a semi-newish interview with lisa germano about lots of things; sorry it took me this long to type it in, i just found it in a pile of shite.
Lisa Germano-Hometown Girl Bloomington Voice Margie Ketchem October 19-26, 1995
For a hometown girl, Lisa Germano keeps a pretty low profile around here. But this Friday night, she makes a rare Bloomington appearance, playing at the Second Story for a benefit for Middle Way House. Also on the bill are Sue Medley and Kim Fox.
Germano, first known for playing violin behind John Mellencamp, has gained much critical acclaim in her solo career. She released her debut, 'On the Way Down from the Moon Palace', on her own label, then signed with Capitol Records and put out 'Happiness'. She switched to the 4AD label, and they rereleased that one, then followed up with her most recent, 'Geek the Girl'. A new disc is due out sometime next spring, says Germano. "I thought it was going to be out in February, so it seems longer to me," she says. "But we're just not quite done with it. We've done most of it in Bloomington, using Paul Mahern, and we tracked it at my house, used Kenny Aronoff on drums and Glenn Hicks, who plays in El Nino, and his brother.
[ed. note: Aronoff is a local studio drummer extraordinaire for mellencamp and just about everyone else at one time or another... the brothers Hicks are in El Nino, a local noisy pop band with one damned incredible guitarist! look for their CD nationally in late april on flat earth records where lisa germano makes a guest appearance. Paul Mahern also pruduced most of the El Nino album, and Ed Ackerson of minneapolis Polara fame did the other tracks...]
And we just tracked it with some Bloomington people and pretty much got it done there. But I came out here to try to get some new blood in head to see if I'm on the right track. You know, getting away from home sometimes, it's good to go back and look at what you've done."
The forthcoming release reflects a shift in perspective from Geek the Girl. "We've been trying to make it not so negative," says Germano. "The last one- in the long run, to me it's a positive record, but it's a really sad record. This one isn't really sad; it's more like the person writing it is a stronger person. Instead of a really weak person, the person writing it is a little more on the outside looking at what happened or remembering something. It's a little more distant. Geek the Girl was so, deep-down, this person is really fucked up. This next record is like, I'm not fucked up anymore, but look at the stupid things you still do, and you still have to change. It's mostly about relationships instead of about inner turmoil. I think I'm going to call it 'The Love Circus', but I'm not sure. I've liked it for a long time, but then Lenny Kravitz just came out with a record called 'The Circus' or 'Rock'n'Roll Circus' or something, and that just bugs me. Everybody tells me I shouldn't care at all, but I had this title like in May."
Germano is trying to give up a bit of control to Mahern on the new album, she says. "When Paul and I first turned in kind of a rough version of what we were doing, 4AD liked it, and they could tell the songs were saying something different, but they said it sounded a little too much like Geek the Girl," says Germano. "Not too much like 'we won't put it out,' but like 'it would be cool if you could stretch a little further for your own sake so you don't keep putting out the same record.' That's my fault, because Paul kept trying to make things just a little more poppy and a little more light, but he let me do what i wanted to do on it. So it kept ending up being more like the last record. So I've been trying to let Paul do more and give him more control. I did the last record pretty much by myself. He's been so cool about letting me do what I want, but when he does what he wants, it's actually better. So I've been trying to let him take a little more control."
Her move from Capitol to 4AD two years ago resulted in more creative and artistic freedom, evidence by the rerelease of Happiness. The second version of the disc feels like a whole different album, presumably the one that Germano wanted to make the first time around. "You know, it's not really that different," she says. "What's mostly different is just the sequence. There's two or three different mixes, but I kept fighting with Capitol and trying to tell them taht I felt like the sequence would make it feel a different way, and they just wouldn't let me do it. It's amazing how many people think that the whole record is mixed over or something. It's really just the sequence. 4AD is cooler because they trust you. They'll give you some advice, but they don't put you in a corner like a lot of record companies who say, 'Well, you have to do that or we're not going to push your record.' 4AD just goes, 'Well, I think this would be a cool idea, so think about it.' If you come back and say, 'I did think about it and I don't think so,' they don't care. They like to work with you."
She says her albums don't sell great numbers, but the critics love her. Her music is often not very radio-friendly, and she doesn't do a lot of feel-good songs. Instead, she digs down deep to pour out everything she has, producing intensely personal, intimate songs. "I really don't know yet, or I don't know if I ever will, how to write about other people." says Germano. "I can see something that happens to somebody else, and it might affect me, but I can't really write a song about it unless I go, 'whoa, I did that,' or 'God, I didn't realize I did that.' Like I see someone else doing it and now I realize that I'm doing it too."
She says the next album deals more with relationships, and she talks about those on a very personal level. "There's one about like after you've broken up with this person, you realize that you liked it when you were kind of treated badly, and you liked it when you were not necessarily beat up - it doesn't really go that far - it's just kind of like after it's over, you realize that you stayed in it because you actually liked feeling bad because you didn't love yourself enough. I guess I don't like to quite make a statement of, 'that's about domestic violence,' because to me it was just more about a pretty bad relationship that I didn't even know was so bad until I was out of it. Then you think back and go, 'God, I could have gotten out of that a lot sooner had i realized that I was kind of choosing to be there.' A lot of times you stay in relationship for reasons that you don't know why; it's like they're horrible and they don't work, but you can't leave."
Perhaps a fitting tune for Friday's benefit, for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Cover is six dollars, and it goes to Middle Way House, so go to Second Story and make a difference.