miranda july marquee

 miranda & horse
An interview with the marvelous mad Miranda July, by Anji of "the all-purpose nuclear bedtime story".

miranda & anjiSome people will get it and others won't, but either way, everyone should take notice of the fascinating character called Miranda July. One is never quite sure when she is inventing a personality or pulling it up from personal experiences, and where the line is drawn or blurred between artist and art, with her. Artist is the correct term to use for Miranda, as she certainly isn't a rock star -- even though both full-length release CDs and a 7 inch single of hers have been released by Kill Rock Stars. Miranda has recently been a featured guest vocalist for two K Record bands as well; Dub Narcotic Sound System ( for a duet on the title track, no less) and ICU (soon to be released, I'm told.) Besides her blossoming recording career, she heads a small company called Big Miss Moviola, which has been producing and distributing underground movies made by women for a number of years. In addition, she develops complex audio-visual performances utilizing slide projections, lights, props, music and electronics to bring her dramatic scenarios to life for audiences across America. Miranda was also involved briefly with a K-related group called The Cha-Cha Cabaret, a "punk ladies variety show" of radical femmes bringing old-time glamour to the punk forum. All this activity has brought Miranda to the attention of various groups of people, as diverse in nature as she is herself. And now, let us allow Miranda to get out of the car and walk and walk and walk…



 
Anji: You've been through quite a few different collaborators recently.

Miranda: Yeah, but Zac Love is here to stay! We're working on a really large project. It's called "Love Diamond" and it's a whole piece that was kinda spurred by this commission I got from the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art. It will be one piece, about an hour and a half long, and "The Titan" is one part of it.

Anji: How did you get the commission?

Miranda: They're a kind of place here in Portland that brings in performers like Diamanda Galas, Philip Glass, and stuff like that. I kinda went to them -- usually they bring people here. I was like, "Just so you know -- I'm here!"

Anji: Yeah, local talent.

Miranda: I was definitely looking to make the transition between the rock world and the performance world, just out of necessity, because of the fact that it's so much work each show, that I can't really do it haphazardly -- as it usually happens with bands and stuff.

Anji: So are you getting radio airplay from other places?

Miranda: Yeah, amazingly, with this album -- largely through the miraculous force of that guy, Josh.

Anji: Josh Bloom, Fanatic! He is one, isn't he?

Miranda: He is really… I mean, I can't believe… This album -- for the kind of thing it is -- I can't believe it was on CMJ [charts] for months; which is totally unheard of. I couldn't believe it. So that was a big difference between this album [The Simon-Binet Test] and the last one [10 Million Hours a Mile]; it actually got played.

Anji: Where are you getting played? Do you get a lot of local support?

Miranda: Not even so much as… Like, this little station in Plymouth, you know? And one in San Louis Obispo

Anji: Oh yeah! They do have a pretty cool station out there.

Miranda: They're all really nice. They just came up here.

Anji: You know, I was surprised to find so many web pages with photographs and quotes of you talking about the new album. I searched Yahoo for your name, and didn't really expect to find much, but there's a whole list!

Miranda: Yeah, I know. That's the weird thing about the Internet. My mom can be really impressed. (laughs)

Anji: Yet when I searched for The Need, nothing came up!

Miranda: The Need have a really great website.

Anji: Yeah, I love Rachel's artwork!

Miranda: Yeah. It's great, isn't it?

Anji: There was something else I wanted to bring up when I was talking about the new album… Hmm… I'm losing my mind! (laughs) Oh, speaking of losing one's mind, that brings up…

Miranda: Have I lost my mind? (laughs)

Anji: No. (laughs) Dub Narcotic Sound System, "Out Of Your Mind!"

Miranda: Oh, "Out Of Your Mind…"

Anji: Yeah, tell me about how you got involved with that.

Miranda: Um. Well… (laughs) Um, I guess, to be honest -- Calvin is my boyfriend. And it's a little side love-project. It's not really my… (laughs) I don't really consider myself to be a singer, so… I don't think anyone else could get me to do something like that.

Anji: Had you sung on anything else, besides the CeBe Barnes Band stuff?

Miranda: No! I mean, God! I got away with murder in terms of the CeBe Barnes Band. I hardly sang at all! I was pretty much just, like, in front --distracting people from the more shy members of the band. (laughs)

Anji: Yeah, the two of them are pretty shy women. (laughs) I've only heard the 3 song 7"; is there anything else by the CeBe Barnes Band available?

Miranda: No. CeBe Barnes Band pretty much transitioned into The Need --pretty quickly. I mean, there was tons of stuff we did that was never recorded, but…

Anji: You were also involved with The Need. Did you do anything else together besides the Margie Ruskie Stops Time 7"?

Miranda: There were a lot of different incarnations. For awhile The Need was just me performing and Rachel on drums.

Anji: Oh wow!

Miranda: Don't get your hopes up; it was pretty improvised. We'd just go out there and do it.

Anji: That sounds bizarre. I always wondered how you were involved with The Need. I was like, "I can't picture it! Did she actually sing?"

Miranda: No. It was really me doing what I do and them doing what they do -- but not really what they love to do most, which is write really great rock songs. Eventually it was like, "Well, let's just each go our own ways."

Anji: So that you could do your performance thing… Oh, I heard that you don't like the term "Performance Art," or the term "Spoken Word."

Miranda: Oh, Performance Art isn't too bad. Spoken Word kinda rubs me the wrong way.

Anji: Well, you don't just speak! The whole visual aspect seems pretty important to your performance.

Miranda: Yeah. And I don't really have too many, uh, Spoken Word influences.

Anji: I should ask what influences you or what has influenced you to become who you are.

Miranda: I guess it would be more… things like movies, and books and stuff. I haven't seen too much stuff; I mean, I know there's people doing stuff like what I do, or somewhat similar, but I haven't really seen it.

Anji: There's probably more of it going on in Los Angeles and New York than in Portland and [Olympia] Washington... One of our old KUCI DJs said she went to school with you; Jeanie Foreman. She said it was for some kind of drama thing.

Miranda: Oh really? How crazy! It must have been when I was way younger.

Anji: You must have been a kid. But I was like, "OK, she comes from a Drama background. That makes a lot of sense to me!"

Miranda: Yeah. I definitely acted a lot as a kid, and then started writing plays in High School. I would put them on at this punk club called Gilman Street, in Berkeley. I don't know if you've heard of it.

Anji: Yeah. Of course; we've all heard of that place!

Miranda: So I guess it was at that point the music started to converge with acting and, I don't know, just the whole spontaneity of it just seemed to appeal more than moving into the Drama/Art world.

Anji: Like becoming a full-fledged artist or Broadway actress or something? Do you think you'll ever get into that kind of stuff, too?

Miranda: Um… I… like, I'd be in a movie! Sure!

Anji: I guess you're in your own movies, all the time!

Miranda: (Laughs) Yeah, I am in my own movies!

Anji: I really love that piece that's on the Joanie 4 Jackie 4 Ever video.

Miranda: Oh great! Oh yeah, I showed you that [in a viewing before her performance at The P.C.H. Club].

Anji: Yeah, and I also bought a copy of the video at the show. When I saw it, I knew it was you, but you were so different as the Lab Technician. You really transformed! It was amazing.

Miranda: Oh good. (laughs)

Anji: Would you like to talk about that piece at all?

Miranda: "The Amateurist"? Sure. Do you have any specific questions?

Anji: What is the person inside the little television monitor?

Miranda: Well, she's kind of a cross between a patient and a star of some sort. I mean, I tried to make it pretty unclear throughout if she was sick and being diagnosed or she was rare and full of talent.

Anji: It also kinda seemed like she was being held captive against her will.

Miranda: Yeah. Which either of those two people can be. But mostly I wanted it to be about how the other person, the Lab Technician -- as you called her -- or the Professional, sort of constructed her -- just with language, and with her own force of emotion and professionalism.

Anji: Yeah. She seems to be in love with the patient, in a strange way.

Miranda: Yeah. Very dependent.

Anji: That reminds me of something I wanted to talk about with The Binet-Simon Test. I read a review where they purported that you were actually attacking the medical profession with this new album. That wasn't something that had really come across to me when I listened to it. Did you have any such intentions?

Miranda: (laughs) No. I think that purely came out of an interview I did. I do have an illness which puts me constantly in connection with the medical profession and different doctors and stuff. So there is certainly an element of… just trying to critique what I am constantly being frustrated by. But I would definitely not say that the whole album is me unleashing my anger at them. That would be sad, to me. (laughs)

Anji: The thing I notice thematically throughout the album is that each character, in the stories, is being questioned by a person that seems to have some sort of power over them, and it's this uncomfortable situation between them.

Miranda: Yeah. I think that the fact that it's named after a test illustrates the fact that it is about interrogation.

Anji: Ah yes, that's the word I was searching for!

Miranda: Yeah, "interrogation." Now that you know it, you're gonna use it way too much! (laughs)

Anji: No! Actually, I did use it in the review I wrote of the album for the amazon.com site. The page said, "You could be the first to review The Binet-Simon Test, by Miranda July!" So I was like, "OK!" If anyone wants to see it, they can go there and check it out.

Miranda: I'll look for it.

Anji: So how did you come up with this whole faux-Binet-Simon test that you used for the album cover?

Miranda: I made it while I was at home, visiting my parents for the holidays. I was pretty sick, and all I was doing was reading these fucked-up psychological tests. It was pretty vicious and depressed -- in a certain way -- and just this total… Like, there's no way you could take it and not go crazy. (laughs) The real Binet-Simon test… I mean, I culled this sort of style of questioning, but my questions -- most of them -- are pretty removed from anything you'd see on the test. There's not, like, weird vagina people!

Anji: (laughs) That one's really hilarious!

Miranda: Yeah, I think it's really funny. I designed it with this great designer up here, named Sean Tejaratchi. We spent months on it, and developed this sense of humor that is hopefully… a little bit acceptable.

Anji: Some of it -- you just have to guffaw at, and some of it is like, "Wow, that's so bizarre!" But I guess that's sort of the way that you are, overall… I've noticed that the covers of both albums contain pornographic images of women. I was wondering what statement, if any, you were making with that.

Miranda: Yeah. I didn't… The whole split beaver shot, or whatever, on the first album… I really didn't even think about it until it went to the printers and the printer was like, "I guess we'll print this…" (laughs) But to me -- this may sound totally naive, and I do have thoughts about pornography and stuff, but… I actually just picked pictures for the albums that I like to look at, and to me, that was really pretty.

Anji: So it was a spontaneous creation, not a premeditated statement?

Miranda: Yeah. I was like, "What are the things that are filled with meaning to me?" Certainly one of them is naked girl's bodies. I mean, without that, what would there be?

Anji: (laughs)

Miranda: (laughs) I mean, there's other things, but…

Anji: The way I interpreted it at the time, when the first album came out… Some of the material on the album is talking about women who work in the Sex Industry. There's the theme going through there about the Peep Show, so I thought it had something to do with that. The story that goes along with the images is so disturbing, and doesn't seem to go exactly with the images, but is maybe kind of loosely related. It's kind of like a big puzzle.

Miranda: I know. There's a lot there, and I guess I'm sort of mildly avoiding the question…

Anji: That's OK!

Miranda: But those images and everything you just mentioned has a pretty complex resonance for me, especially for the first album.

Anji: At first I took things literally, and I was like, "Wow, I wonder if she's drawing from her own personal experiences for the stories? Poor Miranda! I hope she doesn't work in a Peep Show booth or whatever." But you never know with people in the music industry; sometimes it's a sideline to keep money in your pocket.

Miranda: Well, I have worked in the Sex Industry before.

Anji: Oh you have… I was thinking that you seemed to have inside information.

Miranda: Yeah. But I feel pretty sure that I could have written about it even if I hadn't, too, because it's just there. And… I don't do that anymore.

Anji: You're not a "b-a-d-m-a (again) - m"?

Miranda: (laughs) Oh my god! (laughs)

Anji: (laughs)

Miranda: I was thinking of that [lyric from "Out Of Your Mind], a few days ago, and I was thinking, "What does that mean?!"

Anji: You were thinking that?! (laughs)

Miranda: Yeah, "b-a-d-m-a (again)- n"

Anji: I love that! It's so catchy! But it's like, "What is she talking about? 'I'm not like that anymore.' She's not a man anymore or what?" I love that, though; it's so cheeky!

Miranda: (chuckles)

Anji: So you don't think through, exactly, what you're writing when you're writing it?

Miranda: Usually I am pretty literal, but for that, it had much more to do with rhythm.

Anji: I also thought it could have something to do with Calvin, like if he had some lyrics written beforehand.

Miranda: He didn't even know what we were going to record until we recorded it!

Anji: That's great! It came off so well!

Miranda: (laughs)

Anji: I know what I wanted to ask about -- that Interview Magazine page! I was so shocked to see that! You look gorgeous.

Miranda: Yeah, that was an odd thing.

Anji: How did that come up?

Miranda: They just called Kill Rock Stars, which is very odd. I mean, here you work your ass off to get publicity and then some things just fall out of the sky. I think, I can't be sure, but I think it had to do with-- as was mentioned in the article -- the Andrea Frank Foundation Grant I got; which nobody really cares about where I live but I think people from New York are into it. And at Interview they must have been like, "Oh! Someone who fits our image of what is printable got an award!"

Anji: Yay!

Miranda: I mean, there's a lot of other people who got that award, but…

Anji: Did you have to go out to New York for the photo shoot?

Miranda: No, they brought someone down to Seattle and sent me a box of clothes that didn't fit me.

Anji: No, really?

Miranda: Yeah, and all these shoes. It was really funny. I tried to mostly wear my own clothes 'cause I have way better fashion than the clothes they sent me, but of course, the one time I… That see-through top is not mine. They photographer was like, "You need to wear their clothes for at least one picture." And I was like, "OK, give me the shirt…" Of course that's the shot they used.

Anji: Well you look good, so it's OK. If you looked bad then you could complain. OK, well, that was just about everything that I wanted to hit with you. Is there anything that you'd like to mention?

Miranda: Keep your eye out for Love Diamonds!


These photos were all taken by Anji Bee at the K Records tour show at The Troubador, in Los Angeles.
kick teeny! teeny & mirandahere i go!duet with calvin zac love
(Click on the image to see it at full size)

You can contact Miranda via the following:
-------------------------------------------------------
Big Miss Moviola
P.O. Box 14284
Portland, OR 97293
-- or --
mjuly@europa.com

View Anji's Review of  10 Million Hours A Mile

View Anji's Review of   The Binet-Simon Test


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This page was authored by Anji.