Five Takeaways From Fiona Apple's New Yorker Interview

The legendary singer songwriter is back with a new project on the way and her thoughts on Louis C.K., DIY recording, and her tumultuous relationship with Paul Thomas Anderson

Five Takeaways From Fiona Apple's New Yorker Interview



3/17/2020 2:20 PM

The press circuit for the new Fiona Apple album is in full swing. Wow does that ever sound weird. Concerning an artist whose once in a generation talent and skillset as a songwriter was never compromised by her unconventional resistance to the traditional star making system, Fiona Apple doing press just seems wrong. But here we are, eight years out from the incredible Idler Wheel… and with a new record on the way, Fiona Apple has done her first interview since its announcement earlier last week. Resident television critic and pulitzer winner Emily Nussbaum spent a prolonged period of time at Apple’s Venice Beach home and unsurprisingly, the reclusive genius left a lot to unpack. Read the full thing here and check out the main points below


The album’s name comes from a scene in British TV show The Fall featuring GIllian Anderson as a sex crimes investigator. It’s a phrase used by Anderson after finding a locked door to a room where a girl had allegedly been tortured. “Really, what it’s about is not being afraid to speak,” Apple explained. Nearly a decade holed away, Apple’s TV binging is covered and also includes an allegiance to SHOWTIME’s The Affair.


Gaining prominence in a time when women were viewed as commodities to auteurist men, Fiona Apple discusses the change in tide seen throughout her 25 year career, much of it in the vicinity of successful artists she became disillusioned with. She discusses her positive relationship with David Blaine and her disgust in later finding out he was listed in Epstein’s black book, running into Woody Allen during sleepovers at the Farrow house, and Louis C.K. who she briefly dated.

Apple expresses that she initially thought the disgraced comedian took responsibility for his actions and even sent him a note in support of hearing a standup set. She initially thought he used his subversive comedy to take responsibility for his actions. Her feelings reversed after she began working with one of the women he harassed and began to see his comedy less as honest and more as a facade and the comedian as all around weak.


The free form, sometimes tumultuous songwriting process included numerous instances of infighting and a three week period in Texas watching the movie Whiplash on mushrooms which was largely “a wash.” The band would drink, jam, stomp, and arguments were not uncommon during the creative process even inspiring some of the album’s material like “The Drumset is Gone”. The profile reveals a total of 13 songs recorded for the album that tentatively hold some pretty great titles: “Newspaper”, “On I Go”, “The Drumset Is Gone”, “Rack of His”, “Kick Me Under the Table”, “Ladies”, “For Her”, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters”, “Shameka”, “Heavy Balloon”, and “I Want You to Love Me.”

It features a percussion heavy raw sound with drums, chants, bells, wooden blocks, amongst unconventional instruments. She devotes her focus on rhythm to OCD rituals she developed as a child and the typically Apple is depicted as uncertain of the new songs’ melodies and rhythms. Some of the material is described as inherently angry, one such song, “For Her” stems from the nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the anger Apple felt regarding sexual abuse survivors being disbelieved. Others, like “Kick Me Under the Table” are described as “darkly funny.”


The album was recorded in a former bedroom that Apple converted to a studio after finding herself unable to sleep there after the death of her dog. All decisions were under Apple’s control and mixes were built from hundreds of homemade takes using GarageBand that date back to 2012.

Much of Fetch the Bolt Cutters was recorded with a small three person band formed in 2015 with Aileen Wood on drums, Sebastian Steinberg from Soul Coughing on bass and Latin rock singer songwriter David Garza on guitar. Her relationship with the band is painted as complicated, with Apple sometimes intimidated by the presence of the musicians and other times reducing members to tears. It is also revealed that she’s been arrested and jailed for hash possession with Steinberg who played upright on Idler Wheel… Apple’s friend, model Cara Delavigne sings backup on the album as does Apple’s older sister Amber.


Apple’s four year relationship with artist Johnny Ames is covered extensively here and she describes him as “her kindest ex” whose lack of temper became its own kind of problem against the often fiery Apple. Nussbaum witnesses first hand a visit from Ames who at one point refers to Apple’s knee pain as repressed anger which prompts crying.

But perhaps the real talking point is Apple finally addressing her well publicized relationship to director auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, which she described as “painful and chaotic.”

After meeting at a Rolling Stone cover shoot in 1997 Apple’s first words to PTA were, “do you smoke pot?” He eventually followed her to Hawaii a la Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love. Though creatively fruitful with both burgeoning stars contributing to each other’s works, the relationship was dangerous full of cocaine and ecstasy and Apple took on a heavy drinking habit. Though coldly critical he praised her as an artist and though never outright physically abusive Anderson’s temper is revealed.

According to Apple, the director threw a chair across the room after the 1998 Academy Awards and shoved her out of a car. He would call her a bad partner and manipulate her to look unstable to strangers, though Apple admits he has likely changed through the years and so has she. She remembers the moment she quit cocaine was after one night at Quentin Tarantino’s house where the three of them got high in his personal theatre and the two directors bragged endlessly. Apple called it excruciating, “Every addict should just get locked in a private movie theatre with Q.T. and P.T.A. on coke, and they’ll never want to do it again.”

Check out our review for the classic When the Pawn…