Monday, July 02, 2012

Alice Bag Olympia Power and Light Interview

This article originally appeared in an abbreviated version in the Olympia Power and Light in October, 2011. This is a repost of the full interview, which appears here.

All B/W photos by Louis Jacinto.

Tuck Petertil: It seems that we live in interesting times, as the economy buckles and fascism is on the rise, are you an optimist or a pessimist about the future?

Alice: I am extremely optimistic. I’ve been following the protestors who are occupying Wall Street and I have a renewed faith in democracy. Americans have been complacent for a long time because a large number of us were comfortable. It wasn’t until huge numbers of people starting losing their jobs and homes that reality started to break through their placid stupor. Those people camping out at Liberty Square, they’re the true champions of democracy. I think the protests will continue to grow.

Tuck: Do you have advice to young people facing this uncertain future?

Alice: Uncertainty doesn’t have to be scary, it’s all a matter perception and adaptability. If your plans don’t work out, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The unknown can be exciting and full of opportunity but you have to be involved and you have to be able to evolve.

Tuck: I’ve only read excerpts of “Violence Girl”, but it’s an impressive life you’ve led. Up here in the Pacific NW we’re just entering the fall and winter months, a time that can be pretty depressing. No doubt you faced many obstacles in your life, what gave you the strength to keep on in the face of opposition?

Alice: If I lived in the Pacific NW full spectrum lighting would be my first investment. My body needs sunlight. When I was little my dad used to tell me, “You can be anything you want to be.” I believed him. Even when I learned that society expects very little from a poor girl from East L.A., I refused to accept the limits that other people tried to place on me. It’s not that I don’t have weaknesses. I’m better at some things than I am at others but I never let insecurity stop me from doing what I want do. I am not a perfectionist, I believe that my best is good enough. If you believe that your best is good enough, you will find happiness.


Tuck: How did The Bags all hook-up? Who was in the Bags and where are they now?

Alice: My friend Patricia and I wanted to have an all girl band when we were in high school but our efforts were constantly thwarted because at that time, there weren’t as many women musicians as there are today. We put an ad in the paper seeking female musicians and men answered. Eventually we ended up hiring guys to play with us. We decided to play while wearing brown paper market bags on our heads with the eyes, nose and mouth cut out. The bag masks were just for fun, they gave us a certain anonymity that was somewhat liberating. We also had the opportunity to decorate our masks in ways that helped us play with our stage personas. The first Bags lineup was Patricia Rainone (Morrison/Vanian), Geza X, Joe Nanini, Janet Koontz and me. Patricia is now married to Dave Vanian and lives in England, Geza X is a record producer, I have lost touch with Janet over the years so I don’t know what she is up to, Joe Nanini went on to Wall of Voodoo and later passed away and I live in Sedona with my husband and daughter. The Bags had a rotating lineup of musicians but the one most people know from our Dangerhouse record is Patricia, Craig Lee (RIP), Rob Ritter (RIP), Terry Graham (later with Gun Club) and me.

Tuck: What were some of your influences (literary, music etc..) that put you on the path you choose?

Alice: when I was very young my dad listened to a lot of Mexican music, specifically rancheras. My sister listened to soul music. Those two genres seeped into my blood. I have a deep connection to that music. Later, when I was a teen I started listening to glam/glitter rock, Bowie, Elton John, Roxy Music, Queen, stuff like that. Suddenly out of nowhere the Ramones appeared. The Ramones were in a class by themselves. When they came out people laughed at them. Rock with no solos, imagine that! But their influence was huge and Patti Smith, wow, she was the most amazing performer, she inspired me tremendously! As for literature I grew up with comic books: Hot Stuff, The Archies, Little Lotta, Richie Rich, Mexican comics and fotonovelas. I go to the library at least once a week, I have for years. I am not a picky reader but I do get in my moods where I favor one type of book over another. I’m a big fan of Dickens, Bukowski and I adore Ozamu Tezuka. There are too many wonderful authors for me to list here but I have a Goodreads account for anyone who wants to compare books with me.

Tuck: What music are you currently liking?

Alice: I like Girl in a Coma, Amanda Palmer (with or without the Dresden Dolls), Gossip, Lysa Flores and I enjoy watching Lady Gaga’s many transformations.

Tuck: Besides your new book and your great website and blog, what other cool things are going on in Alice Bag's world?

Alice: I’ve been keeping up with the exploits of Anonymous, I like their spirit! If you visited my world there would be lots of pastries there. I love to bake, I’m trying to master the French macaron but I can’t get the texture just right. I took a pastry series at a local culinary school and I don’t want to forget what I learned so I bake every chance I get.

Tuck: Have you been to Olympia before? If so any thoughts about our town? Where does this tour take you?

Alice: I have never been to Olympia. I love experiencing new places so I’m really looking forward to it! I am still booking the tour so I don’t know where I’ll end up. Hopefully Olympians will like me and invite me back. I’ve never been to Canada, I wouldn’t mind going to Vancouver next time I’m in the neighborhood.

Tuck: Tell me about your future plans; i.e. Any new recordings or books in the offing?

Alice: Artifix Records is planning to release a limited edition promotional EP to coincide with Violence Girl. It features one Bags song as well as a small sampling of some of my other bands, from Las Tres to Castration Squad and Cholita. My only plans right now are to promote the book and to enjoy the journey. I have to balance that with making time to nurture my family and my relationships, while at the same time keeping an eye on my government to make sure they start paying attention to my welfare instead of protecting corporate interests. Oh, and I have to work on my French Macaron! That’s all.

Tuck: Would you like to tell one story about the punk scene or Managua?

Alice: How about a page from my Nicaraguan diary?

Wednesday, 4-2-86 It’s 6:30 in the morning. This is my third day here in Nicaragua. On Monday night we arrived in Managua and yesterday we came here. This is truly a new experience for me. I suffered from serious culture shock on Monday night. The Nicaraguan lifestyle is hardly imaginable to us in the United States. You really have to experience it to be able to even begin to understand it. For example, sanitary facilities are minimal and there is scarcity in just about everything. On Monday night we stayed in the hospedaje (hostel). I was very surprised to find that there were only two glasses available for everyone in the hostel to drink water from and they were barely rinsed between users (I later found that one glass was for washing and not drinking). Water for showers in the particular area of Managua where we were staying is turned off two days a week (Mondays and Thursdays) in an effort to conserve it. There is no toilet paper to be found anywhere or at any price. Scraps of La Prensa, (the opposition newspaper) usually end up replacing it in the bathroom. Toilets are as I imagined (seatless or outhouses), as are showers (cold but bearable).

Despite these things and many other inconveniences of living with people at this level of poverty, I love being here. It’s not that big a deal to have to do without the luxuries (not necessities) we have back home. It’s been a while since I felt this alive, this involved. I met my family last night. My Nicaraguan mother is a former guerilla; a strong, well-informed, admirable woman. I talked for hours with her last night. Her life has been hard but she has been so much a part of her people’s history. Because my Nicaraguan family (mom and 5 daughters) been has been so integrated (as they say here) in the revolutionary and post-revolutionary movements they are a rich source of history and information. The house I am living in now was taken over by some important revolutionary heroes a few years back and used as a Sandinista headquarters as well as living quarters. My Nicaraguan mother has been interviewed extensively by reporters from all over the world because of her strong contributions to the revolution. She was a founding member of several important post revolutionary organizations including organizations which provide for those who have been injured in the war and organizations which support women’s struggles such as AMNLAE (Asociacion de Mujeres Nicaraguenses, Luisa Amanda Epinoza). My Nicaraguan sisters are beautiful, intelligent children whom I like very much already.

I am on an adventure and I love it!

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