Back in 2003 when I lived in New York, my friend David Pajo (Papa M, Zwan, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) shared Linda Perhacs’ strange and beautiful album,Parallelograms, with me during one of our many lengthy music swap sessions.
There was something infectious about Linda’s angelic voice, and I loved how advanced all the layering of vocals seemed for an album that was created in 1970 (at that point 30 + years old). I had never heard anything quite like it before and none of us that received this first transmission knew anything about the person that made it.
Six years later, in 2009, I had the great pleasure of finally meeting the mysterious Linda Perhacs in Topanga Canyon (where she lived when she recorded Parallelograms). My dear friend Jessica Hundley invited a group of directors to come and meet Linda at Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga to discuss making films to accompany a few of the songs from her now legendary recordParallelograms, which she would be performing for the first time ever at the Redcat Theatre in downtown LA. Her first time performing any of her songs for an audience.Nine years later I met her again in Reseda (not too far from Topanga Canyon) at the home studio of her producer Fernando Perdomo. This time to interview her for Violet. We sat in the studio where she recorded her next two albums, The Soul of All Natural Things and I Am a Harmony (44 years after Parallelograms) and Fernando kindly recorded the interview that follows.
It is a very rare thing to make a work of art that ends up finding its audience 40 years later. And, I would imagine, finding out at age 60 that there was an audience out there that loves your music, that you did not know existed. But there is also something beautiful about it. Maybe her music and the message infused in it is needed now more than ever.
Linda is a self-proclaimed “healer”, and this is truly the work she has done for most of her life. Whether it’s through her angelic voice or through the loving care she gives to each of her patients at her day job as a dental hygienist (some of her early patients include Cary Grant, Dinah Shore and John Wayne).
Linda and I sat down in the place where she picked up her musical thread after a 44 year hiatus and discussed her very unique journey of music, her visions at a deserted gas station that led to the song Parallelograms, her ability to visualise music (a form of synaesthesia), her connection with the “holy spirit” and what she has in common with soul singers, her advice for the times we are living in and much, much more.
At 75 she is still full of life, radiating healing energy all around her and ready to make her most experimental album yet!
by Maximilla Lukacs
Maximilla Lukacs: So you were just about to say that you are sometimes influenced by your patients. Well okay, let’s back up. You’re a dental hygienist by day.
Linda Perhacs: Yep. Yes, my days.
And how long have you been doing that?
Um, oh gosh. You don’t want the whole number. I’ll just say since 19, uh… 65 [laughs]. I graduated from USC’s [University of Southern California] dental hygiene school, a four-year course. It was required of us to do four years.
Before I even graduated, I was hired by [a] top periodontist because we were doing an experimental case when I was at school. So, he said, ‘Linda, I don’t want you to even interview. I’ve already given you a job. How many days do you need?’ And it was in Beverly Hills. And he was very, very world famous. They would fly in from Switzerland, England, South America, even Brazil. Yeah. They would fly in from all over the world to have this man work on them, because there were very few periodontists and he had a great reputation for not damaging your look on film. So by being at his office, I suddenly was working on Cary Grant, Dinah Shore, names I can’t even remember. John Wayne would come in… And a lovely person, I just can’t think of his name—but super, super famous. And these were my daily patients.
And you were getting very intimately involved with their teeth [laughs].
Well yeah, you know, I loved the personalities. I loved the fact that they were creative. But I think the creativity of all of them and my fascination with it—because I had come straight out of a very conservative home life, you know, a mom and pop type, middle class with no influence except normal TV shows. And I went to USC for four years for free, but then to be thrown into that group of real famous performers—I mean, to the max. And I’m listening. I said, ‘Tell me about your project,’ because I was always interested in their creative work. And I was stunned. I was just thrilled to hear about these projects. And it was a husband and wife who said, ‘Linda, I can’t believe this is all you do.’ And I said, ‘Well no, I’m married to an artist, I live in Topanga Canyon. He has a bird collection of hawks and stuff. He’s very creative and I’m a dental hygienist here working on you.’ And they looked up at me and they said, ‘Well Linda, what else do you do?’ I said, ‘I walk on the beach and I watch the birds because we’re in such a beautiful canyon area.’ And I said, ‘And I’ve started to write a few little songs, you know, in my kitchen.’ And uh, Leonard Rosenman, a world-famous movie composer, said, ‘My wife and I would like to hear them.’ I said, ‘What do you want to hear? You know I’m just an amateur.’ He said, ‘We need the flavour of the young people. It’s being requested of us at Universal Studios for flavour spots in different films.’ So, he said, ‘Let me hear it.’ So I gave him a little tape made in my kitchen on eight reel track or whatever, and I put it in his hand. The next time he came in for an appointment, I said, ‘You asked for this, but you know, it’s just like mom and pop stuff. It’s nothing sophisticated.’ And he went home and listened. Saturday morning, the next day, eight o’clock in the morning, my phone rang. And I go, who in God’s name is waking us up this early [laughs], you know, on a Saturday morning? So I stumbled to the phone and I said, ‘Hello?’ He said, ‘Linda, how fast can you get here?’ I said, ‘Who is this?’ He said, ‘This is Leonard Rosenman, your dental patient.’ I said, ‘Oh, hi. What? How fast can I what?’ ‘My wife and I want you to spend an entire day with us. We want to hear everything you’ve done. How fast can you get here?’
I said, ‘Well how, uh, I don’t know. Next weekend?’ He said, ‘Could you get here this weekend?’ And so I drove over to their beautiful home in Beverly Hills and they put on my music in this great big huge house with speakers everywhere, and Leonard said, ‘We cannot write like this. We aren’t the right age. We aren’t from this genre of new people.’ And he said, ‘We love these, Linda. We can find spots for these at Universal Studios.’ And I was as stunned as can be. They let me have a coffee break. I was there all day. I went outside in peace and quiet and I knelt down in prayer and I said, ‘God, I can’t believe this is happening, but tell me what to do.’ [Laughs.]
But before you knew it, I was doing a full album.
What were the three songs? Can you tell me?
They particularly loved 'Dolphin'. Fernando [Perdomo, one of Perhacs’s two producers]—do we have my first album here somewhere?
Fernando: It’s behind you.
Oh. Sorry. I need to put my glasses on.
Can we find them for you?
Yeah, I’ll either have to go to my purse or just—
I can read them for you.
[Linda hands the vinyl copy of 'Parallelograms' that was in the studio to Maximilla.]
Okay [reading off the tracks from the back of the album], 'Chimacum Rain'.
He wanted that one, yes.
That’s the one I made the little film for.
[Laughs] Yeah. Right. And what are the other names of the—
Okay. 'Paper Mountain Man'.
Yeah, they wanted that one.
Yes, that one for sure.
'Call of the River'.
Not so much that one.
[Laughs] Okay. 'Sandy Toes', 'Parallelograms'.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. He said, ‘Linda, when I heard that—’ he said, ‘This is a masterpiece and we have to use it.’
Fernando: But you wrote that after that meeting.
Yeah, can you tell that story?
Fernando: Didn’t you say you wrote that on the way home from that meeting?
Oh, excuse me. You’re right. As soon as they heard it, though, they said, ‘Oh, now we really have to do an album.’ Thank you.
Fernando: Fact check.
Fernando’s got a great photographic memory.
Fernando: She tells the best stories on stage. Like, we don’t have to prepare that many songs because people love to hear her talk.
Linda Perhacs: [Laughs] Yeah.
Fernando: So it’s perfectly cool that, you know, we do like, 45 minutes of music and 35 minutes of talking. She’s the best storyteller I know.
Well anyway, on the first meeting I had with Leonard Rosenman and his wife, because they did major films, they loved it all and I was so excited. I’m on the Ventura Freeway in the fast lane. I came in from Beverly Hills to go home.
Yeah, I was just on that to get here [Laughs].
Yeah. So you know, at the interchange, it’s pretty fast. And it was fast then, too. I’m at the interchange and I’m thinking about what they’ve said in Beverly Hills to me in terms of what they’re looking for, and I all of a sudden got the idea for the song ‘Parallelograms’ and I said, ‘Oh my God, Linda. You better pull off and write this down.’ So I pulled off into an empty gas station, a place that was deserted, and I had seen these funny figures as I was driving, and I was straight. I don’t know where this came from [laughs]. I mean, there was nothing in me. I don’t know, maybe they put something in what they gave me at lunch.
I don’t know. But like, I was on that freeway—
Fernando: Well, that’s a new part of the story.
Well, I was still wondering how it happened because I’m on that busy freeway and all of a sudden, I’m seeing images, which, for me, was quite common in a day when I was younger. Somehow my brain was becoming so imaginative and creative that these things were happening. I was hearing meditation inwardly, I was hearing prayers, I was hearing ideas. Something I can’t do as well now, but when I was about 30, it was coming on me like an avalanche.
You know? So I’m on the freeway, and all of a sudden, I’m seeing these wonderful little figurines, and I said, ‘You aren’t going to remember this. Linda, pull over.’ So I went to a deserted gas station and I drew, in picture form, what I was seeing on the freeway and then I looked at it and I said, ‘Okay, I got it.’ Then I went home to Topanga and I said, ‘Okay, you have to put these figurines into a musical frame and make it work like a geometrical sculpture.’
Is that where all the layers came in?
So you had a visual image of the song?
Strong. Very strong.
I feel like your music is really visual, actually.
But that’s the way it is in nature. I learned this later because people would say that to me. But I learned later that it is a true reality that when you make a tone, there’s a vibrating colour. And if your tone goes near or far, naturally, there’s a shape. And people who take things that are strong, you know, they’ll tell you they see this all the time.
But I didn’t understand that, that tones do create shape, colour… It’s all intermingled and that’s a natural form in nature. They’re not imagining this, this is the real way these vibrations work together.
So rather than writing down musical notes, you’re writing down the shapes and then kind of reverse-engineering from the shapes.
Well, yeah. And having a sensitivity to nature that this is natural, and why didn’t we understand this before? Because if we did, we’d understand how to calm a baby down, how to work with dolphins more, how to communicate more with, let’s say, dogs or something, or babies. All of these things can produce healing or distortion in your thinking, depending on what you’re pouring into somebody. And it’s all one. Absolutely.
So would you say that was a mystical experience or more of a visionary experience? I mean, I don’t even really know how to distinguish, but—
In the 70s, sometimes you wondered if it was coming through the air and you were breathing it in.
Because it was everywhere. If you were in a room with people who were vibing, high, and you were straight, your vibes would change. You know, I’m not trying to reflect on people taking artificial things, I’m just trying to say there is a natural pulsation in nature—
Where you start to vibe together. And I know that from my dental patients, because when I put my hands on somebody and I start to work, I already know whether we’re in a peaceful situation with this person, or hot anger, or hatred, I already feel it. And sometimes I’ve had to speak up and say, ‘We need to change the tone of your thought if you want the best work today.’
Wow. You’re doing [a] kind of energy work.
Yeah. Well it’s natural, you know? Sometimes I’ve had to speak up and say, you know, ‘If you want your dollars out of this…’, because some of these appointments are very expensive, especially in Beverly Hills.
Fernando: That’s why they’re not letting you retire.
Yeah, exactly. They’re like, ‘It’s more than a cleaning that I’m getting here ...’
Well, the deeper forms of periodontal work can be very painful. You’ve got to go in slowly, make sure they’re numb nowadays, but [for] many of my work years, dental hygienists weren’t allowed to numb.
So you just had to be a gentle force.
That law came later, yeah. I really had to work intuitively as well as skillfully to get the job done. Just like a nurse, you know, you come in and you’ve gotta do something and you know that person’s going to jump.
Do you ever find yourself singing and not realising you were singing when you were working on somebody? [Laughs.]
No, that’s not allowed.
Okay. So there’s a clear separation.
The desk girls would go, ‘Linda.’
Can we talk about this album cover? [Parallelograms LP.] Since I’m holding it.
You see, it’s all one. Healing and music is really all one eminence of yourself into [the] world, quite frankly. But you want to know about the picture or the album?
Well, whatever you want to tell me about it.
Well the first album was a surprise and a gift from I’m sure higher levels, and it came through Leonard Rosenman and his wife Kay, and they just asked me over to their house and we chatted, had coffee, they showed me music from all over the world, the great composers, in a magnificent home with big speakers and just flooded me with sound. And then, like I said, I’m on the freeway on the way home, I saw the visual situation for ‘Parallelograms’, put it down in picture form and got back to them as fast as I could and I said, ‘What do you think of this idea?’ And he just said, ‘Bam. We are doing an album.’ And that was it. He said, ‘I’m telling them we’re doing an album.’
I never asked for the privilege.
And who’s the woman in the picture?
Yeah, that’s me with my long hair, you know, like you girls are wearing.
Right. Wow. Beautiful.
And then as I got older, it didn’t look so good, because you know, you get wrinkles when you get older. All this fluff is because it didn’t look as good anymore with the severity.
No, the hair was down to here.
Beautiful. There’s something very emotional about this picture.
They nailed it, didn’t they? [Laughs.]
They really got it.
Well, it’s like you’re here but you’re also somewhere else [pointing at the photo]. There’s something about your face.
It was a very careful photographer who spent an entire day with me, walking in the hills of Topanga.
And where in Topanga did you live?
In the first community as you come down from the top of the hill, heading down, in the first group of old homes.
So the top of the hill from—
From Woodland Hills.
Oh, right. Okay.
A little further in the valley as you’re way up high and you’re headed down toward the beach, the very first group of older homes. My house was bordering that huge open area of grass, and where the cows are and everything.
And my house—I could see the cows. They would come to my fence.
So that’s where I lived.
And were you part of a scene?
No, I was married to a young man that I met at USC and he was a product designer, he had a normal standard job doing toys. He’s the one that found that house and said, ‘Linda, I found the house for us.’ So, I left my dental job, and we went up and he showed it to me and I said, ‘You’re right. This is the place.’ It was very rustic, it was old. Probably already 35 years old by the time we saw it, so it’d be much older now. And the cows would come to the fence, the steer, and the deer, it was very wild and quiet and beautiful then. And we had crazy, eccentric neighbours everywhere that were lots of fun.
And then I started noticing strange-looking people hitch-hiking up and down that boulevard and I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ You know, because I was straight out of USC and out of a very straight family.
I didn’t know the art world until I met this young man. And then... Okay, I’m marrying an artist, a product designer, so we’re going to have a lot of artists and things in the house.
But I still kept looking at these funny-looking people hitch-hiking up and down the boulevard in their wild clothing and I’d think, ‘Something’s going on around here,’ and I didn’t know what it was. But I liked them, you know? I liked the eccentricity, I liked the whole spirit of it. So, I started talking to them in the shopping centres and asking them, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Oregon.’ ‘Okay, well where are you from?’ ‘San Diego.’ And, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Mount Baldy.’ ‘Well you’re all hitchhiking?’ You know, and I began to recognise the movement of these young people was quite unique. But I loved them.
Was there a place in Topanga where people played? Did you play your songs for that community?
No, I went straight from the dental office with that introduction from those two composers who did major films at major prices—I went straight from dentistry into their home and they had said, ‘Linda, you have talent.’ I said, ‘You gotta be kidding.’ I hardly believed them. They said, ‘Show us everything you’ve got,’ and we went straight to Universal Studios. All my little hippy influences, I loved them, but they did not influence the music. I wrote that independent of those friendships. I met most of them later.
No. I was about this high when they took me to a dance school, my little grandma was babysitting me and took me to a dance school, and I saw all these pretty young ballerinas dancing and stamping and tap dancing. I ran, I dropped her hand [and] I ran right up there and got right in line immediately, I was only, like, four. And grandma was yelling at me, ‘Linda, Linda, you’re disturbing the peace. Come on.’ But the girls said, ‘Oh, no. Let her. We like it.’ I do remember that day and I remember I was young. So my best answer to you would be this is not my first time writing music. I know that this is not my first time. This is not— If you asked me to play golf, I would say, ‘This is my first time.’ If you asked me to handle a shotgun, I would say, ‘Me no like them. This not for me.’ [Laughs.]
But if you asked me to do music at age four, I was already at the front of the line saying, ‘My turn.’ This has to come from within.
There has to be a history for that for any child when you see it.
And, my opinion is, it’s not our first time here.
Fernando: What’s fascinating is that she never played a show after this album. She did her first show in 2009 at the REDCAT [multidisciplinary contemporary arts venue in LA]. So she never did open mics, she never played the Troubadour, she never lugged her gear anywhere. You’re lucky. [Laughs.]
You know that was going to be my next question—so you made this record in 1970, right? And then there’s just, it’s almost like you’re making music for a future audience because it didn’t connect the same way. Like you were saying, you’re in this community but you’re not really a part of it, and you’re making this music and it’s coming from you. It’s almost like you’re making this record for the future. And at a certain point, you know, because of Devendra [Banhart] and a few other people who—
Were ready for it I guess.
They were ready, yeah.
"...whatever gift you’re given, it’s better that it pours through you to help others. Then the gift is magnified, other people are helped, and it’s a positive flow the whole way around. If you hold it to yourself and you want to be famous, you’re going to kill it." - Linda Perhacs
And they sort of connected you to this new audience. What was that experience like for you?
I like your explanation because you’re looking at it from an audience standpoint or an observer.
My explanation would have to be to humbly tell you that I was given the privilege of doing this, but at the same time I was going through a very deep heartbreak because the first man I had ever loved had chosen a different person. When I was finishing this album, I was in extreme pain.
So, what did I do when the album was done? I just said, ‘Okay guys, I’ll see you later. I’m heading for Mendocino.’ And that meant I was going to look up that person I loved so much, because it had broken my heart that he was with somebody else. It was a process I had to go through. I had to see that his decision was permanent. I was in the way. And so [that was] the most significant thing that ever happened to me in that whole time frame, with the album being forgotten by me. I walked away from it to take care of this other issue because when it’s the first time you’ve ever loved that much, and you don’t have a strong relationship with God, that means that hurt is probably unlivable because you don’t know where love’s coming from. So I had to go and hear his answer, which was a flat no.
Somebody else appealed to him more. Then I had to go into the mountains in Mendocino and sit quietly and look at the ocean and wonder, okay what do I do now? Because the pain was huge. If a love relationship breaks and you don’t have a connection to the deeper love that’s coming from God, because you don’t know who that is, then the pain is pretty much unlivable if you have a tender heart, you know?
I think we survive it better if we’ve learned whatever we need to learn to go through the process of cleansing from something like that. But if you’re a complete blank, it hits too hard and it can kill you. [Tears in her eyes.] *do we want to keep this in? You know, it can be very severe. So I’m sitting over the ocean, watching the waves in Mendocino and the beauty and the hills—you can’t have any more beauty than that—and I’m sitting there in utter silence, wondering what in God’s name am I gonna do? Because this pain is unliveable.
Because this was a very interesting man. Not the right one, I learned later—not the right one for Linda, too dangerous. He ended up dying of an overdose.
Yes, so it was good that something got in the way, which was a different woman. I think they both died. So it was good that a block was put [in the way] and I couldn’t go any further with that person.
Very interesting mind, though. I love an interesting mind. So I was learning from him different ways of seeing things, which I appreciated, but for him to get there, he was using things that were dangerous, okay?
So when Linda was cut off, that was the safest thing to happen to her. And I went into the mountains of Mendocino, stared into that ocean, and I said, ‘I can’t handle this pain. I don’t know what to do.’ [Laughs.] And I’m sitting there, and this is the God’s truth, I’ve had no experience like it since, of that magnitude, and I’ve had no experience before. But I saw a light off in the distance. And the light—and I don’t take drugs because I don’t handle it well. So I was straight through that whole drug era. I just don’t handle it well. [Laughs.] But I saw a light over by that part of the ocean, and the light moved and it moved and it moved and I thought, ‘Oh my God. I am seeing a light, and that light is moving.’ I couldn’t believe it, but it’s the God’s truth. I saw this light and the light came closer and closer and closer. And I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, I know I’m straight. It’s early morning, I haven’t used anything. I had a cup of coffee maybe. And I’m looking at this light and it came closer and closer and closer and the light got bigger and bigger and bigger like a sunburst. And in the centre was the figure of the entire new testament. The main figure in the new testament. And I didn’t believe in him. I had no background in this, so I’m looking at it thinking, ‘Oh my God. I am not imagining that. I know who you are.’ And I said that to him. ‘I know who you are.’ And then I was asked would I receive his love. And I went, ‘I ain’t turning this down.’ [Laughs.] I’m hurting too bad, I’m gonna say yes. And then I felt water everywhere. Water. Water. And all I can tell you is I haven’t been the same since.
No matter what hits me, I can handle it now. True story. And that was a long time ago. No, I know what I saw. There is no way I could have imagined that. I don’t take pills. I was in the midst of a drug culture, but I can’t handle it. I’m too sensitive so it doesn’t go well in me, I just get sick. But yeah. That was him and he was very traditional in what he asked. Yet very traditional in me understanding what he was asking. And then it faded and faded, but that was the main figure in the new testament, Jesus.
So you didn’t write any songs after that?
No, I had to reassess my whole life based on that event and I mean, that event makes you say, ‘Okay, somebody walked out on me but somebody else walked in and I better start reassessing everything in my life.’
So the next project was to download things that weren’t appropriate, that weren’t helpful to make friends, that were more helpful to get back to a straight job in Beverly Hills that I’d had on and off for years. And concentrate on healing patients.
And then, when I went back to that Beverly Hills job, I also would go into their Catholic church—which is a beautiful cathedral in Beverly Hills—I would go there, six in the morning, before work, and I’d go there until they closed at night. So for a number of years it was just, drive to the dental office, work on your perio patients, and make sure you go to that church twice a day and just do interior work. And [there] was many, many years of doing just that. I still lived in Topanga, as I recall, but I would go from Topanga to Beverly Hills, go to that church early in the morning, and they would even let me park there. You see, [normally] they don’t, it’s just their clergy and stuff.
They were so used to seeing me and said, ‘Oh, yeah. It’s Linda. She can park there.’ If I worked 6 days, I’d be there 12 times.
So I just started to do interior work, asking God for help, and everything’s been fine since I had that experience in Mendocino. When you see something like that, it doesn’t matter what hits you. You’re gonna be okay because you understand there is not just the physical life. You understand there is a whole lot more and you need to do some research and figure out what it is.
So then the next two of your records, it feels like you were able to distill maybe some of that?
Well, by the time I did the next two records [it] was quite a few years in between. Fernando, with your strong memory?
Fernando: 44 years between Parallelograms to The Soul of All Natural Things. And only three between The Soul of All Natural Things and I’m a Harmony. But the crazy part is that this album didn’t see any type of success at all until it was reissued in… 2001.
Fernando: Yeah, until Michael Piper [of folk label the Wild Places, who had first reissued "Parallelograms" in 1998 sourced from the LP, located and contacted Perhacs in 2000, leading to expanded reissues of Parallelograms on CD and vinyl in 2003, sourced from tapes in Perhacs' personal collection. It was reissued again by Sunbeam Records in 2008, by both Mexican Summer and Sundazed Records in 2010, and by Anthology Recordings in 2014]. And nobody knew where she was, and in fact, my friend, Chris Price, who co-produced The Soul of All Natural Things record, he introduced me to Linda, and when he bought that CD, we were under the impression that she either was dead or missing.
So who reached out to you? Who found you?
Fernando: The yellow pages. Right? Didn’t he [Piper] find you in the yellow pages?
I don’t know what he did. [Laughs.] Oh, I almost died of pneumonia. I was in the hospital. They said, ‘This girl isn’t going to live.’
I had gotten it from dental patients. And I was even told inwardly that, if it weren’t for God’s help, I— I wouldn’t have made it. That was a very bad experience and would have taken me off the globe if I was just a normal person without faith. I was in a coma, but I spent the whole time—which was a month, I didn’t realise it was a month. But I was praying 24 hours a day, unable to speak. I think they had the stuff in me. You know, something in my mouth to breathe. But everybody who tried to visit was told by the doctors, ‘She’s not going to make it.’ They didn’t tell me that. But I did survive it. What was your question, your first one?
Oh, it was who contacted you? Who tracked you down?
The day I came home from the hospital, my extended family said, ‘Linda, there’s something in the mailbox for you.’ And actually, they had tried to open it, put it back together again, and left it for me so I would receive it like a piece of mail when I got home—if I did. And it was from Michael Piper saying, ‘I found your record. I need to come to LA. I need to speak to you.’
Fernando: Well, he had already released the album. He didn’t even speak to her about royalties. Yeah.
He needed to come clean that he was selling something that he didn’t have any permission to sell.
Fernando: Yeah, he didn’t even get permission from Universal. He was straight up bootlegging. But that bootleg got into the hands of some really big people.
Michael Piper did that, yeah.
Fernando: Suddenly, this 29-year-old record was every hipster in Silver Lake’s soundtrack for four years and it was selling really well.
And Linda didn’t even know it yet.
Fernando: And you had no idea that you were a rock star.
[Laughs.] No. That was the biggest shock. But look at the timing. Almost died, spent my month in silent prayer. It was touch and go whether I would even live. I come to the mailbox and here’s this thing saying, ‘I’ve got to get in touch with you. Do you know your album is selling everywhere?’ I said, ‘Wow.’ I mean, God can pull some fabulous timing, you know?
Fernando: She went from garbage to gold. She threw away her original copy because the mastering was messed up. They had mastered the original record when it came out, they had switched it down to a very compressed… They took all the lows out.
I couldn’t even listen to it.
Fernando: She hated it. And one of the things that happened when Michael Piper came over is that [he said], ‘Look, this record doesn’t sound good. I have a version that’s premastered that sounds better.’ And he gave her [Linda] the tapes, which we have here. And that’s what ended up becoming the further remasters from Mexican Summer [record label], which had all those bonus tracks too. But the original version was cut literally from vinyl. You can hear, like, crispy stuff from it. But every other future version came from her master, which is great because her master isn’t perfect, but still it’s way better than the last one.
Yeah. The day I ended, the day we finished the project, they gave me a recording of this first album, they gave me my own album. So what he’s saying is the good version later on, 20 or 15 years later, came from my little good one that I had hidden in my room all that time.
Fernando: But still, even though the mastering was messed up, people were able to see the genius.
Yeah. Or just hear…
Fernando: You know, it’s great. I have an original copy as well that I can tell the difference, but it’s still really an album no matter how you slice it. I mean, Linda’s very, very particular about sound.
Fernando: Actually, this is a funny story. I have some really nice speakers that I was using before, these $40 Bose speakers I picked up at a Goodwill, and her voice was causing those speakers to distort and shake. And this was very early in us working together, and her voice was so resonant that she was like, ‘What’s that sound?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know. No voice has made these speakers shake like that.’
Fernando: But it’s crazy. She hears things and some things that come out of her that are scientifically impossible to understand, but it’s really interesting, like what happens when you— I don’t even understand what you’re saying.
Fernando: Your voice was so resonant… Your voice is just too high-vibe. Oh. But yeah, Michael Piper comes over, she realises there’s [a] resurgence, there’s that REDCAT show.
Right. REDCAT. So then do you remember when we went to… Do you remember Jessica Hundey?
So in 2009, we all met at Inn of the Seventh Ray (in Topanga Canyon) before the REDCAT show, because there’s a bunch of us that were going to make films to accompany different tracks from Parallelograms. Actually, I think Ryan Heffington did a dance performance.
Yeah, that was a wonderful privilege to do that. But I’m afraid I was so concerned about making sure we did a good job; I didn’t notice a whole lot of the activity around me.
I was just focused. There was just, I think four of us out there on the stage alone or something at the REDCAT.
Right. But I actually think you played some new songs that night. If I’m not mistaken.
I was concentrating very hard because that was a new experience for me— that many people in a real theatre.
Was that the first time you actually performed those songs?
In a real place like that, I think.
Fernando: You told me that was the first time you had ever been on stage performing your own music.
Yeah, I think so.
Fernando: Which is crazy because every other artist that I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with a lot of artists, have ‘paid their dues’ by, you know, playing coffee shops and playing open mics and— I was asked to perform there.
Fernando: You played your first show as a star. You know? You played your first show at a beautiful theatre already as, like, ‘Oh my God, Linda Perhacs is gonna perform.’
Yeah, it was a big deal in town, too. I remember.
Well just like you said, it’s not your first time.
I think so.
You already paid those dues.
There’re mysteries here. Yeah, it’d be interesting to find out what these mysteries are for each of us, you know?
Fernando: Well she claims that all these songs are co-writes with spirits, spiritual stuff that comes. You’re a catcher.
Yeah, I’m channeling in some of the ideas, absolutely. I just ask God for help, and His help is better than just me alone. I literally ask God for help. I’ve learned to do that. And when I come over here, Fernando, to sing at like, eight or nine in the morning on a Sunday, I’ve already prefaced it with prayers in the morning, and I do a whole buildup to it and I dedicate the music to God to heal people and help them.
Which you’re doing every day.
In your daily life, anyway. Maybe you’re a saint, Linda? [Laughs.]
I just learned that it’s whatever your skill is or whatever gift you’re given, it’s better that it pours through you to help others. Because then the gift is magnified, other people are helped, and it’s a positive flow the whole way around. But if you hold it to yourself and you want to be famous, you’re going to kill it.
It’s gonna be better if you use it like medicine, you know, for everybody.
That’s a great message for today. Absolutely. So there’s the moment of the writing, the channeling… But when you’re actually singing, do you feel like you’re in your body when that’s happening?
I can only tell you this: Because it’s going to reach people, I always ask God for help. And I ask God for that help in order to heal people. In order to give them some peace. In order to do whatever God would want to do for their sake. But it doesn’t always happen that I receive a bountiful amount of that. It can vary in its degree. I am not in control of that, but I can tell you this—I’ve told Fernando a number of times: ‘Turn off the mic. It’s not there today.’ I know when it’s not there.
And I know when it is there, and I know the difference between Linda alone and Linda when the God part joins me. A lot of black soul singers, I’ve heard them on TV and in interview, they will say the same thing— ‘Grandma taught me to invite the Holy Spirit in’—and they’ll use words like that from their background, ‘Grandma taught this to me in church’. And they know the difference between when they’re singing something they shouldn’t be, and maybe they feel a little guilty for singing certain lyrics or something, but if they can go into a song that Grandma would appreciate, then they remember, ‘Okay, Grandma. We gotta do this.’ And they do it in unison. All they’re doing is asking God’s love to come in and reach the people because the black soul people were at church doing this. You know, they were praying in their music. I do the same thing with my music. I pray beforehand, the night before, the week before. I create the song in hopefully a way that will reach somebody for the purpose of healing or awakening or lifting. And so before I walk over here, I always ask God if he will give me that special extra God voice or his part. And believe me, when it ain’t there, I tell Fernando to turn off the mic.
So, I’m very humble about that. It’s not just Linda. And any one of you can do this, but it takes prayer to pull that into whatever your skill it is that you’re giving to the world to help the world. Your motive has to be correct before that Holy Spirit will act. You can’t do it for selfish reasons.
And I have another career. I earn my money to support me in a totally separate career. When I get behind that mic, I have a purpose and a responsibility and a reason.
It’s powerful. [Laughs.]
Yeah, because otherwise it doesn’t have any meaning. [Laughs.]
"When I get behind that mic, I have a purpose and a responsibility and a reason." - Linda Perhacs
Right, and the resonance. So the REDCAT show happened and you perform for the first time ever, and then how does the next record come about from there?
Fernando’s got a great memory for all that. His memory is photographic. Ask him those questions.
Fernando: Before I moved from Miami Beach, Florida to Los Angeles, she was one of the first people I contacted. I left her a message on Facebook. She has an assistant who checks her emails. Believe it or not, Linda doesn’t have a computer or a cell phone that does Internet, so she doesn’t ever do email, she’s not aware of what’s going on in the cyber world. So she gets a call—this guy said, ‘Oh, I got an email from blah, blah, blah Fernando.’ And you said…
Yeah, this friend Bill gave me a list of about 12 people that had called that day, around noon time, that I needed to get back to. And I said, ‘I can’t handle all that right now because it’s lunch hour. But that Fernando name is pulling on me. That one’s tugging on me. What’s his phone number? I need to call that one tonight.’
And it turned out to be Fernando who did my next two albums.
Fernando: Well, I have a theory. She had been writing a lot of music that had a Hispanic flavour to it, had a very flamenco flavour to it…
Fernando: And I think she thought she was getting a Spanish guitar player.
Fernando: She didn’t know she was getting the most anglicised, you know, rock and roll kind of guy ever, who almost changed his name to Fred in high school, but switched it back. So if I hadn’t switched it back, Fred wouldn’t have gotten a call.
Fernando: Fernando got the call back. And first thing we did, actually, Linda arrived to the LA Folk Festival—the festival that used to happen at Zorthian Ranch—and I gave her and Julia Holter a ride that day.
And it all happened in one day; all three of us got together, and we all went together.
Fernando: Yeah, I took her to this festival and I played her a lot of music on the way home, and she loved it. She loved what she heard.
And Julia Holter, I had just met her. So, that’s an explosive, wonderful person to meet because we then were able to collaborate and work with Fernando. It all happened in about three days.
Fernando: We started working on The Soul of All Natural Things. Meanwhile, the entire time, I was thinking, wait a minute. Chris Price was also a great producer, who is the other producer who basically works out of the studio. I was like, ‘He needs to be involved because he introduced me to her music,’ but he was out of town. So he came in a little late, but I insisted on having him co-produce a record with us, and we started off with a song called ‘Freely’, and we worked for about a year and a half with no money being exchanged, just out of true love, me and Chris. I never told you this: I gave up a tour. I was offered to be the bass player of a group called English Beat. And their tour was so intense that I said, ‘No. I’m working on a record for Linda Perhacs.’ I hooked up a friend of mine to do that tour. So I stuck around here, working with her every Saturday and Sunday if possible, and once we had enough songs, we sent them out to a bunch of different record labels, and a few were interested. And Sufjan Stevens’ label, Asthmatic Kitty, picked it up. And it was a dream come true because, again, it’s like when I first heard Linda’s music, I didn’t even know if she was alive, and now it’s like, for her to not only become a client, but become a friend… I mean, she comes here every Sunday pretty much, whether it’s just to hang out and do her laundry, or if she wants to, you know, make some music or just talk.
Fernando: She’s one of my closest friends out here. So it was really cool to make that record, and then we put that out and toured the world, which was cool. Remember going to Europe?
Oh yeah. Beautiful.
Fernando: I think we had done seven on the West Coast, all the way up to Portland and Seattle.
So after the REDCAT, what was your next live performance?
Again, check with Fernando… because his memory is so huge.
Fernando: No, you had been doing some demos. So there were some other producers who were interested. And she had done some demos that were interesting. She had done the song called ‘Intensity’, and you had done it with this producer who was doing very electronic-y stuff, and I was like, I think I’ve said this before to other older artists, I’m like, ‘Hey, I want to make a record that sounds like you.’ And I was very intent on saying, ‘Okay, we’ll use some stamps, but no drum machines, no EDM [electronic dance music]—
Fernando: Let’s try to make a record that in many ways will be a continuation of the Parallelograms sound.’ And that was The Soul of All Natural Things, but for I’m a Harmony, we threw the rule books out. Yeah, yeah. This third album, I just said, no rules. Let’s just create.
What was great, one of the things I love to do to people is play them ‘Chimacum Rain’ and then play them ‘Freely’ and say, ‘Can you believe there’s 44 years between these?’ Because she still sings like a 26-year-old.
Your voice has not aged. I was re-listening to everything, and I was so struck.
Well, again though, I have to remind us all, but it’s really for the benefit of anybody that listens to an interview like this—I can’t do that alone. I have to pray for that to happen.
I know the sound you’re talking about, but I have to ask for the privilege of that to come into me. And when I don’t, it’s not there. So I have to remind us of that because there are other singers out there that will read or hear about this and many, again, black soul singers have put it in their own words. You have to ask for that privilege and you have to be very prayerful for it to happen. You have to be a receiver of that special energy and sound and you have to want it to be there for the purpose of healing or communicating or helping the world. And then God will hear you, and anybody will improve if they just work with that principal, that higher sound, even in a violin or a flute—if they really want to be a master, they’ve got to get to a high vibrational level in their spirit, soul and their being for that to come through.
Right. You’ve gotta tune your antenna.
Yeah. And we have our good days and our bad days. And we kind of know which, we know the difference. So we’ll be humble about it because it isn’t us alone.
So in terms of the three records, how does the second record, for instance, feel differently than the first? Like, the three records probably have their own kind of personality for you.
Well, the second record had to be somewhat compatible with the first sound because we were testing our waters with the audience.
And I said, ‘If we get to do a third one, there will be no holds barred. Just kick loose.’ And we passed that first test with the second album, and so then we were given the privilege to do a third and to not have limits. So that’s when I said to Fernando, ‘We’re gonna use different rhythms, we’re gonna use different artists—’
Fernando: She went into the collaboration phase and that was the big influence for the third record. Linda’s manager she was working with put together a list of artists that had mentioned Linda in interviews. And I made her a CD of what I considered the most compatible songs that I’d found, and she started writing songs that were compatible with these artists for these artists to do. Yeah.
And some of them came back to us and some of them didn’t, but the ones that didn’t ended up paving ways to other artists that we could collaborate with. That was great and, you know, we had some issues with publicists that were not getting [it]. God, Bat for Lashes, that would have been great. And she came to one of her shows and she had no idea.
Natasha [Khan], yeah.
Fernando: She had no idea that we were reaching out to her.
Yeah. She said, ‘I would have done it.’
Fernando: She would have done it.
I guess somebody on her staff didn’t show her what we sent.
Wait, didn’t Pony take pictures of you for this, Rachel Pony Cassells?
Fernando: Yeah. She took the photo for the album.
Which is beautiful.
Fernando: And then Rachel brought Natasha to the show. And when we met afterwards, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. You’re supposed to be here. This is incredible.’ So we’ll hopefully work with her for the next record.
Yeah. That would be so great.
Fernando: Which I’m really pushing for Linda to do at least one more because she’s still got a lot of ideas; but, you know, every album has a process, and it’s a pretty long process, but I think we can do at least one more. Let’s do it.
I’d like to be even more experimental.
Exactly. Now you’ve kind of paved the way for—
Fernando: See how it goes, but this record was a collaboration record and the people that did get on it, like Pat Sansone [of Wilco]—
Yeah, can you talk a little bit about Pat Sansone?
Oh, Pat. Pat Sansone, I’ll tell you, he comes out of the planets. He’s total magic. I can’t even praise him higher. He was sent by God. I mean, that man is amazing.
Fernando: Pat stepped in, and working out of Nashville, he co-produced the record, and it was just amazing, the difference. Everything he touched. Everything he touched. We would do the very best mix we could and send it to Pat, you know, far away. He’d send it back in a few days, and it was… I mean, how do you describe it?
Fernando: A world of difference.
Well, I’m sure he was a fan of your music for many years.
Yeah. Well I think, as the person that writes the song and hears it interiorly the way it should be done, I don’t know how to always translate that to Fernando, what’s needed to give it the magic.
But I’ve found that Fernando and I can get to the presentation level, but Pat would jump it.
And use techniques we don’t even know he did. Two days later, it would show up and I’d say, ‘That’s it. That’s it!’
And you guys sang together.
So we don’t even know what he did.
Fernando: Yeah, there was a song that he had worked on for The Autumn Defense that had no lyrics or melody and she knocked it out of the park. I mean, that song, ‘Crazy Love’, it’s almost like an Americana country thing, and you came up with this incredible melody and lyric, and then you guys sang it together on the record and it sounds so good.
Wait, but didn’t he sing on that Eclipse song, or am I—
Fernando: He [Pat Sansone] sang uh, Eclipse of All Love [by Linda Perhacs].
He sings beautifully, so I asked him.
Fernando: That was an interesting situation, where Linda had written it for Sean Lennon and at first he seemed really cool, and then he kind of disappeared, but then Pat came in and sang his part and he knocked it out of the park.
We told Pat that we weren’t hearing from the other party and would he give it a try, and it was dynamite when he did it. So sometimes there’s a reason for somebody saying no. There’s really someone else in the picture who’s then gonna help you with a whole lot of things, you know, which is what happened.
Is there anything that you’re feeling particularly inspired by right now?
My deepest concern, especially when a person gets to the age that I am—I’m sure that people like Bob Dylan or perhaps Joni Mitchell would say the same thing—we get to a point where we’ve done about as much as we can do to help humanity by putting out what we’ve put out. My deepest concern is the whole profile of humanity. The scary things that go on on our Earth. Plain just concern for peoples’ safety and peoples’ love for one another and all those things that we all think about when we read the newspapers.
You know, there’s deep concern for the safety of everyone. And I would say, in particular with regard to what I try to do with my music, since I’m in a healing place—profession—and that’s my attitude toward life, everything I write is to heal; even if I disguise it in a unique package, it’s really meant to touch people and heal or calm them down or help them with some thoughts, because that’s my nature: nurturing. And that’s my opinion of our world, that we need to all give whatever gift we have to help as much as we can, because this place is truly, explosively, not always safe. [Laughs.] You know what I mean. We’ve got problems.
Yeah, we’re definitely in trouble. I mean, you’ve seen a lot of shift, obviously, in your lifetime, so what do you think about… let’s just say, the 60s and 70s up to now?
Well, I’m a World War II baby, so I remember when the daddies would come home in uniforms, maybe once a year, and then disappear.
And I remember the frantic pace of the three young mothers in the household where I lived as a toddler. Or scurrying out the door quickly to take jobs, which was a first for the mothers, because the men were all gone. I didn’t understand the frenzy, but I knew they weren’t happy, and I would cry when they would leave because they were so disturbing in their energy as they were pushing out the door to go to work.
The three young mothers. And I remember the men coming into the garden back where the cars might have been parked. They’d come in with these uniforms and then be gone and you wouldn’t see them for another year or half a year. And again, I was about this high, so the tension was high in those years, but I only remember it from child-size. But we have worse tensions now—things that are more silent, more sneaky, more insidious and certainly very dangerous. But I guess the worst danger we have is to give in to the darkness. Those of us who understand that light, healing, health, love is truly the better answer, we have to do our part. But we’ve been having a little trouble in a number of years even getting through the wall of, ‘Oh, let’s play with the dark. This is fun’. It’s not fun when it gives you a disease. It’s not fun when it clogs your brain with bad dreams—it’s not something to play with. It’s not a toy. If you magnify negativity, you’re gonna magnify your own illness.
So, you know, you can’t play off of that stuff just for dollars. It’s dangerous. That would be my main comment.
So, looking ahead, you were just saying that you think there’s a possibility you might make another record?
I have to ask in prayer about that. I feel like I’ve actually done my part. I’m not sure of the answer there. Sometimes you get to a point in your life where it’s time to just make sure everything’s in order because you don’t know when your time will be up. You do want to do more shows.
Shows I like, yeah.
Yeah, can you talk about that a little bit? What it’s like to share this music with people in real life?
I like that. I like doing that because it’s like my work when I’m healing patients—it connects me with the people, it allows me to give that good energy to them as much as I can. It allows me to comfort them with some of their problems. I think you hit it on the nail, Fernando. I would like to do more of that. We’ve done three albums, so…
Fernando: We’re about to do this festival called Huichica.
Fernando: This Saturday. In Napa and Sonoma. That’s gonna be fun.
Fernando: We’re gonna be following Chris Cohen from Deerhoof and a cool act will actually be Jonathan Richman, which will be super cool, and it’s gonna be great. But that’s the only thing we have on our calendar.
Right. You guys played Nacarubi Festival. I saw you perform.
Fernando: That was our first show together.
In Big Sur.
Fernando: Yeah, that was cool.
I like all of those because it lets me reach the people more, talk to them afterwards and stuff. I like that part. Age and responsibilities and things like that can get in the way, but I got three of them out, three albums out. We’ve done some great shows, I usually get my answers in prayer. I’ll let you know what the answer is.
[Laughs.] But I think I would want it to be more experimental, the kind of thing that helps you with your soul, you know? And not necessarily little song, little song, little song, but something more innovative and experimental, I think.
I like the sound of that, Linda. [Laughs.]
Oh, yeah. Well, all of those inspirations come as a desire to send out a tonality into the universe and into the people that are close to you that is more beneficial than some of the junk they’re feeding themselves on or being exposed to. It just comes to those of us who are in a healing attitude, that there’s certain things that are good for us and certain things that are wasting our time. Certain things that are even bad for us.
You sing like an angel and I feel like it resonates with people.
Well, again, I need to give credit where credit is due. If I misbehave, that voice won’t be there.
And a lot of other singers have said that. They know the difference, especially the black soul singers.
And I have to say the same thing.
Oh, well thank you so much. That was such a pleasure. I think we covered a lot of great stuff there.
Yeah, we really did.