If you’ve been scouring the local interwebs of late, you’ve probably come across a few listings and snippets regarding six-string wizard-ress Marnie Stern, the latest sensation off the Kill Rockstars label.
Known for her lightning-fast finger-flash tapping technique, Ms. Stern rose to critical acclaim in 2007 after her debut, In Advance Of The Broken Arm, was heralded by Pitchfork, and has since followed up with 2008’s equally impressive This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That.
In advance of Ms. Stern’s May 21st show at Yugong Yishan, City Weekend caught up with the New York resident to talk about Eddie Van, the current state of indie music and why it’s such a big deal when chicks start shredding.
City Weekend: How did these Chinese shows come about?
Marnie Stern: My booking agent mentioned to me that there was some interest for me to come over to China for some shows, and I was really excited about it.
CW: So why do you think so much attention has been paid the fact that you're female and play guitar?
MS: I guess because there aren't that many female musicians who use the electric guitar as their focal instrument. I think also because I tend to use tapping which is considered a very technical male-oriented style from the 80's.
CW: I've read literature that compares you to Lita Ford, Donita Sparks, Orianthi and Nancy Wilson, which all seems pretty silly. What role did Eddie Van Halen, and to a lesser extent George Lynch, have in your development as a guitar player? How did you get into finger tapping?
MS: They really had no role actually. I was listening to bands like Hella, Don Caballero and Lightning Bolt who employed tapping and that is why I started to use it.
MS: I think Jimmy Page is amazing. I like Mark Knopffler, Duane Allman, Mick Barr, Spencer Seim and a slew of others who all have original styles.
CW: In Advance Of The Broken Armcame out in 2007. What we you doing before, both professionally and artistically?
MS: I was working a 9-5 job as an assistant at an advertising agency. I would come home and work on music at night. I worked 9-5 jobs for 10 years before In Advance Of The Broken Arm came out.
CW: I've read that you much prefer writing and recording to touring. How do you treat the different mediums differently?
MS: The writing process is completely internal. Touring is more external. I think I grow more as an artist and a person when I'm home and completely inward. Touring is fun, but it's more about performance and show. It's always a ton of fun, but it's a different side of the coin.
CW: Chinese indie kids are really drawn to artists associated with Kill Rockstars and Pitchfork; it's sort of an association with branding honestly. How do you feel about the effects of corporate and label branding on music and artistry? And how do you feel about being a part of that clique?
MS: To be honest, on one hand I feel lucky to be given any exposure at all. It's also a benefit because those bands wouldn't have a chance to get out there at all. But sometimes being associated with some of the bands is a bummer because I don't think they're that good. The branding issue is such a complicated mess. People seem to believe the hype these days and don't have much of an opinion of their own. If you tell them it's good, they generally agree. To me that's the strangest part of it all. Sometimes I wonder if the people listening actually like it, or if I'm just part of the popular clique, as you said.
CW: Also, what's your take on the current state of rock and indie music? What contemporary artists are you listening to?
MS: There are a lot of great bands out there, but it's sometimes hard to discover them through the over saturated veil cast upon us by the internet. It's easy to go through 10 bands on MySpace without listening to more than 20 seconds. People don't know what's special now, so they need to be told what's special which is kind of how I see the whole Pitchfork, blog world. I haven't been listening to any contemporary music these days, just older stuff.
CW: What's next for you? Albums? Tours? Side projects? Un-related stuff . . .
MS: I'm working on a split with Tera Melos, and my next LP should be out sometime in the fall. I plan to tour the U.S. and Europe in support of that record.
What: Marnie Stern
When: Friday, May 21
Where: Yugong Yishan
How Much: RMB100 (adv)/RMB150 (door)
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