Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Growing Up

Thanks to this ongoing website project and a recent reunion with old friends, I have a new perspective on something that a young fan of Stay At Home Bomb once asked me about.  This person told me that she had been under a lot of pressure from her family to grow up and find her way in life. She asked me if you ever grow out of being a punk. She felt at odds with society at large because the things she valued were so out of sync with the mainstream. Digging further, I realized that what she was really asking was whether the things that seem so important to you as a young person stay important as you grow older, or if you have to change at some point and put those things away in order to grow up. Seeing an "oldster" like me perform in Stay At Home Bomb made her think that maybe she didn't have to change so much.

Growing up is something I've always resisted. By that I mean getting mentally old and afraid to try new things, afraid of taking risks. I tried to explain to this young person that if something is really an important, integral part of who you are then that thing can never change.  It's not something you can or should try to suppress. Trying to "grow up" or change by turning your back on something that's special to you (like music is to me, for example) would be like taking a really magical part of yourself, putting it in a shoebox and tucking it safely away on the top shelf of your closet. Time passes, sometimes years go by, but one day you will find that box, take it down and open it up. You'll be shocked that you could ever have put this special part of yourself away for so long because seeing it again will remind you of just how much it meant to you.

I think that's what started to happen to me when I became a mother. I thought I could put away some of my hopes and dreams and replace them with the new sense of fulfillment I would get from being a mom. I don't want to imply that motherhood is not fulfilling; like most mothers, I wouldn't trade it for the world. But the way I was experiencing motherhood did not begin to address the part of me that needed to express my musical ideas. Recognizing and acknowledging that this part of me existed was very difficult because it felt as if I was admitting that I was a failure as a mother. I had been conditioned to believe that being a mother should be completely fulfilling, in and of itself. The realization that it wasn't eventually led me to put together Stay At Home Bomb.

Now that I'm back in touch with many of my friends from the past, it's just so exciting to be around them again, talking about making music, spending time together. The spark is still there. I was at Don Bolles' birthday party last night and he was dancing around the room to crazy, fun music, a big smile on his face, enjoying the company of friends and well-wishers. The joy that radiated off him was like the joy of a kid, beautiful and pure. The good stuff of what we all had as kids - the important stuff - is still inside of us, if we can just get in touch with it and stay in touch with it.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Don't Tame Your Shit Down

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by Don Letts for a movie he's doing on punk rock and he asked me about the difference between punk now versus punk back in the seventies. I responded that the attitude still remains alive in certain new bands, even if the sound is not what someone would describe as "punk". For example, a band like The Gossip is much more punk to me than a band like Sum 41, even though the latter band plays what is generally considered to be "the punk sound". The Gossip is extremely talented, but beyond that they have the attitude that they're gonna do what they like because they damn well feel like it! Their sound will change as they gain experience and they become more proficient but hopefully they will not change their sound or style to fit what a record company is looking for.

That's a big difference between bands nowadays and bands when I was playing with The Bags. Back then, before the internet, the major record companies really did control distribution. They didn't like punk rock because it was anti-establishment and it was too different from what had come before, so they didn't think they could sell it to the masses. Alot of the LA bands were laboring under the mistaken impression that if we just worked hard and polished our sound enough that we would be signed to a record label. Well, that just wasn't going to happen for bands like The Bags, Weirdos and Screamers.

In looking back at some old live footage of The Bags, I realized that at a certain point, I became so focused on my vocal performance that I lost much of my energy onstage. See, I used to sing off key quite a bit (no!) during performances because I was so busy going crazy. Once we started trying to polish our sound, I had to tone it down alot to keep my singing on key. It was the beginning of the end. It would have been better if I had gone on barking out the words onstage because, in retrospect, there was no way that we were going to get signed anyway. Once we started trying to be "label worthy," we lost the energy that made the Bags and punk rock unique.

People accuse Hardcore of killing off the original LA punk scene but I wonder if that scene hadn't already served its purpose and run its course. Bands that came after us, like Black Flag and Minor Threat, absorbed the lessons at which we'd failed. They took the D.I.Y. ethic a step further. They knew they were never going to be signed, they had no interest in being signed and so they refused to compromise on any level. 

Which brings me to my conclusion. Kids nowadays don't have to tame their shit down because they're wiser than we were. They learned from my generation's mistakes. They know that they don't need a major label to make their music heard and they know that a record company will try to control them if they get signed, anyway.

That's the true legacy of punk, not the mohawks and studded belts, nor the Warped Tour nor any of the mega-successful bands. It's the hard-earned knowledge that you can stay true to your vision, you can do it yourself, without compromise and without a major label behind you.

arf arf,

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Violence and Punk

We just added a new page to the website. It has to do with the relationship of violence to my performance in the punk band, The Bags. Check it out by clicking here.
Violence Girl was the title of a Bags song written by Craig Lee for/about me. You can hear it performed live on my website on the media page.
That's all. I have mixed emotions about putting this stuff out here, but I welcome your feedback.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


I’ve recently been in touch with some of my girlfriends from the past: Jenny Lens, Dinah Cancer, Trudie. I got an email from Trudie yesterday telling me that she wants to put up her own website and it made me think about a conversation I’d had with another friend, the artist Diane Gamboa.

I’d noticed that Diane often carried a digital video camera with her to openings and events and recorded whatever happened to be going on. When I asked her about it, she told me that it was important for people who were involved in artistic movements to document themselves, otherwise someone else (who may or may not have been there at the time) would document it for them. She'd seen it happen too often over the years.

Many important contributions to scenes and movements have been marginalized after the fact by well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) social anthropologists. How many great bands have been unfairly relegated to second string status, simply because they were not around, nor fortunate enough, to have been cast in The Decline?

In thinking about the L.A. punk scene of the late seventies, I realized that much of what people know about that time has been shaped by a very small group of voices. The same stories about the same characters get repeated endlessly, without benefit of social and historical context and sometimes without the input of people who were there, many of whom are no longer living, some of whom have simply not been asked to contribute to the oral history of the time. Notably absent are the voices of the many creative and talented women who were part of the scene: Exene is sometimes quoted, yes, but what about Phranc? Charlotte Caffey? Dianne from the Alleycats? Where are the Poodles, Piranhas and Plungers?

Expressing myself through this website is - at least for now - the way in which I can share my perspective with the world. Other women may choose other forums. I encourage all the women who were there in the late seventies/early eighties to not allow themselves to be erased. And to all of those who are busy making art right now, don't let other people document YOUR scene for you. DO IT YOURSELF! Take control of your own history before someone else writes your epitaph.