Kathleen Hanna – The Collapse Board Interview
KATHLEEN HANNA: You know I haven’t seen much more of it than you’ve seen. I saw the same thing that they used on Kickstarter pretty much. The thing that I was most shocked about was what Kathi from Bikini Kill (and now The Julie Ruin band) said, this really sweet thing: she’s a perfect front person. I never knew she thought that. That’s not the kind of thing you say to somebody’s face. The whole way she said it was just so nonchalant. I was like, wow! That is really sweet. I don’t think of myself as the prefect front person. She just said it like, oh yeah it’s totally obvious and who wouldn’t want to be in a band with her. I was like, whoa! That was probably the most shocking thing to me.
For part of the film they filmed The Kathleen Hanna Project that was at the Knitting Factory.
KH: Yeah I was really sick that night, it was a hard night for me.
What did you make of it all? To have a tribute to someone when they’re still very much …
KH: Alive! [laughs]. It was really, really weird. I will say there was some great things that happened at the show. There was this guy Dan Fishback who did a performance with a bunch of other guys of this really obscure song I did on an album. Mike Watt [Minutemen, dos, Firehose] did this record in the 90s and he got all these people like Eddie Vedder to do a song with him. I think there weren’t enough girls on the record so he asked me. He came to see us play at a punk club in New York. I did this whole thing that was an answering machine message and I talked about Annie and I basically refused to be on the record in an answering machine message but it was all fake. The piece was kind of about the absence of women on the record. I had a real quandary. I feel like I was kind of being tokenised, that I was just being asked to be on this record because I was a women. At the same time I don’t want to say that I am being tokenised so that there is not very many women on the record. I’m not calling him a sexist at all. I just felt like I was filling a void on the record because there wasn’t enough women. I thought, how do I record my absence? The answering machine message came out very much me talking in my ‘Valley girl’ accent [puts on the accent], like oh my god Mike! I don’t want to be on your stupid fucking record with Henry Rollins. Fuck you! [laughs]. He put it on.
These guys led by Dan Fishback redid it as a spoken song with harmonies. It was so funny! And I don’t know if you know Toshi Reagon? She’s a really incredible singer-songwriter, she did ‘Keep On Living’ by Le Tigre and she did it in a whole different way with an acoustic guitar and her singing, getting the audience to do the choruses.
To hear songs that I’d been a part of redone by other people was the best part of the night. It was so exciting see Kaia Wilson do ‘Pretty Is’, which is a really obscure song I did with a side project band. That part was really gratifying. I wrote songs for Joan Jett a long time again and seeing her stand on stage and sing my lyrics was thrilling. I think it’s almost more thrilling than being a performer, to watch someone else interpret something you wrote.
Especially when that person is Joan Jett!
KH: I know like, whoa! Come on, the Queen of Rock! You can’t do much better than that!
As part of The Kathleen Hanna Project, Sini was collecting stories about you for the film from fans. She asked people via The Kathleen Hanna Project blog: who is Kathleen Hanna? Why should we know who she is? I wanted to ask you those two questions.
KH: [Laughs] I guess that I am a feminist artist and people should know who I am because I am a feminist artist. I’ve made some good work and made some shitty work. If you’re interested in music and feminist art then you should at least know a little bit about what I’ve done so that you can, put it in your pipe and smoke it! [laughs].
Kathleen Hanna art by Jhonny.