banner image

:: Spotlight :: Anna Waronker - Entrepreneurial and entertaining

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Anna Waronker was the lead singer of 90s indie band That Dog, a leading alternative rock player that more mainstream bands would take on the road with them to show their “indie” credibility. That Dog was sadly ignored by the mainstream but they produced catchy songs and gave terrific live performances. Anna has now moved on to releasing her first solo album, “Anna By Anna Waronker”, a declaration of her independence, with some edgy power-pop sounds. It’s a very self-assured record. She has become entrepreneurial in starting her own label and she has some interesting views about she sees around her. This comes from the daughter of Dreamworks executive and former Warner Bros. Records boss Lenny Waronker. I spoke to Anna about her recording and business aims.

Q. Fans still lament the demise of That Dog. The fact that the band got lost amongst the female bands of the 1990s, despite your catchy songs, is unfortunate. Do you feel hard done by?

A. I feel that we were lucky in a way. In that time, we were totally weird, off the wall. The fact that we were put in that position to begin with was incredible. The record label gave me a kind of creative control and lots of opportunities. It was a cool time in the music business. I was glad we ended up working with the people we did. At the same time, I don’t really like what goes into breaking records – all the schmooze, bullshit stuff that goes on. I’m a businessperson and you know it’s not true. I thought we were treated pretty well, though. I appreciate that the fans miss us and that’s nice to know.

Q. How did you adjust to life and music without the band?

A. In some ways, it was so simple. I was the main songwriter, singer, and did much arranging. I’d bring it to the band that threw in their two cents worth. By the time we got into the studio, all we needed was a great engineer because the work was done. By the time we got to the “Retreat In The Sun” album, that was already a solo record that I’d written from start to finish. I was therefore ready to adjust to a solo life. I had to let the band go. That part was difficult. Performing was different. We’d bounce things off each other, previously. As much as I loved the band it wasn’t too hard to move away.

Q. Tell us about the record label Five Foot Two Records (co-run with Charlotte Caffey of the Go Gos) and the ambitions for it?

A. Charlotte and I talked about running a label for a long time because we wanted to try to get the Red Kross catalogues in one place (they had records on so many different labels – Anna and Charlotte are married to the Kross brothers). A couple of years ago, after the Go Gos released a new record, Charlotte did the whole touring grind and everything you need to do to push a record. It did well, but not really on a commercial level. She was left disenchanted. At the same time, I was very frustrated because I wanted to make records and for them to be released. I didn’t want to be in the situation where people were telling me what to do, and could end my project when they felt like it. She called me at Christmas a couple of years ago suggesting that we start a label. It was perfect timing.

Q. Your Dad must have been a big influence in helping you?

A. Yes, he has been an incredible influence. As far as a label, a little indie label dedicated to releasing records from a couple of artists, this isn’t his forte. What he has taught me is how to appreciate and nurture an artist. To do the best possible creative work you can do. Something will come from that.

Q. Is there any symbolism behind the sexy album cover?

A. No, I didn’t want to say anything by the pose. It was a random shot we did just for fun and ended up being the best one. The guy who I did the artwork with liked the whole idea.

Q. The album contains some lovely tracks. Your voice is in great form. How has it been received in the States?

A. I’ve been very pleased with the reviews and support of the album and from the radio stations. I didn’t tour much for it, but the shows we did were excellent. It was great fun. The record is still out there and people are still buying it. I’m excited that it’s coming out in other parts of the world.

Q. How does the live show look?

A. I have two guitarists that also play keyboards, plus a bass player and drums. I play guitar on a couple of songs and just sing the rest.

Q. Your singing is beautiful and better than ever. I feel that it has improved significantly than the That Dog days…

A. Yes, my singing has improved. There was a lot of competition to sing in That Dog. Some of the girls are tremendous singers, yet they didn’t get to sing that much. I stayed to a specific role and designated some parts that I probably wanted to do, to others to keep them happy. When I was freed up I could sing whatever I wanted and try out different styles, singing high and out, etc.

Q. You’ve worked on a musical titled “Lovelace”, about Linda Lovelace. Tell us about that?

A. A guy we know called Jeffrey Bowman was fascinated with her story and wanted to learn about her. The more he did, the more he got a vision for writing a musical. There are comical things about her life and very sad things too. It unfolds in that way. He approached Charlotte about writing the music. She and I write as a team most of the time so she came to me and asked whether we could do this together. We liked the work we did and Jeffrey did the script and lyrics. It just kept developing and evolving into something, so we stayed involved. We’ve been in New York setting up an off-Broadway workshop with a view to performances soon. It has come together nicely.

Q. With your strong, hands-on role in running a label and self-management, etc, how do you see the wider music industry?

A. The industry is in total depression. Nobody has seen a time like this in the music business before. It just gets harder and harder. I feel protected by the situation that Charlotte and I have established. It’s basically a family business. As long as we get the right financing I can make a record for very little cost and make it sound as though it was made with a lot of money. At the same time, the business is terrible and the ultimate thing for it to do is to collapse and have the major labels swallowed into a couple of big companies. Once that happens it will outpour some artistic growth to occur. Right now, you have to take care of yourself or continue to cross your fingers.

Q. Do you feel as though that you and Charlotte are achieving the best results possible?

A. Yes, I think so. We’ve just started and never had done anything like it before. Although we were involved in much that went on with our previous bands, it was still a major learning curve. I’m excited to do our second batch of releases because we have a better idea of what to do. It would help if I toured more but it’s an expensive exercise and you end up thinking financial rather than creative. Which is a drag, but that’s the way the biz is right now.

Q. Since the album was written about eighteen months ago, what’s in the pipeline now?

A. I’m almost done writing the next record and will be hoping to go in and record them soon. It’s a bit different to “Anna”. There’s less pop rock, more pop. The rock songs I do have will be quite heavy.

Q. Hopefully you’ll get to Australia in 2004…

A. We had been talking about it this year but the scheduling has been a nightmare because I was committed to working on the play. I would love to come to Australia in the near future.

Carmine Pascuzzi

Anna Waronker’s album “Anna” is available through Zip Records/MGM Distribution.

:: Anna Waronker