Joan Wasser (born July 26, 1970), known by her stage name Joan As Police Woman, is an American musician, singer-songwriter and producer. She began her career playing violin with the Dambuilders and…
Joan Wasser (born July 26, 1970), known by her stage name Joan As Police Woman, is an American musician, singer-songwriter and producer. She began her career playing violin with the Dambuilders and played with Black Beetle, Antony and the Johnsons, and Those Bastard Souls. Since 2004 she has released her solo material as Joan As Police Woman. She has released five regular studio albums, one EP, a number of singles and a collection of covers. Throughout her career, she has regularly collaborated with other artists as a writer, performer and arranger.
Born at the Saint Andre Home in Biddeford, Maine, to an unmarried teenage mother, Wasser was given up for adoption at infancy. She was raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, with her adoptive younger brother Dan, who is a visual artist. She credits her background as an adopted child with her "very extroverted" personality and dressing up a lot. She explained that "when you are in a situation where you're not blood-related to your family, it does become extremely obvious that you're born with your personality".
Wasser began piano lessons at age six and had her first violin lessons at age eight. She played violin in school and community orchestras before leaving Norwalk for her college studies. At the age of 18, Wasser began her music career during her studies at the College of Fine Arts, Boston University, where she was an early admittance student. She studied music under, among others, Yuri Mazurkevich and played with the Boston University Symphony Orchestra. Wasser soon grew disillusioned and found that she "didn't want to make classical music my life, the Beethoven symphonies have already been played a million times and I am not going to do it any better." Instead she joined a number of local punk bands trying "to bridge the gap between the guitar and the bass and play the violin really loud."
While working with others, Wasser began to develop her own material, which she described as sounding "like old Al Green records." She focused on guitar and singing as "for a long time, I was really content with playing violin, and then all of a sudden it wasn't enough." The end of Black Beetle in June 2002 brought the beginning of Wasser's work as a solo artist and the creation of a new band, Joan as Police Woman. The name was a reference to the TV series Police Woman featuring Angie Dickinson. Wasser found the actress inspirational as "she was really powerful but sexy at the same time" in the role. She also preferred "the name to be funny because, although my music is serious, I like to laugh at tragedy." She formed a new trio in New York City together with Ben Perowsky on drums and Rainy Orteca on bass. Perowsky also co-produced the EP that also featured contributions by Oren Bloedow, Dave Derby and Erik Sanko. She co-wrote the song "My Gurl" with Michael Tighe. The group self-released a five-track eponymous EP in 2004, as Wasser had "decided to do it without a record deal because I wanted to make music on my own terms." In February 2004, Rufus Wainwright asked her to join his band on tour providing backing vocals and strings. In the second half of the year, she joined Joseph Arthur on tour as a violinist.