"People kept pressuring me, saying things like, it’s your solo record, you can sing on more than one song."


Violent Femmes' Leader Goes One-On-One With Himself
Twenty years after the Violent Femmes helped define the sound of underground '80s and '90s rock, lead singer Gordon Gano goes it alone. Hitting the Ground (Instinct Records), his solo debut, is a collection of songs written for the likes of PJ Harvey, Lou Reed and John Cale, Frank Black, They Might Be Giants, Mary Lou Lord. Originally conceived as the soundtrack to a movie of the same name, the album shows off Gano’s undeniable songwriting talents. It was co-produced by Warren A. Bruleigh, the Femmes' longtime engineer and producer.

So let’s begin, where did you get that crazy fake obviously subtle show-biz name, "Gordon Gano"?
How did you guess that? You’re the first person who has asked me that in an interview or ever. But of course you’re right. It took place like this—in high school a friend suggest that I take a stage name for performing in public and he brought it to my attention that my full name spelled backwards is "Gordon Gano."

So "Nodrog Onag" is your real name?
Yes, sometimes friends called me "Nod" or "Rog." I also like simply "Onag." "Noddy" or "Roggy" I never liked.

OK, Onag, I’m glad we’ve had a first here. But I’m starting not to like you very much so let’s move on to talking about your new record Hitting The Ground.


I’m thinking I seem to know so much about this record already I’m not sure what to ask.
May I make a suggestion?

We could talk about each song and see where that leads.

Good idea. The title track "Hitting The Ground" features P.J. Harvey singing and playing a guitar solo. How did you get her on your album. Does she like you?
What’s not to like? I asked and she said yes.

The second song is "Oh Wonder." Mary Lou Lord is singing and plays guitar. How did you get her on you album? Does she like you?
Hmmm…. I’m starting to see a pattern in your questions. We’ll see who blinks first. What’s not to like? I asked and she said yes.

Alright, is it true that you wrote all these songs after coming off of an especially grueling tour?

Is it true that you wrote these songs after just coming out of the hospital?

You wrote all these songs as a sad and pathetically ineffectual attempts to assuage some deep, deep, dark, deep, dark, dark, deep, dark, dark, deep secret fear.
Yes, that and they were all written for a film.

That’s right, a movie called Hitting The Ground. I’m a big fan of that movie. I didn’t know you wrote the music for it. I should’ve put that together, the same name and all.
Yes, you should’ve put that together. You are a journalist, reporter, critic or something. Anyway, the movie did not get a theatrical release—lots of independent films have this difficulty—and I’m very glad that you enjoyed it, although a little disappointed about you not remembering the music. On this subject—If I may continue—I don’t feel that this is a soundtrack release because I did the scoring and wrote musical themes for the film, which in my opinion would be part of a soundtrack. Some of the songs are not in versions as part of the movie, but they all were written for it or inspired by it. This also gave me the idea of having different people singing so it’s not always the same voice (mine) chirping away in the background. Warren Bruleigh and I would talk about who might be good to have sing certain songs. Some people I knew and could call and ask if they were interested and other people we tracked down through management. David Moore, the director of the movie was also involved.

Now it’s your turn again.

I’m sorry, I kind of quit paying attention. Something about a soundtrack that’s not a soundtrack and then I really couldn’t hear anything you were saying. I mean I could hear you. Something droning but I couldn’t distinguish any words or ideas.

I could go on. Here’s my list: so how did you get P.J. Harvey, Mary Lou Lord, John Cale, Lou Reed, Linda Perry, Frank Black and They Might Be Giants on your record. Do they like you? Oh, I left out Cynthia Gayneau and Martha Wainwright. I figure that Cynthia is some family relation because her name spelled backward is "Aihtnyc Uaenyag"—isn’t that right Noddy? I must apologize for leaving out Martha because she sings a track with you and I can’t stand to hear you try to sing so I’ve always skipped those songs. You sing on three and that’s three too many. But I’m sure Martha is good.
I happen to agree with you, partly at least. I do sing too much on this record. People kept pressuring me, saying things like, it’s your solo record, you can sing on more than one song.

Any plans to tour?
Yes I will be doing shows and probably singing almost every song.

Let’s hope not. Any special guests?
I’ve been trying to invite people, but some have changed their phone numbers. And for those that haven’t, they haven’t called back.

I am not surprised. I hope you hear from somebody because you’ll need a lot of help live. Everyone except you is great on this recording—including the Drummer Frank Farrer—and they are doing what they do so well. If I had all these people helping me, I’d make a great record!
Try it.

I just might. Sometimes I feel like I already have what all these great talents saw in you I’ll never know. Unless…could it be the songs?