Fiona Apple
"Women in Rock" Interview
Rolling Stone    Nov  '97

Fiona Apple is 20 years and one album old, and already she knows the bipolar swings of stardom.  Thanks to one fortuitously placed demo tape, the New York high school student was discovered two years ago and became an insta-star with her platinum debut, "Tidal."  And thanks to one somewhat ungrateful-sounding speech as she accepted MTV's Best New Artist award in September, she has earned the scorn of many. "Can you just put in that I do appreciate everything that is happening for me and I'm not trying to complain?" she asks over the phone from her tour's launch in Gainesville, Fla. Starting with small talk, I ask her how being on the road feels, and Apple starts crying.   The conversation keeps looping back to her awards speech.  She also repeatedly compares showbiz to high school, the only other social world she has known.  She is earnest and unapologetic -- and immediately wins my sympathy.  "You can now say you've endured the psychotic wrath of Fiona Apple," she congratulates me at the end of our chat.

You seem a little down.

I'm absolutely miserable because everybody hates me because of what I said at the MTV Video Music Awards.  I mean, I went through some shit, so I wrote songs about it, to help myself.  Once those songs came out, peoplpe started asking me what they were about, and I didn't lie.  I thought that I was doing something right, because I didn't want to be somebody that people necessarily looked up to, but just somebody that people could relate to.  If you're going to be in the public eye, why can't you just be a human being and say how you feel about things?   Why can't you just say, "I feel sad, I feel confused," and have people relate to that?  It makes me more glad that I said that this world is bullshit because I was trying to talk to the people that were modeling themselves after all us freaks.  The majority of us artists have felt awkward at times in our lives; we use our music to feel better and be appreciated by other human beings.  That's what everybody wants: just to connect with people.  I couldn't connect my whole life.

How did it feel when your record came out?

It felt like I had a child who was going to school for the first day, and I was worried about how it was going to be treated, and if it was going to make friends and if it was going to be popular.

(Pauses) Do you know what was going through my head at MTV? I was starting to feel like I did when I was in high school -- I was running home and writing songs, and nobody knew about them, and I didn't have people doing my hair or putting dresses on me.  And then once I got into this world, now all of a sudden I'm Best New Artist, and people are going to like me more, or now this means I'm a good person.

What is the best advice that you've ever received?

Do whatever you want. You can fuck it up.  It's all adventure.

Do you think your look has changed from when you were in high school?

When I was in high school, I wasn't a vegan, so I was a lot more voluptuous.  That's why I kind of hate that I'm being called the waif.  All of a sudden I'm, like, skinny rich bitch, and this is fucking hilariously terrible.  I have the public image of the exact person that I've fought against for my entire life.  If it weren't partly my fault, then it wouldn't be happening.   It's part of the reason why I'm getting into this whole business, because I wanted to get made over. I mean, I was called "dog" in school.  I've been saying all along that I didn't want revenge, but maybe I did.

Do you think there is any advantage being a woman in rock right now?

There is an advantage because there's a big thing with women in rock, but there is also a disadvantage because there is a big thing with women in rock.   And there is also an advantage to being a woman, because you always have your sexuality to lure people with, and that is also a disadvantage, because you're luring them, then it is assumed that it is only your sexuality that is doing the luring.

Do you respond positively or negatively to the word "feminist?"

Positively, because I understand what it means. Feminism to me just means celebration and appreciation of femininity. Femininity is anything and everything I do even if I grow a beard. I am a girl, so that is feminine.

Is the music world more or less sexist than society at large?

Before, women were disregarded, and it became this rash that started rising.  Now what's happening is that it has not healed, but at least it is visible, and at least we're aware of it.  The rash has risen.  It is better.   It has not cured.

How much of your own feeling of alienation do you think you have because you are a woman?

If I were Steven Tyler and I said this world is bullshit, people would've been, like, "Wow, that's so cool."  But look at me, wearing a dress and some lipstick, at if I say that, then that means I'm a bitch."   fin