Return to 'Guyville'

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Phair: He was my muse. He was the guy I was sort of singing at. Even though I didn't write all the songs about him, once I compiled it, he was my Mick Jagger character. He represented the person that I wanted to understand, couldn't understand, looked at a lot but couldn't quite bring myself to go for.

Kato: She was leaving little love notes that sort of hearkened back to junior-high days when girls would shove perfumed pieces of paper through the vent of your locker (laughs).

Phair: I don't think we ever actually went all the way (laughs). I think I was too scared. In fact I know I was (still laughing). But we had like a few entanglements, and I definitely was just gaga for him. I thought all the rest of the men in the area looked like boys in comparison.

Kato: Uh, let's just say she didn't attempt to conceal her enthusiasm.

Playing, songwriting

Wood: Her guitar playing is amazing. I'd like to just sit there and watch her play. She has a really interesting style, and she's a lot more technical than either she'll let on, because she does it in such an offhanded way, or than many other people give her credit for.

Phair: I make up my own chords if I can, and I think of the fret board as a visual thing, like if I've been down low and I need to do something different toward the headstock, I'll just be like, "What can I do up high?"

Wood: Her chord structure was great, and her sense of melody is just bananas. The way her vocal melodies will just leap, go an octave and a third and back down again, I'd just never heard anybody sing like that before.

Phair: (Songwriting) was where I put my rebelliousness or my sass or what I felt was oppressive or what I felt was hurtful that I couldn't say in real life. I guess it's like the way you'd use a diary in a way, but it was different. It was much more like I could be a persona in my music.

Breakthrough

Wood: "(Expletive) and Run" (from "Guyville") was the first time that she and I attempted to record just the two of us. She played the guitar once, one take. I said, "I think maybe I'll play drums on this. What do you think?" And she wasn't sure about that, so I set the drums up really fast in the lounge, and I used one mic and had her push "record," and I played the drum beat, and I walked in afterward, and she was all sweaty because she'd been dancing around. She's like, "I love it, I love it, I love it." And I said, "Oh, great, let me do it again."

I then went and played the drum beat again but also hearing the original drum track in my head, and I really liked the way the two of them sounded. I came back in. She's like, "It's even better!" I added sleigh bells, and the second time I played drums I sang background (vocals), like I just looked up at the ceiling where the microphone was and sang as loud as I could. Then she sang the vocal that night out in the vocal booth, and that song was done.

There's just one guitar. There's no bass. There's no background vocals other than my singing into the drum mic. And there's two tracks of drums. It's the weirdest damn thing ever. That was the breakthrough as far as I was concerned.

Keeping it quiet

Kato: It was shocking to me that she had all this music in her that she was keeping under wraps. Modesty is always a virtue, but it was a bit ridiculous. We being in bands, you'd think it might've come up, you know, "I've got some songs too," that sort of thing.

Phair: I'm not that kind of person. If you meet me and talk to me, you just wouldn't really know what I was up to. The only reason they knew about my art is because I was trying to get people to buy my drawings.

Cover

For her cover art, Phair had turned in a picture of a Barbie doll orgy. A concerned Matador called Kato, who had art-directed the Urge covers, for help. The result was the striking photo of Phair in midroar, a fake fur coat draping her head and necklaces hanging over her bare top with just a hint of nipple showing.

 

Kato: One night at the Rainbo, I said, "OK, your new label, they called me and they hate the artwork. … We don't have much time. I'm thinking you're a girl, and sex seems to sell. Can you give it up a little?" Rainbo Room had a very famous photo booth, so I shoved her in there and gave her a stack of quarters.

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