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Elastica's Justine Frischmann
(LiveDaily) By Scott Henkemeyer.

liveDaily Interview: Elastica's Justine Frischmann

September 27, 2000 04:30 PM

by Scott Henkemeyer

Elastica (music) shot to the top of the Brit-pop pack with its 1995 self-titled debut seemingly without knowing that its rocket boosters were on. Snarling and salivating, the band was a girl-powered kick in the bum to the macho acts (Oasis, Blur) also breaking at the time.

Almost as quickly, it went horribly wrong. Bassist Annie Holland bolted from the band in the midst of 1995's Lollapalooza tour, and guitarist Donna Matthews turned to drugs and also split. Frontwoman Justine Frischmann, hounded by the press for her relationship with Blur's Damon Albarn and rumored drug abuse, fled the spotlight.

Five years later, a re-vamped Elastica has returned with a terrifying new record, "The Menace" (Atlantic). Scott Henkemeyer of liveDaily sister site twincities.citysearch.com talked to Frischmann as she prepped for her upcoming U.S. tour, and found her to be older, wiser and ready to reclaim her rock and roll tiara.

LiveDaily: How long will you tour the States?

Frischmann: Only three weeks. It's kind of weird for me 'cause we did quite a lot of touring in America on the first album. When I saw the itinerary, I was really strapped over the places we weren't playing. But I guess in the long run, in terms of sanity, it's good to keep the tours shorter.

You crossed the States seven times with the first record. Needlessly grueling?

Yes. It totally burned us out. It basically turned the band into ashes. At the time, I thought what we were doing was really good and I wanted as many people as possible to have a chance to see us play. I was determined to keep on keeping on. Had I had the perspective on it that I needed, after Annie left during Lollapalooza, we would have taken some time off.

Have the lineup shifts affected the way you make music?

I'm really lucky because all the people in the band now are very supportive and close. It's kind of a family now. With the first album taking off so quickly, we didn't really have a chance to get to know and trust each other before it got pressurized. We got increasingly isolated from one another, and that took its inevitable toll. Musically, I've been lucky with this band because there's good chemistry. ["The Menace"] is different than the first album because it's a bigger sound--there's literally more of us. But it's also a different feeling onstage because there's a big gang of us, and it's us against the world again.

Were you able to repair your relationships with departed members?

[Interrupts] With Donna? Yeah, absolutely. Donna and I were incredibly close. When it all started going wrong, we did our best. But it got to the point where we just both thought that it wasn't happening. I guess we started blaming each other. We didn't see each other for nearly two years. Then Donna turned up at a gig that we did at the Astoria this year, and that was the first time I had seen her. In that time, she had gotten herself together. She was completely straight. It's sad when you go through that much with someone and then you end up falling out.

And quite publicly, to boot.

Of course, the press at that point didn't want to ask me about all the good times we had together. They just wanted to know the dirt and why it went wrong. Donna and I as friends and partners working together had more going for it than against.

Did you reach a point where you simply wanted to throw in the towel?

[After the last tour,] we felt a lot of pressure because there was a lot of money being spent on us. But the chemistry wasn't there. The will to do it wasn't there. The whole vibe of doing what the f*** you want--breaking rules and going out and being a punk rock band--had completely gone down the drain without us even noticing. By '97, I made the decision that I just couldn't do it anymore. It was killing me. I consider myself a music lover first and a music maker second. I got to the point where I couldn't even listen to music. I thought, "I've got to stop being Justine from Elastica and start being Justine again."

But you were still writing and recording?

I didn't really think any of it would see the light of day and I was just doing it because I wanted to. In a way, that was the best therapy for me. It brought me back to realizing that there's something in me that I only know how to communicate through music.

"The Menace" sounds quite chaotic.

For me, it was very important to just get the thing out and move on. I was very aware of the baggage it had. And after sifting through all the material, I decided to choose my favorite songs from each period of writing and go into the studio with a new band. We spent our last ten grand and recorded the thing in six weeks, as live as possible.

I chose "Mad Dog" as the lead track because I think it's good to have a dog barking at the opening of your record. With all the over-intellectualizing in music, the need to make music is as simple as a dog barking. And kind of absurd as a dog barking.