A Whole Lotta Kids in the Hall

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Bruce: Raygun
Juliana Hatfield Interview by
Kids in the Hall's Bruce McCulloch (April 1995)

We met for lunch but did not eat. We got together to interview each other but didn't ask any questions. I had just listened to her new record (Only Everything) on the way to the foodless lunch; I think she heard mine (Shame-Based Man) in a cab. We sat like two people who like each other's work, but didn't know what else to say. But, my friends, as the bubbled water began to flow, so did the conversation.

JH: I have to tell you about one time when I was playing in Toronto: My bass player saw you in this coffee shop across the street from the hotel -- we both love the show -- and he ran back and told me you were there, so I ran over to try to meet you and you were gone.

BM: That's too bad because I basically sit in coffee shops waiting to have that very experience. That's a really good story. So, Juliana, what do people mostly ask you about?

JH: Um, they ask me, "Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?"

BM: Do you find that ultimately boring?

JH: There's not really an answer. It comes from everywhere. People think everything is autobiographical.

BM: Or pseudo-autobiographical.

JH: Yeah, but sometimes they don't understand that it just comes from nowhere. It means nothing.

BM: How long ago did you finish your album?

JH: A couple of months ago.

BM: So you're in what stage with it now? You're sick of it or you haven't listened to it in a while so you like it again?

JH: No. I'm in the stage where I listen to it about three times every day. I just pore over every facet of it. There will come a time, we'll be on tour, where I'll stop listening to it and I'll never listen to again.

BM: But when you listen to it, do you enjoy it?

JH: Yeah, I enjoy it, I do. But there will come a time, soon, when I'll probably start to get really sick of it and I'll everntually start to dislike it.

BM: Do you enjoy recording?

JH: Not always. Some records have been miserable making.

BM: 'Cause your stuff, in a good way, seems obsessive.

JH: My stuff?

BM: More the words than the music.

JH: No! Lately I'm willing to lighen up and, um, I'm relaxing and just learning that you can create things out of anything. Like you can make a song out of this [picks up chop sticks] or a stupid little phrase could be great song with the right chord, with the right attitude.

BM: I just got your record yesterday. It really starts hard. You know what it reminded me of? It sounded like the Heartbreakers. You know...the Heartbreakers?

JH: Yeah, that's nice.

BM: It's so guitary in that way.

JH: Yeah, there are more guitars on this album than I've ever done before.

BM: What ever a singer-songwriter is, that's kind of a lame term, but you're less of that now than you were in the last album.

JH: Oh, good. I'm so glad to hear that, I hate that word: singer-songwriter. I hate that.

BM: Well, that's why people think things are autobiographical. I mean, they don't often ask the singer of a band, say if they're called White China, if it's autobiographical, you know?

JH: So I set myself up for it by having my name out there.

BM: It's true. So do you live here now?

JH: I live in New York City.

BM: And you're in town for what?

JH: Just for a week. Press and photos.

BM: When you go home to play Boston, is it normal or is it funny?

JH: It's usually's weird. I know so many people there. People will show up from my past. I like having a little distance between me and the audience. I like playing to a bunch of people who are total strangers. I like that. It's comforting.

BM: Do you like performing?

JH: Yeah, I love it. Do you like performing? I mean, in front of an audience with no cameras? Do you like that?

BM: Yeah.

JH: Was the show fimed in front of an audience?

BM: Yeah, but the truth be told, as time went on, it became less and less important. We thought audiences were certainly important for the first year, but our best stuff was not in front of a live audience.

JH: How many years was the show on?

BM: It was on for five years.

JH: How big are you guys in Canada? I mean, are you these really big, rich and famous stars?

BM: People think that because you're involved in the entertainment industry, you're rich. And, um, you know, they think we light our fires with hundred dollar bills, which we do, but...

JH: Was it really popular there or was it a cult thing?

BM: You're never stopped by the guy on the street who goes, "I don't like you" or "I used to like your show, and I don't like it anymore." You're stopped by the guy who likes your show, but I have a feeling that people were starting to get tired of us, 'cause we were pretty big there right away. In the States, 'cause it's on at freaky times in so many places, it took so long for our show to gain momentum.

JH: That was kind of the appeal for me. I never knew where to find the show, like it would turn up really late on a different channel than last time. There was sort of this mystery to you guys.

BM: Yeah, us too -- we never knew when it was going to be on. So where do you live in New York?

JH: I live in the West Village.

BM: I worked there once, many, many years ago. I really liked New York, and I had not a great experience. So now when I go to New York, I don't like it so much. I got fat. I gained like 20 pounds. Do you go out and see shows? Do you go see bands?

JH: Yeah. I didn't really like New York until I moved there. It took me a year to like it. I've lived there for a year and I'm just now starting to really like it.

BM: Why did you move there?

JH: Uh, I was just bored with Boston. I wanted to stay in the Northeast so I could go home.

BM: Did you play there a lot?

JH: No, just as much as in any other city. So why did you gain 20 pounds in New York?

BM: Um, I think I was just depressed. I remember also it was during the Ollie North trials, and every night I'd get a six- pack, sit in front of the TV, turn off all the lights and I'd have these weird visuals. I realized I'd been doing this for a week and it had become a ritual. I would just drink this beer and f*ckin' shake my head and think how f*cked America was. And they have these really good cakes. You know, pound cakes and stuff, the ones that are wrapped in cellophane. Do you eat that stuff?

JH: No, I don't eat that stuff, but I know what you're talking about.

BM: Yeah, and they're really good. I don't know, you get depressed. And you can't run there.

JH: How sad.

BM: It is sad, isn't it?

JH: You run? I'm into running, too.

BM: Have you ever run with a number on your back?

JH: You mean, have I ever raced? No, have you?

BM: Yeah, well, I ran 10Ks and marathons.

JH: Marathons? Really? Wow! I want to run one before I die.

BM: I think everyone who runs thinks aobut running marathons. I think it's really great and really gorrible. The last one was not a good one. It was in Montreal, and I was having a huge, bad time with my special friend at that point. We had sort of traveled to the marathon, it was really cold and everyone was speaking French, and I don't really speak French, and we couldn't find the start of the race. It was miserable.

JH: Do you run the whole way in the marathons or do you stop to walk?

BM: No, I don't run all the way. I'm not like an Olympic class runner. Sometimes I do wonder, when I lie in bed at night after I masturbate, how fast of a runner I could have been.

JH: That's the weird thing about sports: You deteriorate as you get older. There's nothing you can do about it. You can't stay good at athletics your whole life. It's a sad fact.

BM: It's really sad.

JH: It's one of the great sadnesses of my life. I used to do gymnastics, and there is this certain point with gymnasts where you start to develop into a woman, and you're not as good. You can't do it as well when you start to like develop. You just don't have the buoyancy.

BM: But people know that now. I think there was a time when it seemed like people didn't realize. I mean, now all professional athletes talk about "preparing for afterwards." I think that's why I like baseball. There's something great about it -- you're young, the pitcher's young and he's got this great arm, and he doesn't really realize anything about strategy. So as he gets older, he gets more finesse, but he starts to lose his power, his arm doesn't recuperate so much. It's that gradual trade-off between experience and---

JH: But baseball players seem like they are allowed to be the least in shape of any sport.

BM: Oh, they have huge guts.

JH: They have the worst bodies of the athletes.

BM: Now, this is my guess: The thing that bugs you the most is when people ask you about being a woman.

JH: Oh, god, I hate it. I hate it so much.

BM: Especially 'cause you sort of rock. A little bit. Do you get compared to other female artists? You're never, I'm sure compared to a man.

JH: I've been compared to Axl Rose before.

BM: In what context? That you get drunk and f*cking trash things?

JH: Yeah, I like goin' on tour, gettin' f*cked up and bangin' chicks! That's what some guy from Corrosion of Conformity said, in all seriousness, when he was asked if he liked touring. But someone was saying that I'm always getting compared to like Joni Mitchell, but that I actually had more in common with Axl Rose because I strain my voice when I sing, you know, like try to yell. I was kind of glad.

BM: That's nice. So do you own a car?

JH: No.

BM: Did you in high school?

JH: I didn't learn to drive until I was 21. I had two vans, and my last car was an old Volvo.

BM: Do you tour in a van?

JH: No, not lately. We used to, but now we have tour busses.

BM: Are you in a good phase of your creer?

JH: Yeah, I think I'm entering the best phase.

BM: Most of the people I know in bands, all they are concerned about is getting to do the next record. I guess you're over that hump now, but did you feel that way with your first record?

JH: No, that was never a concern of mine. The first record that I ever made, I used to be in this band called the Blake Babies, we put out our first record ourselves -- one thousand copies on vinyl, and we distributed it. So with that in mind, I always knew that even if nobody elsse would put my record out, I could do it myself.

BM: Do you have friends in less successful bands?

JH: Yeah.

BM: Is that hard?

JH: For me? Not at all. It's great because I get to take them on the road with me. I have friends in less successful bands and friends in more successful bands.

BM: Do you read your horoscopes? I'm not going to ask you what your sign is so don't worry.

JH: Sometimes. What's your sign?

BM: Can't tell you.

JH: Okay, just tell me your birthday.

BM: May 12th...

JH: I don't know.

BM: I'm a Taurus.

JH: I don't know anything about Taurus.

BM: They're really sweet.

JH: Guess what sign I am.

BM: You're a Gemini.

JH: No. Yes, I am. No, I'm not. Virgo. No, I'm not a Gemini. I'm a Leo.

BM: What are you listening to lately?

JH: I've been listening to Jeff Buckley. Have you heard of that guy?

BM: I actually saw his dad [Tim Buckley] play once. It was one of those things where I really didn't know who he was until later. He was opening for Status Quo or something. Do you think a lot about your career?

JH: Um...

BM: Is that a greasy question?

JH: Well, I don't know. I think about it sometimes. I mostly think about the song part, like I'll daydream about being on stage.

BM: Do you have performance dreams where your mic doesn't work?

JH: Yeah, where I'll forget how to play a song or I'll forget how to play guitar.

BM: Do you hate to play your songs that are successful?

JH: Well, I don't really have that many successful songs, so it's not really a problem. It kind of embarrasses me when I start to play one of those singles and they get more excited. That kind of embarrasses me when they do that.

BM: So here's a question for you: Is it worse to have one huge hit song or to have none?

JH: I think to have none is better. I would definitely say having one huge hit is a kiss of death.

BM: So is that why you're at a good phase of your career, because you haven't been hugely successful?

JH: Yeah, since I haven't been hugely successful yet I have everything to look forward to.

[Raygun. Issue 25; April 1995.]



 Lalaine Rosario So

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