Helen Money of Verbow Interview!

5 Jun

Helen+Money+CD+Release+Show+AoH20091130posterThe Price of Perfection: An interview with Helen Money of Verbow!

In a time when Polly Panic and Rasputina are also offering up cello-based concept rock of sorts, why do you think that making an instrumental record will carve out a different experience for listeners? Do you think of it as essentially a kind of pop experience, distilled, in which  the lyrics, or a kind of lyricism, are sublimated or understood within the music itself?

As to your first question, I guess I made an instrumental cello record  cause that’s what I play, and that’s how I express myself.  Up to this point, I haven’t been thinking about creating an experience for a particular audience when I write.  I definitely have music that I like and that speaks to me, and I’m sure that’s the language I use.  I’m mostly thinking about what I want to express, hoping I can share it and that it translates.

Last night I played a show with a couple metal bands, and it was the best experience I’ve had yet playing live as a solo artist.  I wasn’t sure they would like what I did at all, but they did – they really got it. The whole experience was so unpretentious and real; it felt like they gave me the freedom to just do my thing.  But if I had set out to write something with them in mind, I don’t know if it would have been the same.

Neil Young’s “Birds,” a song about broken lovers from After the Gold Rush, was an interesting choice. What led to this? 

I’m a big Neil Young fan, and that song in particular really captures a feeling for me.   I wanted to see if I could translate it to my cello.  It was a challenge for myself.  But mainly, I think, when I wrote that version there were a lot of changes going on in my life — my band Verbow had ended, my cello had been smashed to pieces during a short plane trip, a major relationship was coming to an end — so I really identified with that song.  I always think of the lyrics when I play it.

From what I understand, the studio experience was essentially audio-verite, meaning the engineer attempted to catch a live sound, and also the feeling of the room itself, I suppose not unlike records from three decades ago. Is it important that the record not sound too processed or overly doctored? 

Yes.  Actually, the first time I set out to record it with Dave we did it the way I was used to when Verbow would record, over-dubbing stuff, etc.  But it became clear pretty quickly that we were losing the feel.

So he approached me later and said, “Do you still want to record an album?  I think we should just do it as live as possible.”  He had been reading a book about recording in the sixties, where these bands would go in and make a record in three days, like Creem.  So, that’s pretty much what we did. I really like the sound of a recording that has some life to it – like those old classical recordings where you really hear the personality of the player – mistakes and all.

To read the rest of the interview, visit Left of the Dial here.

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