issue 3 :: Fall, 1995

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Interview: Ruth Miller (PO!)

PO! is one of my favorite bands. I have a lot of favorite bands, I know, but PO! is way up there. I talked about my favorite (of two, so far!) album of theirs in issue 1, and their latest somewhere in here, so I won't go into detail about their sound. While writing to Rutland Records to order everything I could directly from them, I slipped in a few questions for Ruth Miller. She was kind enough to generously respond and referred to my zine as “Drunk Drink Think Thunk.”
Tell me how PO! came to be. Who is in the band and what are they like?
Following a period of mental torture, I decided to form a band and write songs to get back at the world in general. As this stage I was difficult to work with, and had problems playing the guitar and singing well. PO! had lots of different members...

I managed to persuade some friends to record the first LP Little Stones with me. It's a classic 4-track angry/miserable recording, made in total ignorance of how things are usually done!

Nearly 3 years ago the proper current PO! band got it together, and a had calmed down a lot too! We are:

Paul Knight — he plays the drums, is very quiet and sensible, he likes Simon and Garfunkle, he's tall and he doesn't think much of the music biz and posing around.

Terri Lowe — plays lots of guitars all the time, when he's not doing that he's out looking for guitars to buy. He used to play the bass with a fab band called The Originals who recorded one single for Rutland. He's a student studying English and he's just won a prize for poetry. He was also the bass player in Ruth's Refrigerator and he wrote some good songs for their albums. He is a hard shell with a soft centre, and his favorite word is “no.”

Gary Gilchrist — Gary is tall and thin with red hair and glasses. He collects records, garagey ones, and worries a lot. He's also in a band from his college days called the Blue Smarties. Gary is the sociable one in the band and seems to know everybody. He tells lots of jokes.

Ruth Miller — I am stubborn and awkward, and I don't like crowds. I used to play guitar and sing with Ruth's Refrigerator, but my songs for PO! are more serious and worthwhile. I collect hippos and I love gardening plants and going to bed early. I like watching things and people, but I'm a bit shy really.
In a hypothetical movie about PO!, what actors would play everyone? Would the movie be a documentary about the band, or would it be an adventure movie with PO! trying to save the world or Queen or something?
PO! The Movie:
Julie Walters as Ruth
Arnold Schwartzenegger as Paul
Dustan Hoffman as Gary
Harrison Ford as Terri

It would be a British kitchen-sink type drama in black and white, with not much happening at all. Terri would scowl at everyone and I would scowl too, Gary would look worried and Paul would look blank. There would not be much dialogue, just shots of rain on windows, people walking home from the factory. Due to my sense of the dramatic, I would probably die from eating rat poison. There would be a funeral and then the others would go back to work in the factory. Oh, it would be a bicycle factory. Very profound but you don't know why.
PO! running up hill
That's exactly the feeling this band photo suggests. -Ed.
Has PO! ever been written about in Melody Maker? If so, what cutesy nickname did they have for the band?
The British music press doesn't seem to be interested in us–they prefer American bands! However, we do get in the local newspaper quite often and our name gives them a lot of scope for corny headlines eg. “one for the money, two for the PO!,” “Ready Steady PO!”
What is “Fay” all about? Is Fay a real person or just a character?
Fay is not about a particular person, but combines elements from several people I know. Quite a lot of my songs are about the pressure on young girls to suppress their natural selves and conform to society's expectations. As a child I was a very adventurous tomboy, full of confidence and keen to learn . But as I became a teenager, I deliberately changed myself to 'become dumb' so that I stood a chance of getting a boyfriend (girls magazines actually tell girls to do this: “let him talk, pretend to be interested in his interests, don't be too intelligent”) Having done this, girls are then open to being treated badly, because they lose their self-respect. I know a number of people whose experience started like this, and went on to become depressed. One in particular was prescribed a certain drug by a doctor to this depression. The drug in question has serious side-effect including panic attacks, suicidal feelings, etc. Which explains the last verse of the song. So in brief, Fay is my lucky escape from an almost inevitable process, whereby society is responsible for mental illness in so many people.
PO! standing around + bike
What is/was Ruth's Refrigerator?
RR started at a time when PO! wasn't a real band (I'd just lost a drummer and a bass player). Whereas PO! is a quite serious band, RR was just a bit of fun–meaningless (or humorous) lyrics, jaunty tunes. The band also became popular because the guitarist Alan Jenkins had a cult following in Europe because of previous bands he'd been in.

It was a very good experience. We had the chance to tour Europe, and be ripped off by a Belgian record company, so we learned a lot. In the end though, we had too many arguments and disagreements about what we were doing, and it's hard to be in two bands at once. When PO! found new members, RR fell apart.
    More information:
  • Ruth writes about her pre-PO! band The Soviets
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