Counting backwards

By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  March 11, 2009

Hersh's zombiephobia must stem in part from her experience with the major-label wringer of the '90s, when the Muses' American label, Sire, told the band to become more commercial or they'd be dropped. For Hersh, the choice was painful but inevitable. "We never broke up, but we just decided not to suck. Imagine any other career where you would be asked to dumb down what you did! It would be like asking a firefighter, 'Put out fewer fires.' It was confusing and disappointing, and ultimately we ran out of money to be on the road or in the studio — which is really what a working band is."

Today, Hersh is the epitome of a working musician: she splits her time among Muses resurgences, 50 Foot Wave, and her solo career, all while eking out a living far from record-label subservience. She's a co-founder of CASH Music, a non-profit organization that releases label-less music both free and via donations and subscriptions on the Web; her first full-length to emerge from this project will be a solo record, Speedbath, later this year. Does she worry that, in the words of Spinal Tap manager Ian Faith, her "appeal is becoming more . . . selective"?

"Well, I think that when I was successful according to the Warner Bros. definition of success, the end result was that a lot of people who wouldn't normally listen to my music were fooled into buying my records. The people who believe that what's going on in the entertainment industry is what's going on in art are false friends who don't stick around. What I was left with aren't fans but actual listeners who understand the work and who don't buy into the church of the rock star. It's more work, but in the end I really believe that style should not win out over substance — ever."

THROWING MUSES + SCREAMING FEMALES + 50 FOOT WAVE | Middle East downstairs, 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | March 14 at 9 pm | $12 | 617.864.EAST

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Related: Reunited and it feels so . . . heavy, Photos: Throwed!'s Zombie Party, Photos: Mellow Bravo at Middle East Downstairs, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Entertainment, Music, Kristin Hersh,  More more >
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