Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Songs Are Syringes: Kristin Hersh On Her Favourite Tracks

Throwing Muses are releasing Purgatory/Paradise, their first album in a decade, so Kristin Hersh met up with John Doran to discuss her favourite records (not albums)

“I didn’t want to choose 13 albums so I just picked these songs, I hope you don’t mind.

“To what extent is it healthy for artists with depression to tap into their depression for the sake of their art? That is exactly what my friend Vic Chesnutt and I used to talk about. He would say, ‘It’s not a good thing, it’s the only good thing.’ I can argue both sides of that. What I did, to cope with the depression, was to create a split-personality. After my first child got taken away I got PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] like you hear about Vietnam vets getting and from that point on I had two different personalities. This one and the music one. Every traumatic event went into the music one. I never had any memory of writing songs after they were done. They just seemed to arrive fully formed. When I was on stage I was not there. I was the other personality. So for me, what I was arguing with Vic without even realising it, was that the breakage that can happen when disease takes hold, is a defence that occurs to save your life. I was saying, ‘This is not life.’ And what he was saying was, ‘Darkness is real. If we go into it as if it were darkness it will kill us. If we go into it as if it were light – music and life – then it will save us.’

“Do I think it’s an artist’s job to mine their own experiences no matter what light it presents them in? I don’t know what artists do! I had songs happen to me and I couldn’t remember them happening afterwards. What I do know is that every song of mine is like a syringe of a memory. If you can imagine this syringe being jabbed into you and [mimes pressing plunger] you get flooded with these emotions from the memory, meaning you have to live out the memory via sound. That’s what I do. I definitely have been told my stories by my own songs. I know people who say it shouldn’t be about you and I agree. But you are telling an idiosyncratic version of a universal thing or event. You can’t just say, ‘My life is nuts – CARE!’ You have to make it about the listener as well. You can’t be too strange, which is why I think I package my material in such a way that it’s not like it is when I first hear a song. That would weird everyone out. This has to be a construct to which the listener can relate. I’m going to use the inspiration – which is just animal noise – and turn it into something which hopefully resonates with the listener.

Throwing Muses’ whopping new release Purgatory/Paradise, a 32-track album packaged with a 64-page book, is out tomorrow on the Harper Collins Friday Project imprint and is being launched tonight [Monday October 28] at Rough Trade East with a solo set and Q&A session by Kristin, starting at 7 pm. To begin scrolling through her choices, click on Kristin’s image below

First Record

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