By Erika Meyer
It’s 2003. I’m working at a college about 45 minutes drive from my home. During my commute I often listen to KNRK, Portland’s “alternative rock station”. They play Nickelback, Everclear, Sublime, and such. I wish there were more variety. I am disappointed, also, that they never play any music with a female vocalist. Then, one morning the DJs announce that they will be interviewing The Donnas later. That seems quite out of the ordinary, so I decide to tune in at work and listen.
The interview will be conducted by a couple of DJs called Marconi and Tiny. The DJs get pumped for the interview by playing a Donnas song on the air. Then The Donnas arrive in the studio. Everyone says hello.
I believe that it is the third question that becomes problematic. It is something along the lines of “So have you all ever done the same guy at the same time?* All together?”
The Donnas, apparently expecting questions about their music, their album, their tour, and so forth, refuse to respond to the DJs sexcapade question, except to say they think it’s inappropriate. The DJs grow defensive and begin to hurl insults. The Donnas then end the interview. They just get up and walk out.
But it doesn’t stop there. Oh no. The butt-hurt DJs continue to rant and rage (occasionally breaking for a song or commercial) for the duration of their program. They feel that The Donnas have no business protesting the question, because they have written songs like this:
They call The Donnas “bitches” and “whores”** over and over, announcing that they will never play The Donnas music ever again (not that they ever had before).
I briefly consider calling the station to show them what a real bitch sounds like.
Instead, I decide to stop listening to KNRK altogether.
Two years later, in 2005, I’m teaching guitar at Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls. Every morning we all gather in a big auditorium, and Carrie Brownstein (of, at the time, Sleater-Kinney) plays her Gibson SG as we sing the rock camp song. Then there is a morning skit which that year was acted out by Beth Ditto, Carrie Brownstein, and a musician/writer named Chelsea Johnson. The three of them portray characters in various scenarios in order to illustrate some point the camp staff wanted to make (Carrie often wearing some ridiculous fake mustache). The girls then go to break out sessions and learn everything from songwriting to self-defense. During the lunch hour, bands play – The Blow, The Gossip, All Girl Summer Fun Band, etc.
One day, at lunch, The Donnas come in, set up a merch table in the back, and conduct a sort of panel interview from stage in front. Along with camp volunteers, about 60 girls aged 8-18 sit on the floor of the auditorium with their lunches, and The Donnas answer their questions.
The Donnas discuss how they got together as a band, how they collaborate, and their experiences with Atlantic Records and MTV and such. They are so sweet and respectful and encouraging that it seems pretty much impossible to dislike them as people. After the interview is over, I buy one of their T-shirts.
In May 2004 Marconi and his crew air audio from the beheading of Nick Berg and joke about it. The next day, KNRK issues an apology to its listeners, and fires all three of them. The following week, the station decides to rethink their format and actively solicits listener feedback. As a result of this KNRK hires less offensive DJs and shifts their programming to include acts like David Bowie, Modest Mouse, and The Shins.
They still don’t play The Donnas.
* You can’t say “fuck” on the radio.
** Apparently, you can say “bitch” and “whore” on the radio.