I first became aware of The Village Voice in high school, when my older brother, Brett, used to go the Beloit, Wisconsin, public library to peruse its political investigations and music coverage. We were both discovering punk rock, watching Patti Smith on Saturday Night Live, and we could read about the newest bands from CBGB’s in the Voice. Later, in college, I got assigned to write about it in my one and only journalism class. Within a few years, I was copy editing and writing there, ultimately becoming a senior editor in charge of music. It was a crazy, difficult, exciting place, and the work I did for them — “discovering” Paul Beatty and the rest of the ’90s NYC lit scene bubbling around the incredible Nuyorican Poets Cafe, traveling to New Zealand to write about music, covering Rent as it moved from Downtown to Broadway and beyond, interviewing John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the creators of a new musical called Hedwig and the Angry Inch; writing about punk drag artists such as Justin Bond and Miss Guy — still defines me. And then there was my one and only cover story, the first major interview with Patti Smith after her husband Fred died and she returned to the stage — an incredible encounter with the woman who made me want to be a rock’n’roll critic, and move to New York, and dive into the sea of possibilities. RIP Voice. Say hi to Aretha.
Category Archives: Evelyn’s articles
The Go-Go’s not only deserve to be on Broadway, they should be in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. Here’s an essay I wrote explaining why they matter, from The New York Times.
Liz Phair is sitting in the Rose Café, a well-loved Venice, California, eatery where tech-industry entrepreneurs munch quinoa alongside music-biz hipsters sipping lattes. The critically adored singer-songwriter does not look like 25 years – sufficient time for her to conceive, deliver, raise and send a son off to college – have intervened since her debut album, Exile in Guyville, made her the Rolling Stone cover girl for third-wave feminism. She ignores her matcha until a foul odor of burning oil wafts over from the kitchen – a peril of open-air design. Phair coughs. Once, twice, repeatedly. It’s as if something heavy and toxic has seeped into this bastion of urban chic, landed in her sensitive lungs, and has to be expelled, forcibly and immediately. She perseveres, telling me about how the book she has written was compelled by the election of Donald Trump, her voice cracking under siege. Then I begin coughing.
“It’s affecting you too,” our canary in the coal mine exclaims. “Sorry, I’m going to save you.” She flags down a server and we move beverages and recorder to the bar, far from noxious fumes.
Liz Phair does not suffer irritants quietly. And lately, irritants abound. Once again, men are excluding women from power, reducing them to sexual objects, and shutting down or demeaning their modes of expression. It’s Guyville redux, only this time, it’s not just faux-alternative hipsters in the indie-rock scene of Chicago in the early 1990s. It’s the top dog in the White House.
I caught up with Phair recently for The Guardian, one of the world’s greatest newspapers. I have to admit I was heavily influenced by the great interview Allison Wolfe did with her for Women Who Rock. Read my interview with Liz here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/may/03/liz-phair-trump-change-her-music-exile-in-guyville-25-years
I talked about the death of Dolores O’Riordan, and the recent spate of deaths of musicians of her era, with the great Lynn Ballen on her Feminist Magazine show on KPFK. You can hear it here:
In either late 1994 or early 1995, I interviewed Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan for Interview magazine, over the phone. The article ran in the March 1995 issue, as an edited Q&A. When she passed away Monday, I dug up the old transcript; following is the unedited interview. She had just gotten married and the band had released their second album. It’s poignant, and powerful, to read now.
Interview with Dolores O’Riordan
By Evelyn McDonnell
EM: You’ve had more success in the U.S. than in England, haven’t you?
DO: It was hard to take off here because of bad marketing, I think. The two singles were released on a demo a year before they came out as singles, so most of the press had already heard them. They’d hyped up the band a year prior to the release of the debut. So when the debut came out it wasn’t anything new to the English public. They started going against them, backlashing, saying the demo was better and whatnot.
EM: How is the English press treating you this time?
DO: I don’t really read them anymore. The band’s happening around the world, everywhere except Japan. So at this time in my life my perspective is more global, so I’m not really worried what an English paper says, or what an Irish paper says.
EM: Are you at all reluctant to do interviews?
DO: No, but I suppose I’m getting a bit cagier.
EM: Where are you living now?
DO: In the south of Ireland. I’m building a house there overlooking the sea. It’s really quiet and peaceful. We haven’t actually started building, we just got planning permission.
EM: Are you building a dream house?
DO: Yeah, it’s a nice big house. I’ve never really been that type of dream-house person, ‘cause I never grew up with too much materialism around me, so it wasn’t as if I longed for it. The idea of having a gymnasium in your house, or a bar, would just not be in my mentality, because you don’t see it that much. But as you travel and stuff, you realize you can’t go out to public places that much, so you put it all in your house — your own little gym and your bar, everything you need in there. You can go there for peace and tranquility, when you need to get away from everything. Continue reading
Dolores O’Riordan had one of the most distinctive voices in rock’n’roll: an angelic brogue, like a rose and briar entwined. “I grew up with a very strong Irish accent, and I didn’t see why I should put on airs and graces for anything or anybody,” she told me when I interviewed her for Interview magazine more than two decades ago. You can see that article below; I’m working on getting the whole transcript typed up (feel free to contact me if you’re a Cranberries fan and would like to help out). You can also hear a snippet of what I told NPR’s Andrew Limbong about her.
I’d almost forgotten how much I loved Lou Reed’s music. Then I read Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony DeCurtis, a meticulous, thoughtful, and humanistic biography of a difficult, brilliant subject, and suddenly, I was pulling those records off the shelves again. DeCurtis’s was one of six books — including tomes on Gucci Mane, Stevie Nicks, Al Green, and TLC — that I reviewed for The New York Times recently. Story publishes in print Sunday, but you can read it online now.