Published in the Spring 2006 issue • Features
An Interview With the Gossip
Drummer Hannah Blilie and singer Beth Ditto share their feminist perspectives on the music industry, DIY projects and what keeps them going. A Shameless web exclusive.
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What have been the greatest challenges in the music business as female musicians and performers?
HB: Well, it certainly takes a certain kind of lady to be able to put up with it. Before you even walk up on stage there are so many things that are working against you, it’s totally loaded. You really have to break through a lot of walls in the music industry and you have to be prepared for it: the sexist sound-check guys, the people who say “You’re pretty good musicians for girls,” and those who say “I never liked girl musicians until I saw you.”
BD: Yeah, and sometimes the people who are saying that are girls, and it’s like, “Don’t you know who you are?”
HB: And there are the promoters who won’t take you seriously because you’re girls. Then you also have to deal with the press and the reviews. It really takes a good thick skin to be able to handle all of this and still be able to creatively produce. What girls have to understand is that it is 10 times harder for your band to succeed than your boyfriend’s.
BD: But here’s the thing: you don’t have to be a girlfriend of a boyfriend who has a band. You are a band waiting to happen. You can start your own thing, right now.
HB: Some girls still have to break out of the whole “rockabilly girlfriend” role that in the past has created this restrained stigma, this culture of sexist gender codes and roles. Once you get past that, you can succeed as yourself and no one else.
BD: You don’t have to be a sex symbol to succeed as a girl musician.
HB: Guys always rise to superstardom and it’s just not so easy for girls. The music industry is full of sexism.
BD: If it were a place that was willing to accept change, it would be so different.
HB: Yeah, if it were equal and if there was no pressure to fit into a mold. But at the same time, this anger we feel from the injustices fuels our fire of making the music we make. Our music wouldn’t be as ferocious if it weren’t for the bullshit we have to go through. We play and fight against that.
That same ferocious energy, do you get to share it on stage?
BD: Yes, but it’s more of the immediate reaction of playing live; it’s commonly mistaken as a “live sound” when really it is a “live presence.”
HB: It’s better to be a better live band than to have a good record or good songs.
BD: I hate bad shows more than I hate bad records, because I’m at the show and I’m thinking to myself “I’m so bored I want to die.” That’s why I enjoy going to see live modern dance, because it’s visually interesting. And that’s why I love Toronto, because there’s so much art and every time I come here I know that you guys get it. Toronto is the best fucking city.... It’s so fresh and it’s so queer positive, I absolutely love it.
You both have many side projects. How do you find the time to devote to making zines while trying to maintain a music career?
BD: Our side projects take a backseat to our music work, but still, I’m constantly making zines. Whenever I have extra money and I’m on tour, I’ll go on a Kinko’s binge. When I made my first zine, I only made 30 and they were gone in 10 minutes. My first zine was about sexual-abuse survival and what it felt like getting fat really fast. Zines are good outlets. My next zine is going to be about pop and hipster culture. It’s going to be called Delta Berserk because it’s my movement that I’ve invented, and it’s about making your own thing hip rather than the other way around: don’t follow, lead. Although making your own thing hip is an old idea, the Gossip exists for puns and that’s what we do. We make the old new, like buying things that substitute teachers threw out in the ’90s, and that we have now.
For more info on the Gossip check out their site, www.gossipyouth.com. Nadja Sayej’s review of the new album will appear in the Summer 2006 issue of Shameless.