SUMMERSAULT
 
 

How did the split EP with Huggy Bear come about?

Tobi: We had the songs recorded and weren't sure what we wanted to do with them. Someone handed me a Huggy Bear demo at a show (from the band) and it was amazing. It ended up we wanted to go put out our record over there as a split with Huggy Bear and we had Kill Rock Stars put out the game over here.

Billy: We toured the U.K. with them and it was a riot, there was a lot of other bands involved like Comet Gain and Blood Sausage and Skinned Teen. The British press blew it all out of proportion.

Tobi: There was something exciting going on at our shows, a lot of girls and ladies and just kids in general were really amped. Our friend Lucy Thane made a movie about it called 'It Changed My Life' and we got to meet Ava from the Raincoats and Shirley, which was mindblowing as we're all huge fans of their work.

How did the collaboration with Joan Jett come about?

Billy: Oh, we, uh she.... I'm trying to think right now... OK, we were all heavily into the Runaways and somehow she appeared at our show and started calling us.

Tobi: She called Kathleen up 'cuz we had somebody give her a demo and we wrote on it 'For a good time, call Kathleen' and she called and the single happened a few months or about a year later.

Kathi: She's really into D.C. bands and Dischord bands like Fugazi and Circus Lupas. We gave Allison from Bratmobile the demo to give to her. We were actually right in the middle of doing this radio interview when she called us, we were all in total disbelief. She came to our New York show (pyjama tour) and we had the idea of working together. It didn't happen until later, after we'd moved back to Olympia.

Kathleen: No, no. That's not how it happened at all! In reality, me and Joan were friends from way back in my professional rollerskating days. We met at this one rink, I was tying up my laces when I saw her skate by, the rest is herstory!

What are the politics behind KRS?

Tobi: Well, there isn't like a strict policy. It started out as a small label putting out records by bands who have something to do with Olympia. The people who work in the office aren't professional music industry types, they're kids in bands who are learning as they (we) go along. I do mail order when I'm not on tour. KRS tries to help the bands get what they want out of their releases and supports women musicians and tries to disrupt the straight white male bias of punk.

Billy: Yeah, sometimes there's parties at the office for people's birthdays with cake. One time we had a party for Gertrude Stein.

Tobi: All the people who work in the office happen to be women now besides Slim, who started the label back in 1991 or whatever.

What's the girl scene like in Washington?

Billy: Anti-authoritarian.

Tobi: It's gone through a lot of different stages.

Billy: There's more than one girl movement, it varies a lot. There's Team Dresch and the girls in Portland, the riot grrls who live in my building... it's not all unified.

Tobi: But it is all connected and there's a lot going on. In Oregon the Free to Fight movement has really taken off and a lot of bands from Olympia have been involved in that - Excuse 17, Heavens to Betsy, Lois, Bikini Kill, Sue P., Fox etc. Jody and Donna from Team Dresch have record labels (Chainsaw and Candyass) and the Free to Fight record came out on Jody's label, a record that teaches women about self-defence. The Free to Fight movement is about having self-defence workshops, and sometimes those happen at shows.

Tobi: A lot of girls have been starting labels. I started putting out demo tapes on my label, Bumpidee, and it's been kind of hard 'cuz my label isn't that ambitious (tape only) and most girls in bands are these days. Cindy Wolfe is starting a label called Ultrasound, Julie from K has a label called Skinnie Girl. A label in Portland started called HoreeKitty.

At what age did you start playing an instrument?

Billy: I can't remember.

Tobi: I started when I was 12. I don't like to practice by myself, I only play at band practice.

Kathi: I was 19 when I started playing guitar and bass. I've been playing music though, (violin, clarinet, piano) ever since I can remember.

Kathleen: I started singing in school in music class. After that, I did stuff, like I played Annie (do you have that musical in Australia?) in the school play. I also joined church choirs just so I could sing in front of people. I wasn't into God , I just wanted to sing. Kinda touching, huh? I sang along to a lot of records in my room, mostly Donny Osmond and Tony DeFranco.

How do you feel about the "gender as genre" issue? Do you think it's fair that people want to see girls or play with girls just because they're girls?

Tobi: I understand why some women/girls/ladies don't want to be women-identified 'cuz it totally complicates your band identity and no one seems to pay much attention to the music or what you're doing. We have chosen to be girl-identified (althou gh Billy isn't a girl!), because we want to encourage other women/girls to play music. When I was growing up, I found it discouraging to have all these women in bands not wanting to address the issue of gender...we're interested in what women are doing.

Kathi: What does "fair" mean? Is it fair that I want to see a punk band instead of a metal band? People are into what they're into, we're into girl rockers, even if they aren't stressing that aspect of their endeavour.

What has been your best gig?

Billy: Our best shows are chaotic. After a show I can't remember it because onstage everything seems so immediate and afterwards my recollection becomes blurry.

Tobi: Yeah, that's a hard one. I think it's hard to decide what's a good show, it doesn't necessarily meet the perception of everyone else in the band; I hate it when someone in the band has a bad show and they think the show sucked, 'cuz sometim es the audience didn't see it that way. I remember the shows we play with bands we like or shows where fucked up shit happens.

Kathi: The shows we played with Nation of Ulysses on our first tour with them. Because public reaction was so much like, what the fuck! It was really immediate for me because it was the first tour I'd ever been on. I never knew what was going on.

Kathleen: I hate shows where people act like we are on a TV set.

There was a notable absence in the Not Bad For A Girl film.....

Tobi: Maybe someone asked us and we forgot to respond. We don't have a manager and we're hard to get hold of, we don't really place a lot of value on organisation and sometimes this means that we miss out on opportunities, but usually it works out, we'd like to see the movie though.

Billy: I like going to the cinema.

How did the band get together?

Kathi: We all met at this soda fountain. No, really I did meet Tobi at this soda shop, we were hired on the same day for shitty summer jobs in 1989. I met Kathleen when we were going to college and she ran this art space. We started to hang out a nd play guitar in Portland after her band got back from tour. She had written Tobi a letter and we all were converging on Olympia at the same time, similarly dispossessed and energetically bored. Billy came after we'd already played some shows as just three. His guitar prowess was known by all due to his involvement in the Go Team, with Tobi and Calvin. He looked mass cool, too.

Kathleen: Tobi was tied to train tracks and I untied her so she took me out for an espresso BUT when we got there the building was on fire and I heard people screaming out "Help! Help!" So I ran in there and pulled out these two people who ended up being Kathi Wilcox and Billy Karen.

Who is your favourite guitarist?

Billy: Ace Frehley, Poison Ivy, Greg Ginn, Tom Verlaine, (Australia's own) Rowland Howard, and don't forget Jimi Hendrix and Cosi Fanny Toody.

Tobi: Kat Bjelland, Mick from the Gorieel, Johnny Ramone, Julie Cafritz.

Billy: Ringo.

Tobi: Yes, Ringo for the drums. And the guy who played on the Mussel Shoal Sessions with Wilson Picket and Aretha Franklin.

Kathi: The three Billys: Billy Childish, Billy Zoom, and Billy Karren. Also, the guys from the Birthday Party, Fred Oole from Dead Moon, and Pat Smear was pretty great. For bass guitar it would have to be Chuck Dukowski from Black Flag, of all time. He's a total maniac.

Kathleen: Casper Brotzman, Erin Smith, Carlos Canedo, Shannon Tragedy, and Billy Karren.

Do you fight with each other much?

Tobi: We respect everybody's weaknesses and deal with all the annoyances.

Kathi: We're all strong personality types, which anyone who knows us will testify as truth, it's hard for any of us to sublimate our natural contrary anti-ness reactions, but ultimately I think that's our real power. We're not afraid to be bitchy, which is an important skill to have sometimes, to fight so you get your way. We have respect for each other so that we can disagree and it's not a big deal.

Kathleen: We've been going to this therapist and she got us into spongy baseball bat things that we use when we're angry because it allows us to get out our anger in a positive way without hurting on another.

What are your influences?

Tobi: Shop assistants, Shangri-Las, The Dicks, Beat Happening, The Clash, Patti Smith, The Melvins, Yoko Ono, my dad's drumming style.

Billy: The Slits, The Ronnettes, Chryssie Hynde, Wire.

Kathi: Beat Happening, X, The Smiths, Sex Pistols, 60s surf music and girl groups. The records I had in high school were bands on K, 60s music (Kinks, Who, girl groups) and punk records like Buzzcocks and Black Flag. I was way into Tracey Thorne in all incarnations.

Kathleen: I got the first Beat Happening record at 16 and it changed my life absolutely.