Punk Planet #5 Jan/Feb 1995
Interview by Will Dandy & CO. with help from Dan Sinker. Everything copyright 1995 to Punk
PP:Since your last tour two years ago, Bikini Kill has become a
"buzz" band, do you think that that has changed the way you
approach the band?
Billy: It's a moment to moment thing. That's all I can really say. Last
time we came down south we were with the Nation of Ulysses. Last
time we played Birmingham we were with Ulysses. Now we're just on
our own and people seem to show up, so that's the difference. We're
like headlining now.
PP: What happened during the period between your last tour and
Billy: Well, we went to Britain, we did a lot of other things. We did
two east coast tours, we lived in D.C. for a bit and Olympia for a bit.
PP: I heard a lot of rumors that you guys broke up though, what
Billy: That was just a rumor. I'm in this other band. Me and Tobi and
Kathi and Molly, she used to be in Bratmobile, and she's in this band
called the Pee Chees now, but we were in this band called the
Frumpies. We toured with Huggy Bear last year at about this
time...[many strange events happen to interrupt the interview] ..There's
this one thing. At almost everyone of our [Bikini Kill] shows an armyof
girls shows up and it's really really fascinating. To answer your first
PP: How does that affect you being, you know, not a girl?
Billy: I just think it's really interesting, I think it's really cool. I'm more in
a mode of fascination at our shows.
PP: Do you not feel awkward because Kathleen is so
Billy Sometimes, because some of the guys get really violent and
sometimes that can be scary. Sometimes are our shows there isn't any
confrontation and those are the funnest shows. Because then I can just
rock out and not worry about it and move ar ound like an apeman, but
tonight I felt like I should just stand there and be cool.
PP: Yeah, there was some tension tonight
Billy There were just like three or four guys that were like total jerks.
PP : Before you were talking about the Frumpies. Did you guys
break up then?
Billy No, no we never broke up. We just wanted to venture into
different things. The Frumpies were more like a song writing vehicle for
Kathi and Tobi. It was a really cool band. We recorded like four
singles. There's gonna be another one I think r eleased on Lookout and
they were all recorded in the basement at Tobi's parents' house. It was
really really echo-y. That's why there was so much reverb. We had like
two really shitty mics and a four track recorder and we did it all
ourselves. It was real ly fun to record those singles. We might do some
more stuff this winter when we get back.
PP: How did you get hooked up with Joan Jett for the Rebel Girl
Billy She showed up at one of our shows and I'm a really huge Germs
fan. and she produced the first Germs album. I thought it would be cool
if she produced a single or something like that and we mentioned it to
her and like half a year later she ca lled us up. We did it in Seattle and
we did it in one day. It was really cool. She played on it, she played
guitar on Rebel Girl.
PP: Yeah didn't she do the patty-cake thing too?
Billy Yeah, and back up vocals on New Radio and Demi-rep. I was
cool, a really fascinating experience.
PP: Don't you feel that it's a little hypocritical to have a record
released on Kill Rock Stars that was, in fact, produced by a rock
Billy No. (Silence)
PP: Why not?
Billy I don't know...no.
PP: What's the deal with that Sonic Youth video that Kathleen
Billy Well, Sonic Youth is like a space station that orbits around a
psychic landscape and they send these psychic projections down onto
earth and I think that had something to do with it. And somehow
Kathleen got involved.
PP: Um...could you go more in depth with that. I'm sorta lost
Billy Well, we're in a totally different hemisphere. See, last night a
mother of these fifteen year old girls gave me this shirt.
Tobi appearing and joining in) She was 43 years old and she was
Billy: She was stage diving and dancing around. She was totally on a
rampage. This [the shirt] is an outer space landscape. See, Sonic Youth
is symbolically like a space station orbiting around a psychic landscape.
Bikini Kill is in like a totally different hemisphere. Symbolically we're
like three girls in a reform school and I'm like the janitor. I clean the
hallways and bathrooms in the daytime, and at 3:30 in the morning these
psychic projections come into the building from outer space,
supposedly from Sonic Youth and the girls tell stories about this. And
that's how that happened. It's all true. The whole concept of sound
going to the end of the galaxy, and there's like this proverbial wall. Do
you understand that?
PP How the universe is like a curve?
Billy Right it ricochets and it's coming back and these sound waves
change the DNA structures of certain individuals psychicially inclined to
communicate on that sphere.
PP: I gotcha..I figured with Thurston Hearts the Who that you
guys didn't like Sonic Youth Billy That was kinda like a joke song,
Tobi It was like a question.
PP: And what was the question?
Tobi Sonic Youth thinks they're cool, does that mean everything to
you. does that means everything to you. Question mark.
Billy Question mark
Tobi It's really literal.
Billy Asking questions.
Tobi It was about how there's coolness and then there's authorities of
coolness and who are those authorities and what does that mean to
you. It's just asking.
PP: So why'd you have the show review over that.
Tobi Because those people were an authority too. See what I mean.
And the Who is like... a phenomenal type of band. We were being
written about like we were public figures. And Sonic Youth are into
being public figures, their personalities are high-profile. The Who was
totally into that too, like the album The Who Sell Out was all about that,
being public figures and selling yourself, and commenting on it. So it
was kinda like a college. That's just my interpretation.
Billy It's like a combination of the rock star status of the Who and the
mythology of Sonic Youth.
Tobi If I had to put it into a sentence, I would say it's about the
epistemology of cool, epistemology means like... I can't remember
exactly but I know it means what I want to say.
PP: Isn't it the psychology of understanding how we understand?
Tobi It's a philosophical term I learned, and that's kinda what it was
PP: Interaction with people has always seemed an important part
of your live shows. How has the increased size of your shows
changed that, do you feel like you're being distanced from people
due to your popularity?
Tobi No we meet a lot more people now. But it's kinda weird because
people ask for our autographs and it's really strange.
Billy It seems like our audience is also a lot younger now.
Tobi: Yeah, a lot of younger kids come to our shows. I think that's
really cool. A lot of older people are more jaded.
PP: When you say young you mean...
Billy: I would say from 6th to 10th grade. In between there and high
Tobi We heard of a five year old who knows all our lyrics last night. It's
weird when you meet people and you have a conversation with them,
and then they're all, "Can I have your autograph?" and you're like "OK"
and they all want your autograph and it's just really weird because why
do they want it...I don't know.
Billy Sometimes I sign autographs just because it's a way to
communicate with people.
Tobi Yeah, you can talk to the people. It's like a question, like a ritual.
That way they have an excuse to say hi. You don't wanna be
condescending like, "Oh you think I'm cool and I'm really not," so that
the people feel stupid, but at the same time you feel like a total chump.
PP: How do you feel about people making fun of you and stuff
Tobi It's just kinda reality. It's lame, sometimes because it dominates
things and the show's not as good as it could be.
Billy Sometimes it's really hard to diffuse that situation but times we're
really successful at it.
PP: But would you rather just play and count off in between
songs and not say anything?
Tobi Sometimes. But, me and Billy don't really talk a lot during our
shows. Kathleen is putting herself out on the line a lot more than we are.
We give her a lot of freedom even though we might not agree with
everything she says, in fact we hardly ever do. (laughter) Well no, it's
true, we give her a lot of freedom because she is putting herself in a
position where she could get beat up at any moment. She can have full
control of the stage while she's on it. It's just a matter of trust. We're a
lot more shy. That's probably why she's singer.
PP: From the schedule I've seen of this tour it's pretty strenuous.
Do you feel that when you're putting on a performance so many
times in such a short period of time that you get distanced from
the material you're performing?
Tobi Yeah, it depends on if the songs on a good song or not.
Billy It gets choreographed.
Tobi If the songs not that good or if a song gets worse. If it's a good
song it gets better, that's how I think about it. But with drumming that's
how it is.
PP: Do you have any new releases coming out?
Tobi We're gonna try and record when we get home. Probably a
couple of singles.
PP: Cool, which is more important to you, to be musically
entertaining or politically enlightening or a mix?
Tobi I don't know about enlightening cause I don't really like that word.
It assums that everyone is really stupid and you tell them the truth and
then everything will be cool, and I don't know if I buy into that idea.
Political entertainment is not really contradicting itself, I don't think.
Billy Sometimes I'm really preoccupied with the workings of the P.A.
and trying to get my guitar to sound right. My head blew up a couple
weeks ago, so I'm playing through a bass head and it sounds kinda
Tobi I like to think of myself as an entertainer. But then again I don't
[We get Tobi to bring Kathleen over...]
PP: When Dan saw you in Chicago he said a verse that kept
popping up in various songs was "I'm your freak show tonight."
Do you feel like you're being gawked at when you're performing
tonight? Is there anyway to perform in a band and not be a
Kathleen Why yes, I feel like I'm being gawked at live. Part of the
thing that is really weird for me is that I used to be an exotic dancer and
I find that sometimes there's not really that much of a difference
between playing in a punk bar and being a stripper except for I have my
clothes on. A lot of men come with the same exact attitudes that guys
do that come to a strip bar. They think, "Oh, it's a girl band, we'll go
and watch their butts and their tits or something like that." They don't
don't think of us as performers they just think of us sorta like seals that
jump through hoops that have tits. Like the guys tonight saying "take
your clothes off."
PP: I think they were being more sarcastic with that remark.
Kathleen Right, but regardless, it's not taking my perspective into
account cuase I did that shit for fucking seven years and it's not funny to
me. I have to deal with sexism every day so it's like maybe boys can
find that really funny and humorous, I don't have the luxury to find that
humorous. I live it every fucking day. That's not funny to me, and if I
sayit's not funny, it's not funny. You know what I mean? It's like there's
no argument there, whether it's funny or not, if I say I don't find it funny
it means, "hey, be cool to me and respect me, your joke is not my
PP: So you feel like a freak show then?
Kathleen Fuck yeah, do you feel like a freak show ever? Riding on the
bus, fucking guys calling you fags and shit, I'm sure that happens doesn't
PP: Actually just last night someone was telling me that I was
"touching one of my friends an awful lot" and I was like "what
Kathleen Yeah. So what? Boys should touch each other more, I
mean, they don't fucking have to beat each other up. It's the only reason
they beat people up is because they want to fuck each other.
PP: Well I wouldn't go that far.
Kathleen Well I would. Any more questions?
PP: Yeah, when you played in Chicago you prefaced one song by
saying something to that effect that people shouldn't blame the
women in pornography, but the porno itself. What do you think
the difference is?
Kathleen The differnece is that pornography as an institution or as an
industry is largely run by straight white males and that's who profits from
it. The women who work in the industry are a lot of time supporting
themselves or their families. There's a big difference between an image
of pornography or the pornography or the pornography industry and a
women who is basically, in a way, serving a burger just like a person at
McDonalds does. Women who don't have the option, who don't have a
college education or aren't from the middle class or wealthy don't
necessarily have the luxury to turn down a high-paying job like that. It's
just offensive when people pinpoint the women in the industry who
really aren't making the most profit from it, as the one's that are
exploiting men. But, I have to go now...
PP: Oh.. you wanna leave an address or something?
Kathleen Our address is Kill Rock Stars: 120 NE State #418
Olympia WA 98501. Thank you.