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Lisa Germano's Ineffable Way With Alcohol

October 06, 2002|STEVE HOCHMAN

In pop music, alcohol generally gets served up two ways. You can have it as party fuel embraced as part of the lifestyle, or a demon held at bay by 12-step sobriety.

This side of vintage George Jones, though, you rarely hear someone say she may drink too much for her own good but is going to live with it.

That's exactly the ground singer-songwriter Lisa Germano stakes out with a new album, "Lullaby for Liquid Pig," a poetically dark and frank song cycle due in January.

"For two years it was just going to be called 'Liquid Pig,' " Germano says. "I was disgusted with how much I was drinking. I was saying to myself, 'You have a problem, don't you? Well, you don't have any friends anymore.' "

In the course of making the album, the scope expanded to address anything that might be used as an emotional crutch. And she does have friends, including musician-producer Joey Waronker, who helped her craft the seductively impressionistic atmospheres, with contributions from such associates as Neil Finn and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

But Germano, a former John Mellencamp violinist who has made a series of intensely personal, probing albums as a solo artist and has played with Eels and Finn in recent years, says that her alcohol consumption remained the focus of the songs. And it's a matter on which she has not reached any conclusions.

"I still haven't decided," she says. "I don't think I'm an alcoholic, but I was watching it. The honest truth is I don't think I have a problem. I don't think I need to go to rehab."

She knows this is a sensitive subject.

"I've been a little scared," she says. "People may go, 'Oh yeah, Lisa Germano, she's the alcoholic.' I don't care what people think about me in the media or the music business. I think of it as expression."

Expression was the great attraction for Tony Berg, an A&R executive at ArtistDirect Records who chose "Liquid Pig" to be the inaugural album for a new label he has started to showcase artists exploring personal expression and challenging music. Berg, a producer and former executive at Geffen Records (where he signed Beck) and Virgin Records, has been developing the concept of his new label, named Ineffable, for more than three years.

"Once upon a time, the most ambitious and most original music was also the most commercial music," Berg says. "So there's a generation of listeners that grew up with that expectation of its artists, and I bring that expectation to the artists I'll work with at Ineffable. And Lisa clearly articulates an ambitious, challenging point of view."

Key to Ineffable, Berg says, is a nontraditional structure involving only one-album deals, higher royalty rates than standard contracts and, most distinctively, an arrangement in which each artist will also be a partner in the label. He hopes to cultivate touring and recording collaborations among the acts and perhaps even attract major-label artists looking for a home for a creative side-trip.

"Since I'm the first one on the label, I'm eager for there to be more people and for us to play together," Germano says. "It will be really fun to see how this progresses."

THOSE '70S SHOWS: Jim Freek left his job as pop music columnist for the recently folded New Times L.A. to start the Teenacide Records label, but it seems he stepped into a time warp. Freek is launching two projects echoing '70s rock. One is Cheap Chick, billed as the world's first all-female Cheap Trick tribute band--a claim that is probably true, if unsubstantiated.

But the big extravaganza in the works is Cal Jam III. Freek and publicist Pam Utterback (who doubles as Cheap Chick bassist Pam Cheaterson) are putting together a Nov. 30 event at Spaceland in homage to the massive 1974 and 1978 California Jam festivals at Ontario Motor Speedway that featured Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Aerosmith and others.

Cheap Chick will perform at the show, which will also feature '70s-inspired (though not specifically tribute) bands Teen Machine and Authorized Dealer, with guest stars expected. Freek and Utterback say the show will re-create the aura of the original fests, if not the scale, right down to the tailgating scene in the parking lot.

SMALL FACES: TLC's Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas joined Missy Elliott for "Can You Hear Me," a song dedicated to TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who died in a car crash in April, and other hip-hop and R&B singers who have passed away in recent years. The song will close Elliott's album "Under Construction," due from Elektra Records on Nov. 12. Other guests elsewhere on the album include Jay-Z, Method Man, Ludacris, Beyonce Knowles and Ms. Jade....

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