Maria McKee - Lone Justice

Maria McKee - Lone Justice

interview by Claudio Fabretti
Hi Maria, I’m very happy to hear your new album after 13 years. In this work you approach to life after a difficult period. So I wanted to ask you how is your “vita nuova”?
It has been interrupted by new pandemic, I’ve a very large and extended family, with my husband and my friends. My husband (Jim Akin, ndr) also played the bass and produced my latest record with me. And I have a big family in London as well, where I live for a part of the year.

You also lived in Ireland for a period…
Yes, I moved to Ireland in 1988. I’ve enjoyed living in Europe too.

The title obviously refers to Dante. How did you approach the opera of the Italian poet and what did you especially appreciate of it?
When I began to write, I gave myself the task to write a missive of unrecorded love and the focus of that being a sort of beauty romance past, my past life, a kind of looking back, growing older and having a mask-glass I think you can never have again.

Unrequited love is one of your album's topics. What does it mean to you?
Yes, and Dante is the king of that! He extolled the virtue of the muse from afar, I read “Vita nuova” when I was making the album and it became a sort of my template. Unrequited love is desire unobtainable, beauty. In my case it’s a sort of my own youth, an elegy to the past. Upon finishing the album I realized that I was not ready to eulogize these things, but I’d rather continue trying to obtain things like romance and desire, things that I was missing from my life. Romantic love I still want to experience.

Besides Dante, in your lyrics there are references to poets such as William Blake and Algernon Swinburne. How did they influence you in writing songs?
It was a task for myself to write something fairly academic, once I began I realized that it was all I wanted to do. So I started writing a lot. William Blake is always been my spiritual guide, his influence is not just in poetry and arts. But his spiritual influence is very potent, not only in my songs but in my life in general.

Musically, “La vita nuova” seems to me like a sort of synthesis of your two souls - country-roots oriented music and alternative rock. Do you agree?
With all the respect… no! I don’t feel country influences in this album at all. I feel there is an English folk influence, but also chamber pop, orchestral art rock.

Actually I intended folk more than country. Maybe glam-rock too?
Yes, of course. David Bowie is my favorite rock artist of all time.

So we have at least one thing in common…
He was the greatest!

Maria McKeeYou recently made an important coming out about your being “pansexual” and you started a strong battle for Lgbt movement. How did it all change your life?
I’ve always been around queer people and I’ve always had a lot of queer friends. I’ve always been bisexual, but I’ve always been conditioned to believe that I needed to partner with a man, in order to be old, in order to be taking care of. So I realized that conventional marriage it’s not something that I want to live… I had different experiences and I feel more free now. Being queer means to me it’s not only about who you sleep with or who are romantically attracted to, it’s only a small percentage of what being queer means to me. Being queer for me it’s about community and family, Lgbt’s activism and rights.

What about those rights in the Usa today?
It’s an extraordinary problem, Trump has given waste hatred, he is three steps forward and five steps back. We have to keep fighting. In my friend group many people are progressive and open-minded, but when I came out I lost a lot of friends and that was surprising to me. It’s sinister and insidious. People don’t even realize how queer-fobia still exists, there still so far to go, so much to do to overcome.

Can we hope there will be a change in White House in the upcoming elections?
I don’t think so. The die is cast unfortunately.

Do you really think Trump will be confirmed?
Yes, I think so. Biden is not much better, unfortunately, I’m in for Bernie (Sanders, ndr), he was pretty right now as far as a politician can be.

Maria McKee - Bryan McLeanTalking about your music, another important influence is your brother Bryan MacLean, former Love's founder and guitarist, who passed away in 1998. How did he help you to find your own way?
He used to be very important in my life. He moved back when I was very young and it was a fixture in my family and in my entire life. He taught me about a lot of things, about music, about films, about literature, art. He heard me singing a lot. I was a dear student and I intended to go to the Julliard Art to study theatre, he heard me singing along to a Linda Ronstadt record and he basically said: “You are a great singer”.

So it was an important person for your entire life…
But it was also a very difficult relationship with him. He had untreated mental illness and drug addictions. I took on the role of basically being a caretaker starting at a very young age. That was tremendously impactful for me.

I especially love your album “Life Is Sweet”, I think it is really underrated by critics and public too. Can you tell me about this record? What did inspire you to write such intense songs?
Thank you, maybe it’s my second favorite after this one (“La vita nuova”, ndr). I feel that in some way they are sort of companion pieces one another, almost like a book in hands. “Life Is Sweet” for me was about breaking of the Americana brand and just going back to my roots, theatre, punk rock. It was a very raw art rock record and it infuriated a lot of fans. I’m depending to roots rock genre. I was touring “You Gotta Sin To Get Saved” which is my roots, my Americana record, and I just remembered to getting bored to sing those songs every night and I just thought this genre is not like roots rock is just bore rock and I felt like in a straitjacket I just stopped being trapped by it. And I remember two things happened when I started recording “Life Is Sweet”...

Maria McKee sul retrocopertina di Life Is SweetWhich ones?
Kurt Cobain died and Mick Ronson died. Cobain was for everybody a punk rock brother, he was our boy and when he died it was very impactful. When Mick Ronson passed away I was touring with a guitar player who loved him, Mick was his idol and all we did was listening to Bowie and Ronson records included bootlegs and outtakes, and “Life Is Sweet” just gonna grew up fast.

“Life Is Sweet” lyrics were very intense and dramatic too… Maybe too much for some of your old fans?
Yes, maybe for some people, but I got a lot of new ones. There’s a lot of passion inside that album and for a lot of my actual fans it’s their favorite.

Do you have any regret about your solo career? Something you wouldn't do again or you would do differently?
I try not to have regrets, it’s a wasting of time. Everything happened probably the way it should have.

So also this thirteen years break was helpful…
Yes! After “High Dive” I received many phone calls about doing records, new cover songs, writing with my husband, cover his songs… and I had like a body of work inspiring since “Life Is Sweet”. So “La Vita Nuova” took me by surprise. I had stopped writing songs, I worked on soundtracks for my husband independent films and I was focusing on that, so I was not really inspired to write songs. And I was feeling very frustrated and I felt my life to be dry and I felt like I was quite numb. So my husband wrote this role in his film for me which was extraordinary challenging: it was very dark, almost kind of like a Von Trier’s sort of film, where the character just goes to hell and back. It opened something inside of me, like an opened shell and I realized that I needed to change my life, not knowing how, and this gave birth to the songs.

Maria McKee - Lone JusticeI was also a big Lone Justice fan. I saw your concert in Rome, when you played as a supporter band of U2 in 1987 with The Pretenders and Big Audio Dynamite (B.A.D.). What do you remember about that afternoon and that tour in general?
That was the best memory for me of the Lone Justice experience: the Italian tour! It was really, really extraordinary. There was a lot of time off, so I got to sightings around Italy. Chrissie Hynde was my friend, but I was a very good friend with Mick Jones (former The Clash and leader of B.A.D., ndr) and his crew. Mick always found the party and he knew exactly where to go to find a party or a rave or whatever… We would go on around five o’clock at night and then we play for an half an hour and maybe we stand all night off. My road manager was one of my best friend, so we just toured around Italy together, we just got sightings and have a nice dinner… it was like a vacation. It was hard for us to play in the crowds because they were U2 fans and they had no idea who Lone Justice was, so we got some food thrown on us, I remember having some salami thrown on us... That was not fine… but the rest of the tour was great, I have a lot of fun memories of that tour in Italy.

What are your favorite Lone Justice songs? My favorite are "Ways To Be Wicked" and "Dreams Come True"...
I prefer the second album, “Shelter”. It was my first solo album in a certain way, because there was nobody left in the band… The songs? I don’t know because I’m not a big Lone Justice fan so it’s hard… I think “Wheel” is probably my favorite.

I recently spoke with Little Steven, who collaborated with Lone Justice at that time, and I asked him about you. He said you’re a fantastic singer, but maybe you should have stayed better with Lone Justice for a longer time, because they were a special band: what do you think about?
I don’t really give a shit about what he says... Breaking that band was the greatest thing in my life. Basically, people that think that way about my breaking Lone Justice basically kiss my ass!

So you don’t like Little Steven very much...
No, we were friends, we wrote some good songs together, but I haven’t talked to him for 35 years. I don’t think he has any right to come and say that, he probably hasn’t heard one of my solo records.

You also worked with Tom Petty, who wrote the beautiful “Ways To Be Wicked”. Can you give us a short memory of him?
I don’t really have much to say about Tom Petty apart from the fact that Benmont Tench (The Heartbreakers keyboardist, ndr) was one of my oldest and dearest friends, and I love him and he’ll always be family to me.

Nothing about Petty?
No comment (laughs).

About today, what are your favorite artists and what are the music genres you listen more?
I still hear the artists I’ve ever liked: David Bowie, Kate Bush, Scott Walker, John Cale... I listen to a lot o classical music. When I made the new album I was able to write on the orchestration, being inspired by that. I also have my Spotify playlists… if you wanna follow it. My favorite American band sounds gothic, a country band called Roselit Bone, my gold author is an extraordinary artist based in London, her name is Lauren Auder. And there’s a punk band in London that I really love, it’s called First Flowers, they were going to open for me in my big show in London which got cancelled.

It's a pity. After the lockdown do you still think it’s possible to promote “La vita nuova” in a tour?
I don’t tour anymore, I don’t enjoy it… But after this lockdown I would like to have some shows in Europe.

In Italy too?
Who never knows. But I don’t think there will be many live shows again, probably for another couple of years, so you have to wait.

Maria McKeeHow are you living this difficult period of the Coronavirus pandemic?
My life in LA is not really different. I was in London when the all thing went down and I was feeling very frightened and alone, because the family I live with, they have a small baby. They left the country and they invited me to go but I wanted to stay in London near my goddaughter. I was watching the news everyday and talking to the phone with my friends and I just started feeling very alone and I wanted to connect to LA so I took a big risk flying back to LA and one of my best friends was in New York at that time and she flew from New York and I flew from London and we had been appointing together in my flat and my husband lives in the flat downstairs and he has a roommate, also a young queer girl, we was just kind of hanging out, both of us, together and it has been nice. I go for very long walks every day… I miss my friends but my life in LA is very quiet, my life in London is very social, I’ve a big queer family, I’ve a lot of parties, a lot of events, dinners, lunches, so going back to London being in lockdown would be very harsh, but here I tend to spend a lot of time alone.

So, thanks, Maria, I hope to see you in Italy soon...
I really miss Italy. How is it feeling now after the outbreak?

It’s a big mess. The outbreak has been very hard, especially in Northern Italy. Now we hope that virus can be less contagious, so we are opening back some activities such as restaurants, shops and maybe theatres too, but there will be no big concerts until 2021, unfortunately…
I dreamt I was in Italy the other night!

Really? What did it happen to you?
I lived in my grandmother’s house it’s four apartments… we lived in the front and we rent the back. She bought it in 1940. She was Sicilian and her father was an Italian immigrant. She planted the hollow tree. I had a dream that I was in Italy and she told me the Bible under the hollow tree and take it up and used in my spiritual practice.

So, bye and good luck for your new album... By the way, which songs explain better your Vita Nuova?
I really like “Courage”, I think that describes my courtship process very well and quite shy and I tend to fall in love from afar…  and I love “Right Down To The Heart Of London”, because I love London and I love walking through the town. People that live there are very important to me.

Lone Justice (Geffen, 1985)


Shelter (Geffen, 1986)


 This World Is Not My Home (antologia, Geffen, 1999)


20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Lone Justice (antologia, Geffen, 2003)


 Maria McKee (Geffen, 1989)


You Gotta Sin To Get Saved (Geffen, 1993)


Life Is Sweet (Geffen, 1996)


 Ultimate Collection (antologia, Universal, 2000)

High Dive (Viewfinder, 2003)


 20th Century Masters - Millenium Collection: The Best Of Maria McKee (antologia, Geffen, 2003)


 Live In Hamburg (live, Viewfinder, 2004)


Peddlin' Dreams (Viewfinder, 2005)


 Live Acoustic Tour 2006 (live, Viewfinder, 2006)
 Late December (Viewfinder, 2007)


 Live At The Bbc (live, Polydor, 2008)
La vita nuova (Fire, 2020)7,5
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