She doesn’t mean to do it; hell, she probably isn’t aware she’s even doing it, but singer/songwriter Kristin Hersh is one of the funniest musicians I’ve ever come across in my many years as a music writer.
Hersh, who, along with her stepsister Tanya Donelly, made a name for herself in the seminal indie rock band Throwing Muses, then went solo, then formed the punk band 50 Foot Wave, did some more solo albums, brought back Throwing Muses after a 10-year hiatus. She’s also penned a pair of books, the latest being a memoir about dear friend Vic Chesnutt called “Don’t Suck, Don’t Die” and helped launch Cash Music.
Most importantly, Hersh is the mother of four boys, some of the most intelligent and funniest kids you will ever meet. Maybe that’s where she cultivates her humor, maybe they learn it from her, or most likely, the humor they share is a bond no one can break.
Yeah, Kristin Hersh has inspired me, along with many others. Her music has put a lump in my throat, made me rock out, and her words hang in the thin air above me like an umbrella on a rainy day. But her stories, whether they be in interviews or between songs on a live record, are priceless. Her wit is as sharp as a razor; her modesty is as beautiful as the songs she creates.
In 2013 Throwing Muses made their return with the masterpiece album ‘Purgatory/Paradise,’ and if you are a dedicated fan who ordered the album, you also got a few perks, namely an instrumental version of the record and a commentary version with Kristin and drummer Dave Narcizo talking about the album, which they kind of do, but for the most part it’s two longtime friends sitting back, sipping beers and just chatting.
Kristin Hersh has language as distinctive as her song structures, and I have gathered some of the more memorable ones on the commentary disc of ‘Purgatory/Paradise’ and share them with you on Kristin Hersh’s birthday.
“I don’t actually remember making this record, is that a problem?”
In Kristin and Dave’s fourth grade class, there were four other Daves, so Narcizo was labeled Dave #3. However, Kristin doesn’t think Dave (Steve or John) is a name, and he would be better suited as Blank Narcizo.
Dave #3 has “porch drinking buddies,” and three of them are named Dave.
“The dynamic master sounds like something you should worship.”
“Two beers is the right amount for a party no one else comes to.”
“Sleepwalking 2” is Kristin’s favorite “thing,” because it’s so “pathetic.”
Dave #3 gives himself five opportunities to say how great his drumming was.
“I don’t use the word talent. I am going to have to put it another way, what’s the word…it sounds fizzy.”
“We should mention we had a bass player, his name is Bernard, and he has one thumb now, but it is okay, they grow back, right?”
“Kristin cut the top of her left thumb off, put it back on, wrapped tape and a big bandage around it, drew a smiley face on the bandage and went on tour. When I got back she had a thumb again.”
“I sang way too much on this record. I hate singing, there’s singing all over it. If you listen closely, there’s lot of singing, and I can’t do that.”
There aren’t drums on some songs because Dave #3 “failed.”
You shouldn’t leave Kristin alone in the studio for four years.
“I am the worst piano player, and I won’t stop playing; luckily, I like funky piano.”
“Only we can make Marimbas sound creepy.”
“I do have an excellent brownie recipe that I might say…kicks ass, if I ever said “kick ass,” which I don’t. But my kids actually ate them, and they don’t make you die like most brownies…they turn out brown, and you can cut them into squares, so children eat them and they don’t die….Mother of the year.”
“This is the work we can die after releasing. We worked so hard we are looking so forward to death.”
“I like how swimmy this one is; it’s swimmy in whole bunch of ways.”
“We are listener supported. There is no music business, certainly not in my psychology any longer. It’s a nice free-for-all where you can make things perfect, instead a free-for-all where it’s just confetti flying around.”
On living and recording in Rhode Island: “I like that we live on an island. It’s the place where all this happens; it’s like a circus that doesn’t necessarily travel.”
“We used to have a bad robot on stage, that drooling thing. That Moog that just…it wasn’t even good white noise, it was lousy white noise, that’s why we liked it.”
Describing a slipper shell: “It’s something with a giant penis I think. That’s not science, it’s just something I heard.”
“I even know where the Vibraslap is. I just can’t say “Vibraslap” and “giant penis” in the same 10-minute span.”
“Play this live???? Are you high?”
“Trader Joe’s won’t come to our island because they are a bunch of snobs. I need cheap Cheerios, that’s all I know.”
I called ‘Purgatory/Paradise’ ‘Precious/Pretentious,’ because I am so old…I don’t care about how much I don’t care anymore.”
“It was a cold winter in New Orleans of all things. I was trying to burn things, but things don’t burn…in the fireplace.”
“That vocal is too bumpy, bumpy like a bumpy pomegranate. It’s too textural. It sounds like someone who can’t sing, which is, oddly what it is.”
“This is me playing bass, you can tell because it’s girly.”
“[“Sleepwalking 1”] is the RC Cola of the record.”
“Thanks for listening. I am surprised we made it this far.”
Happy Birthday Kristin Hersh. You are one of a kind and we love you.