By James Leahy
Joni Mitchell didn't do a lot of publicity for Hits and Misses in Canada. She accepted the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in Ottawa in November and did a few newspaper interviews while she was there. However, before coming east, she snuck down to Vancouver from her house in Sechelt, BC, to do an interview with Vicki Gabereau for CBC Radio. It was broadcast in two parts, October 9 and 10, 1996, and yours truly actually missed it. Thank goodness for CBC's audiotape service! Vicki is one of the country's best interviewers -- tough as nails but with a heart of gold. (In fact, Joni personally requested an interview with her for her Canadian promotion of H&M).
Each half of the interview was bookended with songs from Hits and Misses. Total talking time was under an hour. Here are a few of the highlights:
· Polar Music Prize ceremony. In Stockholm, Joni was tired and giddy from jet lag and felt like a kid in church during the ceremony. She was in the mood for giggling, but she had no "conspirator" to fool around with. She wore army boots under her floor-length dress -- she dresses for comfort nowadays. Joni said Sweden's King Carl Gustaf had a mischievous air.
· Travel: Joni doesn't travel to exotic locales because of her propensity to come back on a stretcher. Africa is out because of "air-borne AIDS," which I have never heard of -- nor had Vicki Gabereau, who could only repeat: "air-borne AIDS?"
· House in B.C.: Evidently, property taxes on her island are going through the roof so that property owners will be forced to subdivide their land. Joni hasn't done this yet, but says that her property is becoming dangerously full of wildlife.
· Joni Mitchell hates her job: Joni says she was on the verge of mouthing off to the entire music industry when she accepted her Billboard award. She even approached Reprise to tell them she hated the music business and that she needed their help to make things better. She said musicians are viewed as sharecroppers and the record company as the shareholders; the artist's work is reduced to "a ribbon of red."
· The dream: To illustrate her distaste for the music business, Joni related a dream she had. She was getting off a bus in early spring on a bleak Prairie landscape. As she stepped off the bus, she stepped into a puddle of slime. On an embankment she saw a blue heron, its mouth propped open with popsicle sticks. The bird said "Don't look at me." Dream-Joni realized that she didn't have to look at the bird -- the bird was her.
· Geffen Records -- Bah! Humbug! One Christmas, Joni was preparing some of her paintings to give to her record company at the time, Geffen Records. Their gratitude took the form of "obliterating" Wild Things Run Fast and Dog Eat Dog by deleting them from the Geffen catalogue. [Of course, we know they were eventually reinstated.]
· The hostile press: Joni lambasted the Toronto press for their treatment of her during her Turbulent Indigo press tour there (here!). One critic said that Raised on Robbery represented Joni's "sexual awakening." Joni: "Did he actually think I go into bars and pick up men with lines like 'I'm a pretty good cook, I'm sittin' on my groceries'?" Joni tells of meeting Emmylou Harris at a recent awards ceremony. Emmylou looked tired and explained that she had just finished doing a press tour. "Why can't they leave us something of ourselves," she said to Joni.
· Vicki and Joni square off: Joni continues dissing the press. Vicki shoots back that artists always want interviews when they're trying to promote something but when Vicki wants Joni, she never returns her calls. "You use me when you want me," said Vicki.
· Small People: Joni talked of meeting a writer named Michael Small. Small told her he would like to do an in-depth interview with her for People magazine. "Isn't that a contradiction in terms?" Joni countered. Small said that the magazine "owed him one." The only trouble, he confessed to Joni: "I'm not a very good writer yet." [This article did eventually appear in a December 1985 issue of People magazine -- and it was a biggie.]
· The Fez: Joni talks of her appearance at New York's Fez club in November 1995. Since this story has been printed numerous times, I won't go into details. However, I like the way Joni described how Chrissie Hynde was allowing her irritability from touring to fester: she was "mulching" in it. Joni confessed that she too is irritable and grumbles a lot, but "it's not fruitful and people don't want to hear it ... I like to sit alone in cafes a lot." [Personally, I think Joni just has low blood sugar -- that explains all those melancholic masterpieces from the seventies.]
· Polite Canadians: The more she lives in the States, the more she seems a foreigner when she's in Canada. To Joni, Canadians appear nicer on the surface but there's a meanness bubbling under all that politesse -- "when it turns it really turns." "The U.S. has a tradition of criticizing itself. Canada doesn't. I can criticize the States, but I can't criticize Canada."
· Good friends: As an only child, Joni wanted to have brothers. Today, she gets along with men but has a hard time with women. Most of her buddies in LA are gay men.
· Special good friend: Her latest beau, Donald Freed, is six years her junior. They both grew up in the same town, and hung out at the same places -- listening to the jukeboxes in town, smoking driftwood ("I was always looking for something new to smoke"). However, they did this separately and never knew each other until they were adults.
· Smoking: Joni tells of meeting a Hawaiian kahuna lady. This woman was told to smoke at age 14 -- so she smoked Sobranis and carried around a purse ashtray because it wasn't considered ladylike to smoke in public. This kahuna told Joni that for certain people tobacco is a grounding herb. "I canÕt think well without it." The kahuna died at age 65 of colon cancer.
And that's about it, folks. In all, a very relaxed interview between two "good old gals."