The Rocket * No, 205 * May 17-31, 1995
ATTACK OF THE 50 FT PJ:
"PJ Harvey Meets the Monster"
ARTICLE: PJ Harvey and the Cycle of Success
Polly Jean Harvey's mother chisels gravestones out of the rock her father cuts from a quarry. The same resilient stone forms the outer walls of the homes in the rural community where Harvey grew up and still lives. These odd, somewhat macabre crafts bind her parents, and, in a peculiar sense, explain why the music of PJ Harvey so aptly reconciles love and death. It's a natural process--in order to live one must die and love always leaves, regardless of its depth. Life belongs to the fearless, or rather those respectful of nature and her cycles.
Although she once contemplated becoming a sculptorlike her mother, Harvey chisels her work out of a different raw material. She lies at the soul of PJ Harvey, which is a band, not a person, kinda. It's an Alice Cooper thing. Harvey writes the songs, sets the tone and chooses exactly who is going to be in the ensemble on each album. There probably was a stable line-up when the small British indie label Too Pure released their debut, Dry, in 1992, but since Harvey had the bulk of the talent, not to mention charisma, things changed.
It was Harvey who posed in the buff for the cover of New Music Express that same year, and, considering the line-up changes, it was also probably Harvey who signed with Island Records shortly thereafter. Her 1994 release, Rid of Me, garnered her a cult following. With the recently released and much-hyped (she's been on the cover of almost every national American music rag) To Bring You My Love, Harvey reigns as this year's media starlet. Remember Liz Phair? Some stars are born despite themselves. Harvey stands among them. "When this first happened I felt really scared," says Harvey. "I felt underdeveloped and I thought, 'God, I'm not ready for this.' But you come to terms with it and you learn how to deal with it."
She seems content to let her career chart its own course. As a child, the uninhibited country bohemian recieved music lessons from visiting bluesmen booked by her mother, a part-time promoter. She traveled to a club in the nearby town of Yeovil, england, to catch indie acts as a teen. Eventually, she joined her first band, Automatic Dlamini, which included John Parish, who plays a myriad of instruments on To Bring You My Love. But Harvey yearned to put her own craft forth, so she started PJ Harvey. It seemed the natural thing to do.
Like most country folk, Harvey posesses an inate awareness of the cycles of nature. Her bluesy songs buzzsaw like the poetry of Robert Frost. Both writters divulge the brutality of the nature--in Harvey's case the natureof love--beneath her serene landscape. Yet, despite its violent character, a rural lifestyle keeps one rooted in what's real. "I've not spent a lof of time in the city," says Harvey of how her work reflects her environment. "I don't know if I'd write differently if I were there. I know I'd be quite a different person. I only write from my own experience and I've always lived in the countryside."
In 1994, after she had recorded Rid of Me in Minneapolis, Harvey retreated to the bucolic region outside Dorset, England, the closest farming village to where she grew up. Surrounded by her beloved countryside, her parents and her small rural community where people know her simply as Polly Jean, she wrote To Bring You My Love.
transcribed by Steve Lewis, May 1995