Matt Giles interviewed me for a Topic magazine story on women in the music industry circa 2000. I’m in great company: Allison Wolfe, Melissa Auf der Mar, Louise Goffin, JD Samson, Amy Finnerty, etc. There are intriguing and often divergent POVs in here, as one would expect/hope. A few comments particularly strike me. One is when Auf der Mar talks about her decision to join Hole being a statement of feminist solidarity:
“I felt a higher calling about women in rock, and quickly understood that this was much bigger than me. It was about women in general.”
And when Samson reflects on touring with Le Tigre, she perfectly expresses what grrrl power is all about:
“We wouldn’t have been who we were without the audience. Those people in that room, thinking about those things, sweating, feeling safe in our bodies, taking up that space, breathing the same air—that’s what we needed.”
On a more personal note, I love the moment when New York Times deputy culture editor Sia Michel talks about starting her career as my intern at SF Weekly, and how San Francisco criticism was led by women including Ann Powers and Gina Arnold:
“In my mind, music journalism was something that women did.”
Elsewhere, Ultragrrrl Sarah Lewitinn reflects on how Michel supported her career (as she did NYT music editor Caryn Ganz). I see us as a feminist music-critic bucket brigade, passing each other these support lines. These are all examples of the importance of women helping other women, creating safe spaces for each other to exist — musical matriarchies and matrilineals.
“I have one of your face right here,” Kathleen Hanna says, pointing to her ass.
It’s twenty minutes into Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour, the surprisingly intimate and inspiring film about the new wave feminist band Le Tigre, and an idiotic Aussie DJ has just asked the women if they all have tattoos. There’s a perfect beat of silence, and then Kathleen offers her riposte. There are awkward chuckles, some jokes about buttless chaps, and then the hapless disc jockey asks about Kurt Cobain. (Roll eyes.)
“Part of Le Tigre’s mission as feminists is to counter this mandate that women have to be nice all the time and make everyone comfortable,” bandmate Johanna Fateman later explains.
Up until that pricless moment, I’d been worried that Bomp would be a boring documentary of tepid road stories. I’ve been immersed in Runaways research and reading Belinda Carlisle’s memoir; Hanna’s explanation of Le Tigre’s absurdist food rider pales in comparison to, say, the Go-Go’s infamous groupie videos.
But Bomp, which was released on DVD yesterday, offers its own powerful narrative, of feminists carrying their message around the world, from Australia to Indianapolis, without compromise. There are no shark sex stories, but Fateman does ponder the motives of the shark-hating bassist of Hatebreed. Hanna talks honestly and openly about her move from Bikini Kill to Julie Ruin to Le Tigre. Most affecting is JD Samson’s journey, from awkward moustached youth to international sex symbol. There are bonafide tears at the end, during Le Tigre’s last show.
And of course, Bomp’s driven by the band’s infectious dance music and blissful choreography. Now I have to listen to their records all over again. There are scant few movies about women bands; Who Put the Bomp ranks with Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing as must-see movies about women singing their minds.