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Mark Kiss: Tonight and the Rest of My Life has a much different sound than the other Veruca Salt material you have worked on. Were you eager or apprehensive to see how Veruca Salt fans would react?

Nina Gordon: I think I was pretty comfortable with imagining what people would think. I knew that some people, like the people who were more into the rock stuff; songs like Straight and Don’t Make Me Prove It or... well not really Don’t Make Me Prove It, but I’m Taking Europe With Me or something. Like the full rock, rock, rock stuff. I knew those people would be like “Ohh.. bummer, this album doesn’t rock like that.” But I couldn’t really worry about that because I made a record I was really proud of and I felt good about it. What was funny was that there was a lot of songs that didn’t make it onto the record that I recorded that are way more like the Veruca Salt stuff I did. They will appear as b-sides, possibly on soundtracks and that kinda thing. People will hear them and be like “Ohhh.. okay, there she is, there’s the Nina from Veruca Salt.” But when it came down to actually picking the songs I wanted to put on the album, I ended up omitting those because they weren’t the ones I was the most proud of. It wasn’t a conscious choice to make a record that sounded any different from what I had done in the past. It wasn’t like “I don’t want to put these on because they sound like Veruca Salt.” I was like “I don’t want to put these on because I have to choose something, I gotta eliminate some songs because I can’t make a twenty song album.” I guess when it came down to it I wasn’t as psyched about those songs as the ones I put on the album. So I just answered two questions in one.

Mark: Yeah. (laughs). How do you feel Tonight and the Rest of My Life would have differed if it had only been a side project between Veruca Salt albums?

Nina: Hmmmm.. I cannot even imagine that. I don’t know. No.. This was so much about my independence from Veruca Salt that I can’t even imagine what it would have been like had I had made the record in the context of staying in the band. I don’t know. That is a very good question but very hard to answer.

Mark: I didn’t think you would have thought about it, but if you had it would have been really interesting.

Nina: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t think I would have felt as free as I did or as limitless as I did.

Mark: The album endured numerous delays. Do you feel this downtime was beneficial or do you feel you have outgrown the material that was released on June 27th?

Nina: No, I don’t feel I’ve outgrown it because I haven’t toured and I haven’t played those songs day in and day out. So I still feel like those are still very much alive for me and the downtime was really difficult. Here was this album I was really excited about and I wanted people to hear it. I just kinda had to wait around and twiddle my thumbs but I think the record was so important to me and for me that it still holds a lot of power for me. It came out a week ago and it feels brand new to me.

Mark: Tonight and the Rest of My Life has many references to impending darkness. For instance “Now another bright has turned to gray” and “I prefer a sunless sky.” What did this darkness mean to you while you were writing and recording the album and now that you’ve released it?

Nina: Well I think at the time when I wrote these songs I was so conflicted and there were so many different facets of my life that affected my song writing. I had made this momentous decision to leave my band and that was really difficult. It ended a six-year relationship with my band mate who was one of my very closest friends and I also broke up with my boyfriend. I was also getting together with somebody else and falling in love. I also turned 30 right around that time and it was the dead of winter in Chicago which is always a really grim place to be at that time of year, it’s like so depressing. There were so many ways in which I felt totally optimistic and excited and liberated, like there was so much that was new for me that I had to look forward to. At the same time there was a lot of darkness because I was afraid and there was regret and concern and what if I had made the wrong choice. Yet there was this overwhelming feeling of excitement and just a gut feeling that I had done the right thing. I think that’s kinda the overwhelming theme in the record; there is excitement and optimism, and there is also darkness. Overall it’s a balance between the past and the future.

Mark: Less darkness now that your album has been released?

Nina: Yeah, I mean darkness is always there. Certain songs like Fade To Black, Hate Your Way and Too Slow To Ride, those are songs that really stick with me and those are songs about regret. Not so much Hate Your Way but Fade To Black and Too Slow To Ride are really remorseful songs about just not being able to do the right thing. Those feelings stick with me. We make mistakes in our lives that we will regret for the rest of our lives. Then there’s the feeling of well what does regret do for anybody? It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t make it any better and it doesn’t hurt the people you’ve wronged any less. So ultimately the feeling is “Why spend your time regretting things? Why not just look forward?”

Mark: This question is kinda cheesy. “I remember you in polaroid.” If you could have only one photo to be remembered by, for example, what would you wear, who would be in it, like what would it look like in general?

Nina: Ahhh. That is a really cool question. That’s not cheesy, it’s just really hard to answer. Well you know if I could answer that question that would be really sad. That would suggest there was a time in my life in the past that would exemplify and express my entire life, that would suggest the great part of my life is over. Although I suppose I could look forward and imagine a picture of me with my mom and my children and my grandchildren or something like that (laughs). I might be wearing like a metallic leather jumpsuit (laughs). I don’t know, I really don’t know the answer to that either, but it is a really good question. I think you can pick many sort of times in your life and snapshots in your life but I don’t know if I could pick one. I’ll think about it…

Mark: I wrote that thinking “I can’t even answer that. Nina should have a good time with that one.”

Nina: (laughs) Yeah if you could answer that and your seventeen years old that would be really sad.

Mark: Yeah that’s true.

Nina: Or you’d be prophetic.

Mark: Hate Your Way is a notably powerful song. As a songwriter is it hard for you to write negative lyrics or is seething natural for you?

Nina: (laughs) I can’t say that it is natural for me but it certainly a side of me, anger is a side of everybody. When I first wrote Seether I was shocked. Basically the thing that prompted me to write that song was I had this really violent vision about somebody and I couldn’t believe I had envisioned that. I was like “Oh my god! Am I capable of that kinda violence?” Of course I have never been violent with anybody, and I’ve never physically hurt anybody. I had this little flash, like a little movie in my head of really hurting someone. I was so devastated and shocked to see myself that way I wrote Seether. Hate Your Way is a lot less violent. It’s more just about sorta of despising somebody and yet being attracted to them at the same time. I see it as something I will hopefully grow out of and I think I have grown out of and I think most people hopefully do. When you're attracted to some guy because he is an asshole, you know what I mean?

Mark: Yeah.

Nina: There is something in certain women that makes them gravitate towards people that sorta repulse them (laughs). I don’t know what that is and why that is but that song is kinda about being attracted to the devil.

Mark: Now I Can Die is about feeling a sense of wholeness in light of finding perfect love with a man. Are you worried about how fans will react considering you penned feminist anthems such as Shimmer Like A Girl, Cock of Nothing and Volcano Girls?

Nina: (laughs) Well Cock of Nothing was definitely a song about an asshole and hating a guy. But it was just hating a guy not all guys. Volcano Girls really didn’t have anything to do with men…

Mark: Oops.

Nina: I mean it didn’t, it had to do with being whatever. I know what you mean. Shimmer Like A Girl too, like these songs, they were never anti-male (laughs). They were hopefully positive songs about being a woman. Actually Volcano Girls was just about being weak, it’s like “It’s ok, you can still be a strong women and fall apart sometimes, have a temper tantrum and refuse to get off the floor.” I think Now I Can Die was a really important song for me to write. It was a really break-through song for me because when I was finish writing it - the song just kinda popped out - I was like “Oh my god! Did I just write a really happy love song?” Just something I never thought I would write. Sleeper Car in a way was, but that was more about sex and less about love. There was the occasional song that was, I guess not really, like Awesome was about Louise and I. I could write an optimistic song but it was never about being happily in love. That was a huge deal to me. As I said I think it was a really important song for me personally to realize “Ok, this is new for me and this is really good.” Aside from being a songwriter I have to be a happy person or I don’t have to be, but I strive to be happier and stronger. It was exciting to realize in writing the song that I had found something that I had never had before. I just wanted to celebrate it.

Mark: Louise recently said that she would like to re-record the song Swedish Fish. Are there any lost songs or b-sides you would like to record or re-record now that you are solo?

Nina: Probably not. I could imagine playing certain songs live, Sleeper Car was always one of my favorite songs, something about it, just I don’t know. We just ended up not putting it on the album. I don’t really feel a connection to that song anymore and I am actually surprised that Louise would want to record Swedish Fish because it was about a particular person in her past but it was a cool song. I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about that. There’s are certain songs I know I will wanna play live from Veruca Salt albums or b-sides. Songs that I know I don’t wanna let go of, but I don’t know about re-recording any of them. There are songs from my own demos for this album that I could imagine recording. There’s this one song called Like It Happens Everyday. I was just not happy about the way it turned out but I really like that song so I can imagine using it now possibly as a b-side but then re-recording it someday.

Mark: What do you plan to play live Veruca Salt wise?

Nina: I will definitely play Loneliness is Worse, that was always a song we never really played live because it was a really complicated song to arrange and it never sounded quite right. It would be kinda weird for me to play 25 because 25 was such a long time ago, yet that is a song I would really enjoy to play and the same is true for Earthcrosser. Those were such kinda, almost like cornerstone parts of the Veruca Salt sets we used to play. I think it would be hard to do alone, you know, hard to do without Louise. I could imagine doing Twinstar, The Morning Sad, I’m probably forgetting something..

Mark: Stoneface (laughs)?

Nina: Stoneface? No probably not (laughs). I probably won’t be doing Stoneface ever again.

Mark: Would you play Seether and Volcano Girls?

Nina: Well, I don’t know. You know, I’ve heard obviously that Louise is playing them in her band and it’s like well “I wrote those songs (laughs).” I don’t know, I don’t think I will play them right away. Well my album came out only a week ago and I would like to establish myself as a solo artist and have people listen to this record and not think of me in terms of what I did in the past. I think after I established that, I think I could play those songs, I really like those songs. Again I can’t really imagine doing those songs without Louise that's why I really can’t imagine her doing them without me.

Mark: Veruca Salt has it’s share of negative criticism. How is general do you deal with negative commentary and reviews?

Nina: It’s pretty hard. It’s hard to read anything negative about yourself. Songwriting is very personal and I feel obviously very emotionally attached to my music, so when people criticized it, it was really tough. You do get better and better at it and it does become less important as you go along. When Tonight and the Rest of My Life was first reviewed there a couple of things that were written that were positive and a couple of things that were written that were negative. The first really negative thing really bummed me out, I was really surprised and disappointed, and then I got over it. Now I don’t really care. You definitely get to a point, especially if you are proud of what you have done and you believe in what you have done, you just sorta accept that music is so subjective. There are plenty of people that are gonna like what you do and plenty of people that are gonna hate it. You can’t take it personally. I have close friends that I love, that love music that I hate or vise versa, what are you gonna do? I still love those people and respect them. You can’t really put too much stock into it. It always burns a little bit the first time.

Mark: Do you find yourself looking for reviews or do you just read them if you come across them?

Nina: No. At first, yes always, Louise and I always at first would like, have to look for them, and be like “Oh my god! There is a review in Rolling Stone we gotta go get it! Quick quick quick!” Then after getting burned a couple times, and after laughing, even good reviews get stuff wrong all the time….

Mark: "Normally I would be upstaging the post (quote from review)?"

Nina: Yeah could you believe that? Oh my god that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard. So yeah, even the good reviews when you read that and you are just like “OK, basically I’m an idiot for taking any stock in any things that these people are saying good or bad." I shouldn't love the great reviews or hate the bad reviews. It’s all just ridiculous.

Mark: Forsythia was - forgive me if I’m wrong - about you lying in your youth to compensate for your lack of stability during and after your parents divorce. In the last couple of years you have experienced two major divorces; foremost parting ways with Louise and Veruca Salt and breaking up with your long time boyfriend Blake Smith. Did these events fuel “Forsythia” more or do you feel you have conquered her?

Nina: (laughs) Well I haven’t been lying if that’s what you are asking?

Mark: No. Well kinda (laughs).

Nina: I’m not lying right now I promise (laughs). Those divorces of the last 3 years or whatever were certainly my choices to make, I was in control and certainly in the case of my parents splitting up it was way beyond my control, and in that way it terrified me. In those situations I was the one who made the breaks and made choices according to what I needed in my life. It was an empowering time for me, it was difficult and it was excruciating, I mean I shouldn’t even just say difficult, it was really, really hard. But they were my choices so I don’t think any of those things came into play at that point. It was more about being at a crossroad in my life and being like “This is what I need to do and I need to take care of myself.” Ultimately those relationships that I broke from were not healthy and good for me. They were choices that I had to make.

--Mark Kiss © 2001