Musical Rooms

December 3, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 50: Baby Dee

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 3:57 pm
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babydee

“My favourite place to make music is a room off my kitchen that used to be a dining room. It’s actually on the cover of the last album Safe Inside the Day and looking through the kitchen door you see the piano and the harp. When we took the picture the axe just happened to be there (left behind by some crazy hippie who was chopping wood inside the house – naked I think). Anyway I put it on the piano and we took the picture. I don’t normally keep an axe on the piano but otherwise what you see in the picture is pretty descriptive of my favourite place to play/write music/ rehearse and yes, even record – though personally I don’t know anything about recording. I’m not very good at things that need to be plugged in. I don’t even have a CD player but I recently bought an old record player and I like to play vinyl sometimes.

The piano I have now is different to the one on the album cover, which was an old upright. Now I have a gleaming Rolls Royce of a thing call a Steinway D. I’d say it’s my prize possession… but it’s not mine. It belongs to Andrew WK who had it in storage because it won’t fit in his new apartment. I’m just babysitting. But believe me this is no baby. This is as big and grown up as a piano can get and it’s worth more than my whole damn house and everything in it. I love that piano!

Spilling out of this room and into the next are two of my harps. Both Lyon and Healey’s – the big one is a 17 (you can just make it out on the album cover) and the
smaller one is a 14. My favourite harp though, is in the UK. It’s a 12 (also a Lyon and Healey) and it’s quite rare, the smallest pedal harp ever made and cute as a button. I keep here to avoid the absurd expense of renting a harp in Europe. It’ll fit in any car or on a train or in a bus even.

My instruments are the most important things for me to have here – and I left one out… It’s a Mason & Hamlin reed organ that I looked all over for and finally found -oddly enough – in the south of England. Mason & Hamlin is an American company that made superb pianos. What people don’t know is that before the piano became a thing that everybody had one of (like in the late 1800s?) everybody had a reed organ and 99% of all those reed organs were complete and utter shit – all except the ones made by Mason & Hamlin. Thus my obsession… It’s also very tiny. I was able to take it home on an airplane and wasn’t even charged extra.

There’s also an accordion there as well – a pretty little red 24-button Italian piano accordion. I love small things. They’re so hard to find. I got lucky and found three for sale (black, white and red) and bought them all. Accordions come apart in two halves
so I could mix and match to go with my bilateral hermaphrodite outfit (half red dress/half black suit). That sort of thing…

Unfortunately inspiration is an unholy mean bitch of a thing that only seems to arrive when I’m going out the door to catch a plane. I’ve only been home a little over two months since January 4th. When I’m home I can spend a lot of time there. But I try to work in a lot of small disconnected bits of time. If I were to sit down and say “Now I’m going to get something done!” I would definitely fail and if I did manage to get something done it would definitely be awful. If I get a bit done in a day – something
that’s a real bit of a real possible song then I consider that a pretty good day’s work.

Whether isolation is important in creative terms… I don’t know. I would have said yes but I recently wrote something just walking down a street in Riga with Alex Nielson. And the last album was more collaborative than anything I’ve ever done. So
everything is up for grabs…The process begins by absolutely having to do it. For no other reason than this inner necessity. I wish I could be more specific… I guess I can’t. But it usually starts with words and then later, sometimes much later, the music. Rarely I’ll have a piece of music and a bunch of words and they just fit sort of fortuitously.

I don’t record as I go and I rarely write things down apart from words. And even those I do write down, I rarely look at them again. I just figure if I can’t remember it it’s probably mot worth remembering. Maybe that’s stupid but there you go.”

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Baby Dee is an American performance artist and singer/songwriter. She is a musician and transgendered street legend from Cleveland, Ohio who has worked with Antony and the Johnsons and toured extensively with Current 93, playing piano and harp. Following her wonderful performance opening for Bonnie Prince Billy at Vicar Street earlier this year, Baby Dee returns this with her all-star band to Ireland. Her fans includes Marc Almond, David Tibet, Will Oldham, & Antony and she is one of the most unique artists you’ll ever encounter. Baby Dee featuring Alex Nielson (Bonnie Prince Billy/Jandek) plays the Roisin Dubh, Galway on Thursday December 4th and Whelan’s, Dublin on Friday December 5th with support from Paul Curreri and Black Carrot. Tickets €16 from WAV, City Discs, Road, Ticketmaster, Tickets.ie. For more information visit www.myspace.com/theonlybabydee or www.babydee.org

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