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    My second My Brightest Diamond interview

    01-06-08

      12:47:10, by S p r k .   , 2864 words  
    Categories: Categorie-loos

    My second My Brightest Diamond interview

    On Wednesday, April 23rd I got a chance to interview Shara Worden AKA My Brightest Diamond again, on a very sunny day, somewhere outside. This is the full transcript. Her birthday was the day before, and I gave her a book by Tori Amos, because we had discussed it during our previous interview.


    Foto door Dennis van Fileunder

    The full transcript is after the cut :)

    Also available online:
    My Goldfrapp interview
    My Mika interview
    My unedited Tori Amos interview
    My Patrick Wolf interview
    My Darren Hayes interview
    Interview with 2 of Cirque du Soleil's Varekai performers

    Feel free to link to this URL if you want to link to the interview. Do not copy the text onto other sites etc

    We've talked about the album before, but not really about how it was originally supposed to be released together with Bring Me The Workhorse. Why did you decide to turn it into two separate releases?
    Ummm... The primary reason was that I wasn't satisfied with the way that it was turning out. That was 90% of it. The second was that I felt that for a first record, it was a bit too much to be giving people two records to compare against each other. I didn't really want that.

    Which changes were made to the album since then?
    Well, I added three songs; Inside A Boy, The Ice & The Storm and From The Top Of The World. I wrote all of those last summer. That was really a change because I felt that the album was too introverted and it needed a little bit of lightness and space. Some of the string arrangements didn't really change at all, just very very slight things like... I might have dropped a key... I think I dropped a key on three of the songs, so that they would be lower. Changed the tempo's, did some slight changes to the arrangements so that they would be more... Less oriented in a vertical way and more horizontal, so that they would move more like waves of watercolors. And the other main thing was removing the dynamic dramaticism. Say in a song To Pluto's Moon, the strings were the primary source of the rhythm. Adding drums, I completely rearranged the strings. In the case of If I Were Queen, that was started as a guitar and voice song, then a quartet, then it moved to adding more and more and more. Maximalism! I didn't know I was a maximalist. So yeah, it was just this evolution that certainly isn't the only way that it could have been done, but then it ended up being this picture of where I was in the fall. We kind of started from scratch on almost everything, by re-recording it, and trying to make it more cohesive and applying my present ideas about the arrangements rather than trying to maintain the old conception.

    Would you say have a tendency to heavily change your songs as they are created?
    No, I wouldn't actually. The song Something Of An End did change quite a bit, but I guess that's the exception. Most of the demo's for Workhorse were quite similar to the finished songs. I think being an introvert is kind of like that. An external processor say things and then discover what they're talking about - they're thinking out loud and I'm not one of those people. I'll be quiet for a long time and then say something, and I generally mean. There's a much longer gestation period, which is sometimes frustrating, but really just brooding. I wonder what Tori Amos is like. 'Cause she's quite prolific.

    Well, she doesn't allow fans to hear a lot of demo's. And she improvises a lot during shows, which might turn into songs years later. There's a song she kind of did during soundcheck in 1996 and it ended up being released in 2003.
    I think that's also the beauty of having facility as a player. It's not like a nature to me to play an instrument - my voice is my primary instrument. That's one reason why I want to get more and more facility with guitar or piano or whatever, because I think that frees you up to be able to do that kind of thing. Nina Simone did that as well, where she could improvise and it would lead her to a new direction or a different path. And Jeff Buckley is the same, the facility that he had on guitar was so fluid.

    So there isn't an instrument that you have a really strong connection with?
    I feel that way about guitar. But it's... I mean... You know. It's not second nature to me, it's not something I don't have to think have about. Whereas, with someone like Tori Amos, she's not thinking 'uhhh what chord am I playing?'. She's just playing what she hears in her head, you know?

    On the album cover you're pictured playing the accordion, but I don't think I've ever seen you play the accordion and there isn't any accordion on the album...
    [laughs] Well, it would be very literal to only put an accordion on the album cover if there was accordion on the songs. My father's an accordion player, so I have an attachment to that instrument. It's a very significant instrument in my family, so it's more than a prop. If I had a flute in my hand, it would mean something else, because there's some flute on the record. But I liked the idea of the historical reference of the chanteuse, you know, the French cabaret and the idea of the wandering singer. That's what the instrument represents to me.

    Do you play accordion?
    Badly! [laughs] I keep trying to find them, but they're very big instruments. And the little ones... You don't want to buy something that isn't good quality.

    Like 'My First Accordion'?
    Yeah, exactly! I think it's better to spend more money and buy an instrument that really inspired you. But I am looking!

    I used to have one, but the button that was used to let the air out was broken. So whenever I wanted to store it, I would just grab as many keys as I could and I'd push it together and this awful sound would come out.
    [laughs] It's such a strange thing to coordinate! My dad has two accordions and they're huge and they're so gorgeous, but they're so big. He barely plays anymore at all, but I'd love to inherit them from him, but they're gonna be sitting on my wall because they're just so big, so massive.

    Can you tell me about Black & Costaud? I know it's based on a section from the Ravel opera L'enfant et les Sortileges, but I don't think it's a very literal translation of a certain piece in the opera?
    It is! It's the aria of the teapot. The spoken part that translates to 'with the attitude of a champion boxer' is the stage instructions above the aria. So it's not actually in the aria, but it's kind of a character instruction. The lyrics on the rest of the song are from the aria, but I arranged them in my own way. I was in that opera at school. So that's how I fell in love with it. And it is an obscure opera, I think because it's only 45 minutes long. Usually an opera house wouldn't put that in a program. It's not very popular, I don't know why.

    As a child, were you always inspired by fairy tales and opera pieces and stuff like that?
    I remember seeing Phantom of the Opera at sixteen year-old or something, and I wept through three acts! [laughs] I thought it was so amazing! When I was very young I won tickets on the radio to go see Manhattan Transfer, they're like a jazz quartet, and I was just elated. Or went and saw Amy Grant when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. But I don't think I really went to plays.

    Does the teacher who worked with you when you were in the opera know that you turned part of the opera into a pop song?
    No, she doesn't know. I don't know what she would... She might be really into it, but I also have a... You know, there's... I think the opera people in my life are supportive of me, and I was the kid that would show up to opera class in my Rollerblades and skater outfit. With my big pants... And I'd sing Mozart in skater clothes. You know, like, I was that kid. And I could kind of get away with it, but I couldn't dedicate myself to either of the worlds. And yet, I think my opera teacher also sort of really loved me because I sort of had that disrespect, that I would throw myself into a role because I didn't care about the voice as much. That made me a bad opera singer, but it also made me a good one. But then you feel that you've disappointed people too, because maybe you didn't fulfill what their objective for your life was. Or they saw a certain potential in you, and you didn't choose that path. A still have a little bit of that shame. But I also know that I made the only choice that I could have made.

    How much of your vocal capacity comes from intense training and how much of it comes natural to you?
    I guess I was a singer even as a kid, but also, I worked my ass of. You still have to work hard. And I feel that I'm still working, to try and be freer and let go more, and to understand your instrument is changing because it's part of your body, and your body is changing. So however it is that you're feeling, or whatever you are the night before, it's going to affect it. You can't manipulate or control it, so you have to allow it to be what it is. I think that's certainly something I'm un-trying; I'm trying to not try, so I can allow it to be what it is. And to me, that's mostly what study is. You're trying to get your body out of the way. There's the misunderstanding of training as if you're manipulating a voice, but actually you're manipulating it by grabbing the back of your head and jodding your head back. But then you see a singer like Edith Piaf and her head is completely tilted back. And do you want to mess with that production? No, I wouldn't want to mess with it. Or the guy from Dirty Projectors, he's got such a fascinating way of singing - really expressing and really cool. And he's totally grabbing with his neck and jaw. But would you want someone like that to get hurt by singing? No, you want him to sing for the rest of his life without hurting himself. You don't want to mess with someone's personal style. There's no way that I can regret that that's the path my life took.

    The album leaked online a while ago, how do you feel like that?
    I feels a little bit like you're throwing a surprise party and the person you were throwing it for found out about it! But you're still throwing the party, you know? It's exciting that people want to hear it and I think all of us are wondering where this wave is going to take us. It's not just the major record labels, and people on indie labels too. The wave is coming, so we're going to build a sailboat and figure out how to ride on top of it. But it could crash upon our heads! [laughs] I do want people to hear it. And I also want to be able to keep making music. I'm really interested in my own survival. I have rent to pay just like everyone else. I think the only choice to have is one of acceptance and to look at your life and say 'I have this resource, and I have these limitations - what can I make within this scope?' I mean, we live with gravity, so we're always having limitations. Of course as an artist, the art is my drug. So I would keep spending all my resources to make more art, because it's what I love to do and it's what makes me the most happy. And you could say 'well, you have your own recording equipment, so what do you need to be spending money on a studio for?' but at the same time... I'm not a band. I do pay the people that play with me... I mean, you can't say that the Radiohead album doesn't sound amazing - and the reason it sounds amazing is because Radiohead is amazing band first of all, and there's a wonderful mind and wonderful ears behind that recording equipment, and there's great recording equipment. So you can't seperate that piece from it. For me, I hear in recordings where... If there's a recording that isn't of a high enough quality, what I end up doing is layering on top of that, in order to try to make up for the fact that just original guitar sound just doesn't sound good. And when your sound quality is higher... It's so objective, I mean, you could look at a Grizzly Bear project and be like 'ok this sounds this way and it's wonderful and it's beautiful and it's cool the way that it is, and it wasn't recording with Nigel Godrich', you know? It's completely objective, it's all about your personal aesthetic. I feel that the producer, the guy with the ears isn't someone that can be replaced. The guy who really knows that moving the mic a half an inch this way is going to make the sound better. You can't say that that guy isn't valuable. And I don't think these are concerns of the people who are downloading music for free. I don't know whether I should be talking about it or not, but there's this illusion of the artist as being someone very separate. And if you're kind of complaining about that, there's really no defense, because the listener still sees you as... 'You're traveling all over the world, you're playing all these concerts, you're doing all these wonderful thing, and I'm in my own life...' We're all in our own realities. And there isn't a kind of sympathetic ear for the 'rock 'n roller', you know what I mean? People are sort of like 'stop bitching!', you know? So at that point, my mouth is shut, I can't say anything about that. And yet I respect that relationship, because it's so objective. I'd like to make more records, you know? And I want to make them on my own terms. I want to make them with the people that I want to make them with. And they live in Berlin and LA, they live in different cities, and that's who I want to work with. Did you read that interview with Björk, I think it was in the New York Times... She was saying about that new 3D video... She just made one comment: 'well you know, budgets aren't what they used to be'. And that's all she said. And I was like, what does that mean to someone like that? Because you know that her record is definitely one that is downloaded. Or you see the PJ Harvey thing where her album art is super super simple, and there's the majoy label artist who is reacting in one way or the other. You know, Justin Timberlake releasing 400 versions of the same album, you know? I still think the major labels are doing backflips, they're freaking out.

    Tell me about the Word album?
    Oh God! [laughs] It's really bad! It's really embarrassing! It's really baaaaaaaaaaaaad! I think I have like 50 copies left in my closet. It's really embarrassing. It's one of those cases of like... 'Oh really? Really, Shara? Oh no!' Painful. There was Shara Word, which is the full-length thing, and then I went to Russia and recorded a bunch of songs and there was a little 5-song EP that was just like a little recording of 100 pressings. And me working really really hard at Kinko's on the copying of the album artwork. That stuff is embarrassing to me though, because it's so representative of too many things that I've had to purge myself of. It was such an uncomfortable time in my life. I was fighting with myself, fighting with my culture and my upbringing, and boys, and... [grunts] ...what I thought I was supposed to be... So that's why I've deleted them from my personal library. Because it's so entangled with things that I'm not proud of. I guess you could say 'oh, it's your personal history', and that's true enough, but... I was thinking what I was supposed to be, and trying to put on everybody else's clothes and thinking they're your own, but then you're uncomfortable in them...

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