?
by Matt Dornan / pictures by Paul Heartfield
Tchad's my best friend. I'm very lucky that he did my record 'cause, probably, if he wasn't my friend he might not have. I met him through 'Love Circus'- we wanted him to mix the record. We became friends over the phone. It doesn't happen very often but it was instant. Both of us were going through some losses in our life so we really connected, and then I met him a few months later and throughout the next couple years I wound just send him tapes. I didn't want to bother him [with the record] because I didn't want to abuse our friendship, but I told him we were looking for a producer and he said 'Oh no, I can't put you in the hands of a producer.' 'Cause he likes my things the way they are. He said 'you just need to record them over in a different way' and I'm like 'do you wanna do it?' And I lucked out. He chose the musicians and I trusted him on that.
You don't list who-plays-what on the record.
I don't know why, I just don't like that. Their essence is on the record. Lt just seems kinda conceited to me. I just like to say 'these people are on this record'.
This is your first record without drummer Kenny Aronoff.
This was a new experience. It's like 'OK Tchad. You choose who you want', and I love Jerry [Marotta]. Jerry's sexier than Kenny.
As a drummer?
Yeah, as a drummer. I love Kenny but this was a nice change.
It's a studio record, but it retains the warmth of your home recordings.
This session went just so smooth. Two songs [Slide and Guillotine] and the instrumentals were ones from home that Tchad liked from my tapes. But the rest was all done in the studio, really quickly, we just kinda played 'em you know?
I was a little wary of the name Mitchell Froom on there. His own production work seems to dominate the artists he works with.
Sometimes, but not as much as Daniel Lanois, though. That's why Tchad didn't want me to have a producer, 'cause he said 'You have a certain personality'. He wants to make the artists be the artists and not be him.
Would you expect to work together again?
He told me this was his favourite record that he worked on. I'm honoured because I love his records. There must have been something going on that he liked in particular. But I'm not writing anything for the first time, so I can't even think of the future. You know, I'm happier than I've ever been, so I'm trying to think it's not a bad thing. It's kinda like a drug and I'm not getting that drug.
There's less tragedy permeating this record. Are you in a good relationship at last?
No, it means I'm not in one! I'm not being abused and hurt and torn apart by anybody, or myself. I'm just moving forward, I think. In all the records I've written there are lots of questions about trying to move on and 'why do you feel stuck?' and, I feel like, in many of these songs I'm moving on, noticing the world, noticing frequencies and vibrations outside of myself and I like that. It's just harder to write about.
You moved to LA since your last record
I moved there to make the record but I liked it, so I stayed. Bloomington is snore inspiring because I'm lonely there and I'm more upset. Ha!
You seem to be a step closer to the Lisa Germano pop record.
This one, I think, is very optimistic.
You re-recorded If I Think Of love from the OP8 record.
For me I liked [the new version] a lot better because it's more paradoxical. Such a pretty song. Lt's a miserable situation and you're really pissed off with this guy and every time you try to love someone you think about the shit he put you through. So it's like 'IF I think of love l think of you, you asshole!' I just have fun with it. So snotty, but most people think it's a nice song.
The symbolism of the butterfly seems appropriate. It's beautiful and fragile like the music
It's all about trying to go from a dark place to a light place. A butterfly is the best example of that. Coming from an ugly place and trying to make it beautiful. Trying to see the positive side of things. Turning Into Betty's about trying to see the positive side of my mom that I never liked. I thought she was stupid to be so positive and now it's like 'Wow, there's a whole other world out there, that's so amazing'. And I just didn't see it.
Nothing too positive about your experience with Smashing Pumpkins.
It was the night before the first show after a month of rehearsals. I got a call at three in the morning being told I was gonna fly home. Where did I wanna go, LA or Indiana? Cause I had flown the cats to Indiana, I had to sublet my apartment. I had no place to go, and I wasn't given a reason. It was total rock star bullshit. There must have been a reason. I was happy in my life. I had a record coming out. But then Billy called me at the bookstore - I work part-time at a bookstore - and he was really nice and he said 'You gotta try. I love your records.' So that got me. I said 'really?' and the he goes 'Yeah, I love your voice, I think your voice would really mix with mine. So you could play violin, sing, I want you to play some guitar.' It sounded like he really wanted ME. So I went to the audition or whatever, we all got along so I went home and had to get my life in order for a five-month tour in three days. Finish the record with Tchad... Anyway, we then had four weeks of rehearsal and then to not have Billy tell me why... They were miserable people so I kinda was glad! But that reminded me why I hate that kind of music.
Way Below The Radio seems to suggest you're content to avoid the mainstream.
It's about you being a transistor. There's all kinds of frequencies you can live at. You can live at a frequency where you're scared of everything and the whole world is dark and you get agoraphobic and you can't even leave the house. And then you might have to go through lots of changes. You can live at this frequency where it's a wonderful place, you're a giving person and you're not full of shit. So I truly do believe that you do learn to vibrate at higher frequencies in your life. It's just a matter of being open and being ready to go there. So this is a song about being a transistor, being at home kinda waiting. You have to be empty to move forward. I used to be angry and people liked that. It was 'cool.' I kinda don't have that anymore.
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue