sound of the screen.

london’s observer gives their list of the 50 greatest film soundtracks here (or read below). do you agree? what’s missing? please, do weigh in. I, for one, would like to see brazil on there, among others.

from the observer:

the 50 greatest film soundtracks

from psycho to singing in the rain, slade in flame to shaft, our star-studded panel of big screen connoisseurs select the greatest soundtracks in cinema’s history

1. the wizard of oz, composer: herbert stothart. songs by harold arlen / ey harburg (1939)
2. psycho, bernard herrmann (1959)
3. star wars, john williams (1977)
4. pather panchali, ravi shankar (1955)
5. a clockwork orange, wendy carlos (1971)
6. a fistful of dollars, ennio morricone (1964)
7. the adventures of robin hood, erich wolfgang korngold (1938)
8. alexander nevsky, sergei prokofiev (1938)
9. shaft, isaac hayes (1971)
10. lift to the scaffold, miles davis (1958)
11. singin’ in the rain, arthur freed / nacio herb brown (1952)
12. trainspotting, compiler: danny boyle (1996)
13. high noon, dimitri tiomkin (1952)
14. blade runner, vangelis (1982)
15. 2001, compiler: stanley kubrick (1968)
16. american graffiti, compiler: george lucas (1973)
18. fire walk with me, angelo badalamenti (1992)
19. paris, texas, ry cooder (1984)
20. on her majesty’s secret sevice, john barry (1969)
21. dougal and the blue cat, narrator: eric thompson (1972)
22. gone with the wind, max steiner (1939)
23. the godfather, nino rota (1972)
24. west side story, leonard bernstein (1957)
25. slade in flame, songs by slade (1974)
26. the third man, anton karas (1949)
27. the graduate, simon and garfunkel (1968)
28. the pink panther, henry mancini (1963)
29. toy story, randy newman (1995)
30. round midnight, herbie hancock (1986)
31. ghost dog: the way of the samurai, the rza (1999)
32. trouble man, marvin gaye (1972)
33. rosemary’s baby, krzysztof komeda (1968)
34. head, the monkees (1968)
35. alfie, sonny rollins (1966)
36. the italian job, quincy jones (1969)
37. once upon a time in america, ennio morricone (1984)
38. one flew over the cuckoo’s nest, jack nitzsche (1975)
39. north by north west, bernard herrmann (1959)
40. crooklyn, various (1994)
41. deliverance, eric weissberg and steve mandel (1972)
42. don’t look now, pino donaggio (1973)
43. casablanca, max steiner and hugo w friedhofer (1942)
44. on the waterfront, leonard bernstein / stephen sondheim (1954)
45. reservoir dogs, various (1992)
46. the magnificent seven, elmer bernstein (1960)
47. snow falling on cedars, james newton howard (1999)
48. the wicker man, paul giovanni (1973)
49. dirty harry, lalo schifrin (1971)
50. the devil in miss jones, alden shuman, (1973)

from the observer, sunday march 18, 2007:

the button-down mind of gaylord fields.

gaylord fields has been in chickfactor-land for many years. we once gave him our old job at spin magazine in the grunge era (lucky him!), we share a great deal of good taste in music with the guy, and we forced him to write for timeout new york and of course chickfactor. he has been DJing at the fantastic freeform new jersey radio station wfmu for ages and he does this thing every year with yo la tengo — well, let him tell you about it… (interview by gail o)

chickfactor: what exactly is this whole yo la thing you do every year on wfmu?
gaylord: wfmu is a noncommercial radio station in the new york/new jersey area that derives its income, with rare exceptions, entirely from our listening audience. every year without fail since 1996, yo la tengo, with guitarist bruce bennett on hand as the honorary “fourth tengo,” has appeared on my show (or, when there’s been a scheduling conflict, we’ve taken over some other poor soul’s show) and performed requests suggested by the listeners in order to raise cash during our annual fundraising drive. the idea is that for a particular dollar amount, they will do a request of the caller, with the stipulation that it not be an actual yo la tengo song. the uncanny results of several of these sessions have been released as yo la tengo is murdering the classics, on their own egon label.
what is the point?
maybe the point for them is to atone for atrocties performed by the band members in their previous lives. but they also prostrate themselves for wfmu‘s audience to help raise funds for the station, which they have supported in so many ways throughout the years and for which we are eternally grateful.
is the record any good?
despite what ira has said in the press (and in the record’s liner notes and every other opportunity he gets), it really is — just be mindful that in no way does it resemble the yo la tengo we all know and love. keeping in mind they’re playing songs they’ve literally never attempted before and that they had maybe two, three minutes to devise arrangements for, the yo la tengoness shines though in even the most shambolic renditions. besides, they perform “meet the mets” (the theme song of my favorite baseball team) and “don’t worry, kyoko” (my second favorite yoko song). and if you’re still not sold on it, the three of them are beautifully drawn by graphic novelist adrian tomine on the cover, as am I — which fulfilled my lifelong goal of being rendered as a comic-strip character.
how long have you known them?
I’ve known ira and georgia for 20 years, when I moved into the house where they and hoboken musical impresario todd abramson (maxwells, telstar records) resided, at todd’s invitation. I was their housemate for six or seven years. I’ve known james since he joined the band a few years hence.
which one is the meanest?
I’ve witnessed georgia taking a hammer to a beauty parlor chair, which is the meanest act I’ve seen any of them perpetrate.
the humblest?
they’re all exceedingly humble without any right to be in my musical opinion, especially considering they now tour in a big bus that has not one but two videogame systems in it.
the sexiest?
I’ve seen both ira and georgia in their pajamas, so they’re tied for the sexy prize. (sorry, james — but maybe this will be incentive to finally have that pj party where you show brigitte bardot clips and episodes of the magic johnson talk show.)
have you ever performed with yo la tengo? details please.
I can recall a few instances: the first was when todd and I did an on-the-air radio (wfmu, natch — before I was a dj there) phone-in duet on “farmer john” with them. the purpose was to test the setup for daniel johnston, who later gave his legendary phoned-in “speeding motorcycle” performance. I feel like I’m part of rock history for my contribution. another time, I sang a song during their encore at a knitting factory show — I don’t recall what it was. a third instance was when I sang the dictators’ “next big thing” with them at a show at maxwells in hoboken. I also participated in two of their world-renowned hanukkah shows. the first time, I sang two kiss songs — “strutter” and “calling doctor love” while standup comic todd barry banged on a drum in full peter criss makeup. the second was a dream come true — I performed a duet with lois, whose music I’ve admired for ages, on “je t’aime (moi non plus)” that was especially fun considering neither of us speaks a word of french! oh, have I mentioned that I can’t really sing?
are you a performer in your own right?
no, but people often confuse me with this guy called “the great gaylord” — he “sings” fifties-style screaming r&b. I hate his stupid grandiose name.
how long have you been a “mr dj man”?
while I’ve been doing radio at wfmu since 1992, I’ve only held the (purely honorary) title “mr dj man” since I was dubbed thusly by bob guccione jr circa 1996. radio is a great creative outlet for me, or at least doing freeform sets on wfmu is. if I had to cease doing it there, I probably wouldn’t do it at all. no, wait — I could envision myself doing one specific kind of formatted program somewhere else: I’ve on occasion played some easy listening/lounge/exotica/beautiful music sets on and could see myself doing that on an irregular basis. as for discothèque dj gigs, from time to time I spin 45s at sixties soul dance nights.
what’s on heavy rotation right now?
as for old stuff — japanese gagaku (imperial court music), the lovin’ spoonful, ennio morricone and los shakers (because I dig fake beatles the utmost). way too much music from brazil, both old (like jorge ben) and new (such as marisa monte), is always part of my life’s soundtrack as well. I’ve recently emerged from a 1930s male crooners (gene austin, russ columbo, bing crosby, al bowlly) phase. also, I’ve just pulled out all my kirsty maccoll records, because I wish she were still alive to make music, so that’s what I’m reacquainting myself with next. as for what’s happening now, I listen to way too many swedish groups and can’t wait for the new concretes album after hearing their new post-victoria bergsman single “oh no.” and there’s a bossa nova song on the great new mary weiss record that was pretty much made for me!
you’re very snappily dressed for an indie rock dude. do you have any style advice for the gents?
fellas, iron those shirts! every ladyfriend I’ve ever had (including my wife) has given me extra credit for a) wearing pressed shirts, and b) ironing them myself. I’m strictly a button-down shirt wearer, because I like the timelessness of that look, but I sport the occasional steve mcqueen-inspired turtleneck for variety. I pretty much steer clear of the vintage gear or anything that evokes a particular era (my wife runs a vintage clothing shop — sorry, kathleen), with the exception of 1960s suits, which I prefer for some reason that’s most likely deep-seated and atavistic — probably a catholic school holdover.
any flirting tips, since you are known to be a huge flirt?
am I, really? that’s news to me! have you gals been comparing notes? well, eye of the beholder, I suppose. perhaps it’s that I really enjoy the company of women, and I think of myself as a good listener (as clichéd as that is), so take conversation seriously but have fun with it too. show off your sense of playfulness and humor, but don’t be a joke steamroller. also, always steer the conversation to how you like to iron your own shirts.

the broadcast is this friday march 16 at 8-11pm east coast us time — and yes, it’s streamed live at

photograph: kathleen o’malley

why fashion will never be cool.

chickfactor’s in-house fashion critic the angry american (aka editor gail o’hara) rails against the fashion herd

1 only morons would spend that kind of money on designer clothing. if you work in the industry, fine, you get your discounts, promos, favours sent over to you from PRs. and anyone who wants to wait for the sales, fine, there are definitely some pieces to be had — a vivienne westwood frock for $400 seems quite reasonable. but let’s face it, most pieces are about as high-quality as something from topshop and they aren’t actually worth that much more.

2 wearing a trend while it’s an actual trend makes a smart girl feel like she has no personal style. there’s nothing worse than having marc jacobs decide that whatever you normally wear is the thing to wear this year. if you just really love velvet coats, say, like I do, the last thing you want is for vintage velvet coats in bright colours to be in fashion, because then you just have to pack them away for a season or two. when the cloying fashion critic for the guardian announces that ponytails are over, I breathe a sigh of happy relief. I’m not in fashion. the ponytail belongs to me (along with the also now apparently out-of-fashion ballet pump), it will always be stylish and classic, like a navy blue cashmere v-neck and white jack purcells. (however, just because skinny jeans are now oh so out of fashion, you won’t see me sporting those — and I never did/will).

3 to be a slave to fashion and beauty industries and magazines is just plain stupid and distracts you from more important things in life. remember the beauty myth? well, read it again, dork.

4 smart people know that fashion is for idiots. my old buddy oscar wilde once said, ‘fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months’ and he knew what he was talking about. fashion is not street smart — do you want to get mugged because someone wants your sean john jacket or your d&g watch or your sad little chihuahua? I didn’t think so.

5 I must admit that some fashion designers are true artists and craftspeople. I believe that commes des garcons, hussein chalayan, dries van noten, vivienne westwood and miuccia prada (who also makes mistakes, see below) are all talented designers with a lot to offer and know how to flatter the human form. (I also adore my design icons edith head, elsa schiaparelli and courreges.) but most designers are simply pilfering the past, stealing ideas that they could never come up with themselves and regurgitating the same damn thing year after year. pay attention to the fashion trends as dictated by the dullards and you will see: every spring/summer we all are supposed to wear white, beige and nautical, every autumn it’s back to black, grey, lace, probably ‘sexy secretary’ and ‘urban warrior.’

6 fashion is racist, xenophobic, sizist, ageist, elitist and just plain silly. it is made for women who starve themselves and prefer pain to comfort. letting them decide what you should wear is like following the cues of the bitchiest high school clique. why should they be in charge? what makes them capable of deciding how high your hair should be and what color lipstick looks good? following their ideas means that you are ignoring what may actually work for you. even if they decide for one split second that curly hair is in, they still religiously straighten their hair because they would never ignore what society expects of them. skinny jeans are out, but they still wear them despite the fact that they only flatter about 5% of the population. they are laughing at you when you wear those sweater trousers from stella mccartney, not with you.

7 following the herd is a sign of weakness. just ask fred nietzsche. people in fashion do not take risks. they are sheep. I used to work on the same floor as the staff of elle magazine. they all wore the same uniform: black trousers, black shell, black heels. in some cases you would see women wearing shoes so pointy that you could almost feel the pain emanating from their bound feet. the actor david duchovny pointed out that fashion is a subtle form of bondage and it is true.

8 personal style is far more impressive. someone like isabella blow is in the fashion world, but she has her own personal style, thanks in part to her chapeau creator philip treacy. maggie gyllenhaal may wear designer clothing but she wears it all in her own way and she looks totally at home in it. amy winehouse has great personal style with her towering bouf and her insane eyeliner. bjork’s personal style is unmatched — her swan dress scared the crap out of the herd followers to the point where they have to remind themselves how scary they found it over and over but in truth the icelandic elf queen is bold. our old east village pal quentin crisp famously said that fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are and it is so true. people who have personal style have something for life — fashion people have something that lasts six months.

9 men don’t understand fashion. of course many men would dress women in heels and tight skirts, but they also like a girl in jeans and a t-shirt. comfort is key to looking cool; there is nothing less attractive than a woman who cannot pull off the outfit she is wearing. therefore, smocks and ballet flats are cool. tight, unflattering leggings with a miniskirt may not be. our hero jean cocteau once said ‘art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.’

10 fashion is all wrong for these times. the cycle of perpetual obsolescence is filling the landfills with more crap no one should have bought in the first place. the only reason you can buy that cheap smock at h&m is because someone in a sweatshop made it. the planet doesn’t need fashion people to make more stupid t-shirts that increase climate change awareness. what the tired old planet needs is for fashion people to make more quality clothing that lasts out of eco-friendly fabrics and to avoid making lots of useless high-street trendy crap that people only wear twice and then toss into the plastic bins on the street because it will never come close to being in fashion again. and don’t get me started on fur: killing animals will never be cool. become a vegetarian immediately and try the slow fashion / buy local / recycling and crafting method instead — or just invest wisely on a well-made garment that lasts rather than filling your wardrobe with silly, frilly tops that cost a fiver, things that you snapped up impulsively during the sales and went out of fashion 48 seconds later. in the old days you could set something aside — a 60s shift, say — for several years until it came back into fashion. but now, with the quality of most clothing so poor, the designs so extreme, the material so rubbery and otherworldly, it’s hardly worth saving because it isn’t meant to last.

wear something from runway and the world laughs at you (from the stella mccartney, heatherette, and prada autumn/winter 2007-2008 collections)

all dressed up in dreams.

stephen coates is the real tuesday weld. since we discovered him in the grim year of 2001, we have found much escapism and comfort in his whispery croons, crackly old-fashioned melodies and his fine pop platters. he is the sort who needs a theme to get the tunes moving — and a recent theme is dreams. together with the band he has written, performed and recorded a score for the surrealist film dreams that money can buy with david piper and cibelle narrating. I witnessed it at the nft but it all really came into place at the grand-scale turbine hall in the tate modern last year, where listeners sat on pillows and sipped champagne whilst watching the film and hearing the score. the real tuesday weld is playing a few dates soon in london, russia, edinburgh and some summer festivals. they’re nearly finished with their third album. stephen is collaborating with alex budovsky, who is doing the animations to teach kids to read — see he just did a track for the rothko room at the tate modern as part of their tate tracks series. stephen’s best mate glen duncan wrote a novel called I, lucifer, which is now filming on the streets of london and starring terence stamp and ewan mcgregor so if they have any sense the filmmakers will use the real tuesday weld’s soundtrack which was created years ago. we caught up with stephen to find out what he was dreaming about…

chickfactor: why did you choose dreams that money can buy to score? was it your idea? what was it like playing it at the tate modern? will you collaborate with cibelle again?
stephen: I was introduced to it by marek pytel of reality film — it was that or the amazing f for fake by orson welles — but the look and subject matter (dreams. art. psychotherapy. loss) of the richter film seemed perfect. the tate show was amazing — I never imagined we would do something like that — and I love that building. it was immense and it felt like a unique experience — can’t imagine playing somewhere that tall again. I hope to do something else with cibelle — we keep talking about it. we are still doing the dreams show — belfast film festival this month.
it seems like dreams play a big part in your waking life. apart from that one about waking up in bed with the proclaimers (I love that one), what dreams have you had that you still remember today? do you ever hear music in your dreams and try to remember it when waking up?
the proclaimers one was worse than you remember — I dreamt that I was asleep and woke up between them — it was awful. they were both just staring at me through their glasses. I still keep my dream diary and I think that something from the dreams infiltrates the work but my attempts to write songs about dreams haven’t been particularly successful except in a couple of cases — and they were really more like songs about dreaming. to catch a dream needs quite a lot of words and subtlety — maybe not best suited to the song structure —- it just sounds like bad poetry. I have very beautiful music in dreams and usually it leaves you on waking but the tune from that song ‘dreaming of you’ I heard in a dream — or maybe the vibe of it at least. the other night I dreamt of a horse with a woman’s head down by the thames again — that’s a repeating one. I dreamt that the fleet river flowed again — in the valley down behind gray’s inn road. I have been having apocalyptic london dreams — walking through the city in darkness with all sorts of people from all different times crowding around.
you seem to spend a lot of time travelling all over england/wales/scotland etc. what are your favourite places to see?
I had some very peculiar experiences in the cambrian mountains west wales a few years ago and like to go back there. I did a kind of archaeological survey of a particular valley and identified all the prehistoric sites there. it’s very beautiful and strange. we have been going to skye a bit — most recently for a funeral. nix’s uncle died and her cousin hugh became the new clan chief of the macleods — like in highlander your favourite film. the west coast of scotland is mind-blowing — the perfect antidote to (and appetiser for) london.
how has the internet changed the way you find out about music and the way people find out about you? do you sell any records? or is it all from mp3 purchases? and what about this podcasting stuff and blogging? do you do that? is it fun?
I rarely use it to find out about music myself — because I seem to have plenty to listen to already but I think it’s been very empowering for musicians — you can bypass the normal distribution channels blah, blah, blah… I hate the way myspace looks but it’s an amazing thing and there is no doubt that many more people have heard what I have been doing because of all that. the records seem to sell fairly steadily in small quantities. I’ve got no idea about how many downloads there have been. I can only assume from your question that you haven’t been keeping up with my podcasting and blogsite — shame on you gail… but I love that — I think that was the most enjoyable thing last year and I am gearing up for another series now.
how many commercials have you done (don’t be ashamed)? are there any products you would refuse to give your music to? do you make a living off music?
maybe 10-15? most of the ones you see on tv which sound like the real tuesday weld aren’t. I have turned down several — including something very lucrative – much to the chagrin of certain people. I won’t do meat — or guns. I have mostly made a living from music for the last three / four years.
which artists are you keen to collaborate with? did you ever hear back from jane birkin?
you know, I never tried jane b — but I loved her latest — that was really great. I am doing a few collaborations for this next record — shirley bassey would be my fantasy.

photograph: the real tuesday weld live in berlin, 2004, gail o’hara

elder statesmen: in and out of trouble.

I have a neighbour named ray davies, I see him sometimes when I have brunch in highgate village, or walking around or sitting on a bench with his tiny blond ladyfriend. ray looks so much like ray that it’s unmistakable. I like seeing him. I love living where I live, it’s one of the best places ever to live. however, it’s a shame about ray’s haircut. I want him to get a new one. I didn’t take a photo to show here, but it basically accentuates the largeness of his face, so if you see ray, suggest he get a chop.
another one of my neighbours is named shane macgowan, who I see whenever I’m in the vicinity of the boogaloo bar. he was never the handsomest of fellas — let’s face it, he looked a bit like howdy-doody when he was young. but he’s a damn talented man and booze is a big part of his image. but pics such as this might give the youngsters a reason to lay off the sauce or they may end up looking like this — and appearing to be tipsy at all times like mr shane here.

another one of the greats of pop, phil spector, seems like a bit of a jerk it has to be said, but the man was a genius. altering his hairdo might make him more accessible to a jury of his peers and a little less scary to small children:

another former huge star of british pop, adam ant, also gets into bar brawls pretty easily, but it’s not surprising. here in britain, the only thing worse than being an 80s pop icon is being a former 80s pop icon who adult bullies down the pub might want to take the peace out of. those whose hotness has faded (boy george, george michael, etc) don’t stand a chance. better to move to a castle in france than to show your face in this tabloid-loving city of london!

gary glitter, who has had some serious troubles with the law, has tried to change his look in hopes of getting a lesser punishment. exhibit A shows his former criminal look:

while exhibit B shows the new mr glitter, ready for the courtroom drama. what a difference a new coif makes!

any pop stars and former pop stars interested in hiring me as a fashion + beauty consultant, please do. I am brutally honest, but you will thank me in the end! (and if anyone knows my neighbour terry gilliam, please tell him I want to interview him rather than give him a makeover, but I might bring some haircutting shears to remove his tiny rattail!)

mini interview: joan as police woman!

joan wasser has been around chickfactor’s world for many years. she played at our second ever live gig with mary timony — they used to make an amazing sound together with just violin and guitar and singing, and of course she played in dambuilders, black beetle, etc. these days I see her solo project posters (she’s called joan as police woman) all over london and she’s getting raved about everywhere we look. her real life album is coming out in the states on cheap lullaby records on 12 june, and before that you can find her playing sxsw, headlining her way across the EU and then touring the US and australia (see her website for dates) — joan is busy! — before she starts making another record in autumn for a 2008 release. we checked in with the foxy lady for to see what’s going on…

chickfactor: are the other members of your band scared of you, or are you scared of them?
joan: I think everyone in the band has moods that the others would not exactly beg to experience. but scared? not yet.
which member of your band is the one who gets picked on by the others? it’s got to be the drummer guy, right?
I guess so ben looks like he’s asking for it, doesn’t he? he’s also the most gullible at times, so we can all get him a little riled up. but really he’s also the sweetest.
what’s it like being in a band with rainy?
it’s like getting to the top of mount everest.
do you plan any other identities — joan as astronaut, joan as paramedic?
oh god. I think being a police woman is enough. it’s funny now when I see cops I have a completely different feeling about them. I feel like madonna co-opting all the faggotry for her own uses except I am just using the police dept. sometimes I think they are the biggest bottoms and are somewhere begging to be used. you are certainly welcome to disagree.
you’ve always had fabulous (and at times BIG) hair. do you have any beauty secrets?
ummm, I try to walk in a straight line nowadays it’s easier now that I stopped drinking. also, I know that it’s been touted as a bonus for hair, but I found that beer does NOT help voluminous hair stay voluminous. so stay away from that PBR girls!
got any crushes? what is the secret to getting what you want in love and sex?
I think that loving yourself is the greatest way to get whatever it is you need, in love and sex and in life in general. when you are honestly happy with yourself and the way you carry yourself in the world, it is then that you attract the kind of person you want to be with and you naturally develop the ability to ask for what you want and need. this concept has taken me until NOW to figure out. and I have finally fallen in love. for the first time. because I can now look myself in the eye without flinching. previously, I was just running. I finally got tired enough to face myself. here’s to exhaustion!

thanks to peter momtchiloff for question help!
photograph: courtesy joan as police woman

tie it up tie it down.

who doesn’t love an apron? I have a great collection of vintage ones that my grandma made (some pictured here) and a heavy canvas one from muji that I wear for extreme baking. what happened to aprons? they became a lame novelty item in recent years but they seem like a good thing to make for yourself. we adore this blog that is about all things apronific: tie one on (thanks ms braverman for pointing it out). back when we lived in trendy shoreditch we predicted a full-on apron revival and like many things it’s happening slowly. make one now!

photograph: pam berry

music to your eyes.

I have fond memories of going to the tate modern at xmastime in 04 I believe for the christian marclay evening ‘the sounds of christmas.’ I knew something of his work before that but I was superimpressed that he brought 1,200 actual christmas vinyl LPs to a tent on the thames and there were DJs there using the records. it was pretty fun — you could even flip through them like you’re in a record store. he is one of those people who used to be fairly obscure in the music/art axis but has shot to superstardom in the art world. good for him. we like some of his music-obsessed stuff since we are in fact music obsessive (and what’s wrong with that?). anyway, white cube epitomizes everything that is silly about hoxton but they had the good sense to sign him up so head there if you want to see his latest london exhibition — it’s on till 10 march 07.

images: christian marclay

sidelady to the stars.

margaret white: the chickfactor interview

above: margaret while touring with belle and sebastian (nice sideburns!)

margaret white is an all-around great gal who happens to be an extremely talented violinist and singer. we met as bandmates on a sparklehorse tour in 2001. it was a zany year, and bonded us forever. since then she’s moved from chapel hill to brooklyn and has become an in-demand multi-instrumentalist, touring the world and recording with some pretty fabulous bands: the comas, cat power, belle and sebastian, portastatic, calexico and many, many others. recently she’s done a record with a band called ghosts I’ve met, singing beautiful boy-girl country duets that are so pretty that her dog likes to sing along. interview: kendall meade

chickfactor: who are you playing with now? all the a-listers, no doubt…
margaret: oh, but of course! I guess the ones that are kind of the constants right now are portastatic, kevin devine, jennifer o’connor, ghosts I’ve met, and of course mascott. and then there are always the random shows I get called in for – a few weeks ago I played with calexico at lincoln center and had a blast – and I’m hoping that there will be many more of those kind of things. they keep me on my toes! makes my life a bit crazy and scheduling can be a bit tricky at times. especially when you factor in the day job as well…but luckily all the people I play with are extremely understanding so if I have to miss shows I don’t get in too much trouble!
what are your favorite cities to play in/visit?
hmm, that’s a tough one because there are so many that have their individual good memories or friends or places, ones that are walking-friendly are definitely a plus since I usually don’t have any other transportation on tour! the ones that immediately jump to mind are portland and seattle (probably mainly because I was there last week). I have friends in both of those so it always makes it fun, and the cities themselves just feel really comfortable and friendly. chapel hill is a given because I lived there for 11 years so I have tons of friends and I still think of it as home since I can walk anyplace and probably know at least half the people there. and athens feels like home since it’s the nice southern college town and I know where to go for the good veggie food options. oh, and london and dublin are filled with friends and there have been some great shows in both, plus I’ve gotten to actually spend more time in those places! I always smile when I think of edinburgh because of that carousel you and scott and I discovered on the sparklehorse tour, best pound spend on that tour!
please tell the world about your singing dog.
he’s the best! he’s so talented. I think I’m going to have to bring him on tour with me and we can sing duets. maybe when ghosts I’ve met goes on tour. samson loves singing to those songs… I got him last january from one of the shelters in new york and he was somewhere around 2 1/2 or 3 years old. the first time I heard him sing I thought I was imagining it because it was just really briefly when I was getting ready for work one day. I think he was feeling shy since we didn’t know each other well so once I noticed he stopped. it was probably another month or so before it happened again. the first song he really got into singing was sloop john b from the beach boys pet sounds (of course) album. now he’ll sing to tons of stuff. not everything – he’s selective – but a lot. countryish songs, or really anything with harmonies. and the other morning he was singing along to opera on npr. it sometimes makes it difficult when I’m trying to learn songs (like for the calexico show the other week) because, though he doesn’t sing all that loud, he blends in well so it’s harder to pick out the parts I need to learn… he’s just amazing because he actually has really good phrasing and sings pretty much in tune! I took a little video on my phone a couple weeks ago and played it to musician friends, in part so they would believe me, and everyone was duly impressed with his talent!
north carolina vs brooklyn?
right now I’d have to say brooklyn. I really love north carolina and am so happy that I have reason to go back pretty regularly since portastatic is based there and pretty much any tours through the south go to the triangle area (raleigh, durham, chapel hill). it’s great to see everyone and I have so many amazing friends down there, and I do still think it feels like home a little more than brooklyn. but I love it up here and really have no desire to move back south, at least right now. plus so many friends are moving here from north carolina and other places that sometimes it feels like chapel hill here, and of course there are way more of the random recording and show opportunities here for me. with touring it never really mattered where I was living since it’s all traveling anyway, but for one-off gigs and whatnot it definitely helps to be in the big city!

margaret and kendall playing a chickfactor gig (mon gala papillons) in london, 2004.

margaret and interviewer kendall out on the town.

photographs: courtesy of margaret white; alistair fitchett