Five Questions With…John Parish

June 4th, 2009


John Parish is a musician’s musician. He writes, produces, composes and performs. He’s collaborated with many—including Tracy Chapman, Eels and Giant Sand—but most notably with PJ Harvey. Their first album came out in 1996. The follow-up, A Woman a Man Walked By, was released at the end of March. And now Parish and Harvey are touring the U.S. They play the looking-better-than-ever Beacon Theatre on Tuesday, June 9th. The well-spoken Englishman checked in from the road—in Kentucky—to answer five questions for The House List.

Is there something specifically difficult about playing a New York City show?
I think there is actually. A couple reasons: One, you’ve always got friends there—and it’s always a bit tougher playing in front of friends than it is playing in front of people you don’t know. And, secondly, you’re probably playing in front of your peers as well. And that makes me feel slightly more on edge.

Are there any bands that you listened to growing up that you still listen to?
Absolutely. My first few favorite bands are still very important to me, and I still listen to them. T. Rex’s Electric Warrior was the first album that I had as a kid, and I still play that record a lot. And I still use it as a reference when I’m making records because there’s something about the sound of it I really love. And also as a kid, after T. Rex, I was really into Led Zeppelin, and I still really like their records as well. So, yeah, they’ve really stuck with me.

Are there any new bands you find yourself gravitating toward?
Nobody brand new. The last records that really, really blew my mind were the two Wilco albums that Jim O’Rourke worked on, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born. I think they’re fantastic albums. I mean, they’re not that new, but they seem pretty new on the grand scale of things.

Which NYC musician—past or present—would you most like to play with?
I really like that whole New York scene in the late ’70s, the CBGB’s scene: Patti Smith and Television and Talking Heads, the Ramones. All those bands I really, really like. And they were all important to me.

What’s your biggest nonmusical talent?
You know what? I’m not such a bad cook these days. That’s probably the area in which I’ve shown the most improvement, I reckon, over the last few years…. My family appreciates it, definitely. —R. Zizmor