Screw the Pilgrims. It’s a great week for celebrating pioneering women in Seattle music. This weekend you can give thanks for two of Seattle’s most influential bands and a new book on Rock ‘n Roll.
Seminal rockers 7 Year Bitch announce the release of Live at Moe. Recorded in 1996 at Moe, the guitar driven sounds of 7YB paved the way for bands like Thunderpussy and Childbirth and in a year that’s seen reformations of Babes in Toyland and L7, the timing could not be apter.
Mia Zapata is one of the most revered figures in Seattle music. Before her untimely death, The Gits were poised to be the most important band Seattle had produced. In a rare and welcome move –to support former scene mate Hammerbox James Atkin’s battle with cancer- the band will reform for the first time in 23 years with beloved former Visqueen frontwoman Rachel Flotard on vocals. You can catch this very special event December 4th at Chop Suey which will feature the talents of Hammerbox, The Gits Featuring Rachel Flotard, Selene Vigil (7 Year Bitch) Alcohol Funnycar, Coffin Break, Greta Harley and STAG.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: A SECOND SHOW DECEMBER 5TH HAS BEEN ADDED!
As event organizer Ben London noted, “I was completely shocked when they agreed to play. We had a very tight-knit community in the early 90s between bands like Hammerbox, The Gits, Alcohol Funnycar and 7 Year Bitch. Along w/ Coffin Break, we were all on C/Z records. We played numerous shows together, hung out, lived together, drank together, and when Mia Zapata was murdered in 1993, it blew everything apart. After so many years of benefits and community support to find Mia’s murderer, I think the band was motivated to come out and support a close friend in his time of need.”
Both Mia Zapata and 7 Year Bitch proved influential in the scene that inspired the creation of ROCKRGRL Magazine. The brainchild of musician turned publisher Carla (DeSantis) Black ROCKRGRL’s mission during its eleven-year run was “to present a real departure from the condescending and patronizing tone found in other “women in music” magazines and websites. No beauty tips or guilt trips here — just shop talk with fascinating artists.” STACKEDD obviously, wouldn’t be here if not for publications like ROCKRGRL. We recently chatted with Black about her new project -a memoir about starting a magazine at the tail end of the zine revolution and her own coming of middle-age revolution- and some sage advice for upstarts like us.
I was a musician in the early ’80s – cover bands, mercifully no recorded originals. One of my bands was an all-female group influenced highly by the Go-Go’s. Every time we performed we were asked really dumb questions – were we lip synching and was our drummer really a guy in drag. At first I was amused but then I quickly became annoyed. I thought, “why don’t people think girls can play?” I went to the local Barnes and Noble and a cursory glance at the very macho music magazine section told the whole story. There was a cultural idea that men were musicians and women were groupies, publicists or girlfriends. Maybe singers, too. But never players. They were never taken seriously as real players which I always thought was very odd. I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t play some kind of instrument and never felt like I didn’t belong until I was playing professionally. But at the time I was questioning all this, Riot Grrrl was challenging the status quo as well. I was too old to feel like I was part of that and I didn’t really know much about underground scenes. I was listening to mainstream music on the radio. But I thought it was disturbing that women were so marginalized in nearly every facet of music.
What would you say is the biggest difference in that climate when you closed up shop in 2005? What about now?
Internet magazines were quickly replacing print magazines. They were easier to produce, you could fix mistakes easier and there were no postage costs. But it was also difficult to monetize. Online ads did not bring in the kind of revenue print ads did – although those were pretty meager as well. The writing was on the wall that self-publishing with no corporate or financial machine behind me was a recipe for failure at some point. Print magazines have the same challenges as CDs. There are fewer brick and mortar locations to sell them and subscription numbers have plummeted for many music magazines. I can’t even remember the last time I read one.
What prompted your move to Austin?
I loved Seattle for the first 10 years I was there but after the magazine’s demise at the end of 2005 I couldn’t find a reason to stick around. I was blogging for a website in Boston and artist relations for Luna Guitars in Tampa. When the economy tanked in 2008 I knew it was time for a change. I knew a few Austin folks from the magazine and the conferences so it seems like a soft place to land, which it has been. The one thing I miscalculated was how many free events are going on here all the time. Without deep pockets (mine were lint filled at that point), it was too challenging to carve out a niche for a feminist-based music conference. And honestly, between the changes in the music business and perpetual poverty of musicians – who I needed to pony up to attend – I was pretty burned out by that point.
What would you say are the biggest differences between the two cities as far as the community of female musicians?
Seattle used to have a Ladies Who Lunch (remember those?) and that was a great way to network. Austin has had a similar group for many years. But one big difference is that there is nothing as acerbic as The Stranger here. The Austin Chronicle – still independently owned and operated – is more cheerleader than critic of/for the local scene. Austin is an interesting melting pot of musical styles and cultures and truly, anything goes here.
What advice would you give women (like me) moving into female-centric media today?
My best advice would be, don’t take anything personally!! The Internet has given everyone a voice – that’s good and bad!! So rise above annoying and hurtful comments that get under your skin sooner or later!!
What made you decide to write a book? Why is now the right time?
My dad passed away a couple of years back and I’ve been taking stock of events in my life that meant a lot to me. It’s somewhat of a survival story. Dad always wanted to write a book and never did so it’s part tribute to him, part ego and part something I hope will resonate with women of all ages.
If you could go back to 1992 and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
Weird that you asked about 1992 as that’s the year I am writing about now. I would say that when you are in the depths of hell and you can’t get any lower – there’s nowhere to go but up!