Do you ever get annoyed when journalists act all surprised when a musician acts differently in an interview than she does onstage? If so, you'll really enjoy Matt Diehl's BlackBook interview with PJ Harvey.
Strangely, when speaking with Ms. Polly Jean Harvey by phone from London, just after she'd performed a low-key show, the acclaimed singer–songwriter seems nothing like the unhinged, unabashedly profane character inhabiting [her new song] 'April.' Decidedly English, with a proper accent, the diva offstage proves articulate, almost demure. When asked about 'April,' she seems to shudder with embarrassment at the thought of discussing it. 'That Luddite chorus-I couldn't even repeat it, because it's bad language,' Harvey says in total seriousness, a blush audible in her voice.
What? You mean what I see on stage is not PJ Harvey's real, unvarnished, everyday self? You mean she does not whale on her guitar and yell "I want your fucking ass!" when she is ordering a cup of tea?
Harvey's collaborator John Parish explains:
Polly can be intense-deranged even-but she never slips into histrionic vocal gymnastics. [...] She's very technically capable, but she's more interested in the emotional intensity of performance. I love that the record has many different voices, which Polly has an incredible gift for. The voices she uses emphasize the change in atmosphere and character from song to song.
Oh, so . . . she's performing. And part of her talent as a performer is that maybe she can convey emotional states that she is not actually feeling in her normal life. Got it.
I don't know if it's just female artists who get this shit (my suspicion is no), but the idea that everything you create must be coming straight from your molten core is pretty grating. Matt Diehl, everybody: people make stuff up. Art isn't always truth; sometimes art is lies. Also, PJ Harvey rocks.
Primal Scream: PJ Harvey's Tortured Genius [BlackBook]