In Retrospect: Entertainment Writer and Editor
Some of my classic celebrity interviews are archived on my old Blogspot site, which I don't use anymore. I didn't have the site that long, so I didn't get a chance to load a lot of old stories on it like I had intended. But if you happen to be a music fan of either The Beach Boys, Eric Burdon (and the Animals), The Monkees, Alice Cooper, Patti Smith and Alanis Morissette you may find it interesting how I handled interviewing these amazing musicians. It's important to always be completely prepared when you are doing an interview with a celebrity, especially when your time is so limited.
So, since you asked, visit my old Blogspot page macassata.blogspot.com. As always I appreciate your support! Hope you enjoy.
An Interview With Patti Smith (The Music Paper, October 1988)
Many of my long time friends in the business (who remembered this piece) asked me when I was going to post the Patti Smith interview to The Mac Wire. I decided not to and posted it here instead. It's always been one of my favorite pieces. Patti was such a huge inspiration in my teen years as she still is today. Anytime the opportunity arises for some kind of industry meet and great, I am there! Parts of this interview have been referenced in a couple biography books I've see on her too. Dream of Life was Patti's much anticipated fifth album in 1988 after a long nine year absence from the music industry.
The Music Paper, October 1988
(Images from the Internet)
Patti Smith: A Rock Visionary's New Dream
The wait is finally over. Patti Smith, seminal seventies avant-garde poet and proto-punk, has returned to rock and roll after a nine year hiatus. Her long-awaited fifth album, Dream of Life (Arista), was co-produced by Jimmy Iovine and Patti's husband and collaborator, Fred Smith, and reunites the Patti Smith Group: Ivan Kral on guitar, Richard Sohl on keyboards and Jay Dee Daugherty on drums.
When Patti Smith first started setting her poems to music in the early seventies, a battle cry for honest rock and roll was sounded. Her independent single, "Piss Factory," backed with a diverting rendition of the Hendrix classic "Hey Joe," may well have been the first punk-rock record ever released. By the time the Patti Smith Group was signed to Arista, they had already gained cult status and were filling now-legendary rock haunts in lower Manhattan like CBGB's and Max's Kansas City.
Horses, Smith's remarkable debut album, was hailed by critics the world over as one of the most original first albums ever recorded. Her second album, Radio Ethiopia, recorded under the guidance of producer Jack Douglas, was another explosion of raw energy and primal rock inspiration. Easter, her third album, was released in 1978. Producer Jimmy Iovine channeled Smith's original lyrical stylings and the band's assassinating rhythms into a disc identifiable enough to reach millions. The LP's single, "Because the Night," (co-written by Smith and Bruce Springsteen), even reached the Top Ten.
Smith once again switched producers for her fourth album, Wave, this time calling on an old friend Todd Rundgren. Its release marked the end of a long journey. The reluctant rock star felt she had achieved all of her poetic and musical goals and decided to take a sabbatical to reassess her life and work. In late 1979 she moved to Detroit to be with her husband-to-be, Fred Smith (formerly guitarist for the radical Detroit-based rock band MC5). The two were married in the early spring of 1980, with Patti joking to the press that she didn't even have to change her last name.
Patti Smith's nine-year absence from the music business has been a positive experience for her, a time of emotional healing and personal growth. She spent most of her time raising her two children, Jackson Frederick (now five) and Jesse Paris (now two), drawing much inspiration from them. Dream of Life is a celebration of family unity and of the love Patti and Fred share for each other, their children and the world. In this exclusive Music Paper interview, Patti Smith opens her heart in a rare discussion of her music and her life as artist, wife and mother.
"Deep in my heart
How the presence of you shines
In a life to last a whole life through
I recall the wonder of it all
Each dream of life I'll share with you."
-- "Dream of Life," Patti Smith
THE MUSIC PAPER: You seemed to have some false starts with Dream of Life. First it was 1980 with only five songs completed. Then two years later those songs were scrapped and new recordings were made. Then the project was halted till last year. When did production time really start for Dream of Life?
PATTI SMITH: Actually, we started production a couple of years ago. I don't know exactly when we started or when we decided to do the album, but we're happy with it. I think what happened was we began to rehearse and things with friends in the middle of '86. I think that's why it took so long. We felt we had something worthwhile to share, so we went ahead and started working on the album. Right in the middle of recording I found out I was going to have another baby. That was a surprise. We did as much as we could. We recorded until it was too strenuous for me. We had to lay off for a while and then go back to it.
TMP: There's no doubt that Fred has certainly played an integral part in the creative process of making Dream of Life. When did you first start writing and working together?
SMITH: Fred and I have always worked together. We write songs together and pursue individual ideas. It's been that way since I met him in 1976. Over the past ten years we have been writing and working on songs together for ourselves. I never stopped writing.
Working with Fred is very important to me. Our album represents us working together. We have a lot of other ideas and songs we haven't done yet. Many songs. We're looking into the future with some other works. We have achieved what we wanted with this album. What we wanted to do was a piece of work together that addressed the things we cared about.
TMP: Did you record most of the album in New York?
SMITH: Yes, almost entirely the album was done in New York. We did the B-side in Detroit of "People Have the Power." It's called "Wild Leaves." We did the "Jackson Song" in Los Angeles. It was done with the vocal and piano live. We had some cello and harp added in. It was really quite an experience for me, recording that song. I'll never forget it.
TMP: What happened?
SMITH: Well, it was a very difficult song to get through. It's very moving. Well, at least it was moving to us. That particular one we chose was different. The other songs weren't live takes. We only did a few takes that were live. What happened was that I missed my cue at the end. I came in a little too late because I got real moved to enter the song again. After hearing the song we decided it was all right and left it that way.
TMP: It's obvious you and Fred are content with your family life. Has having children affected your writing?
SMITH: Having children is great. We love our children. There's a lot of sacrifice and very intense responsibility. It's really wonderful, though. In terms of being an artist, it has affected me in a positive way. I think I've grown and expanded on it. I've grown and expanded as a human being in that way. That's permeated into the work. A lot of the work I've done over the past nine years hasn't been shared yet. I think it's some of the best work I have ever done. It's the most articulate, and I'm pleased with it. Fred and I have done a lot of work together. A lot of writing and exploring in a lot of different areas.
TMP: A lot of your earlier work underlines rage and violence. Today your outlook on life is totally different, more positive. There seems to be a certain peaceful kind of aura about you now. That's inspiring. Would you care to elaborate?
SMITH: Yes. Well, people need to go through periods of reassessment. We don't all have the luxury or the insight to do these things. I don't know what it takes. Sometimes you must simply take stock in yourself and re-evaluate your life and your work and learn how to build on it. I feel really, really happy now. It's communication. The tearing down and rebuilding, and a willingness to expand oneself.
TMP: What was it like going back in the studio again after so many years?
SMITH: I've always liked the whole recording process. When the time came, it was a real exciting experience. It got a little tedious at times -- when you are in the studio you have to really concentrate and know that you are potentially communicating with thousands. If you're lucky, then it's millions. You have all these thoughts in your mind when you are working. The recording process is really very wonderful if you know exactly what you want to do. The work process is what makes it better. The work is the most gratifying part to the artist. When you are at home in your work process, then it becomes private. But in the studio, you know you are going to reach many people.
TMP: What was it like working with Jimmy Iovine again? He's a wonderful producer. He really seemed to capture the essence of your music.
SMITH: Jimmy is wonderful to work with. Fred and him really collaborated well on this project. The important thing is that all the musicians were properly represented. It was a real collaboration on everyone's part. Everyone really did their part, from [keyboardist] Richard Sohl to the assistant engineer. Everyone put so much into this production.
TMP: What is the underlying message of Dream of Life?
SMITH: Well, we are addressing a lot of things that we care about. I would say that the underlying theme is communication. Songs like "When Duty Calls" and "Up There, Down There" shake a few fingers. The underlying principle is the communication between man and woman, between parent and child, between one and their creator. Planetary communication. It's positiveness behind hope, and also awareness of these kinds of difficult situations. "People Have the Power" is a network of communication.
TMP: Do you have a favorite out of all the tracks?
SMITH: I'm happy with the whole album. I love it all. All the work I've done in the past is important to me. Anything I've ever done, I've put a lot of care into. People will have to decide for themselves what they feel about the album. This is an album that cannot be defined.
TMP: You're obviously not concerned with your fans' reactions to the new music, though. It's quite a departure from your earlier work.
SMITH: No, I'm not concerned. You work to communicate. Once you record, mix it and whatever, it no longer belongs to you. It goes out to the world. The idea here is to do a good piece of work. I say, do something you think the people will like. Fred and I are not formulated people at all. Arista was very, very supportive and gave us the space we needed to complete this album. When you work, you can't really anticipate what people are going to think.
TMP: I think that some people were probably expecting to hear another Horses. But if they were, those people haven't grown spiritually enough.
SMITH: Exactly. I wrote the opening line to that album when I was 19 years old. Anyone who would expect me to repeat or have the same thoughts I did when I was 19 probably hasn't gone through much growth themselves.
TMP: It's like what Joni Mitchell once said about Van Gogh not painting another "Starry Night."
SMITH: Yes, look at Picasso. He's another prime example. I mean, everyone loved the "Blue" period. But if he would have stopped there, there wouldn't have been any other great epics of his work. As an artist, you hope the people stay in step -- or at least let you keep stepping. An artist must create space for themselves and for other people. It's almost like a code of artists. It's a code and a risk. You have to do that. I think if people are looking for Horses, they should go out and buy it. I'm proud of what that album is, and if that's what they're looking for, it's already been done.
TMP: Patti, what were some of the inspirations behind the songs on Dream of Life?
SMITH: I think really there are parallel inspirations running throughout the album. It's communication. This album reflects communication and certain concerns. "When Duty Calls" is a concern about border disputes and religious wars, which I find to be very, very painful. The inspiration comes from being concerned about what's happening on this planet. Some of it comes from personal feelings. A friend of mine died, and that inspired a song, a piece of work. The opposite of "Dream of Life" is "Dream of Death." It inspires thoughts of resurrection and hope. It's all about hopes and dreams we have during our journeys. There's many, many influences.
TMP: Do you ever look back at your old image and think, "That's not me, that's another Patti Smith?"
SMITH: No, not really, because you don't change overnight. We are so occupied with our families now, and with the work that we do, that there is no time to think about that. We would rather think about the 1990s rather than the 60s or 70s. Of course, I am certainly proud of the work I did with the band. I think it's great to be able to look back and feel you did a good piece of work. I have no regrets about it. Now I spend time thinking about the future. An artist is always thinking about their next piece of work. That's being part of the creative process.
TMP: What to you hope to accomplish with Dream of Life?
Really bad photo copies, I know. My originals are buried somewhere in storage with hundreds of other published stories. If anyone has this in color, please send it to me. It's really a great cover and I am still so proud of it.
SMITH: A good piece of work, which I think we've captured. The creative process belongs to the artist. The finished product belongs to the people. Hopefully this album will inspire people with things to think about or remind them of a few things to think about. Maybe some will shed a tear or two in the process. I hope it gives them some pleasant moments, too.
Alanis Morissette Queen of the Hill (Women of Rock Magazine, 1996)
I found the following article/interview I did with Alanis Morissette in 1996. It was originally published in a one-shot music magazine I was asked to contribute to that year called Woman of Rock. I have several other stories on Alanis that are probably much better than this one. But I'll have to dig them out of storage first. So for now I am just going to see what else I can find on the internet.
By Mary Anne Cassata (Women of Rock Magazine, September 1996)
She prowls back and forth on the stage, all dressed in black like a panther in a cage. Alanis Morissette growls and whines through such intense self-confessional songs as "You Oughta Know", "All I Really Want" and "Forgiven". Her big, multi-octave voice captivates the audience as they sing along word-for-word with every song. This is not your usual crowd sing along with the rock star either. This performers audience aims to sing with just as much conviction and emotional abandon as Morissette herself- and without a doubt, they certainly do.
In the midst of her lengthy ongoing U.S. and European concert tour it seems like there's just no end in sight for one of today's top women in rock. Here in the states, Jagged Little Pill has sold over seven million copies and made the coveted number one position on the Billboard charts. The latest single "You Learn" is already blazing a patch up the singles' chart in similar rampant fashion like its predecessors "Ironic" and the 1995 mega-hit "Hand In My Pocket".
And considering her outstanding acoustic perfromance of "You Oughta Know" at the Grammy awards, where the Canadian-born singer won four awards including "Album of the Year", what can she do wrong? Not much these days. Just ask any of the thousands of teenage girls who flock to her concerts. Hell, she's barely out of high-school herself and it's crystal clear she surely knows just how to pull the strings of young fans with vivid, recollections of adolescent revelations and turning points.
Since the controversial "You Oughta Know", Alanis Morissette has never felt more comfortable assuming the role of an avenging banshee out for blood from her ex-lover--and she makes no apologies. Overall, she has managed to successfully maintain this aggressive stance with acute bouts of insecurity and big doses maturity.
In regard to writing the songs for Jagged Little Pill, relaxing in her pre-concert dressing room she offers:"I just found myself with a certain sense of fearlessness about my vulnerability. I discovered that the more truthful and vulnerable I was, the more empowering it was for me."
Hard to believe, but every song on the album was written and recorded in a single day. Co-writer, Grammy award-winning producer, Glen Ballard, who has worked with the likes of Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul composed the music to Morissette's lyrics.
"When we first started writing together," she fondly recalls, "at the time I thought, should I be so open or not? At the same time I didn't want to live with this censorship of myself. I didn't want to live halfway between worlds. At that moment, I let go of wanting to please other, and started pleasing myself. I didn't know how much responsibility I could take for having placed myself in dysfunctional relationships."
"Most of the songs are, in a roundabout way, actually addressed to myself," she continues sipping a soda. "There's a certain aspect of the songs that's very confessional, very unadulterated. I'd written these songs almost like a stream of consciousness. For me, it was a very unfettered, spiritual experience."
At 22 years old, this singer-songwriter dynamo expects to remain on the road- her home away from home for a while longer. As Morissette practices strengthening the bond between artist and performer, she'll also continue to write new songs in between performances and traveling. The most recent three songs "Death of Cinderella", "King of Intimidation" and "No Pressure Over Cappuccino" are already crowd pleasers and expect to be included on her next album.
"I'm very excited about what's happening in music these days," Alanis has said. "There are a lot of artists , many of whom happen to be women, trying to express their feelings with complete honesty and without apology. You might say they are just trying to be human."
Other noted and revered women of rock unanimously agree and it's hard not to. One in particular is veteran rocker, Annie Lennox. "She's stunning--really creative and intensely gifted," noted Lennox backstage at the Grammy Awards. "She looks like she won't let this industry ruin her." Just how does this media proclaimed Rock Goddess coping with the pressures of enormous success and fame? Better than one would expect. Says one insider from Morissette camp:"Alanis is amazing. She's handling things just fine. She is one very level-headed person who has worked a very long time to get where she is today. We're all very happy for her."
But where will she be in a year still remains to be seen. However, music industry bigwigs predict Alanis Morissette's music will be dominating the music charts for a long time to come. And there's no denying that loyal legion of admirers continues to grow larger everyday. "She is the voice of our generation", declares a 16-year-old girl proudly wearing a "Do I Stress You Out?" tee-shirt waiting for the concert doors to open. "I skipped school just to get these tickets. Alanis Morissette sings about emotions and situations I can relate to and understand. She's been such an inspiration to me."
Morissette, who grew up in Ottawa is the daughter of two teacher parents and a sister to a twin brother. In elementary school, she joined the cast of a children's show on Nickelodeon called You Can't Do That On Television. Considered something of a Canadian Tiffany, just a few short years later at age 17, Alanis was recording her self-titled debut album of teen fluff which won her a Juno award in 1992 for Canada's Most Promising Female Vocalist. A year later a second effort followed wit more dance-pop ditties. At which point in her young career, Morissette had once viewed herself strictly as an entertainer, not a musician. But that was a long time ago and topic of conversation she prefers not to discuss backstage following two sold-out dates at New-York City's famed Roseland Ballroom. "What I've discovered over the years is people don't realize how much change, wisdom and personality comes out between the ages of 14 abd 21. As each day progresses, I see new attitudes and new mutations in myself."
"Those words I sing have been brewing in me since I was seven years old," she adds regarding the tracks on Jagged Little Pill." Okay, so I wasn't in charge of everything I did at one time, but I am now. I believe in making honest music, from my heart. If I didn't I wouldn't have a record deal today, I wouldn't be making videos, and I certainly wouldn't have the guts to tour. I'm happy my songs mean something to people. JLP is pretty much autobiographical."
Once the tour ends, Alanis will take a short break before recording her next album which should be sometime in early 1997. She currently resides in Los-Angeles and is thinking of buying a house now that she financially secure. Judging by her track record of hit singles and consistent radio play, thus far, it looks like Alanis Morissette has a lot to look forward to in the future.
In Retrospect: FFanzeen Fun
Robert Barry Francos
(Originally printed August 28th 2013)
My good friend and former music print publisher Robert Barry Francos did this lovely little write up on me and some of the other fine FFanzeen contributors. I have fond memories of Robert. We would often hang out in the Village and distribute FFanzeen to various record stores, music shops, cafes, and small clubs like the famous Bottom Line and Bitter End. We always talked music—old and new artists. We liked a lot of the same people, especially The Ramones, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, and Patti Smith. I was freelancing for a zillion entertainment publications at the time and always had a ton of interviews to place. I remember the first time I spoke to Robert. I was covering off-off Broadway shows for Variety, the famous show business publication. I called Robert and asked if he could use an Iggy Pop interview I had. Most of it was already promised to another publication as a cover story, but I saved a few quotes to use for a slant in FFanzeen because I really liked the look of the publication and wanted to be involved with it.
Robert: When I first met Mary Anne Cassata, she was already writing for a number of other higher-end magazines, including a New York-based Music Paper, but she would rise way above that. Even when she was writing for me in 1984, she was interviewing some of the top artists of the time, including those who did not fit into the concept of my 'zine, such as Elton John, Cher, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Alice Cooper, and just about every hair band you can think of that was popular at the time, including Iron Maiden and Ratt. These were published worldwide in so many different glossies, that I know I could never keep track, such as Tiger Beat, Hit Parader, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, Goldmine, American Songwriter, People Weekly, and even Rolling Stone. For FFanzeen, she used her magic touch to bring in interviews like the Animals (I went with her for that one), Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Spanky McFarlane of Spanky and Our Gang, Gary Glitter (went to that one, too), Patti Smith, and Iggy Pop (who had originally refused unless he was on the cover).
After the hard print version of FFanzeenwas put to bed, Mary Anne has kept going, interviewing and writing, as well as being Editorial Director of Faces and Popstar! Publications for a number of teen-based magazines, and some special projects including whoever was big at the moment, and even one on Elvis. She is also known for the numerous of books she has written about artists of many genres, such as Michael J. Fox: The Year of the Fox (1986), Hey, Hey It's the Monkees (2002), The Cher Scrapbook(2002), The Essential Jim Carrey (2010), and The Elton John Scrapbook (2002). Other books she has authored include biographies of Britney Spears, 'NSync, Kirk Cameron and Alicia Silverstone. And her star still rises.