cf #10 1997
salsa party ladies
is the star of cat power. gail yelled at her beneath blaring free jazz at
the knitting factory the night the yankees won (in 1996).
chickfactor: what question do you hate to be asked?
chan marshall: are you going to ask me?
chan: there's a lot of them: "what's your main influence?" cause there's so
many influences in life and in music and all kinds of things. and "when did
you meet steve shelley" and "what makes you write these songs?"
cf: do they go, "why are you so sad? where is all this pain coming from?"
chan: right. exactly.
cf: what's the best kind of wine?
chan: cabernet or merlot.
cf: do you have a rider?
cf: what's in it?
chan: bottle of tequila and a pack of marlboros. rock & roll.
cf: merlot and cabernet?
chan: and some lovers.
cf: what kind? young ones? old ones?
chan: little big bad -- all of em. actually a public place to swim. that's
something I tried to do this time, but we ended up just swimming in outdoor
cf: connie and I saw your video the other night on underground railroad.
chan: are you kidding me? really! oh my god!
cf: do you like shows better with steve and tim?
chan: either way, cause I can have a really shitty show by myself or a
really shitty show with them or a really good show myself or a really good
show with them.
cf: what makes a bad show? is it the crowd or is it all you?
chan: yeah, I think it's psychological. like tonight's a full moon so it
could be really -- I don't know I'm superstitious.
cf: who is the best band in new york?
chan: well, I can't wait to see tower recordings tonight, I've never seen
them. they're good. I gotta go down the list: fuck, loren mazzacane, of
course the blues explosion, well anybody on matador's my favorite band.
let's see, there's so many.
cf: do you feel like a southerner living in new york city?
chan: I used to, when people would make fun of me when I first met them.
they'd treat me differently when they'd find out where my accent was from
but I don't really have an accent. but now, I feel differently cause, when I
do interviews, I'm always southern, cause I'm always asked where I'm from.
so I'm southern again. I'm going to be southern very soon; I'm thinking
about moving again somewhere else in march or april.
cf: down south?
chan: I think so but I don't know. I already went to portland but I didn't
like its rainy season. I couldn't live there year round. I could go back to
georgia, but I want to live outside in the country somewhere.
cf: why do you want to leave new york?
chan: I can't concentrate here. I'm always a nervous wreck and I'm always
freaking out. it seems like everyone I talk to I'm always saying "I'm sorry"
to cause inside my head I'm thinking I'm going insane and I can't really
express that so I just say I'm sorry. what I really want to say is "I have
to go I have to go cause I can't concentrate." in new york there's so many
people; if I lived in a smaller town, there wouldn't be that many people.
it's not that I don't like those people, it's that there's so many of them.
I like the fact that when I first moved here I didn't know anybody, and I
like the fact that there were so many people and I was just one of the
cf: are you uncomfortable becoming a celebrity kind of?
chan: I'm not a celebrity!
cf: a little bit.
chan: no I'm not. no I'm not.
cf: c'mon, you're in the big magazines.
chan: so are you.
cf: I've never been in interview and rolling stone. does it make you
uncomfortable or self-conscious; do people go, "there's the cat power girl"?
chan: you've been on the cover of a cd. you're famous gail.
cf: I am not. let's talk about boys. is that okay? one time I talked to you
and you said, "I make them crazy." is that true?
chan: I said that? I make them crazy cause they think I'm crazy so I get
tired of them thinking I'm crazy so I start -- .
cf: don't you think all guys do that: they're like, "my girlfriend's crazy"?
they characterize all women as hysterical in a way?
chan: she's hysterical cause she's telling the truth. she's hysterical cause
she's seeing something that you're not seeing. I mean, the only times I've
had a couple arguments with one person in particular -- well, a couple people.
but my boyfriend, I knew things he didn't think I knew. I would say
completely hysterical, "I know these things cause it hurts you." he was
lying, and I became hysterical trying to say "I know that you are doing what
you're doing and you're not telling me."
cf: is swimming your favorite sport?
chan: actually, yeah, totally.
cf: do you like writing lyrics?
chan: I usually don't write them down. they just come out when I write the
song. at the same time.
cf: is there another person's lyrics you think are amazing? robert pollard?
chan: he's pretty amazing, but I think he pulls his lyrics out of a hat. no,
I think I read that somewhere.
cf: he steals them from other people he has conversations with. he'll like
sit there and talk to you and run away and write down what you said.
chan: when I was traveling with them, we got out at mcdonald's and he was
locking the door, and he said, "you know, swear to god, you remind me of
somebody I knew when I was younger," and I looked at him and was shaking him
and I'm like "it's me!" when he got back in the van, he goes, "i just wrote
a new song, it's called 'it's me'!" and it's about you. I'm going to put it
on the new record. I was like shit, cause it's going to be like, "she's a
complete fuckin fool."
cf: no way. what's the hardest part of being in a band? carrying equipment?
chan: yeah, cause I'm usually by myself, carrying my amp and guitar at the
cf: what do you do when you're by yourself, take the train?
chan: usually the train or the bus. or I've flown before. the worst thing is
not having a band?
cf: what band do you wish you could go on tour with?
chan: I might be going on tour with dirty 3 in australia. bill callahan and
I may do something in march. but as far as rock goes, I don't know what
bands would accept me for rock. know what I mean? cause a lot of rock bands
are guy bands. beck by himself, that would be fun. I've got it in my head
that I'm always alone. I'm scared to answer.
cf: who is the scariest band you've ever played with?
chan: man or astroman?
cf: they scared you?
chan: no, their skinhead fans scared me. they were saying "fuck you, you
suck." I played a two-string without pressing down notes, just playing two
strings for like 15 minutes, that was my song while they were telling me
fuck you and get off. I was making one chord the whole time and singing "no
no no no no."
cf: how many instruments do you play?
chan: drums. one. I'd like to play piano but I don't know how. never been
cf: I just saw you playing piano.
chan: no, I don't know how though.
cf: I think you should open the show with it.
chan: I'm going to get a piano when I move away from new york.
cf: what instruments do you wish you played?
chan: piano. drums. slide guitar, like even anything, even just playing with
a bottle, I can't do that. a friend of mine gave me one of those silver
things, I've since given it away but just cause someone wanted to borrow it
but he hasn't given it back to me.
cf: I'm sure matador will buy you another one.
chan: I need a new steel finger.
cf: what kind of music did your dad play?
chan: well, he was influenced by gospel, cause he's from alabama. and his
mother, her name's lena, she still lives in alabama. he used to go to
people's houses and tap-dance and sing for how ever much money they'd give
him, like a nickel or a penny or whatever, when he was like 6 or 7. he has a
picture that I really want of him doing that. he used to wear this little
white suit that was too short for him. so he used to go with the kids from
the neighborhood to the neighborhood black church. and he always said he
felt really shy at first going into the church, so he'd listen to them
outside the church first, which I think is really sweet. but then he started
going in, and he said they were really nice to him. so his influences were
blues and gospel. but then when he was 17 he started doing drugs and getting
into all that kind of stuff, that whole realm of music that was out then.
that's kind of the stuff that he played till after my mom met him; he met my
mom when he was 20, my mom was 17, she dropped out of high school, they got
married, had two kids. I used to live with this band called mother's finest
when I was really little. lived with different people.
cf: did you play music as a kid?
chan: I always sang.
cf: what's the meanest thing you've ever done?
chan: when I was little, I lived with my [great great] aunt ruby in alabama
for a summer. she had this two-room apartment with a beautiful kitchen and
the whole place was white. she used to actually chew tobacco and spit it in
a tin cup. totally sparse place; the beds were made really tight, there was
no dust anywhere, and just a chair and a couch.
cf: like being in the army.
chan: totally. when you get to that age, you don't have anything else to do,
so your environment is how you live. I remember hanging out with her when I
was little. then when I was in 7th grade -- before I moved back with my father
in atlanta -- i went and visited him one summer, and I got a phone call, and my
father has been playing music since I was born, so he always works at night
till 4am or whatever. so I got the phone call at like 10 at night, I was in
bed with my sister, and it was my great aunt ruby's sister who took care of
her. but the worst thing I've ever done is when she called to tell my father
that aunt ruby had passed away that day. and I was like, ok. I had just
woken up, and when I heard it I felt really sad, but when you're asleep,
well, for some reason I dismissed it as a dream and I never told my father
that. of course, they called him again. we never talked about it. he
wouldn't ever be mad at me for that. but he really loved aunt ruby.
cf: that's not mean. you were a kid. what's the most fun thing about making
chan: the intensity. of knowing that it's going to be -- ok, this is it! this
is it, ladies and gentlemen!
cf: do you like to go into the studio really well rehearsed or do you
chan: oh, I'd like to go well rehearsed cause I've never done it. four times
that I've recorded; the first time was when god is my co-pilot put out that
single -- that was "oh, they want to record us this weekend," "ok, meet you
there," "ok bye." show up at 1:00, ok, hey sharon hey craig, it sounded like
shit, never having a soundcheck, never knowing what a good sound was. always
just thinking that's the way it sounds. I let them do whatever they did to
it. I didn't know how you did it. I was really uptight and scared and
embarrassed; like, oh I sound like shit and I can't play and it's really
dark and they're all looking at me through that glass thing and I don't like
how it feels. but then, when I recorded with steve and tim, I actually
didn't think that anyone was going to hear those recordings, we were
recording for the italian record. but I didn't know that the other songs
were going to be used for steve's record. but people have heard those
records. the memphis record was me being really insane cause I had to
record, then go see my family cause I wanted to see my sister's son, then
play south by southwest, then go to see my best friend in atlanta, then go
on tour with truman's water, then live in portland. so I knew I had this
huge journey, and I wasn't prepared for the journey. much less was I
prepared to make a record, cause I was thinking oh, it'll be fun. the night
before we were supposed to leave, tim calls and he's like "chan, we don't
know what's going on, I guess we're not going," and I just hadn't called
cf: are you happy with it?
chan: I am cause I got to do things, I got to direct it a little. and the
other times, we didn't do anything, we just pressed record. this time I got
to branch out and figure out where I thought it should go. but I was really
cf: did you have like a producer?
chan: actually steve basically was like a manager or something, he made the
calls, he held my head on straight the whole time. he's the one that had the
whip. I was really sick. doug and davis -- doug easley seemed to have a pretty
perceptive sense about what I wanted, what was natural to what we were. he
really helped us.
cf: is there a producer that you want to work with?
chan: yeah. the guy who produced rumours by fleetwood mac.
cf: do you believe in astrology?
chan: yes. tonight's a full moon, and on the radio they said "it's a
traveler's moon." other things like, I was at a friend of mine's house and
she was reading my palms, and I was like "when am I gonna fall in love? read
me my love cards!" she read my friends' first, and hers were "this guy
really likes you, you're hanging out with him, you don't know if you like
him, there's this other guy, he really likes you," that was going on with
her. but mine was like "you're not going to be in love, but let's get past
that point. you're going to be really busy for the next 8 months," but it's
literally like 10 months ago. so yeah, that was tarot though. the age of
aquarius, my aquarius is in uranus now, and apparently hasn't happened in 80
years and it's supposed to be the most remarkable time right now. but it's
cf: I'm a sagittarius, and they keep saying jupiter's going to be here, and
all this great stuff's going to happen. it never does.
chan: I love sagittarius women; they're very nice to me, very maternal. I
like them a lot.
cf: very honest. do you trust your gut over everything else?
chan: oh yeah, oh sure. I always give everybody the benefit of the doubt a
hundred million thousand times.
cf: what's aquarius like?
chan: I can't organize all those papers in my room.
cf: nobody can do that stuff? do you think there's anyone who sings like
you? do you think you sound like anybody?
chan: people always make the wrong assumptions all the time when it comes to
trying to compare you to anybody.
cf: you just get compared to other women all the time?
chan: yeah. p.j. harvey is something that I get all the time.
cf: who is your favorite singer?
chan: it's so hard, there's so many. they're flashing in front of my face.
"the first time ever I saw your face" [sings] -- I like her voice a lot,
roberta flack. otis redding is probably my favorite singer. aretha franklin.
cf: do you have any advice for teenagers just starting to play guitar?
chan: teach yourself to play guitar, and it's really great to play with
other people. go with your intuition, your gut.
cf: will you be playing music in 15 years?
chan: probably -- not for other people though. I don't know. the music business
is what makes me hate playing music. cause you have to be projected on all
the time. you have to play in front of people. I don't think that's selfish
cause everybody has something that they do with themself that's special like
writing, taking pictures, decorating their bathroom.
cf: if you're not playing music, what do you like to do all day?
cf: thanks sweetie. CF