Ferocious Feline

In the studio with Cat Power

NT: And when did you move to Miami?

Marshall: I've been coming here since about 10 years ago. I moved here a little over three years ago, but I hadn't ever had time off here. Like, every other month, I'd have four days here. So then when I got sober, I was just here, wham, for three months. And I really decided, "This is where I live. This isn't my vacation." Get off tour, and this is my home.

NT: Did you still have a place in New York then?

Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues: Erik Paparazzi (left), Judah Bauer, Chan Marshall, Jeff White, and Gregg Foreman
Samuel Kirszenbaum
Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues: Erik Paparazzi (left), Judah Bauer, Chan Marshall, Jeff White, and Gregg Foreman

Details

Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues perform with Raffa & Rainer and DJs Mr. Pharmacist, Lolo, and C Cat on Tuesday, October 23, at Studio A, 60 NE 11th St, Miami. The show starts at 8:00 p.m., and tickets cost $25. All ages are welcome. Call 305-358-7625, or visit www.studioamiami.com or www.ticketmaster.com.

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Marshall: I have my little squat kind of room that I've had since I moved there when I was 21.

NT: So when did you meet Gregg again?

Marshall: Was it at a club?

Foreman: Yeah, at Snatch, at Bamby. She came up to me. So we met again and she asked me to meet her at the Delano for lunch.

Marshall: He just told me [voice deepening and slowing, in imitation of Foreman's], He knows everything, man. About music, man.... And we got along so well.

Foreman: Yeah, at first I felt like it was an interview. I was naming my top keyboard players and stuff — and she's like, "It's not an interview. It's cool, man!"

NT: So was it a conscious decision to go with this more stripped-down sound? Or was it just a logistics thing?

Marshall: No, I wanted to make it easier.... Less tragic, I think. Because I think a lot of the songs we were playing live were just tragic ... depressing. Some of my songs are depressing, and with Judah and Gregg and Jim, we did a few of my songs from The Greatest record, but we started doing more covers, and it was a different kind of fun — less safe. And that led me to want to do a covers record.

Foreman: The good thing about her, though, is that she gives us freedom — not only live, but also to arrange things in our way.

Marshall: Unless it sounds like a tampon commercial.... I don't actually like tampons. And sometimes there'll be a certain sound that sounds like tampons.

Foreman: It sounds like Lifetime.... Like sometimes we'll come up with something that sounds too by-the-book, and she's like, "tampon commercial!" Like I did one song that she said sounded too much like Beck. Too pretty —

Marshall: Too clear.

Foreman: It wasn't fucked up enough.

Marshall: I like things to be kind of on a retard or on a slant. I love minor notes. I like doing covers because, um, I feel like there's less pressure on me to feel emotional. Like I can only feel supportive about doing a cover. I can only feel positive. The cover that I would choose is a song ... [that] is an inspirational strength. With my own songs, some of my lyrics might be really emotional, and I feel weird about repeating them, singing them every night. I think with covers, I can really abandon — I get to love the song, and that's it.

Foreman: But we might rewrite an entire song. Like the Billie Holiday song we did, I used the first chord that the song starts on, and then simplified it and changed it to her vibe. She would be singing it to me, and I'd be changing the chord. It was like an unspoken thing.

NT: How did you pick the ones you're working on right now?

Marshall: There's a lot I knew I wanted to do years ago. They just pop out, ones that you know. Almost like making a mixtape, where you have a crush on somebody in high school.

Foreman: Or sometimes she'll have made the mixtape, and it's ready to give to the person, and then we get a call and she's like, "What about this Otis Redding song?" And then we've gotta learn that one.... We all like the songs. But she's the captain of the ship, and we're just the crew members.

Marshall: They're my anger management team.

Foreman: I think Judah had a part in the selection too. It's like you have a president and the advisor to the president; he'd be the advisor. He'd be like, "No, I'm not doing that."

NT: What got vetoed?

Foreman: Oh, here's a perfect one. Pink Floyd, "Hey You." She wanted to do that, and all of us were like, "Hell no!" Jocks in our high school used to listen to that and try and fight us.

Marshall: I wanted to do "Stayin' Alive" [by the Bee Gees].

NT: So what's the procedure? How do you go about building up a cover the way you want it to work with the band?

Marshall: They just start playing something, and basically everything they do sounds great. And then maybe if it was too fast, we'd make it more slow.... I'm kind of a not very good loud, fast singer, so I guess that's why I always play slow and stuff.

Foreman: I always think the stuff she vetoes is more like, cheesy, after-school special —

Marshall: Perfect! I can't stand stuff that sounds inhuman and perfect. I like things to be open, have space, with an individualistic person playing with their own personalities. Like, if someone were there directing a tempo, I would want to screw it up. I would want to sing up on it or retard it, because the conformity of that drives me crazy.

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