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
GINGER BROOKS TAKAHASHI: Something that reflected us and who we were. And Emily and I for years had worked together as creative partners to make a queer feminist art journal called LTTR.
JD SAMSON: [After Le Tigre went on hiatus] I was doing a project with Johanna Fateman that was already called MEN, and we were writing original songs and that was what we were going to do. That was going to be our next big thing, you know? And then I started playing with them [Brooks Takahashi and O'Neill], just for fun.
O'NEILL: We called it "Hirsute." It was pretty informal.
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BROOKS TAKAHASHI: We applied for some kind of informal art rehearsal space and it was in the World Trade Center area, it was on Wall Street, in a vault, and so we had that for a few months. We were working in there and we were working in our painter friend's studio, so we were all working in these spaces, and it was kind of unknown what the project was going to be. It might have just been like a summer project or something. We didn't have a big goal for this. We didn't know we would be sitting here right now.
SAMSON: We had every intention of continuing the project with Emily as well, but then she kind of lost interest. She went to Sweden and at that point we kind of stopped playing together, but we went, like, "Wait, we want to keep writing" and stuff, so we kept writing while she was gone and she kind of was, like, "You know, guys, I'm just not cut out for this. I don't really want music to be my No. 1 thing." Johanna got pregnant and she was, "I don't really think I can make MEN my real-big-deal thing," and we had already done a bunch of press things for MEN, so we kind of all sat down and I was, like, "All right, guys, do you wanna make this happen? Do you wanna go for this?" and everyone was, like, "Yeah!" and Emily was, like, "No." [laughs] And so we decided to call it MEN and we started finishing the record.
When was that?
SAMSON: 2008, at some point.
Are Emily Roysdon's texts still part of the songs?
SAMSON: Three of them.
How does it feel to be sitting on this great material for such a long time?
SAMSON: It's been frustrating. The label situation has been kind of frustrating. I'm used to the music industry, but I haven't put out a record since things have been really difficult [for the industry]. It's really like we have to be business people, and thank God I was in a project before that was really DIY, because I feel I know enough about the industry to make decisions, but we really have to micromanage a lot and keep our head above water in making decisions.
With Le Tigre, were you always involved on the business side of things?
SAMSON: We were asked every question. Nothing happened without us making the decisions. We were on a label called Mr. Lady for the first couple of records and then we moved to Universal for the last record. We got a different management team that kind of guided us through the process, meeting with a lot of different labels, and we really thought that Universal was the best label to spread our music further into the mainstream and kind of get our music out to more people that wanted it.
'Cause I think that was one of the things we realized: There were still all these queer kids who had never heard of Le Tigre. We wanted to reach them all, somehow.
Was that the main goal with Le Tigre? Reaching the queer kids?
SAMSON: Oh, totally. That was what most of the decisions were based on.
Do you feel This Island doesn't get enough respect? I feel it's one of the great records of the last 10 years, for many reasons — musical, political ...
SAMSON: I think a couple of things happened. One of them was that the record was a definite advancement of our musical ability and we really learned a lot, we worked a lot, we basically produced it ourselves, we learned a lot about how to make things sound better. And we were really excited about that and we felt very proud of it, but I think a lot of people liked LeTigre for their kind of DIY, lo-fi sound, so I think that was hard for our fans to take and I think it was kind of a shock for a lot of people, maybe. And the other thing is that I think that record — unfortunately, timewise, we stopped promoting it when we still could have got more out of it.
I guess we toured it for, like, a year, but we were getting bigger crowds as we went on.
And then the band went on hiatus at that point.
That's the official term? "Le Tigre is on hiatus"?
SAMSON: Yes. [Silence]
How did you end up front-and-center on the This Island cover?