Sunday, January 29, 2012

tara angell: autumn shade fanzine interview by kristin angelique, 2004


by Kristin Angelique, autumn shade fanzine

[Tara and I corresponded by e-mail for this interview.]

tara angell, sidewalk cafe, nyc
june 23, 2004
photo credit: kristin angelique

KRISTIN: Your management kindly fulfilled my request for a press kit. As I was reading the literature, I learned that you were "born in New Jersey and attended a Quaker boarding school in upstate New York before settling in New York City."

Q: What part of New Jersey are you from? Are your parents Quakers? How long did you attend boarding school? If you are willing to share this part of your life in an interview, what was that experience like for you?

TARA: I grew up about right outside of Manhattan in suburban North Jersey. I was fortunate enough to be sent to a Quaker boarding school after having differences with my public school. I went there for two years and graduated there. There were no TVs there and we worked very hard, but the respect I got from my teachers was far greater and attention much more individualized there. I studied ecology, art, literature and music. It was basically a customized education.

Q: What were your significant interests before you got into music? Did you once have other professional goals? How did music inspire you?

TARA: Music was important to me from the very beginning. When I was a little girl I wanted to be a mechanic. My grandfather was a mechanic and so was my Uncle Lee.

My parents played music in the house since I was born. My father used to listen to WCBS FM, which played Bobby Darin, Elvis, Little Richard and stuff like that. He always collected 45s, some of which I still have My mother was an ER nurse and worked the nightshift when us kids were little. My father used to play records and we used to dance until really late just before she came home we would run into bed.

Q: What were the first bands that made you care about music?

TARA: I was pretty obsessed with Elton John when I was around 8 or 9. I had all of his records. My sister had every Neil Young record and we used to listen to him all the time. My brother had a shrine in his room of Jimi Hendrix. I was fascinated by Jimi. He was like a God that I always tried to figure out.

Q: When did you begin to write songs and play guitar?

TARA: I honestly wrote my first song when I was five. I was inspired by "You're So Vain." Mick Jagger sang back up vocals on that record. I wanted to be him.

I always sang. It was always just inside of me. I never had to learn it. My brother helped me learn guitar first when I was about 15. He was already playing amazing guitar and I thought I would never be as good as him.

So I just strummed the acoustic for a few years. Then I dropped it for a while and didn't seriously start playing until my twenties.

Q: When did you move to NYC?

TARA: The first time I moved to NYC I was 20.

Q: Did you have dreams you hoped to fulfill there or was there no master plan and you just let things happen? If I understand correctly, you have worked really hard to get as far as you have and you still are working hard trying to get your music heard. If you were to map out your path so far, how would you describe it?

TARA: It's actually quite complicated how it all happened. I basically lived a couple lives before I actually started to write the caliber of songs that are on "Come Down."

There was a time when I wanted very badly to be a jazz singer. I went to school for jazz. My college years were all about be-bop. My classmates were so into be-bop that some of them never even listened to the Rolling Stones. It was too extreme. It wasn't enough for me to sing standards and I finally dropped out and started writing my own songs.

KRISTIN: I love really great punk music, and I was ecstatic (but not surprised) to read that you have some punk roots! I think your music is very unique and that it has a far-wider appeal than most punk music does. I expect it will reach a lot of different audiences as more and more people hear you and spread the word about how amazing your music is.

I also read that you were bartending on NYC's Lower East Side (where so much cool music has emerged from) and that you hung out with bands like Murphy's Law and the Cro-Mags.

Years ago, I hung out for two, half-days, with the Cro-Mags. I had first seen Harley Flanagan (Bass Guitar) on a special edition of "Phil Donahue" - about the NYC hardcore music scene. Soon after that episode aired, I met Harley in Portland on the "Age of Quarrel" tour and he and I became friends.

So, it seems we may have some common ground here. I was hoping you might share a story or just talk about stuff from your adventures in the underground NYC music scene - whatever you want to talk about - as it relates to your music if you prefer. Anything at all...

TARA: Back then Murphy's Law, were like my brothers. We used to have so much fun. There was once a time when you could do practically anything you wanted in NYC. Those times were reckless. It was like another lifetime.

Harley was one of the reasons I picked up the guitar again. I was bartending at a place that was a huge hangout for all those hardcore bands.

Harley and I used to go to my apartment and jam and I started playing my songs, which were really just ideas at that time, and he really encouraged me to keep doing it. He was a real inspiration for me.

I used to hang out a lot with my friend, Mackie. He was once the drummer for the Cro-Mags and also played with the Bad Brains towards the end. Mackie was my first drummer. He had this friend Chuck Doom who played bass.

We had a trio and actually got a demo deal from Walter Yetnikoff's label, Vel Vel. We did gigs and recorded four songs, which were produced by Jimi Zhivago. The recording sounded huge but I don't think the songs were that great.

Q: What other music, art or significances have influenced your music, or your love for music?

TARA: I went through so many phases in music, art and books. People like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell really gave me tons to think about. The first record I ever bought was "Desire," by Dylan. It still remains one of my favorite Dylan records. Flannery O'Connor and Martin Scorcese opened up a whole new world for me. David Lynch is also one of my big heroes.

These people taught me simplicity and honesty (which is not always pretty), but they also created a bizarre world that lured me in. It's one thing to be brilliant at something - but for me - you've got to take it to another level to really knock me out. Anyone can write a songbut to write a song that people want to hear is a whole different thing.

Q: When and where did you play your first show?

TARA: My VERY first show was when I was still in high school I think. I played in some bar in NY State. I don't really remember much about it.

Q: When did you start playing regularly?

TARA: Somewhere around 1997 but there were some dry periods since then.

Q: I read that you first self-released a demo. When was this?

TARA: My great friend Kenny Lienhardt was the soundman at the place I worked. He heard that I was writing some songs and encouraged me to record them.

He had a studio down on Broadway and Houston. I found this guy Ben Shapiro who played guitar like David Gilmour and I brought him in and we recorded together. This great cello player Leah Coloff came in also and did all the bass on her cello.

Q: What songs were on the demo?

TARA: We did three songs: "People Only Want One Thing," "So Hard He Cries" and "Nothing." That demo got into the hands of Gary Katz, who produced all of those Steely Dan records. He ended up putting me into the studio with the rhythm section of The Roots and tried to sign me to his label, which ended up tanking. That whole thing took a lot of energy and was a big let down for me. We all were going to make a record together and I ended up waiting a whole year on a handshake with Gary. It took me awhile to recover from that whole ordeal but I learned a huge lesson from it.

KRISTIN: The songs on "Come Down" carry a lot of weight. You've written some of the most powerful lyrics I've ever heard, Tara. It seems as if this has to - in some way if not many ways - represent you putting your whole life and soul into these songs. Whether you wrote these songs in a matter of weeks or years, I don't know - but the imagery and the emotional energy invested indicate the great passion and dedication you must have given to this creation of yours.

Q: Can you tell me about the creative process of this album, from the songwriting to the production? Like, for instance: What was the first song on it that you wrote and when was that?

TARA: Well, first of all, thank you. I really appreciate anyone who not only can love my record, but also express it the way you do.

"Hollow Hope" was written years before we recorded "Come Down." I Probably wrote that song back in '96 or '97 - it was originally a blues tune written after I saw Chris Whitley play at the Continental in NYC.

I wrote, "When You Find Me," behind the bar on cocktail napkins back around 1999 at the Bowery Ballroom. The rest of those songs were written in 2001, I suppose. "Untrue" was also an older song. "The Big One" was the last song written before we did the record. I actually wrote that during the pre-production of "Come Down."

My Hollow Hope
The tales of the truth
aren't ripe for the knowin'
'cause they're tall
and they're still growing
The balls of my stare
aren't there as you know it
isn't there
'cause I don't show it
My Hollow Hope
My Hollow Dream
I will confess that it is
what it seems
The dust of my song
has blown away
a trail of a miracle minute
The pillows on my face
they embrace in the shadows
and in sleepy broken arrows
My Hollow Hope
My Hollow Dream
I will confess that it is
What it seems
My Hollow Hope
My Hollow Dream
I will confess that it is, yeah
I will confess that it is, yeah

When You Find Me
When you find me I won't be waiting
I won't be waiting when you find me
When you find me I won't be lying to myself
I won't be lying to myself
When you find me
I am never gonna love you
I am never gonna love you again
In the springtime when you come callin'
I won't be fallin' in the springtime
In the springtime when you come knockin'
I won't be rockin' for you in the springtime
I am never gonna love you
I am never gonna love you again

Slowly numbing myself out of devotion
I am half-hearted
No more warm and understanded
now underhanded
where I landed
I am untrue
Near the bone is where I'll be
and I"ll be free
I'll be free
Gone from all the analyzing
is where you'll find me
I am untrue

The Big One
I don't tell my friends
When I go down with you
I don't tell my sister
What I like to say to you
But Oh, this is a pretty big one
This is a pretty big one
I keep my worries to myself
Never make a sound
But Oh, when you're six feet down
It's gonna be hard to turn around
When you're six feet down
It's gonna be hard to turn around
It's gonna be hard to turn around

Q: Are your songs all autobiographical, mostly autobiographical sometimes fictional?

TARA: They all start from somewhere inside of me. I studied hard to find the perfect marriage of fiction and truth.

Q: How did your collaboration with Joseph Arthur begin and evolve? When and where did you record "Come Down?"

TARA: We recorded the record in September 2002 in a studio in Catskill, New York. It was recorded and mixed in 5 days. Working with Joe was like playing a song with a knife in your heart and getting it on the first take.

Q: Is Temple Drake a label - or is that you self-releasing your album?

TARA: Temple Drake is my publishing company and my studio. Anything related to my music is Temple Drake. I did a limited release of my record and put it out under Temple Drake.

Q: You just accepted representation by Rykodisc! They are a first rate, excellent label. That's really cool, Tara! I hope they will be wonderful to you. Rykodisc are very lucky, too. What is the anticipated release date of "Come Down" for the U.S. and Internationally?

TARA: I'm going to find out the release date within the next couple of weeks.

Q: I am really hoping to see you play in person. You've earned an impressive reputation for your amazing live shows. What, are your upcoming tour plans?

TARA: I am just waiting to see what Ryko has in store for me. They generally like to market a record for 3 months before the release date. We will probably do a promo tour in February, March and April I am doing SXSW with a great band from Austin. So I know for sure I'll be doing that. I might do a NYC show with a full band in early March or late February. But other than that I'm just laying pretty low until this spring, when I know I'll be traveling all over.

Q: I imagine everyone whom you talk to, that has heard your album, has reacted very positively. You must be very happy that soon many more people will hear your music. Having worked so hard for this great accomplishment, what is it like for you on the dawn of your worldwide release?

TARA: I feel like the luckiest girl in the world right now. I don't know how to prepare for what's going to happen. I just work really hard and have the greatest support from my family, friends and management. And everyone at Rykodisc is incredibly supportive and seems very excited about this record.

KRISTIN: Tara, thank you so much for doing this interview! I have so much admiration for you and this is a great honor for me. Not only as a writer, but also, as a music fan.

Congratulations on your exceptional album, and your great new label. I commend Rykodisc for many things, but especially for recognizing and appreciating greatness when they see and hear it.

Best wishes on your upcoming grand entrance into the music world. A work of this magnitude - of such incredible beauty and devotion - deserves great rewards.

TARA: Thank you Kristin!!

For more information about Tara, her new album and upcoming appearances, please visit her official website @

tara angell, sidewalk cafe, nyc
june 23, 2004
photo credit: kristin angelique

Interview conducted/written by Kristin Angelique.
Copyright Kristin Angelique and Tara Angell.

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