Sifting Through Inspiration
"Sometimes it's hard to understand why you play something, then years later you realize, `Oh, that sounds a little like Johnny Thunders,'" says Luscious Jackson's Gabby Glaser. The band--Glaser, guitarist/bassist Jill Cunniff, and ex-Beastie Boys drummer Kate Schellenbach-- are constantly absorbing influences, and their new album, Electric Honey [Capitol/Grand Royal], is a smooth, hook-laden blend of funk, country, pop, hip hop, punk, and dance music.
"From elevators to bars, the music you hear in your everyday life has an impact," says Glaser. "If I love the rhythm guitar on someone else's song, I might consciously try do something similar, but with different chords."
Glaser and Cunniff list their "conscious influences" as Jose Feliciano, Jimi Hendrix, Curtis Mayfield, the Clash, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Nile Rodgers, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and the Slits. But Cunniff, who wrote two-thirds of the album, also looks for more concrete help when composing. "Sexy Hypnotist," for example, was inspired by a E, B, D, G, A, D tuning used by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
"I love their tunings" she says. "I have this book that says `Deja-vu,' `Guinnevere,' and `Compass,' were written with that tuning, so I started messing around with it and came up with the main riff of the song."
Even the printed word can inspire the band--"Ladyfingers" was based on a magazine article about food. "Unfortunately, the verse had just two chords and wasn't as active as it needed to be," says Cunniff. "I brought it to [Alanis Morissette producer] Glen Ballard, and he said I was playing in the same range too much. So I messed around until I found chords that would separate the verse from the chorus and make it less linear."
That Ballard could bust her for a simplistic structure was unusual for Cunniff, who typically pens more complex chord progressions. …