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Poe (born Anne Decatur Danielewski) is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. Poe's musical style is a blend of rock, jazz, electronica, folk, and hip hop elements combined with intimate lyrical compositions. Many of Poe's songs have been featured in films and on television. Poe first hit the modern rock charts in 1995.
Some of her early charting singles included "Angry Johnny", "Trigger Happy Jack", "Hello", and "Hey Pretty." Videos for these singles had heavy rotation on MTV. Poe spent six years with Atlantic Records and is currently on her own label, Repoezessed Music Records."
Noteworthy was Poe's early involvement with her online community of fans. Her web site, and the fan sites that supported her early in her career, predated modern social networking platforms and were among the first of their kind. Atlantic Records' Senior Vice President of New Media, Nikki Sleight, referred to Poe's online power and one-on-one communication with thousands attending her concerts as "unheard of and pretty phenomenal" in Sleight's 1997 interview with Web Magazine.
In 2004, she co-founded the digital innovations agency Signature Creative with John Gheur.
Born in New York City and daughter of Polish film director Tad Z. Danielewski and his wife Priscilla Decatur Machold, Poe and her brother, novelist Mark Z. Danielewski, lived in six different countries before she turned eight. Her father's film directing took the family to Africa, India, Spain, Switzerland, England, and the United States. When Poe was 12, her father moved his family to Provo, Utah where Poe attended junior high school and some of high school. When Poe's parents divorced, Poe, then 16, left home and moved to New York City where she lived in a squat on the lower east side of Manhattan while attempting to connect with her estranged mother. Poe continued submitting schoolwork to her high school in Utah and eventually graduated. She pursued her undergraduate studies at Princeton University, where she organized her first band.
Poe began experimenting with musical samplers and sequencers as a teenager. Noteworthy are her early collaborations with J Dilla (AKA James Yancey, Jay Dee,) of Slum Village. Poe's musical influences ranged "from Black Flag to Bob Dylan -- from Billie Holiday to Tribe Called Quest" according to music writer Stephen Grecco.
Poe was signed to Modern/Atlantic Records in 1994 on the strength of the demos she made with J-Dilla and RJ Rice in RJ's living room in Detroit.
On January 28, 1996, The New York Times Arts and Leisure Section named Poe, along with Alanis Morissette, among the defining voices of the current "movement in music" which featured "angry" female artists who were "...articulate, sexually explicit, both lover and fighter...(women who) reject self-pity and refuse to define themselves purely in terms of their connection to men." In September 1996, Glamour Magazine published a picture of Poe, with a snarl on her face and wearing a tee-shirt on which she'd written the words, "Happy-Well-Adjusted Female." In the accompanying interview, Poe says "I don't think 'Angry' really sums it up at all!" In the November 14, 1996 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine (issue 747) Poe's album, "Hello," attained a position on the Reader's Top Ten Chart. and in August 1997, Esquire Magazine (vol. 128 no. 2) named Poe, along with Gwen Stefani, Lil' Kim, and Sarah McLachlan among the top 5 "Women Who Rock Our World".
Poe began her first major tour in January 1996, as the opening act for Lenny Kravitz. She and her touring band (Daris Adkins on Guitar, Dan Marfisi "Jones" on Drums, Toby Skard on bass/ and Cameron Stone on cello) then continued touring extensively as headliners and at festivals until 1999, when she stopped to begin pre-production on her second album for Atlantic. Pollstar Magazine reported in 1998 that Poe had performed for approximately 600 shows in a two-year time period.
Poe's first album, Hello, was released in 1995. Musically, the album was described as a sample-rich amalgam of hip-hop, rock, and jazz. Lyrically, the album was filled with literary allusions, film nods, comic book references, and psychological irony. The CD was critically acclaimed.Hits Magazine called "Hello" an "Over-the-top PoMo Masterpiece."
Not long after the album's release, Poe's debut single, "Trigger Happy Jack (Drive By a Go-Go)," broke into the top 20 on the Billboard's Alternative and Modern Rock Charts. "Trigger Happy Jack" was produced by Dave Jerden (Jane's Addiction, Alice in Chains) and featured Matt Sorum (of Guns N' Roses) on drums. It featured the lyric "You can't talk to a psycho like a normal human being". The song's video went into high rotation on MTV and introduced Poe to the mainstream. Also in 1997, Atlantic released a Maxi CD and 12-inch vinyl single of "Trigger Happy Jack" which included, "The Drive By Remix" by Steve Lyon, "The Psycho Demolition Mix" by Steve Lyon, an instrumental version of the song, and a "Poe Only" Mix. Poe's second single, "Angry Johnny", broke into the top 10 on Billboard's Alternative and Modern rock charts, and also enjoyed heavy rotation at radio. The song's video received high rotation on MTV. The song featured the line, "I wanna blow you...(pause) away." A promotional Maxi single of the song was released to radio but was never available commercially. This Maxi Single included a "Band Mix" produced by Poe and Matt Sorum (of Guns N' Roses) that received heavy rotation at radio.
In August 1997, Atlantic released a Maxi single of the song, "Hello," that included six remixes of the song ("Hello: E-Smoove Funk Mix" by E-Smoove/ "Hello: Modern Mix" by Edge Factor/ "Hello: Nevins Electronica Mix" by Jason Nevins/ "Hello: The Generator Mix by E-Smoove/ "Hello: The Edge Factor Mix" by, Edge Factor, and "Hello: Trial Dub Mix" by Edge Factor.)
On September 13, 1997, "Hello" hit number one on the Billboard Hot Dance Chart. The video for this song also enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV.
On November 20, 1997, the RIAA awarded "Hello" gold certification.
Poe's second album, Haunted, was released in October 2000. The album, produced by Poe and Olle Romo was inspired by Poe's discovery of a box of audio tapes that contained recordings of her late father's voice. Listening to those tapes for the first time proved so difficult for Poe that she was hesitant to use them in her music. She was quoted in the Los Angeles Times, "I took these tapes home, and I couldn't listen to them. It was too hard, so I kept finding ways to avoid it. They were sitting on my coffee table next to a boombox for quite some time." Poe was quoted in The New York Daily News about when she finally listened to the tapes, "It was clear how the next few years of my life would be spent."
Haunted was embraced by the press. The Los Angeles Times wrote that "The wait for Poe's follow up to her debut album has paid off with rich, sophisticated, songs of depth and emotional intensity." They instructed audiences to "Think of Haunted as the equivalent of Pink Floyd's The Wall." They added that "Poe's version is more succinct, darker in parts, but just as accessible." The New York Daily News wrote, "Samples of Poe's late father's voice and heartfelt musings weave in and out of the songs on Haunted, providing a narrative structure inside which Poe attempts to put her father's ghost to rest."All Music Guide wrote that "(Poe's) original compositions have the makings for a new music revolution alongside the likes of Radiohead's "Kid A"Elle Magazine credited Poe with "...defining the future of pop".Maxim Magazine called Haunted, "The best mindf**k you'll get all year." The publication Indiana Statesman described Haunted as "one of the most influential and innovative albums of this decade," further claiming that "...this digitally produced album far outshines any studio album produced thus far."
The first single from Haunted, "Hey Pretty", hit the top 20 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart at a time when female musicians and singers in the format rarely got airtime. At the end of 2000, the only two women in the Billboard top 100 year-end Modern Rock Chart were Gwen Stefani and Poe. MTV put the "Hey Pretty" video into heavy rotation, and in July 2001, Poe was invited to be the opening act for Depeche Mode's Exciter arena tour.
Haunted was also referenced the 2002 film Panic Room. In a conversation between Jodie Foster's character and the agent selling the home containing the Panic Room, Sarah Altman askes "Ever read any Poe?", to which the response given is "No, but I loved her last album!"
Also in 2000, Atlantic released a promotional CD single of the song, "Haunted", which included a remix by Grammy-winning producer/musician Chris Vrenna (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson).
Mark Z. Danielewski:
Poe's brother, Mark Z. Danielewski, is a best-selling novelist, and as young children Mark and Poe formed a creative relationship wherein Poe would read and edit the pages her brother wrote. In 1997, Poe sent a manuscript of her brother's first novel House of Leaves to Warren Frazier, who was a college friend of hers and who had become an agent at John Hawkins Literary Agency in New York. Warren agreed to represent Mark and eventually secured a publishing deal for Mark at Pantheon Books. In 2000, Pantheon published House of Leaves, releasing it to coincide with the release of Poe's second album Haunted. Poe invited Mark to do a spoken word passage in her "Drive By 2001" remix of the song "Hey Pretty" and also invited him to perform this passage in both her video and live show opening for Depeche Mode. Of his sister's support, Mark recounts how he once in a moment of rage tore the handwritten manuscript of a story called "Redwood" into tiny pieces and threw it into a dumpster. Poe rescued the pieces from the dumpster and taped the entire manuscript back together. It took her two weeks.
In November 2000, Poe performed a tour of Borders Bookstores with her brother. Their set included Mark reading passages from House of Leaves and Poe singing songs that share themes with the book.House of Leaves made the New York Times Best Seller list in April 2000.
Poe's three album deal is lost in Atlantic/AOL Time Warner merger:
With Haunted climbing the charts, Atlantic announced that it had renewed Poe's contract for three more albums. They renewed their agreement with the boutique label, Modern/FEI Records (Fishkin Entertainment, Inc.) through which Poe was signed to Atlantic. Atlantic also committed to releasing and distributing Haunted internationally and serviced the album globally. Shortly thereafter, they printed promo copies of "Wild", the second single from Haunted, which included a remix by Static Revenger. Copies of that single were never sent to radio.
A merger of Atlantic and AOL Time Warner was approved by the FCC in January 2001. AOL Time Warner was under close scrutiny to show positive results almost immediately after the merger. With a softening of the economy after the FCC approval, they began close review of all relationships with third party production houses, such as Modern Records
In November 2001, six weeks after renewing Poe's contract, Billboard Magazine announced that Atlantic was severing ties with Modern/FEI records.
The result was that Poe was dropped from Atlantic's roster of artists. Poe's manager and Modern/FEI label head, Paul Fishkin, stated that "Poe was stunned to be let go as Atlantic had just picked up its option on her next three albums and had already printed promo CDs of her next single 'Wild' and sent them to radio." Val Azzoli, then President of Atlantic, said to Billboard Magazine of dropping Poe, "Poe must be feeling pretty bruised right about now," adding that Atlantic had simply made a business decision. The article points out that it was a strange decision in light of the fact that, "according to SoundScan, Haunted had sold 250,000 copies and the album's first single, 'Hey Pretty', had only come out two months prior."Spinner reflected ten years later on the business decision and its impact stating, "With a gold record under her belt, a critically-acclaimed second album, a new hit single, strong sales, and an arena tour opening for Depeche Mode, Poe was well-established as an important influence. And then, poof--she disappeared."
In 2002, a story in the August issue of LA Weekly shed some light on the action of Atlantic to drop their rapidly rising artist with commitments and creative work underway. Poe had been signed to Atlantic in 1995 through a boutique label called Modern Records/Fishkin Entertainment Inc. (FEI). Amid the complex merger of Time Warner with AOL in 2000, it came to light that, in spite of the fact that Atlantic was responsible for providing all funding, marketing, publicity, radio promotion, tour support and distribution for the Poe project, Modern/FEI (not Atlantic) in its 1982 distribution deal with Atlantic, was awarded ownership of the masters of all Poe recordings. What this meant for Atlantic was that, by renewing Poe's contract, Atlantic had committed sizable resources to a project in which it would have a financial participation, but not an equity stake in Poe's past, present or future catalogue.
In November 2000, Atlantic/AOL Time Warner first chose to drop Modern/FEI, and as a result were contractually obligated to pay Modern/FEI an undisclosed amount of money, and effectively release themselves from any further fiduciary responsibilities to Modern/ FEI and/or Poe. This resulted in a pay-off for Modern/FEI and prematurely ended all printing, distribution, marketing, and promotion of Poe's second album Haunted. In exchange for these monies, Modern/FEI's agreed to give Atlantic a two-year grace period during which Modern/FEI agreed not to do anything commercially with any of Poe's master recordings, enabling Atlantic to sell off their stock of already produced copies of Haunted. As a result, Haunted received no further promotional support and the album faded from the market place.
In 2004, Modern/ FEI sold the Poe Masters for Hello and Haunted to Sheridan Square Music who merged in 2005 with V2 Records, which cataloged the Poe masters under a sub-label called IndieBlu. IndieBlu and Sheridan Square Music were acquired by Entertainment One in 2009.
Though Modern/FEI kept ownership of Poe's masters until 2004, in 2001 as Haunted was climbing the charts, the label sold its interest in Poe as an artist and in Poe's future recordings, in a questionable deal to wealthy oil executive and author Robert M. Edsel who bought her contract and kept Poe tied up in court, unable to release new music or perform professionally for nearly a decade. What music Poe did release during that time was generally done under the pseudonym "Jane." The contract eventually ended after 10 years of legal wrangling, when the Labor Commission of California ruled in favor of Poe. New York Post writer, Miriam Katz, quoted Poe in her 2011 article, "A Decade of Silence", about Poe's ten-year legal battles, "My entire life was suddenly under the control of a very powerful man whom I didn't know, and who didn't seem to mean well. It was a horror story from which I am just beginning to recover."
Poe was able to perform for charitable events during this period, and she collaborated on film soundtracks and continued to compose and write. Also, her songs were licensed for use in films and commercials.
On September 12, 2012, Poe posted a one-minute song and video on a new mobile platform called PTCH; however, no announcement was made about an official release date. The video features a split narrative told across different frames on a single screen. The song, which repeats the line, "And some say that it loops forever this road that I lose you on every time," is currently titled "September 30, 1955."
Poe is a passionate supporter of The David Lynch Foundation. This charitable organization teaches Transcendental Meditation to children in underprivileged school districts. Poe has played at numerous fundraisers for the foundation, including a show with Donovan at the El Rey Theatre. She performed again for the foundation, along with Ellen Degeneres and Russell Brand, at their Gala Fundraiser at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on December 3, 2011.