Producer gives performing 2nd try with new band

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, April 7 2011 7:05 a.m. MDT

In this March 8, 2011 file photo, songwriter Linda Perry poses for a portrait in Los Angeles.

Chris Pizzello, Associated Press

NEW YORK —

Linda Perry is still trying to get used to being an artist again.

After spending more than a decade comfortably in the background as the uber-producer and songwriter behin hits for Pink, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and others, she's now fronting the duo Deep Dark Robot.

She hadn't made a video in 15 years, and she's still warming up to the idea of doing interviews. When booking the tour for her new band, she asked for the smallest venues.

But the 45-year-old Perry is clearly relishing her second chance in front of the microphone.

"I want to be an artist in this. What happens next year, I don't know, but this year, I want to focus on it because I need a break from the studio, I need to be outside," Perry said during a recent interview in a New York restaurant. "I need to be talking to people. I've been cooped up for a very long time, and I'm a big personality."

Everything about Perry screams rock star, from her tousled brunette hair to the tattoos that adorn her body and even her face, to her blunt, occasionally coarse talk. But she's lived the rock-star life from the background as the person behind songs like Aguilera's "Beautiful" and Pink's "Get the Party Started."

She did have a taste of pop success as the leader of the '90s group 4 Non Blondes. But the group was a one-hit wonder, never duplicating the success of "What's Up," and later disbanded.

Perry then flirted with a solo career. But she truly flourished when a young singer named Alecia Moore sought her out. The result was her work on Pink's breakthrough album, "Missundaztood."

"Alecia gave me like my big break. I was more interested in producing, not songwriting ... but I write music. I mean, that's just what I do," she said.

Perry went on to write for Aguilera ("Beautiful"), Stefani ("What Are You Waiting For") and Alicia Keys ("Superwoman").

She also started Custard Records, which had its greatest success when it signed an unknown British singer named James Blunt.

The imprint released Blunt's multiplatinum debut album, "Back to Bedlam," which included the No. 1 hit "You're Beautiful."

"(He went) to pretty much every label with 'Back to Bedlam,' and every label passed on it," Perry recalled.

Perry's innate music talent and instincts have made her one of the most popular producers in pop music. But she grew tired of people coming to her for a quick pop hit.

"Some of the artists are so controlled by their labels and management and are so lost that I can't work with them," said Perry, who insists on meeting every performer before she works with them.

But her unhappiness had more to do with Perry, not her work. She started to feel like she was going through the motions, and "that's not me — that's not my style."

"I stopped doing production actually a little while ago," she said. "I hadn't been happy with some of the stuff I was doing. I thought it sucked."

Perry started flirting with the idea of working in a band — something she never thought she'd do again. She came up with the name Deep Dark Robot and knew it would be a great band name. Then she found a great partner: Tony Tornay, drummer for Fatso Jetson, and one of Perry's close friends.

It took a while before any actual material came from their musical relationship.

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