People Get It: an Interview with the Space Lady

ISSUE #3

The Space Lady got her start crooning cosmic, Casio-driven tunes in the streets of San Francisco, CA and Boston, MA. Originally performing with an accordion, in 1982 she switched to a battery-powered keyboard, and found her true form of artistic expression. Now after quitting music, her new husband has pushed her to make a return as the Space Lady.  To much critical acclaim, the Space Lady’s 1990 cassette album has been remastered and reissued on both vinyl and CD, and she has been touring and performing her first club gigs ever. Currently she is preparing to release two albums. 

The following is an excerpt from TEENAGE NEWS’ interview with the Space Lady. Stay tuned for the full feature.

“Synthesize Me”

TEENAGE NEWS: What was your European tour like?

The Space Lady: Oh my… [Laughs] Well, I knew from the previous UK tour that I had a lot of fans over there; but seeing is believing. SpaceLadyTshirt_1It was like wow! I was treated like a rock star. People would run up to get autographs. They were so appreciative and gracious. Enthusiastic! I can’t really put into words how overwhelmed I felt being appreciated. I did not even appreciate my own music that way. It is what I intended… but I never really realized I was getting it across that I was being a stand for love, peace and compassion, all those ideals. I feel I stand for all those, but I don’t think they are always in the lyrics or my songs. It’s so gratifying and surprising that people get it.

TEENAGE NEWS: Were you born on earth? Where are you from?

The Space Lady: [Laughs] I am an earthling! The Space Lady is my ideals of what a highly evolved space being would be like. I was born here in Colorado, Pueblo in fact.

TEENAGE NEWS: What caused your recent return as the Space Lady?

The Space Lady: [Space Manager, husband, Eric] really saw something I had long since given up on. I mean, I had almost discounted my whole career as the Space Lady. I thought it was really foolish, full hearty; and irresponsible of me to raise my children on (essentially) spare change, and live such a nomadic life. Even though people reminded me through emails that I had made an impact and that there was a still a listening for my music, I really did not looking back at those time…parkst-rearviewjamesrau_2

I had a lot of regrets because seeing it through the eyes of my growing kids, as they hit their teens… You know how sensitive teenagers are about their parents… I guess some of that kinda rubbed off on me, so I thought that I shouldn’t go back, and I shouldn’t think about it anymore. I didn’t….  

Eric got curious why I was still getting emails and requests. “Will you ever come to Australia?” [Laughs] Wherever! Being a singer/songwriter himself, he thought it was phenomenal that after all these years I had made an impact and made an impression.  He insisted that I set up and play for him. It was no easy feat because I didn’t have most of the equipment anymore. So after few purchases on eBay, I put together the rudimentary pieces.  

I finally set up and played “Ghost Riders In The Sky.” His mouth fell open. He was blown away because, at that time, all he had known was that I had played on the street, and raised a family doing so. That was impressive to him because he had played on the streets a few times too, but he never did as a professional career. When he heard me play he said, “This is your true self expression! What are you doing as a wage slave in the nursing world?” Being a nurse was never a good fit for me. So he said, “I’ll be your manager, I’ll take care of all the business, financial and logistical things.”  He wanted to recreate the Space Lady. I didn’t think I could remember the songs after all the years.

“Ghost Riders In The Sky”

Truth be told, I had quit playing electronic music after my cassette [out now as “the Space Lady’s Greatest Hits”] was recorded in 1990. I maybe carried on for another year or two, but then I went back to my accordion making folk music.  I was unplugged at that point!

TEENAGE NEWS: What have you realized since you started playing club gigs?

The Space Lady: Well I had a mindset, previously, that it was more authentic to play on the street. I think that I was really hiding, in a sense, because I had no idea how powerful my music would be through a sound system, and how much more impactful it would be to a room full of people who wanted to hear my music, and perhaps already liked it.  The new setting was more conducive to understanding the lyrics, a whole song and a whole set of songs.

I’ve had stage fright since childhood, and even performing in front of groups of parents was traumatic for me. When I discovered the casual nature of playing on the street, I thought it was my only venue because other venues would be selling out and going mainstream.  I still totally respect street musicians and those who stick with it, but now I see I was really missing something as well…

TEENAGE NEWS: How have your street performances changed throughout your career?  Tell us about the hats!

The Space Lady: The current hat was spacelady2one of several hats that I wore. I used changing hats as a theatrical device, pretty early on. Joel [Space Lady’s original lyricist] and I were already living in Boston, and we had two of our children. We left there in 1984, so in 1983 I started dawning the helmet, and a white top hat that looked like a birthday cake! And then there was the famous record hat; it was a transparent LP with one single bulb in the middle.

TEENAGE NEWS: Do you know how many street performances you have done?

The Space Lady: How many street performances? Over twenty years, uh… I took a few days off but not very many. 360 a year… [7,000+??]

TEENAGE NEWS: When you started performing your own songs what did you want them to accomplish that the songs you covered could not?

The Space Lady: I thought I should have original material to gain recognition as a real artist.  Joel was a pretty prolific songwriter; those songs on the album are written by him and arranged by me. He wrote the lyrics and the basic melodies. It wasn’t until maybe a year in electronic carnation that I wrote a song of my own.  It was out of defensiveness after someone made a snide comment to me. The song was “Street Level Superstar.”

TEENAGE NEWS: When did you stop performing with an accordion?

The Space Lady: I started playing in 1980 with the accordion, and then in 1982 I switched to the Casio. This was in Boston.  

The+Space+Lady++AKA+Suzy+Soundz

TEENAGE NEWS: Besides the alias Space Lady, what other names have you used? “Suzi Sounds?”

The Space Lady: Well, I didn’t have a name for quite a few years. When we moved to San Francisco in 1984, people were really excited about my music. They started asking me who I was and I said “Suzy,” but they insist on a stage name. “You must have a stage name!” After quite a few months of debating what I should call myself I came up with “Suzy Sounds.” It never really seemed to stick. People would get mixed up and call me “Suzy Songs” or “Suzy Tunes,” or just not remember it all. It didn’t seem to work. People started spontaneously calling me “the Space Lady,” so I went with that.  

TEENAGE NEWS: Can you elucidate your solo album?

The Space Lady: The history of how the album came to be: Those songs were originally recorded in a friend’s studio who lived above us on Buchanan Street [San Francisco, USA]. He had just gotten some digital recording equipment… After he figured out how to use it, he invited me to come up and play my music as he recorded it. This was delightful for me because I had been struggling and struggling to try to afford studio time. Here he was offering it for free! I went up there and recorded 20 or 30 songs, and Joel edited them down to the 16 that are on the original cassette. I sold it on the street after that.

Then fast forward to 2011, when Eric discovered the Space Lady and announced that the Space Lady was back… He insisted that I send out an email to all the fans who had emailed me over the years. As a result of that, I got an offer from three different producers to release the cassette on vinyl and CD. We chose Night School Records; they took the cassette and audio enhanced it somehow! They also took out the tape hiss and upped the vocals. It’s the exact music that I sold on the street way back in the day, it was recorded in 1990.

TEENAGE NEWS: Were you anticipating this? [Laughs]

The Space Lady: I never anticipated it coming out on vinyl.  My big challenge was how can I ever get this onto CD; I had no idea.  Everyone would ask on the streets, “Don’t you have a CD?” “I bought your cassette” or “I don’t want your cassette, when will you have a CD?” So I thought that would be a penultimate move. I didn’t accomplish this until I retired the Space Lady and moved back to Colorado.

TEENAGE NEWS: Did living in the mountains and in caves change your views on San Francisco and city life?

The Space Lady: Yes. It’s really sad how whole communities are based around financial structures that are put into place to empower one section of the population and disempower other sections.  13845820335_a67ab4a917_zInstead of enough for all, it’s like the most for some and the rest are just left out… It’s no community, it’s based on linear thinking instead of inclusive thinking.

You know the tribal cultures had it much more together than we do. Look at what we’ve done to the whole planet… It really becomes clear when you are homeless or living in poverty.  

Basically it was out of choice in our case, you know we could’ve gotten jobs, but we wanted to see how the other half lived, and not feel that we were part of the privileged minority that takes advantage not just of other people but the whole earth.  

Joel used to always say, “We took a vow of poverty so we could accomplish something greater through art and music…”

TEENAGE NEWS: Do you remember the most you’ve gotten from one day of street performing?

The Space Lady: I believe I hit the $500 mark at a street fair, the Castro Street Fair! Anyway, it was when I had first came out with cassette, and most of that money came from cassette sales. I didn’t sell 50… they were $10 each. I made quite a bit in contributions. $500 back in 1989 or 1990, that was a chunk of money!

TEENAGE NEWS:  I remember you performed one of your self-penned songs at your show at the Elbo Room [San Francisco, USA].  Are you planning on recording an album in the future?

The Space Lady: Yeah, right now we are actually working on two new albums; one with some of the audio from the recent tour, including the Elbo Room. Actually, we are either gonna use tracks from one whole show, or a few tracks from the other shows that we recorded. That will be the next album.  

TEENAGE NEWS: Do you have any idea when this will be out?

The Space Lady: We are hoping to get it recorded and completed by this spring. We were thinking of returning to Europe to finish the other album. I am speaking for the Space Manager. We are working on all this together. It looks like we won’t be able to get to Europe until next fall. That being said, we still want to at least get the live album out early in the year, and then the second album after which will include some of my own original songs.

TEENAGE NEWS: What is your spirit animal?

The Space Lady: It would probably be a bird! I don’t wanna sound too corny, but it is a dove… In a way, the wings on my helmet represent the dove of peace.

TEENAGE NEWS: What is the best part about being the Space Lady?

The Space Lady: The best part is seeing the smile on peoples’ faces, or even the tears in their eyes. I know that my music has crossed generations. At least two generations at this point.  It has reached up, and touched people for much longer than myself.  My fans have given me back my youth. I don’t feel 66, I’ll tell you right now. Especially when I’m playing to younger people that are the same age as when I first started. I’m completely rejuvenated.  I have the world on my finger tips.  Anything is possible, including balancing the earth and completely shifting our paradigms.

 

space_lady2The Next Right Thing
By Susan Dietrich Schneider, 2014

[INTRO: Spoken, with echo]

Global warming!
Dying oceans!
Melting icecaps!
Vanishing species!

All we have known
Clear blue skies and pristine waters
All we have loved
Prairie grasslands, mountain forests
How can we bear
To see our planet die
Before our eyes?

All we have known
Eons…of evolution
All we have loved
Wiped away by our pollution
How can we bear
To see our planet die
Before our eyes?

[Spoken]

Plant a tree!
Dig a well!
Ride a bike!
Forgive yourself!

[Chorus – March tempo]

And do the next right thing; there is nothing for it
But to take one step through the open door
It may be clear…the end is near
But do the next right, small and simple thing!

[Repeat above verses]

All we have known
Clear blue skies and pristine waters
All we have loved
Prairie grasslands, mountain forests
How can we bear
To see our planet die
Before our eyes?

All we have known
Eons…of evolution
All we have loved
Wiped away by our pollution
How can we bear
To see our planet die
Before our eyes?

[Spoken]
Build a compost!
Grow your own!
Practice patience!
Take it slow!
And do the next right thing; there is nothing for it
But to take that step through the open door
And if it’s clear…the end is near
Just do the next right, small and simple thing!

[Variation of above verses]
All we have known
Clear blue skies and pristine waters
What will we leave
Our great-grandsons and great-granddaughters?|
How can we bear
To see our mother die
Before our eyes?

All we have known
Eons….of evolution
What have we done?
And now it seems there’s no solution
God may forgive…
But Mother Nature doesn’t know the word!

[Spoken]
Have compassion!
Don’t eat meat!
Commune with nature!
Sit and breathe!

And do the next right thing, since there’s nothing for it
But to change our ways, earth will not ignore it
Persevere…despite your fear
And do the next right, small and simple thing

Do the next right thing, since there’s nothing for it
But to change our ways, earth will not ignore it
Persevere…. we all have fear
Just do the next right, small and simple thing
Do the next right, small and simple thing
Do the next right, small and gentle thing
Just do the next right, small and simple thing!

The Space Lady: We are so incultured and indoctrinated in this destructive world we live in, that if we truly want change (I think) it’s going to require no busyness. In fact I recently read about someone who was interviewing a tribal chief and said, “They are cutting down your rain forest, don’t you feel like you have to jump up and do something? It’s urgent!” And then the chief replied, “Urgency isn’t something we have here.” I mean, what do you say to that? They are cutting down his rainforest and he says, “Urgency isn’t something we have here.” I am reading a book by Charles Eisenstein called The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible and it’s really eye-opening.  It’s giving me hope where there was none.  

To keep up with the Space Lady:

http://thespacelady.net/

If you enjoy what you read, support the in print version of TEENAGE NEWS available here: http://www.storenvy.com/products/6668737-teenage-news-2

By August BernadicouTEENAGE NEWS 2

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