For a long time I thought Azalia Snail was from England and I’m not sure why. ( She actually lives in LA). Her brand of psychedelic acoustic music sort of placed her in my mind in the same camp as The Incredible String Band, Fotheringay, Julie Tippetts, Linda Perhacs ( from the USA) and Pearls Before Swine ( also from the USA). With it’s cloudy melodies and sincere home taper vibe this was a real hit with me. But for some reason, perhaps because she made vinyl releases and did touring, I always felt she was one step above your typical bedroom home taper. Her long time presence in the underground has given me pause and made me think that maybe there were more women involved in the “early days” of home recording ( 1980-1990) than I have assumed.. Below is a short interview with her and below that is a piece written in 2010. You will also find links to sound files, bio, and her current group with partner, Daniel West, LoveyDove.
Picture from Left Hip Magazine is also the cover of Azalia Snail’s CD on the Silber label, Celestial Respect.
do you remember your first home recording?
After having spent incredible times with Fly Ashtray in the Bronx doing spontaneous music jams with them, I was stoked to get my own Tascam PortaOne. I got it used for less than $100. This one probably around 1987-88. From there, I was addicted to making sounds. Got an old pair of ace headphones and recorded quite constantly in the 90s (hence making at least an album a year).
who were your musical influences at the time?
Lou Reed always numero uno, especially his “Coney Island Baby“album and “Rock and Roll Heart” Close tie for #1 is Brian Eno — adored his 1st 4 solo records, and especially “Another Green World” and“Before and After Science.” I loved T Rex and the layering of percussion and acoustic/electric guitars. Patti Smith’s “Horses” always will be locked in my psyche, listening on headphones was mindblowing. The Kink Kronikles was played til the grooves wore down.The Trogg Tapes, a masterpiece of alluring rock n roll. Loved old soul,free jazz, 60s pop, haunting soundtracks, and punk rock!
do you remember your first tape trade with a home taper?
On the road in the early 90s, there was a constant trade at every stop. Jeff Fucillo of Union Pole was taping over old cassettes and releasing so many great lo-fi bands to the world, following in the footsteps of Shrimper. He put out my “Teenage Bedroom tapes” collection.
how did you contact other tapers before the advent of the internet?
By coming into their town. I’d also get tons of fantastic letters with hand drawn cassettes and other treats (a fan girl once made me a giant collage of snails… it came in a giant roll, and I had difficulty gettingit home on my bicycle.)
there are a lot of women experimental and home recording artists now but there seemed to be only a few in the 80s and 90s? was this true or was I missing something? Why were there so few women then producing their own music but plenty of white guys?
Just like with anything, there are the ones that come first, and then 20 years later, there are the ones that follow in those footsteps.
talk about how the internet has changed your approach.
I love it and I hate it. Everything comes too easy now; it makes people lazy and somewhat unappreciative of the music. I miss the old-fashion aspects of so many things, but most of all I miss the luxury of being a broke
musician on tour (and just being able to afford the road.)
and in these high tech times is there less of a sense of community? Do you think the internet is inherently superficial? Or is it simply the way we use it?
I’m just happy I got to live in the years just before it. It was exciting to see it happen, but again, with most cool things, it gets misused, overused, over-saturated… I saw a big billboard the other day “Your digital life” Doesn’t that say it all?
what is the best way for people to contact and find out more about your music and projects?
Aha, the internet of course!
AZALiA SNAiL on Facebook (with little i’s and the rest CAPS) and LoveyDove too. Big L, Big D.
Tons of videos on youtube (Azalia Snail Ville and LoveyDove Inc)
THE AZALiA SNAiL STORY
California beckoned me at a time when I felt I needed open sky and a whole lot of sun. I was coming here a lot on tour, and entertained the notion of being here more often;. Originally I was going to make a double coast existence, but I found that once I was here, I didn’t want to go back to NYC so much. As much as I devoured and was completely enamored of NYC, I was dismayed at a lot of the changes taking place
there. Gone were so many of my favorite restuarants and hang-outs. It was, in quick order, becoming too much like the suburbia I dreaded as a desperate teenager. It seems to be more a playground for the spoiled and the overcompensated. Los Angeles still has sections of bohemian splendour, or a at least a taste of that. I can get in my little car and cruise up to the foothills in a few minutes, taking in an intoxicating view, and getting away from it all. One should keep in mind that it is possible to keep your distance from the mundane and shallow victims that congregate in Los Angeles more popularly known arenas.
I began my music as a soundtrack to my own experiemental film INSIDE HER MINDS (filmed by the bizarre and reticent Tim Ray). I couldn’t help but visualize images with music. Way before the rock video took its form, music was utilized most grandly by fillmmakers, first with the silents and on to the fabulous musicals (my mother took us kids to all of the revivals or we watched them on television); and continuing with my favorite era of cinema, 60’s and 70’s groudbreakers like Hal Ashby and Robert Altman.
Merging music and film is an irresistible combination for me. I should also mention Christopher G. Frieri, who asked me to score three of his horror/cult features for him.
Europe. Another subject that whirls me in the direction of paradise. How can I praise it enough? With its immaculate history, culture, disparate differences, appreciation for art for art’s sake (as opposed to America’s obsession with the dollar/profit margin)—beautiful scenery, gregarious people, splendorous foods, I am intoxicated by the multitude of charns various countries offer me. If they like me in turn, that would only seem fair. Perhaps USA will one day be proud of their underground flowery crustacean, but that is not for me to say.
I’ve always created music exactly the way I wanted to at that moment of creation. I have never compromised; I have never had to. BLUE DANUBE was especially daring, if you will, because each song was created in its own anonymous tuning, and recorded immediately to four-track upon its inception. I can never play these songs live because I have no idea what these tunings are anymore. Only the words were written in my notebook.
All the instruments (some quite odd) were played by me without any planning whatsoever. I was lucky that the German label, Normal , allowed me to release it exactly as I created it. The British label Garden of Delights released it on vinly as ESCAPE MAKER with some of the songs as instrumentals. As for the title track, It was a plea for the love I had at the time to love me the way I loved him (also wtihout compromise) – it was an impossible task for him. Much of the album deals with the disparity of realizing I was with a rather elusive human.
I own all my rights, and I own all my wrongs. Enough said.
Collaboration has always been completely beneficial and appealing to me.
I wouldn’t have made all this music without the contribution of so many amazing people. Some of my favorites: Pall Jenkinsfrom The Black Heart Procession (he played on “Unalligned Sky” on BLUE DANUBE) who has such an alluring sadness in his soul. Alan Sparhawk from LOW, a band that never ceases to hypnotize and sooth my soul. Alan played the mellotron lead on “Purr on a Gyre” on BREAKER MORTAR). In the early 90’s, it was also a treat to jam with Beck Hansen, who now has become a star out of reach. I played zither on stage with him in Minneapolis (the “Purple Rain” nightclub, actually); he played harmonica with me and Trumans Water in Los Angles. Speaking of Trumans, our album “Stampone” still stands as a unique freeform rock/jazz experiment that surely does not sound like anything else. I had a terrific time playing with my Swiss pals SPORTSGUITAR on our SWISS BLISS sessions. I still dig the album I made with Susanne Lewis as HAIL/SNAIL “How to Live With a Tiger.” You asked about Supreme Dicks. Daniel Oxenberg is a superior guitar player who toured me for some years in the 1990s. He plays some melodic leads on my album BURNT SIENNA. I never worked with any of the other Dicks, but I do love many of their songs from the 90s.
Most outstanding gig was Berlin for the first time, I think it was 1995. I played in an old squat in the old eastern zone, Lychenerstrasse 56. The audience was unbelievably enthusaistic, kept cheering for more until I pulled a Bruce Springsteen and played for over three hours. Inviting kids from the crowd to grab an instrument and play along, I felt like I could do anything and everything without regret. I’ve become acquainted with several of those that were there, including the lovely Kitty Solaris. She has told me she was inspired from that show to play music of her own! What better compliment can one get? Second best could be Paris around the same time, I took on my guitar in a way I never had before, concocting Hendrixian dynamics (I really don’t know where I got the guts) – Les Instants Chavires, not far from where Henry Miller resided. Maybe that’s
why I got the nerve.
I am so grateful for all the experiences I have had touring, recording, watching other bands play, listening, appreciating, dedicating myself to many art practitioners. I could not exist without art. Life would be hollow and meaningless without art. One can cringe at the amount of “bad art”,
but one can also say that we need all of it, the lesser to know the better, the mediocre to know the truly divine. To create is to intoxicate.
My newest album AVEC AMOUR could be my hookiest effort to date.
There’s some quite rocking and, dare I say, structured songs. I think it still has my unmistable sound. I wouldn’t know how to make it sound like anyone else, and why should I? Take it or leave it; it’s all I can do. I’m writing fiction as well. There just may be a movie being made quite soon from a script I wrote this year. I’m venturing into making videos for other bands as well. I’ve directed several this year: one for my song “Honeysuckle” filmed in the ravishingly photogenic Forest Lawn Cemetary; for my favorite LA band, THE MOVIES, kind of a spin on the movie “Secretary”, a few for the fantastic Berlin rock band KITTY SOLARIS; another one for THE PICK-UP STICKS called “Open Fire”, two for one-woman showstopper CHASE FRANK, and many more, all available to watch on youtube.com. All accomplished on a mini-DV camera. Vastly easier than my old-fashioned way on an old Super-8!
Azalia Snail will remain true to her notions of exploration and adventure, whether it be sonic grooves or visual allure. Hope to continue to inspire others in their own independent and invigorating investigations.
Various interviews and articles on Azalia Snail below:
Listen to Azalia Snail at Dilandau
Review of “Celestial Respect” in left Hip Magazine.
Discography and info at All Music.com
Azalia Snail wiki
Music videos with Azalia Snail on Bearly Rambling blog.
“Inside Her Minds” video on youtube
Discography on discogs
Scroll down for article on Hidden Classics zine
LoveyDove is the project of Daniel West and Azalia Snail. Check them out on Facebook