May 30th, 2012 | by ROBERT HAM Music | Posted In: QandA

Q&A: Chickfactor's Gail O'Hara

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To repeat what is in the listing in this week's print edition: 

Two decades ago, Gail O'Hara and Pam Berry joined forces to create Chickfactor, a small press magazine devoted to their musical loves. This often meant featuring interviews with cult folk artist Bridget St. John and ’60s star Colin Blunstone of the Zombies, or maybe featuring Belle and Sebastian (who wrote a tribute song to the ’zine) or the Aislers Set on the cover. Although Chickfactor published its last issue in 2005, the publication's fans and supporters have been joining in 20th-anniversary celebrations in the U.S. and U.K., including this week's fete at Bunk Bar featuring a reunion of twee-pop duo the Softies and solo sets by Joe Pernice and Lois Maffeo. 

Due to space constraints, there wasn't enough room for me to glow about the fact that Maffeo and The Softies haven't played a show in years, that Pernice's soulful voice and knee-bucklingly smart songwriting are never to be missed, and that between bands records will be spun by DJ Selector Dub Narcotic (aka Calvin Johnson of K Records infamy) and the whole event is being emceed by the great music scribe Douglas Wolk. There's much to get excited about tonight's show at Bunk Bar. 

As well, we didn't have space to make room for my interview with Chickfactor co-founder Gail O'Hara. But, that's why Al Gore gave us the Internet. 

WW: When did you start thinking about doing events like these? 
Gail O'Hara: I probably thought about them for a long time. I guess, definitely started thinking about the lineup in 2010. I made a list, a dream list, that I sent to Pam, and was "Who do you want to play?" She never responded. [laughs] The list went through a lot of bands for those shows on the East Coast, especially. We're going to try to do some more shows this year, one in San Francisco and L.A. later and one in London in November. Portland's the latest stop on our tour. The New York shows just went so well...and the D.C. ones too. I feel like having Black Tambourine start playing was the most exciting moment of the whole week. The whole thing just felt awesome. I wish we could take the whole thing on the road. Make a living out of this or something. 

How many of the bands on your dream list did you end up getting? 
It's a pretty good dream list. I think one of the problems was The Magnetic Fields were out of town. That was too bad, I'm one of the only people that ever asked the Future Bible Heroes to play and they've traditionally played at Chickfactor parties and pretty much nowhere else. I think they probably would have done it, if it wasn't during their tour. There's a lot of people, I tried really hard to get Birdie, and the girl from the Dolly Mixture. Her husband has made a couple of films and I wanted to get them over. But it just became financially to pursue these things. I think the astonishing thing about the New York show in particular was how everyone seemed really fresh. It didn't seem like, "Oh these people are dinosaurs and have been dragged out of the garage." It really seemed like Peter Momtchiloff put it, it felt like the present and the future as well as the past. 

Were the audiences at these shows made up mostly of older rock nerds or were there some kids there too? 
I would say in D.C. the youngest ones were there was a five year old there and there was a close to 80 year old there. In general I'd say there's a big chunk of kids who were the ones right up front especially for Black Tambourine and The Aislers Set. It was a good mix. Probably 24 - 54 year olds or something. 

How did you work out the lineup for the Portland show? 
Barbara Manning was on the bill initially. She cancelled for a number of reasons that includes school and the fact that The Clean are playing in L.A. that night. Whatever! [laughs] The Softies: Rose lives here and Jen...they were just into it. And I love Joe Pernice. He's a god to me. I think he's amazing. I wish we could bring the whole Pernice Brothers and have them play at the Schnitz or something! I don't know why they're not huge. I actually don't know him. I know most of these people, so I'm hoping the sound here is adequate. Hopefully it will be cool. They're all pretty quiet and I worry about the chatter level in here. Even now there's no one in here and it's loud. I'd like to think at a Chickfactor party people will be quiet. But maybe they won't. 

Looking at your website, it is hard for me to suss out the status of the magazine...and even the website sometimes. What is going on with Chickfactor these days? 
[laughs] I'm the laziest blogger in the world. It's true. I have built up more of a following on Facebook and Twitter as much as those things annoy me. I probably put content on there every day, but I don't do it on the website so much. The website's never lived up to the promise that it could be. It's not very clean and easy to navigate, I need to get it in order. I guess I just haven't I don't have all the content readily available easy to put on the entire the history of Chickfactor online i'm not even really sure that I want to. It is a little boring what is there. It doesn't really represent what it is about, hopefully we'll do something with it. But I don't really have a master plan sorry to say! I would like to print an issue this year, so I think I'm going to try to do that in time for the other west coast shows. I've started working on it in March, and then was like, "I can't do this!" The shows were too consuming. If I was getting paid for all this I would do it full time! People have been bugging me to do like a best of book, so I might do that. And I might try to do a photo book or a print zine for the photo show at Reading Frenzy. We'll see what I can do. I need a Paul Allen to step in and just write me a check!

 
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