This is the best Wednesday ever. Yesterday might have been the most nervous I've ever been. I managed to get some writing done during group at Jenny's. We forced ourselves to because it was too early in the evening to know anything. Halfway through our writing exercises, her boyfriend, Mike, let us know that Obama had taken Pennsylvania. After we spent 20 minutes writing and read back to each other, he told us that CNN was projecting him to take Ohio. Winning seemed like it might actually happen, but we were still nervous. Scott got out of class so I went home to be with him. We were watching Comedy Central's election coverage (I needed to laugh to settle my nerves) when they announced Obama as the winner. I thought it was a joke so we immediately flipped to CNN. And it was real. Totally surreal. I ran upstairs to put the champagne in the freezer (because I was too worried about jinxing things to even put it in the fridge earlier that day). My mom called me at the exact time I was trying to call her. She called my brother and then rushed over to celebrate. Jenny and Mike came over too so we could watch Obama's speech together and see the celebration in our fine city (I'm hoping friends who attended the rally in Grant Park will send me pictures and thoughts from it so I can compile that into a blog).
So yeah. I'm happy. Really happy. And I have other prizes and things of huge excitement to announce. The winner of last week's WWRW contest is running for amsterdam from myspace! Send me a message with your address so I can pass it on to Kelly Parra and get you your copy of INVISIBLE TOUCH! And, I have one more winner to announce from the bunch of people who commented yesterday about voting or encouraging others to vote, I've randomly chosen Mandi the Future Mrs. Woods from myspace! Mandi, please message me with your address and whether you would prefer a signed IWBYJR cover flat or a mix CD!
Now in addition to the great interview you are about to read below from Brenna Red of The Last Gang, I've got two more interviews to tell you about. The fabulous author Keri Mikulski interviewed me on her blog earlier this week and she is giving away a copy of IWBYJR here. So go read the interview and enter the contest.
And then one of the most exciting interviews I've ever done was posted on Shooting Stars Magazine. Thanks to Lauren of Shooting Stars, I had the opportunity to interview the one, the only Mike Ness of Social Distortion, one of my absolute favorite bands in the world. I interviewed him over the summer, but just got around to transcribing the interview (ugh I get so swamped, I am ashamed at times like this!). So go read the interview here and take a look around Shooting Stars Mag's site cause they do some great contests and auctions!
Last but not least I just have to spill right now about who next week's WWRW is because she might be an even bigger hero than Mike Ness to me (well, it's not really fair to rate heroes, all my heroes influence me in their own unique ways).... Melissa Auf der Maur, who you may know from her solo career or as the bassist of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, will be here next week. Umm yeah, this might be my biggest rock star "I'm Not Worthy" Moment. Melissa. Here. Next Week.
Okay, but now we have an interview with a woman who should be your hero, Brenna Red. As I mentioned last week, her band, The Last Gang's music has really captured me. It is punk the way I love it best, played hard and fast and sung by a kick-ass girl. Check out their myspace and become as addicted to the songs as I am. Listen to Brenna's songs while you learn all about her and The Last Gang.
Q: Tell us about your early years as a musician. When did you start playing guitar and singing? Were you self taught or did you take lessons? Who are some of your influences and inspirations? Since it is Women Who Rock Wednesday, we are particularly interested in hearing about the women who influenced you?
Brenna: I didn't talk for several years straight actually. I was an outcast simply because of my low voice. That's why I became a drummer. But one night I was driving in my friend Sean Quinn's car with Kate. The Misfits were on the stereo & I was drunk enough to sing along & let loose. They both turned to me & said I have something special. I trusted their judgment, so I threw caution to the wind. I've been writing songs since I could remember, but I never sang them. After that moment I was determined to use what I taught was a handicap. The girls I listened to as a young punk always sang like, well girls..... Kathleen Hanna, Becki Bondage, Poly Styrene, Jo Ball, Exene...... I more related to the men of the scene. I still do. But once I heard The Avengers in Toad's garage when I was 16, I knew who would be my "rock 'n roll model". My brother taught me how to play guitar properly & I made the instrument switch. My heroes from the beginning were always John Graham Mellor, Mick Jones, Costello, & my brother. Men who could write absolute poetry.
Q: Tell us about The Last Gang, like when/how the band formed, what your sound is like, and where we can hear or purchase your music? According to your Myspace page, The Last Gang has recently completed their second EP "Red 27" & is wrapping up another entitled "Out Of Time" featuring the songs "Girl, Girls" & "Alley-Man". When can get our hands on these releases? And what is your favorite song that you've recorded so far and why?
Brenna: We started circa 2004, just messing around. Unlike other bands, I like to pay tribute to those who have been with us thru out the years. Our firs bass player was Johnny Homicide. He left because.... well let's just blame it on the weather. Then came Jenny. She's still a part of the Gang, just more on the sidelines. We all love her to pieces. Then we got Teddy. After he joined things started falling into place. Tours, recordings, things got more serious & we took this band as an important involvement. As of right now tho, Teddy has left us, the reasons will be obvious in a few months as to why. But this doesn't mean we're gonna stop. We got a few more tricks up our sleeve with bass players. But I guess it's our curse.... The Curse Of The Revolving Bass Players.
All of our gear is only available at the shows & on tour. Everything we have is DIY, so we don't have any kind of fancy company to manufacture our faces all over the place. We run the band on the punk scene, not on fat cats wallets. We work hard & any money we earn goes right back into making goodies for the kiddos.
Personally, my favorite song has to be Oi! & Alleyways. It's about the pain & nostalgia that aches when I reminisce about the good o'l days when punk wasn't a fashion statement. Tho the truth about The Alleyman still holds true in my mind to this day. No matter how much a kid primps & poses, we were the punks. We knew our alleys & alleymen.
Q: I grew up listening to bands like Hole, L7, and Bikini Kill, who were outspoken about the sexism they encountered in the industry from executives who didn't take them seriously because they were female to guys in the crowd yelling "show us your tits!" Have you encountered any road blocks or felt mistreated because you're a woman out there rocking? How do you handle this stuff?
Brenna: The only roadblock I've seem to encountered is that I almost feel dirty standing up for the band & asking for attention from the business end. I have a deep seeded issue that I will not ever be portrayed as some bitch who'll suck dick for fame. My reputation of being a musician first & female second means more than making it big. I'd be happy if I ended up busking on the corner for rent if it meant keeping my integrity. But I can't look over the fact that a human is a human is a human. I will always be looked at as a "girl in a band" If that's the gimmick that leads to successful tours & making rent money from music, I use it appropriately. Bottom line, you'll never catch me fucking a guy just because he's the lead singer of a touring band. Music is my religion, & I got ethics.
Q: A lot of my readers are teen girls, can you tell us a little bit about what you were like as a teenager and give the girls out there a little bit of advice about how to survive high school and pursue their rock 'n' roll dreams (or other creative pursuits)?
Brenna: I was awkward. Unloved. Unwanted. Made fun of. Bashes & bruised. I fell into the punk scene cause I related to them as an outcast. It still feels weird saying "oh, I'm a punk." I like to say I'm only a weirdo. "Punk" sounds like I reek of effort. This is how I survive high school: It's a fairly good waste for people like us. I finish it one day at a time. And got the most of the facts they taught me. I learn how to blend into any social group, it became my biggest street wise resource. But I didn't let the drowning of test after test, schedule after schedule bog my passion down.
Get into trouble & create your own pain. Boring people is the biggest sin.
Q: I have two questions that I always ask my Women Who Rock, the first is a two-parter. What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge, we like to see the roots of our women who rock!
Brenna: First album I bought: The Adolecents "Live In 1981 & 1986" & Discharge.
But the first album I stole & listened to first: Operation Ivy, The Clash "Give 'Em Enough Rope," & Punk You Volume 1. 2nd best compilation ever. It's like a mixed tape your brother made in 5th grade.
Q: Tell us about your biggest rock star moment, perhaps it's a moment of real success in your career, a time when you met someone super cool and had that Wayne's World "I'm not worthy" moment, or just a time where you felt like you got the rock star treatment. I get a huge variety of answers for the questions, so it's pretty much whatever "rock star moment" means to you!
Brenna: It was an experience playing with SLF at the Sunset House Of Blues. They no doubt represent idols of a better day to me. The odd thing was tho, when we got on stage, I felt like the show belonged to us. We play for ourselves, not to impress or for status. But a treasured memory I'll always have is our very first tour. We hit the road with Everybody Out! with Rick, Sean, Sweeny, Kevin, & Mike. You know the feeling you get when you think of the old friends you used to run with? That sinking in your stomach? We felt that nostalgia driving home the day after our last show. I knew we collected a few more members of The Gang. I'll remember those boyos till I'm grey in my bed.
I might get those reactions from "fans" about how we so cool, but it never sinks in cause I consider all of them friends & art of the Gang. But this reply we got truely made my heart elevate:
"I just wanted to take this time to say thank you. Thank you for doing what you do and inspiring me to continue doing what i love to do. I've never written a letter like this one before due to the fact that all my musical insperations are either dead or have given up. Not to mention the fact that I am not inspired enough by most recent bands to write a letter like this. Your lyrics mean alot to me and your music has recharged my desire to perform and to create. In the last week I have begun writing again and my guitarist and I have finally settled down to seriously seek out a full time drummer (since our current one is a ween-bag) and a bassist. being a musician yourself, I'm sure you have endured the same set backs, road blocks, and hardships that myself and my band have over the years and sometimes It just seems easier and even more realistic to just give up and attemp to live a somewhat normal life but ever since stumbling upon your music all i have thought about was becoming the best at what i can do and not slowing down for a second. I don't know if you get letters like these alot or at all but to me, besides family and my girl, Music is all that I have and it is what makes me me and I just wanted to express my gratitude to you for being as insperational to me as you are. your music brings out every emotion i have and that says alot for when your able to do something like that, it's definitly a special thing. Your heart, honesty, and dediaction wring out through your vocals and it's genuine and i appriciate that. No bullshit. How music was meant to be. So, I'm not a crazy obsessed fan or anything like that, I'm just a guy who appricaites what you do and wanted you to know how much your effort and art mean to me.
Thank you so much,"
That means more to me than people know our name. That feeling I got when I was a young one at the local punk shows singing along, that unity & knowing I wasn't alone..... that's why we do what we do & play what we play.
So that is Brenna and her band The Last Gang. I think their music rocks and that she is a truly amazing and inspiring woman who rock hard and has real integrity. Of course Brenna will send out some Last Gang swag to a lucky winner chosen at random from the comments, so I hope you will comment away about the great stuff that this amazing, rockin' woman shared!
See you next week with Melissa Auf der Maur!