Be Specific: Liz Phair talks about her controversial new disc, "Funstyle"
It's been a weird year for Liz Phair. She parted ways with both her management and her record label, played Matador Records' 21st anniversary celebration in Vegas and released "Funstyle," a strange and rambunctious new disc that will forever be known as the home of "Bollywood," her first official rap song.
Phair has a teenage son, a part-time career as a television composer, and a date at the 9:30 Club on Friday. In part one of a two part interview, she talked to Click Track about the mixed-at-best reaction to "Funstyle" and a possible sequel to her indelible '93 coming out party, "Exile in Guyville."
"Funstyle" was packaged with [early demos] "Girlysound." Have you listened to both discs back to back? If so, what do you make of them?
I was just listening to the whole thing like, a week ago, and it feels almost like some major part of my career has just had a bow put on it and been settled. I feel like I can step forward from this place having completed something, and I don't know why [I feel like this].
Do you look at "Funstyle" as a placeholder, or is it as valid a release as anything else you've done?
One hundred percent as valid as anything else. I think the world just has to catch up to me, baby! I don't usually toot my own horn, but anyone who doesn’t get or like "Funstyle," they're going to, three or four years from now, wonder why they were so upset.
On your Web site you have an explanatory post telling people "how to like" "Funstyle." But if you have to tell people how to like it...
Well, I'd already heard before I put it out from my management and a couple of record labels that they didn't like it. And I sat for 13 months accepting that judgment and saying, "All right, I won't do anything with it." And after 13 months -- that's a long time, you can get over most relationships in that amount of time -- I was so passionate about the music I just thought, even if I'm going to be an army of one, I felt just as much it needed to come out as before. I just didn’t understand why everyone didn't like it so much, and I just thought, well it's really going to be an [uproar], but is that really so different from anything else I do? This was important to me personally. When I listen to it now I'm gleeful and excited about it.
(On losing her record label and finding herself, after the jump.)
You've said you lost your management over it. Was there really a direct link between the two things?
I sent ["Bollywood"] to them and I didn't hear back. A couple days later they both got on the phone and they were like, "Liz, you can't put this out," and I was like, "What?" They're like, "It'll be the end of your career. It'll be the worst thing you could possibly do, and if you choose to go with it then we can't work with you." I was totally shocked. I didn't expect it. It's such a funny and to my mind harmless song. I couldn’t imagine that it had such a huge reaction. I remember getting off the phone and totally going and crying. I felt like I'd been slapped. I had no idea that was coming. They really believed it was a huge mistake. But sometimes -- this is not to make it seem like artists are so special -- but sometimes artists have to do what they have to do.
So you waited a year and then said [the heck with it] and put it out?
Yeah. Everyone was interested in basically putting out a "Guyville Two," which actually I'm interested in doing, too. But the idea of these songs and this artistic period just getting buried alive, I just felt this weird thing inside of me, I was like, "No no no no no." I went to my lawyer and I said, "Who can put this out in three days? I need to put this out by the Fourth of July, because that's Independence Day"….It was really liberating and kind of a fun thing to do.
Have you thought about your next move?
I don't want to ever be on a major label again. That doesn't interest me at all. That period was very fun and I enjoyed all the great stuff that came with it. I certainly miss making big videos and fashion photo shoots and hearing my songs on the radio.
But a lot of that stuff doesn't happen anymore, anyway. So maybe you left at a good time.
Yeah, there you go. It's a different time now and I like that. It's just like the wild, wild west.
An artist can put out records more often.
I think my music will come out much faster. Maybe in six years we'll say we're sick of [doing it this way], but for now it's perfect.
(Tomorrow: Phair on motherhood, music, and the enduring blessing/curse of "Guyville.")
| December 15, 2010; 12:35 PM ET
Categories: Be specific | Tags: Liz Phair
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