Margaret Cho on Her New Album & The ‘Bisexual Bill Hicks’

Margaret checks in before the Grammys with stories on her album with Fiona Apple, Tegan & Sara and more.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

Margaret Cho on Her New Album & The 'Bisexual Bill Hicks'

The tale of the comedian who wanted to be a rock star is far from new, but when one is able to enlist talented friends to assist and outsource strengths they may be lacking in attempting to weld the two mediums together, an opportunity for something truly unique arises. That’s the magic behind Margaret Cho‘s Grammy-nominated comedic musical album Cho Depenent, a fantastic collection of comedy music that boasts collaborations with high-profile musicians such as Fiona Apple, Tegan and Sara, Andrew Bird, Ani DiFranco and more.

 

Margaret’s raw-honest standup appeal and unabashed sexuality is in full bloom on Cho Dependent, be it on "My Puss," the Mickey Avalon parody song, or "Calling in Stoned," which features Ben Lee and legendary stoner Tommy Chong. While some tracks focus more on the fun and humor of the material, a few songs are downright fantastic, particularly "Baby I’m With The Band" (featuring Brendan Benson) and the beautifully dreamy "Hey Big Dog" with elusive chanteuse Fiona Apple. 

 

Watch the video for "Captain Cameltoe" featuring Ani DiFranco, below:

Here, Cho takes some time out for CraveOnline to discuss the making of the album with her various collaborators, what lies ahead and how she feels about being our generation’s "bisexual Bill Hicks".

 

Congratulations on the Grammy nomination! Cho Dependent kicks ass.

 

Thank you so much!! I am really excited about it. I am having a gown made by the talented designer John Renaud and I wanted the dress to be fairly short so I can run up the aisle and collect my award if I win. 

 

Kicking off the album is a song about intervention, and there’s comedy in the delivery (I love the "no more hugs till you give up drugs" line), but there’s a very real poignance to the subject matter. Aside from the play on words, what brought you to the Dependent part of the album title? 

 

I’ve had issues with all kinds of addiction, from food to drugs to people. I am an addictive person and so it’s always been a struggle. Fortunately, I am also addicted to self improvement, so it kind of balances out for now. I am fascinated with the culture surrounding addiction and dependency and so an album about it all seemed really perfect. And I got addicted to making music and hanging out with incredible musicians!

 

Cho Dependent has some phenomenal collaborations – is there anyone that you couldn’t line up for whatever reason?

 

I love everyone on the album so much! I really had amazing luck with collaboration there. I would have loved to have had David Bowie in there – but hopefully next time!

 

Most of the guys I’ve played "My Puss" for are cringing and backing away quickly less than a minute in. How do you think the male gender would react if every woman stopped shaving and leveled the playing field of genital conversation?

 

Actually I think that not shaving is the next wave in pubic couture. Sasha Grey doesn’t shave, and she’s the biggest crossover porn star. I think men would have to accept the power of the giant bush and bow down to it. I am suprised at long pubes on anyone, male or female, but I really think this is the future. 

 

As for "Calling in Stoned"… did you actually smoke with Tommy Chong? Seems like the right thing to do, though I hear you don’t smoke anymore…. (and why is that?)

 

Oh I don’t smoke – I vaporize! It’s to protect my voice! I am not against pot, I am just trying to minimize damage to my vocal cords. Also while I was making the album, I lost my voice and so I had to give up everything – all smoking, alcohol, caffeine – even tomato sauce! It’s all better now though. And no, I didn’t get to smoke with Tommy when we recorded that song because our session was early in the morning and he had a flight to catch. Too bad!

 

 

"Baby I’m With The Band" is actually sort of an amazing song, the architecture & feeling it produces (Brendan Benson’s a favorite as well). How did it come to be?

 

I love that song! Brendan is amazing. He is one of the world’s greatest songwriters. I love him! I got to sing that song with him and his band – Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from The Posies (who are working on my next record, "The Yellow Album") and Brad Pemberton from The Cardinals – on my birthday in San Francisco. It was tremendous. I wanted to write a song about being a groupie after reading Patti Boyd’s book. Also I am a longtime fan of Pamela Des Barres. The song is a tribute to the sacred women of rock and roll – the muses! These are the women who inspired the songs – but they rarely get to sing from their perspective – with the exception of the GTOs of course. So this song is about them – and also about me, as I have spent many, many nights waiting for musicians in the wings. Brendan loved the lyrics and made a hilarious demo with him singing, "I sat on that guy’s face…!" It’s priceless!!

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you for getting Fiona on your record. That’s not a question, that’s just flat-out gratitude. 

 

Yes, I love Fiona Apple. She is very special to me. What a fantastic beauty – in every way. She’s an icon and one of my favorite people in the world as well as the greatest voice of our time. We are seriously lucky to be alive at the same moment as she is. 

 

A while back, the power goddess that is Amanda Palmer called you her "psychic and fisting advisor." Elaborate? 😉

 

When I met her in London I gave her a necklace that was a solid silver fist and she couldn’t wear it onstage because she bangs the piano so hard it would leave bruises all over her neck! It would be like getting punched!! We were trying to decide if the necklace was like a power symbol – like a 70s style power to the people/fist up/black panther thing – or if it was a kind of a fisting charm. I got it at The Noose, which is a leather daddy store in New York, so I am guessing it was for fisting.  

 

Several musicians have tried their hand at real comedy, and the line’s increasingly blurring with stuff like Flight of the Conchords, Tenacious D and so on. Maynard James Keenan from Tool/A Perfect Circle did some stand-up early on, something I still can’t get my head around. Any musicians you’ve known to be particularly funny? 

 

Maynard is very funny and hung around a lot in the comedy scene in the 90s. Also Tegan and Sara are really hilarious both onstage and off! They are such talented musicians but could also have been comics too! There’s always a lot of affection between musicians and comedians – this is one of the reasons why making this album was such a pleasure. We were laughing all the way.

 

Just now I heard someone refer to you as a "bisexual Bill Hicks who likes having fun." That sounds like an awesome sort of compliment, given your knack for skewering the offenders, whether they be ignorant pricks or corporatocracy cheerleaders. 

 

Hey, I love that! I think that is the best compliment ever. I worked with Bill Hicks when I was a teenager and he changed my life. I just wanted to be like him! He was not bisexual, but he had a lot of fun for sure!

 

Your touring roster is clear on your website… are you just in a holding pattern until the Grammys are over? If you win, they say the checks just start coming from everywhere. The floodgates open. You get your own chair on The View and a three-movie deal. It’s in the fine print. And nobody ever asks you if you hate Bristol Palin ever again. 

 

These are very good predictions!! I like it!! I am really just trying to take a momentary break before I start work on Drop Dead Diva season 3. It’s been such a crazy 2 years with the album and the Cho Dependent Tour, and also Dancing with the Stars in there so I am just doing laundry and chillin’.

 

Thanks Margaret! Good luck at the Grammys!

 

Thank you!!

 

Head to MargaretCho.com to pick up Cho Dependent and keep up with Margaret’s tour dates and future plans!

 

Photo: PixieVisionProductions