Throwing Muses / Kristin Hersh discography, third edition

Written by Matthew Kirkcaldie on Sat, 15 Oct 1994 12:04:54 +1100.

Throwing Muses / Kristin Hersh - a highly annotated, incomplete discography

(third edition, October 1994)

Thanks to Lars Ingebrigtsen for extra material.  For better pictorial
content and less excess wordage, try his superb "Eyesore" hypertext pages.
Thanks also to Susan Curran (especially), Andrew Norman, Koenig Feurio
and Grant Schwarz for corrections and additions.

Quotes from Kristin Hersh from various Melody Maker, NME and Select
interviews 1987-1994.

Filler and gratuitous opinion by Matthew Kirkcaldie, biased fan.

1985:  Throwing Muses consisted of:
                Kristin Hersh   - lead voice, guitar, piano
                Tanya Donelly   - guitar, voice, percussion
                Elaine Adamedes - bass, voice
                David Narcizo   - drums, voice

(Kristin and Tanya are step-sisters, Tanya's dad married Kristin's mother.)

Early recordings included:

(Blowing Fuses) _Throwing Muses_
1985    stand up / dirt is on the floor (Elaine Adamedes) // the party (T) /
        santa claus [/ instrumental ]

        A 7" single released by the band in 1985 and later bootlegged
        widely, around 1989.  Some copies have an unlisted instrumental
        included.  "Dirt is on the Floor" is actually synth-based pop in
        an 80s kind of style, sung by Elaine.  I seem to remember that
        "The Party" is credited to "Pop Donelly", but that's not definite.
        It's a spooky little tune sung by Tanya.  Santa Claus is fairly
        sparse and underproduced, notable for the sleigh bells (!) in the
        chorus.  The little instrumental is a cute Eastern-tinged tune
        that a 60s surf band might have produced.
        [here, as in all the entries, a (T) after a song indicates that
        it was written and sung by Tanya Donelly]

Demo - bootleg and self-distributed cassettes
1985    call me / sinkhole / green (T) / hate my way / vicky's box /
        america (she can't say no) / fear / raise the roses (T) /
        and a she-wolf after the war / fish

        Hard to find, described by Lars as "incredible", which I can well
        believe.  Interesting to see the songs that resurfaced many years
        later.  On this EP, Leslie Langston replaces Elaine Adamedes on
        bass.  "Sinkhole" is the only Kristin Hersh song from the early
        demos that hasn't been released elsewhere.  I think this is the
        demo they sent to Ivo Watts-Russell at 4AD that led to their
        signing (the first US band on this UK label).  Ivo kept ringing
        Kristin, saying, "The demo is incredible... I don't sign American
        bands," to which she'd say, "Oh, OK," and hang up.  It eventually
        happened, of course.

"I had no idea we were anything but a rock band until people said that I was
crazy. [laughs] They just kept talking about how crazy I was and how weird
our music was."

After about four years of playing around Boston, MA, they were signed by
4AD and released a self-titled album regarded by many as their finest
work.  It's a fantastic and arresting collection of songs, a unique
identity straight off.

CAD 607 _Throwing Muses_ produced by Gil Norton
1986    call me / green (T) / hate my way / vicky's box / rabbit's dying //
        america (she can't say no) / fear / stand up / soul soldier /
        delicate cutters

"We were 19 at the time. I was pregnant with Dylan.  It's weird for me,
because my voice was 'her' voice.  I literally turned into this evil
other person, and I was so terrified of it - 'I can't let her in to where
the baby is!' - and you can hear that.  But, every now and then, 'I'd'
come back.  I didn't listen to it for years, but now I hear it and it's
fine.  I was screaming in tune, I was learning my craft.  I can turn 'it'
on now and feel great strength, but then it was very difficult."

BAD 701 _Chains Changed_ produced by Gil Norton
1987    finished / reel (T) // snail head / cry baby cry

        This EP has been deleted for some time now, and is hard to find.
        The only CD version is the Japanese _12 Inch 1987_ 4AD collection.
        Initial copies with a poster.

CAD 703 _Lonely Is An Eyesore_ 4AD compilation album
        This has "Fish" (released also in a different form on a
        compilation from C'est La Mort records), a line from which is
        the album title.
        The version on the video is different - sounds like a "live in
        the studio" recording made for the clip, though I have heard that
        this version is the one on the C'est La Mort compilation.

MAD 706 _The Fat Skier_ produced by Mark van Hecke
1987    garoux des larmes / pools in eyes (T) / a feeling / soap and water /
        and a she-wolf after the war / you cage // soul soldier

        The version of "Soul Soldier" here is on a side of its own and
        is extremely long due to recorded studio chatter (including a
        backwards tape of people talking about kites!) and an odd bass
        and percussion instrumental piece which fades in and out.  It had an
        art-house video made by a friend of the band for her art project.
        The part which is actually the song is, in fact, the same
        recording as is on _Throwing Muses_.
        The other 6 tracks are on one side which is 33rpm (while the
        "Soul Soldier" side is 45).

"We seemed to confuse people because we were just like the women you met
every day.  A lot of this 'women in rock' thing is just them saying,
'Huh!  I can act like a man if I want!'  Well, how feminist is that?
We worked with Mark van Hecke, from the Violent Femmes, we got this raw
acoustic sound.  I love the cover."
"I don't know where the fat skier is from... she is like a thought,
that one would think is too pregnant to be graceful, but one would be
wrong.  Like the thought I send you." [on the cover]

CAD 802 _House Tornado_ produced by Gary Smith
1988    colder / mexican women / river (T)/ juno / marriage tree //
        run letter / saving grace / drive / downtown / giant (T) /
        walking in the dark

        I can't do justice to this album in writing.
        The UK CD of this album includes all of the A-side of _The Fat
        Skier_, i.e. the whole album except for the long version of
        "Soul Soldier".  Don't know why it was left off, there's plenty
        of room on the disc!  Maybe for collectors to feel special...

"I now see that as the most perfect record.  It's so much itself, it's
so intricate, it's small, it's completely feminine.  Cyclical.  The last
chord of the last song, 'Walking in the Dark', fades back into the first
chord of the first song, 'Colder'.

"I feel very similar about Dylan and _House Tornado_.  Dylan is very
dark, and has very sad eyes that are turning in on his brain, the very
definition of introverted."
(Dylan was a year old while this album was being made.)

Also from 1988 is a promo 12":
        saving grace /
        an intimate piece of conversation with david narcizo and kristin hersh

        The latter is some bizarre story told by Kristin and David, Susan
        said it's about a woman called Kite who likes to wear oatmeal on her
        head, "hard to explain but very funny".

CAD 901 _Hunkpapa_ produced by Gary Smith
1989    devil's roof / bea / dizzy / no parachutes / dragonhead (T)
        [say goodbye] // fall down / I'm alive / angel (T) / mania
        the burrow / take [/ santa claus]

        Loved and loathed in equal numbers.  "Dizzy" was a bit of a pop
        throwaway, but it *did* get them a much wider audience.
        "Say Goodbye" is not on the vinyl version.
        UK CD includes "Santa Claus" from the "Dizzy" single release.
        Around this time, Kristin was going through the motions a bit,
        seeing songs as just problems to be solved rather than personal

"...the songs could have been a little better.  Our whole heads weren't
in it.  We were trying to be nice, and there's no place for nice."

BAD 903 "Dizzy" produced by Gary Smith
1989    dizzy (single mix) / santa claus // mania / downtown

        "Mania" and "Downtown" were recorded live at the Town and Country
        Club, London, 1st May 1988.  At this concert they were supported
        by Pixies and the live tracks on Pixies' single "Gigantic" were
        recorded at the same concert.  Also in limited 10" version.

During 1990 the band went on a punishing round of touring which left them
huge financial troubles and exhaustion.  Leslie Langston decided to leave
because she was marrying the guy who did lighting on the tour. She was
replaced by Fred Abong.  The Wolfgang Press' album _Queer_ features
Leslie's inimitable bass style as well as some singing.  Listen to "Honey
Tree"...great!  She also played for shoegazers the Rosemarys.

BAD 1001 "Counting Backwards" produced by Dennis Herring and Throwing Muses
1991    counting backwards / amazing grace / same sun / cottonmouth

        "Amazing Grace" is the old song...done brilliantly!  I think "Same
        Sun" and "Cottonmouth" are two of the most stunning tracks Kristin
        has put her name to.  US version omits "Cottonmouth"... why?

CAD 1002 _The Real Ramona_ produced by Dennis Herring
1991    counting backwards / him dancing / red shoes / graffiti /
        golden thing / ellen west / dylan // hook in her head /
        not too soon (T) / honeychain (T) / say goodbye /
        two step (Throwing Muses)

        "Say Goodbye" is a huge extension of the acoustic fragment on
        _Hunkpapa_ and is very different in feel, pretty apocalyptic.
        On this album, only the lyrics to "Two Step" were printed, as
        opposed to the previous releases which had at least part of
        every song.

"I just didn't wanna be there any more.  We were going nowhere, it was
just getting thrown back in my face.  Throwing Muses had come to mean
something to people, and they copped an attitude about it instead of
listening to the music.  And if you really love your children, you kind
of don't wanna put them out into that hostile atmosphere."

Number 2 (1991) of the _Volume_ CD/magazine has a remix of "Red Shoes".

BAD 1015 "Not Too Soon" produced by Dennis Herring and Throwing Muses
1991    not too soon (T) / cry baby cry / him dancing (remix) / dizzy (remix)

        "Cry Baby Cry" is the Lennon / McCartney song from the Beatles'
        white album, as opposed to the Kristin Hersh original of the same
        name on _Chains Changed_.  US version in digipak, UK in jewel case.

Tanya Donelly, who had been involved in the Breeders and a This Mortal
Coil project as well, announced her long-secret decision to quit Throwing
Muses.  This had been decided before the tour which accompanied _The Real
Ramona_ and felt like the only way of preserving the relationship between
Kristin and Tanya.  Kristin, meanwhile, had had a very ugly custody battle
for her son Dylan (of whom the song "Dylan" is a "portrait in sounds" as
she described it) which she lost, due to the "instability" of working in a
touring band (which doesn't seem to have hurt Ryder!).  The Musicians' Union
brought a lawsuit claiming royalties owed to them from Throwing Muses
performances in just about every US state, the IRS made demands for unpaid
taxes their manager hadn't kept up to date, and with debts of about $30 000
she decided that the band could not die.  The original idea was for Kristin
and David Narcizo to continue as Khulli Loach, but it turned out that the
name was already used by another band, and the associations with the old
name were worthwhile (and, as principal songwriter and singer, she had every
right to use it).  Spookily, they later found out that the common name for
the khulli loach (a fish) is the half-banded loach...!

        Tanya took Fred Abong with her to her new band Belly, while David
and Kristin enlisted the help of Leslie Langston to make another album,
which Kristin says "had to be made" because of the relief songwriting gives
her.  Kristin has suffered from bipolar disorder for many years (manic
depression in older terms) and, though controlled, it has provided the
spark for much of her work.  Kristin:

"There are a lot of words you can call it and a lot of drugs you can take
to suppress it.  But I think it's just the story about what *real* songs
do to a person.  We just don't have very many real songwriters to tell you
about it."

The _Matter of Degrees_ soundtrack (1992) includes "Matter of Degrees",
an early version of _Red Heaven_'s "Backroad" recorded before Tanya left.
I think this is the last release with both Kristin and Tanya on it.

BAD 2012 "Firepile" EP (Part One) produced by Throwing Muses
1992    firepile / manic depression // snailhead / city of the dead

        "Manic Depression" is an instrumental cover of the Hendrix
        classic (surely tongue in cheek!) while "Snailhead" is re-recorded
        from "Chains Changed".  First appearance of Bernard Georges on bass.

BAD D 2012 "Firepile" EP (Part Two) produced by Throwing Muses
1992    firepile (remix) / jak // ride into the sun / handsome woman

        "Jak" is by Peter Prescott of Volcano Suns.  "Ride Into the Sun"
        is a cover of a Velvet Underground instrumental.

CAD 2013 _Red Heaven_ produced by Throwing Muses with Stuart Boyer
1992    furious / firepile / dio / dirty water / stroll / pearl //
        summer st / vic / backroad / the visit / dovey / rosetta stone
        / carnival wig

        Leslie Langston plays bass.  Bob Mould (ex Husker Du) sings on
        "Dio".  A bit less stunning on the songwriting front, but at least
        it still proved that the band were still alive.  Initial UK CDs
        (CAD D 2013) came with...

KH 1 _Kristin Hersh Live at Maxwell's, Hoboken_
1992    juno / marriage tree / pearl / stand up - dovey - mexican women /
        run letter / soap and water / rabbit's dying / cry baby cry /
        counting backwards - handsome woman / take / soul soldier / bea /
        delicate cutters

        Just Kristin and an acoustic guitar...spellbinding, and interesting
        for the way songs sound stripped right down...better in some cases,
        different in most.  "Cry Baby Cry" is her own song rather than the
        Beatles one.  The version of "Juno" that opens this is one of the
        highlights of "music as I know it".  Kristin's first solo release.
        The Japanese CD of _Red Heaven_ had this recording tacked on the
        end of the single CD, less "Bea" and "Delicate Cutters" because of
        time restrictions on the CD.

TAD 2019 _The Curse_ engineered by Gary Stewart and Mike Jeffries
1992    manic depression / counting backwards / fish / hate my way /
        furious / devil's roof / snailhead / firepile / finished /
        take / say goodbye / mania / two step / delicate cutters /
        cottonmouth / pearl / vic / bea

        A temporary release of performances at the Grand Theatre,
        Clapham, London, on 8th and 9th October, 1992.  Not the
        greatest of their recordings, though it is interesting
        listening and includes live versions of some less common
        songs.  "Manic Depression" is the Hendrix cover; before it
        can be heard the studio version of "Ride Into the Sun"
        from the "Firepile" EP played over the PA as an intro.
        Bernard Georges had joined on bass by this time.

Billy O'Connell (manager, husband, father of Kristin's second son Ryder)
convinced Kristin that it was worth recording a lot of her own songs that
she had around but hadn't used for Throwing Muses.  We owe him a great debt!

[shuffle] _4AD Presents the 13 Year Itch_ anniversary compilation
1993    includes Kristin Hersh: your ghost (demo)

        Stark voice and guitar only (no Michael Stipe or 'cello).

BAD 4001 Kristin Hersh: "Your Ghost", produced by Lenny Kaye and Kristin
1994    your ghost / the key // uncle june and aunt kiyoti /
        when the levee breaks

        "When the Levee Breaks" is a great cover of the Led Zeppelin
        song from the (ubiquitous) self-titled album.  "Uncle June
        and Aunt Kiyoti" is a co-write with W. J. Hersh, Kristin's dad.
        She describes his lyrics as pretty indecipherable, "and maybe
        that's just as well."

CAD 4002 Kristin Hersh: _Hips and Makers_, produced by Lenny Kaye and KH
1994    your ghost / beestung / teeth / sundrops / sparky / houdini blues /
        a loon / velvet days / close your eyes / me and my charms /
        tuesday night / the letter / lurch / cuckoo / hips and makers

        A quietly stunning album which has songs like I never thought
        she'd produce again.  Intricate, powerful and accomplished.
        "Teeth" is apparently about Ryder (teething?), a "fingerpickin'
        tune" she wrote against her better judgement when he hid all
        her guitar picks to stop her practising!  ("ALL DONE NOW, MOMMY?!")

        Michael Stipe sings on "Your Ghost"; Jane Scarpantoni plays
        'cello (as she did on REM's "World Leader Pretend") and Kristin
        does every other thing, including playing the guitar with
        exceptional virtuosity and banging a large drum in "Your Ghost".
        "The Letter" is an old song that Kristin used to play with
        Throwing Muses, and was cajoled into recording after Billy heard
        a version that Kristin suspects David Narcizo had on tape, because
        she refused to play it for years.  The memories made her vomit.
        "Houdini Blues" is also co-written by her dad - "it's one of his
        hippy songs".  "Cuckoo" is a traditional tune arranged very sweetly
        by Kristin, whose dad taught it to her.  He's called her "cuckoo"
        or "bird" all her life, almost never by her proper name.
        Deluxe version in digipak / gatefold vinyl CAD D 4002.

BAD 4006 Kristin Hersh: _Strings_ EP
1994    Strings: recorded and engineered by John Fryer at Blackwing,
                arranged by Martin McCarrick.
        Vocals: recorded and engineered by Paul Q. Kolderie at The Outpost,
                Stoughton, MA.
        a loon / sundrops // me and my charms / velvet days
        [limited 7", AD 4006: a loon // velvet days (instrumental)]

        A lovely set of string quartet reinterpretations of these songs
        from _Hips and Makers_.  A version of "The Key" from the same
        sessions turned up on a Select "Rare Tracks" cassette shortly
        afterwards.  The genuinely moving video for "A Loon" shows
        Kristin holding Ryder in the middle of the string players as she
        sings, then for the quiet part they walk around snow-covered
        streets in "Hamsterdam" (as Ryder put it) together.  Perhaps
        this song might also be for Dylan, in which case he's an
        exceptionally lucky kid...

Kristin Hersh: _Just Say Roe_, pro-abortion compilation for the
1994    20th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, includes
        hysterical bending

BAD 500* Throwing Muses "Bright Yellow Gun" (early 1995)
1995    Single to precede album release.

CAD 500* Throwing Muses _University_ (early 1995)
1995    bright yellow gun / start / hazing / shimmer / calm down, come down
        crabtown / no way in hell / surf cowboy / that's all you wanted
        teller / university / snakeface / flood / fever few

        Recorded at Daniel Lanois' Kingsway Studios, New Orleans.
        Preliminary reports are unanimously positive.  Kristin described
        it as a cross between _House Tornado_ and Pink Floyd's _Dark Side
        of the Moon_... the former comparison, at least, sounds exciting!

Kristin also played some new songs on her tour for _Hips and Makers_,
including "Gazebo Tree".  That song is destined for her next solo album.

Kristin on songwriting:
"Songwriting happened to me, instead of me happening to it.

"I literally have a fever when I'm going to write a song.  My hair stands
on end, it's like pop-rocks in my head.  And if I don't write a song, that
can turn into a seizure.  When I was younger I would see the images in a
song as hallucinations.  I couldn't see the difference between a song image
and something just coming out of my wall.  Because they're real.  If they
have heat and energy and form, they're real.  So a fourteen-year-old isn't
going to know what it means.  I just thought, 'Oh, I grew up and got crazy.'
As much as the job of songwriting fucked up my life - *hard* - and I never
asked it to be there in the first place, it's also the highest high.  I
can't shut the door.  I opened it once and I could never shut it again.
I tried like hell, but you just get some songs stuck in your body and they
become poison.

"They are speaking for my sweat and my skin, and not my brain.  I hope I'm
only living through my sensuality and my skin, and letting my brain reflect
on it if I need to.  It's the only place where I really don't lie, I don't
hurt anybody else, because your body just tells the truth. That's where my
talent lies: in just... not lying."

"If we could just have more real music.  It's really important to me.
It moved my spine so hard, once, and I never changed again."

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