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The Peace & Freedom Magazine Heather Perkins Interview

Heather Perkins interviewed by Gypsy for Peace & Freedom, No. 6, Vol. 2, Summer 1989

Heather Perkins is a popular home taper who has her own label, Land-O-Newts,
in the USA. She recently released her new album “Hamster Wheel”.

G. Heather, you play a vast amount of instruments on your tapes, did you teach
yourself to play them, or were you taught in schools?

HP. When I was very young, I had piano lessons, all I can remember is the
first bit of “Hall of the Mountain King”. I took clarinet lessons for a
while, and was in chorus in high school. Though, I never really did learn how
to read music. I do admire technical training, like sight reading, etc. I'm
working with a drummer right now, who's really amazing. She knows all the
theory, yet retains a lot of emotional fire in her playing. I may take
lessons in guitar, but only if I can convince myself that it won't interfere
with the emotion, fun, or looseness of music for me. I just love music, which
makes me try different instruments. I'm studying digital synthesis right now,
trying to learn FM synthesis and sampling, so there's a whole new vocabulary
I'm just learning.

G. Your label is called Land-O-Newts, how did you come by that name?

HP. Why “Land-O-Newts”? Well, I admire small amphibians. There's several newts
inhabiting my home/studio, outnumbering all other life-forms, in fact, I love
animals.

G. I've heard a compilation of tracks that you sent me, which I really
enjoyed. Sadly, there don't seem to be many women on the tape scene. Do you
feel that to be so as well?

HP. This is a tough one to answer. There are very few as opposed to male
artists, even fewer solo artists. This is frustrating to me, I know there
have to be more women out there playing music, experimenting with sound. The
women I've heard from are excellent – Amy Denio, Sue Ann Harkey, Roberta
Ecklund, Nicole Campau, Carrie/Geko... why are there so few? From what I've
heard of women artists, it's certainly not a lack of talent or desire.

G. In England there's a strong women's rights movement, but when you switch on
the TV, and are unlucky enough to be confronted by “Top of the Pops”, most
woman singers seem to come out with these tra-la-la woman needs a man type of
songs. Is it the same in America, and what do you feel about that kind of
song?

HP. Well, I think that those type of songs get a lot more attention because
it's tradition, safe – apparently, the mass of humanity has been convinced
that music shouldn't be challenging, political or strange. It's like fast
food - “MacMusic”, “Music MacNuggets”! To me, it's tasteless and boring. The
US Top 40 and MTV generally depend on their women artists to be flirty,
chesty, and fluffy. To be fair, there has been some change. Artists like
Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, Michelle Shocked, and Jane Siberry have managed
to break into the mainstream, and even get away with real songwriting, some
of which has a political content.

G. Do you hope your music will be discovered by the music industry, so that
you become more widely known, or are you happy promoting yourself and having
your own label?

HP. Yeah, well, I can't see myself fluffing up my hair and applying mascara
and spandex, singing “Kitty in Prison” on MTV! I just don't see it. However,
like many musicians, I do music to communicate, and don't want to sing and
play in a vacuum. I have a lust for vinyl (my secret shame) and would love to
make an LP someday, before they become extinct. It would be great if someone
would pay for the blank tapes, pressing, mailings, etc., but that sort of
deal too often ends up being an artistic prison, and if someone started
telling me how to write and hauled in slick session players to do my songs,
I'd hate it, and it wouldn't be fun anymore, so what would be the point?
Plus, in the cassette world, I get to hear from other musicians, there's a
give-and-take, we collaborate through the mail, and I get to hear a lot of
other people's music. Sadly, I think a lot of “famous” artists have to give
up that sort of activity.

G. I know you've only been on the tape scene for a short time, how did you get
involved?

HP. I suddenly found myself band-less. So, I decided to finally get a small
home studio together. I got a loan, got some equipment, then I came up short,
wondering what the hell I'd do once my first tape was out. On my way to work
one day, I stopped by a bookshop and saw a copy of “Sound Choice”, a US
audio 'zine, and felt much better. Then I got in touch with Don Campau and
traded some tapes with him, and the whole thing snowballed from there. I
didn't feel lonely anymore!

G. Politically, where do you stand, I mean, in connection with our planet. It
seems most political parties in England are getting very much into
environmental issues, I suspect only to gain votes, but, nevertheless, do you
feel there is enough being done by politicians to safeguard this Earth of
ours?

HP. Politics! Well, as far as environmental issues go, I think that people in
general are being bamboozled by their own technology – fluorocarbons, nukes,
TV, etc. Politicians are all crazy. I don't think enough is being done to
safeguard the Earth. I know that in a world this large and complex, no
solution will be swift and simple, but there better be some action.
Unfortunately, action comes from awareness, and we don't see much of that in
our politicians here in the US... It's pretty scary.

G. Heather, have you ever been to England on holiday, and what was your
verdict?

HP. I was in England for a few weeks in 1975 and thought London was great, the
English countryside is beautiful. I was about 18 and mostly travelled with my
folks, so didn't get out as much as I may have liked, but I did visit
relatives in the country and took a train up to Dornie, in Scotland, which is
so beautiful, it still haunts me. I got to see Stonehenge, when the tourists
were still allowed to touch it. I'd like to return someday. I've thought
about moving there, but realize that unemployment is bad there, too. Also,
the governments in both countries are becoming pretty interchangeable. But I
like a lot of British musicians. I also do a terrible British accent, so I'd
probably get beaten up...

G. If there was an issue that you felt strongly about, what would it be?

HP. That's a tough one, too. There's so many issues now to care about, the
environment, gay rights, racial equality, women's rights, nuclear
disarmament. I think the biggest problem is in each person, not to sound
cosmic or overly vague, but people seem to be so busy feeding each other
bullshit, and swallowing it... no one's happy. So, a big issue is that people
need to gain clear awareness, myself included, see what a scary mess the
world is in, and to be a part of the solution. Even if it's just slowing down
to help one person, stopping someone from beating their kid, spending time
with AIDS victims, tending to an injured cat. I don't know, it's hard to talk
about without gagging on clichés and slogans, but hopefully you'll know what
I mean!

G. What musical direction are you hoping to go into in the future, and which
of your tapes do you like the most?

HP. Last question first. I think that at the moment, “Why I Did It/Binky's
Revenge” is a favourite. My new tape, “Hamster Wheel” is right up there, but
I want to remix it. So, yeah, “Why...” is my favourite, I think. I hope to
continue having fun, making tapes and collaborating. I'm very behind on
projects right now, and in answering mail, so that's my first goal. I'm also
working with an excellent drummer, trying to start a band. Hope it works out,
because I love playing live, totally different than my tapes! Oh, yeah, I'm
also getting very infatuated with digital sampling, hope to go in debt up to
my eyebrows someday and possibly own my own sampling keyboard. I'm not so hot
on the keys, but love the sounds! I also hope to meet Kate Bush someday. I
admire her works a lot, especially her Fairlight work, “The
Dreaming”, “Waking the Witch”...

Hear Heather's music on MySpace:
http://www.myspace.com/heatherperkins57 


 

 

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