The Popdose Interview: Susanna Hoffs

Last Tuesday, to celebrate the release of Under the Covers, Vol. 2, the latest collaboration between Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, we offered up the Popdose Interview with Mr. Sweet, wherein he responded to the questions of you, the Popdose readership. We also promised you that, come the following Tuesday, you’d get the chance to find out what his partner in crime had to say to your queries.

Well, my friends, the time has come.

Say hello to the doe-eyed mistress of the Rickenbacker, Ms. Susanna Hoffs:

Popdose: Well, I talked to Matthew the other day, and I don’t know if he told you or if you heard from the folks at Shout! Factory, but these will be exclusively reader questions.

Susanna Hoffs: Oh, that’s always fun!

Well, let’s get rolling, then! I’ll go ahead and start with the Sid ‘n’ Susie questions, and after that, we’ll head into the questions about your solo stuff and the Bangles.

Great!

* Was there a nugget that you both loved and wanted to record for the new album but didn’t because the song was just too obscure?

Let me think about that. (Hesitates) No, because I would have to say that we recorded things that we were just sort of intrigued with or loved in a certain way. Like, we recorded “Marquee Moon”! (Laughs) There are some bonus tracks that you’ll start to see materializing, but I’m not sure how they’re planning to release them. But we just sort of went with our hearts. We didn’t really question whether something was known or unknown.

I’ve heard “Marquee Moon,” thanks to Shout! Factory. Matthew had talked about it and really played it up, but it lives up to his claims.

Okay, great! So did Matthew answer the same questions, or are they all different questions?

Well, the ones that were addressed to both of you, I asked him and I’ll ask you as well, but you each have your own individual questions about your respective careers, too.

Oh, okay!

* Has there been a song that you really wanted to cover but that you couldn’t make work and therefore had to abandon?

Well, we recorded, like, close to 40 songs, and we recorded more than ended up on the first record as well. Sometimes we would take on something that was difficult, and we would surprise ourselves and go, “Wow, that worked!” Like, say, “I’ve Seen Good All People / Your Move,” by Yes. (Laughs) It’s a pretty difficult song to take on! And there were others that were good but, at the end of the day, it was just so difficult picking which songs should go on the record. It was kind of, in some ways, more about trying to find some kind of continuity, even though there isn’t any specific thread or theme to the songs. Somehow they just kind of went together. We recorded “More Than A Feeling,” which is a pretty daunting song to take on, and we recorded “Venus and Mars.” We recorded some pretty epic songs! (Laughs) But it was just a question of…I don’t know, it was just tough picking the songs. We were both dreading that moment. And at first, we thought we could put 20 songs on, but then we were told that that wasn’t going to work. We wanted to make a double record, but we ended up with 16 tracks. But it was fun. Everything we recorded, we enjoyed the process. It’s really been fun doing these cover records.

For this one, Matthew couldn’t recall with complete certainty, but…

* Did you consider any Roxy Music songs for the disc?

I’m not remembering any Roxy Music songs for this, but I loved Roxy Music! (Laughs) I listened to them a lot back in the day. What that makes me think of is that we were so stunned, Matthew and I, that it was such a vast and diverse era, and there was so much material to try to pick from. We thought we would feel that way about the ’60s collection, and we did; we could’ve gone on and on, and we recorded more than ended up on the record. But the ’70s…we were sort of blown away by the fact that there were so many different kinds of music that we delved into, including that moment when we realized that we should do a song by Yes. (Laughs) The whole prog-rock thing was a whole untapped area for us, and so was the late ’70s, with all the punk stuff. A lot of the bonus tracks are stuff by the Ramones, Blondie, and stuff that was more from that later ’70s era.

I know Matthew has some prog-rock leanings from the ’70s, but were you a Yes fan yourself?

I was a big Yes fan. Yes, I was! (Laughs) You know how it is in families, and I think I kind of got into Yes because of my brother. He’s only a year older – I have a younger brother as well – but he sort of got into Yes before me, and I found their stuff very super-melodic in a way that I responded to. I always respond to melody in music, and they had some very beautiful melodies. I have such a fondness and a love for Jon Anderson’s voice, and those records were just so ambitious and musical. So, yes, I was a big fan of that band!

* Has there been any talk of another Pillowcase EP?

Wow, I don’t know. I imagine so, but I don’t know. That would be a great thing to do. I mean, I know that we want some of the songs that we couldn’t fit on the record to see the light of day, so I know that there are a collection of bonus tracks, but I don’t know how things are going to work in terms of how they’ll be released. That’s something to hope for, I guess!

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On a related note…

* Are you ever going to round up all of the various B-sides, rarities, and soundtrack inclusions onto one set for the fans?

I don’t know, actually. I don’t know what’s in the works for all of that, but it’s something…I would love to do that. I would love to make sure that we find a way to put them out together.

* What’s the criterion for choosing a song to cover? Do you have to both like it, or both at least hear something in it?

Well, love of the song. (Laughs) But for both Matthew and me…I’m a few years older than Matthew, but we had our experience of growing up in the ’60s…I think Matthew was born in ’64, but I was born in ’59, so I enjoyed the entire decade… (Laughs) …but the ’70s were the real coming-of-age years for us, and I think the songs that had a certain profound connection to us emotionally and that were a particular sort of soundtrack-to-our-lives kind of music. Like, the Todd Rundgren stuff, both Matthew and I were really connected to those records and Todd’s stuff on a very deep level, for whatever reason. Matthew’s and my friendship has grown so much through learning this music together, because with the learning of the songs and the desire to figure them out and to understand them and to do them justice, we have become better friends because there are so many stories from our youth that connect to them, if you know what I mean. It’s been very interesting.

* Do you two have a lot of common interests? Or are you really different in tastes, and that’s what makes it a good collaboration?

Oh, I think we have a lot of common interests. We both love art, and Matthew has an incredible collection of art in his home. It’s really inspired me to be around that. Matthew’s an amazing potter, too. I don’t know if you know that. He has kilns. And we both love animals, and we both love music, obviously, and we’re both fanatical about films and books and politics and…oh, there are so many things that we share! “Soulmate” is a pretty big, heavy word to use, but in a lot of ways, we are soulmates, and I think that’s what makes it a good collaboration. I grew up in a household with brothers, so I’m very, very comfortable with that sort of connecting in almost a brother/sister kind of way. Matthew’s kind of taken the place of that kind of closeness that I had with my brothers. And, again, we were so obsessed with movies and pop culture and music and the Beatles and, y’know, whatever it was going on around us when we were growing up, so it’s kind of fun to have someone to hang out with that I can have that kind of rapport with. And I feel that with Matthew.

Okay, now, with this next one…

* Who plays what guitar parts in the studio, and how do you decide who plays them?

…when I asked him, he explained that you don’t play nearly as much guitar on the records as he does.

Oh, that’s definitely true. I mean, I do on Bangles records, and I would with Sid ‘n’ Susie if the process was different, but a lot of times when we record, Matthew will lay down some stuff, and then I’ll just come in and put down a vocal, and when I come back, there’ll be more stuff on the tracks and there’s really no need for me to play on them, you know? Or I’ll be doing a guide vocal when we’re tracking, so it’s just easier for me to focus on singing, and to be playing and singing. But, yeah, I mean, I love playing guitar, but Matthew’s great, and I don’t really consider myself…I’m really just a basic rhythm guitarist, and Matthew’s very supportive of my guitar playing, but we just haven’t had me play much on these records.

Has there been any particular track where you found that you particularly wanted to play heavily on it?

Many of them! But, you know, it’s just a question of time and logistics that I didn’t play more. But Matthew and I are going to work together on a lot of other musical projects, just solo stuff that I want to do, and we’ve recorded stuff where I’m pretty much playing everything. I’m not a bass player, really, and I’m not really a keyboard player, but I’m just playing all of the guitars. So we’ll see what happens.

• How do you quell speculation about Volume 3 focusing on indie rock, electro, punk, new romance, power ballads, and dance of the ‘80s?

Well, I hope it happens, you know? (Laughs) I really do. I really hope it happens. Having survived the ’80s and being in a band that’s very associated with the ’80s, I have to say that I have a certain skewed view of the ’80s, but I realize now and it makes me smile that so many people say that their favorite era for music is the ’80s. At the time, I didn’t think of it as an important decade for music…or the arts, necessarily. But I’ve come to realize that there’s a certain spirit to it, a fun spirit to the ’80s. I just did a show with the Bangles with Devo and the B-52s. Oh, my God, so many people were there playing, and I didn’t get to see all of them, but…I’ve just realized that there’s a lot of fun in it and a lot of energy in the music that came out of that time period. And there’s a need for that. It’s entertaining! Entertainment is part of art, that pure escapism. And, of course, there was amazing indie rock, R.E.M. and so many other cool groups that came out of that period, so it wasn’t all synth music and dance music. But there was a lot of that, too. (Laughs)

* If you do decide to do the ’80s album, would you consider putting your stamp on a Prince song, or would the “Manic Monday” connection be too obvious?

Wow, I would definitely consider doing a Prince song! I wouldn’t judge a song…I mean, our vetting process for songs is very random. (Laughs) We don’t have a lot of criteria that we have to meet. We just kind of go with our instincts about a song, you know? Really, there is no rhyme or reason to it. But I love those Prince records, and I would love to. And the weird thing is that I didn’t really know about Prince until “Manic Monday.” I wasn’t up on his music. I wasn’t, like, someone who had discovered him early on, so I sort of discovered him through getting to know him from “Manic Monday.” But I love his stuff.

Actually, just for my curiosity, since I’ve never really heard the story, how did you end up hooking up with Prince? Did he approach ya’ll?

Yes, he did. Prince was…I guess he heard and saw the video for a song that we did on our first record called “Hero Takes A Fall,” and he was a fan of that song, so we sort of heard that from somebody who knew him. I think it was through our engineers, a husband-and-wife engineering team named David and Peggy Leonard, and they were working with us and with him at various times. So he started to come our shows, and he would come up and play a long and amazing guitar solo on that song…and right at that same moment in time, “When Doves Cry” was becoming a huge hit on the radio, so it sort of all happened at the same time. So he came to several shows, got up on stage, we hung out a little bit, and we got to know him a little bit, but then we heard from the Leonards, I guess, that he had some song ideas for us. So I came over to where he was recording, and…we were both recording at, like, sister studios. He was at Sunset Sound Factory. We were at the littler studio, and he was at the big one on Sunset. And I picked up the songs, one of them was “Manic Monday,” and we just kind of went from there.

On a related note…

* Was it intentional that the Sid ‘n’ Susie albums don’t contain any versions of R&B songs, and would you consider tackling such material in the future?

I would. Like I said, the songs don’t have to fit any particular theme, style, or anything. These were just songs that we thought of in the months that we were working on the record and kind of dreaming up what it should be. I wouldn’t eliminate anything because it was a certain genre.

* Aren’t you just covering ground that Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart have already covered?

Oh, probably! What, you mean doing cover records? I’m sure we are. I mean, when Matthew and I were talking to Shout! Factory about doing a record together, we didn’t know what we would do together. It was really a suggestion from them, “Hey, what about doing a record of covers?” And, at first, we thought, “No, we want to write together and do original material.” Matthew was, like, “I just want to produce Sue’s solo record,” and I was all for that! (Laughs) But then, y’know, we sort of let the idea sink in, and we kind of talked about a week after they had suggested it, if memory serves, and we thought, “You know what? What better than to be able to record songs we know are good songs?” (Laughs) And we love this music and share such common taste in music, as far as what we like. So it just sort of made sense. But it’s not like we’re the first ones who have ever decided to record their favorite songs!

* Now that you’ve covered the ’60s and ’70s, what are the chances of an original Sid ‘n’ Susie album?

Well, that’s interesting. I don’t know, because we always look at the stuff we’ve done on the side, which is, like, solo projects that I’ve kind of been working on over the years very slowly and under the radar. But that would be fun, actually. That’s a good idea, and I’m very open to it.

Matthew said he was already helping out on the new Bangles album.

Oh, yes, definitely! He’s co-producing it with us so far, but we’ve just barely started it. We’ve recorded three songs, and we’ve done them with Matthew.

Now for the series of questions about touring:

• Any chance of a tour behind the new album?
• Any chance Sid ‘n’ Susie will tour the east coast other than major markets?
• Will Sid ‘n’ Susie come to Australia for a tour?
• Any chance of UK dates?
• Any chance of touring Japan?

Oh, wow! I would like to say that we’ll do it all. We do have dates coming up in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York in September. We have a lot of interest to come to Australia, and I’m pushing for it. (Laughs) I think it might happen. I’ve had two great Bangles tours there, and I just love it over there. Matthew and I would love to go to Japan. Matthew’s toured there and I’ve toured there, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been there. It was 2003. So I’m for the whole thing! It’s just that it’s a little bit hard to know how to do it logistically because of the way the economy is, and…it’s expensive to go on the road! So I don’t know. If there’s interest and enough possibility that we could make it work financially, then I think both Matthew and I would be there in a minute. So, yes, we would love to, so keep requesting us! Spread the word, and we’ll be there, I hope! That’d be great!

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* Will there be a Sid ‘n’ Susie live DVD in the future, so that fans in the areas where you aren’t playing can still get the live experience?

That would be fantastic! I would love that! I really would. I mean, I’m so excited. Matthew and I, because we have these shows coming up, are trying to figure out what to play. We have these shows upcoming in September, and then there’s this show at the Grammy Museum, but it’s going to be just Matthew and me and one other musician, so it’ll be a more acoustic treatment of the songs. We’d love to do the full-band thing, but there’s something really intimate about the acoustic vibe. You really hear the voices and all of that.

* I love Volume 1, the song selection and performances are fantastic, with your voices complimenting each other wonderfully, but I do have one complaint: it’s too darned loud and compressed. It would be so great to hear more depth in those recordings. Any chance of mellowing the next record?

Oh, that’s so funny! Well, they haven’t heard the ’70s one yet, have they? This is definitely a question that’s better for Matthew, because he’s the techno-whiz. I’m very old-school. I don’t even know the right words for things! I know what the person who wrote the question is saying, but there’s a part of me that when I put the record on and it is so loud compared to other things…for me, I always admired how rockin’ Matthew’s stuff was, so it’s a thrill for me to hear it and say, “Wow, I’m on this rock record!” (Laughs) But Matthew has been evolving as a producer, and…well, like I said, you should ask him that question, because he knows more about how his gear has changed, how his approached has changed, and how he records. It’s more of an engineering thing, so I’m not really equipped with the knowledge to answer that.

And he did indeed give me an answer, and he said that Volume 2 sounds better. (Laughs)

Okay, good!

* Which covers of your own work have you heard that you loved and/or loathed, and who was responsible?

Wow! Well, I haven’t really heard many. I know some exist, and I was thrilled that “Eternal Flame” became a #1 hit when it was covered by Atomic Kitten, but I have to be honest and say that I’m not even really familiar with their version! I know it’s a sweet rendition of it, from what I can tell, and they put kind of a hip-hop groove to it. I’m just always flattered if anyone wants to cover our stuff! There have been a lot of spoofs or sort of comedy versions of things over the years, but I haven’t heard a lot of them in a long time. So I just have to offer a blanket response and say that I’m flattered. I’m flattered when I hear Muzak versions of Bangles songs. Honestly! It’s just a sign that they’ve penetrated the cultural… (Searches for the word)

Zeitgest?

Exactly!

* The Bangles were one of the few girl groups (what an awful classification, sorry) that were actively involved with the writing and performing of their own music. With the new batch of very young stars in the genre, do you have any specific advice to them, perhaps sage warnings of certain pitfalls and perils that they might not have a mentor to guide them through?

Wow, let me think. (Considers the question) I think…oh, there’s so many facets to the question, in a certain way. Just a general note to anyone who’s trying to be an artist, really, in any medium: it’s a very odd and lonely and nerve-wracking and scary process when you let anybody see what you’re working on, so you have to learn to listen to your instincts. Absorb other people’s advice, opinions, or whatever it may be from the outside world, but at the end of the day, you have to be true to whatever it is that you’re trying to say in that work It’s complicated…very complicated…being in a band, but it sort of assuages the loneliness of putting your own voice out there, because you feel like you’re a member of a team, which is great. I guess just that sort of “follow your heart” thing is always a good thing to remember, and that goes for everything. It goes for when the music business side of things enters into it, and people want you to do things that you don’t necessarily feel cool about doing, they don’t feel right, and then you have to do that stuff. Whether it’s doing photo sessions or…well, there are so many instances where you find yourself doing something and you go, “Oh, I just want to be playing my guitar and singing, but here I am getting my picture taken!” I don’t know, it could be anything. It’s just sort of trying to make the right judgment call in those situations.

This ties right in:

* You and Matthew are both on the side of the music business where the primary support comes from longtime fans and big breakthrough comebacks don’t seem to happen for anyone anymore. Do you feel liberated by not having to jump through the corporate hoops anymore, or do you miss the attention?

Oh, I don’t miss it. (Laughs) I’m very happy to be liberated from the expectation and the pressure of it, and it’s fun that the pressure I feel is sort of from myself. I’m grateful for the longtime fans and the new fans that are coming up. With the Bangles, it’s amazing how many people have contacted me, people that I’ve known for years, who are telling me that their kids are now listening to us! Their daughters are getting into the Bangles, and it’s so adorable, so that’s why I included the new fans in that comment. But I’m just grateful that I have people who want to hear what I do… (Laughs) …because it’s nice to not make art in a vacuum, you know? It’s nice to know that people are enjoying it. Something propels us to go out and stand in front of people and potentially embarrass and humiliate ourselves when we’re out there performing… (Laughs) …so it’s just so great knowing that the music is making people happy or filling their lives in some way, touching them. That’s incredible.

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• Will we ever get a Ming Tea album?

God, Matthew and I always talk about that, and I always bring it up to Mike Myers whenever I see him. Everyone’s on board with the idea, I would say, so it’s literally just a matter of carving out time between all of our family stuff that we do and then all of these projects that are on the slate. But I would love to! I think we just have to…if we do Ming Tea, we should just do it fast, y’know? Just get the record done in two weeks and have a really intense recording process for that. I still have all of the lyric sheets and guitar chords for all of it in my files, so I have all of the stuff we’ve done in the past.

See, you should just go ahead and knock out the album now, then inspire Mike and your husband (director Jay Roach) to make “Austin Powers IV” so that you can release it.

I know! Wouldn’t that be cool? (Laughs)

Well, you’ve survived the Sid ‘n’ Susie portion of the interview, so now we move on to the stuff that’s all about you and the Bangles.

Okay!

* Why did the Bangles part ways with Abby Travis?

Well, Michael Steele sort of retired from being a Bangle, and…the Bangles have had a long history of different bass players, starting with Annette Zilinskas. We had Amanda Podany play with us for a little while. But we were getting ready to do a tour in Australia, and we met a few girls, but Abby was very enthusiastic, and she’s an amazing, talented woman who does incredible music of her own. She’s a really accomplished bass player, and we worked with her for…I would say maybe two or three years. But…I don’t know. It was, like, when Michael left, we all sort of agreed between the three of us – Vicki, Debbi, and I – that there would never be anyone who would ever officially replace Michael, you know? She was who we thought of as our bass player and as a member of the band. So we never really thought when Abby came along and played with us that she was the new Bangle. We have the utmost respect for her, and it was fun that she also was a girl… (Laughs) …because it was a cool thing, since that’s what we were familiar with. But there just came a point where we felt we were sort of moving directions a little bit, and… (Pauses) In some ways, we felt for our longtime fans that it put anyone who was playing bass, particularly if it was a girl, in a certain pressurized position to sort of be…I don’t know, it just brought up stuff about replacing Michael, and we just never wanted anyone to think that we were replacing Michael because we didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of replacing Michael. I guess that’s an awkward way of saying it, but that’s kind of how we felt.

* Will your unreleased second solo album from the mid-’90s ever see the light of day?

I don’t think so, although apparently it floats around, and people have access to the songs. Somebody sent me a YouTube thing recently where I heard one of the songs. Oh, actually, there was a whole medley of songs from that record, and I actually thought, “Wow, I really like some of these songs!” It just crossed my mind, because somebody just sent me that yesterday! I’m glad that the diehard fans have found it, and…well, you never know. Never say never.

Why didn’t it come out? Was it just a label issue?

You know, I had been on Columbia for, like, 11 years at that point, and there were so many people that I’d worked with who were gone from the label, and I really felt like I didn’t know anyone at the label at that point. And when you’re on a label like that, you’ve just gotta have some friends somewhere! It was just such a massive corporation that it’s very, very easy to get lost, and I just think that someone – who shall remain nameless – who worked there said, “You know what? No one’s paying attention. You should go out and do this another way.” And it just really hit home with me. And I did feel very alienated and lonely without having anyone who I could just pick up the phone and talk to about what I was doing and what the plan was. The record was already ready to go to the mastering lab, but I just…I guess I just thought it’d be better to be on my own.

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* In Bangles concerts for the past few years, Susanna has refrained from singing the classic line, “Come on, honey, let’s go make some noise.”

(Sighs) I know.

(Laughs) Well, this reader would like to know why.

Because I just feel…I don’t know, I just find it hard to say. It feels like…I keep thinking I should translate it into French, or I should find some other language to say it in. I don’t know why, but Vicki started singing it, and I thought, “Okay, that’s good. We can take turns singing those various lines there.” I guess I just feel a little bit embarrassed. I don’t know why. I’m shy…and it’s not something a shy person would say. (Laughs)

* Any chance of ever getting a live Bangles CD, maybe collected from all phases of your career?

We talk about that stuff, definitely, but who knows? It’s so hard to say. We have the live DVD, so that was sort of an in-between thing, a fun thing. We definitely wanted to put that it out. Those first three nights at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard…the course of our lives kind of changed that night, because we were all so excited to be doing Bangles stuff again. And, also, Michael was with us during that time, so we really…I don’t know, it was special. So we were glad that we were able to put that out. But as far as a live CD, who knows? I’m all for putting out live stuff, a retrospective, and we would like to do that. There’s some really old stuff that we’ve done that we’d like people to know about.

* Any chance for a reissue of your super-sounding (and looking) Rickenbacker 350SH? It sounded great at the Bangles show in Boston.

Oh, wow! God, that’s a good question to ask Rickenbacker. I would love to. If there’s a market for it, I would love to see more of those out there, so thank you for that question. I’ll see if that’s something that could happen. That would make me very happy!

* Are we going to see a Criterion Special Edition of “The Allnighter”?

(Laughs sheepishly) I don’t know. I’ll ask my mom.

* Never mind “The Allnighter.” Does Sue have any anecdotes about her unheralded cinematic debut in “Stony Island”?

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Oh, wow. My God, that really takes me back to the ’70s. More memories from the ’70s: that goes well with the release of Under the Covers, Vol. 2! (Laughs) But now I’ve forgotten what the actual question was!

They were just wondering if you had any anecdotes from making the film. I have to admit, I’ve never seen it, but I saw on IMDb that Rae Dawn Chong was in it with you.

Yeah! Being Rae Dawn Chong’s roommate was very, very interesting. (Laughs) She was just one of the most amazing and precocious 16-year-olds…I think she might’ve been 15 years old back then, or maybe even…no, she was probably 15. It was amazing. And it was fun! I had been such a movie buff, a movie fanatic, growing up in the ’60s and ’70s that to be able to be on a real movie set, making this low budget movie, was just a true thrill for me. I was happy on my days when I wasn’t on camera to be a P.A.! (Laughs) I mean, that’s what I was doing! I was part P.A., part actor, part whatever! Because I started Berkeley in the fall, and then I took the winter quarter off and went to Chicago and was living in the freezing cold and working on the movie. I was Rae Dawn Chong’s roommate, and she was so worldly! I felt, like, “Where have I been all these years?” She was just so…I don’t know, she was just amazing. Yeah, that was quite a thrill for me!

* How did the “Gilmore Girls” appearance by the Bangles come about?

Let’s see now… (Thinks for a moment) A friend of mine, I remember, said, “Hey, have you seen this new show, ‘Gilmore Girls’? It’s my favorite show!” And I said, “No, I have no idea what you’re talking about!” And then it was almost like by some weird thing in the universe that brings people together, but I got a call from Amy (Sherman-Palladino) through…I’m not remembering if it was an agent or a manager, but I found out that she was a really big Bangles fan. And this was literally on the heels of my friend telling me about the show, and I couldn’t believe it, because I could say, “Oh, I know about that show, because I just heard about it!” Because I don’t watch a lot of TV. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I watch cable. I have my favorite shows, but they’re mostly on HBO. But, anyway, I thought “Gilmore Girls” was cool when I discovered the show and found out that this woman was a big Bangles fan, and there had been all of these mentions of the Bangles, so it was a case where one thing led to another, and we were invited to actually perform on the show…and that was fun!

Okay, we’re down to the final three.

* Given the purported disagreements that the Bangles had with producers and with Columbia during the second and third albums, are there any songs that you’d like to have a second shot at or that you’d like to erase from your memory?

Oh, man.

I like the way it’s phrased, so that there’s no need to call anyone out by name. (Laughs)

Right! Well, you know, it’s really hard when you record anything, really. I mean, if you got me going, I could say, “Ah, I wish I could’ve sung that better, I wish I could remix that, and why didn’t I put that part on there that I wanted to?” I mean, I always feel that way, and you can torture yourself, so I’m trying not to open that door and go into that place where I could start second-guessing stuff. I remember really vividly after singing my section of “Walk Like An Egyptian,” those two little lines, were terrible! And I said to David (Kahne), “Please let me re-sing those!” And he said, “No, no, they’re charming! They’re cool! I’m not gonna let you touch those!” And I said, “Really?” And every time I would hear them, I’d go, “Oh, they’re not good!” (Laughs) And now I think to myself, “Well, he was right.”

Sometimes things are meant to be the way they are, and if you go back in and you just make everything perfect and clean everything up and everything’s perfectly in tune and played perfectly well, it takes some of the human-ness and charm out of it. And that’s one thing I’ve really learned working with Matthew, because he’s a real believer in, “Go for it, don’t second-guess, and just move on to the next thing. Don’t sit and over-think it.” But I don’t look back and want to…I mean, now, with YouTube, I will say that the live thing doesn’t feel like it’s just this moment in time anymore, and I think that’s kind of tricky. People will send me stuff and say, “This is what you did last night,” and it’s some really bad recording. And it’s just recently that it’s happened, where you see this badly-recorded thing from somebody’s phone, and you can’t see anything, you can’t hear anything, and it just doesn’t sound good, and you think, “Oh, God…” I mean, that performance was over when I left the stage, but now I have to be tormented by it! So that’s kind of a drag! But then there are other things that show up on YouTube, and it’s just like looking at an old photo album. It’s just fantastic, and you go, “Yay!” I’m so glad to go back in time and revisit things, so I do love YouTube, but it’s just hard when the live thing isn’t just for the people who were there that night? It’s different now.

(Laughs) Well, actually, on a related note, I just saw some footage from where you appeared onstage with thenewno2, and I was wondering how that came about.

Yeah! Well, Dhani Harrison came to our shows in London over the past years, and we just adore him. He’s just a fantastic person, amazingly nice and just so full of light and love. I mean, I don’t know, I guess it just comes from his parents, but he’s just this astounding person, and I’ve gotten to know him over the years…and he came to my 50th birthday party! (Laughs) There was a big jam session, and he played, and it was an amazing night. I invited lots of people I knew who are musicians, and my dream was that they would all play. And it happened! Lindsey Buckingham played, Ben Harper played, everyone was singing together…it was amazing. Dhani played, Greg Leisz, Matthew, the Bangles…it was just so much fun. John Cowsill…the list just went on and on. It was great for me, and it was also great for everyone who happened to be at the party. They had a great time. But, anyway, from that night…I don’t know, I think it was Rosanna Arquette, who’s a great friend to Dhani and a good friend of mine, who may have planted the seed about doing something with thenewno2. So I sang with them at one of their local shows in L.A.!

Okay, last one:

* What do you think of the progress that’s been made with women in rock ‘n’ roll since the Bangles and the Go-Go’s first got started, since they were all but labeled as novelty acts when they first started? Or do you think that any progress has been made since then?

Well, I think I’m very good friends with many of the girls from the Go-Go’s…particularly with Charlotte, who I’ve written with, but I know Belinda and Kathy and Jane pretty well, too…and it’s always struck all of us, both the Go-Go’s and the Bangles, that there haven’t been more all-girl bands. That, we thought, would change, but there aren’t very many. But…I don’t know, I think there are certain aspects that…oh, I don’t even know how to get into this. I don’t really have a good answer for this! (Laughs) I guess I’d have to say that the post-Madonna world, when she came out with the emphasis on putting on a good show that was about dancing and costumes and the reinvention of the look and that sort of thing, was sort of splitting off from what got me personally into music, which was more like Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt, a little more out of the folk tradition than the pop tradition. So it was different. It went in a direction that I just wasn’t all that interested in myself. I’ve always just been so happy to see a musician that I loved just standing there and playing their instrument. Like, I find that mesmerizing, just to see Neil Young playing. I don’t need a lot of other stuff going on. So I think, at the end of the day, there’s something about an artist singing and emoting and playing the way they play their instrument that’s all I really need to make me happy, and Lilith Fair had all of these wonderful female artists who were more in that tradition, so that was great. So, really, I guess the biggest confusion for me is just why there are aren’t more girl bands!

Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone has an answer for that.

I know!

Well, congratulations: you’ve endured all of the questions!

Thank you so much…and I hope to see you at one of these Sid ‘n’ Susie shows! I wish we were going to Norfolk. There’s some talk of it, actually.

Well, there’s a really great venue here called the Norva, an old theater from the ’30s that’s been renovated. I think it’s mostly known by artists, though, because the backstage area has a hot tub and a basketball court.

Oh, cool! Well, I would love to play there, so if you know of any way that we can pull it off, let our manager know! And, again, thank you so much. It was really fun…but if I started rambling anywhere, I hope you’ll edit it! (Laughs)




  • http://www.myspace.com/dancorson Daburcor

    That was awesome! Thank you so much for this! Susanna Hoffs & Matthew Sweet are literally my two favorite musicians, so these interviews have just such a treat!

  • http://mostlymodernmedia.wordpress.com Beau

    Great stuff, but did she really not mention the Donnas in talking about all-girl bands?

  • jamiebn88

    the used's new video for “blood on my hands” comes out TODAY on myspace and theused.net! it looks sick, check out the teaser:

    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=60855078

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    I'm thinking we shouldn't have gone with that photo for this piece. It makes it awfully difficult to move on to the text!

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    That Atomic Kitten version of “Eternal Flame” is absolutely soulless, but sweet Jesus, are those girls hot.

  • http://playitandbedamned.blogspot.com/ rob

    Great stuff. . It' s inspired me to look through my old cassette rapes and see if I can dig up an old interview I did with Susanna and Michael at Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club during the “All Over the Place.” As I recall, they both got pretty agitated and defensive over the “girl group” questions. Blame it on the un-Pc-ness of a measly college radio DJ..

    I didn't realize that Michael (always my favorite Bangle) had split the reunited band for parts unknown. Too bad. I don't think I'll ever live down in my head what I did during the shooting of the in-concert portion of the “Walk Like an Egyptian” video. During a break in the action and a silent pause, I yelled out “Marry me, Michael!” It seemed to genuinely fluster her. Sorry Michael, wherever you may be.

  • claudewc

    I assume that Matthew Sweet addresses the degree to which he and Hoffs copy some songs, but I'm having trouble navigating there. I find their version of “Marquee Moon” much too dead on–it seems more like a stunt than a cover. (It does, however, nicely illustrate how much of a lead instrument the drums are on Television's original.)

  • http://myspace.com/DJChrisXmusic Chris X

    I am lucky enough to be going to one of the Sid N Susie shows in September.

  • http://myspace.com/DJChrisX Chris X

    oh and Will, you didn't pass along my proposal. shame on you!

  • Russ

    I know what you mean but on the other hand something like Talking Heads' “Take Me to the River” became their song instead of Al Green's and I don't get the impression Matthew Sweet wanted that to happen. And it IS a bonus track, after all.

  • WHarrisBullzEye

    Actually, I did, but she seemed befuddled by it, since she's already married to director Jay Roach. Basically, her response was, “Thanks, but I'm spoken for.”

  • WHarrisBullzEye

    Actually, I did, but she seemed befuddled by it, since she's already married to director Jay Roach. Basically, her response was, “Thanks, but I'm spoken for.”

  • WHarrisBullzEye

    Actually, I did, but she seemed befuddled by it, since she's already married to director Jay Roach. Basically, her response was, “Thanks, but I'm spoken for.”

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