The interview of the year on the album of the year? For me without a doubt yes. Would you like to enter the Marked For Madness land? I invite you to take a close look into Michelle Youngīs shining soul. After talking to the solo artist and sometimes backing singer for Glass Hammer for more than two hours, Iīm convinced that this wonderful human/woman/artist/singer/writer can even whisper with an open mouth!
By Michael Schübeler
SOT:I know that most people compare your vocals and your music to KATE BUSH. To me, itīs not that obvious. I know what they mean but the similarities are not so strong in my opinion.
MY: I hear everything from KATE BUSH to TORI AMOS usually. Those are the two main ones but Iīve heard a handful of other names that usually surprised me - but thatīs okay! Everybody has to have a point of reference...
SOT: What made the quality of your art increase to these heights?
MY:Just the fact that I knew that I wanted it to sound even better. And I met Clive (Nolan, ARENA keyboardist), and my writing had grown also into different things, you know, had always moved and evolved. So I think everything collectively is the cause of it being of higher quality. I recorded at different studios, had different people engineering, different people producing, co-producing, things like that. Clive was a big reason it sounded a lot better, I have to say.
SOT: How did you arrange your ideas and his ideas about the making of "Marked For Madness“? Any compromises?
MY: Oh yeah, hahaha! We got together several times and talked about the orchestration, arrangement, production. Yeah, there had to be some compromising, on both of our parts. I did my best to give him the freedom that I wanted him to have to use his expertise. But there were certain times when I had to say, "No! I think this.“ or "I think that.“ There were certain things I really wanted to stick to, and there were other things I gave him big freedom with. We worked very well together with that. And our ideas for the most part were really cohesive together.
SOT: Did you record the album in England because the other artists were from there or for any other reasons as well?
MY: Yeah because Clive is from there and it was much easier for him working in his own studio and keyboard room to do the recording in England than it would be for him to fly over here, and me putting him in a studio situation heīs not familiar with. So it just worked a lot better.
SOT: Why is it so unique what you do? Can the main reason be that you are from Tennessee and not from L.A. or New York?
MY: Well I guess I can say that Iīm a transplant. Originally I was born in Milwaukee/Wisconsin, so I am also from the North. My sound definitely isnīt what you would consider a "Tennessee“ sound. I donīt know... I have a strong will to do what I wanna do and to get done when I wanna get done. And godīs given me the opportunities to meet the people that I need
to to... work!
SOT: Rudi told me that you can be really... I donīt know if "stubborn“ is the right word, it sounds too negative. I would say: You can be very fixed on your ideas. Is that right?
SOT: Hahahaha! Yes I can. If I believe in something strongly enough. Iīm guessing weīre not talking about musical ideas so much as if thereīs something I wanna do I can achieve it. Is that what youīre talkinī about?
MY: Okay. Yeah I can be very stubborn, sort of like a bulldog when he bites in and he doesnīt let go. My motto is sort of, "Where thereīs a will, thereīs a way.“ Iīm not very happy with people who are just so easy to say "No“ or "We canīt do this.“ or "Oh itīs impossible!“ I donīt like that. I like to find answers!
SOT: Arenīt you surprised sometimes what lyrics come out of you?
MY: Yeah sometimes inspiration takes time. My lyrics sometimes are not so planned. You know itīs almost like I open my mouth and it comes out before I have to think and think and think about it!
SOT: Thatīs a real gift!
MY: Yes it is, it is! I like to think over this inspiration. But sometimes I have to think how to say correctly what I want to say in a song. But usually, I just open my mouth and there it goes.
SOT: You say, "There is hope for the world“ ("Hope“) and I think youīre right, but I donīt think there is hope for mankind - and you prove this with "Melissaīs Demise“!
MY: Right. But all we can do is... Actually, our hope lies not in humanity but in spirituality and godliness. And if you look inside the lyrics youīll find that thatīs the answer: "Walk in the light“! I didnīt intentionally take that directly from the Bible. The Bible I use has two different versions to one page, so you can read across and see what each one says. And one of the versions had as the title of the particular chapter "Walk in the light“, and I found thatīs exactly what I was talking about anyway in my music. It is mentioned "the keeper of the universe“ - which is god - watch over me. It is a spiritual journey and unfortunately weīre human and we have to go through human experiences. If we keep our eyes turned up and love our fellow man like weīre supposed to, life would be a lot better. We have to appreciate the human experiences, the joy, the pain... just the variety! Itīs like, if you lived in a sunny place everyday, all the time, eventually sun wouldnīt be special anymore. You have to appreciate all aspects of being human! Not that you want to cling to the darkness. Some people have a bad way of clinging to the darkness but you have to take the darkness and learn from it, so that you can embrace the light and the goodness and really appreciate it even more once youīve been through those experiences. So many people are so concerned about material things. They donīt put the emphasis on the right things and get caught up in everyday life.
SOT: The most obscure tune on Marked For Madness is "Pull The Wool“. Do songs like this or "Right Of Passage“ have a certain function? They sound like a part of the whole puzzle, not like something completely different. But they ARE, from the making and sometimes without vocals. What are the thoughts behind these songs?
MY: "Right Of Passage“ is a piece I originally wrote as a duet for violin. I was teaching myself violin. I love the violin, itīs a beautiful instrument. And Clive took what I had done and arranged it for orchestration. Itīs really great the way he did it. He brought a magic to it that I... You know, what I had was nice. He brought something very special to it that to me, made it one of the best things on the album. But the meaning behind the title - and itīs „right“, not „rite“ - is that I have the right to produce whatever kind of music I want to or go whatever path I want to. I donīt have to have trained 30 years on the violin before Iīm qualified to write something or before I can let my heart write something for it. A lot of people say, „Oh, you canīt do that! You have to study for years and years!“ Once again we come into that „You cannot“ attitude. I donīt like that. So to me, my title of that is: I wrote this, and Iīm allowed to do because I want to, haha. Because I can! And you canīt tell me that I canīt!
SOT: All of the songs are your "babies“ I know, but is there any on the album where you say, "This is the one I put the most of myself into.“ or "This is the direction I want to go into in the future.“?
MY: Puh, thereīs such a variety! That is a difficult question! There are some things I guess I feel a little more or a little stronger about but everything I feel so strongly about on this album. I had even more material than whatīs on there originally. We had to cut away and cut away. And even some of the songs that originally were written for Marked For Madness, that were part of the original concept, are not on the album! Maybe someday thereīll be a "Return To Madness“ CD...
SOT: Would be great!
MY: There was so much material to choose from! In fact, "Pull The Wool“ originally was a very long, heavier, progressive rock-sounding thing that I did. And we just didnīt have room, and we had something so special at the beginning. I didnīt want to lose that. And I didnīt want to lose the statement that I said at the beginning, all of the phrases. To me, thatīs an integral part of the album, all of the statements. A lot of people say, "I donīt understand this, I donīt understand that.“ Well, read it - use your imagination if you canīt hear it, because maybe sometimes when you listen to music you hear the music more than you do the lyrics. Thereīs something meaningful behind EVERYTHING said on this album. Thereīs nothing frivolous at all. In "Mystery Man Summoned“, at the end itīs said, "Itīs been a mystery to me. Let me have it all someday.“ Thatīs sort of me putting my karma into... just throwing it in. Just sort of sitting back in wonderment and going, "Wow, how is all of this happening?!“ You know what Iīm saying? Itīs like everything is just really a big mystery. We donīt have all of the answers to everything. We donīt know why this happen, why that happen, how we got here sometimes, you know, but then I fit in my own wish for the future to have it all. I really wanted to include that.
SOT: Can you explain, maybe by the example of "Mystery Men Summoned“, how you arranged all the different voices? Must be a lot of work!
MY: Yeah it is, hahaha! It REALLY is... But itīs weird because when I write these things - I come into my own studio when Iīm writing - I just do it, you know, like I do the bass layers or playing the keyboards. Like "Mystery Man Summoned“ I wrote on the keyboard whereas "Melissaīs Demise“ I wrote on the bass! So I write on different instruments sometimes. A lot of times I sat at the keyboard and started writing and singing and I heard these things in my head like the particular sound of my old-fashioned Disney harmonies. Are you familiar with old Disney movies? With that big, broad harmony thing going on sometimes?
SOT: I know what you mean but I donīt like the singing in most Disney movies. To me, in most cases it interrupts the flowing of the story.
MY: I grew up watching Disney movies. I have a ton of īem now! I like the older ones better sometimes because theyīre styled differently, musically and visually, of course. So what I did, I just started layering vocal upon vocal layer until I had all my harmony parts in the places that I wanted īem.
SOT: In my favorite - thatīs why I asked for yours - "Spiderīs Thread“ you say, "I think I know my fate.“ What is it?
MY: Hahaha! Itīs... Well... Itīs knowing what your path is but not wanting to totally accept that you have no control over it in a way. I donīt mean to sound like I believe necessarily in pre-destination. I believe we all have our own choices. But I think everybody has a path in life. And you can fight it or you can follow it. And if you follow your path, there are certain things youīll know, like... In this particular case, in this song the person, the singer or the writer, author, how you wanna say it, is looking for a love, a romance. EVERYBODY is looking for love and romance! And in this particular song, the person is saying basically, „Iīve been through so many relationships. I know what my fate is: At the end of the day, I wonīt have this relationship anymore. Iīll be alone again.“
SOT: When you write in second person like in "Marked For Madness“ or third person, how often is it you that you mean?
MY: Ah, you could say that a lot of it is often I guess. Sometimes, like in "Walk In The Light“, itīs almost like a peptalk to myself, a self-examination, looking in the mirror. But I also think that thereīs something that can be applied to the world. Therefore I can share it as such, not just as a totally personal experience.
SOT:Marked for Madness is a very strong image!
MY: I wanted it to be strong! Yeah I wanted it to be very strong! Well, if you look at it from a personal standpoint, Iīve been through a lot in life. A big, BIG, BIG life, okay? I have very good things happen to me, and I have very bad things happen to me - and not a lot so much in-between. It was something really good, something really bad. And between that and knowing where you want to be in life pretty much, the direction you want to go in, and sometimes the frustration not being able to be where you want to be, all of these things, the bad days, the bad incidents, all of that together can drive you crazy! Or if you wanna say, mark you for madness. If you have these incidents in life that you know are gonna push towards what someone would call „madness“ or „insanity“. But everybody, every human pretty much will experience these events, you know, good things, bad things. But sometimes it just seems like some people live a little more dramatically than others, you know...
SOT: And who marks you for madness? Is it life itself or a person?
MY: Itīs life. Itīs life in general.
SOT: The word „madness“ has a negative flavor, but I guess itīs not always something bad.
MY: Well, madness can be positive in a creative way. If you think about Edgar Allan Poe and some other people who were very creative but considered mad at the same time. Thereīs one meaning after another after another which equals. This is the logical title. This is the logical thing.
SOT: You said that "Marked For Madness" (the song) reveals a lot about yourself. What do you think, what picture do people get from your art about what kind of person you are?
MY: You know what? I havenīt a clue! I really, really havenīt a clue! Iīm the worldīs worst at knowing how I appear to other people. Iīm serious with that. I have no idea! I wish I knew because you really need to know what you look like to other people. But I just donīt know, so I leave it to just being me. Whatever they see is what they see. If they like it - good, if they donīt - thatīs okay, too. Iīm not for everyone.
SOT: Maybe you are too beautiful that some people say, "„Just another pretty face!“
MY: I donīt know about that. One thing I should point out to those are these people that Iīve worked with. Iīve had to be reminded by my friends, "Michelle, they are not working with you because they think youīre pretty! They might think youīre pretty in addition, but theyīre working with you because youīre talented.“ I donīt even think about it. I underplay my own talents and skills sometimes. I donīt know how to say it... You know how sometimes itīs hard to take a compliment? Youīre proud of what you do but youīre not wearing it like a badge on your shoulder. These people are working with me and itīs not that Iīm taking it for granted because I cherish the opportunity to have met these people, get along with them and work with them musically. But I underplay the fact that theyīre seeing a talent there. I see myself being plain - and normal.
SOT: How important is styling and looks for you? Because in the booklet of the RJ CD you look completely different than on Marked For Madness.
MY: Yeah I do. I looked pretty tired in that booklet because I was. I had just come off from recording the vocals for my CD in England and that was so much work, so hard!! And I was so tired when I arrived in Germany. Also I had rushed to do my hair and my makeup. I like to look nice sometimes. When I want to, I can look very nice. But I had another guy who did an article on me for a paper here in town. And he said something that I chuckle about when I think about it and I have to share this with you: In my private time he called me "the poster child for casual dress“. But when Iīll go to work tonight, to sing, Iīll look nice. I make sure Iīll look good. But Iīm not one of these people that wake up every day and has to have my makeup on before I can step foot out the door. Iīm definitely not like that. Iīm very, very relaxed. That doesnīt mean I donīt like to look good. Iīm just more casual.
SOT: I prefer natural beauty. Most people overdo with styling and cover this beauty, even hide it. Maybe they think it doesnīt exist.
MY: Yeah. I think sometimes thatīs the case. You gotta have self-confidence to a certain degree and just be comfortable with yourself. If my friends drop over, Iīm not worried because I have to comb my hair. They donīt care, theyīre not here to see my hair combed. Theyīre here to see me! But I have to say that Iīve been very, very blessed to have a good smile that conveys my spirit.
SOT: I think the long solo in "Madness“ wasnīt possible on "Siren“. You werenīt in the state to get the idea and do it that way at the time. Am I right with that?
MY: The way the song structure goes... See, when I structured everything on Song Of The Siren, it was all instinctual. I havenīt studied this. I try to make educated decisions when I make decisions now in my music. But Song Of The Siren was totally a raw, just feeling it thing. And what came out came out.
SOT: If you would be able to record Song Of The Siren again, with all the knowledge that you collected during the making of "Madness“ but under the same circumstances, would it be very different from how it turned out 5 years ago?
MY: Wow! Oh, of course it would have to be different. I know one thing: I would use a metronome, hahaha! I used to hate metronomes because a lot of my music is very expressive, with tempo-changes and ritards and things like that. I start with I didnīt like metronomes. But now Iīve gotten used to them - Thank you, Clive! - I think it would be technically alot better. But then again: Could I create the same thing??? A lot of it was creative impulse to a degree. Like when I was recording the title-track "Song Of The Siren“, this I recorded layer upon layer. I would put a bass down - and I donīt mean a bass instrument, just a bass sound -, like a keyboard bed, whatever I use as the bottom. And then I will go on top and decorate it and talk and tell a story till I got to the end. And I just did my best to express the story musically in my own way. Iīm not THE guitarist, but Iīve spent a whole weekend on the guitar solo trying to punch in... You know, you canīt punch in and out when youīre by yourself. Iīve tried it. You know, you take your toes and you push, hahaha. Doesnīt work that well, so I would have to do the whole thing in one take to get it right. So I worked really hard on that until I got what I thought was acceptable for me and I could move on. I know there are people out there who can take what Iīve done and play it ten times better than I played it and make it sound even more beautiful. So Iīm not always the best person to express my ideas - although thereīs a certain charm to some of these demos and stuff that canīt be duplicated or replicated. And you have to be aware of that when you go through a recording situation like when Clive and I are working together. I will bring in a demo, and I say, „No, I want it to sound like this and that!“ And he will go, "Why not use your demo then?!“ Just being sarcastic to point out, "Hey, weīre trying to go for something a little different here!“, so that I wouldnīt be so intent on sticking to a particular sound or feel. And like I said, there were certain times when he would give and say, "Okay, whatever you want. Itīs not important to have it this or that way.“
SOT: I can imagine that you can get very angry when something doesnīt turn out the way you want it because you have such a strong vision.
MY: It can be very frustrating. You have to be flexable or else you could just die being frustrated and feeling horrible because you can never get anything exactly the way you want it. Thatīs why I like to learn my own tools and things, for graphics, expressing myself musically. If I really, really want something to sound a particular way, if I canīt find somebody to do it where it gonna sounds like that, itīs up to me to learn to do it - or itīs just not gonna be done and only stay in my head.
SOT: Almost every song on both of your albums has very radical breaks. Are the songs always in your mind the way they turn out? Or is it due to the time that you spend on writing them?
MY: Oh no! When I write, things usually come pretty quickly. Itīs not a matter of working and working on it. Usually I hear it, I do it - and thatīs the way it is! If I donīt like something I change it, but the breaks and stuff come while Iīm doing it. I hear these things and I follow it. Like I said, sometimes I donīt like where itīll go or sometimes I have to think about, „Where do I hear it going?“ but I donīt like something that sits in one place so long that you get bored with it. I donīt like that. That doesnīt mean I havenīt written pop music or other types of music. But when Iīm feeling totally free with my music... When I know Iīm writing something that is just coming from me, could be progressive or whatever, usually itīs gonna have these changes and stuff in it. But sometimes songs come to me that are like pop or country. And when they come to me, they come to me in that form, and thatīs how Iīve got to express them! Iīve got a song called "Kiss Me“, itīs sort of a jazzy, soultry. torchy tune, just piano and vocal. But I kept hearing the song over and over when Iīll be driving down the road. And finally one day, I said, "Okay, Iīm gonna get this out of my head. It drives me crazy!“ And I sang it into my little handy tape recorder that I usually carry with me, and then I went home and did it - and there it was, hahaha! I got rid of it, I could free my mind from it for a while because it was coming to me. Iīll be driving down the road and start singing this thing. So itīs automatic: When I hear it this way, I try to reproduce it the way I hear it. And therefore itīs in the style of whatever style itīs in!
SOT: When I hear you sing or read your emails or now that weīre talking, I always have the feeling that you always smile. Do you?
MY: Hahaha, I do, quite a bit! Quite a bit... I like to be happy. And I like to be around people who are happy also. And thatīs just me! Iīm glad thatīs who I am. I donīt wanna be like a moody dark artist, like a gothic, you know. Iīm not out to by any means represent myself as being gothic even though there are dark elements in this and the photographer took it a little too gothic for what I have asked of him. Definitely, he took it way too far. It was nothing really like what I had planned originally. Once again, you asked about being upset about things like that. Oooh! For the money Iīve spent with this guy, and the results I got, I was veeery upset.
But what can I do? Either you have just wasted a whole lot of money or you do what you can with it. Thatīs my motto. Because I researched on the internet. I looked at peopleīs work. I found this guy whose work I liked. He lived in Atlanta which is 2 hours away, big metropolis to have a good pool of resources. And I liked his work! And I talked to him on the phone, and I explained everything. I thought weīll be seeing eye to eye. Come the day this year, I drove to Atlanta, and it didnīt turn out the way I had hoped... But itīs not so bad, the way the graphic artist and I worked together to make the final images. Itīs nothing Iīm embarassed about, okay? I was hoping to find something as good or better than the cover for Song Of The Siren. Thatīs what I was hoping for. This guy didnīt give that to me at all in my opinion.
SOT: What went wrong? What do you think did he see in you that he wanted to bring out? And which sides of your personality did you want to emphazise?
MY: He heard the word "madness“ and wanted to cling to the "madness“ part. But we both agreed we didnīt want to overdo it, okay? So, my idea was... Did you see "Bram Stokerīs Dracula“ by any chance?
SOT: Yeah of course!
MY: Very good! This guy did not. I did my best to get this photographer to watch the movie to see what I was talking about. Do you remember the scene where the two girls are in the storm in the garden, and they are wearing the night gowns? There is a sensuality to it, but not an overt-sexuality, okay? That scene I wanted on the front of my album...
MY: ...with me wearing something light, with the wind blowing in it in a dark background, mysterious background, stormy, okay? Obviously that did not happen. The woman that he got to pick up the clothing, she supposedly works on movie sets and stuff in North Carolina. Everything she brought was too gothic, too vintage, too heavy. The material was too heavy, you couldnīt move it! And I had explained to him that one of the things I liked about his photographs, one in particular, was that he had movement going on there. The wind was blowing this girlīs dress... Thatīs what I liked! I made a point to tell him everything that I wanted, everything I liked about what he did in the works I had already seen, so that we would come together in this. He didnīt. He failed, haha.
SOT: To me, it looks too much like a session (which it was indeed!) and not natural.
MY: Right. You know what? To me, the most expressive, totally Michelle picture on there is the "pointing picture“ on the back. Thatīs me! That was an accidental picture. He didnīt even mean to do it. That wasnīt supposed to be one of the nice creative shots he was doing. But I chose that one because it was the only thing that had movement.
SOT: That was another thing that came to my mind. I guess you had a lot more pictures. So what kind of impression did you want people to get from you?
MY: There werenīt a lot more pictures!
SOT: Oh no?!
MY: No! We spent a whole day and loads of film on these particular poses or variations of these particular poses. So there wasnīt a lot to choose from! It was horrible! It was a nightmare for me!!!
SOT: Some of the instrumental parts on "Siren“, especially on the title track, could be on a soundtrack also, but they are a bit too long to me.
MY: My point like on "Song Of The Siren“ was that this is all me! All of itīs me! Some of it is a little more appealing or polished or better-looking than other parts, maybe the voice is nicer than the music, but itīs all me! And to me, I just wanted to express myself. It wasnīt: "Oh, what are people gonna think?“ And youīre interested in what people are gonna think! You wanna do your best job. But I donīt make an album just to try to make some money, haha.
SOT: What I miss a bit on "Madness“ is the irony of your first album, something like "Les Talk“ or "Another Frog“, haha.
MY: "Another Frog“ would be sort of similar to maybe "Mystery Man Summoned“, lyrically, as far as, you know, contents, not actual words. The equivalent of "Les Talk“ on this new album would be "Melissaīs Demise“ because itīs a true story that Iīm relaying. Both of īem are true stories!
SOT: Oh! "Les Talk“ appears like a weird dream to me!
MY: Ah! No, itīs a true story. You heard of Les Paul? He invented the Les Paul guitars. He designed them. I met him several years ago because a friend of mine was helping him put together a second studio in his house. That was little over 10 years ago. I went to do some work with this guy in Pennsylvania. Then we went to New Jersey and were gonna meet Les. We were around New York the day before, and while I was gone, someone was supposed to come in and feed my snake for me. And they came in and saw that my place had been broken into, my office, and so they called Les and told him that my office had been broken into. So when I first met him, he shook my hand and he said, "Are you Michelle?“ I said, "Yeah!“ And he said, "You need to call home. Your office has been broken into!“ So like the best and worst moment of your life combined. Like I said: Really good things and really bad things, sometimes in the same breath. So thatīs my story of meeting Les Paul and talking all night with him, sitting there, eating spaghetti in the kitchen while the guys worked in the studio. We got along very well, I mean, really really well. We really liked each other a lot. Heīs a good guy, very good man. Heīs very intelligent, has a wonderful spirit about him.
SOT: Do you like words?
MY: Oh yeah, I love languages! Iīve studied a little bit of German and French. When I was in school, in university, I sang in German, French, Italian, Latin... And Iīve also studied a little Spanish, too.
SOT: One thing I miss in English often is the emphasis. And thatīs a strong point of your voice. The middle part of "Marked For Madness, for example, is really scary!
MY: Thatīs what I appreciate about the natural gift: being able to sound like whatever I want to pretty much. I enjoy that! Itīs a whole nother color and flavor - and itīs me! I donīt have to depend on anyone else. Itīs just another way I got to express myself.
SOT:And which mic do you use?
MY: The microphone I use in my studio is my "baby“, a Neumann M49 1953. And I use a Telefunken tube preamp 72 to go with it. So I can use it in the digital domain without losing all the warmth of the analog. In England, I used whatever Clive had in the studio.
SOT: When I listened to RUDYīS JOURNEY, I asked myself, "How can 4 people write on one lyric???“
MY: Because everybody sits together in one room or one person alters things. Like one thing I did: If I have a writing credit on "Rudyīs Journey“ - not including this one coming up because Iīm writing lyrics also for this one on my own - and it may have co-writing credits because someone may go in and edit some of this, too. I donīt have control over all that. But I was asked to do some English editing. Sometimes Germans have difficulties with lyrics in English. You canīt rightly understand what theyīre saying or maybe they pronounce something wrong. So Iīd ask him, "What are you trying to say? What is the story here?“ And then - because this is my craft, and I know how to do it - I would take and shape it into whatever need to be said to express what he was telling me needed to be said.
SOT: Can you give an example for that?
MY: Well, "Harder Day“...
SOT: Thatīs the best of the ones that you sing!
MY: Well, thank you! You know, I think lyrically itīs more precise than some of the others. They had something there, and I was like, "What are you trying to say here?“ īcause it didnīt really say anything. It gave you a little hint, but it didnīt tell anything. So I got the story from them: They wanted to talk about a homeless person, someone who is addicted to alcohol and sleeping in the alleys. And so Iīve made the description where when you hear this song hopefully you see someone in an alley thatīs stuck on booze.
SOT: After working with such great musicians like Clive, Doane Perry (JETHRO TULL) or Karl Groom (THRESHOLD), the duets with Mike and Steve, are there any dreams left?
MY: Yeah, thereīre definitely dreams that I have left that I want to achieve. I like to be able to do this fulltime, without having to do other jobs. I sing five nights a week with THE HOUSE BAND. But what I like doing the best is working on these albums, flying back and forth to Europe... I love Europe! I tell you, Rudi and his people have treated me like a queen! I canīt ask for anything more in life. Thatīs the best! I tell you what my goals are, and then maybe you can understand from here. These are my goals: I donīt necessarily want to be rich and famous although if that happens, thatīs great. 1) I wanna have an appreciative audience. 2) I wanna have the respect of of my peers. And 3) (Weīre still working on this) I want to be financially stable with this stuff. And thatīs where my "Where thereīs a will, thereīs a way“ comes in the play: You have to find the path that it takes to get either way you wanna go.
SOT: Sometimes when I listen to music thatīs very ambitious I ask myself, "Will people take the time to listen? Will they even notice it?“ But your music is so dramatic and goes so deep... You force people to listen! They cannot escape!
MY: Yeah. But sometimes it goes right over peopleīs head. Iīm looking for people who will enjoy what Iīm doing. Iīve already realized: If I was ganna be a bubblegum pop queen, that would have happened when I was 16. I think my style of music is gonna attract a more mature audience. Not necessarily agewise so much as their listening tastes and where they are and what they can digest and what they canīt. I want my music to be uplifting, I want it to be meaningful. I donīt want it to be just something they whistle to or hum to. When somebody listens to it, I want him to really feel the lyrics. But you never know. Sometimes there are certain things that I just think, "Oh! This is the way I want it! Everybodyīs gonna pick up on it!“ - and nobody does! Thereīs always something in an album you think, "Ah! People will pick up on this!“ - and they donīt! But thatīs okay because itīs still there!
SOT: When you were here in Germany to record, did you notice any differences between European and American artists? I mean they say that Europeans are too serious and Americans have more this "Letīs do it!“ attitude. Is that true?
MY: Oh man! I might say that for England, the people that I worked with in England. There was not so much humor... There was not a very light mood in the studio, to put it that way. But in Germany... Gosh, we had a GREAT time! It was one big party, hahaha! Oh, we got our work done, that was the first and foremost thing, of course, and we worked long hours. But it was a lot of fun. Even at the worst moment it was better than some good moments at a bad job, you know. It was a lot of fun, so I always went to bed feeling really good because at the end of the evening, afterwe had this big long day of work, and then right before we quit, something very special would happen. Like the very first day: It set the mood for our recording in Germany. At the end of the day, I go to do my wailing at the end of a song. I come out of the studio and the engineer (Torsten Kühn) and Rudi are doing the "Weīre not worthy“ bow, haha (from "Wayneīs World“, of course!). They made it so great, so comfortable. We had a very good and happy attitude in the studio.
SOT: Do you see any weaknesses yet in your voice? Anything where you say, "Oh, I really have to work on this before I record the next album!“?
MY: Hahaha! I donīt think of them necessarily as weaknesses. The way Iīm approaching the next album which I already started writing is: "Okay, I want to say this and I want to say that!“ This time Iīm actually thinking, "What would be interesting? I like this idea. Is it going to be interesting to other people?“ I want to do some more what I call experimenting also. I wanna try to come up with some new sounds. I know you have to have a consistancy in your sound to not lose your identity. And I know you canīt not get away from sounding like yourself. And thereīs nothing wrong with that. Iīm not trying to get away from that, I just want to expand.
SOT: You will certainly never lose your identity, because no matter what you do musically, there will always be your voice!
MY: But I want to do even more things with my voice! And I want to do more things musically, too. I have a lot of ideas. And Iīm also leaving my mind open for new ideas because I havenīt finished writing yet. Iīm putting this next one together, and it has to be more calculated because itīs gonna be even more complex.
SOT: Donīt overdo the calculation!
MY: Well, Iīm only calculating to the point where everything is cohesive. I donīt want any anachronisms going on. You know, tentatively itīs going to be three separate stories which would allow me to work with three different setups and situations if I want it to. But the thing is, theoratically, at this point, it will be entitled "Three Tales For The Telling“, and it will be three separate stories. And Iīve already got the ideas and stuff, and Iīve already started writing some of the music. And already I have a variety of sounds. But I have to make sure that within a story, the songs say what I want them to say, that they tell the story. But I also want the songs to be able to stand on their own. I donīt want it to be as much of a rock opera that each song depends on the other songs. I would like that you can pull a song out of the album and say, "Hey, I like this song!“ And then somewhere you find out, "Oh, it belongs in a story somewhere!“, not „What does this mean? I donīt understand. Ah, itīs in the story!“
SOT: Thatīs a fine line. You must be careful not to lose the balance.
MY: Well, once again we come back to one of your not so favorite: Disney! The older Disney was pretty good at making songs that make sense where they go and tell the story the way they are supposed to do. You can pull them out of the context if you want to and itīs a cute little song. Or you can stick it in the musical or the film or whatever and it makes complete sense where it is and itīs appropriate and helps tell a story.
SOT: When did you start writing songs to bring it that close to perfection (whatever that means...)?
MY: As time goes on Iīm trying not to depend so much on natural abilities because natural is not always right or accurate. Thatīs why we have trainings for certain things. And I wanna train myself to do what I want. If Iīm looking at a Rembrandt and I say, "This is what I want at the end of the day,“ then I have to train myself to make my brush strokes, use the right colors and everything, so that at the end of the day I have my Rembrandt. Of course I want it refreshing. There will be obviously variety because I canīt stick to one thing. I canīt have an album that sounds the same all the way through. Thereīs gonna be different moods. Youīve gotta have light moments, dark moments, funny moments... I love humor! Humor is very very important. And I think youīll find a very tongue-in-cheek attitude in some of my music, like "Mystery Man Summoned“.
SOT: The facettes are still so fascinating! When you circle around the album now, do you still find new doors to get into it, that you didnīt even know that they existed before?
MY: Actually yes. In a very non-narcistic way I still listen to the album. Because sometimes I sit back and I donīt even think of it as being me! Itīs not me! Itīs "Iīm listening to someoneīs album.“. So it even takes me somewhere else. Believe it or not, when the September, 11th thing happened, I actually turned to my own writing, not as if it were coming from me, but looking to it for comfort and inspiration - the "Walk In The Light“ again, you know, that there is a purpose.
SOT: Thatīs why I think youīre right when you say, "There is hope for the world.“ For the world yes, but not for mankind. See, we tend to destroy what we love - and that includes ourselves.
MY: Nothing lasts forever. Thatīs why I say, "I think I know my fate.“ When I was growing up, I took for granted that I had my cousins around me. We went to school together, we spent the nights together, we were in Girl Scouts together - we did everything together. I never dreamt one day we would all be separated all over the world and not see each other again. You just take for granted that everything is going to be the same, always. And itīs not! Nothing ever stays. Nothing remains the same. Everything changes.
MY:"The Innocent One“ I truly took from an innocent point of view. That was very carefree. That was sort of... Are you familiar with "Peter Pan“?
MY: For me, that was in a way the same spirit as "Peter Pan“ because it was definitely the bottom line of "Innocent“. When I first heard „Peter Pan“, I said, "Oh, this is the perfect song for me. Iīve got to do this song!“ And of course it was one that Rudi wanted me to do. But Mike Sadler did a slightly different version on the album, called "Breath Of Life“. Now "Peter Pan“ came first, and he wanted to change some of the lyrics! And he came up with "Breath Of Life“. That was supposed to replace "Peter Pan“! But I told Rudi, "You canīt do this!“ And I told Mike when we were in the studio, and this was funny because I had just met Mike, but I had to disagree with him upfront because he wanted to change these lyrics. He took out the words "Peter Pan“, "Mary Poppins“, and he put the word "lust“ in there. And to me, that just totally changed the idea because the whole has an adult theme anyway, each song has an adult theme. This was the one song that has a childlike innocence and fantasy that could take you away. And to take away those elements and add the word "lust“ was just to destroy the song in my opinion.
SOT: Now I know what Rudi can do I think itīs a pity that PUR are not more risky. As a solo artist you donīt have that problem.
MY: Exactly. Iīm my own label, hahaha!
SOT: Is there any negative thing in that as well or is it just heaven on earth?
MY: Oh wow! Itīs good and bad. The bad point is that I have to take care of all of the business stuff. If I would just be concentrating on the business, that would be one thing, if I would just concentrating on the music, that would be another. But to try to do everything and do all these... I have so many responsibilities that finding time to do everything correctly is difficult. Very difficult.