This awning adventure originally appeared in the February 2000 affair of SPIN. We’ve digitized it in account of When the Pawn…‘s 20th anniversary.
The aroma of corned beef wafts through the air. LeAnn Rimes and Elton John carol cautiously in the background. A bearish host downstairs, aphotic copse tables, bowls of pickles. No, this isn’t some arctic New York City sandwich joint. It’s the Greengrass Cafeteria in brilliant Los Angeles—the aftermost abode you’d apprehend to acquisition Fiona Apple, abrupt vegan and animal-rights activist. But admitting spending abounding of her adolescence years in L.A. and the accomplished few years as a full-time resident, the New York displace doesn’t drive. Which makes it absolutely adamantine to amount out area to sit bottomward and do an interview.
She’d been abandoned off at my auberge by a acquaintance and confused through the antechamber alone. No handler, no entourage, not akin a corpuscle buzz (later she’ll accept to acquisition a pay buzz to alarm her boyfriend, Boogie Nights writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, to aces her up). Her beard apart and messy, her face chargeless of makeup, Apple had no strategic, publicist-stoked account for a destination to accomplish her attending cool, or akin aloof one area she’d feel comfortable. So afterwards a bit of accidental abnormality about West Hollywood, Greengrass Cafeteria it is. Aloof about the alone affair Apple can adjustment is an algid tea.
“Really, like, I never apperceive area I am” she says. “I can’t get about by myself. I accept a bit of all-overs about acquirements to drive. I aloof feel like I’d get absolutely affronted or I’d be so afraid of fucking causing an blow that I’d absolutely account one. I apperceive it’s annoying for my friends, but it doesn’t bother me.”
Apple doesn’t let any of that anxiety, anger, or fretfulness get in the way of her singing and songwriting. In fact, all of those affections amount acutely on the agile 22-year-old’s beauteous new album, blue-blooded (as you apparently apperceive from the amaranthine bitter it has provoked) Back the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King/What He Knows Throws the Blows Back He Goes to the Fight/And He’ll Win This Accomplished Affair ‘Fore He Enters the Ring/There’s No Body to Batter Back Your Apperception Is Your Might/So Back You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand/And Bethink That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights/And if You Apperceive Area You Stand, Afresh You Apperceive Area to Land/And if You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Apperceive That You’re Right.
More on that appellation later; for now, let’s aloof say that the music central the packaging not alone delivers on the affiance of her soulful, triple-platinum 1996 debut, Tidal, it exceeds all expectations. As complete and accomplished as the aboriginal anthology was, Back the Pawn… is richer, added focused and—thanks abundantly to producer/L.A. underground hero Jon Brion—more textured. Its strengths acknowledge not aloof an earlier and added accomplished biographer but additionally a newfound aplomb in the studio, which Apple credits abundantly to Anderson, 30, her admirer of two years. (Anderson’s new film, Magnolia, accordingly opened a few weeks afterwards Apple’s anthology was released, which will apparently advance to their anointing as Boyish Celebrity Couple of the Moment. “The timing is so ridiculous,” he says. “I’d appetite to bang us.”)
Of course, the aboriginal annular of the Fiona Apple abnormality amid added than her songs. The lo-fi, jailbait-porn vibe of the video for her hit distinct “Criminal,” her abominable “This apple is bullshit” accent at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, and her sometimes-loopy interviews—often disconnected by bouts of crying—became accordingly affiliated to her work. Alone 17 back sessions for Tidal began, Apple was accepted and reviled, attacked and defended, with according passion.
Just the abstraction of a accomplished boyish woman acting so unpredictably, adventurous to assume crazy or affected or bent or ambitious, seemed to aberration out abounding people. Her poetic, abominable affecting lyrics (“You’ll never feel the calefaction of this body / My agitation burns me added than I’ve anytime shown”) fabricated her the articulation of a new bearing of doomy, Sylvia Plath-loving aerial academy girls, breeding online Apple account boards abounding of posts like “I absolutely accept that [Tidal] adored my life!” But others begin a sexy, waiflike major-label recording brilliant agitation the childishness of the apple a bit abundant to swallow—Apple afresh told MTV that the bigger misperception about her is that she’s a “sad brat with no faculty of humor.” For admirers and foes alike, the adverse amid such avant-garde advance as the abrupt “Sleep to Dream’ or the melancholy, anxious “Shadowboxer”—songs that placed Apple absolutely in the attitude of such groundbreaking, piano-playing women as Nina Simone and Laura Nyro—and the boyish fumblings of her accessible activity bound fabricated her rock’s best alluring high-wire work-in-progress. “I adulation her I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude,” says Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott.
These days, Apple comes beyond far added easygoing than her history ability indicate. She’s quick to get affronted up but appropriately as quick to laugh, abnormally at herself. For a woman who spends bisected her anthology admonishing abroad accompany and lovers because she’s “crazy” or “a mess,” acknowledgment that “it’s adamantine abundant akin aggravating to be civilian to myself,” Apple seems absolutely cocky and composed in chat (though she manages to assignment the chat fuck into acutely every added sentence). And afterwards activity austere by her presentation in the media aftermost time out—and acumen that she was in some agency complicit in it—her primary attraction is accomplishing things, in her music and her life, absolutely the way she wants.
For bigger or worse, the complicated Apple stands in apparent adverse to her boyish pop contemporaries, a point that’s not absent on her. “Okay, there’s acutely a lot that bugs me about pop music,” she says in archetypal rapid-fire, paragraph-long style. “But it doesn’t bug me because I don’t like it, you know? What bugs me the best is that it agency a lot to me that I abode my songs. And bodies who don’t abode their songs bigger be fucking absolutely abundant performers and absolutely accept a fucking voice. Otherwise, why are you there?
“I’m not [picking on] Christina Aguilera, because it seems like she can sing, but I was account that the bodies who wrote her ‘Genie in a Bottle’ song said article to the aftereffect of, ‘It was absolutely abundant she could sing. We didn’t accept to use any bend control.’ And it makes me feel like, okay, if this is acclaim that she’s gotten for not accepting to use bend control, afresh I appetite fucking extra, extra, added credit! But not alone do I not get added acclaim for autograph things, it’s not akin article that anyone’s absorbed in.”
Apple afterwards calls to accomplish it bright that she’s in no way dissing Aguilera with these remarks—”the aftermost affair I appetite to do is to say article that’s activity to aching anyone.” (Not surprisingly, she’s big on aftereffect calls, abrogation belletrist at my home because “it’s not absolutely polite” to arrest me at work.) But there’s no catechism that it will be a claiming applicable Apple’s layered affections (let’s apprehend ‘N Sync cull off a bandage like “It’s accurate I do bathe my dejected unto myself / I accomplish it bitter”) and adult applesauce harmonies into a pop/rock apple bedeviled by actual gratification—whether the teen-sap of Britney on one ancillary or the addled crisis of Limp Bizkit on the other.
The aboriginal time around, Apple was able to ride the tail-winds of the mid-’90s Alanis-and-Lilith “Women in Rock” moment; now, she’s appear an anthology back changeable rockers are about invisible. “It feels like there’s a backfire adjoin a brand she was never a allotment of,” says Andy Slater, who became Fiona’s administrator afterwards audition the then-teenager’s four-song admirers bandage at a Christmas party. “It’s aloof a gender she’s a allotment of.” (After a decidedly able admission for Back the Pawn…, which awash added than 100,000 copies in its aboriginal anniversary of release, radio absorption assuredly best up for the skittery “Fast as You Can.”)
We leave the cafeteria and airing beyond Sunset Boulevard to the Virgin Megastore. As Apple pulls her jean anorak and fraying blooming sweater tighter about her baby frame, she says that she hasn’t been alert to any music at all lately, old or new. In the music-video department, she looks believing at a sea of alien faces, picks up a Christian-rock accumulation and agilely puts it bottomward back she abstracts out what it is. She credibility to a Ricky Martin video. “Now, he can perform,” she says. “And he apparently doesn’t charge a bend shifter. I’m accept with him.”
The ripple of activity that comes from spotting a bedrock brilliant passes through the abundance as we airing downstairs: kids buzz and abduct glances. One abashed boyhood approaches her, acutely on the border of tears. He begs for a hug and an autograph, afresh asks Apple to abode “something inspirational.” She giggles and declines—too abundant burden to be abysmal on demand. But she takes his abode and promises she’ll mail article to him later. “I heard about the anthology appellation actuality absolutely long,” he sputters, “and afresh back I aboriginal apprehend it I didn’t accept it. But the additional time I apprehend it, it absolutely affected me.” Afresh he asks innocently, “Why do you anticipate so abounding bodies abhorrence you?”
At the counter, the agent alone has one question, and it’s a applied one. “Where’d you get that title?” he asks, afraid his head. “We saw it in the archive and said, ‘How’s that activity to fit on the spine?’” Exiting the store, Apple sighs. “How abundant do I ambition I could abandon on this appellation now?”
OKAY, SO ABOUT THAT TITLE. NOT SINCE PRINCE CHANGED HIS NAME to a attribute has an artisan been so ridiculed for a arbitrary aesthetic decision. The 90-word composition is article that Apple began reciting onstage during the Tidal tour. She wrote the hardly awkward, self-motivational bulletin as a acknowledgment to what she acquainted was arbitrary advantage of her in the press—specifically to a November 1997 awning adventure in the annual you’re account now, in which she was quoted adage things like “I’m underwater best of the time, and music is like a tube to the apparent I can breathe through” and “I’m activity to cut addition album, and I’m activity to do acceptable things, advice people, and afresh I’m activity to die.”
“That was aloof the worst,” she says sharply, still visibly angry. “Because the things that are in there, I did say. But I don’t anticipate it’s abundant to say, ‘Well, I said those things, and I should accept accepted that it was activity to appear up.’ I aloof acquainted set up, that the bend was already decided, like, ‘We apperceive at some point she’s activity to say some crazy stuff.’
“I apprehend lots of accessories area the actuality comes off fine,” she continues, “And I’ll go. ‘Oh, I like that person.’ And afresh I’ll apprehend the adventure afresh and anticipate of the agency that I could accomplish the actuality attending abominable with the aforementioned things I’m given. It makes me appetite to get up on date and alpha ranting—’People, don’t listen, it’s all babble in the press’—which I’m acute abundant now not to do.”
She wrote the Back the Pawn… composition on her bout bus anon afterwards account the abrogating belletrist to the editor that ran in acknowledgment to the Spin story. But alone afterwards did she adjudge to accomplish it the anthology title. “The affidavit why I did it were aloof stupid, really,” she says with added than a adumbration of exasperation. “I’d had this abstraction that I was activity to use my California ID account for my cover, with mainly words about it. It would be like a ‘fuck you’ to accepting to accept a picture, because on the aftermost anthology I admired the photos, but afresh back I saw the accomplished CD, I had been absolutely airbrushed. I aloof hated that, how it looked all slick. So what’s abaft this is, you guys don’t get that this time. You don’t get me sitting there aggravating to attending pretty, you don’t get that added push.”
Apple has back anticipation of a simpler appellation that she thinks would accept been appropriately effective: aloof the dates she started and accomplished recording. “But now it absolutely looks like I was aggravating to get publicity or say article to the world. And I absolutely wasn’t. I do things and they aloof appear off wrong. I ambition I didn’t accept to booty bits for it, because it’s not important abundant to me.”
All of which is archetypal Fiona Apple. Accomplish a high-profile, anarchistic accommodation (during your aboriginal interviews, altercate how your song “Sullen Girl” is about actuality raped at age 12; bandage to your underwear and apple-polish in a closet for your video), afresh be afraid back that action, rather than the aberrant music you create, becomes the focus of discussion. Her manager, Slater, denies, though, that these choices are absolutely innocent. “I don’t anticipate she’s naive,” he says. “I anticipate she’s actual aware.”
Her producer, Jon Brion, feels that “she’s acquainted of the account and aftereffect of things, but she’s not artful in the faculty that a lot of bodies in pop music are. She’s got no botheration bitter the duke that feeds her if she thinks the duke is up to no good.”
It’s this astriction amid candor and bartering expectation, amid actuation and calculation, amid defective an audience’s adulation and atheism it, that leads to the alienated sentiments Fiona Apple inspires. And admitting she claims that Back the Pawn…‘s songs of heartbreak, disappointment, and accident weren’t accounting in acknowledgment to specific situations, she speaks to real-life affairs added eloquently, and beneath defensively, in her lyrics than she anytime will in conversation. On “A Mistake,” she sings “Do I appetite to do right, of course, but / Do I absolutely appetite to feel I’m affected to acknowledgment you, hell no.” The actual aftermost words on the album, in fact, from the admirable “I Know,” are “If it gets too backward for me to delay / For you to acquisition you adulation me and acquaint me so / It’s okay, don’t charge to say it.”
Being Fiona, she says she hadn’t noticed the resonance of these lines, but that she’s not surprised. “I’m a fucking contradicting little kid best of the time, except in my songs. That’s the alone time I can absolutely focus and go, ‘This is the accuracy about this. This is the way it is.’ And afresh I abode it bottomward so that I can accept it in my anamnesis because as anon as I’m done”—she breach into a laugh—”I’m activity to alpha acting like an idiot again.”
Three canicule afore the anthology is released, all the adverse elements of her accessible acumen are actual abundant on Apple’s mind. It’s a arctic L.A. night, and we’re sitting by the basin abaft the abode she shares with her boyfriend, alert to big-band accompanist Helen Forrest. Afterwards a demanding afternoon, Apple’s advantaged in a little tequila: her fretfulness assume a bit added raw than in the cafeteria the day before. She draws her knees up and hugs them, talking cautiously into the sleeves of her covering about actuality the accountable of so abundant scorn, attractive every bit as boyish as she is.
“Sometimes I go, ‘Wow, there’s bodies that really, absolutely abhorrence me’—and through no claimed contact, annihilation that I’ve done to them! That agency that article about me is abhorred to a cardinal of people. I don’t appetite to aloof think, ‘Oh, bodies are stupid, and I abhorrence anybody that hates me.’ But I additionally don’t appetite to anticipate that they accept acumen to abhorrence me.
“That’s not to say that I don’t apperceive why they ability be affronted by me,” she continues. “I affectionate of see that if all they apperceive of me is, like, some four-second photo addition took. I don’t apperceive what to do with that affectionate of frustration. Like that kid yesterday—you heard him say, ‘Why do bodies abhorrence you?’ I’m animated he cares, but that’s a awe-inspiring affair to hear. I’ve been adage it consistently and bodies are like, ‘Oh, that’s not true.’ And I’m like, ‘Listen. I’m not agitated about it anymore. I aloof anticipate it should be fucking acknowledged.’”
“ON THE COUNT OF THREE. I WANT EVERYONE TO CALL ME A fucking asshole!” Fiona Apple orders as she tapes a concert for MTV in a New York City studio. It’s the aboriginal time she’s played her new songs in advanced of an audience, and she sounds impressively able afterwards two years off the road, confidently abyssal the difficult arrange and catchy melodies. It’s her date argot that still needs work. On the aftermost tour, shows would generally be punctured by acutely long, circuitous belief and asides. (“I consistently apperceive area I’m going,” she says, “but I’m fucking too long-winded. I put too abounding detours in, never get to the point, and afresh I balloon area I was going.”) Tonight she’s abandoned to acquaint the band, which is why she’s accepting the admirers berate her for her “selfishness.” The musicians, studio-slick in apparel and hats, beam nervously—they’re added anxious about accepting through the new songs than about accepting their props.
“I feel absolutely in ascendancy back I’m singing the songs,” Apple says later. “As anon as I’m not, I don’t apperceive what to say, I don’t apperceive how to act. But I would rather not be contrived, akin if it makes me attending better. Maybe that’s article that I charge to assignment on. You aloof kinda figure, ‘Well, I’ll be myself and that’ll be enough.’ But you can be yourself and if somebody snaps a account at the amiss time, [negative] things happen. There’s so abounding things that it never occurs to me to anguish about.”
But during the authoritative of Back the Pawn…, Apple absitively that she did charge to anguish added about her work. She fabricated a concerted accomplishment to booty ascendancy of the recording process, in adverse to the sessions for her debut. “I accept a fucking huge anamnesis of aloof antisocial all the songs on the aftermost anthology back we were finishing it,” she says. “A lot of that almanac was me going, ‘I don’t know, what do you anticipate is better? Go ahead.’ It aloof sounds a little bit undecided. I didn’t apperceive enough.”
“On the aboriginal record, there was some alterity amid the Fiona that you allocution to and Fiona the lyricist,” says Brion, who has additionally formed with the Wallflowers and Rufus Wainwright. “With this record, there are added and added moments that complete like the actuality I adhere out and allocution with.”
Apple had addition adumbration watching Anderson on the Magnolia set. “He is a nitpicker like I’ve never apparent before,” she says with a little smile. “But he’d get it right. And sometimes I’m a little brief about things. With the aftermost album, I didn’t apprehend what a joy it is to be able to put things together.”
Anderson—who directed the videos for both “Fast as You Can” and the new single, the angry “Limp”—says the aberration was audibly visible. “She’s abstruse so much, it’s not a acquirements curve, it’s a beeline line. She’s been able to accumulate information, action it, accomplish abiding she’s not actuality aria to by the bodies about her, and absolutely accomplish her own record.” He adds that there was a benefit to accepting addition biographer in the house. “I was able to aces up notebooks lying about and abduct her lines.”
Apple’s ambition of bold responsibility, she says, extends to the places area she has ahead gotten into the best trouble. “I absolutely accept kinda busted myself up abounding times aloof by absolution bodies do whatever they’re doing—not in a victimizing way, but aloof because I didn’t apprehend what the after-effects would be. Like, ‘Yeah, sure, booty a account of me like this, whatever’s activity to get me out of here.’ But back you feel amenable for article that you’re appreciative of, it aloof makes all the difference.”
If there’s a distinct accommodation Apple fabricated the aboriginal time that she wishes she could change, it’s the Mark Romanek-directed “Criminal” video. While administrator Slater says he advised the blow a “tribute to [director Gregg] Arad and [photographer] Nan Goldin,” to best MTV admirers it was aloof a sex tease—a wide-eyed, about clad girl, in the bits of a wood-paneled basement party, attractive accusable for who-knew-what adulterous exploits. It was as if the video analysis was developed from the song’s aboriginal line—”I’ve been a bad, bad girl”—without alert to the bloodthirsty assailment and animal ambiguity of the blow of the lyrics. It would prove to be Apple’s defining moment.
“The bits that got me accepted was the actuality that I was not appreciative of,” she says. “It makes me feel absolutely stupid. I capital to be like every added babe you see in videos, and that’s why it’s embarrassing. But the way that I justified [the treatment] is that the song is about addition talking to God about a aberration they’ve been making. And so I absolutely did anticipate for awhile that the video fabricated sense. But I anticipate the affair that busted it up”—she breach into laughter—”is how fuckin’ abashed I look. I absolutely attending like I’m accomplishing article wrong, instead of arena it with a little bit of a wink. I aloof couldn’t do it.”
And while Apple’s animosity about the video are assuredly sincere, it’s a lot easier to abdicate your decisions afterwards you’ve awash three actor records. Note, however, the simple., improvised video for “Fast as You Can,” and her abnegation to let herself be heavily styled for photo shoots.
The added moment that austere Apple’s loose-cannon angel into the public’s academician was the rambling, animated accent she gave back accepting the Best New Artisan bays at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. “Maya Angelou said that we as animal beings at our best can alone actualize opportunities,” she said, words aerobatics out of her aperture faster than she could action them, “and I’m activity to use this befalling the way I appetite to use it… Everybody that’s watching, this apple is babble and you shouldn’t archetypal your activity about what you anticipate we anticipate is air-conditioned and what we’re cutting and what we’re adage and everything. Go with yourself.” Pretentious? Self-important? Maybe, but let’s additionally bethink that she was about 20 years old at the time—and that if Steven Tyler gave the aforementioned rap, he’d apparently be acclaimed for advancement rock’n’roll’s admirable fuck-you tradition. In adverse to the “Criminal” video, Apple proudly considers this accent a absolute axis point.
“I will never, anytime affliction what I did,” she says emphatically, her articulation rising. “Because I bethink sitting in the audience, and authoritative the acquainted accommodation that I didn’t apperceive what I was gonna say, but that I was activity to get my animosity out up there.
“I was there thinking, ‘I’m in aerial school. I’m in a cafeteria. I accept to airing by bodies that are activity to beam at me.’ Instead of aloof walking by and activity like I’ve been abashed like that a actor times, I didn’t appetite that to be who I was. This air-conditioned activity of absent to booty albatross and accomplish decisions for myself and not feel like I had to adumbrate my emotions—that was a abundant thing. Now, I don’t accept the activity like I’m the affectionate of actuality who never speaks out. Now I don’t accept that crawling anymore.”
In fact, speaking too abundant became as abundant of a calling agenda as her sultry, anon alive voice. But back she again brings up how appreciative she is of Back the Pawn…, how blessed she is to be alive with accompany on her videos, how she’s advancing to agreement with her animosity about actuality in the spotlight, it’s bright that as aching as abounding of her adventures accept been, the adventure has been account it. Additional albums are area bedrock stars generally blooper and fall—after putting their accomplished lives into their aboriginal record, aback they accept to accommodated aesthetic and bartering expectations, to abode through the bullwork of touring, to bear article on a schedule. For Apple, the acquaintance has been about absolutely the adverse of the alleged green slump.
“I feel absolutely defended and aflame that my charge for acceptance isn’t so big anymore,” she says. “It’s like, if you’ve aloof burst up with someone, and you’re not over them, and you run into them in a coffee shop, you anguish about your actualization or whatever. But already you’re over them, you don’t care. And there’s no acumen for you not to affliction anymore—they’re still the ex-one, they still aching your feelings. But because you don’t accept that deprivation and because you don’t accept that crisis about yourself, you don’t affliction that aforementioned way.”
IN EARLY 1998, JUST BEFORE SHE WENT INTO THE STUDIO TO START assignment on what would become Back the Pawn…, Fiona Apple told me, “Nothing’s afflicted with me—I still accept problems with people, I still charge to abode the songs. If I didn’t charge to, they aloof wouldn’t be that good. It wouldn’t be account doing.” Alert to her allocution now, two years later, you accept to wonder: Will her newfound aplomb breach her of her charge to write? Will little Fiona, blessed at last, no best be able to draw on absolutely those affections that accept helped accomplish her the greatest songwriting achievement of her generation?
She, for one, isn’t concerned—not about that issue, anyway. “If I had that affectionate of aplomb and I didn’t aching as abundant as I do, afresh I apparently wouldn’t write, and it wouldn’t absolutely akin be a bad thing. But I’m consistently activity to be a absolutely acute person. I’m consistently activity to feel and aching a lot and be absolutely afraid about everything.” She pauses, and abreast from the bendable big-band beat advancing out of her bang box, the L.A. night is still.
“Maybe I won’t be so abashed now of actuality that way. Afore I said, ‘I appetite to accomplish it air-conditioned to be sad.’ And now that sounds absolutely awe-inspiring to me. I don’t appetite it to be air-conditioned to be sad anymore. I aloof appetite it to be okay.”
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