John Parish & P.J. Harvey
Dance Hall At Louse Point is the new album from PJ Harvey. The catch is that it's not a PJ Harvey album, it's a John Parish and PJ Harvey album. This however, is no cause for concern to fans of the Peej, because those who keep close score will realize that John Parish was co-producer of PJ's brilliant To Bring You My Love, as well as guitarist and drummer on that album. He has been promoted from album credits to album cover because on Dance Hall At Louse Point he wrote and performed all the music, leaving the lyrics and vocals to Polly Jean. Since PJ does about three interviews a year even when it's solely her name on the cover, it is no surprise that she has used Mr. Parish's co-billing as an excuse to let him handle the press on this one. When Parish took the time to call from a break in their London rehearsals, I used the opportunity to find out a little more about his resume, and see what I could learn about future PJ Harvey projects. Mr. Parish is an incredibly nice man and, it turns out, interesting enough to talk to for an hour or two even if he didn't have Polly Jean in his rolodex. But since he does, we tried to keep the conversation on Dance Hall At Louse Point. And despite Miss Harvey's slightly lower profile on this one, Louse Point is a fantastic record. It is worthy of its place in her incredible catalogue and marks the emergence of John Parish's deserved rise to public recognition. As you'll see, Louse Point doesn't signal the end of the PJ/Parish collaboration, instead it hints at a lot of great work to come. I'll leave the details (and the thanks as well) to Mr. Parish.
Hi John, how are you?
Fine, fine, just a little tired.
A long day of talking about yourself to strangers?
No, no not at all. We're in playing mode now, which is nice. We just got back from a day's rehearsing and I'm settling down at home.
Are you doing a UK tour?
We're just doing a few club shows. Half a dozen or so in, like, 400 capacity clubs.
God, send me a plane ticket! Have you done any yet?
No, we just started rehearsing the middle of last week. We put together a new lineup especially to do these shows, or to play this album, anyway. It's a five piece.
So far so good?
Really good so far, but literally we've just done four or five days so we're just about at the stage where we can play all the songs. We just need to make it easier on ourselves, at the moment everybody's struggling a bit, especially me.
Well, you played every instrument on the album, right?
Yeah, apart from one or two tracks where Mick Harvey [of the Bad Seeds] came in.
So I guess you have to do a lot of teaching at the rehearsals.
Yeah, I do, but the thing is, when I play this stuff when I'm recording it, I'm terribly bad about making notes. And some of the tracks are really quite dense, so when I listen back I think, 'God, what did I do on this one?' But luckily, the musicians we've got now are all really good and I've worked with them all before so they know how I do things. They pick it up better than I can really.
Well, the record just came out in the States today. There aren't any plans for us to get to hear it live, I guess.
Oh, I forgot that today was the release day for America!
Yeah, it's just a few hours old, but there were people at the record store door when we opened today.
It's just a baby there! We did such a lot of touring there. We spent four months in America lat year, so I think it'll be a little while before we come back. Maybe the end of next year. I really love it over there, though. I was just over on holiday and did a little recording with some other friends. I enjoy playing there, but we have no plans to play in the immediate future.
OK, considering that you've worked with all these people before and the same songwriting team and most of the production team from To Bring You My Love are still intact, besides the fact that your name is on the cover of Dance Hall At Louse Point, does it feel like a significantly different approach?
Yeah, it really does actually. Reviews are starting to appear and I've read a lot of people saying, 'Why isn't this just a PJ Harvey record?', but it seemed so different to us while we were making it, right from the inception to the completion, that it almost never occurred to us that anybody would think that it is the same thing as a PJ Harvey album.. Although, I realize Polly has such a distinctive voice and distinctive way with imaging that, unless you're the kind of person who reads album credits, it's strange to see 'PJ Harvey & Some Bloke' on the cover. But we did approach it differently. Obviously, the fact that I wrote all the music is a massive sea-change, but also the way we put it together was new. Polly and I have worked on records together before To Bring You My Love because we've been friends and worked together on and off for the best part of a decade. In the early days, she was contributing to my work and playing on my songs, helping me get them together. Then, later on, she established herself and I kind of returned the favor on To Bring You My Love. But whenever we've worked on each other's stuff, it's been like, 'This is your song. I'm helping you realize what you're striving to achieve.' Whereas with Dance Hall..., all along the way we were very democratic about it, without having to sit down and draw up a contract, you know. It was very obvious that we both had to be very confident about each stage of the process, from writing to arranging to recording, right up to these rehearsals.
Because of that historyy of working together, did Dance Hall At Louse Point just sort of happen or did there come a point where you sat down with Polly and decided, 'Let's do X number of songs for an album next year.'?