4 Non Blondes
1989 - 1992
4 Non Blondes Interview
(By Gary Indiana)
July/ August 1991
Photo by Jessica Tanzer
It's nice when a band you've seen and admired in small club gigs
starts to break into the big time, which for most musicians means
that at last they can dump that day job. Success is not unknown
to "alternative" bands in these parts: Faith No More made it, in a
big way. Sister Double Happiness is poised on the brink of mass
appeal, waiting for that Warner Bros. album which should be out any
time now. And the next album I buy after that should be the debut by
4 Non Blondes, whom I predict will be signed any day now. And it
couldn't happen to a nicer, harder-working or more talented group. If
you've seen any of their shows around the Bay Area, you've been very
impressed and probably become a fan. If you haven't seen them, or you
live somewhere else, be sure and check 'em out when you have a chance.
The first thing you might notice about the band, should you see them
live, is that the singer seems absolutely nuts, or at least very
happy. We're talking about Linda Perry, from Massachusetts and of
Brazilian extraction. She grew up in San Diego, tried to be a solo
folkie in L.A., and then fled to 'Frisco, where her voice has
transformed into an incredible rock and roll instrument. Asked to
explain how she developed her capacity to be heard for miles, she
claims that her voice "sort of happened". As for influences, she
cites Queen, Aerosmith, Madonna, and "Melody, I'm into melody.
Anything with melody I'm influenced by."
Drumming for the group is Wanda Day, who's straight outta Salt Lake
City. She started drumming at age 8 and has played "all different
types of music, jazz band to marching bands to reggae to punk rock to
country western to a show with Johnny Mathis." During her latter
years in Salt Lake she was with a ska band called 004, who toured
around the West and opened for a lotta big acts.
Christa Hillhouse does the bass duties in this group. She escaped
from Oklahoma City about ten years ago and has allegedly played in 14
bands around here. Her funk influences liven up the Non Blondes'
sets, fortunately she wasn't long ago drafted by some thrash funk
band or she'd be signed and outta here.
And playing some very tuneful guitar is Shaunna Hall, a native. She
shares most of the songwriting with Linda, and is determined to get
the band the recognition it deserves. She thinks Hendrix is God,
which he is, and admires Pete Townsend's songwriting.
And let's not forget the roadies: Hyde Street Wendy, Wanda's bro
Clayton, and All MDC!
I interviewed 4 Non Blondes in their van after getting chased out of
the Firehouse basement. I'll let them tell their story in their own
words which are better than mine, and that's the way we do these
things at Flipside, because it's easier than creative writing.
Flip: Wanda, you backed up Johnny Mathis?
Wanda: Yeah, it was a union gig. This friend of mine was in the Utah
Symphony, and the drummer didn't show up, and so she called me, and
had three hours to look at the music. I sucked, I was so embarrassed,
but I got paid.
Flip: How about 004?
Wanda: 004 was really a great band, it was a ska band. I started with
004 when I was about 19, and we played with the Blasters and X and
Black Uhuru and Steel Pulse and Bow Wow Wow, and hung out with TSOL
and Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. It was great! I was a child and
had a lot of energy, and I had a lot of fun. And then I played punk
rock with some guys who are now the Descendents and then I took some
time out, and now I'm back.
Flip: This was all in Salt Lake?
Wanda: We were based in Salt Lake but we played out here, we played
the IBeam and the Stone and Mabuhay Gardens...
Wanda: Yeah, we played in L.A. too... Madame Wongs, the Whiskey about
three months before it closed, with the Blasters, and uh, we played
all over down there.
Flip: Did you really play with Robert Cray?
Wanda: Yeah, we went down to this club and watched Robert Cray play
and then they all went back to my friend's house, and he showed up
about three in the morning, and we just jammed with a bunch of blues
lovers. That was probably 1983; it was when he'd just released Bad
Flip: Christa, name the 14 groups you were in.
Christa: Do I have to? I moved to San Francisco ten years ago and
I've played with a lot of different people. I've played in funk
bands, I've played in rock bands, I played in a band that did
Brazilian jazz and salsa. Pretty much just anybody I met that was a
writer that I liked I played with. I played in a band called 17
Reasons that I really liked that has a guy named Jim Capilongo as
guitar player. I really learned a lot playing with him. I've played
funk, me and Shaunna played in a couple of different things. And I
was an accountant in the daytime, which was interesting, because I'd
go from being an account to playing, and I used to make a point of,
like whatever clothes I wore at my gig, I'd sleep in them and
wear 'em to work the next day, just to kinda like make the moment
linger on or something. I'd get a job and after I'd had the job for
about six months when they really depended on me I'd like shave my
head. I ended getting my own office for it 'coz they'd try to hide
me, y'know. I did accounting and payroll so they really depended on
me to be there. I worked for a law office for almost six years in the
financial district, and when I got a Mohawk I ended up getting my own
Flip: Were you in any famous punk bands we might a heard of?
Christa: Oh no, 'coz actually I never played in a punk band in my
life. I really love a lot of punk thrash bands and Wanda is a
hellacious thrash drummer. I listen to a lot of funk, because as a
bass player I played funk bass for years, that was my influence. Of
course Stanley Clark was God, but the Brothers Johnson, Louis Johnson
was a big influence and Jaco (Pastorius) was rippin', I used to
listen to Weather Report because he was so damn good. But as far as
punk bands, I never got any kind of a bass influence from punk, or
even really most rock bands. Now, with thrash/funk the bass is
standing out more, but for the longest time in rock bands the bass
player was like the one nobody ever saw, nobody knew their name, so I
was really into funk because the bass player stood out.
Flip: Shaunna, you studied with Bonnie Hayes? Did you write songs
with her or was she teaching a class or what?
Shaunna: She taught at Blue Bear School of Music which is a non-
profit school in San Francisco that teaches jazz and blues and
rock 'n roll. She had a class there called songwriting and I took
that for a couple of semesters when I was 19 years old. I just
studied the philosophy of songwriting according to Bonnie Hayes, and
she turned out to be quite an authority, because she won a Grammy
last year. That's how my relationship with her started, and it
continued on, she's a good friend of mine today and is real
supportive of me and has encouraged me over the years to keep at it.
Flip: Does she ever come see the band?
Shaunna: Yeah, she saw us at Nightbreak back in May. Bonnie's still
one of my big influences, she inspires me to do somethin'. She proved
that hard work gets you someplace, y'know. She's great, she works
Flip: Did you get together because of the earthquake or did it have
anything to do with it?
Christa: No, that was our first rehearsal the day of the earthquake,
and it was funny because it was right after five and rehearsal was at
six and nobody wanted to cancel rehearsal the first day! And
everybody was like, should we go?
Wanda: My brother had to grab me, I'm like, I gotta go to rehearsal I
gotta go to rehearsal and he grabs me and he shakes me and goes Wanda
there's been a major earthquake! A major major earthquake! And I'm
like no no I have rehearsal let me go! I had my cymbals in my hand, I
walked out and there's bricks all over the road and I'm goin', damn!
Then I heard the bridge had broken and I thought well damn, maybe
it'll be cancelled. I couldn't call anybody, y'know. So that was
pretty trippy, because we were out the door and it hit, Bam!
Shaunna: We had had a hard time getting together, so it was real
important. We'd finally pinned down a date, we were all gonna be
Flip: Who hooked up first?
Christa: Me and Shaunna. We were friends for several years, we were
living in the same house. We used to jam in the garage and just have
fun. And then we met Wanda in another band that we started playing
in, it was a four-piece band. The three of us left the band because
of personal problems with the lead singer. We heard Wanda play, both
me and Shaunna were just like wow, this is the drummer we've been
looking for. And then the three of us played around, and then we were
looking for a singer, and we saw Linda doing a solo performance and
we were just like, this singer. And it was funny because Linda was
working a coat check somewhere and I went in there and I was just
like, y'know I think you're a really good singer, and I play in this
band and were lookin' for a singer, and she's like oh yeah sure,
she's brushing me off and stuff. Somehow she saw the three of us, I
guess when we were still in the other band.
Linda: I saw them and I thought, they're great, this woman is really
lucky to have these girls behind them. And then me and Shaunna were
at the Nightbreak and we both got drunk and we're talkin', and she's
like yeah well we left that band and I go, Oh really, well I'm a
singer. And she's like, I know.
Christa: Shaunna played it cool, I made a total ass of myself,
kissin' Linda's butt, and she's like thpthpthpt.
Linda: We were drunk, y'know, and when you plan things like that it
never works out. But they ended coming over to my house and gave me a
tape and stuff. For the first couple of months I had a hard time
getting to practice because I was so used to being solo, I could
practice whenever I wanted, pick up my guitar and go do whatever I
wanted. I had to snap out of it and go Linda, this is a band now,
this is not your own time and it's not at your own convenience, you
have to get it together.
Shaunna: I remember! You used to say, Linda, what's the problem here?
And she'd just be like, well that's just the way I am!
Linda: Being in this band I've gotten very responsible.
Shaunna: Yeah, first she quit her job!
Linda: It's a different thing for me, I'm not used to people relying
on me, I'm used to just going and doing whatever I feel like doing.
Yeah, it was hard at the beginning.
Flip: How does it feel to go from doing mellow solo things with
acoustic guitar to getting up there and screaming your lungs out?
Linda: It's completely different, it's so much more because when
you're solo you have just yourself, you have no one to fall on, no
one to turn around and see any kind of support, everybody's watching
you. Mind you, I love that, the attention. But with the band, I don't
feel threatened, I love their support knowing that I could just fall
down and someone would be there to catch me. So it's very different,
and it's more fun because, I love to rock out, I'm not a hogie...
Christa: A hogie! Linda linga!
Linda: ...it's fun to do that with people that...
Christa: Persponderent! She's very persponderent!
Wanda: She's not the perspondering hogie!
Linda: I make up words and they bug about it, I can't help it!
Flip: That doesn't get into the songs, does it?
Wanda: Not yet, don't give her any ideas!
Flip: What are you trying to say in your songs?
Linda: Expression of your feelings.
Shaunna: Reality, that's how I'd sum it up. They're observant,
sometimes autobiographical. In other words, I don't think I tend to,
and I don't think Linda tends to write about very superficial,
typical rock subjects, because it's been done.
Flip: Trying to stay away from clichÅ½s.
Shaunna: It's not intentional, it just happens. If forced to analyze
it, that's what I'd come up with.
Linda: I don't like to tell people what it's about, because, when I
write something, the first thing that comes outta my head is usually
what is the song gonna be about. And I don't know why that is, I
don't know where that comes from but it comes from some reason so I
just write it, and at the end of me writing it I look at it and I
take my own vision of what I see that is, y'know, what this song is
about, but Christa will take it completely different. And that's what
my songs are about, for anyone to be able to listen to it and feel
something, or put their life in that situation. So my songs are about
everything that is going on in anyone's head.
Christa: They're emotional, though. If I'm in a certain frame of mind
I can put on one of these songs and it changes me, it's emotional and
it gets way up under me and I think it affects a lot of people that
way and that's why we're popular. It's not like they're all surreal
Linda: People aren't that stupid to not know is phony to what is
real, and I don't think some musicians give those people out there
credit. But there are those dumb dipshits out there. And there's this
one song in particular by Poison, they just wrote this one song
called "Life Goes On", I mean, if you watch them and listen to the
words, it's just completely stupid. It's totally not them, it's
totally completely phony, whoever wrote the words was trying to write
those words, they didn't just come to them. And that's what I can't
stand, is that type of writing, that you know, where does that come
from? There's nothing in that person that I can feel, by watching
them perform this, that they have experienced this. And by all of us,
you can honestly feel that you're not being cheated.
Flip: Future, labels, what's happening?
Shaunna: We're lucky enough to be in the middle of negotiating a
deal. We're on the upswing definitively. You can pretty much bet on
the fact that we'll be making records for the masses pretty soon.
Flip: Do you think that people can handle 4 Non Blondes?
Linda: We're totally on the borderline, people are wanting something
knew. The companies that we've talked to, whoever in the business,
they know it, they know that the world is ready for 4 Non Blondes,
and many others like us. It's obvious that we need a different style
of music because the music that's going on right now is poo.
Shaunna: I'd like to say that there's a lot of good music going on
but it's not on MTV.
Linda: We get all kinds in our audiences so I think that we're gonna
totally make it in the commercial thing but not be commercial.
Shaunna: We're not gonna fit into any executive's idea of what's
commercial, we're gonna create a new market.