Perfect Sound Forever

KATE MCGARRIGLE

Interview by Georgia Christgau, Part II


G: What about working with someone like John Cale?

K: He has a tendency to throw out ideas, and some of them are great, and he's constantly thinking, and some of them are very good, but he probably has to filter through a whole lot of ideas that he tries and doesn't work. We'll have to see. He has that freedom of mind, some of his stuff we'll use and some we'll change, I wish I could come up with that kind of original idea. Normally my ideas are very safe and so are Anna's. Especially instrumentation, not so much vocals.

G: This is really a change of pace, but I want to ask you anyway. You were in the States in the early '70's. Did you feel like the women's movement there affected you? Were you involved in it or do you feel like, on reflection, it didn't affect you. Or you could answer it like, is the women's movement here, is it different from the States?

K: It's the same here as it is there. I've never really been that aware of the women's movement actually or felt a necessity for it. I think that's because I've always been in a situation in the people that I knew very well, that I've never had any trouble getting what I needed or getting done what I wanted to do.

G: Plus they've supported you.

K: Financially?

G: Like there was never any question of, well, Kate can't do this 'cause . . .

K: No, there was never, which is interesting, because like those guys that you met last night, I've been hanging around with them for 15 years (ED NOTE: musicians, some of whom were probably not even on either recording, the community of folkies whom the McGarrigles surrounded themselves with). When I started singing in this group, one guy was 29, the other guy was 24, I was 15, Anna was 16, the four of us in the group, but they kind of had the attitude, if you could play the guitar, you could play the guitar. They didn't have to play it. If you played well enough to play on stage, then you did play. And because they couldn't do the girls' parts singing, they found their own parts and let us find our own parts. So we were always able to work it that way.

G: How about sexually, like on the road for example- are you in a position where people want you to pick them up?

K: No, I think that's probably the only different thing between men and women who travel. I don't know, maybe I'm kind of old-fashioned, I mean like the whole trip in Europe, Anna and I, we didn't, but then again, none of the guys in our group did. We were traveling with four guys, there were no relations between us and the four guys; we were good friends and that, but it probably would have complicated things if there were, and that's probably another way why we choose the people that we do. We're comfortable with them, there's not gonna be any kind of sexual hassles with them, but we just never got into scenes of picking people up. But I think that's also because we travel in a group, companionship, friendship, and it wasn't that long. But I'm sure that for guys like if a guy's out on the road by himself, what else is he going to do, sit around and pout by himself after a show? I mean.

G: Well what else does a woman do. I mean, isn't it the same problem?

K: Yeah, but I don't know any women . . . I would imagine so but I do think . . .

G: I mean even if you're not on the road, you know.

K: Oh right, sure, definitely. I mean, I'm totally guilty of, but, I think that's one reason I never would have been able to work by myself. Like I mean, I would hate to have been single and go out, if I travel... If I were a single and played the guitar and just played the guitar and went around from town to town by myself, I'd probably be picking people up all the time (laughter). But I guess because I'm not predisposed that way that I wouldn't go out and do that, and there's something about somebody who wants to go out and sing by themselves and travel from town to town who like that gregariousness to go out and meet people, fuck them or do whatever they want, whereas I'm not . . .

G: Well, there's a sense I think with your case with family love, like it doesn't replace sexual love but it does something like sexual love does, like you don't have the same (groan)--like you're not really alone, for one thing.

K: No.

G: And you're closer than friends.

K: Right.

G: I mean, I'm not really sure of the dynamics. Even in that song that Anna wrote ["Kitty Come Home"] I sense, well, come home, leave the marriage, you know the marriage is over, the family will give you a love that you were disappointed in marriage with, equating the two maybe.

K: Right. Well, yeah, it's that, she definitely has that in the song too, but I think what she means by the song is that the love and concern is not just here and my mother's. I think in a way, whether it's true or not, it's just the people we've always hung around with, we've always been very close with, much closer than anybody else, anybody in the States that I've ever met, just because, I mean, from the age of 15 to 30, you hang out with them, you just...

G: Right.

K: You become like brothers and sisters. And uncles and aunts and parents, you know, whatever.

G: But it's not the same thing as having a sexual relationship.

K: No, but the thing is, all of us have in that group. It's an incredibly incestuous group. I mean, uh, let me think, of all those people in that room on Monday night, at one point we were always fucking each other (laughter). Granted, Anna and I are the only girls, and I'm not thinking about my mother (laughter), it's the kind of stuff like at some point like we've known each other for four or five years and suddenly it would occur to us to do a number for a year or something, to get, then not do it anymore, then take up four years afterward and do it twice, it's always been kind of fairly open. Except not for Dane (Lanken, Anna's husband)... I'm just thinking, in terms of Dane, I've never slept with him, the only person in that room I hadn't (laughter) over a period of 15 years.

G: So there's an ongoing sexual history.

K: Yeah, exactly, it's just not straight.

G: That makes it all make a little more sense.

K: Oh yeah, sure, I'm certainly not interested in any of . . . well, that's not true (laughter), I don't know how to explain that. I think it also had to with the fact that none of them have very stable relationships with people of the opposite sex. I mean none of them are married or have been, I think one guy was but they're separated now. So there is . . . it's easier to flow in and out of each other's lives, there's not so many jealous wives around and jealous husbands. So it's easier.

G: Well, you were married.

K: Yeah. I think in a lot of ways Loudon was jealous, not because any of them were preying on me or I was preying on any of them, but because of the actual kind of friendship that I had with them.

G: I wonder if they were jealous of him.

K: I... don't know. They liked him. I mean, like Chaim (Tannenbaum) was very fond of Wainwright, Peter (Weldon), all those guys, Andy (Cowan, guitarist), I mean they all really like him. I don't think he believes it. I think Loudon freaks out when he thinks somebody likes him, he just... They're not impressed by him necessarily, but they just really like him. Sometimes I wish that like, you know, he would just come up here and spend some time, not a weekend, I mean even when I spent time here, he'd never spend more than a week here with me just 'cause he'd freak out at all the kind of closeness, openness that there was between the people, frankness, not this kind of "I am telling you the truth" kind of thing, but just a kind of lack of reserve, and yet a kind of politeness.

G: Yeah, that's a good way to describe it, I noticed it too.

K: And I don't think, uh, he was used to that. Or maybe he felt bad that he just didn't think he was part of it.

G: Yeah, it's an incredibly tight scene.

K: And it criss-crosses. It's amazing how it criss-crosses. Over the years. Very little new blood. Really need some new blood. Why don't you move up? (Laughter)

G: Yeah, I have a crush on Andy.

K: You take Andy, I'll take Randy. (Laughter)

G: Get me on your tour.

K: Andy's very nice actually.

G: It was really nice to talk to him.

K: He kind of hangs around with one woman now, I don't think it's serious, she's American. She's like a groupie.

G: A groupie?

K: It's a terrible thing for me to say. She looks like, I mean she...

G: Well, he looks like, kind of strange himself. (Pause.) Well, I think I'm about done, unless you want me to ask you something.

K: What are you going to say about, I mean, don't, I seriously mean this, don't print anything bad about Wainwright, if I did I take it back.

G: I'm interested in knowing about your life with him, the things you've said I'm glad that you've said them, I don't think of any of them as bad.

K: You know, I mean.

G: I mean I'm sure we could sit around and figure out why he was . . . bad (laughter), but I don't feel like that's what we did.

K: But he wasn't bad, yeah, yeah.

G: It's like, that's for another time between us, if there is another time, which I'd like.

K: Yeah. I mean, the song that Anna wrote has to do with a specific week or something, as she said, "I feel terrible putting this on the record, because I don't feel this way about Wainwright at all." But it's a good song.

G: You're going to do it anyway, though.

K: Yeah. It's why I finally got over "Say That You Love Me." It's a good song. It's a great song. I'm certainly not going into him and say, 'I'm going to kill myself if you put that on a record.'

G: Well, that song had a certain honesty to it, though. He was saying that you were telling him and that meant you were calling his bluff, so it was like, there was something there, it wasn't just like point at you and saying nyah-nyah. It was saying that maybe he was a phony but that he couldn't deal with saying that he loves you either.

K: Right. Yeah, I guess.

G: I don't know if Anna's song stands up to the same kind of analysis, I haven't thought about it. It's not the same kind of song.

K: No, it's really much more blatant. I mean, Loudon was very unemotional in his writing, unemotional in the sense of love.

G: Except there.

K: Yeah, except like there to hint at situations.

G: Or in stories.

K: Right.

G: See all my notes...

K: Well, it's nice to have a short Armenian over a tall WASP.

G: What? What did you just say to me? That it's nice to have a short Armenian over a tall WASP? What does that have to do with my notes?

K: (Laughter) I was just thinking, they've all been tall, blond Waspy men.

G: Well maybe that's because you're Waspy.

K: I'm not Waspy. I'm half Irish, half French.

G: That was the other thing I wanted to ask you. Is your mother still religious? Are you? Is your religion still part of your life? Reflected in your music?

K: It's very much a part of it.

G: Do you believe in God?

K: Do I believe in God? I probably do.

G: Do you believe in Jesus?

K: Not very strongly, no.

G: (Laughing) That's not strong enough. From what I learned.

K: Oh no, I really believe in religious upbringings. I think that they are very good. Really gives you something to bounce off of. I really feel sorry for a kid who's brought up without it, to have to start fabricating.

G: What about "bouncing off" all the sex teachings? I mean, I think I agree with you: it was good to have a social thing, like go to church and sing, that I miss. But I don't miss--

K: You miss that? I don't.

G: But I don't miss, you know, don't touch your body, don't ask a guy to do anything, don't let him--that I don't want my kids to ever hear.

K: No, I guess... most things you figure out for yourself.

G: Well, at great cost though.

K: You think so?

G: I know I'm still unlearning things. Masturbating?

K: But maybe you would have been that way even if you hadn't had a religious teaching. Because I'm sure many people masturbate and they're told all the time not to. I think that depends on the personality.

G: Or feeling like sex was only related to love.

K: Well I believe in that, I really do.

G: Yeah, but you've experienced something else probably.

K: Oh I may fabricate love in my head, for the experience.

G: But when you have good sex and you're not in love, then what do you do?

K: I don't think I've ever had that, really.

G: Really?

K: First of all, you seldom experience good sex on one-night stands. (Long pause) So what's the point of screwing somebody if you're not at least slightly enamored of them?

G: Yeah.

K: Or attracted to them. It may not be love everlasting, but at least it has to be some kind of crush. I mean I equate attraction with love... We're talking about sex, Joe. JOE (BOYD): Oh God. Please. Not at one of my sessions, I hope. Anna's done the accordion. (Joe leaves)

K: (after he leaves) Uh, I was looking at Joe (laughter from me), I'm trying to think of what…

G: Yes?

K: My sexual experience with Joe, maybe twice, but there's always been like a fondness between us whether or not we sleep together, and I'd sleep with him a third time, I certainly wouldn't kick him out of bed. I'm not in love with him.

G: Well there you are.

K: Yeah, I guess when you say that, that you can enjoy sex without having love, I call it love. I wouldn't say that I have to be a little bit in love with Joe Boyd in order to fuck him. As opposed to being totally indifferent to him. Where I wouldn't particularly enjoy fucking Steven. I mean I don't, I mean, even if he were a great lay I don't think I could get into it. It guess it's just different definitions.

G: Yeah but I mean I think that came off talking about religious teaching, and I was taught that you don't fuck Joe Boyd. I was taught…

K: Oh, I was taught that too.

G: Right? And all the things that I'm dealing with, being single and having intimate friendships with guys whether or not that means you fuck them. I mean I didn't learn anything in church about that stuff.

K: Yeah, but the thing is, you learn it on your own.

G: Yeah, you do. It's hard to say, I mean, I like who I am and I like knowing how I got to be this way, what I rejected.

K: Right.

G: And I know that a lot of it came from seeing what was presented and saying no. This is what I think. Or, yes but I will interpret it this way. Like yes I do think that having intercourse is wrong (a long time ago) but no I don't think that you can pet til you come, which was the thing to do.

K: Right, right.

G: So I would stop petting and then I would be very weird but I still felt like I had made a choice for myself. 'Course that didn't last long but...

K: Right, first of all you're at a terrific disadvantage that I'm not: you have three brothers. Two brothers, I'm sorry. And you're the youngest. I'm the youngest. I think a lot of ways I think it's easier if you're all sisters, probably. Most girls I know with brothers, it's a whole different thing that you're brought up with. A lot of parents set double standards for their kids, one for girls and one for boys, so you never really know what you're dealing with.

G: That's true. I know a lot of my fighting was just to get what they got. Where if they were girls I probably would have followed the oldest one's lead. Basically. But that made me more independent in a way. I think maybe if I had sisters I wouldn't have gotten as far as I got.

K: Yeah, that could be.

G: But there is a sense where you know I, a lot of what I was doing was saying, 'treat me like a boy,' which didn't do great things for me. Or it made me have to figure out why I was being treated differently and how important that was to me.

K: Were you really treated differently, like as a kid?

G: Oh well, like my whole programming was they knew when I was a teenager when I was 19 I was gonna be a lot more trouble than my brother was at 19, if my brother fucked someone, well did she get pregnant, but if I fucked someone, it was like, no wedding, no white dress, and everything that they instilled into me was so that I wouldn't do any of it, you know.

K: Aah, you know something I've been thinking about, the standards, people set today are so fucked up, and they are incredibly fucked up but I don't know, sometimes I think it's really, maybe that's what you should do, is wait 'til you get married 'til you screw, and only screw your husband, and uh, I can understand where those principles come from- they come from a time when it was the only way that the man could insure that the kids were his. He had to marry a virtuous wife because if he married a woman who fucked around all over the place, he couldn't be sure of his lineage. You can undersand a whole bunch of things like that. But obviously no one is going to do that. I mean I don't know a 16-year-old who is a virgin. They're kind of fighting with the clap at that age. And I think that's fairly common. Whereas ten years ago, it wasn't. Ten years ago, it was OK if you were 19, 18, and in college or something, it was kind of, you may have gone out for a diaphragm or the pill or something.

G: Do you use the pill?

K: No, I use the coil. Yeah, mostly men are unhappy. I used the diaphragm, got pregnant three times on it. I'm the kind of person who wouldn't use it, I can't think 'well, tonight, I'm going to go out with so and so what time should I put it in, when I'm in the restaurant while we're having dinner, or wait till we get home and uh, necking on the bed, when he's taking my clothese off, at what point, do I turn my back or put it in in front of him. Will I shock him? It doesn't shock me.' I could never kind of deal with that. The pill, I never really agreed with that, just because Anna used to be on the pill for a long time, she'd get cranky and her tits would swell up, complain about holding too much weight. So I got a coil. The first one had to be taken out, it was really bothering me. This one I've had in a few months, it seems to be okay.

G: What's your message to the world?

K: None. Live and let die, I don't know. (Laughter)

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