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Petra with some of The Sellouts

A Conversation with Petra Haden (continued)

PM: I was entertained to read, recently, that Mike Watt [The Minute Men] was the one who proposed the idea of doing an a cappella version of The Who's Sell Out.

PH: Uh-huh.

PM: That should end up in a space capsule someday.

PH: You think so? It's pretty crazy. I didn't even know I was going to put it out until he asked me--I mean, I recorded it for him specifically.

PM: God, that's funny. That is really funny. Tell us a little about him. I've never met him. What's he like?

PH: He is definitely a one-of-a-kind. He's really--what is the word--I consider him to be a spiritual person.

PM: Oh, really?

PH: Yeah. He loves sunsets, he loves kayaking. And he's really--I think of him as someone in touch with the earth.

PM: Wow. Where does he hang out? Where does he live?

PH: He lives in San Pedro.

PM: I got to catch up with him.

PH: Yeah. He is very, very smart, too.

PM: Wow. Okay. I'm resolved to catch up with him. [more about Mike Watt at hootpage.com]

Petra with Mike Watt

PM: Catching up on your career proved more expensive than usual. I was compelled to buy this new Rambling Boy and the record you did with Woody Jackson.

PH: Oh yeah?

PM: We got to talk about those two, if you're willing.

PH: Okay.

PM: How about Rambling Boy? Who knew that there were big folk roots in the family, or at least in the dad? Where does that come from?

PH: My dad's family had a radio show in Missouri. When he was about two years old my dad sang on the radio with parents and brothers and sisters and it was called The Haden Family. They sang Carter Family songs and old standards. And for the past, I don't know, it seems like 10 years or so, my dad has talked about recording with us and doing a family record. And me and my sisters were always--we always used to sing--I mean, still do sing together. But growing up, I guess we were just born with the natural ear for harmony.

PM: Right, yeah, sisters that heard the harmonies.

The Haden Sisters

PH: Exactly. So we have always sung, and it just made sense that--I know it's a little late and we're all grownups, but we really wanted to do it. And we finally made a country record.

PM: Wow. Or even could be called more a folk record.

PH: Yeah, the music is--

PM: Folk, and there's a little bluegrass in there.

PH: Yeah, there's a little of everything.

PM: Well, I mean, all the hot bluegrass guys, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, and I don't know who else. I liked it. I thought it was really good. The sisters, particularly, I mean, just sound great together.

PH: Well, thank you.

PM: It's not every musical family that can really end up sounding that good. [You can find out more about Rambling Boy here as well as at Josh Haden's blog]

Haden family & friends

I'm very interested, if you'll indulge me, in Woody Jackson, too. That's really cool music you did on Ten Years. What does that ten years refer to?

PH: Ten Years means we recorded and wrote the songs 10 years ago. It's funny, because the same thing with Miss Murgatroid, I met her probably maybe a little more than 10 years ago. But it always seems to be that I'd collaborate with people and it doesn't end up coming out until 10 years later. I don't know why it took--

PM: [laughs] That's a hell of a timeline.

PH: I know! With the Sell Out record, even, on and off I recorded that for probably almost three years.

PM: Really?

PH: Yeah. And if I knew that Mike wanted me to put it out I would have done it in two weeks.

The Who Sell out cover, and Petra version

PM: So how did you do that, if I might ask? What were you using?

PH: He gave me his Tascam cassette.

PM: Get out of here.

PH: Yeah. It was all done on a cassette 8-track. I still have it with the cassette inside.

PM: Unbelievable...

PH: There's one tape that I can't find though, and I'm kind of mad. But he just put The Who on the 8th track--this is the actual Who record--and I listened to it and sang over it.

PM: On the other seven tracks?

PH: Yeah.

PM: Did you have to do a lot of bouncing, or was seven enough?

PH: I didn't know how to bounce. It was crazy. So at some point I actually felt like I was going a little nuts with it.

PM: I can imagine.

PH: And I think I was bouncing when I didn't know I was.

PM: [laughs] Wow.

PH: Because I pressed like a weird button and I said, "Why am I hearing double?" I think I used a multi--I didn't know what I was doing. But I ended up finishing it, and I gave it to my cousin John who's an engineer. And he said, "If you want me to mix those on Pro Tools I could kind of cut out some of the sneezing you do."

PM: "I think I could clean up some of the coughing." [laughs]

PH: Yeah, like you could even hear me being annoyed, saying something like, "Shit!" Or crinkling some paper. You'd hear sirens in the background. So he got a lot of the outside noise out. Then he says, "If you want to record some percussion, even, maybe we could set you up and do another track." And that's what I did. Sometimes I added a harmony here and there, or little drums.

PM: It's an amazing thing.

with the East Coast Sellouts

PH: Yeah, yeah. And so the record I did with Woody, it was the same kind of thing, but it was a 16 digital--I don't even know--he recorded, mostly. So that was the same kind of deal: I sat around with Woody, he came up with some bass, the structure of the song, and I just came with the melody.

PM: Wow, so that's how your friends like to work with you, they kind of give you a foundation.

PH: Yeah, I mean, actually, that's how I like to work.

PM: Ah, and they know that. They start something, and pass it to you.

PH: Exactly. And that's how I'm working with Yuka Honda now, where we're doing a record.

PM: I'm sorry. I don't know that person. Who is that?

Yuka Honda

PH: She was in a band called Cibo Matto.

PM: Oh yeah. [find out more about Yuka Honda at her myspace]

PH: And she and I have been friends a long time. And actually, it's the same story. We recorded a song maybe seven years ago and--

PM: This is unbelievable.

PH: Yeah, we're just now kind of fleshing them out, and re-recording some, and adding musicians, different musicians. So that's the next thing I'm doing is working with her.

[I asked Petra about a CD that Woody had recently made on actor Jason Schwartzman, and thought it interesting that she seemed unaware of it.]

PM: So is it possible for me to get an interview with Woody, too, if I get to him on myspace, or something?

PH: Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely.

PM: He'll talk with me. Okay, cool. 

Woody Jackson

[Woody's myspace is here. And there's also a Petra & Woody myspace, here, where you'll find an entertaining account of how Woody and Petra met, written by Jason Schwartzman.]


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