most of you know about my infatuation with juliana hatfield. i got my hands on a tape of hers while i was in middle school and it changed my whole outlook on music. i <3 jh.
Juliana Hatfield on a twisted trip to 'China' By Dean Goodman
Tue Aug 30, 9:02 PM ET
Even when she's in love, Juliana Hatfield is miserable. Not that she always realizes it.
The durable singer-songwriter, who says she is "always frustrated and anxious and pissed-off and depressed," has just released a cathartic, aggressive album with sonic dissonance worthy of Neil Young or John Cale.
Life was actually going well when Hatfield, 38, recorded "Made in China," a low-budget effort on her own label, Ye Olde Records. She collaborated on the project with her boyfriend, a guitarist 15 years her junior, and says she was "having a great time" with the youngster. But her subconscious had other ideas.
"In looking back at the relationship, I can see that there are all these things happening, that I didn't want to admit or acknowledge, and I think that stuff got into the music," Hatfield told Reuters in a recent interview before playing to a small but ardent hometown crowd at the Paradise club.
"You can feel that in the music, just the unease and the distrust of the things that satisfy people, and make people feel good."
ALONE AGAIN, NATURALLY
Several months after the album was recorded, Hatfield and her boyfriend, Joe Keefe, ended their 18-month romance, by mutual consent, she says. It was her longest and most fulfilling relationship, and now she has a lasting souvenir: he played on eight of the 12 tracks alongside his bandmates in local band the Unbusted, and co-wrote two of the songs.
Hanging out with Keefe and his equally youthful buddies was a pleasant experience for Hatfield, who sought his help in harnessing a deep source of energy she says has been trapped inside her since she was 12 years old.
Now she is back to her default setting: alone, sharing her digs in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her Labrador retriever and tomato plants. Her eerie, newfound skinniness notwithstanding, she swears she is not miserable, and has even cut her therapy sessions to twice a month.
Only one song on the new album is about Keefe, "Digital Penetration," a joyous ode to her "island boy." Keefe is from Martha's Vineyard, and he saw her perform there when he was 14, though Hatfield stresses they did not meet then.
Her favorite song from the album is "Oh," one of four tracks on which she plays all the instruments. It sounds as if it could be a Neil Young outtake, which was not a conscious style choice. But she cites Young, as well as the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis as her favorite guitarists "in that they're all sorta sloppy."
Hatfield claims to be a "disgrace to guitar players everywhere" because she never practices and is insecure about her inability to play fast.
ALIVE, NOT BITTER
The album title is drawn from a line in the song "What Do I Care," in which she disdainfully recalls her days as a commodity on Atlantic Records in the 1990s.
Back then, she enjoyed such hits as "My Sister" and "Spin the Bottle," and it seemed that Hatfield -- along with female rockers like Liz Phair, Aimee Mann and Bjork -- might become a permanent resident on radio playlists.
That was not to be. Hatfield returned to the indie world, and an accordingly more selective audience, but she doesn't mind. It's another theme that comes through in the song, with the line "You're over me, but I'm alive. So what do I care?"
"I'm totally fine with my place in the universe, even though sometimes I question it and I get frustrated," she said in the interview. "I still think that the path I'm on is the path I'm supposed to be on. I really do. I'm not bitter."
Still, she is sick of touring -- which is not really a big money-earner anyway -- and plans to focus more on recording, writing and drawing, as well as "my own development as a person, just getting healthier in my head and heart."
Her talents as a photographer are evident on the sleeve for "Made in China." The cover is a shot of her torso, one of a series taken a few years back as part of a bizarre experiment "to lose weight just to see what happens." Inside the sleeve, she is sitting naked in the bathtub of a posh European hotel, having just had a good cry because she was, yes, miserable.