a long time ago...almost 8 years ago, i was a young and ambitious music fan and had the chance to interview chan marshall of cat power for the MUSE (BU's weekly arts and entertainment magazine). while it is slightly embarrasing to post this, i will anyway because how different and how the same chan was last night at the berklee performance center. musically, well, she blew me away. she still has stage fright, but somehow overcame it and delivered in between punching the air and dancing out of the light during the instrumental parts. cat power is amazing. chan is awe-inspiring. this article is, well, amatuer. for the real review of last night's show go here and to see the rest of the photos go here
All powered up
by Kelly Davidson
November 5, 1998
It's 5 o'clock on the dot.
The Middle East restaurant is having its early evening lull and the club downstairs is empty — except for two techies setting up for the Cat Power show.
Chan (pronounced "Shawn") Marshall, the 26-year-old power behind Cat Power is late for our interview. Two hours and 45 minutes late, to be exact.
While I wait patiently, alternating Bass Ales and black coffees with Middle East regulars, she is finishing up an interview at the Emerson radio station. On my eighth trip around the club in search of Chan, she spots me.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I'm late," she says in her southern accent, before I realize that this energetic person is the same Chan who — based on her intense indie-rock ballads — seemed so shy and introspective.
With a full plate of dinner, Chan leads the way to the backstage room. Signed band posters cover the 7X7 foot room, all the way up to the ceiling.
"This food is so rock 'n' roll," she says while chewing her food and pouring two tall plastics cups of red wine.
It is the penultimate night of Cat Power's American tour. Yet with the release of the new album Moon Pix, Chan remains the only consistent entity of the band's history.
"Having a full-time band would be nice," Chan begins, pulling all of her brown shoulder length hair in front of her face. This hairstyle — reminiscent of the Addams' Family's Cousin It — would remain in place throughout her stage performance later that night.
"But I think, circumstantially, I'm just never around and nobody else is ever around," she continues. "I think I'd have to start over and just move somewhere with people that live there and actually start a band."
For now, working with whomever is available seems okay with her. Steve Shelly of Sonic Youth and Tim Foljan of Two Dollar Guitar, both of whom accompanied Chan on Myra Lee, Dear Sir and What Would the Community Think, are replaced with Mick Turner and Jim White of Dirty Three on the new album.
Actually, Chan feels there is no way she can start a band now. "I don't have my shit... uh, my organizational skills together, much less to involve band stuff because personally, I'm just like 'whatever,'" she stammers.
"Whatever" may be the very essence of Cat Power. As a band leader, Chan is a self-declared non-musical person.
"I don't buy records," she says. "I only buy records about every two years but I never get around to listening to them. I'm not much of a music type. I don't collect records and I don't play guitar everyday."
During her self-expatriation from the music scene in New York City to South Carolina last year, Chan only played her Silvertone once.
Her year-long solitude in the south began the day after a trying show at the Knitting Factory last summer, where she opened for her boyfriend's band, Smog. There, a solo Chan fought back tears in her eyes — tears brought on by the frustration she felt about the music scene.
"After that show in New York I basically, like, quit," she admits. "I went back to the south to see my family, who I had been sort of estranged from for a long time."
She went into hiding, even from her label Matador, but eventually decided to go to Australia with her boyfriend and record her new songs.
I had gotten in touch with Mick and Jim and asked if they would be interested and they said 'yeah.' I was supposed to record an album six months earlier but I never called Matador," she says.
Cat Power isn't expected to put out any more albums on Matador, but Chan already has material for another release.
"I would like to put out this recording that I did about four, five months earlier. It's a piano recording," she says.
Chan doesn't have plans for Cat Power beyond her five-month European tour that starts this month.
"I don't know if I'll be doing this in five years. I mean, I gave up last year. Personal change is the only reason why I'm here today," she says. "I mean, I quit a year ago, so it's not to say what I'll be doing in five years. It's not even a question in my mind."