These three incidents are somewhat unconnected, I admit. Still - lightheaded as I am they all reminded me (onomatopoetically) of a brilliant musician from Cleveland, Ohio, who has been haunting my daydreams for quite a while now. Baby Dee honored us greatly by answering a few of our questions. I would like to express my gratitude towards Baby Dee and also thank Uwe Schneider for doing all the dirty/journalistic work.
And don’t you think that we will excuse your absence on March 25th (Berghain). It would be plain stupid to miss out on Baby Dee’s Berlin concert and we do not tolerate this sort of self-destructive behavior.
Last but not least I would like to apologize for this introduction, but what else can I say? Just read…
I never thought of the first release as the definitive version of those songs. At that time I just knew I didn't have the wherewithal to do them justice so I purposely made the record that went with the book (they were released as a book not a CD) in a kind of slapdash way so when I recorded them I went to a studio and played through the songs once and sent it off without even listening to it.
I thought back then that a song was worth more if somebody else did it. To me that gives a song more of a life of its own -- completely independent and apart from the writer. That was what I was after. It just seemed to me at the time that was a way to leave room for somebody else to take it and make it their own.
I didn't quite get that but I got the next best thing. Maxim Moston offered to arrange them and produce the record. It's still me singing and playing harp and piano though. What can I say? It's not a perfect world.
In most of your songs, there is a strong element of storytelling. This becomes even clearer with this album because of its main character Anne Marie. Imagine a novelist or filmmaker would like to do an interpretation/adaptation of it, how would your work appropriately be translated into film or literature?
It would have to be hugely tragic, wouldn't it? Like one big death scene and the actors would have to look good naked.
Most of your songs are based on harp and piano. Apart from the fact that there is a harp in every piano - what do you think are the most important differences between using the piano or the harp to shape the character of a song? And why is it that you love these two instruments so very much?
A harp is like a piano without its clothes on while it's still young and pretty. I always loved the harp but didn't get to play one as a child so the piano is my mother tongue. All these songs were written at the piano and then completely rewritten to play on the harp. The harp was what I used to carry them out into the world.
I can do a piano tour now and have mostly good pianos to play but back then I had to use the harp. No one knew who I was then and getting a piano can be kind of a big deal. Music, the instruments and the writing is generally a lot more of a practical thing than most of us start out thinking. Probably if good pianos and concert harps weren't so damn big and expensive a lot more people would be playing them and doing tours with them. As it is they're among the most impractical things on earth for a tour to depend on.
I have a tiny concert harp that I keep in England. If times got tough for me and piano shows became unrealistic again I could always go back to schlepping it around on trains.
The "Book of Songs" lacks all the cabaret or even rock elements of your previous album "Safe Inside The Day". In a certain way, it may introduce the newer fans to your more classical style, may this be called "torch song", "balladry" or whatever. Would you regard "Safe Inside The Day" as a singular thing and the "ballads" as your main focus?
I don't know what to call my stuff. I call them dirges but that's a joke. I don't like to call them ballads. The only song I ever wrote that I would think of as a ballad is The Earlie King because it has that feel of the telling of a story with a beginning and an end and something dreadful happens... To me that's what a ballad is. I know in pop music the word ballad has become synonymous with slow or moody or unhappy or something like that. Maybe I'm too attached to that old meaning of the word to embrace it.
But hell. This is my interview and I don't like the word ballad. My songs are not ballads.
Lieder? I'm picturing Schubert having a rant about his work being lumped into a category called Lieder.
Art Song? Too precious but probably the best description. Too bad it's not a form of music that people make.
I don't know. I'm at a loss here. Sorry!
Baby Dee at home in Cleveland:
Clip zu "Dance of Diminishing Posibilities":
Live at the Bistrotheque London 2008: