I'm immobilized in bed, recuperating from a back injury and dictating this blog entry. Hopefully I will make a full recovery and not have to use a walker when I perform a few songs on May 5 at the Silver Lake Film Festival. That wouldn't be too much fun.
Here's an email interview I just completed. Thanks for allowing me to share this on my blog, Leah, and good luck with your work!
"Dear Alice Bag,
My name is Leah and I am a senior at Brookline High School in Massachusetts. I've been extremely passionate about early L.A. punk for as long as I can remember and have read about, listened to, and watched most of what I have been able to get my hands on. I decided to write my final senior thesis paper about the role of women in the early L.A. punk scene. Unfortunately (and obviously), I was not there. Because of this I have been doing endless reading and research in hope of depicting my opinions with well-supported information.
I have read all of the interviews with Women in L.A. Punk on your website and they have been endlessly helpful. You will be well-cited and I wanted to thank you for taking on the task of making those interviews public. I was also wondering if there is a chance I could convince you to do an email interview with me concerning the topic of my paper...."
I am always happy to answer questions, although it sometimes takes me months to respond. Here are Leah's questions and my answers:
Do you feel early L.A. punk changed the way women were thought of in society?
I think it changed the way women felt about themselves, which eventually changed the way society felt about them.
How do you feel the punk scene allowed you to escape from female gender roles?
I was too busy creating something new to worry about what my role as a female should be.
How did women in early L.A. punk redefine what it meant to be tough?
I don’t know that anyone was trying to be tough. I think they were just trying to be themselves, which requires strength of conviction and the will to act. If that is considered tough, then a woman’s toughness is measured by the same standard as a man’s.
Why do you think women felt so comfortable breaking out of their gender role and really letting loose?
Perhaps because the punk aesthetic didn’t require women to fit into a role. It was something new that had yet to be defined or stereotyped.
How did people think of females fronting early L.A. punk bands back then?
I’m not sure because I personally didn’t care much about how people were perceiving me as a female. Even though I thought of myself as an performer, it wasn’t like I went on stage to entertain. I went on stage to engage the audience. If people were not engaged by my performance, then they could leave. If they stayed and got engaged, that’s what I was after. But I didn’t think about what they thought of me personally.
What did you think of the Plunger Pit? Did you have any note-worthy experiences there?
It looked like a fun place to hang out but my impression was that it could have been overwhelming at times. I’m not sure, but I suspect they might have been around before the Canterbury. I didn’t go there that often. It was fun and chaotic.
In We Got the Neutron Bomb I read about an argument you got into with Darby Crash about the fundamentals of stage performers. You reportedly felt that musicians and audience members should all be on the same level (which I think is amazing by the way), while Darby felt singers should hold an almost God-like position. I read that this argument lead to a physical fight in which you kicked Darby’s ass. What’s the truth behind this and how do you justify your actions?
I didn’t really kick his ass and it wasn’t a very long fight. Darby enjoyed irritating me and he liked to see how far he could push people. He figured out that he couldn’t push me very far. We disagreed about a lot of things on a very fundamental level. Our differences went much deeper than just the proper role of audiences versus performers. But the arguments we had also left us with food for thought and we would both go home after an argument and then come back to the subject later to pick up the thread again.
Early on in the punk scene both Darby and I wanted to be leaders. I think Darby held onto that desire until the end and I reached a point where I wanted to form relationships where there was a give and take. This concept is discussed at length in a book called Pedagogy Of The Oppressed by Paolo Freire. Basically, it states that a leader’s thinking is authenticated only by the authenticity of the followers’ thinking. The leader cannot think for her followers.
I think too many people don’t understand that logical argument can be a healthy thing and arguments don’t always involve threats or conflict. It’s just that on this occasion, Darby pissed me off and I resorted to violence.
In early L.A. punk, it seems as though women started to get comfortable exerting their physical selves. Often this meant fighting each other or males. From what I’ve read, women were physically kicking a lot of ass. Why do you feel they suddenly felt so comfortable fighting?
I’m not sure that this assumption is correct. I can’t say that I saw an extraordinary amount of female violence in the punk scene, but I grew up in East L.A. and I certainly saw a lot more of it at Stevenson Jr. High. I think I was an anomaly because I was violent and I grew up around violence, so it was what I knew. Plus, punk music was aggressive and it may have fueled those emotions a bit more than, say, Donovan and the Beatles.