TBA INTERVIEW : KATHLEEN HANNA of THE JULIE RUIN
Kathleen Hanna is the fairy godmother of punk feminism. When she started Bikini Kill in the 90s she started a unquenchable fire in every girl’s heart that burned through the brush to a clear place where girls could see each other and themselves more clearly. How other people saw them — who gives a shit. Kathleen is now back on stages and on tour with the second incarnation of her group The Julie Ruin, and they’re bringing their irreverent and joyful noise to the opening ceremony for PICA’s TBA Festival this Thursday. Here, an excerpt from NPR Music's Jacki Lyden.
Girls like us like cotton candy, plastic handbags, alcohol. Girls like us sometimes ignore people on the street, even other people that we know. Girls like us sneak breaks at Wendy’s and girls like us invented jazz. Girls like us have no foundations, creation myths are so passé. Girls like us.
Tell me a little bit about how this song came to be. What’s going on here?
You tell me. The lyrics are really kind of random. It’s like, girls like us eat salt for breakfast, girls like us stand back to back. They’re kind of an anthem for the people who there is no anthem for. You know, it’s meant to be kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing of like, we’re all different. I thought that song was a really playful way to say there is no girl like us. You know what I mean? There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.
You were forced to take a long time out; this is your first album in nine years. People were wondering what had happened. And recently, it came to light that you were suffering very seriously from an undiagnosed illness. Would you tell me more about that?
Yeah, I have late-stage Lyme disease. And I still, you know, have good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. And I’m still in long-term treatment. It’s been a tough nine years. And I didn’t think that I would ever be performing again. And that was a very bitter pill to swallow along with the other 84 pills I take every day, ha.
Are you on good terms with the woman who started Bikini Kill?
I think I am now. I’ve kind of made peace with the mistakes that I’ve made and also feeling proud of what I’ve made. I think that people who are involved in community activism, it’s like, don’t stand out. We’re all equal, you know, especially if you come from a punk rock background that’s anti-hierarchy. And I always had this thing of, like, don’t be a leader. And I think that fed into me not being able to say: Hey, wait. That was really cool what I did.
I had to, you know, downplay the interesting things that I had made, kind of even to myself. And I’m still as pissed off as ever before. I think I’m just a little bit more directed. I have a better direction for my anger. It’s less kind of loosey-goosey all over the place. And I’m more apt to look at a larger world view than just, you know, what’s going on inside my apartment building. And now I think both the 21-year-old and the 41-year-old are pretty happy with each other…