The Hamilton Spectator
February 29, 1997
In the fascinating video for her tune “Trigger Happy Jack”, gifted Hollywood-based singer and songwriter Poe repeatedly taunts a man she holds captive in a Mason Jar with the unforgettable refrain, “You can’t talk to a psycho like a normal human being.”
The picture becomes much clearer when the 26-year-old explains the song, available on her eclectic rock and hip-hop groove-oriented debut album Hello, is derived from a life-threatening car-jacking attempt she suffered a few years ago on Sunset Boulevard.
“I think it’s my sick, infantile fantasy,” says Poe, née Anna Danielewski.
“I had lots of fantasies after that car-jacking attempt. I pictured stopping a car as Rambo, having a bazooka on my shoulder, and going, ‘Yes, can I help you?’ to the guy who was trying to car-jack me.
“The other one was that maybe if I could just get that asshole in a jar — shrink him down — then I could have a conversation with him.”
The bright, glowing tones of her voice turn cloudy as she simulates the fancied conversation.
“Now, you’re going to listen to me, dude. You may be pissed off about something, but it’s not me. I’m not your father. I’m not your mother. I’m not the guy who stole your candy when you were four, okay?”
Poe will be the first to admit that her Los Angeles locale has more than its average share of troubled souls.
“I think it is true, but there are a lot of neuroses running around this little world of ours today, and you see it everywhere,” she says. “Not that I don’t have my own, I certainly do. I think part of keeping sane in an insane world is not pretending that you can have a normal conversation under normal circumstances with anybody. I’m not saying there aren’t ways to communicate, but sometimes you have to put the guy in a jar. One has to protect oneself.”
Poe said the would-be car-jacker waved a gun at her and tried to run her off the road during the horrifying ordeal, but the biggest surprise was the lingering residue of anger.
“A lot of weird stuff goes through your head when something happens like that,” says Poe, who recently finished opening Lenny Kravitz‘s North American tour and will be on the road with Seven Mary Three the next six weeks.
“I was so angry the next day, I just felt — I laugh about these fantasies — but the next day I was hoping that somebody would try that again, because I had plans for them. Violence breeds violence, and I felt so violent the next day. For the next week! I didn’t act on it, but I was hoping someone would give me an excuse.”
The story didn’t end there. At the end of the night, the distraught singer was escorted home by a police officer who made it clear he had ulterior motives. Every night for the next two months, he parked his cruiser in the driveway of Poe’s home.
“Everytime the lights came up the driveway, I would dive into my roommate’s room and deadbolt the lock,” says Poe. “He’d walk outside around the house with a flashlight.”
Poe says that sometimes the best defense is silence.
“I think for someone like him, we were lucky that he wasn’t getting any response. Had we called the police department and tried to talk to someone about it, tried to get him fired, the guy had a licence to kill. He had a gun!
“So for someone who’s a potential stalker, the best thing you can do is pretend that they don’t exist, and ignore them completely. Don’t let them know that you’re scared. I think that worked with this guy. He just became disinterested because there wasn’t any drama.”
While Poe’s own life story isn’t filled with similar nail-biting drama, it certainly is adventurous. Born in New York City, the daughter of a Philadelphia debutante and the late controversial Polish art filmmaker Tad Danielewski was whisked around Spain, India and Africa as a child before settling in Provo, Utah in her early teens. When her parents split, the 16-year-old Poe relocated as a squatter to the Big Apple, finishing her education and eventually earning a scholarship to attend Princeton University.
She began experimenting with sounds and samplers, and eventually forged the idiosyncratic style that mixes dance beats, balladry and rock flourishes into a unique concoction.
As for the name, Poe acquired it when she was a ten-year-old obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe‘s The Masque Of the Red Death and attended a costume party with her parents dressed as the plague.
“It’s relationship to Edgar Allan Poe I’ve left behind in the distance,” says Poe. “Now I have billions of different meanings for it, from Peace On Earth, to Powers Of Evil, depending on my mood. It’s President Of Everything, if I’m talking to my band, or Port Of Entry, if I’m crossing the Canadian border.”
“I think it is pretty fitting in a lot of ways.”