Kari Wuhrer: The Loud Bassoon interview (1999)
by Chillykid

Loud Bassoon staffer Chillykid spoke with Kari Wuhrer, of "Remote Control" and "Sliders" fame, about her upcoming album Shiny (on Del-Fi Records).The album is a fresh alt-pop record with shades of Alanis, Edie Brickell, and Badfinger, and surprisingly honest in its lyrical content (reflecting her recent divorce). The conversation was light, although Kari for the first time ever opened up about her struggle with "cheesy nachos." Here's how it was, April 29, 1999 …

LB: Hello?
Kari: Hey, it's Kari.
LB: Thanks for calling.
Kari: How are you?
LB: Yeah, very well, how 'bout you?
Kari: UHHHH! I fucking hate the computer, excuse my language.
LB: (Laughs) Okay.
Kari: I was up twelve hours straight with this thing and its software.
LB: You sound exhausted.
Kari: And it's like addicting too!
LB: You just can't help but download internet porn, basically, is that your problem?
Kari: No, you know, I wish it was that simple. It's, you know, I think countries are gonna fall 'cause of this computer thing, I think it was carefully planned out.
LB: That's rather apocalyptic sounding.
Kari: (laughs) It's raining apocalyptic ash!

LB: (laughs) So, happy belated birthday.
Kari: Thank you.
LB: Did you do anything special?
Kari: I surrounded myself with all my friends … very special. Yeah, we had a good time.
LB: Get any good presents?
Kari: Yeah, I did. I got a poem written on my friend Bill's ass.
LB: (Laughs), Well, that's, uh …
Kari: … tpecialest of all.
LB: A memory that'll last a lifetime.
Kari: Oh, I have the picture.

LB: (Laughs) So, uh, so how nervous are you putting out the CD?
Kari: Extremely. It's like scary-bear. It is, but you know … an interesting challenge.
LB: It's a new twist for your career.
Kari: Mmmm … well, I'm not afraid of anything now.
LB: There's kind of a lot of pressure – I mean you're sort of an established celebrity already and you're putting out an album … that doesn't always work for people, you know?
Kari: Yeah, but I felt like we made it with a lot of honesty, and it's not like we have any ghosts like that that we're afraid of … it's just that it's a challenge, without money, promotion, and whatever else.
LB: And it's not like a Telly Savalas record or something.
Kari: Hopefully not. Even though that'd probably be very collectible today.
LB: Oh, but listenable is another question. What instruments do you play?
Kari: I guess I've been a musician my whole life … My father's a pianist, and all my family plays.When I was growing up it was flute, and I write on the acoustic guitar. Really, my grandmother's a singer, it was about our voice you know. It's just in the blood, you know?

LB: How do you write do you write on a guitar, or what's your process?
Kari: I write on acoustic guitar and, um, in very different ways all the time, it inspires me in different ways all the time. But yeah, the acoustic guitar, and my little Sharpie. (laughs)
LB: (laughs) That's cool. Actually the songs that I like most on the disc were the ones that you'd written.
Kari: Well, I haven't heard that before, that's great.
LB: I wasn't really looking at the liner notes when I put it on the first couple of times, but the songs that stood out, when I finally did look, were the ones that you had written or co-written.
Kari: Well, thanks.
LB: So that's a testament to your songwriting ability.
Kari: Or maybe to the negative karma of my ex-husband. (laughs slyly)
LB: (chuckles nervously) Maybe. Yeah, that's definitely something that kinda runs through the album … he wrote a couple of the tracks, right?
Kari: Yeah, we did a lot of stuff together, but in the end it doesn't really seem that way.

LB: It's kind of a weird thing because there's some optimism in the album and there's some pessimism in the albumit starts out sort of upbeat and ends up really sort of downbeat, you know?
Kari: Yeah, well, kind of like our marriage.
LB: (laughs perhaps a bit too loudly) Well, we won't go there.
Kari: Ha, no, it's interesting, you know you always hear people talking about what has given them their muse, or their reason for writing a certain album, and it always has something to do with this kind of thing I went through. I just happened to go through it kind of in the middle. But you know, I welcome the experience.
LB: It's an honest record – people who are making their first album don't always get real honest with it, and this one is definitely honest.
Kari: Well thanks, I think so too. I think since then I've become a lot more honest, but it's definitely an expression of where I am and who I was at the time I was making it.

LB: So what do you want to do with it, I mean, do you see this as being a new path for you or are you just gonna see how it goes?
Kari: Well, I'm learning to live life for the process and not the result. So, we're putting it out this way now, it gets released in June. I'll do as much as I can, and hopefully I'll have a little bit of luck, you know, we all need that. And then, I have the next record ready, I'm just waiting to see if it's going to be a cheap record or made with lots of money. (laughs)
LB: (laughs) What influences do you have, what kind of stuff do you listen to?
Kari: Everything from Cat Stevens to the Violent Femmes … those are sort of my spiritual juice. I think that music is everything to me. Kind of runs my emotions for the day. Everyday it's different, something different turns me on. Like I had the new Cake record, Prolonging the Magic for months … and months and months and months and months. I was just like "Yeah, this is a great band. The last couple days, man, that thing has been stuck in my CD player in my car and you can not pry it out, and I'm boogyin'. I mean, like I can not help but just like boogie and like rock out to this record now. Every day it's something different.

LB: What's the worst CD you ever got?
Kari: (stupefied chuckle) The worst CD …
LB: Yeah, there's gotta be some total clunker that you picked up along the way.
Kari: K-Tel, probably. (laughs) You know, I try to give everything the benefit of the doubt. It's very personal, isn't it? Subjective. One day I can hate it and a week later I can absolutely love it, so you never know.
LB: What song would you like on your car stereo playing if you were involved in a high-speed car chase?
Kari: Mmm … right now, it's that Cake song. "I need your arms around me, I need to feel your touch" – boogie!
LB: So you could outrun the cops to that song?
Kari: Oh, man, I'd race to the hills if I heard that song right now, my arms in the air, screaming, out of my sunroof. "Yaaaaaa!" like some crazy John Hughes movie.
LB: That sounds good.
Kari: Either that or like, Black Flag.
LB: Mm, so you've got a hardcore side to you.
Kari: Absolutely. (laughs)

LB: Do you have a headbanger past?
Kari: I have a punk past …

LB: Oooohh (imagining Kari decked out way punk) … wow.
Kari: And then of course in the 80's when I was like, the MTV chick – VJ to like the Slaughter set. I was way into that stuff.
LB: Yeah?
Kari: Guns N' Roses!
LB: That stuff was the shit. So what's your theme song?
Kari: My theme song …
LB: You gotta have a theme song. Something that defines you. At least … right now.
Kari: I think it's Cat Stevens' song "Sitting," from … which you can find on the Greatest Hits record.
LB: A little plug for Cat Stevens there.

Kari: You know, it's really amazing, but the very first thing I did online was I went to search for music sites, of course, right? And I found that he's got his own official website, and I bought two records by Yusef Islam, that you could get through imports, that I just did not know were even available, I mean, I just freaked out. I just bought them and they're probably coming today.
LB: Cool. Yeah, he hasn't been doing like the straight pop music, but he's doing a lot of sort of religious …
Kari: Islamic music for children, I think.
LB: That's gotta be really different, I haven't heard it.
Kari: Oh, I can't wait, I'm so excited.
LB: It's good to hear that he's still doing it, you know?
Kari: I mean, after like selling and auctioning off all of his like gold records, and instruments, and everthing else …
LB: He wasn't even doing music at all for awhile, so that's really cool, actually.
Kari: Yes, you know, you can't run away from your calling.

LB: So on the topic of the internetI'd been on your official site, "kariwuhrer.net" and I was going back to it later and forgot about the "org," I typed "kariwuhrer.com," okay? That takes me to "hollywoodwhores.com!"
Kari: Yeah, somebody bought that, somebody licensed that name a long time ago, I couldn't get it unless I paid them.
LB: So they actually own it?
Kari: And they didn't do anything with it, and this is what they decide to do with it, isn't that lovely?
LB: It seems like you should have some recourse to get that back.
Kari: Oh, let's talk about the laws, shall we?
LB: That's no good.
Kari: You know what, I don't care, I just go to the site, it's like my head on somebody else's body.
LB: That's kind of invasive.
Kari: Could be a little classier, you know?

LB: But I guess there's a lot of people out there who need "hollywoodwhores.com" in their life, so …
Kari: Yeah, whatever. "www.whatevah!"
LB: I found a weird site the other day, it's called "prisonpenpals.com."
Kari: Oh my god!
LB: And it's just prisoners placing personal ads, basically. Do you get a lot of prison mail?
Kari: I got one that was like 12 pages long once when I was on "Remote Control" and I remember them protecting me from it. Like not showing me til like the end of the season.
LB: Was it scary?
Kari: Yeah, of course! And I remember people calling my folks in Connecticut from prison telephonesinmates. 'Cause the number was listed.
LB: Oh yeah?! I assume that's been changed since.
Kari: Oh, yeah, definitely.

LB: Ughh. So, if Celine Dion called you and wanted to do a power duet, would you be there?
Kari: Celine who?
LB: Celine Dion.
Kari: Who?
LB: Oh yeah, okay, I get you …
Kari: "I don't think anybody's here by the name of Kari"
LB: (laughs) Aha … you wouldn't even return the call.
Kari: No, she just scares me with all those sporadic arm movements.

LB: So if you could do a dream duet, like an "Almost Paradise" type thing, who would it be with?
Kari: Maybe, aside from Cat …
LB: Oh, that would be a coup.
Kari: Maybe like Billy Corgan … that'd be awesome. Or maybe … anybody in the world or anybody in the universe?
LB: Anybody you want!
Kari: Tom Jones would be kinda fun!No, Billy Corgan, or maybe even like Kurt Cobain.
LB: Wow. You've truly got that angst side to you.
Kari: I have a weakness for musical genius … gets me in a lot of trouble.
LB: Ah, the tortured artist effect.
Kari: I just can't stand putting myself through that anymore. You know, from now on I'm looking for guys with pocket protectors.
LB: (laughs) Well, I know plenty of those dudes, but I think you may be idealizing the nerds of the universe.
Kari: They've been very sweet to me.
LB: Guess there's a lot of "Sliders" fans out there.
Kari: Yeah, really, no doubt.

LB: What's your current favorite beverage?
Kari: Current favorite beverage. (takes a sip of beverage) … Oh god, Mountain Dew is kicking my butt right now! That stuff has so much caffeine, I love it.
LB: Does it make you do "extreme" things like jump out of a plane or anything like that?
Kari: I'm not talking about their advertisements, that's a whole other thing. I just Do the Dew! Either that or it would have to be a frozen fruit drink from 7-11.
LB: Ooh! I somehow can't picture you walking into a 7-11. Getting a Slurpee.
Kari: I'm the new 7-11 angel. I'm doing all their television commercials.
LB: For real?
Kari: For real.
LB: Wow!
Kari: It's really fun. That frozen coffee thing they have – incredible.
LB: Do you do their, like, hot dogs too, that spin around?
Kari: Yeah, dude, definitely. I'm definitely the type of girl that runs into 7-11 for, you know, a Slurpee, and cheesy nachos.
LB: (chuckling) Wow.

Kari: I love road trips.
LB: What's the coolest road trip you've been on?
Kari: The coolest is probably one I'm going to be on next.
LB: Where you going?
Kari: I do things that I like to do called scavenger hunts, where you just find things that you haven't done before, and you just pressclickand you go. (Laughs) I like to go out to the desert a lot. I've done the Grand Canyon, I've done Vegas in the middle of the holiday season when you don't want to be doing it, San Francisco, umI love it. I love driving. Gives you time to like listen to your Monster Magnet records, which I love.
LB: Well, see I make time to listen to my Monster Magnet records.
Kari: Yeah – good for you.

LB: What's the worst interview question that you've ever been asked, and I hope it hasn't taken place in the last ten minutes.
Kari: They always ask me, what are my, what am I looking forward to, what do I want to do next, and you know I just figure, I try to enjoy what I'm doing now.
LB: That's the way to do it. Who cares what you're going to do next?
Kari: Let me just try to get good at one thing at a time! Feel it out.

LB: What song makes you cry?
Kari: Just depends on my mood, butevery song makes me cry. Hallmark commercial songs make me cry.
LB: So you've also got a sappy side too.
Kari: Real sensitive, yeah, definitely. It depends. Sometimes the very same song will make me elated. I mean, while we were recording "Take Me Now" I was just like in a complete state of woeand now it doesn't have the same effect on me.
LB: Were there a lot of moments like that in the studio?
Kari: Oh yeah. It's a very emotional process, and both me and T.K. are quite emotional people, so you can imagine … you know, avoid flying debris!
LB: It seems like there was a lot of intensity in much of it.
Kari: Definitely.

LB: How'd you pick "Come And Get It" to cover?
Kari: I didn't, it was picked by an attorney friend of mine, who had a strategy.
LB: Oh, so it's a marketing thing.
Kari: It was at first, and then we just liked the way it came out, a lot.
LB: it's a great song.
Kari: But Badfinger? Believe me, there would have been choices that I would have come to first. There are a lot of Beatle elements to the record too, I thought, since Paul McCartney wrote it, we couldgive it some integrity.
LB: The funny story about that song, I guess, is that he wrote and produced it in like, you know, 45 minutes ...
Kari: Oh, yeah, the demo was ...
LB: … yeah, really amazing. So we were kind of imagining, you know, you going into the studio and cranking it out in 45 minutes, you know, playing the drums and everything, you know.
Kari: No, I just tried to play it the other night at the Opium Den out here with my friend Morty, and, umit didn't work. (laughs)
LB: Well, there's always gonna be those times too.
Kari: Yeah, well usually when you've had a couple drinks and it's your birthday …

LB: (laughs) Have you had any bad karaoke moments?
Kari: Oh, I never consider bad karaoke bad … no such thing. Look how Cameron Diaz won her fiancée's heart.
LB: What kind of song do you pick if you do karaoke?
Kari: Whenever I do karaoke it's either "Delta Dawn" or um, "Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl"
LB: Ha! Rockin' out to Manilow!
Kari: Or Abba, "Dancing Queen."
LB: Oh yeah. That one you can't beat.
Kari: The less serious you are, the better it is.
LB: Yeah, it's always awkward when someone gets up there and tries to put on a real show.
Kari: Really. Especially after sake.
LB: Ah, so there's another beverage … we have a little motif going now.
Kari: Current beverage … I drink Knob Creek, which is really great whiskey. I'm pretty much a whiskey girl. But you know, on those moments of clarity, I like a nice soft, sweet Frutopia.
LB: Oh yeah, that's good stuff. I'm a big juice person.
Kari: Well, I don't know, catch me on another day, it'll all be different.

LB: Are you doing a ton of press for this?
Kari: I do as much as I can, but I'm not being a total nut about overkill by any stretch. I couldn't if I wanted to.
LB: Have you gotten much advance feedback on the album yet?
Kari: Um, you know, it's done well review-wise on the net, and it's all subjective. I really don't even take it personally anymore, you know what I mean? It's such a difficult business, I think a lot of people like stuff because it's crammed down their throat over the radio. Starting out non-commercially I think is helping me to build a little bit of integrity. The slower the better for me, you know – I'm just downloading at reeeeally low megahertz … is that what you use? Megabytes! Mega-somethings.
LB: I'll ask one of my pocket protector friends for the right definition.
Kari: Yeah, really. I have a slow modem.

LB: It's a hard process putting out an album with kind of an independent approach.
Kari: You know what, I'm telling you, it taught me a lot about being honest about having relationships with people in the business sense … you really stay on your toes. No screwing around. There's no fear of success here, you know.
LB: So, do you expect to get this to radio, or are you just kind of …
Kari: You know, that's really hard, radio is such a commercial monster. I've had a lot of DJs actually speak to me in person and say, god, they wish that they could, if their program director weren't so tough, or …
LB: So it's basically the "powers that be?"
Kari: It is. It's, and I don't know, I'm trying to figure out who I can sleep with, but no bites!
LB: Yeah, well, I'm not gonna throw out the obvious offer there. (winks)
Kari: No, no no … but no … payola I can't even do.
LB: Yeah, well that's too bad, because I think it does fit in with kind of what's going on in radio now, I mean, there's a lot of artists that have a similar sound, I mean, it's sort of got a little Alanis feel to it in some parts.
Kari: I think so. Well, I've done the live thing on the radio, but spinning the record.I don't know who makes those choices, but if it were just up to the, to the DJs or the listeners.different story. So we're trying to see how we can get there and bypass that whole corporate beast.

LB: What do you see as the lead single, if there is one?
Kari: I think people respond to "There's a Drug," the first track, a lot. I don't think it'll ultimately end up being their favorite, but it's …
LB: It's a good radio track, for sure. That's the one I heard on "Loveline" when you were on there. I think the one I responded to most was "Your Octopus."
Kari: You know, it's way too happy for these people! Those jazz chords, you know?
LB: "Come and Get It," too, that's very listener-friendly, so there's lots of possibilities.
Kari: Definitely, and "Normal," even, I think, who knows?
LB: It's gonna be an interesting journey for you.
Kari: I'm excited. You know, you don't do this stuff to like … sometimes I feel like a Willy Loman, or a vacuum cleaner salesman, and that's not why you do it, but it all goes along with it, you know … if a tree falls in the woods and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound?
LB: I think so.
Kari: As an artist, if nobody's there to hear it, you're already fulfilled, so you gotta try.
LB: I think the most important thing is that you do something that you're proud of and if it's not commercially successful or whatever.
Kari: Right, I'm definitely proud of the process, I'm not even looking at it as an event. You know? It's definitely the whole experience. I've had the worst year and the best year of my life for some reason, in the same year.

LB: Well, there's still some time to balance that out a little.
Kari: Mm-hmm, right. So don't screw it up for me, babe!
LB: (laughs) Yeah, the incredible power I wield in the entertainment industry. We can sink or swim your record, basically.
Kari: You've got an address, and a carrier, and a server, and a browser. You're Superman!
LB: Oh, yeah, the Loud Bassoon is enormous. I just get tired of celebrities calling me at home all the time. It really just gets tiring.
Kari: (chuckles) I'm tellin' ya!

LB: So do you get a ton of messages from fans through your site?
Kari: I do, and I gotta start getting to it.
LB: Do you actually respond to them?
Kari: I'm starting to now.
LB: Wow. That's some serious attention.
Kari: Well, I mean, I don't want them to think I'm a snob or anything. It was sheer technological ineptitude for the longest time.
LB:Welw, I think anybody receiving an email from you would quickly forgive you for the delay.

Kari: I have like this whole book of just email addresses from people who have given me personal email that I have to get up an access and try to answer back, and … it's nutty. I need a robot. Either that or a defrosted Cro-Magnon slave.

LB: (chuckling) That's a nice image. Well, uh, thanks again for the interview, it was really good talking to you and I wish you the best of luck … I really think it's a great record, and we're gonna post a great review of it.
Kari: Oh, that's incredible … my brother just emailed me last night with that, you know, what is it, that new thing? That new thing that you can listen to for free?
LB: Oh, like an MP3?
Kari: Yeah, the MP3. And, um … I wasn't on it! And I just bought a 60,000 website address catalog, and under music or celebrities … I'm not there. I need to fix all those.

LB: We'll have to change that. There's some definite resources on you on the net.
Kari: There are, but then there's some definite obscurity.
LB: There's a lot of fan sites, it seems.
Kari: Kookoo! My dad doesn't like that at all. I'm like, dad you don't understand, that's not even my body attached to that head.
LB: Yeah, that must be kind of weird.
Kari: I mean it's not like I'm against nudity, I've done it, but a lot of those are just so not me.
LB: Did you ever see one that was just hilarious?
Kari:I mean, they're all hilarious.
LB: 'Cause those can be done pretty bad.
Kari: Hopefully they're hilarious enough that people won't believe them.
LB: I think people believe what they want to believe.
Kari: Yeah, and who cares, really anyway?
LB: Right, exactly, but I guess … I can't speak for that because there's, uh, no nude pictures of me available to download.
Kari: Well, as soon as there is, you know you're going to be my wallpaper.
LB: Oh, good, good. I'll be very flattered.

Images kind courtesy of kariwuhrer.net