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Pavement 2 ('98)

From: Henley McKegg <>
Subject: Pavement interview part 2
Date: Sun, 2 Aug 1998 19:03:51 +1200
From Pavement, an Auckland "popular culture" magazine.

Story by Desmond Sampson,
Photos by David Murphy

Part two, in which Dean and Toni talk about Electronica, their influence, their thoughts on surviving in the music industry AND why they will never compromise their music... [Pic: Toni]
"People get worried about being away because it's instilled in you by the record industry that people will forget about you," reasons Halliday. "But so what if they do? It's all panic stuff," she sneers, accentuating her chiselled cheek-bones. "If you don't stand up for yourself and say, 'well, actually, I'll just take as long as it takes,' then you'll just fall into that trap. I know that everyone complains about it, but if it takes 5 years to make an album, then it does. The album's ready when it's fucking ready! And that's it!" she barks.
"The thing is," she continues, "at the end of the day, nobody *does* forget you. After all, you're just as good as your last record. No one could forget you because the moment you're back and the record comes out and it's fucking brilliant, they'll remember you."

    Halliday has a point. But even if Curve haven't been forgotten, they could well have been forsaken, or usurped, by changing fads and fashions in music. After all, in their absence, there's been an electronica and big beats explosion, with Prodigy, Underworld, Chemical Bros. and Garbage, even, capitalising on Curve's distinctive mix of screeching guitars, raw beats and vocal onslaughts. These bands have cleverly refined, reworked and repackaged these elements for the American market, scoring massive transatlantic followings in the process - something Curve never achieved.

"I don't think you can take what we did before, which was all they had available, and then go, 'That's Garbage' or whatever" counters Halliday. "We're worlds apart. Garbage are a pop band; we're not. Especially not on that kind of level. I'm not putting it down because I love pop music and 'Stupid Girl' was brilliant. It's one of those classic songs you can sing in the shower or the car. But, in comparison to what we were doing before, we were a totally hardcore, underground band from day one and Garbage were never that, ever. To me they're a bunch of quite clever producers who've managed to create this sound that's acceptable to the masses. I don't know to this day whether Curve would be able to make a record that was that acceptable. If we did, it wouldn't be an intentional thing, which it feels a little bit like with Garbage."

    Despite Halliday's protests, there's a distinct feeling that, with America now even embracing Electronica, Big Beat and Drum and Bass, if the world wasn't ready for Curve 5 years ago, these days it almost certainly is. And maybe Curve paved the way.

"Everybody always says that," murmurs Garcia. "People always bring it up in interviews. They always ask: 'Do you think it's open for you because you were so ahead of your time and so many bands who are obviously influenced by you have happened since?' We can kind of see it but we're just doing what we want to do. We're just pushing things out a bit."
"I think it's one of those things we'll just have to wait and see about," adds Halliday casually. "I don't believe it's a definitive thing that's happened. I still think it's a really big testing time for America, whether the Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Propellerheads or whatever Britain sends out there works or not."

    Overall, Come Clean is more refined and far less brash than either Doppelgänger or Cuckoo, eschewing the crashing sonics of their earlier output. The new album may even prove to be more commercially successful than it's predecessors, despite retaining Curve's trademark ability to make your ears bleed. Even America's indie music bible, Alternative Press, has tipped Come Clean as one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of 1998.

"We'd taken processing 16 guitar tracks as far as it could go," explains Halliday dispassionately, "so we didn't want to repeat ourselves or bore ourselves. We wanted to entertain each other. And we've done that. But basically, we're a band that don't compromise, so if we ever did stumble across a more mainstream hit, then it would be accidental."
"Don't get me wrong," she continues. "I'd love to have a huge hit. Everybody would. But with the record that you actually made, rather than some Tori Amos remix, where nobody even fucking knows it's her. Do you know what I mean? They've just remixed it straight in the air and she's sold a million records off the back of that fucking single. But I don't want to sell a record off the back of some dodgy fucking remix that's got fuck all to do with you or the album. It's not worth it. And I know there's a massive amount of sacrifice that goes on with every artist, no matter what they tell you, because commercial mixes are done, and commercial decisions are made. You might not like it, but the record company says: 'well that's what they want on radio.' And if you don't put your foot down, that's what happens. But we don't make those sacrifices."

    After Halliday's passionate outburst, you might expect her to be slightly apologetic about the fact that their comeback was facilitated by allowing a huge multinational corporation to use their single for a TV commercial. She doesn't agree. At all!

"Doing a commercial doesn't mean that *you're* commercial," she retorts. "Anyway, that track was as hard as fucking nails. There's just no two ways about it. We didn't change any of it. It was a demo. It wasn't even mixed. It went out just as we'd recorded it, so we didn't have to make any sacrifices."

    Halliday's equally vociferous about most bands' motives and motivations. She argues that they're often misguided or misunderstand the reasons why they formed their band in the first place; or they don't have a vision of what they eventually want to achieve.

"I think a lot of bands lose sight of their own personal happiness and what can be done with that," insists Halliday. "Unfortunately, there's this really sick, sad illusion in the industry that you need to be really fucked up to do really great things. That's completely untrue. I think you can have spurts of being really creative under that kind of duress, but I don't think it's a thing that continues for a long time."

    After a moment's pause to reflect on what she's just said, Halliday launches into a seething tirade against the price of long term fame and how veteran acts are eventually forced into striking a balance between pop stardom and personal satisfaction to ensure their collective and individual survival.

"Fundamentally, all acts that have had 25-year careers must have, at some point, decided to be happy for themselves," suggests Halliday. "Because, at the end of the day, when this is all over and you're not a 20-something in a really happening band, then what have you got? What have you really achieved? And you find that all the time with bands that work really hard and make all these personal sacrifices, believing that, at the end of the day, that's going to make them happy, and it doesn't. It's just a completely vacuous experience. And they end up having done all the stuff you're supposed to do, like touring for two years. But when they come back, they've got no girlfriends, no wives and no friends and they're just fucking lonely. And they end up in really dodgy situations. They might have loads of money, a big house and a nice car but no one to really share it with. And at that point they're so big, who do they trust to come into that scenario? All the people I know and all the friends I've had go back 15 years. Most of my relationships are long-term, and I'm really proud of that. I wouldn't sacrifice that for anything. That's whats important," she bellows.
The silence that concludes Halliday's outburst is stifling. After what seems like an eternity, she smiles, leans forward and unexpectedly whispers, "What do I wish for? Mass success, obviously, but done from a really great angle, rather than from a desperate 'this is the only thing that matters; fuck on everyone; step over them; jump on people's backs to get anything at all' angle. It's hard, but you've got to detach yourself from the hype and believe in what you do. So we don't go and 'hang' and we don't go to the parties. That's how you do it."

    So, if *that's* what Curve secretly hanker for - mass success and mass acceptance, but on their own terms, without sacrificing their ideals, compromising their standards, or taking advantage of anyone else - do they anticipate that Come Clean will redeem this desire?

"I don't know what's going to happen to the record," concludes Halliday. "It could be middling; it could blow out the water; or do nothing. But all I know is, at the end of this whole thing, I'll be married to the man I really love and I'll have all my mates. So even if nothing happens, when I've had my life, I'll have had a life. And that's what's important. And it'll be the same for Dean. And if anything does happen with the record, at least we've got that platform to work from, and not just be out there, on your own, a sad and lonely fuck."

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