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Interview with Switchblade Symphony - EJ's, Portland, OR - 12/16/97

Photos by Smudge Copyright © 1997

Jester: Are you happy that you have reached the end of the tour?

Tina: On one hand we have really been wanting to write. So we have that to look forward to when we get finished here. While all the traveling has been goof for us, including a trip to Japan, we still just want to get back home and write.

Susan: This tour has been eight weeks long and we are starting to hit the end of the touring cycle and the beginning of the recording cycle. The end of this tour is a little different than the last one because at the beginning of the 1996 summer tour we had already completed the new album, but we really didn't get a chance to release it until the end of that tour. That tour ended up being just a prelude to the release of "Bread & Jam for Frances".

Jester: Is this the first time you have headlined a tour?

Susan: No. We headlined the tour with Sunshine Blind in May. That ended up being a really good tour for us because it was our first headliner, it was in the summertime, and we had just released the "Scrapbook" CD. The weather was really great the whole trip, but this time the weather has been especially lousy because it is winter. We think this had a little effect on the size of the crowds, but they really haven't been too bad. Some of the crowds haven't danced as much as we would like but we still try to encourage it.

Tina: We really enjoy headlining, but for the next tour we really want to try and open up for a larger band. The last time I heard we had made the opening slot for the Sneaker Pimps tour which would be really good exposure for us.

Jester: Do you think that you got a lot of good exposure from opening the Sisters of Mercy show in Philadelphia last summer?

Tina: The press has been half good and half bad from that show. For example the Sneaker Pimps see us as a token Gothic act, and that hurts our chances of getting on that tour.

Susan: On the other hand we were able to play for 3500 people, which is more people than we have ever played for at one single event. It was so cool to go onstage and see the crowd go wild.

Jester: Do you think that the new musical direction that you have taken with the new album help you gain new fans?

Tina: We don't really look at it from the angle that it will help us, it just happiness to be something that we do. "Serpentine Gallery" was a collection of really old songs and really is not indicative of the style of music that we now write. Now, all we are doing is writing music that represents who we are while not trying to achieve anything but being faithful to who we are. If people like it, that is great. We hope that the people who enjoyed out first album, are open to our musical changes because we are always going to be experimenting with new styles and sounds.

Susan: Back when we recorded our first demo, it was done on a very low budget. For this album we had the finances to really make the music sound good. In the past I wrote all of the material in my room and we only had four days in the studio. The whole thing was really rushed, we didn't have the resources and we were a great deal younger at the time. Now we have grown, changed, evolved and improved and so our music has changed.

Tina: Touring really forces you to see other types of music, other people, and different ways to live your life that make you want to try to apply those experiences to your music. It definitely has kept us from having tunnel vision, and has allowed us to write music with which everyone can identify.

Jester: What brought about the drastic stylistic changes between your albums?

Susan: All of the music that appears on the new album was written immediately after the Christian Death tour over a year ago. Personally I don't think it is that different.

Tina: One of the key things that I noticed was that Susan got a sampler and she started to play around with drum loops and other sounds.

Susan: Honestly, it is hard for me to look at our music from the outside because I am so intimately familiar with it. There are definitely new elements on this album including trip-hop stuff and scratching. The music is definitely a little bit lighter and more raw. The vocals certainly don't have the same wash to them as on the first album. With the new material I want to write, I want to work more towards the sound that the original "Fable" demo was headed. I want to work more on the melodic side of things. We are also both really into the groove thing right now. So we want to write music that almost forces a person to dance to the song.

Jester: I definitely think that the new album does that very well.

Tina: We also want to strive more towards a sophisticated and sensual feel to is as well.

Jester: Have either of you had any type of vocal training? How has it helped you?

Tina: I have, although I haven't had vocal lessons in years. In school, I started out in theater, then choir and moved onto private lessons. My teacher ended up being a classical vocal trainer and she wanted me to go to Juliard and study Opera since I really enjoyed singing in that manner. In the end I left because you can only sing one way in Opera and I really enjoyed being able to sing in different character voices. In the end I learned just enough to use the vocal range that I have now, but I still continue to experiment with my voice.

Jester: Is 'Scrapbook' only a limited edition album that you will sell on tour?

Susan: Yes. It is a self released cd that we put out at the request of our fans. We only made 1500 copies. I don't even have a copy myself now. We have no intention to make any more of them because I don't think it would be fair to our audience. The whole point was that it was a special release for those fans who had been with us from the beginning and that it wasn't easy to obtain.

Tina: We also have a comic book out that we are selling on tour. Unfortunately at this late stage we are out of it. However, it will be available in stores very soon for anyone who didn't get a copy on tour.

Jester: How did you first get involved with writing music?

Susan: I started playing piano when I was five years old in my grandmother's basement. I have always wanted to be in theater and plays. In junior high I was in drama and choir s well as taking piano and flute lessons. I used to memorize music before I could read it. I can read music now, but not by sight, it takes some time for me to work out the notes. Music has always come naturally to me.

Jester: Did you both write the new album by yourself, or did the other members of the band help out?

Susan: All of the songs were written by me except 'Dirty Dog' and 'Fractal' which we co-written by all four of us. Usually I write all of the material in my room on the computer. Tina and I then go back and forth with tapes, working with her vocals and my music to finish a song. For those particular songs we felt that the boys' parts really helped make the song, so we gave them credit.

Jester: Are you disappointed with the incorrect track order on the new album?

Susan: Unfortunately 10,000 copies of the new album were printed incorrectly and we did not find out about it until they were shrinkwrapped and shipped. We are really upset about it and there is nothing we can do to fix those. In fact there are several other errors on the artwork as well, but they have all been fixed for future pressings of the album. We really apologize to our fans about the errors.

Jester: How much of a role did you play in the artwork on the new album?

Susan: I came up with the idea for the artwork. The title is taken from a book that I loved as a child since it really summed up the whole mood of the album. For the cover I wanted to appear like a person was looking inside of our heads. The clock on the cover represents all of the antique clocks that my father used to have when I was a child. The rats are a reference to a T.S. Eliot poem called "The Hollow Men". The jars of pennies are taken from the song 'Sweet'. The little girl's face is supposed be a window into our minds. The bird is Tina and the cat is me.

Jester: That is definitely a great deal of symbolism for a single album cover.

Susan: True, but it all came out like at once one evening in front of the television. Perhaps that is why there were so many mistakes because the artwork was all done at the last minute as a rushed affair. Johann, who did all of the graphics worked day and night just to get it done on time, so that might have also contributed.

Jester: Is there anything you would like to add in conclusion?

Susan: I would like everyone who will read this to not believe anything they hear about us unless it comes directly from us. We have been hearing all sorts wild rumors from people on-line and it is starting to really annoy us.

Tina: We really don't pay much attention to the on-line community because so much of it is like a tabloid. We do really enjoy the compliments and constructive criticism that we have heard but we dislike the lies.

We would also love for people who come to our shows to dance. Your dancing makes the show really special for us and it gives us a reason to get up in the morning. It may be a little selfish, but we want the crowd to take a little more responsibility for being a part of the show. We think that we really give ourselves to the crowd so we want them to try and give us energy back. Those fans are the reason why we are able to tour so we want them have fun.

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