ATN Chicago correspondent Gil Kaufman caught up
Liz for an interview (parts of which ran in his weekly column, "Raw
in Chicago's NewCity), wherein Guyville's ex-citizen talked about the
new CD, working with Scott Litt, not working with Brad Wood, the "bedroom
rumor," the deep meaning behind her work and "The Faraway Look." When we left
Phair yesterday, she was explaining why she had packed her bags and headed back
to Chicago, after a frustrating experience trying to record an album in L. A.
with Scott Litt. Phair told Kaufman she was searching for that elusive "new
sound." Here is Part 2 of Kaufman's report: "Okay," I say, finally, "If you
can't get any more specific [about the 'new sound'], can you at least dish some
dirt on Scott Litt?"
"He's been really great through all this," Phair
says, bursting my bubble. "We really got along." Phair says she specifically
wanted to work with Litt because of her need to work with someone who knows a
lot more than she does about structuring sound. "I want to take it to a level
that I don't have any expertise in and that's the creation of these soundscapes
that Scott is so good at," she says. Then what was the problem, I wonder?
"Do you think he came in with some pre-conceived notions of what you
should sound like?" I ask, in a last ditch effort to start the mud flying.
"Totally. Totally. In fact, that's what we ended up fighting about. It's
like we both have distinct visions of what I should sound like."
was his?" I ask.
Phair hiccups sarcastically, "I don't know, I really
couldn't say." Sensing a juicy tit-for-tat (pardon the expression) brewing, I
suggest maybe they just rubbed each other the wrong way. "No, it wasn't like
that. It was more like I just wanted to get my hands on the board," she says
Speaking of producer clashes (well, I was anyway), I wonder
why Brad Wood and his Idful studios compatriots weren't tapped for this
project. I ask Phair what her relationship is with the producer who helped
massage the sounds that made her a cover girl. "We never talk," she says dryly,
a touch of sadness in her voice.
"Why do you think that is?"
laughs as if the answer should be obvious and says, "Gee...I don't know, just
because...I don't know." I ask her if there's any interest in working with Wood
at all, if not now, in the near future. "No, not really. Because I want to do
something different. I worked with him as much as I wanted to and by the end we
were grumbling anyway," she says, trying hard to make the clean break she
didn't the first time. "To me it seemed totally natural to call it quits. Look,
I have an finite number of people I can be committed to for a long period of
time and when it comes to work, I want to make sure I'm expanding. I was a
working artist before them and I don't see them as the people," Phair stumbles
for the words, obviously a bit rankled, then says, "everyone else does because
no one knew of me before I worked with them, but I was making all the demos
that got me the Matador deal before I even worked with Brad." Sensing she has
maybe been a bit harsh, Phair retreats a fraction and credits Wood for having
worked with her when her initial success happened, even backwardly suggesting
he may have been a key to the success "at that time or whatever," but then
re-iterating that they just didn't have anywhere left to go, case
Okay, how about some song titles? Here's what she has so far: "Oh
My God," "Ride," "Russian Girl," "Stuck on an Island/Crash the Car," (she's not
sure which it will be yet) "White Bird of Texas," "I'm Like That," That's the
Way I Like It," (not, the KC and the Sunshine band song she assures me, but
more of a "Beck song, but a "bitchin' Moby remix" isn't out of the question),
and "Headache," her favorite so far. Phair assures me that "these are all great
songs." She says she wrote the majority of the songs, over 30 of them, last
summer when she went to Michigan to cat-sit for some family friends who were in
Russia. Just her and her 8-track and the trees. Wanting to loop a conceptual
theme through the songs, Phair hit upon the idea of a religious album,
"something where there's a god and then the fall, like some little Lucifer game
thing." Something really "deep and intellectual" she says, and then laughs at
her (perhaps too) lofty goals.
I wonder if having a concept is really that
important if the songs are top-notch. "I'm trying, I really am. I keep trying
to bend it to my will, but to a certain extent, if you do that, you might be
shooting yourself in the foot." Phair continues to pine for a meaning, she
wishes she could do a musical Hamlet, she says, her tongue seemingly out of
(To be concluded