Friday, August 27, 2010

Margaret Cho

My interview with Margaret Cho appears in this week's WE.

A host of Canadian indie-rock luminaries graces Margaret Cho’s first music album, Cho Dependent.

A host of Canadian indie-rock luminaries graces Margaret Cho’s first music album, Cho Dependent.

Credit: supplied

Margaret Cho’s musical career is no joke

Because ‘comedian-actress-author’ wasn’t enough of a hyphenate nightmare, Margaret Cho officially adds musician to her lengthy list of professional descriptors with her new album, Cho Dependent. This isn’t a typical comedy album, heavy on jokes and low on musicality. Instead, Dependent is a lushly produced collaboration between Cho and a variety of established indie-rock musicians, including Tegan and Sara, Fiona Apple, and Andrew Bird. Cho spoke with WE about making music, her ode to dicks, and the murder that motivated the album’s darkest song.

Looking through the list of collaborators on Cho Dependent, there’s Tegan and Sara, and I see AC Newman. I know you’re also working with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew. The truth seems pretty obvious: Margaret Cho loves Canada.
I have worked with so many different Canadians, I wonder if I qualify for a Juno? (Laughs)

The fact that you even know what a Juno is means you should get one.
I love the New Pornographers. They’re, like, the greatest band, and also Broken Social Scene. I have an affection for giant Canadian supergroups. And, of course, Tegan and Sara are phenomenal.

AC Newman co-wrote “Your Dick.”
It’s so funny that a straight guy wrote the most beautiful song about a guy’s dick. And it’s very much his style — that orchestral pop — and Ben Lee produced that track.

When you’re writing a song called “Your Dick,” is there a particular inspiration?
I wrote a really long poem, and it’s not really about — we’re so hard on men all the time; I wanted to do something that was just really celebratory. And it can also apply to anyone who’s a top. It’s also for lesbians, too; anyone doing the topping... We didn’t have a recorder when we made the demo, so we recorded it on my BlackBerry in one-minute increments. We had to do, like, five of them.

The song “Intervention” really captures the bizarre impact of reality television.
What’s weird about Intervention [the reality-TV show] is that the people don’t know they’re going to be intervened, you know? They’ve agreed to be in a documentary about addiction. I mean, what other documentary about addiction...? These people must be fucked up. They have no idea what’s going on... I like it the more crazy they are: It’s not enough for people to just be drunk or smoke crack; they have to inhale some sort of weird compressed air. That kind of shit, to me, is so awesome. Going to the Office Depot to get her drugs is so crazy!

How did the process of writing music differ from writing stand-up material?
In a lot of ways it was the same. I try to sit down every day and just hammer something out. This was just more rhyming couplets and stuff.

Do you think you’re telling stories about other people in the music process, or is it still intimate for you?
It’s very intimate. All the songs are very honest in their own ways, and they’re talking about really truthful things. In the Andrew Bird song, “I’m Sorry,” I wrote that because I had something weird happen where I was in love with somebody and he ended up killing someone; he killed her and stuffed her body in the attic of their house and she had partially mummified. I was so horrified, you know — I’d been in love with him for 17 years. He never left my heart, and you idealize somebody and then they do something so hideous you can’t even believe it. I was so mortified and I didn’t really know how to process it, and I wrote the song because I just didn’t really know what else to do. And sometimes dark humour is the only way we can overcome really horrible tragedy.

What are some of the major topics at the front of your mind for your stand-up material?
Well, I’m so mad about this gay-marriage ruling in California. They overturn Prop 8 because it’s unconstitutional, and then they have a stay of gay marriage, so I want to talk about that. It’s also a lot about my family history and coming from a family of immigrants and my relationship with my grandparents — all stuff I haven’t talked about very much, like Asian-American identity. And, lots of dick jokes. (Laughs)

Margaret Cho performs Saturday, Aug. 28, at Queen Elizabeth Theatre (Hamilton & W. Georgia), 7pm. $35.50-$49.50 from Ticketmaster.

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