It’s obvious, just from the tone in her voice, Johnette Napolitano has never been happier.
Not only is the former Concrete Blonde leader feeling physically fit (“I went to the doctor the other day and she said I had the lowest cholesterol she’d ever seen; she said it was super-human”), she has a new band, Pretty & Twisted, a new album, a new label (Warner Bros.) and a renewed sense of hope.
“Before, I always felt like something was wrong, but I didn’t know what … now it’s all falling together,” Napolitano said, between rubdowns of her pet Chihuahua from her home in Silver Lake, Calif. “It was very hard to quit Concrete Blonde. It was a real black time for me, but I had faith that we had run our course and there was something else for us.”
After five albums, a Top-20 song (“Joey”) in 1990 and a frenetic touring pace, Concrete Blonde parted company two years ago, sapped of all its energy. Afterward, Napolitano said she was treated for depression. She maintained her friendship and working relationship with guitarist Jim Mankey – they’re now collaborating on an album with longtime friends Los Illegals – but it was the beginning of her own therapeutic exploration.
“The thing that’s been different for me (with Pretty & Twisted) is that it was a total self-indulgent experience,” she said. “I didn’t have to accommodate anybody else’s ego … not that that’s been a problem for me. Jim and I always worked very well together. I just wanted to take everything I learned in the last 10 years and process it myself.”
From her home studio, she set the course for what would become Pretty & Twisted, experimenting with sounds (on bass and guitar) and drum programming and eventually hooking up with ex-Wall of Voodoo guitarist Marc Moreland. They first teamed on a cover of “Hurting Each Other” for last year’s Carpenters tribute album.
With still no idea of what direction she was taking, Napolitano already had a fan in her corner: Warner chairman/CEO Danny Goldberg. He signed her and was adamant about giving her the freedom she needed.
Grateful but a little overwhelmed, she fled to Paris for some solace and met up with drummer Danny Montgomery. She had found the final clue in the puzzle; Pretty & Twisted was born.
Their self-titled debut album, due Aug. 8, is a creative leap for Napolitano. Her passionate voice is at a lower, more natural range, and is surrounded by Moreland’s atmospheric guitar work. With absorbing tracks such as “!Ride!” (the first single) and “Dear Marlon Brando,” Pretty & Twisted appears to be a shoo-in for modern-rock followers.
“I’m just in love with this band. I love these guys,” Napolitano said. “For us to come through what we’ve been through, to be here at all, is just wonderful. I don’t think I could ever take a moment for granted again.”
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