From the archives comes this 1998 interview with singer, songwriter, Throwing Muses founder and. latterly, author Kristin Hersh, as she prepared for the release of her second solo album, “Strange Angels”.
KRISTIN Hersh, as all the music papers regularly delight in telling us, is a tortured soul – a troubled genius for whom music-making is as much therapy as art. So who is this proud mom, confident solo artist and reassuringly regular working musician chuckling down the transatlantic line from her desert home?
Kristin Hersh, the real, 1998 model, is a happy woman. Throwing Muses, her band of 10 years, may be dormant, possibly permanently (more on that later), but, in “Strange Angels” she’s just released what may be the best record of her career.
A little of Kristin’s settled domestic situation with her husband and sons seems to have rubbed off on the record, as its maker, in her endearingly roundabout way, admits: “The only theme I can identify is of people kind of bumping into each other to change each other’s shape so they fit better. I find that really touching.
“Usually I don’t figure out what the records are about until I start doing interviews and people tell me what they’re about,” she laughs. “For me, the songs have always just popped out. It’s like I’m working in a vacuum – I never think about people listening to them.
“When people think the stuff is dark and arty I kind of get defensive about it. People project a lot of that dark stuff into the records themselves. They never admit that it shows a lot more about them than it does about me.”
There’s sadness, though, when she talks about Throwing Muses, forced to a a premature end by financial necessity.
“I haven’t written a song since the band broke up,” she admits. “‘When someone dies, the shock eventually goes away, but then eventually you realise you’re much sadder to be missing them. That’s what it’s like with the Muses.
“I’m at the point now where I would be beginning a new Muses project, and it just isn’t there. It breaks my heart. It was nice of them to hang out for all these years, to hold me up from underneath. I miss that.”
The solo acoustic direction of “Hips and Makers” and “Strange Angels” may be more economically viable in an increasingly financially-squeezed music business, but it may not be enough for Kristin’s restless artistic urges. Sometimes even the bewitching delicacy of the two solo records can be constraining. “I miss electric guitar a lot,” says Kristin, “and I miss playing with other musicians. As soon as my heart isn’t broken over the Muses I want to start another band.”
Despite being band-less, solo shows have their benefits these days: “When I’m playing now it’s much easier to lose myself in the songs. I have kind of a flimsy personality anyway. While I was playing with the band I was thinking about cuing them, or the equipment breaking down, or what song was next. Now I don’t even need a set list – it’s just me with a piece of wood on my lap.”
After the raging noise of the Muses’ records and the darker undercurrents of her solo debut, “Hips and Makers”, “Strange Angels” sounds like someone laying their demons to rest.
“It’s a sweet record,” she agrees. “It seems positive and gentle. I think it’s really happy, and happy is good.”
(Kristin did start another band – the ferocious 50 Foot Wave – and also went on to reactivate Throwing Muses, as well as continuing to make a series of wonderful solo records and writing several very fine books including ‘Don’t Suck, Don’t Die’, a profoundly moving memoir of her friendship with the late singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt.)