ElD - This isn’t your first visit to these shores but there’s still a pioneering spirit to it all. Is it a scary proposition heading out on the road as a girl and her guitar so far from home?
JP - I don’t feel it’s scary at all. It’s exciting! As an only child, I’ve always been a very independent person. I’m all for adventure and if I could manage to do this on a much more regular basis, I most certainly would. I did a solo UK tour in 2004, so this is a pretty similar experience. I booked all the gigs myself and am playing three venues where I’ve played before. I have to admit that traveling and gigging alone is not as much fun as having my band with me (as on our 2005 UK tour), but it’s very rewarding in a different way. I really do feel like a pioneer and also an ambassador for the US in general and New York City in particular.
ElD - Older punk fans, like myself, have a romanticised view of New York. It’s like the crucible where a certain style and sound was forged. New York Dolls, Ramones, CBGBs, Max’s etc. What’s the reality like in comparison to the fantasy?
JP - I have a romanticized vision of New York too! I’m madly in love with NYC and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Unfortunately, as far as the music scene is concerned, sometimes the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy. I know in Glasgow there’s a big pay-to-play thing going on which I find disgusting. There’s not as much of that within NYC as you find in the suburbs of Long Island and New Jersey, but there’s a lot of pressure from club bookers to bring in a certain number of people to see you. Many of them don’t care at all about what the music sounds like as long as a lot of people are coming through the door. As a result, sometimes the bill is not a good one with bands that are just plain horrible or don’t mesh well together musically. The music scene is definitely not what it once was in the heyday of all the bands you mentioned (which I should point out was well before my time!), but there is still good music here. It’s sometimes hard to feel a sense of community among musicians in NYC, but it’s definitely there if you look for it. Many of the musicians and scenesters from the old CBGB’s days are still around and I regularly hang out with them. As time goes by, I get to meet and work with more of my heroes both in NYC and abroad. It just shows that if you hang onto your dreams and keep plugging away, you can still find happiness and deep satisfaction in playing original music and feel that you belong to a musical heritage, even if it’s not always financially rewarding.
ElD - And do you feel the same way about the UK’s musical heritage, as you’re an unabashed fan of the sixties Brit invasion bands aren‘t you?
JP - Oh, I’m a ridiculous anglophile. It all started with The Beatles and just exploded from there. Why do you think I keep going back to Liverpool? I’m making a pilgrimage.
ElD - How did you initially manage to get here while so many other New York band/acts who are playing the club circuit don’t? (I think the last one I seen was The Blame and they were financially running on empty to make it work.) Do you think that it might be just a case that they lack the imagination to make the leap from a comfortable local scene to the big scary world out there?
JP - That’s an interesting question. I never thought about that before. Most of my musician friends are the kind of people who do tour when they have the opportunity. I think a lot of people (not just musicians) are just very provincial and don’t do a lot of traveling. They don’t have that strong a sense of adventure or curiosity about exploring other cultures and it just wouldn’t occur to them to even bother. They’re really missing out. But also for musicians, there is the financial burden of touring and if you don’t have someone to do it for you, you need to be a good planner and business person to know how to coordinate everything. I’m a musician, manager, booker, travel agent, publicist and roadie all rolled into one. Did I mention how tired I am?
ElD - Do you think people appreciate how difficult all this is though? I mean I sometimes get the impression that it’s a commonly held opinion that bands just turn up, plug in and play. The background grind of travelling expenses, accommodation and feeding yourself just doesn’t seem to register.
JP - That really shouldn’t be the concern of an audience. They are there to be entertained. It’s a show. No one needs to know what’s going on behind the scenes.
ElD - Will you ultimately look back on this and gloss over the trials and tribulations and just think that you did it. You went out there and did what so many other people didn’t?
JP - Absolutely. Broken suitcase handle, guitar in disrepair…you get through it because you have to. Sometimes things that are difficult at the moment they are occurring are really funny in retrospect. I was just having a discussion about that at Nice N Sleazy with my friend Nathan Crowley who a guitarist with the Liverpool band, Sound Of Guns. We were trading stories about less than stellar accommodations while on tour. On my last UK tour, my band, along with our tour manager and a videographer, spent one night in a filthy house in which every surface was covered in dirty laundry and open food. We were afraid to touch anything. All of us attempted to sleep in this one room (with all our clothes on!) and we couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it all was. At the time it was awful, but now it’s a fond memory. Nathan told me a story about how his band stayed in some hotel that had half a toilet seat in the bathroom. They went out and when they returned to their room, the other half was gone!
ElD - So what is the ultimate aim for you?
JP - Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture and for me, it’s really more about conquering immediate goals than it is about getting an end result anyway. Ultimately, I would like to find a way to generate more income from my original music and find other people to help me so that I don’t have so much stress and can be more comfortable financially. And if I have more money, it means I can more readily tour and record when I want to. But money is not at all why I do what I do. I love it – pure and simple.
ElD - Back to the tour. It’s a bit haphazard with you bouncing around the country a bit. London first then a cross country trip for Glasgow tonight before working your way back down south to Manchester and then Liverpool. That’s a lot of miles on the clock. Wouldn’t it have been easier starting in Glasgow and working down or vice-versa?
JP - There’s nothing haphazard about it. I planned everything very carefully. When I began booking this tour, I didn’t know that I was going to be playing in Glasgow. I knew that I needed to be in London one weekend and Liverpool the next and then I just filled in the blanks. I was toying with the idea of going to Dublin because like Scotland, I’d never been to Ireland before, but I decided it would be easier to stay on the mainland. I had also heard from a few people that Glasgow was a great city for music, so I wanted to check it out for myself.
ElD - Your album ’Catching Flies with Vinegar’ came out in 2005. How much does it still represent you as an artist? Do you feel there is a ‘that was then, and this is now’ aspect to it? How far have you moved on since then?
JP - There’s no question that I’m always evolving as a musician and songwriter, and even as a person, so things are going to change. However, Catching Flies With Vinegar is still an excellent representation of who I am as an artist and that will never change. Some of the songs on Catching Flies With Vinegar were already around for years when I recorded them. The main difference in my songwriting now that I’m older is that I’m not focused on writing about personal relationships anymore. I’m much happier and more comfortable in my own skin these days so my newer material reflects that. I’ve always had a good sense of humor and it’s always come across in my writing, but now I’m concentrating more on observation and commentary about things outside of my personal life. I even like to role play on occasion by inhabiting an imagined character and writing from his or her perspective.
Eld - You worked with Daniel Rey on the album. How did you manage to grab his attention and secure his services as a producer?
JP - Although Daniel lives very near to me and we have mutual friends, I didn’t get to know him until we recorded together. I first met Daniel briefly when I was assisting with publicity for the original Joey Ramone Birthday Bash that took place at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC in 2001, shortly after Joey’s death. Then in 2004, when I was ready to record a new album and was looking for a producer, somebody suggested Daniel. I was reintroduced to him at a party at a bar and we arranged to meet. We just got together at his apartment, I told him about my plans and described what I was looking for and he agreed to do the project.
ElD - Do you think that his involvement helped raise your profile at the time?
JP - To some degree. Any association with The Ramones can only be a positive thing. More importantly, he helped me achieve what I wanted in the studio. Also, he’s a damn good guitar player and added a lot of dimension to the recording.
ElD - So what’s in the pipeline now? You must have new material that’s been honed on the road just waiting to be laid down in a studio.
JP - I do have some great material that I’m itching to record, but not quite enough finished to put out a new album yet. I need to spend more time focusing on writing and not just playing. I just released a brand new digital single called “I Hate The Holidays (But I Love Spending Them With You) last November and I’m dying to get back into the studio and do more.
Contact - www.myspace.com/janaperi
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