Somewhere in Hollywood, the ghost of Vidah Bickford rests a little easier. Known in her day as one of  L.A.'s top guitarists and mandolinists, she shares her space now with a kindred soul-not another spectre from yesterday's musical whirl, but a young dynamo whose corporeality in the nascent '90's is hard to deny.

Only a few days before her encounter with Keyboard, Jane Child bought the house once owned by Bickford. Built in 1917, the rambling old building is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence whose design motif centers around a musical notes. Two old photos of  Bickford came with the purchase. 'I've put them in the built-in bookcase,'   Child smiles. 'I feel her presence all the time.'


As for Bickford, it's easy to imagine her faded framed face taking it all in as the new tenant makes herself at home. If the sight of strange electronic keyboards and futuristic digital studio gear-not to mention the spectacle of Jane's black nails, gold nose ring and chain and corn-rowed, waterfalling 'do- spooks the spirit she doesn't show it. More likely, she's glad for the company of someone whose own passion for music matches her own.

Child's ticket to Bickford's digs was paid for by the success of her eponymous debut album, a collection of razor-edged performances built from equal parts hook, groove and savvy musicianship . Jane Child probably would have demanded the industry's attention in any event, but MTV gave the record some extra momentum by airing her video to 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love,' an arty montage that reflects the songs twin strengths: street energy and solid chops.

With this video, Child pulls off a nifty trick: Shots of downtown Manhattan at night alternate with scenes of the artist at work, laying down tracks on a Fairlight and mixing the results on a  multitrack board.

Quick cuts between the two make the point that street energy and high-tech gadgetry aren't necessarily incompatible. Indeed, in Child's hands, it seems a natural partnership. Her thorough training in classical piano instilled a respect for technique that carried over easily to the task of mastering the intricacies of electronic music; for Child, executing scales evenly and programming the perfect bass sound are equally crucial preliminary steps

Toward the greater goal of making music that speaks with both passion and authority.

This is the key to Child: her balance of technique and spirit, glitz and substance. In an industry where image often carries more weight than talent, Child pays attention to both at the expense of neither. In her music too, conflicting elements collide and connect in a symbiotic  slam-dance. A feeling of sponteneity animates her meticulously layered parts. Her bass lines hop all over inflexible backbeats. Intricate harmonies animate raw sequenced grooves. She even tosses in a synth solo into the stew, on 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love'- transcribed on page 63-.  In short, Jane Child's music and public persona draw much of their power from the instability of built-in contradictions.

This wild Child was born into a musically sophisticated Toronto family. Her father, a violinist and composer, and her mother, a vocalist and pianist, provided the foundation on which she would build her musicianship. By age 12, she was singing in the Canadian Children's Opera Company's children's chorus; soon afterward, she began her piano study at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Though Child dreamed of making her mark as a classical pianist, the siren song of rock proved irresistable; by her mid-teens, she had fled academia to tour with a group of Deadheads who called themselves Summerhill. 'It was great training,' she remembers. 'I really played a lot of blues cliché piano and organ. It's a lot more fun to play blues than to listen to it. It's such a blast to play a l-lV-V.' Half in embarrassment she laughs, then concludes, 'Really, it's just jerking off.'

Helpful as that gig was in exposing the fledgling artist to the mysteries of improvisation and survival on the road, Child's destiny involved more than jamming the blues. She had been writing her own songs-one a day for years by the time she left the band circuit and returned to Toronto to launch a solo career. There, she cut a demo tape that eventually led her to Warner Bros., whose support of Child has proven extraordinary by industry standards.

After an expensive video was completed for the opening cut on the album, 'Welcome To The Real World,' for example, they agreed with Child that it's concept and execution were unsatisfactory. The result: An entirely new shoot, conceived from scratch. If one measures a label's belief in an artist by how much money they're willing to dump into the promotional budget, Warner Bros. Clearly are true believers in Child's future.

As are the mainstream media-Time magazine was chasing down a Child story when we met with her in L.A. And, most importantly, growing numbers of fans. Though new to the international scene, Child seems to have timed her arrival perfectly. A self-contained composer/performer with a flair for the camera, a skilled player and programmer, an opinionated-even blunt-observer of pop trends, she has found her niche on the battleground where technology, fashion, and traditional musical values have finally found concord. In her work we glimpse an enticing future of the decade to come. Vidah would be proud.


Now that you've battled your way onto MTV rotation and the Billboard charts, you're no longer a keyboard player struggling to break into big-time pop music. Suddenly, you're in head-to-head competition with major-league players, most of whom are either musicians grouped together within bands or singers doing their own act unencumbered by instruments. Does maintaining your connection to your past as a keyboardist inhibit you in creating a place for yourself in this company?


Well, first of all, it's not really an image thing: It's the truth. It's what I am. I was a keyboard player before I wrote songs, before I sang. To this day, if I'm in a place away from home and there's a piano there, I feel comfortable. I made the transition from being a keyboard player in a band to singing out front when I was 18 or 19. It was pretty scary. But when I perform live, I'll definitely be playing as well. Not all the time of course: the main thing is to put the song across, and I think I'm most effective in getting across what I'm trying to say when I'm singing. But I'll still be playing solos and doing that kind of stuff.


Are you making plans to support the album with a tour?


The real payoff is to perform live; that's the best part of it, and I'm looking forward to doing that. But I want to make another album first. I'm not going to go out before it's right. I have no intention of doing track dates; that's just not what I'm about. And when I do perform, I have no intention of having it be a taped extravaganza. Live, to me, is live. I don't mean to sit in judgment of people who do that, because they are entertaining and making people feel good. But it's not what I'm about.


So there would be some sequencing in your show, but it wouldn't be the dominant element.


Thinking about it, the bass line on songs like 'Biology' would have to be sequenced. For the most part, though, it's going to have to be live. You know, I did play all that stuff into the sequencer.


Without quantizing?


Well, yeah, I did some quantizing. I did step some stuff in. I'm really anal, so the velocity-everything, actually-had to be exactly the way I wanted it. I spent the first part of this album working 14 hour days, programming, sampling, cataloguing all that stuff. It was a huge amount of work to organize my samples, my sequences, and everything [sighs]. My music is really bass-heavy, so sometimes there would be six different basses on each songs. To make those not flam, some times I'd have to program several versions of the bass line so that they worked with the specific sound.


Your bass sounds certainly are complex.


And they're as tight as a motherfucker to where the kick is [smiles]. I write with my left hand. I tend to sing as I write and come up with a bass line with my left hand.


And the bass sounds on your album aren't clichés. There doesn't seem to be a Minimoog buzz in any of them,


Well that's very much a compliment, but I did use a Minimoog in 'Hey Mr. Jones.'


Still, you're bass sounds are often not very bassy. Most of them seem to have a lot of top end.


But I really love the bottom end. I really wanted it to speak. I wanted to feel it coming through the floor. The problem is that that's the function of the kick drum. My bass lines are very melodic. In order to make them speak, I had to give the illusion of bottom-make the sounds have character so that they'd speak through the rest of the track. If they were bottom-heavy sounds, it would have been muddy; you wouldn't have been able to discern the bass line.


That's especially true in your work, since the arrangements are rather busy.


Yes. Each song is chock full of music [laughs].


That's almost an unfashionable approach. On a lot of dance records, there's plenty of empty space. You seem to like to fill everything up.


Well, I don't think my stuff is dance music per se. It's danceable. The truth is, we're trying really hard not to say 'disco.' But it's back. In fact I don't think it ever left. When we were calling disco 'disco,'  I didn't like it. I liked funk. There's a big difference between the two.


A musical or attitudinal difference?


Both. Back when 'Disco Inferno' and that kind of stuff was happening, there was also 'Brick House'. To me, 'Brick House' was funk.  The Ohio Players were funk, and the Bee Gees were disco. Funk is blacker, more groove-oriented, nastier, more sexual. Dance music 'disco- is more computerized. For the most part, disco is what happens when white people try to do funk [laughs].


Still, like dance music, your music does strongly emphasize the second and fourth beats of the bar.


Well, I like to dance. I think that 2 and 4 are the reason why everything is 4/4. On some dance music that I actually like, a lot of the stuff is rooted to a shuffle-time triplet feel. Teddy Riley did a remix of 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love' and shuffled it. It's contagious; you have to move to it. But you're still getting that 2 and 4. Still, not all my stuff is that way: 'You're My Religion' and 'World Lullabye.'


A quarter-note ostinato did keep the rhythm going through much of 'You're My Religion,' but the drums do eventually come in on the backbeat.


That's right. Actually, that song is a demo. I'd written it on a piano, and I went into the studio with it when somebody had some studio time open. There was a Roland S-50 sitting there, and Linn 9000, neither of which was mine. I did a  simple pattern on the Linn, and played everything else on the S-50. Everything on that song I played live that night. There are no real custom sounds on it, but we did add some different effects.


On that song, and elsewhere on your album, you deviate from the pop norm by exploring some unusual harmonies-clusters, jazz chords, and so on. Do you think that a lot of the music we hear on the charts these days is too harmonically simple? Is there room for expansion there?


I'm of two minds on that. Stuff that's full of chords just for chords' sake I find boring and indulgent. I don't like 'musician'  music; it makes me kind of ill. And some of the stuff  that's harmonically boring is also infectious and ingenious in it's simplicity. I'm a big Public Enemy fan. I don't know how many adventurous chords they're using, but they're definitely taking some harmonic chances. They're doing things that by our standards are quite dissonant, that breaks all the rules.


Despite your heavy piano background, they're aren't any piano sounds on the album. Is it hard to integrate the piano into your arrangements?


It depends on what I used to write the song. I wrote 'You're My Religion Now' on the piano, but when it came time to record, there wasn't one around. I like to write on the piano because it's bare bones. If you can make something sound good and original on the piano, then enhance it with all the great sounds and tools that we have, it's only going to get better. I probably will use piano more on my next album, because that's my instrument. It's been used a lot, so I would like to use it a s a color for something that I'd like to make sound familiar.


During your days as a piano student, did you give serious thought to pursuing a classical career?


Yes! That's absolutely what I intended. I wanted to be a concert pianist. I was definitely putting in the hours. I did all the competitions when I was young. I won some scholarships. I studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music with Samuel Dolin, a contemporary classical composer who was the dean of the Canadian League of Composers. The reason I wanted out of it was that there are some very strict rules in classical music. There's very little room for expressing yourself. When I started playing in bands, I found that I could express myself a lot more than I ever did in classical music.


Yet by delineating strict rules, doesn't classical music pose a special kind of challenge to the performer?


Well, that's probably why I still have a very structured way of doing things.


As a lover of Bach's music, did you listen much to one of the great rule-breakers of classical piano, Glenn Gould?


[smiles] Yes. Although I never met him, I did listen to him. I even heard him play live once. My favorite, though, was Alicia de Larocha. She was more of an inspiration because she's about my size. I heard her at Massey Hall In Toronto, playing the entire Iberia Suite of Albeniz, which is huge. In some places, this music is written in three staves, but this tiny little woman beat the shit out of it. She didn't let [preconceptions about] her gender or the size of her hands get in the way. That's a problem for me, although more in jazz than in classical. I find myself restricted if I try to play something that's been transcribed from Oscar Peterson-even a tenth. I can barely, with my fingernail, grab a  ninth.


Of course, you can always arpeggiate the interval.


That's what I do. I have to do a lot of that with Chopin. I really wish I had bigger hands. I mean, I met Oscar Peterson once; he shook my hand, and his hand nearly came up to my elbow [laughs]. But when you arpeggiate something, it's not the same. It makes a different sound when you have the impact of those notes simultaneously. That's why sequencers are great.


Were you interested in electronic keyboards even during your days of classical piano period?


No. I played piano, organ, and harspichord; there was no call for a synthesizer to play Bach. But I eventually got interested. When I first went on the road, I had a Minimoog, a Solina [ARP String Ensemble], a Mini-Korg, a Hammond B3 with a Leslie 145, and a Yamaha CP-70 electric grand.


Were you ever intimidated by technology?


It was a problem for me. There was a time when I was terrified of drum machines. But, like anything else, you face it, and you realize that it's not that scary at all. I feel personally responsible for taking other people through that too, because I know what it feels like. In fact, I made my father, who was pretty much afraid of this stuff, more at ease with it and showed him it's not that scary at all. It kind of bothers me when we use all these [arcane] terms in electronic music. I went into a stereo store to get a CD player recently, and these guys were talking about oversampling-technology terms that mean nothing! They said, 'This CD player oversamples eight times.' What the hell does that mean? I'm a keyboard player, I'm a musician, I'm in the studio every day of my life, and I don't have any idea what this salesman is talking about! We tend to use these terms to feel like we really know what we're doing, but it's better if we can use English to explain it to each other. It shouldn't be exclusive information [Shouts into tape recorder:] Don't be afraid of it!


So now you feel equally comfortable programming on any of your instruments.


Yeah. I made it my business to become familiar with as much of them as I could. I don't want technology to start ruling me. It's funny how intimidated people are by this stuff. I was working one night, and Dave Jerden, who engineered most of this album, and a couple of the guys from Jane's Addiction came by. They were totally intimidated by what I was doing with the Fairlight. I should have sat them down and said, 'Look, this is what I'm doing. Here's what you push. It's so simple!'


Is it perhaps too simple? As great preset and third-party sounds come to dominate the field, is the art of programming becoming obsolete?


You always end up with what you put into it. If you take the easy way and sample something, you end up with a sampled sound. If you sit down with a DX7 and start building something with those algorhithms, you're going to come up with something a lot more original.


Aside from the intricacies of programming, did you have any problems adapting a classical piano technique to other keyboards in bands?


Yeah- I had a lot of tension in my forearms. I still do when I try to play the piano, because when you're playing the blues, you're pounding a lot. That's not what we did in classical. I still miss the action of the piano. No matter what they say, I've never found anything that matches it. I hate that mushy action that most keyboards have. The Fairlight that I'm about to get has a new Italian controller keyboard that I hear has an action like a piano.


You're getting your own Fairlight?


I'm just about to. Fairlight and I are like this [crosses two fingers]-very tight. We spent a lot of time together. When I started making demos, not being able to afford musicians, I had to borrow somebody's LinnDrum and rent an MSQ-700, the old Roland hardware sequencer. In those days, in order to make the LinnDrum and the MSQ talk to each other, I had to lay down two tracks of code-Linn Drum code and MSQ code. I was dealing with 24 tracks, and of course I had to have guard tracks, so this ate up some space. Then I moved onto a Mac with [Mark of the Unicorn] Performer and an E-mu SP12 drum machine, which wrote and read all my SMPTE, so everything was controlled from that. I was like kid in a candy store, because I had one code that drove everything, things were a lot tighter with my kick and my bass, and I had more flexibility too. I could go in and change velocities by number. Then I actually began moving to get a Synclavier

. I spent a lot of time with New England Digital. I went to one of their seminars at Dartmouth University. I was going to go for the whole Direct-To-Disc system, although at the time I wasn't sure if it was ready; I was about to make the record, and the system was very new. At that point, a friend showed me the Fairlight. It seemed like a really powerful sampler. The sequencing software seemed really friendly. I could just start it and play.


The Synclavier sequencing was more difficult to handle?


Well, the main difference, aside from the price, is in the users. When you get into an instrument like the Fairlight or Synclavier, you hope that you get to know other users, to swap sounds and stuff like that. Synclavier owners are purists. These people spend hours and days getting the perfect Bosendorfer sample. They have four partials per note of velocity and sensitivity and that kind of thing. To me, it's just a waste of time. You're not going to get any harmonic sympathy in a Synclavier that a piano would have anyway, so why waste your time sampling it that carefully? Play a Boesendorfer! Fairlight people seemed more adventurous and kookie with the things they sampled, and a lot more open to swapping. I was going in without any of my own sounds, and the existing  Fairlight libraries seemed more in tune with what I was looking for. So I embarked on a long journey with the Fairlight. I used it pretty extensively on the album. In fact, I've been to hell and back with the Fairlight. Through the whole album, I was kind of pushing the edge of Fairlight technology. I had guys from Australia [i.e. Fairlight's home office] trying to make this thing do more than it actually was able to do at the time.


Such as?

For instance, having exact microsecond triggering. There are very few things that trigger in microseconds yet; I think Forat [F-16 Sampler] does. But with the Fairlight, there's this three millisecond window. When you're laying down things with the Fairlight, there are three milliseconds of air, so if you're putting down a kick and you want to put another kick in, with exactly the same sequence, the same SMPTE, and all, it's never the same; it goes where it wants to go. I ended up having to re-record all the bottom end for the whole album. I had to go in and do kicks and basses simultaneously, using a Roland SBX-80. I found that using SMPTE directly to the Fairlight was less accurate. MIDI is more musical, so I wrote SMPTE through the SBX-80, shot it back into the SBX-80 and gave MIDI to the Fairlight. On 'Biology' I got the Mac back and used it because none of these things was able to negotiate fast sixteenth notes as well as the Mac.



On the video for 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love,' you seem to enjoy using the Fairlight pitch wheel.


I love pitch wheels. It makes the music funky. That goes back when I started playing synthesizers. My Dad brought home a Poly-Korg, pushed the flute preset, then played a major triad and said, 'It sounds like an organ.' But of course, if you're going to play something like a triad, it'll sound like an organ. If you play it monophonically, it sounds more like a flute. Therefore, when you're playing a guitar sample and you use an artificial vibrato, like a mod wheel, it doesn't sound as realistic. If you do it with a pitch wheel, it sounds more realistic.



Did you actually play the solo to 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love' on a Fairlight?


On the video, I'm playing it on the Fairlight, but on the record I actually MIDIed a bunch of stuff together. I don't remember what I used as a controller-something without a pitch wheel, actually. But because I used the Fairlight so much, and there was only the one song in which there was a solo, I felt it was only right to do it on the Fairlight for the video.


Why was it the only solo on the record?


I feel very strongly about solos. Sometimes we put solos in just for the sake of solos, even though often they don't belong: They have nothing to do with the song, they don't serve any purpose. The only time I felt a need for a solo perse was on 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love.' From a writing standpoint, it just felt like those notes wanted to be heard, and they weren't singing notes.


So it wasn't an improvised solo?


It was composed, especially the beginning. That's what I wanted to hear.


Have you kept any of your gear from your early days?


No, although I do have a Minimoog, which I love.


Is it MIDIed?


I haven't had the mod done yet, but I'm going to. On the album I used Michael Boddicker's Minimoog, which is MIDIed. Although I don't use them anymore, I still really like the [Sequential] Prophet 5 and T-8, which I used a lot on my demos. Through a mistake, in 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love,' there's a wakka-wakka bass slap. When I first recorded the song with the SP-12 and the Mac, something went wrong, so all of the drum information was going to the Prophet 200. All the hi-hat fills were coming through the bass parts. It sounded great, so I left it in. That's the most obvious mistake on the album.


What other mistakes were made?


Well, it's not exactly a mistake, but do you know what a sweater shaver is? It's this little thing that takes off those tiny balls you get on your sweater. I had one in the studio and for some reason when we did 'Welcome To The Real World,' I put it into the guitar player's pickup. You can really hear it clearly [laughs.]


Aside form the Fairlight, what other keyboards did you use on your record?


The Fairlight is good for sampling and sequencing. As far as pads, it's kind of useless. I like those big, wet, synthy, brassy pads. I was into the Dazz Band, the Gap Band, Stevie Wonder-those funk people inspired me to go for those kinds of sounds. So I had every keyboard in existence there. I like the Casios; for bass sounds, they're great. I also used the Prophet 2000, the Prophet-VS, an S-50, a D-50, a Roland Super JX, an Oberheim Matrix 6'I mean every keyboard that exists.


There is a certain analog presence in your textures.


I'm glad, because I was really after that. There are a couple of DX7's in there, but there's this nice edgy thing to digital sound. You can't get that nice warm and full thing from anything but analog.


What original sampling did you do?


I did a bunch of human drums, where I'd get whoever was in the studio to do [pounds her chest]unnh! To add to the kick drum. I screamed for the snare sound. Also I used the great big metal bowl I have at home. When I was washing it, and it had water inside, it would hit the sink and make these great sounds, so I sampled that. I also had a couple of little toys I got at Christmas from this novelty store. One is called Alien; you can hear it on 'DS21,' going [makes mosquito-like hum].


It sounded like a theremin.


It did sound like a theremin! I wasn't able to find a theremin, but this worked great, so I sampled it instead.


What about the acapella choral intro to 'Hey Mr. Jones'? Were those samples of your voice?


That was all sung live, actually. I found that what I had wanted to do in keyboards was a lot harder to do when I actually go into the studio. It took me a weekend to do. To make it seamless, I recorded four tracks of each part, bounced them to one, and kept going. The engineer and I figured it out: We used some ridiculous amount of tracks-maybe two hundred and something.


Did you compose that section before recording?


I sketched it out on keyboards, but as I recorded it, it took it's own direction. It was very odd to start o n it, because there was nothing there. I had put a hi-hat down, but it was leaking, so I had to lose it. It was really difficult. I've heard this analogy of creating something from nothing: That's what this felt like.


Were most of your drum sounds Fairlight samples?


I got my drum sounds from everywhere, There was a kick sound on the demo of 'Biology' that I'll never be able to reproduce; I don't know how I did it. For the most part, the drum sounds are big and gated, although that's getting old. But these sounds document a part of my life. It's a different day now, and the next album will reflect that.


Exactly what differences do you anticipate between your first and second albums?


I'm listening to a lot of East Indian stuff. I'm really interested in that music. In fact, I've made charts with the different scales they use. Our smallest tone, in contemporary classical music, is a semitone. But they have what is called a sruti, a much smaller interval. I plan to get into that, probably changing the tuning of my Fairlight. You can come up with great stuff by doing odd tunings and playing the way you normally play. It's cheating, but it's great. On the other hand, I don't want technology to start ruling me. There are lots of great instruments and players in East Indian music. Sampling a sitar just ain't gonna work as effectively, so I'll probably get some live players on there as well. To do otherwise would really be an insult to the music. If something is becoming an influence, I have to get comfortable with it. If you try to force it, it sounds forced. That's not my intention. I'm going to use this stuff for what I do, because that's the natural approach. I'm not East Indian.


But what if your star continues to rise? If your reality in months to come is that of a new pop star, is there a danger that this will musically restrict what you do on subsequent projects?


[Sighs.] I'm not worried about it. I am a musician, but people will find what they want to find in me. If they just see me as a pop singer, and that's what they enjoy, fine. I'm not trying to ram anything down anybody's throat.


Yet it's still important for you to make the point that you are coming from a musical background.


It's ego. I worked really hard on this. Maybe the general public thinks that you come into the studio, and it's a party, and you leave. But it's a lot of work.


It is a little unusual that the person whose face is seen singing on her videos also did all the music. Maybe it's important to point out to potential musicians that it is possible to go after your dreams without surrendering control of your music.


Well, really the unusual thing is that I'm female. I happen to be female, and I happen to be a musician. I don't know how many female pop stars do their own music, but I do, although I never think about the fact that I'm female when I write a song. I hope that men can relate to what I'm saying lyrically-forget musically-as much as women I've heard from some men that my music is aggressive and hard'in other words, not female. But I am aggressive, I am hard, and I am female. So, how can you say those aren't female traits? They're human traits. Women don't just write soft, pretty ballads. We have strong, obsessive, crazy feelings, and we can express them in the same ways that men do.


True, which makes it surprising that such a high percentage of players in music, not to mention readers of Keyboard, are male.


Well, Keyboard is a technical magazine. I've always tended to be an egghead myself. I've always had my head in a manual. Of course, that doesn't make cooking and sewing any less important [laughs].


In spite of all that, had being a woman made it harder for you to break into music as a self-contained player/producer/songwriter/singer than it should have?


In the purely technical end of it, I really have not encountered any weird, sexist opposition. I think that's because it never enters my mind. Someone technical comes into the studio where I'm working, and I talk to them, and we're immediately working. There's no time for anything else. But I do feel it some other times. I own an Otari 32-track machine, which someone came to service. Now I can't even be angry with this guy, but he just didn't get the fact that this is my machine. He proceeded to explain that this is a digital machine, that it works by numbers-he was very carefully trying to explain binary code to me!

I didn't take offense; he was just ignorant. But it's very rare that that happens.


So what would you say to those women who seem to encounter greater levels of sexist opposition in the industry?


Tell them not to use it as a crutch. Tell them to not even think about it. It just doesn't matter.



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