Interview with J.D. Considine September 12, 1994
J.D. Considine is the senior pop and rock critic for the Baltimore Sun, has had columns and articles in Rolling Stone and Musician magazines for many years, and was one of three regular rock critics on the Vb show 4 On the Floor for its entire run of over a year.
Milla Jovovich Interview 12 September 1994 Milla: Hello? How are you? J.D. Considine: Fine. And you? Milla: I'm good. J.D.: So are you mid-tour, toward the end of the tour, at the beginning...? Milla: Beginning of the tour. J.D.: Since playing shows night after night is, I'm guessing, a relatively new thing for you, have you been getting into shape for this? Or do you figure it will be like other gigs you've done? Milla: Oh, well I just got off a tour right before this, which was pretty much my first tour. J.D.: Oh. That's what I meant when I asked if this was the beginning of a tour... Milla: Oh! It's the beginning of this tour. J.D.: So you have road legs, then. Milla: Yes. A lot less comfortably, too. [giggles] J.D.: Part of the reason I ask is that your performing background before this was mainly in film, right? Milla: Yes. J.D.: That's rather a different deal, isn't it, than doing shows ? Milla: I think it's a lot disciplined in the film world. I think schedules are a lot tighter, because there's a lot more on the line. I think the music has just been, the business aspect of it is kind of wishy-washy. But, you know, you get used to that. J.D.: Has performing been what you expected, what you hoped? Milla: It's been wonderful. I mean, I'm really growing into it, and learning how to pull out of myself and be a good performer. But I'm learning, I'm learning! It's been so fun, though, on this tour. I've had a great time. We've been doing, you know, something like 2,000 to 4,000-seat venues. It's really been fun. J.D.: One of the reasons I ask is that a lot of the songs on your album are very personal, and I wonder if it's easy to get an audience to feel the same way about a song that you felt when you were writing? Or do you find that audiences get different things out of the songs? Milla: I think everybody gets different things out of the songs, but when I'm onstage and I'm performing, I think my voice isn't a technically perfect voice, by far. But I really put a lot of emotion up there, and then [sighs] when I sing onstage, I'm living in that song. There's nothing else going on. So I think people pick up on that, more than anything that I am really showing them something real. J.D.: Now, was being a singer something you always wanted to do, and the acting thing just came up, or was it the other way around? Milla: No, acting was definitely my first love, but I've never experienced the emotions that I've experienced in music with acting. I think music is how I express myself best, and through writing. Definitely, through writing. I've always felt more comfortable behind a pen than in person. And I think music just gave it a more wonderful and surreal aspect to my writing, so I love it. J.D.: When you say surreal, do you mean being able to add resonances that wouldn't be there in prose? Milla: I think what I'm trying to say is, when I write a song, my words tend to be, not as much depressing as serious. And, uh, gosh, I should stop saying "uh" so much. My mom tells me that all the time. J.D.: I'll edit them out. [laughs] Milla: So when I'm writing, I have this aspect, but then the music comes in, and usually the kind of melodies I write with my guitar and stuff are very pretty, are very flowing. And I think it gives it sort of an edge, because here I am with these words that are far from happy, but this music that's pretty and flitting around everywhere. So... Well, it's--a picture of madness. [laughs quietly] J.D.: I don't know. Last week, I did an interview with Johnny Cash, and he was talking about this old country song from the '20s called "Banks of the Ohio." And the Iyrics of the song are pretty gruesome, about a guy who first shoots his wife, then drowns her in the Ohio river. It's a real bloodthirsty song, but the melody is gorgeous. Milla: Yep. That, well, I think that really adds so much to the music, because it gives a weird, crazy edge to it that just doesn't seem normal. You know, it's like watching a murder with, like, a baby music box on. Or a clown, you know? J.D.: But it makes more sense when it's music than when you have disjointed images or something. Milla: That's right. Well, music, I think, is--it's the quickest connection to, like, losing yourself. It's your quickest connection to spirituality, it's your quickest connection to sensitivity, I think. Because music just seems to strike so mething so emotional in people. I mean, you hear a song you love, and you get chills. Or you hear a song that is, like, your song with your friends, and you cry. Or you laugh. It just hits to the quick, you know? It hits your nerves like a needle. J.D.: You were born in Russia, right? Milla: Uh-huh. J.D.: Did you grow up with the Russian music tradition at all? Because there's an awful lot of that strongly emotional melodic tradition to Russian music. Milla: I've read a lot of books in Russian, so I think I definitely inherited that weird Russian [pauses] melancholy, I guess. [laughs] J.D.: I ask because I remember Boris Grebenschekov saying that the difference between the music he made, and that which Anglo-American rockers made, was that he built strictly from the melody, whereas the Anglo American tradition is more oriented to building from the beat. Milla: Hmm. Interesting. J.D.: He said that he grew up in a real melodic tradition, and that the main thing a song was about for him was the melody. Milla: Yes. It's definitely one of the main things in my music. I mean, melody. Gosh. Especially my new music. I mean, the album is pretty old, but, well, it was recorded two and a half years ago. So I've got a lot of new songs working. J.D.: I would imagine that's a little frustrating. Milla: Oh, yeah. [giggles] Definitely. Yeah, he's a great guy. I mean, he's a musician in his own right. We met about, almost four years ago, and never really expected to do music together, even though I really loved his stuff. But he was really the first person, the first adult in my life, to listen to my demos and go, "Milla, what are you doing? This is not what you're about. I've heard your music and read your lyrics--this isn't you." It helped me a lot, because at that time I was 15, and everybody at the record company was telling me to go in this one direction, and telling me how much money they're spending, and just trying to manipulate somebody as young as I was who'd never been in the music industry before. So I was getting really freaked out, that maybe I should do what they want, I mean. So it was a real help to have somebody who was an adult on my side, saying, "You're right, and please, don't do something that's so far away from who you are." And just recently, actually, a year ago, Chris [Brenner] was in Paris and I was in L.A. looking for bandmembers, and he met David and Johann, who are in my band, on the street in Paris, playing. So after that, he joined my band, and they found our bass player, Bjorn, in Sweden, and it's been a great big happy family ever since. [laughs] J.D.: So it's the international band. Milla: Mm-hmm. Definitely. He's the governor. No, the mayor. He knows everybody. J.D.: So, to back up a second, you've had a deal since you were 15? Milla: Yeah, I had a deal when I was 14, a development deal. J.D.: Geez. Milla: Yeah. But, you know, at that time, I thought I knew what I wanted, but I would hate to have made an album then. It's just--it wasn't--like, I listened to some old songs now that I had written, not that anybody else had tried to write for me, but that I had written, and, like, they're funny because they're so dramatic and so dark. And it probably would have worked, coming out of a 14-year old. But, like, I would hate to be doing publicity for that now. [laughs] J.D.: I remember reading that Richard Wagner's first opera, which he wrote when he was a teen, had something like 27 murders in the first act. Milla: Why? J.D.: Apparently, he figured if one murder made it dramatic, 27 would make it that much more dramatic. Milla: [Laughs] I guess that kind of dramatic excess is a teenage malady all around, then. J.D.: So when do you figure you'll get to work on the next record? Obviously, you're more than eager to start. Milla: Oh, gosh. Hopefully by January or February. I don't know. I'd like to start working on it soon. J.D.: Is it the kind of thing where you want to get these songs down, but the record company would like to see you promote the current album more? Milla: They definitely want me to, they want to push this album more. That's cool. But, I don't know. I don't know how much longer they can really push it. I guess I shouldn't say that, because it takes a long time to break albums. But I just don't want to have to be doing promotion on this for another year. J.D.: Telling the same stories or talking about the same songs when you have new songs you want to talk about must be like telling the same joke 30,000 times. Milla: It could be worse, though. Please. It could be a lot worse. Of course it could. But [laughs] I'd just start working on my new music. J.D.: But you're not tired of playing the new songs, at least. Milla: Oh, no, not at all. No, when I get onstage, there's no boredom. J.D.: Great. The worst thing in the world is to see musicians who are bored by what they're doing. Milla: Definitely, definitely. I mean, I can't imagine how you could be when you start singing. J.D.: I suppose depends on whether you're singing your own stuff. Milla: That's true. J.D.: Well, that pretty much covers what I had to ask. Is there anything I should be aware of and didn't ask about? Milla: Oh, I don't know. I have a hard time saying. Well, actually, there's one thing you left out. Because, you know, it's your piece. J.D.: Yeah. But sometimes people want to make sure you mention their upcoming duet with Willie Nelson... Milla: Oh. Maybe you can say I really want to open for the Grateful Dead. J.D.: That would be an interesting combination. Are you a fan? Milla: Definitely. Definitely. And Ian Anderson, I think, is going to produce a song on the next album. J.D.: Really? Milla: Yeah, because he came over to my apartment in London, because he really liked the album. He got in touch with me and he came over to our place when he was visiting London, and just sat and talked to--we just sat and talked for a while. He said, "Well, you know, EMI Publishing over there wanted us to write together, but I don't think you need any help in writing. But if you ever want help producing a song, or if you ever need somebody to come play flute or something..." So, that'd be--I love Jethro Tull so much! [laughs] J.D.: He has a really similar sense of light and dark, heavy and quiet. Milla: Oh, yeah. His arranging is beautiful. J.D.: Oh, and you're 20 now? Milla: No, I'm 18. J.D.: You're 18. God. [Laughs] I heard someone say, "She was 19 when she made the record." Milla: No, I was 16 when I made the record. J.D.: I'm glad I said something then. Milla: I know. [laughs] I would have hated it if you said I was 20. J.D.: Prematurely aging you. I wouldn't want to do that. [funny voice] "She was 20 back in '94!" [laughs] Milla: Don't believe the hype. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 2, 1994 MILLA JOINS CRASH TEST DUMMIES ON NATIONAL TOUR THIS FALL Currently finishing her first U.S. tour, SBK/EMI Records recording artist Milla has just paired with Crash Test Dummies for a Fall tour, playing in over 15 cities throughout the United States. Milla will start the tour at the Civic Center in Madison, WI on September 8. Milla's current tour has been met with resounding critical acclaim. According to Variety, Milla "has depth and real feeling and is caught in that stage where the childlike unassured search for approval is laced with the adult breath of sultry seductiveness and confidence." L.A. Times proclaimed: "With a sort of world-music string band weaving exotic pastiches behind her, she traversed Kate Bush territory with a voice whose dynamics and interpretive skills are well beyond the standard for her age." Milla is backed by a group of four musicians: three of whom are classical folk musicians from Sweden. Their unique instrumentation includes the Key fiddle and Nyckelharpa, an 800-year old Swedish instrument. Milla discovered the trio playing on a Paris street and immediately asked them to join her on tour. The band is comprised of Chris Brenner (Piano, Mandolin, Melodian and background vocals) Bjorn Meyer (Six-string Bass, Acoustic Guitar), David Wemmert (Spanish Guitar) and Johan Hedin (Keyfiddle, Nyckelharpa, Mandola, Violin). Milla's debut album, The Divine Comedy, is an emotionally compelling collection of eleven songs she's written (except for "In A Glade," a Russian folk song and a tribute to her Russian background) about relationships and her life. Milla has combined artistic sensibility, vocal excellence and beautiful music on this debut.