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Surfing Season:
an interview with Heather Haley

continued from part 1

Cultivating a close relationship between words and sound is also a meeting of minds. Tell me about your rapport with Roderick Schoolbraid.

Logistics are daunting but Roderick and I have been collaborating for a couple of years now. He really is a "useful engine" and we have a good rapport. It became apparent during this project. No matter how busy, or seemingly distracted, he always took the time to listen, to try hard to understand what I wanted. And he did his best to deliver the goods.

He's a good DJ too, so Roderick backed me up on guitar at my book launch party last June and Rodux spun vinyl for the rest of the evening. A talented young man, a real sweetheart, though he works hard to come off as cool and tough. An island boy-Roderick grew up on Salt Spring and it seems I've adopted him as my surrogate little brother.

The disc is obviously a cultural product of North America, because it contains references to car culture and the kind of space we feel on this continent, versus the closeness of Europe or Asia. But there are clear Canadian references among the American ones, yes?

Yes, the album is quintessentially Canadian, in its imagery and iconography, but does contain references specific to the United States, having been an ex-pat' for 14 years. I lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Manhattan, Hoboken, and even Union City, New Jersey. Then I returned to Los Angeles, where I lived for twelve years, in the Hollywood, Silverlake and Echo Park neighourhoods, before returning to Canada. I love American people, admire their constitution and democracy, regard for human rights, but abhor the corruption of those values and the majority of their governmentís policies.

What plans do you have for the disc? Spoken word is recognized in some stores, but it's not easy to market.

Thatís an understatement. Honestly, I haven't had much of a chance to think about marketing. I will feature it on my site, of course, and hawk it at readings. I can probably sell it through the League of Canadian Poets online store. Other than that, I haven't a clue as to how to distribute Surfing Season. Maybe I should talk to my publisher, Anvil Press, see if they can help. I better figure it out because I will pay for a bar code when I order [production] copies. I'm going to be able to hire an assistant soon. That should help with all kinds of promotional efforts.

You and I have spoken, one to one, about your LA life on other terms, particularly about you being queer there. That's not widely known.

Yes, it's not widely known, hasnít exactly come up often. I don't care if people know I'm queer, I just don't go around announcing it. I used to, used to "be proud." It got me nowhere, except into a lot of hot water and tedious debates with both gays and straights.

The historical context of being queer certainly has changed since then, not only in queer versus straight, but in terms of acceptance of queer people among ourselves.

It seems being "bi" is quite acceptable now to the entire spectrum of sexuality. During the eighties though, I got a lot of attitude, especially from the lesbians I worked with at the Womens Building gallery in Los Angeles. I had nothing but respect and admiration for their art and activism. To this day, I remain good friends with the principles. Iím grateful for, and have directly applied the skills I acquired during my WB stint to my own endeavours in arts administration and grant writing. I was a feminist from the age of 17, which is why I felt eminently qualified to apply for a job there. I found many of them to be rude and condescending. They didn't know me at all, didn't even try to get to know me, because they all assumed I was straight.

on dressing up to expectations:
"I recoil at the uniform, whether it be 'dutiful daughter,' 'punk rocker,' or 'queer.' I wouldn't join the Girl Guides either..."
I let them think what they wanted, laughed at them behind their backs, laughed at their hypocrisy and ignorance, even if it wasnít particularly funny. I was loving a girl the entire time, having torrid affairs, with girls, and boys. Yeah, it sounds like I'm bragging but that wild life is exactly what I set out to find in my early twenties. I ran away, left Canada, familial bullshit, and after so much deprivation, had fun. I wrote songs, fronted a band, explored my sexuality, along with all the other aspects of identity -- a natural, normal thing to do, right? I refused to wear [sexuality] on my sleeve or politicize it.

I recoil at the uniform, whether it be "dutiful daughter," "punk rocker," or "queer." I wouldn't join the Girl Guides either, just because my sisters signed up. Instinctively, Iíve always shunned groups, authority, fakery, organized religion and mobs, thusly, mob mentality.

OK, but now you're a mom, with a husband, and on the surface, just like anybody else in middle-class, Anglo North America. How do these aspects of your life reconcile in you now?

When I was young, I felt weird and geeky. I churned that alienation into being "special," a survival tactic, I think. I got over it, eventually, the need to share my humanity with everyone stronger than alienation.

I don't reside on the surface or need to worry about what people think. I simply don't have time for angst, which must be one of the advantages of aging. Surprise! There are perks. I am supremely preoccupied with meeting my obligations and responsibilites-child rearing, home schooling, along with providing a home, a sanctuary for my loved ones. I don't seek the limelight like I used to. The older I get, the more humility I get. At least, I hope that is the equation. I've accepted that my problems are no worse than anyone else's, that I indeed have free will, can choose, decide my fate.

So, I guess I'm saying, go ahead and refer to me as "bisexual," if you like. I've always known it, though puberty came as a shock. I was a tomboy, liked the status quo. I'm sure you can imagine my confusion, despair, at being attracted to girls and boys, aroused all the time. I think bisexuality must go hand-in-hand with being a sensualist, though of course, the best lovers, gay or straight, are indeed sensualists.

Most of the stonger albums in the spoken word form, as I see it, seem to be Canadian. How do you see your artistic relationship to other Candian artists, such as Sheri-D Wilson or Ian Ferrier?

I think Sheri-D is more jazz and beat influenced than I am. She is almost a sound poet at times, both on and off the page. I love jazz but have no inclination to play it. Ian's work is closer to mine, stylistically. I'm going for a bent folk infused sound, haven't quite gotten there yet, but I'm looking forward to improvising with some local musicians soon.

So, wrapping up, who or what would be your creative influences?

The CBC, Daniel Lanois, The Friendly Giant, CanLit, Germaine Greer, Susan Musgrave, Simone de Beauvoir, ee cummings, Margaret Atwood, André Breton, Kenneth Patchen, Sylvia Plath, Richard Brautigan, Pete Draper, Art Bergmann and the Young Canadians, Cathy Cleghorn, John Waters, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, the Dishrags, DOA, Emily Dickinson, the Clash, Luis Buñuel, Lincoln Clarkes, Lenny Bruce, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jean Cocteau, Lydia Lunch and Frida Kahlo.

From LA, some of my influences would be... Merilene M. Murphy, the Electronic Cafť, Candye Kane, Doug Knott, Beyond Baroque's poetry workshop, Deborah Margolis, Wanda Coleman, the Cramps, Snakefarm, Run DMC, Harvey Kubernick, Excene Cervenka and X, the Woman's Building, LACE, the Olympic Arts Festival, Cheri Gaulke, Sue Maberry, Joanna Whent, Jeff Isaak, the Yonemotos, John Fleck, my fellow Zellots-Jon Wrasse, Jeff Moses, Paul Eckman, Mark Francis White and Sunny Brown, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mose Allison, Johnette Neapolitano of Concrete Blonde, Keith Levene, Rachel Rosenthal, Chet Baker, Victor Noel, John Curry of the Flyboys, Tone-Loc, High Performance, Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, Laura London, Diane Gamboa, Daniel J. Martinez, No Magazine, Los Lobos, Black Flag, the Go-Gos, Zero One Gallery, neo-surrealists Malocchio, St. Teresa Stone, L7, Pam Ward and Penelope Spheeris.

Then, since 1992 and the Internet... Kurt Heintz, Western Front, bill bissett, Alexandra Oliver, Sheri-D Wilson, Michael Turner, Raquel Alvaro, Ian Ferrier, Catherine Kidd, Julie Vik and her band, Resin, Jill Battson, Geoff Inverarity, Adeena Karasick, Jim Andrews, Andrea Thompson, Lyle Neff, Kedrick James, Miranda Pearson, Bob Holman, Neil Campbell, Jamie Reid, Hank Bull and Alma Lee.

I admire Adeena Karasick's work. Have you heard or seen Penn Kemp? She's from the Toronto area. Catherine Kidd, Victoria Stanton and Corey Frost from Montrťal are all strong, unique voices. Kedrick James and his Verbomotorhead always amazed me. And Hilary Peach has produced a righteous CD called "Poems Only Dogs Can Hear."

Thankyou, Heather Haley.

Heather Haley's spoken word album, Surfing Season, can be found through her website.


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