Sue Garner

interviewed by piero scaruffi TM, ®, Copyright © 1998 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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Sue Garner has been around for about twenty years. She made strides playing in a band that was a historical landmark of the new wave, the Shams, and then moved on to sing for progressive-rock outfit Fish And Roses. Her collaboration with Rick Brown has brought her to Run On, whose two album rely considerably on her skills. Can we look back to your career and identify the stages you went through?
"I don't see my life or career in stages. It's more like I did what was interesting that came along, and something always came along. It's very difficult to write about your own career. I do think as I get older I learn to trust my own judgement and instincts much more. (or it could be a stage I'm going through).

How do you remember those experiences, which in retrospect opened many doors for many alternative bands and musicians?
"Did they open doors? If so, that makes me happy, or satisfied. I just wanted to make something of my own. I don't know...these kinds of things are hard to put into words. I don't trust the words so much.
"This doesn't answer your question. My favorite part is practising in most of the groups I've been in . In coming up with something good. I also like it when there's a great gig, but I can get really bummed after a show, so it's the rehearals when you come up with something good, and recording, and the excitement before a record comes out that I remember the most. It had a lot to do with what else was going on in my life...age, in or out of college, moving to NY... A few times I decided this band life wasn't for me, but there's not much else I enjoy doing as much, so, I always went back to it. Slowly, over the years, I've learned to make it my own, and to be satisfied (or try to be anyway) with what I have accomplished. And that work's the business for me. I'm happiest working hard, and being busy, and planning, and writing,practising...the whole business of looking forward to what will happen next. And I love making the covers. Scheming to try to make the ends meet."

What have you learned from Shams, Fish And Roses and Run On?
"With the Shams, I learned a lot about harmony, that things aren't done till you say they are...that a song can always be rearranged, and also that there's a point that it's time to move on to the next thing. Song, band, life...The Shams were both the most fun and the most miserable of all the band's I've been in.
" With Fish & Roses, well, I learned sooooo much. I had just moved to New York, and there was so much music going on, and so much happening here. I went to see music all the time, met lots of musicians...that was as much about a time in my life as the group it's self. But, working with this group, I learned to play the bass, about rhythmn, about being in a group really. This was the first time I was a "founder" of a group, and helped write everything. I'm proud of these records as I listen back to them. They aren't quite as direct in the emotional realm as I like.
" Run On has been a bit looser...trying not to have everything so "final". Both The Shams and Fish & Roses really worked things out. There wasn't much left to chance, or improvisation, and that was something I wanted to change. I guess we did that some, although personally I like to go farther.... It's hard for everyone to have free reins, and play "songs", which I want to do. Run ON also has lots of influences, and lots of cooks in that small kitchen."

Everybody in Run On seems to have another life, or two or three other lives. Is this part of the concept or does it signal a clash of personalities?
"Well, guess you could look at it as a little of both. I believe it's part of our strength, and our weakness. Sometimes, there's too much going on, and it's more about the individual instead of the music, or the song. And other times, all those different spices thrown together turn into something exciting."

Your collaboration with Rick Brown dates now way back in the Eighties. What makes him such a special partner?
"First, we're married, and it's nice to work with your "special partner". But, Rick is such a great drummer. He's got such a great sense of rhythmn, and he just loves making music in a way that I find continually refreshing and inspiring."

Your solo album, To Run More Smoothly (Thrill Jockey, 1998), brings you surprisingly closer to the American folksinger tradition, the last thing one would imagine from your alt-rock background. How did you make this decision and was it in the making for a while?
"It was in the making for quite a while. I did a couple of solo shows, and really enjoyed it. I had some songs that weren't used for any group, so, I made a 4 track tape, and gave a few of them out. Bettina liked it, and I was thrilled. It took a couple of years for this to come about."

Does the music hark back to the Shams period?
"I guess you could look at it that way. I don't know. Once again, I have a hard time categorizing all of this. I had some songs, I loved making the 4 track tape, and the idea of doing a back porch kind of record was very appealing to me. I like playing by myself. I'm surprised that I do, because it's not something I'd thought of doing that much."

Is this an alter ego that has been hiding behind the official Sue Garner of Run On, or your true personality that cannot express itself properly in Run On?
"I was ready to do something quieter, something personal. Something simple. Something to listen to in the morning you might say. Yes, it's part of my personality, and in Run On it's difficult to keep things simple. So, I happily made this record. "

Where do you go from here?
"Rick and I are working on a new recording now. We'll write the songs, and get different people to play on them (or not), as we think fits each song. More in the way I recorded To Run More Smoothly. I'm excited about this!! We've talked for years about just the two of us doing something, and it seems like it's the right time. And how it turns out...well, time will tell (I hope!) Besides that, going to Europe this summer to open for Tortoise for about two and a half weeks, a tour of the US in September, and then another tour of Europe in October. After that....lots of thoughts, but ..."