Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thalia Zedek: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

Thalia Zedek's music career started in the late '70s with White Women, followed in the '80s with Dangerous Birds and Uzi and continued later in the decade when she joined the New York noise band Live Skull. In the early '90s she formed the band Come, whose 1992 album 11:11 is nothing short of a masterpiece. Come's members included Chris Brokaw on guitar, Arthur Johnson on drums, and Sean O'Brien on bass and if you don't own any of their work, you should.

Since Come stopped performing later in the '90s, Zedek has released a number of solo albums including Been Here and Gone (Matador, 2001) Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch Of Madness (Thrill Jockey, 2004), and Hell is in Hello, 2004 (limited edition 2.000 copies). Her EPs include You're a Big Girl Now (Kimchee Records, 2002) and The Nature of Drones (Thrill Jockey, 2005). She also released a live disc entitled Live at Tonic, NYC 1/16/2000.

Zedek's latest CD, Liars and Prayers, was also released by Thrill Jockey Records in late April. Although I think all of Zedek's work with Come and her solo albums have been outstanding, Liars and Prayers is a powerful and emotional collection of songs tackling political and personal subjects. It features a five-piece band, fleshing out Zedek's sound to a new level of complexity and intensity.

The album was produced by the band and Andrew Schneider at Mad Oak Studios in Allston, Massachusetts and Translator Audio in Brooklyn, New York in December 2007 and January 2008.

The Thalia Zedek Band, as she's now calling the outfit, includes Winston Braman on bass (who also played with Clint Conley in consonant; I interviewed Conley for both consonant and Mission of Burma; Braman has long played with Hilken Mancini, who I also interviewed a few years back), Daniel Coughlin on drums and percussion, David Michael Curry on viola, trumpet, and vocals, Mel Lederman on piano, and Zedek on guitar and vocals.

Zedek has been inspired by a variety of artists, including Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen, and Lou Reed, but over the years she has created her own distinct sound and found a strong cult audience that appreciates her impassioned vocals and moody songwriting. I've always loved the intensity in Zedek's work, really pulling me in and forcing me to pay attention to the music she makes.

Watch some videos of Come online, including live performances of Hurricane and Submerge, and music videos for Submerge, Cimarron, Somehow We're Together and a fan-produced video of The German Song. You can also see a slideshow of a song from the out-of-print Nature of Drones EP on myspace and a studio performance of 1926.

Zedek is out on tour in mid to late June with shows in New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, and Chicago. West coast shows and some European dates are also in the works and you can visit to find out more.

I met with Zedek in May in Allston, Massachusetts to discuss:

* how the new, larger version of her band came to exist
* who else has influenced her over the years
* what some of those veiled political songs are really about

Special thanks to Anna for the mp3s of Dangerous Birds and Uzi that are included in the show. I own it all on vinyl, but I must buy me an Ion one of these days! Thanks, Anna!

Music featured in the interview include:

1) Body Memory (Liars and Prayers) (in preview)
2) Begin to Exhume (Liars and Prayers)
3) Wind (Liars and Prayers)
4) We Don't Go (Liars and Prayers)
5) Back to School (Been Here and Gone)
6) Lower Allston (Liars and Prayers)
7) Manha De Carnaval (Been Here and Gone)
8) Green and Blue (Liars and Prayers)
9) Do You Remember? (Liars and Prayers)
10) Next Exit (Liars and Prayers)
11) Come Undone (Liars and Prayers)
12) Brother (Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch Of Madness)
13) Smile on Your Face by Dangerous Birds (Alpha Romero/Smile on Your Face single)
14) Criminal Child by Uzi (Sleep Asylum EP)
15) You're a Big Girl Now (You're a Big Girl Now)
16) Was by Live Skull (Snuffer)
17) Submerge by Come (11:11)
18) Bone (Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch Of Madness)
19) Island Song (Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch Of Madness)
20) Ship (Trust Not Those In Whom Without Some Touch Of Madness)
21) Stars (Liars and Prayers)

Thalia recommends Arboretum, The Big Disappointments, Drug Rug, Major Stars, and Retribution Gospel Choir.

Charlie recommends the new album by American Music Club, The Golden Age.