“I want an army of hot male groupies” – an interview with Patti Rothberg
ReW: Thank you so much for doing this interview for Girls Rock & Girls Rule.
Patti: It is an honor and a pleasure!
ReW: You certainly are a girl that rocks and inspires all the time. I have to say I love Double Standards.
Patti: Thank you! A lot of love, laughs, tears and time went into its making, and that of its predecessors, Between the One and the Nine and Candelabra Cadabra, but Double Standards took an especially long time to come out – four years! It’s hard to believe that it started out as an idea for a garage band record which we were gonna bang out in two days (ha!). There were gonna be the hard songs and then the acoustic section. Easy, right? It’s like a painting. Change one stroke and the whole thing changes. You can end up reworking the whole thing!
ReW: It has been on my shuffle for months and I always have a new favorite song.
Patti: That’s so cool! Shuffle mode is like pandemic personal Pandora. You put it on your iPod, so theoretically you’re gonna like it. But you still have the element of surprise, like the radio used to have when your favorite song comes on and you crank it up!
ReW: Were the songs written together or separately?
Patti: My creative process is a mystery to me, although by now I’ve made enough albums that I’m starting to see the patterns! I write most songs lyrics first, in a state of enlightenment and a desire to capture it and share it through music. It starts with a phrase or a turn of phrase. Maybe I’ll write a few lines that rhyme and tweak it until it says what I was trying to express and then I’ll sort of set it to music later. It seems to have a mind of its own! I’ll just start playing along with my lyrics, and it’ll end up a ballad or a metal opus. It’s such a cool mysterious process.
Then later I’ll have a bunch of these and start to notice patterns and themes between songs, even between albums later! The best ones are when the song pretty much writes itself in one sitting, in one piece. Recently I noticed that the song “Wavelength” off Double Standards is very similar to “Perfect Stranger” from my first album. They were written years apart, but it serves to illustrate that some things never change, and that’s what defines an artist!
ReW: Who inspired them? One or many people?
Patti: I totally believe in the interconnectedness of people, not just in the literal Facebook sense, but in ways that are pretty cosmic. Like that Talking Heads song, “Well, how did I get here?” If you start to think about the people in your life and where you ended up at a given time there’s quite a story behind it.
I do tend to repeat specific muses, people who deeply affected me or taught me something about myself and write lots of songs about that one person. It’s like an alternate universe where in the song you are the ruler and you can set things right, say things you wanted to say but were afraid to or didn’t come out right, etc.
But I sometimes ponder deep questions like: If there is a god, why did he/she let me play that horrible solo on my first album that still makes me cringe when it comes up on shuffle? And why with all the atrocities in the world would that be brought to my attention and allowed to happen in the first place? I can usually come up with an answer, like, if your solos were all perfect they would be boring and then all those great solos you played on Double Standards, for example, you wouldn’t have been prepared to play because you wouldn’t have practiced!
ReW: I love lyrics and stories and it seems this album is loaded with both.
Patti: Thanks Rew! I love lyrics and stories too! Once I start playing the songs multiple times, live, for example, they take on lives of their own. I completely forget about the original wink of the goddess which gave me the idea and of course the meaning the listener gets from a song is all important and not so much the artist’s intent or even inspiration. But I’m happy to sit down song by song any time over a nice glass of wine and try to collage together the meaning behind it all, behind the construction.
ReW: Do you have a favorite? Or an all-time favorite song you wrote. Why?
Patti: It’s hard to choose one favorite since I like different songs for different reasons. Some songs are particularly fun to play live. Other songs were incredible studio creations with creamy layers of background vocals on them. Still others just remind me of a time period, like playing “Darts for World Peace” during the making of Candelabra Cadabra (my second album) on the studio door at Avalon with Bill Riccardi while the guys were doing a long mix. But my instinctive favorite song is probably “Looking for a Girl” off Between the One and the Nine because it came together so quickly. It was like magic! The delay time of the guitar was as though it was preset by the angels to be the perfect right time, that kind of thing.
ReW: Can you tell me about “Hard Times”? Did you really have a hard time? I know you got back up. I love that one right now so much.
Patti: It’s funny you should ask me that sweet soul sista. When I wrote “Hard Times,” I was probably having more like a bad day. I feel like I didn’t even know what a bad time was compared to some of the shit I’ve been through since! The economy started to fall after the song was written (no, I’m not blaming myself), but my personal life also turned upside down and got exceedingly more complicated. Sometimes I think I never should have written “Treat Me Like Dirt.” I should have written instead: “Buy Me a Big Fat Diamond Ring and Kiss My Ass!”
ReW: So being on MTV, what was it like?
Patti: Being on MTV was the closest to time travel I’ve come. Why? Because MTV doesn’t play any music videos anymore and hasn’t for a long time. When I was growing up, I aspired to the videos I saw then. By the time I made my own video, it was already changing and I was never in any one place long enough to see the damn thing on TV! So, it was fun to make the videos, and now with YouTube anyone can see it, anytime. So it’s no big fuckin’ deal anyhow. But what was it like? It felt good.
ReW: Would you want it again?
Patti: I’d love to be a little kid again looking up at my MTV heroes. Will there ever be MTV with cool videos again? If so, sign me up!
ReW: What do you think of Facebook? Hehehe.
Patti: I am psychic, see! I have 1,500 friends that never call.
Patti: It was fun making the page in like, 2004!
Patti: Never do it.
ReW: Do you believe everything you read??
Patti: I can’t believe I ever read anything!
ReW: Do you say the truth when you post?
Patti: The truth is I don’t usually post anything.
ReW: I know you do many types of art like painting and drawing.
ReW: How can someone contract you for a portrait?
Patti: The best way is email@example.com. They send a jpeg and any ideas for a painting or caricature. We can talk about it then. I love to paint portraits, yum!
ReW: How else do you make a buck these days?
Patti: I work at a vintage textile shop (this week). I do odd jobs, like personal organizing, which my boyfriend will tell you is hilarious because he’s the Felix and I’m the Oscar. But I’m really good at it for some reason when it comes to organizing other people’s stuff.
ReW: You teach guitar right?
Patti: I have one student at the moment, but could take more.
ReW: In the next year, what is your number one wildest goal?
Patti: For my latest album to be on all the digital sites for download AND I’ll have hard copies to sell a gazillion copies. So I can have my own artist space and my boyfriend will be happy not to have to clean up after me so I can write “Treat Me Like Platinum” instead and to have all my other albums in print and selling and to have them on vinyl, however long it takes.
ReW: “The Addams Family” or “The Munsters”?
Patti: I get them confused!
ReW: Thank you sweetie. I am your biggest fan.
Patti: I forgot to add that an army of really hot male groupies called “Rothies” will be lined up outside my dressing room at every show. They will come baring their butts and bearing gifts from around the world (particularly soft French cheeses). I will have published a hard cover, full color book of my paintings and artwork, some of the proceeds of which will go to raise awareness about domestic violence and help those afflicted!