The Rock’s Backpages Rewind: The Discreet Charm of Aimee Mann
A freewheeling interview by RBP's Martin Colyer that takes in Aimee's new album Charmer, her talented collaborators, reality TV, turning up the treble, Laura Linney's focus, Jack Kerouac's drying-out and, uh, women's boxing... Barney Hoskyns, Editorial Director, Rock's Backpages
Hi, Aimee, are you looking forward to a morning of people phoning you up? I should have had coffee. Why did I not drink coffee? I didn't even think about it!
I just watched you and Laura Linney—that was very funny. [In the video for 'Charmer', Linney plays an animatronic version of Aimee that can be sent out on tour, and to fan meet-and-greets, but who eventually goes rogue and has to be terminated] She's the greatest.
You were very good—but she's brilliant. Yeah she's really fantastic. And you know, that she would agree to do something like that, for no money and in 100-degree heat... It's unbelievable.
I kind of felt sad at the end when you covered her up in a sheet. I know—it's terrible!
Really not good. It's terrible. Putting plastic over somebody's head, it's a horrible feeling.
Not high on the Charmer scale. No.
I've only had a preview of the new record and the cover looks like a fairground, hypnotist kind of... It's actually sitting right in front of me, I think that's okay for the advanced, except here's the problem—there's a picture of me with the word "Charmer" as if I'm saying "I'm a charmer!" which is horrifying.
And where are you on the charmer scale? I'm not great. The charmer scale for me is—where you wanna be sitting is a person who's present and interested in you, and asks you questions about yourself, and have a modicum of entertainment in your own conversation, and stories that you relate. I don't think I come up to that level. I think I'm more stilted and uncomfortable and I feel like I could really use some more charm.
Just not a pathological level of charm, where it goes too far. Yeah. People who really develop it, and are so great at creating this fantastic impression—in the end they are all impression.
Yes, or they're being incredibly manipulative... Well you know, along with great charm comes great power. And people like to be liked and they like to be paid attention to, and once they feel that attention they don't want it to go away. Everybody is susceptible to that. And it's not that everybody is susceptible to flattery, but people want to be liked and admired.
It's a basic human thing. Exactly.
You've been doing this for a time now—do you that you have to cast your net wider for inspiration now than you did earlier on? A couple of these songs are influenced by US Reality TV shows like Hoarders or Intervention so... Well, you know, inspired by that, but it's not like I wasn't conversant with drug addicts, drug addiction, alcoholism, depression...
You know that territory. Yeah, I know that landscape. Some of it, I've lived the landscape, some of it, I know the landscape intimately—I mean, you can hardly be in the music industry and not know drugs addicts and alcoholics. And especially narcissists and charmers and people who are bi-polar—that's just out there. And then the hoarder thing, I've definitely seen examples of that. I relate to the feeling of—kind of parallel to the charm thing—you don't wanna let go of stuff because you think you might need it. I think when you have mood disorders it alters your thinking and you can't make decisions about things. So I get all that and I think that watching the show gives you an extra perspective...