Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: A Tribute to Mia Zapata and The Gits

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday where I shine the spotlight on a female who I think rocks and who is doing something I think you should know about. Last week, I introduced you all the the fabulous up-and-coming fashion designer Alyse Frank of DeCatoure Clothing and Alyse generously put up a red polka-dot corset that she designed as a prize. The winner of this totally unique garment is... B from MySpace!!! ( ) So B, send me a myspace message with your address and I will forward it along to Alyse!!!

Well, I'd planned to feature one of my new favorite bands, Civet, today, but since their album Hell Hath No Fury just came out yesterday, they are swamped with press so we're gonna have to push that back to next week.

So instead, I am going do a tribute to one of my all time favorite female musicians, Mia Zapata, and her band the Gits. The Gits were one of the bands that got me through high school. I loved them so much that I ended up going to college at Antioch College in Ohio partly because that was where they'd formed. Mia Zapata seemed to speak directly to my soul. She knew my pain, my passion, my joy. I can't count how many hard times songs like "Another Shot of Whiskey," "Second Skin," and "Seaweed" have gotten me through. And if anyone is wondering what my character Emily Black's singing voice sounds like in my head? It's the blues-infused wail of Mia Zapata.

Unfortunately, Mia Zapata was murdered 15 years ago, so I can't have her here today to tell you about herself and her band and probably make you laugh and totally fall in love with her music. But her bandmate Steve Moriarty has written an absolutely beautiful tribute to Mia that tells the story of their band the Gits. Steve has also agreed to send one lucky person a copy of my favorite Gits album, Frenching the Bully, and I think he'll probably even sign it for ya. As usual that winner will be chosen at random from the comments, so please comment away about anything you like after reading Steve's story:

Zapata and THE GITS

My name is Steve... and I am a Sniveling Little Rat Faced Git. I played drums in THE GITS among other bands for a long ass time. Not all the bands were that great but THE GITS were. We formed THE GITS in 1986. The Sniveling Little Rat Faced Gits, stolen from a Monty Python episode, this was the only name which could describe our dorkiness and general lack of social grace. We shortened it to THE GITS to fit on our demo tape, which eventually became the Kings and Queens CD.

We wrote songs and played shows. Mia and Andy wrote most of the songs but I was always there to help with rhythms and arrangements. Mia and I could sync up effortlessly and that became true of all of us as a group. In the summer of '89 we moved to Seattle for no particularly good reason. We played the clubs up and down the West Coast relentlessly. During that time we played the scene with small up-and-coming bands like: Nirvana, Beck, Sublime, No Doubt and Green Day. THE GITS were never as financially successful as any of those bands. All the money we made went into maintenance and gas for our 1976 GMC tour van. It ran on (very green) leaded gasoline. We lived out of that van on tour. We just wanted to play and tour. We were purists and we loved what we were doing.

In 1991 we booked a tour of punk squats and community centers across Western Europe and Scandinavia. We loved playing in Europe and the people we played for loved us too. Energized by the tour, we came back to the states and played with a mission and rage like no other band out there. And there were a lot of bands in Seattle at the time. We recorded our first album, "Frenching the Bully", which ended with the song that seemed to have something special. That song was Second Skin. It was our fan's version of a hit. Not in the top 40 sense, but in the realm of human connection and universality. I have been told more than once that "Second Skin" saved some one's life. "Frenching the Bully" was very well received in the press and got widely reviewed around the world. The album got unprecedented reviews for such a relatively unknown small band. Even the snobby English press like N.M.E. and Melody Maker gave it great write-ups.

We continued to play live as much as possible, and went into the studio to record a second album. We had finished most of the music tracks and decided to do a tour before putting on the finishing touches. On that tour we played flawlessly.

After a pair of well attended shows in L.A. record companies took notice of our band. An A&R dude at Atlantic Records drew up a contract to offer to us. We never got the offer because on July 7, 1993 our friend and singer Mia was brutally raped and murdered by a stranger on the street in Seattle.

That’s the short story of THE GITS. But Stephanie has asked me to write about my friend and our singer Mia Zapata. John Lydon (Aka Johnny Rotton of the Sex Pistols) was asked to comment about the death of Pistol’s bass player Sid Vicious he said, “He was my friend, he died and I miss him.”

That is what I’d like to say about Mia. She was my friend, I loved her, she died and I miss her terribly. I think perhaps the best way to describe her as a musician and a band member is to allow the people who have been touched by her voice and lyrics to tell you how they feel.
I thought I would present some quotes for you to get an idea of how Mia affected people who knew her and people who just heard the music or saw us play live. All that is left is for you to listen to the records and interpret the music in your own way, how it best suits you. Enjoy.

Mia i never knew you but i've seen you sing your heart out many times. thanks for being who you were. i know you are one bad ass angel.
i miss you.

To Mia's family I send my thanks for bringing her in to this world. I hope that this resolution can bring you a small bit of peace. Her energy and spirit touched everyone who knew her. I'm thankful for the time that she was my friend and the fun times we had together. I miss you every day Mia.

I thought that by them bringing Mia's killer to "justice", I'd magically feel better and think pretty, happy thoughts about the beauty that was robbed from us. I find the only thing that has happening is the blunt realization that there is no "justice" to make everything change back to the way things were before. We miss you Mia. My hope is you find everlasting peace.

very good verse from bhagavad gita I pray for liberation and eternal joy for mia . thankyou that the demon is caught

I'll never forget the first time I heard the Gits and Mia's voice. I can't tell you how many times I've played the records, I had to buy an extra copy of the Second Skin single because I was afraid of wearing it out.Thank you for this website, for keeping that music alive, and for making people in that court feel how great a loss her murder was to so many people.

Thank you Mia for continuing to give me strength and inspiration. With every photo I print of you, I learn a little bit more about your spirit. With every word I read/hear about or from you, more of your spirit lives on. Peace Mia. Viva Zapata!

Hello from all the way down in Queensland Australia. Even for an extremely long distance, but still immensely passionate,fan like myself it is great to finally get some type of closure in the resultant prosecution. GITS music will always have a secure place in my heart. THANKS ETERNALLY TO MIA & ALL THE GITS.

I still get goosebumps when I hear Mia's voice...thank you for keeping the music and her spirit alive.
Take care.

Some Gits music:

If reading about the Gits has inspired you to learn more about them and their music, you can check out to find out more about the brilliant recent documentary about them and also visit to order their music. Of course you can also enter to win a copy of Frenching the Bully by leaving a comment. You can speak to Steve's moving tribute, tell how The Gits make you feel if you are familiar with their music, or just say whatever is on your mind. The winner will be chosen at random and announced next Wednesday when I bring you Civet!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you went to Antioch.

Liviania said...

Oh, I'm so easy. I'm crying right now.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Sorry to make you cry Liviania, but Mia's story makes me cry too.

And Annika, I'm glad I went to Antioch too.

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