Lisa Germano (wow, more than a singer-songwriter, she plays a variety of instruments as you well may know) is releasing a new album titled No Elephants in February of next year, and having heard it, I am blown away by her music yet again. Taking the path to a very self-made musical place has really taken her seemingly so far apart from the days when she was mostly playing sideman to John Mellencamp and appearing with artists like Billy Joel, Simple Minds, etc. Her efforts as a musician showed a person of prowess, but her music revealed much more complex pictures and a vulnerability that couldn’t always be fully expressed by a full rock band.
She had a few minutes to speak with me about some of this.
CM: I had a chance to hear the new CD No Elephants–For me, It is very hard to describe your music, even ever since your first album! I really enjoy it, and this new one is already a classic (My favorite tracks so far are “A Feast” and “Strange Bird”). It’s interesting for its brevity at 35 mins. and it leaves one wanting more. The thing that catches me a good deal of the time is your use of non-musical things and making them musical, and here the most obvious thing is the cell-phone interference static noise on a few of the songs. Can you talk about this and where you came up with this idea?
Lisa: On my new record No Elphants, I wanted to convey my confusion and frustration relating to people on cell phones, our abuse of communication and how this affects our relationship to the earth and its beings. So many people on their cells or computers. Not communicating is sad to me, so Jamie Candiloro and I found all sorts of sounds relating to this and added them into many parts of the record sometimes to me funny in a tragic sort of way. The communication with the animal sounds, cell and computer sounds dancing together is the point here..
Jamie is awesome–always finds what I’m hearing.
Apathy and The Devil (taken from her forthcoming album No Elephants)
CM: I’ve always enjoyed what you did as solely a violinist/fiddler. Just from seeing the videos (Billy Joel at Yankee Stadium, MTV Unplugged with John Mellencamp, etc), I knew that you had something unique, that you weren’t just a fiddler-for-hire. And then I read a little tiny review of your 1st album in a magazine, and I was like “That’s the lady that plays the fiddle with John Mellencamp”, and the reviewer liked it and described it in such a beautiful way. I love the album, it is still a huge favorite of mine! I also loved that you played a variety of instruments and played on virtually all of it!
Can you talk about this period going into and during the making of the first album–Was there a transitional thing taking place? Were you just getting inspired during this period?
Lisa: I was very afraid to make a record on my own after my experience with Mellencamp. People knew me as this one thing and I knew there was more…even working with John..I wrote hook lines and gave much input and they (his band) put tape over my mouth to make a joke …it WAS funny…..anyway when I decided to make my own record i had to go to another place…”the moon palace”, which is a fairy tale about women seeing themselves for themselves..NOT the men or children they created…but them…it gave me strength to move forward…so it was very exciting for me to make this record On The Way Down From The Moon Palace and move forward.
Riding My Bike (First Music Video)
CM: Geek The Girl is the album that is credited as a critical breakthrough for you. It’s known for the track “a psychopath”. It’s very difficult to listen to, mostly for its subject. Can you talk about the making of this track and why you decided to use the real recording of the call?
Lisa: On Geek the Girl I was originally thinking to make a rock record of pop songs about silly places girls go to find about sex..
I listened to my heart and the lyrics and record went a different way.. it became a horror story about the silly places we all go to find
our sexual identity…the song “a psychopath” was a real experience with a fucked-up person who thought I was his girlfriend..
when he finally called me at my home…and I knew he knew where I lived..I freaked out and wrote this song…no police or anyone would
help me unless he was actually caught here at my home…so when I heard the tape of this woman calling for help I felt I should put it there to make the point…she didn’t get help and ended up raped…so it was for this reason I put it on the record.
A Psychopath (From Geek The Girl)
CM: There was a period where things were not going well, and you decided to leave the music business, but you kept writing songs and working/playing with several people. Were you convinced that you would never walk away entirely from music and that you would come back to it on a professional basis
Lisa: I don’t find any financial way to stay in this music business….so I always feel after I put a record out that I’m done…
then when I feel there are things I need to say…I write about it…another record…another let down..that few people hear it
but it’s all for people i want to share these things with…I would never put out a record that was just about me… I edit and find where
I feel many other people may feel the same way…then I put these songs out to them.
CM: Is there a big difference for you between collaborating with artists the way you do now vs playing for Mellencamp and everyone else during the earlier years?
Lisa: Collaborating with other artists has been a huge lesson for me…Contributing to Mellenmcamp’s music taught me a lot about politics…when can you say what you feel…when should you wait for the right time…
At the end of the day it’s all about spirit..Johnny Marr taught me this.
The Sound Of Fear (w/Eels on Later with Jools Holland; 2000)