Interview with Missy Gibson

Interview with Missy Gibson

I first met Missy Gibson at Dally In The Alley when she sang with Strange Bedfellows. I was immediately taken by her voice and the way she could convey all the angst and emotion the songs demanded of her. Gibson moved to Los Angeles and formed a new band, Breech, with equally emotive songs. Breech's latest album, "Apron Strings," is so good it has been named Album of the Year by the DIY Music Festival in California. I was so happy to find out she was returning during the holidays for a special appearance at Xhedos Cafe in Ferndale. I used this opportunity to interview her, talk about music, life in L.A. and her strong kinship with Detroit.

JAM RAG: Why did you leave Detroit for Los Angeles? Was it for music reasons or otherwise?

MISSY GIBSON: I left Detroit for a number of reasons. My Mom died in 1994 and that loss haunted me quite a bit. I decided it was time to pick up and go. At the time I had been working with a label out in LA - as well as a management company - along with some publishing interest to boot.

I felt like I was living in Detroit, but my life was unfolding in LA. I LOVE Detroit and I miss it terribly, but I just needed to go where I felt I had the strongest opportunities.

JAM RAG: For the Xhedos show, were you home for the holidays? How did you arrange this show? How much rehearsal time did you and Paul Einhaus have?

GIBSON: I was home for the holidays. I knew I wanted to play a show while I was there, so I contacted my dear friend, Paul Einhaus, and asked him if he would be up to accompanying me. He agreed and also helped to arrange the show at Xhedos ... which was a little tough, because they thought I wouldn't draw anybody. So after begging my ass off, they agreed to let me play on a Sunday from 4-7 p.m.

Heck, I was happy just to have a show! I was very pleased and touched that so many people came out. I always think that no one will remember me or show up for my next show in Detroit. I keep expecting that ... but so far I have been pleasantly surprised by the amazing support I continue to receive. I'm really grateful.

Paul and I had two rehearsals before that show. That guy is a pro and I've long been a fan of his. We've played together in the past a couple of times, but it has been years. He was so kind to learn my stuff and invest the time. I'm always honored to play with him. By the way ... if you folks haven't seen Paul's band, The Winonas, you should, dammit!! They are so good!

JAM RAG: How did your return to LA concert tour go? Did you Dad's Buick hold out? What cities did you hit? Were you headlining anywhere or supporting any bands I might have heard of? Did they know you? What was the response?

GIBSON: Our return to LA went great. It was an interesting turn of events. I found out just before I bought my ticket home that my Pop was going to give me his 1993 Buick. How cool is that? I have always had crappy cars and I've been driving a 1986 Brown Chevy industrial size van around for the past seven years here in LA. In fact it used to be The Orange Roughies touring vehicle!

It's great for touring, but it's been a bitch driving and trying to park the van in this city. So I was elated when my Pop suggested giving me his car. I promptly bought a one-way ticket and began to plot. The problem is that by the time this all went down, it was the beginning of December ... kind of late to book any shows for the beginning of January.

I did manage to coerce our BREECH/ NELLIE BLY guitarist and dear friend Mike Flanagan to join me on the drive back. We sent e-mails describing our route, and we asked folks if they could either hook us up with a show or allow us to play their living rooms. We also asked to crash on their floors. People were amazing. A fan in Indianapolis that we had never met invited us to play a party at his home. We met lots of nice folks, sold CDs and nearly ate ourselves silly on the cheeseballs.

After Indianapolis, we played my sister's living room in Shreveport, La., a coffeehouse in Dallas, not to mention endless hours of karaoke (does that count?) for a couple of fans in Phoenix.

We had a great time and actually made some dough. Although it was not the most ideal touring situation, it worked out really well for us on such short notice. I highly recommend the "living room" strategy.

JAM RAG: Who are your influences, your favorite kind of music, favorite song and favorite song of your own band?

GIBSON: I have many influences, musical and otherwise. I love Rickie Lee Jones, PJ Harvey, Marianne Faithful, Patty Smith ... there, I got the chicks out of the way. I also dig The Rolling Stones, X and The Replacements. I have a really wide range of musical tastes. I happen to LOVE soul music and old R & B ...I can probably thank the Motor City for that. I'm still way into Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Maybe that's even my favorite kind of music - I don't know. It's certainly what I've been listening to cruising around in the Buick. I was just jamming on a little Jill Scott today. I do tend to have eclectic taste though. I dig Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and just lately I've been introduced to Lotte Lenya and am really digging it.

I think it's a bit tough to discriminate between what one may be influenced by and what one appreciates. I suppose if you appreciate someone's art it's bound to seep into your own on some level. I like to read a lot and think I'm also influenced as a songwriter by some of my favorite writers, such as Lynda Barry, Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker, to name a few.

My favorite song... hmmm... today? "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder and "Take 5" by Dave Brubeck. Those two are always in my top 10.

My least favorite... wait did you ask me that? Um, I don't think Johnny Cash should be singing Nine Inch Nails songs. As far as my own bands fav songs. That's tough. That's like asking me which one of my dogs I love most.

JAM RAG: If you were kidnapped by aliens, what song of yours would you play to secure your release?

GIBSON: Interesting question. I hope I understand it. I guess I would play either our "Stalker Waltz" or our "Schubert Waltz." Our waltzes can be intimidating. People tend to love them or REALLY hate them. We recently played a show where colleges come to book bands, and after playing our "Schubert Waltz," we secured a show in Helena, Mont., for next Halloween!

JAM RAG: Some of your songs have very disturbing subject matter. "Easybake," for instance, has creepy child molestation references. "Lilywhite" has one of my favorite lyric phrases I ever read: "I fastened you to my weak bone. Without you I may break." How do I ask what's going on without getting too personal? Are you telling stories, or is there some sort of therapy going on? Do you write the music? The lyrics? Do the lyrics come first or the music?

MISSY GIBSON: Thank you for listening to my lyrics. They are, indeed, personal, but I don't mind talking about them. I do tend to write from my life experiences. My mother once wrote inside a book she gave me, "Always take time to write down that which you need to become free of." I think that's well put... in fact I think that's what I tend to do.

For me, the process can be painful and sometimes it makes me quite vulnerable, but it's also amazingly cathartic. I love when people are moved to talk with me because a lyric they heard struck a chord in their own lives. That kind of connection is invaluable to me.

You asked is there therapy going on? God, I hope not. I'd make a shitty therapist. Perhaps there is just some good honest emotional purging. I used to force myself to vomit. Now, I just write songs and sing them. If you want me to get specific, "Easy Bake" is about something that happened to me, but there is an element of story telling going on as well. "Lilywhite" is about my Mom dying. It sucked.

I write mostly lyrics and melody - but some music as well. I'm proud to say I have my first music credit on our newest BREECH CD, "Apron Strings," on a song called "Sachet."

As far as writing songs, they come in different ways, I always say that the best stuff tends to write itself. Sometimes the music comes first, sometimes the lyrics and melody. There is no set formula.

JAM RAG: Why did you pick "Easybake" as your first video project? What's your relationship with video director Barrett Trip? What other music videos/film projects has he worked on?

MISSY GIBSON: Our "Easybake" video is actually not our first video project. In 1997, we made a video for our song "Splinters," and in 1999 we made a video for "Awful Spill," a song from our Breech self titled EP.

Barrett is a person I went to high school with at Birmingham, Seaholm. We were always friendly, but never knew one another very well. We became friends out here in LA, just over the past couple of years. Barrett is an up-and-coming director who worked on some killer video stuff for Detroit's own "Goober and The Peas" back in the day. He also has made several short films. He's very talented with a lot vision and a kind heart to boot.

Barrett started coming to see Breech, and he pitched the idea of shooting a video with us. He had a few songs in mind, but I kind of knew off the bat that I wanted to use "Easybake," as it lends itself well to a storyline and strong images. The subject matter is touchy, but initially I just wanted to hit people over the head with it ... which is why I am not a director. Fortunately, both Barrett and my bandmates suggested a more subtle approach. I think it turned out beautifully. I'm really proud of it. My other friend, Kevin Quigley, who I went to college with at Wayne State, did all the animation.

JAM RAG: Do you have any records or tapes out? Can my reader's buy them directly from you? How much (including postage)?

MISSY GIBSON: BREECH has a six-song EP for $10, Junk, CD single for $4, and our newest full lenght CD, Apron Strings, is $12.

We also have a $10 CD by Nellie Bly (featuring Missy and Mike of Breech), a $5 CD EP of Fuzzy Star (featuring Missy and the amazing Michael Denvir), a $6 CD EP of traditional Irish music by Paddy's Pig (featuring Missy, Mike, Joe and Hal from Breech).

You can order these CDs through our website, www.Breech.net, or just throw a check in the mail, payable to moi, Missy Gibson. The address is P.O. Box 461957, Los Angeles, CA, 90046. Indicate what you would like and please include $2 shipping for each CD ordered. [They also offer Brrech spatulas for $5.00.)

JAM RAG: What other bands were you in?

MISSY GIBSON: I was in a band called Strange Bedfellows for many years in Detroit. I also started using the name Breech in 1993 when Thomas Trimble and I started working together. Although I'm still using the name, it's a pretty different band now.

JAM RAG: Tell me about Nellie Bly.

MISSY GIBSON: Nellie Bly is a side project that Mike Flanagan (Breech guitarist/clarinetist) and I started working on a couple of years ago. It's mainly just the two of us, so it's quite raw and stripped down ... a little naked ... a little creepy, although not acoustic per se. We, released our first CD. It's self-titled and has 14 tracks. The CD also features some amazing guest appearances from various musician friends of ours. Nellie Bly has done some touring this past summer. We did an 8-city Pacific Northwest tour, and last fall we did a short Vegas, Reno, San Francisco, Salt Lake stint with our Favorite LA band, "The Fireants."

JAM RAG: Tell me about Fuzzy Starf*ckers.

MISSY GIBSON: Fuzzy StarF*cker - or just Fuzzy Star if you'd prefer - is a side project I started with a friend and fellow singer songwriter, Michael Denvir. I guess I'd say it's acoustic alternative. I usually describe it as a blend of emotional chaos charged with sultry conviction - rich in voice, melody and desperation. Michael Denvir sure can sing. Yikes! JAM RAG: Any other projects?

MISSY GIBSON: Yes. There is Paddy's Pig, a traditional Irish folk band, which includes me, Mike, Hal and Joe from Breech. It's a far cry from Breech.

And lastly, there is Birtha Fist, my man band. My alter ego, Donny Perelli, is the singer. Check out the website (www.Breech.net - look under "Related Bands") for further details on this one. The photos say it all. This band includes all members of Breech, but you may not recognize them as such. Birtha Fist notoriously hates Breech. Donny is an asshole. Need I say more?

JAM RAG: Are these project separate from Breech? Why? Do Fuzzy Starf*ckers and/or Nellie Bly ever perform independent of Breech?

MISSY GIBSON: All my projects are separate, although Breech and Birtha Fist have played together on occasion. But, again, they HATE each other so it's difficult.

JAM RAG: Are you, Breech, Nellie Bly or Fuzzy Starf*ckers on any compilation or various artists albums?

MISSY GIBSON: Breech is on a couple of compilation CDs. I've sung on a few CDs other than my own. My biggest claim to fame and honor, though, is to have had the opportunity to sing with Detroiter Frank Pahl on a couple of his CDs. He's an astounding talent!

JAM RAG: What compilation albums were you on?

MISSY GIBSON: The most exciting new compilation that BREECH is part of is an internet soundtrack for "Dawson's Creek." One can basically go to their site and customize your very own "Dawson's Creek" Soundtrack CD and guess what? "Thistle" from our CD "Apron Strings" is there for the taking!! So go to www.dawsonscreekcds.com and check it out. Looks like our song is currently #9 in popularity and holding. This song was featured on last year's season premier of "Dawson's Creek," which is how we got asked to be part of this internet soundtrack thing in the 1st place.

Also BREECH was part of a compilation for an Indie music website called Verticalsound.com. The particular CD that Breech appears on is called "On Air". We have 2 tracks on it, "Easy Bake" and "Apron Strings". It features some other cool Indie bands as well.

I think we were also on some MP3.com compilation a couple of years, which I'm not sure is even available anymore. Sorry I don't have more info on that one.

JAM RAG: What/where was your Best concert as Breech, and your Worst concert? (Why? Funniest concert story? ). My most bizarre concert story?

MISSY GIBSON: OK - I'm going to answer these many questions with the same answer. In 1999, I got health insurance for the first time in years and I went to see an eye doctor for what I thought would just be a routine exam. What I didn't realize is that I have a chronic eye disease that causes recurring holes in my retinas and is slowly making me blind. As it turned out, my left retina was partially detached and I didn't even realize it. The doctor explained to me that I needed to go under the knife within 36 hours to save the sight in my left eye. They popped both eyeballs out of my head. Now, I have a silicone buckle and 12 permanent stitches that hold my left eye together, and I have cryogenic sealing in my right eye. Two days after having my eyeballs popped out of my head, I had a show, and because I never cancel a performance under any circumstances, I showed up, both eyes patched, drugged out of my mind on pain killers. To be honest I don't really remember the show, but a lot of other people do. And they still talk about it. Check out our website to see photos of that show.

JAM RAG: How are your eyeballs now? That would scare the hell out of me. I work in front of a computer all day and I like to draw and write. I can't imagine losing my eyesight.

MISSY GIBSON: Currently my eyeballs seem to be okay, but I get them checked every 3-4 months as the condition is degenerative. I try not to think too much about the prospect of actually losing my eyesight although I know it's a strong possiblilty but when I do think of it, I remind myself that blindness can inspire some pretty darn good music, i.e. Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, etc...

JAM RAG: And I read that your puppy has a similar problem...

MISSY GIBSON: I'm very sad about the impending surgical removal of my dog Chompo's wounded right eye.

JAM RAG: How did you get the nickname "Betty Rocker"?

MISSY GIBSON: The L.A. Weekly coined me Betty Rocker in response to our Breech Rock-N-Roll Bake Sales. We funded our CD, "Apron Strings," by having bake sales throughout LA outside various music venues. We would bake all day, set up a table filled with our delicious baked goods, throw on our aprons, start pushing our bake sale manifestos and hit the streets. We hope to put out a Breech Cookbook in 2003. In addition to our CDs, our Breech aprons and spatulas are available through our Website, where you can also learn more about our bake sales, including several celebrity endorsements.

JAM RAG: What's your day job?

MISSY GIBSON: I sing for commercials. Also, I work part time for a communications company that rents cell phones and walkies to films and production companies. It's a great job because have this wonderfully supportive boss named Magda Dia who allows me to make my own hours, go on tour whenever I need to and gives me health benefits. It's still a day job and I'd like to make a living playing music full time, but in the meantime, I couldn't ask for a cooler job or better boss.

JAM RAG: What do you like to do when you're not working?

MISSY GIBSON: I'm always working.

JAM RAG: If you weren't in this band, what would you be doing?

MISSY GIBSON: I'd be a forensic scientist.

JAM RAG: Do you have any pets?

MISSY GIBSON: I have two dogs, Gruen and Chompo.

JAM RAG: What's your favorite color, food, TV show, and favorite movie?

MISSY GIBSON: My favorite color is green. I love to eat stuffed grape leaves. I don't really watch TV, but when I get a chance, I love to watch "The Streets of San Francisco" with Karl Malden. My favorite movie is "Gummo"... that is my answer for right now, at least.

JAM RAG: What's the best advice you ever got?

MISSY GIBSON: My Dad always said, "There is a time to make things happen and a time to let things happen, and how you choose determines your life path."


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