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Azita Interview
by Adam Strohm
July 11, 2003

Azita Youseffi first made a name for herself on a national scale as the bassist for Chicago’s neo-no wave trio Scissor Girls. After their break-up, she formed the excellent Bride of No No, who released one album before splitting up. Their self-titled posthumous follow-up was released this year by Atavistic with far too little fanfare. Azita moved on by releasing Enantiodromia, a solo album of piano-based tunes which found her much closer to the singer-songwriter tradition than that of New York’s no wave pioneers or the Chicago avant-rock scene. What remained constant, however, is Azita’s distinctive and commanding vocal stylings. You can find Bride of No No’s new album at Atavistic, and Enantiodromia at Drag City.

Fakejazz: You’ve said that Scissor Girls dissolved at the time when you were most interested in the group. Is the same true for Bride of No No, or was it a more expected event? What led to the others choosing to leave the band?

Azita: Bride of No No was a more expected event, it had been very hard to write music together for a long time, and there was often an atmosphere of dread when we would have to get down to writing. Of course I wished that these things would somehow resolve themselves, but they didn't happen to.

Fakejazz: How hard was it to record the new CD with the band knowing that the band would cease to continue upon the album’s completion? Did this have an effect on the recording, either with respect to the actual process or the atmosphere in the studio?

Azita: It was only hard when there would be an argument over something specific in the session, like a part or something in the mix, because there wasn't the same kind of incentive to stick it out. On the other hand, everyone really wanted to leave an accurate representation of our considerable effort over the two years we'd been working together since the first album, knowing this would be the final word on the band.

Fakejazz: I know that “Ooh Ooh Johnny” was originally meant to be a Bride of No No song, and that the piano plays a surprisingly big part on the new album, so do you see the end of Bride of No No and the beginning of this phase of your solo career as simply two points on the same logical musical progression, or do you feel more as though these are two distinct (and more unrelated) sections of your musical development?

Azita: Like anyone else, I'm on some kind of progression through time, whether logical or not, whether evolving or devolving. The outputs are just things that happened on the way. The first Bride of No No session is where I realized that the band scenario would not accommodate this kind of material or process of working, which is how I ended up doing the stuff alone.

Fakejazz: Do you see yourself ever wanting to be back playing bass in a rock band?

Azita: I was increasingly bored with the bass during the last years on Bride of No No, so do I SEE it calling me, enticing me? No. But I don't like to make unnecessary rules for myself. If something about it appeals to me at some point, then I'll check it out.

Fakejazz: How did your solo career get started? I’ve heard about an invite-only performance for Drag City, and some open mic nights…how did it all happen? How did you assemble your backing band?

Azita: It wasn't an invite only performance, a local club had a grand piano rented for a show the night before and they got it for an extra day. So they asked me if I wanted to come play an informal set, after the evening's usual events. Drag City was already considering my demo of the album and they came to the show. I'd been playing the songs around town for about three months before they decided to do it. As far as the musicians involved, I'd intended to do the record just solo, but then I started feeling that it would be harder for people to follow. (as it is, even with the band keeping time, I see reviews that say "awkward time signatures", when 95% of the pieces are in 4/4.) So I decided to add a spare rhythm section, drum and bass.
I'd heard Matt a few months before and I thought his sound was the kind of thing I would like to have. We went into the studio like this and then later, I felt there was a little space on some of the songs that I would like to put in one more instrument so I asked Rob and Jeff to take a couple songs each.

Fakejazz: It could be said that your newer work is far from, say, Music for Scattered Brains and the more challenging (to listen to, at least) work you did in Scissor Girls and Bride of No No. Was there always a part of you wanting to write more traditional songs, even back in the SG days?

Azita: Yeah and many people think a piece of music is "challenging" if someone plays one note through a flanger pedal for five minutes. I felt I was writing songs that were catchy and singable the whole time in SGs and Bride of No No. And by the same token, I don't consider my piano material to be "traditional songs". The thing that I did begin wishing for during Bride of No No was for more space, for the vocals and in general. To not have to squeeze words into spaces where they didn't want to go and to not have to scream over the other instruments in places where I would have preferred another type of tone.

Fakejazz: Lyrically, the new album appears more personal and open than any of your previous work. Do you believe this to be true, and, if so, why do you think this is?

Azita: I think the most personal album is [Music For] Scattered Brains and after that [We People Space With] Phantoms. This one may speak to people as being the most personal because the writing has a transparent quality. They can either delve into it or take it at face value. But I don't know, I don't strive for one particular approach, I just try to follow the spirit of whatever I'm working on at the moment. And I try to make it not suck.

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