By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Caught up with the New York--based musical girl gang and tragic mulattos Le Tigre -- Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and lovesexy J.D. Samson (founding member Sadie Benning is on hiatus at the moment) -- right before they left town (razor blades in hair) for a whirlwind Japanese tour. Two years ago they released their wonderful debut, Le Tigre, to thunderous acclaim. This year it gets even better, with a new EP called From the Desk of Mr. Lady on Mr. Lady Records. Things got really candid between us. Well, what do you expect from a bunch of half-black chix sitting around talking?
L.A. WEEKLY: After hearing the new superhuman, super EP, all I have to say is, I hate you! You‘re too black, you’re too proud, and you‘re too strong. Right off the bat you come out slugging. And it’s hilarious! How many times have we all wanted to yell at people, “Get off the Internet!”?
JOHANNA FATEMAN: You know, when we were working on that song I was kind of afraid it would come off as anti-technology or too moralistic, as if the Internet can‘t be used in a politically radical way. But we were just assuming that our audience is smart enough to hear our frustration with e-mail petitions and message boards, etc., and our ambivalence about how we can be idealistic, sincere and “political” in a cultural moment where we’re supposed to be, according to journalists, “the phoenix rising from the ashes of riot grrrl” or “the Stooges taking a victory lap in a post-feminist utopia.” As if!
I loved your debut release as well; it has to have been one of the most talked-about releases of the 1999-2000 Edith Wharton season. But this latest one will resonate even stronger, I believe. You‘ve struck such a righteous chord -- it’s major!
KATHLEEN HANNA: I‘m actually embarrassed and humiliated right after we put a record out; I have to step inside this weird denial tent. It feels like when you get really drunk at a party and say a bunch of fucked-up (yet ultimately true) things to people, and then you wake up the next morning and you don’t wanna go outside.
So many people are going to hold this new record close to their hearts. I‘ve listened to it over and over, and it makes me feel like I’m being sung to personally.
FATEMAN: We pretty much did write it for you. You know how people always say that thing about artists making work with political content? That they‘re “preaching to the converted”? Well, we’re totally into that. We‘re making music for feminists and queers first and foremost. And that’s a recipe for charm.
It‘s so endearing to see how you’ve managed to change some of the rules in the rock & roll hierarchy. Just the dynamics between performer and audience seem so new and different at your shows.
J.D. SAMSON: In reality, we‘re didactic in many ways when addressing The People out there, but still, we’re extremely available and in a lot of ways expect the same didactic nature back from them. This creates a relationship with the audience that is not only one-sided but conversationalist and therefore comfortable not only for them but for us.
I‘m becoming such a lesbian separatist in my old age. I’ve always loved Valerie Solanas and the SCUM manifesto, which is pure genius, and so right on, I might add. Are you Valerie fans?
HANNA: I think the SCUM manifesto is so important entertainment-wise. It always cheers me up when I‘m down, but I think Valerie herself was probably a nightmare to deal with. You should read Shulamith Firestone’s latest book, Airless Spaces, it has some great stuff about Valerie in it.
When you operate in the underground you‘re a lot more accessible than a mainstream star, with all their bodyguards and ninja security forces. I know we both attract a lot of not the good kind of weirdos and lunatic-fringe elements. Some of those girl-band geeks are harmless, then there are others I hate. They stand there at the front of the stage with that ill look on their faces.
HANNA: I’m personally really into the boys who wear “Girls Rule” T-shirts while driving cars with “Girls Rule” bumper stickers on them after jumping out of airplanes that have just been skywriting “Girls Rule” into the air and then their parachute opens and it says “Girls Rule” on it.
FATEMAN: Right. Perhaps there‘s a psychoanalyst among the L.A. Weekly readership who can explain the male deer-caught-in-headlights-in-the-front-row-with-a-digital-video-camera approach to attending feminist cultural events.
How do you negotiate that sticky terrain of the public and the private?
SAMSON: This mustache I’ve grown since puberty has left me stuck in “the public.” I‘m used to people looking at my hermy face. But I actually feel better now that I can be a positive image for other dykes with facial hair. I spent way too much time afraid to look anyone in the eye on the street, but when I’m onstage or when someone recognizes me, I feel much more comfortable sportin‘ my ’stache with bells hanging from it.