"I got dared to go further, by Lou Reed!": Joan As Police Woman on how Lou Reed gave her the best advice of her career

Lou Reed and Joan As Police Woman
(Image credit: Getty Images)

US singer-songwriter Joan As Police Woman – aka Joan Wasser – has collaborated with some of music’s most illustrious names across a career that has taken in eight solo studio albums. Wasser has worked with Elton John, John Cale, Scissor Sisters, Rufus Wainwright, Dave Gahan, Sheryl Crow and more but, as Wasser revealed to this writer a few years ago, it was an evening spent performing with Lou Reed that she received advice that she would take into all her work going forward. Here she is to tell the tale:

“I was the musical director for this group show that was doing the songs of Neil Young and Lou Reed was on that show,” Wasser began. “We were doing two nights at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, so two shows. The song that I was doing was On The Beach, one of my favourite Neil Young songs, and in the middle of it there’s an extended solo that I was playing violin, there’s an extended violin solo and it just let me testify with that weird instrument. After the first show, Lou came up to me and said, “yeah, you really let loose on that solo. I wonder what would happen if you really let go.”

Basically, Wasser got dared by Lou Reed. “Yeah!" she agreed. "Like, “that was cool, what you did, what else you got?!” So the next night, of course getting it from Lou, nobody could really pack that much of a punch as he could, saying those same words, so the next night I really tried to forget, not think, just go, and after the song was done, the next performer was Lou, and he came onto the stage, passed by the guitar and he came up to me and he said, “That’s what I’m talking about.” Oh man! What are you trying to do to me onstage! I had to like really hold back extreme emotion. So otherwise, the point here is that I got dared to go further, by Lou Reed! If I could just think of him saying that every time I’m gonna do some sort of improvisation or try to take something further, that’s gonna help.”

So there you go. Maybe next time you find yourself performing a violin solo at a Neil Young tribute concert, you too can channel a little Lou and really go for it. That’s what Lou is talking about.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.