Petra Haden was born on October 11, 1971 in Manhattan. From the beginning, she was surrounded by a wide variety of musical stimulation. Her father is the legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden, and as one of triplets Petra grew up constantly singing with her sisters Rachel and Tanya. It wasn't until she saw a girl playing the violin on "The Captain Kangaroo Show" that 8-year old Petra actually decided to become a musician herself. She immediately began taking lessons on violin, as did Rachel with piano and Tanya with the cello. Petra’s one brother, Josh grew up a musician as well and went on to lead the group, Spain.
Petra soon developed an extraordinary ability to vocalize the sounds of the instruments she heard in the jazz and classical music that was now a steady part of her musical appetite. Blessed with an uncanny ear, she began creating arrangements in her head, translating the works of favorite artists Pat Metheny, the Cocteau Twins and minimalist composer Steve Reich into her own unique musical language. In fact, it was Reich's repetitive, heartbeat-like compositions, which served as a primary influence on the songs she would eventually write for her first solo CD, Imaginaryland.
Petra joined what became the Los Angeles-based indie-pop group That Dog when she saw her sister Rachel and a friend practicing songs in Rachel's bedroom. When they asked her if she wanted to be in the band, she joined immediately. Having been friends since high school, the trio first began playing music together in the early '90s. The three girls then added Tony Maxwell on drums. After Maxwell joined the group in 1992, That Dog issued a debut double seven-inch record on the tiny Magnatone Records and quickly became a staple of the L.A. club circuit. A flurry of label interest followed, and the group signed with DGC in 1993.
That Dog's self-titled debut LP appeared in 1994. An energetic and quirky punk-pop effort highlighted by sunny harmonies and the intriguing use of violin and cello, the record became a college radio hit, and the light-hearted video for the lead single "Old Timer" even garnered MTV airplay. The follow-up project, Totally Crushed Out!, issued a year later, was a concept album wittily exploring the teen angst of unrequited love. The group’s third recording, Retreat From the Sun, consisting of more pop-oriented material, appeared in 1997 co-produced by Brad Wood. The band's breakup was announced that September.
Petra recorded her solo album, Imaginaryland whenever she wasn't touring the U.S. and Europe with That Dog. It was released in 1996. In many ways, she had been preparing her entire life for this solo project. She wrote all of its songs except “Watermark” (by Enya), Bach: “Prelude No.2 in C minor” (for well-tempered voice), “Song For The Whales” (by Charlie Haden), and “Miranda Sex Garden Song” (by Miranda Sex Garden). This release was followed by Bella Neurox, done in tandem with singer/accordion player Miss Murgatroid; the duo have a new album completed and awaiting release.
In recent years, she has cultivated a number of important musical relationships reflected in her collaborations with Sean Lennon, Yuka Honda (of Cibo Matto), Victoria Williams, Mike Watt, and Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers. She also contributed vocals to the upcoming new album from Beck and to the soundtracks of the major motion pictures I Robot, Flight Of The Phoenix and Cursed. Her most recent collaboration is with the celebrated guitarist and composer Bill Frisell. Bill and Petra recently completed a new CD in Seattle with producer Lee Townsend and engineer Tucker Martine. Titled Petra Haden and Bill Frisell, the CD was released by Sovereign Artists on January 11th, 2005. And she can also be heard performing with her sisters Rachel and Tanya around her native Los Angeles singing old country songs which they plan to record under the name “The Haden Triplets.”
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out is the latest chapter in the always provocative, often unpredictable yet never less than fascinating musical career of Ms. Haden. The impetus for the project came from her friend, bassist Mike Watt (she provided vocals on his first solo outing as well as his most recent one, The Second Man’s Middle Stand), who suggested that she attempt to re-imagine this classic Who album as an a capella album. (this at least a year before any news of Bjork’s Medulla leaked to the press). He gave her an 8 track cassette tape with the original Who album recorded onto one track and the other seven empty, for her to fill with intricate vocal harmonies. Not only did Petra re-imagine all The Who’s singing and instrumental parts – including drums – she also tackled all the interstitial mock radio commercials so integral to The Who Sell Out experience. The final result is a technical tour de force that also invites a fuller appreciation of The Who’s own achievement, bringing to the fore all the original elements of chorale music, vaudevillian schmaltz and Renaissance chamber ensemble playing.