ARENA (UK) magazine  
March 2000

  by Brantley Bardin

[Our note:  This is an annoying, vexing article/interview.  Starting with the above title.  Who hasn't moved on?  Clearly some media players.  The bitch is back?  Are they talking about a Meredith Brook's song? ;)  Seriously, can't we just grow up ARENA?]


Pretentious? Yes. Self-indulgent? Maybe. Say what you like about Fiona Apple 's music, but you've got to love a star who steps out of a gleaming black limo in Hollywood looking not like a pop star at all, but like.., well, a little match girl.

Fiona is actually one half of LA's newest power couple, the other being her boyfriend of two years Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Boogie Nights and Magnolia. She's been a US media darling since 1996, having recovered from a wretched childhood (therapy at 11, viciously raped at 12) to record Tidal, a super-confessional, astonishingly mature debut album. She was called a 'precocious wunderkind', but her record sold only moderately well that is, until she appeared wet and panty-clad in the Calvin Klein-goes-kiddie-porn video of Criminal. There was a backlash, but the sex thing worked: the album went triple-platinum worldwide, and, in late 1997, Fiona suddenly found herself on stage accepting an MTV best new artist award. And then she opened her mouth. 'This world is bullshit,' she proclaimed. 'And you shouldn't model your life about what you think we think is cool.' Of the fall-out, she later said, 'I went from being "tragic waif ethereal victim" to being "brat bitch loose cannon".'

Well, buckle up, 'cause the bitch is back. First the good news: she's just made a new record that outdoes her last in every way, with lines like 'It won't be long till you'll be lying limp in your own hand' and intense, bravura vocals. And now the bad news: she's opened herself up to whole new plateaus of ridicule by giving her opus a 90-word title. Yup, 90. It's a poem she wrote after an unflattering piece appeared in Spin magazine, the first words are 'When The Pawn', and the rest is far too long to repeat here.

Dressed in rumpled black trousers, a navy blue sweatshirt and hiding her big baby-blue eyes behind a tangled mass of hair, today the little waif is clutching herself while attempting to do the thing she hates most - explain herself...

ARENA: Great album, Fiona, though it did take a while. Last summer someone tried to explain that fact to me by saying, and I quote, 'Well, she's smoking so much pot she can't finish the record.'
FIONA: [Stunned] Who said that?! Smoking too much pot? Come on! How can you fucking smoke too much pot to do anything, except maybe, like, motor skill stuff? But smoke too much pot to do an album? I mean, there's people who smoke pot to do an album!

A: OK. I was just...
F: And, anyway, I didn't smoke while I was in the studio. When I got home, I did.

A: Which is your God-given right. But is it true that Pawn's full title is now officially The Guinness Book of World Records' longest album title in history? F: I don't know, but if it is, then I should be telling everybody that that' s the reason I did it. [Laughs]

A: And then maybe you wouldn't get made fun of so often. Because, you know, Fiona, people think you're terribly serious. 
F: [Indignantly] But I fuckin' watch crap TV all the time - I'm like a fuckin' couch potato most of the time. I mean, I'm not that serious - like, one of my frivolous joys would be to read those crappy People magazines and stuff, but I had to swear off them, because I'm afraid of running into something about myself and ruining my day.

A: Ah, the 'Fiona controversies'. Let's begin with how you put on panties and became a star. 
F: Oh, shut up!

A: Well, it did seem to work that way. Which was odd since you once made a big point of telling me how you'd been so damaged by glam celebrity images that you wanted to be photographed 'as ugly as possible'.
F: Well, I never had the fucking courage to do that and I still don't. Actually, I don't know what the hell was in my mind when I said that - except that I went crazy for a couple of years. But have to say I thought the Criminal video was cheesy. I don't wanna blame anyone, because I knew I was in my underwear and it didn't feel right. But a contributing factor to why I kept on doing it was when I got to the shoot there were these dancer girls there that I'd thought were cool in high school - they wouldn't have even known it was me and I didn't remind them - but, well you know, when you're in school, how you want to wear the stylish clothes, but you don't feel cool enough to do it, but you see these other girls doing it? Well, years later, you show up at the video shoot and you wanna be cool and beautiful, too, and everyone's telling you that you are, so you don't back down and you do it.

A: And it won you the 1997 MTV award and pop notoriety with your 'This world is shit' acceptance speech. Do you regret that?
F: Well, it felt very fake and unlike me to be standing there and I'd had a couple of vodkas backstage - I wasn't drunk, but I was a little less inhibited - and felt, like, 'I don't know exactly what it is I wanna say, but I know how I feel and I'll make myself proud if I at least try to say something about how I feel.' So I did. But the way it was presented in the press - like I was calling the entire world shit, not just the record world - even had my friends saying 'That was so fuckin' stupid, Fiona.' But when you actually listen to what I said, it's not so off-the-wall.

A: Agreed. So tell me about your boyfriend, Paul. Despite your album lyrics, is the real-life Fiona trusting men more?
F: Not men. Just Paul.

A: You'll hate this, but, with both Pawn and Magnolia out, you two are the reigning Hollywood 'It' couple. How much of an LA Party Girl has it made you?
F: Oh God, not much. I mean we go to those parties sometimes and they're fun for, like, a second in the same way you flip through a magazine and there's pictures of all the stars. So you get to go, 'OK, he's here, she's here, that's cool, wow' and think your own little gossipy things in your head for a minute. But once that's over you start realising, 'People are doing that to me now, too.' [Laughs] So I stay home a lot.

A: Still, you've gone from total obscurity to becoming one of the rich and famous. Tell us something wise about overnight success.
F: To beware of anything that happens overnight. You're gonna end up paying your dues.

A: How do you think you paid yours?
F: Just by being faced with stuff that I had no experience with and therefore putting myself in a position to kinda get trashed a lot.

A: Is kinda getting trashed easier for you to handle now?
F: No. I mean, I guess I've toughened up a little. See, I started this whole trip because I was so shy and I thought this way I wouldn't have to explain myself all the time - but what happened is everyone now knows the wrong thing about me and hates me. So, now there is ten times the frustration there was before I made the first album. Its like, 'What the fuck did I do this for?'

A: And what do you do about that?
F: Cry. Scream. Kick a wall. And go on with it.

(many thank yous to sallytbyml for typing it.)