“In his diaries, I loved the way Eno described Japanese painters who took all day to prepare, grind ink, and select brushes to be ready for one stroke. So that’s what I did for my first record…” as told to Tom Semioli, Amplifier Magazine (April 2007) upon the release of her solo album Scarred.
As the voice, songwriter, and primary bassist for Concrete Blonde, Vowel Movement, and Pretty & Twisted, Johnette Napolitano is that rare artist who, to my ears, melds pop melody with cinematic imagery in her libretto parallel to such iconic writers as Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Lou Reed, and Patti Smith, to cite a few.
Her mastery of song is evidenced in her bass playing which simple in execution yet flawless in composition akin to the “one stroke” Ms. Napolitano references.
By Tom Semioli / This interview feature appeared in Amplifier Magazine, April 2007
“In his diaries, I loved the way Eno described Japanese painters who took all day to prepare, grind ink, and select brushes to be ready for one stroke. So that’s what I did for my first record.”
Known to the rock ‘n’ roll masses as Concrete Blonde’s singer – songwriter – bassist, Johnette Napolitano’s moment has arrived. Though she has participated in highly acclaimed side-projects (Pretty & Twisted, Vowel Movement, The Heads) composed for films Wicker Park, Dead Science and Underworld, and dabbled in electronic music (Sketchbook and Sketchbook 2), Ms. Napolitano makes her long awaited solo debut with a decidedly kaleidoscopic collection entitled Scarred.
“Before Concrete Blonde, I was a ten year old kid playing guitar on my bed. Call it midlife or whatever, but I need to get back to her and really be that person again.”
Melding folk, techno, garage rock, and punk, Scarred also emerges as a showcase for the talents of Napolitano’s collaborators Will Crewdson and Sultan Ahmed of Catfish Star, whom she met in London fifteen years ago. Recalls Johnette “Will actually recognized me in a record store! I was so flattered. We stayed in touch on and off over the years. Then, about a year ago, he sent me tracks and I just fell in love with them. The songs just wrote themselves.
Napolitano composed “Save Me” during the horror that was Hurricane Katrina. “I couldn’t sleep for a week and just wrote to Will’s tracks. Later we went into a Hollywood studio and the first vocal I laid down as ‘Like a Wave.’ I knew in a minute that it was special, and so did everyone there.” Also on board for Johnette’s bow was ex-Concrete Blonde guitarist Jim Mankey, who served as engineer and guiding light. “Jim has a lot of respect for Will’s playing and sensibility for guitars…and, in turn, Will has tremendous respect for Jim as well, so the back-and-forth between them was amazing.”
Despite the fact that Scarred was recorded in different studios over an extended period of time, Mankey’s telekinetic knob-twiddling along with Napolitano’s penchant for working quickly made for a cohesive song-cycle. “After every mix, Jim would comment about a lyric or a vocal he liked and that made me feel confident. We even kept a few of the rough board mixes – I’m a firm believer of walking out of the studio with something you can live with the rest of your life…”
Among two pleasant surprises on Scarred are two unlikely covers: Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties.”
“Danny Lohner and I worked on the Underworld soundtrack. He received the call for us to cover “The Scientist” for Wicker Park. We weren’t that enthusiastic about it because we’re both writers and we would rather have composed something, but of course, we did it. I drove around in my truck listening to the song for a couple of days since I’m a bit of a method actor when it comes to delivering a vocal. I was damn depressed for days!”
“All Tomorrow’s Parties” was Will’s idea. I’d worked on a song for an Australian film, Candy, which had a Nico temp track ”Wedding Theme” which they couldn’t clear, so they called me in to replace it, which I did. I’m constantly online with Will and as soon as I told him about it he came up with the Velvet’s song. We did it on one take! Even my die-hard Nico friends love it!
Johnette Napolitano’s Scarred will be released May 29, 2007 on Hybrid Records.