Always honest, the trajectory of Zedek’s career has tended toward ever-increasing self-awareness
Thalia Zedek (Photo: Naomi Yang)
By Ian Thomas
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Thalia Zedek has played a part in some of the noisiest underground outfits of recent decades. In the late eighties, she sang for NYC avant-experimenters Live Skull, lending some rock and roll swagger to the band’s abrasive, meandering compositions. In the nineties, in the Boston-based Come, she let her voice float on the wave of noise, instead of being swallowed up by it, like it was in Live Skull.
In recent years, she has split her time between the hard-to-Google E — a trio comprised of Zedek Sidney Sanford, and Gavin McCarthy — and her Thalia Zedek Band, a rotating cast of collaborators from throughout her career.
THALIA ZEDEK & CHRIS BROKAW LIVING ROOM SHOW. 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. Show is hosted in a private space, full address will be provided on completion of ticket purchase. Visit www.undertowshows.com
Always honest, the trajectory of Zedek’s career has tended toward ever-increasing self-awareness. Zedek is brazenly confident and unapologetic about the hypocrisies that must be taken up to navigate the world with anything approaching a consistent worldview.
“Keep your enemies by your side and in your arms/put yourself so high on a pedestal you can’t climb down/live what you believe/hide from everything you need/don’t try to rescue me/you are not the one/don’t live to please me/I am not the one,” she sings in the opening lines of , “Bend,” the opening cut on the latest (and most political) offering from the Thalia Zedek Band, Fighting Season, which culminates in a signature solo assist from J Mascis.
On her current tour, Zedek is playing a stint of intimate house shows with limited accompaniment from long time bandmate Chris Brokaw. Upon purchasing tickets, attendees will be sent the address and time of the November third performance. Pittsburgh Current caught up with Zedek via phone, while on the road. During the interview, she called a brief time-out to re-route Brokaw, so he could avoid an unnecessary toll road.
Can you talk about how you view compromise, especially in political terms?
I feel very strongly about not compromising on certain things, actually. I don’t [feel] that I’m that big of a compromiser. It is important to try to see other people’s sides of the story. I think there’s absolutely certain things that I feel like that are going on now in the U.S., political stuff, that I’m absolutely, one hundred percent against. For example, separating immigrant children from their parents. There’s so much stuff. I think compromise can be dangerous sometimes. I think if you have a very dangerous or fascist or totalitarian type leader, should you compromise with them? I think no.
Your bandmate Dave Curry’s viola work in the Thalia Zedek Band is so complementary to your voice, your guitar work, and your lyrics. Can you talk about how that came about and what attracts you to that instrumentation that makes you keep wanting to use it?
I started playing with Dave a long time ago. I’d seen him play viola with other people. He played in Willard Grant Conspiracy. I just always really loved the sound of the viola and the way he played and he was really good friends and roommates with Chris Brokaw. I was in Come at the time and, so, I kind of got to know him pretty well and became friends with him and then when I started doing solo stuff with piano and stuff, at that point, Dave would just kind of walk around to all the clubs with his viola and be like ‘Can I play with you?’ and kind of played with a lot of different people. So, he asked to play with me and that was kind of it. We’ve been doing it ever since. I didn’t know that much about the viola. I always loved John Cale’s — what he did with the Velvet Underground — but now that I’ve played with a viola player for so long, it’s an incredibly versatile instrument. Especially when I first started doing this, trying to figure out how I was going to perform the TZ Band songs, we were performing without a bass player. I kind of wanted a sparser sound and so the viola really filled in really well that low end. It’s just a very versatile instrument and the way Dave plays is really special.”
Your relationship with (record label) Thrill Jockey goes back to 2004. What are the important factors in finding a record company that supports you as an artist that’s been around for so long?
I have nothing but good things to say about Thrill Jockey. It’s basically Bettina Richards’ operation. She’s the president of it. There are other people that work there, but she’s definitely in charge and calling the shots there and she’s been just so, so supportive of me as an artist and it’s really meant a lot in terms of giving me room to grow and it’s made me more prolific having that support behind me. She releases an incredible amount of records and she’s got an incredible amount of artists on the label, so just the fact she’s been able to do it and keep an independent record label going for so long when so many other people have joined with other corporate things or gone out of business. I have so much respect for her and everyone who works there.