Interview: Eileen Rose

Eileen Rose recently released her second solo album, the rich tapestry that is Long Shot Novena.

The Italian-American singer-songwriter has collaborated with members of Alabama 3 and The Sex Pistols‘ bassist Glen Matlock.

musicOMH caught up with her during her album-supporting tour to indulge in a wide-ranging Q&A sesh taking in ducks, Essex, band retainers and her German appreciation society…

musicOMH: When did you write your first song, what was it and what made you write it?
Eileen: I think I wrote my first song when I was about 14 and, predictably, it wasabout a boy I was missing. It was very melodramatic and I think it hadsomething to do with ducks. I’ve gotten a bit more sophisticated since then- I think.

musicOMH: How did you get signed?
Eileen: I split up my long term band, went off to a cottage in the middle of Essexand wrote for about a year. Then I started playing solo gigs – anywhere,everywhere they’d have me. I opened up for The Larry Love Show Band at aplace (gone now, sadly) called the Weaver’s Arms. Larry really liked my set.I gave him a tape, he called me from Italy and said he loved it. Some of theguys in his band offered to play a few gigs with me, and at our second gig,at the Monarch in Camden, Geoff Travis (from Rough Trade) showedup, liked it and said “let’s make a record”. I said “okay”.

musicOMH: How much of the material on Shine Like It Does and Long Shot Novena isbiographical?
Eileen: All of it – I don’t know how to write any other way.

musicOMH: Why did you chop off your surname, Giadone, from your recording artisttitle?
Eileen: Well, I guess because Rose is easier to spell (and pronounce), and it savesthe worry of bringing shame to my family.

musicOMH: The musicians have changed on the new album – Kris and Iain from DelAmitri, for instance, taking over from Alabama 3 members. Do you have apermanent band or people you work with once and then move on from?
Eileen: Some of the folks from Alabama 3 are on this record – Orlando Harrison,Seggs. Usually the musicians I work with are in other bands. Alabama 3 wererecording and releasing their album around the same time that I was so wecouldn’t get it together. I loved working with Iain and Kris though -nothing was planned, we just sort of fell into it. I haven’t really soldenough records to have my own permanent band though I would love to. Whenyou keep a permanent group of musicians, you have to put them on a monthlyretainer and it’s very expensive.

musicOMH: How did you get Glen Matlock on board and are you a fan of The Sex Pistols?
Eileen: I seem to draw out all the old punks – don’t ask me why. Seggs was in TheRuts, Kris was in The Godfathers, Barry Payne (bass) was in Wreckless Eric.They all know each other, so they asked Glen to play on the record, he reallyliked the song so agreed to do it. How can you not be a fan of The SexPistols? (Particularly a fan of Glen as he wrote all the best songs.)

musicOMH: What made you move from Boston to London and what will take you back (RE:”I was sure enough to come. I was dumb enough to stay.” and “Don’t get mewrong, you folks are alright / And it’s been international / but I’m goinghome.”)?
Eileen: I was chasing Kate Bush and I still haven’t caught her. I found a lotEnglish music particularly innovative and strange (The Cocteau Twins, The Smiths)as well as inspiring. I loved The Godfathers and The Kinks. But I guess I hada taste for adventure and the idea of living in England (everything was soold!) was romantic and exciting to me. I never meant to stay so long – asusual there was no plan, it just happened. Missing my family could take meback as well as abject poverty. And possibly a call from Tom Waits.

musicOMH: Just *WHAT* is that instrument that sounds like a didgeridoo on Big Dog?
Eileen: That’s a Jew’s Harp and it’s played by Dom. You should have been therewatching him record – funny as a bastard.

musicOMH: What is a “novena” in the context of Long Shot Novena?
Eileen: A novena is a nine day prayer for help in a situation where the outcamelooks shaky. It’s a Catholic thing. I’m lucky enough to have people in mylife saying them for me – a pure act of love.

musicOMH: You’re on the label that launched The Smiths and is enjoying a resurgencewithThe Strokes. Have you noticed any change to Rough Trade since you signed tothem?
Eileen: Rough Trade, since I signed, have done a distribution deal with SanctuaryRecords. This means that their records get released all over the world in aco-ordinated way. So that’s been great and so far I really like all theSanctuary people I’ve met. But Geoff Travis is a rare guy – music fan firstand foremost, and seems the same to me no matter what’s going on or who’s inthe room. It’s his label – he works with what moves him and hopes for thebest. So no change there, as far as I can see.

musicOMH: Namecheck: who would you name as your major musical influences and why?
Eileen: I’m sure you know I bang on about Tom Waits and Kate Bush – but my musicaltaste runs from The Band, Creedence and Chet Baker to The B52s, Aerosmith andNeil Diamond. I’m really inspired by the way Tom Waits and Kate Bush runtheir lives and careers, though. They do what they like creatively, make adecent living yet manage to maintain their “real” lives – family, homes, pets- with dignity. I don’t know them personally, but I just don’t get the senseof fame-seeking neediness from them that I do from others. Above anythingelse, they mean it.

musicOMH: Who are you listening to these days and who do you tip for success in2002?
Eileen: I’m on the road now, so don’t get much time to listen to anything but theband I’m opening for (currently Tanya Donelly, then Frank Black). But here’sa few newish things I’ve played a lot recently: Nick Cave (No More Shall WePart), Gillian Welch (Revelator), The Strokes (yes I know you might thinkthis is a political mention, but I genuinely like them) – and loads of Bob Dylan.

musicOMH: Are there any songs to which you can’t listen without crying?
Eileen: Gonna Take it With Me When I Go from Mule Variations absolutely breaks myheart. As does Under the Ivy by Kate Bush because I sang it once for myfriend, Sue, before she died.

musicOMH: Which country appreciates your music most thus far?
Eileen: It’s got to be England because I just wouldn’t leave you alone until youadmitted that you liked me. But Germany seems to be about to overtake you.You’re not going to let that happen, are you?

musicOMH: When and how did you decide to be a musician for a living?
Eileen: Probably at that first song when I was fourteen (you know, the duck thing -what was I thinking?). Took me another six years to have the courage to tellmy folks, though. They thought I was going to be a lawyer. Well, I led themto believe I was going to be a lawyer. I still get the “you wasted youreducation” speech every Christmas.

musicOMH: Which music websites do you regularly look at?
Eileen: I just check my own to make sure I’m not looking too stupid.

musicOMH: What do you think of Pop Idol?
Eileen: Do you really need to ask?

musicOMH: Have you met any of your musical heroes or heroines? If not, what wouldyou say to them if you did / if so, what did you say when you met them?
Eileen: I met Paul Simon once. He asked me what I thought of his record and before Ithought about what I was doing, I started complaining about the mix. (I wasyoung and fairly impolitic – I’m sure he didn’t really want to know what Ireally thought). Anyway, he was unimpressed and I still cringe at thememory. I met Steve Tyler and he said he would like to “have me as asandwich” – that was different. Still haven’t met the ones that wouldactually make me nervous, though.

musicOMH: How many languages do you speak and what are they?
Eileen: I studied Italian and Spanish each for nine years. Haven’t used either in 10so I’m sure I sound like Latka from Taxi now. The Italian seemed to comeback a bit when I was there but you gotta use it or lose it, as they say.

musicOMH: What’s your favourite food and drink?
Eileen: I love my own cooking – call me vain but there it is. I eat broccoli everysingle day – is that obsessive? And call me Kate Moss, but my favorite drinkis champagne, dahling.

musicOMH: Where do you like to a) eat out b) go on holiday c) relax in London d)play live?
Eileen: If I’m eating out, my favorite is Japanese (Jenkichi in Hampstead though it’scrazy money). Apart from spending a week in Maine with my family everyyear since I can ‘effin remember (and I flat out refuse to do it this year),I’ve never really booked a holiday. My family has come over and we’ve gone onspontaneous road trips to Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. Always a laugh. Idon’t think it is possible to relax in London, but you can get real drunkvery easily. And by far and away my favorite gig to play in London is TheBorderline. I love the venue and I love Barry who runs it – in fact I’mthere on May 13th if you’re around.

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