Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday; The Thanksgiving Edition

I figured today would be the perfect day to discuss the Women Who Rock that we are thankful for. It will be a nice way for me to share the women I really admire with you, even those who I may not be able to secure an interview with and for you to share those you admire with me, giving me an opportunity to discover more new female artists to feature. To entice you to comment, of course I will offer a prize. I'm really into mix CDs as of late so it will be a mix of my favorite songs performed by women. One of the songs will be by last week's guest, Jenny Hassler of heilige, and before we continue on, I should announce the lucky winner of her CD! That would be... Liviania from blogger. I believe I have your addy, but send it to me again anyway so I can pass it on to Jenny please!

Okay, so now, on to the thanking!

First off I am thankful for all the fine ladies who have done Women Who Rock Wednesday so far as well as those that I featured on Women Who Rock Week when IWBYJR first came out. I am going to list these women below with links to their interviews so if you missed any, you can check them out and then add their art to your holiday wish lists! Please note that many of these women do multiple forms of art, but I am listing them by the art form they are most known for

Author Hillary Carlip

Filmmaker Jessy Bender

Musician Tamra Spivey of Lucid Nation

Author Jolene Siana (who I am reading with on Monday December 1st at 7 pm with Joe Meno and Chris Connelly at the Book Cellar at 4736 N. Lincoln in Chicago, all ages, please come see us!)

Author Laura Wiess

Author Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna

Musician Mandi Perkins

Author Rebecca Woolf

Designer Alyse Frank

Musician Mia Zapata of The Gits

Musicians Civet

Author Cecil Castellucci

Artist Liz Adams

Musician Deborah Frost

Fictional Musicians Emily Black and Regan Parker (that was a fun one!)

Author Kelly Parra

Musician Brenna Red of Last Gang USA

Musician Melissa Auf der Maur

Musician Jenny Hassler

And I am thankful in advance for Author Paula Yoo who will be my guest next week. Paula's book Good Enough is totally amazing and as geek girl it made me feel really empowered.

Here are some other women I am personally really thankful for. I'm listing ten, but they aren't in any special order.

1. Musician Courtney Love
2. Author Francesca Lia Block
3. Author Melissa Marr
4. Musician Brody Dalle of the Distillers
5. Actress Winona Ryder (people tell me, I look and sound like her and I take it as a huge compliment because I used to try to do my bangs like hers in Beetlejuice)
6. Poet Sylvia Plath
7. Musician Joan Jett
8. Screenwriter Diablo Cody
9. Designer Stella McCartney (gotta love her vegan fashion)
10. Musicians Sleater-Kinney (wouldn't have my book title without these ladies)

These are all big names who I probably couldn't land interviews with, but who knows (well except for Sylvia unless someone wants to help me do a Ouija Board interview). And as usual I mostly know musicians and actresses. Please share the names of the women you are thankful for and who knows I may try to do a WWRW feature on them. And help me diversify, turn me on to some female artists, designers, actresses, dancers, atheletes, or just cool kick-ass ladies.

I will choose a random commentor to win my Women Who Rock mix CD next Wednesday when we are visited by the fabulous Paula Yoo!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and if you are doing pre-Thanksgiving drinking tonight, remember to tip your hardworking bartender well! (Yeah, I'm working tonight and would much rather be on the other side of the bar with the rest of you!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Announcing the "Inspired By" Contest

A couple weeks back, I blogged about how over the moon I get when people tell me they were inspired by my book and how I wanted to do some sort of fan art contest. Well, I've finally had the time to figure out details (for the most part, there are a couple of legalities I am waiting to hear back from the publisher about) so now I am happy to announce the Inspired By Contest!

There will be two categories for the Inspired By Contest: Fan Art and Soundtrack.

Fan Art Category:

Submit your songs, poems, drawings, paintings, photography, zines etc that are inspired by IWBYJR OR dress up as a character, film a scene from the book, make a She Laughs music video OR design a logo for a She Laughs band t-shirt. Basically anything creative that is inspired by the book will be creative.

You will need to submit your entries by email to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com, which means that you will need to be able to send a photograph of your art project or in the case of songs or videos, you will need to send me a link to where I can hear/see the song/video like on YouTube or MySpace or whatever. Please also include a sentence or so about how the artistic endeavor was inspired by IWBYJR ie "This song is about a relationship like Emily and Johnny's" or "This is me dressing up like Emily did for her first show" or "This is a painting inspired by Louisa." Oh and yes, you can submit up to three entries as long as they are different types, ie. one song, one soundtrack, one She Laughs logo design.

Deadline is January 15th. This should give you time after the madness of the Holidays, but of course if I don't get enough entries or you guys don't think this is enough time, I'll push it back.

Judging will be done by the blog readers. I'll post a blog entry with all the photos and links and ask people to vote. Yeah, you can vote for your own or send your friends to vote for you, that's fine!

Grand Prize will be your choice of a 25$ online gift certificate to either DownloadPunk or Amazon or (if we have them) a She Laughs t-shirt PLUS a signed poster from my Metro reading with Irvine Welsh (signed by me, Irvine, and Bill Hillmann, pictured above) PLUS once I receive them (which may not be until spring), you will get a signed, advanced reader's copy of my next book Ballads of Suburbia!

Second Place will get a signed poster from my Metro reading with Irvine Welsh (signed by me, Irvine, and Bill Hillmann).

Three Runners Up will get signed coverflats of IWBYJR.

All Winners will have their work posted on or linked from my website.

And note that depending on the number of entries, I will try to do a little something for everyone who enters, like either put your stuff up on the website or send you a signed bookmark or something!

A note about the She Laughs logo design entries/making t-shirts: this is the thing I am waiting to get legal clearance on from the publisher. If we get legal clearance (which will probably involve me posting some legal mumbo jumbo and potentially having the winner sign something), I may like to use one or more of the She Laughs logos that is designed to actually sell shirts for charity via a Cafe Press store. If your design is chosen, regardless to how you place in the contest, you will receive a t-shirt with your design!

Soundtrack Category:

This is for those of you who like me, may not be musically or artistically inclined (though I could write a poem or dress up as a character and I'm willing to bet most of you could too) or who just LOVE making mix CDs.

Submit your list of up to 20 songs that would be on your personal IWBYJR soundtrack. Unless the song is super popular (ie. Nirvana' or the Beatles or Britney Spears or something), if you can give a link to where the song can be heard or a YouTube video or something that would be great. Even more awesome, do your soundtrack on Project Playlist. Send the list of songs or link to Project Playlist to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.

Deadline is January 15th.

Judging will be done by the blog readers and again, you can vote for your own or send your friends to vote for you, that's fine!

Grand Prize will be a copies of both of my soundtracks (I have one for IWBYJR and one for Ballads) PLUS once I receive them (which may not be until spring), you will get a signed, advanced reader's copy of my next book Ballads of Suburbia!

3 Runners Up will receive their choice of either my IWBYJR soundtrack or my Ballads soundtrack.

All Winners will have their soundtracks posted on my website. And depending on the number of entries, I may post all entries on my website.

Okay, that's everything. If there are any questions or comments about the contest, please go ahead and post them so I can clarify or improve things. I hope lots of you will enter in one or both categories!

In the meantime, remember today is your last day to enter to win a heilege CD by checking out and commenting on the WWRW interview with Jenny Hassler. I've been playing the heilege songs non-stop, so I highly encourage you to check it out and enter!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

#2 on Venus Zine Hottt List- Thank You!!!!

I just got my copy of the Winter issue of Venus Zine and there is a full page spread on me and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone on page 43! And those 2008 Hottt List results for Best Book:

1. David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames
2. Stephanie Kuehnert, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
3. Chelsea Handler, Are you There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea
4. Sloane Crosly, I Was Told There Would Be Cake
5. Sarah Vowell, The Wordy Shipmates

Um, that is freakin' HUGE considering all those other books are bestsellers according to Amazon! So thank you thank you thank you to all the wonderful people who voted for my little punk book. Cause that is what makes it really special: YOU chose it.

So if you subscribe to Venus, go check your mailbox for your issue. If you don't, I believe it will be on newsstands on December 1, so pick it up to read the interview and see the list of my top five rocknroll reads. If you are in Chicago, you can attend this sweet release party on December 3rd. Sadly I'll be working, so go on my behalf and get some great swag.

I heart you, readers! I heart you, Venus!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Concert Review and a Ballads excerpt

I blogged about my experience at the Rise Against show, reminisced about the Fireside Bowl and shared an excerpt from Ballads on the MTV Books blog today. Read it here and share beloved concert stories with me please!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Jenny Hassler!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday when I blog about/interview the female artists who rock my world! Last week's interview with the lovely Melissa Auf der Maur got the biggest response yet! There is no doubt that many of you guys love her as much as I do and I hope you'll all be downloading her new songs, which will be available from her myspace tomorrow! Of course onf of you lucky commentors won a signed MAdM t-shirt! That lucky individual is QueenofCastile from LiveJournal! Please send me a msg with your addy Queen so I can pass it on to Melissa!

Now, the woman I'm featuring today is brand new on the music scene, but I admire her just as much as I do Melissa, so I hope you guys will devote as much attention to this week's WWRW, Jenny Hassler!

Jenny recorded under the name heilege and released a single with b-side To the Sky/War of the Roses that you can purchase from amazon or find in the iTunes store. I highly recommend downloading it right now. It will be the best $1.78 you ever spent. You can also hear these tracks on the heilige myspace or heilige facebook fan pages, so check those out and friend heilige!

Okay for the sake of full disclosure I am going to admit that Jenny is a friend of mine and she also designed my website (so the pretty designs you are seeing around the blog right now? All Jenny) and I do like to support my friends, but the women who I feature on WWRW have to really really touch me, so please know that all my enthusiasm about Jenny is completely 100% honest not just me promoting a friend. I'm listening to her music now as I type this and I listen to her songs a lot because they put me in perfect writing mode. I've fallen in love with these songs like I fell in love with PJ Harvey and Mazzy Star when I was 14. So hopefully that gets you psyched up. Also of course Jenny will be doing the usual WWRW giveaway, so read the interview, leave a comment and be entered to win a CD containing her single and b-side! Now without further adieu, here's the amazing Jenny Hassler!

Q: Tell us a bit about your musical beginnings. How did you get started playing music? Which instrument is your first love? Are you self taught or did you take lessons? Who are some of your influences (particularly the women since this is Women Who Rock Wednesday)?

Jenny: I started music at an early age. I guess you can say it came naturally to me. My first instrument was actually the clarinet, I studied it intensely even throughout high school. I even made it into the Illinois State Band twice. However, I'd have to say my first love will always be piano. I tried playing it when i was young, not knowing what the keys really did and just playing by ear. I started taking lessons at the age of ten. This was also around the time I started playing bass and taking lessons. I played everything from modern rock to jazz. I really fell in love with both piano and bass. As for guitar, that was something I taught myself with my knowledge I already had from bass and piano. I did study music theory, so guitar did come sort of naturally to me as well. I do feel a special connection to my acoustic guitar. It's how I write songs. I don't know what I'd do if I had to get a new guitar..I love that Fender I got as a "first gig" present.

As far as influences go, my mood changes often on music and I get into a slump sometimes, but I always find myself coming back to two women - Courtney Love and PJ Harvey. I feel like both of them had something to say, and they said it. What influences me most is hearing emotion in music or seeing it in art. Without emotion, a song is pointless. To me, writing music is the best way to "let it all out."

Q:You've been in a couple different bands. Can you tell us a bit about the musical journey that led you to heilige? You did heilige as a solo project, any reasons why? And where did you get the name?

Jenny: It's been a long ride, and I feel it's just begun. The first band I was in was a band with my brother on guitar, his two friends on guitar and drums, and me on bass. I've come a long way from Alice In Chains and Pantera covers. I've always been in bands growing up, but have always had a hard time getting out what I needed to say. Heilige was just that for me. I started it about four years ago with a good friend of mine on drums, and me playing everything else. It worked out fine for a while, but unfortunately we had a falling out. I left music for three years, and decided to bring it back in my life, since I had something to say now. Really, I felt a little discouraged to share my thoughts with anyone but my music, so I just told myself it would be a solo project. It worked, and I love keeping it around. Heilige is like my baby that will always be there. I was inspired by the book "Der Stellvertrater" to write the very first heilige song, so I got the name from that book. The word "heilig" means "holy" in German.

Q: You have two songs available for download on Amazon and iTunes. Tell us a bit about these songs. What do they mean to you and why we'll love them?

Jenny: Both of these songs mean a lot to me, although they are fairly new songs. The 'A' side is "To the Sky." This song takes everything I've ever felt and puts in into a song. I like to think that so far, my life has been interesting. I think it's a good story. I can't tell you what it exactly is about, I don't write songs that way. Often times, I'll be sitting at home playing guitar and words will just come out. I wrote this song in five minutes - lyrics and all. "War of the Roses" was a little more thought out. I still just let the words come out, but I thought a little harder about the actual music. I originally titled it "City of Roses" dreaming of the West Coast. They are really personal interpretations of life, and I think anyone can read into the lyrics and come out with something personal.

Q: I think you are a great example of how musicians who want to be heard can control their own destiny. You didn't wait to find a label, you put out your music yourself. Can you tell us why and how you went about doing this?

Jenny: All it takes is one person to tell you to "follow your dreams." I knew I had to do this, even if it's just two songs and only on iTunes, for myself. Like I mentioned before, I left playing music for three years. Those three years I wasn't myself. I was lost and I didn't feel in control. When I found music again, I felt like I was home again. I knew I had a number of great songs, and I should pursue putting them out there, not waiting for anyone to control my destiny. I did some research, bought some equipment, and spent a lot of time in my basement, making each song as special as I wanted to make it.

Q:What is next for heilige? More songs, a tour? Will it continue as a solo project? You also joined a band, Fictile Shine, can you talk a bit about that? How is it different from heilige? In general, what can we expect muscially from Jenny Hassler over the next year?

Jenny: Heilige will never die. As for a tour, probably not. More songs - definitely! I am planning on releasing a full album with eleven tracks including "To the Sky" and "War of the Roses" next year. It's still a work in progress though. Now I'm focusing on my other band, Fictile Shine. You'll hear "To the Sky" in Fictile Shine along with some other originals. A little more rock mixed with a little old country, and you'll find Fictile Shine. I really enjoy interesting bands, and I think Fictile Shine has that going for it. Look out for Fictile Shine definitely playing out in Saint Louis and hopefully touring to Denver, Chicago, Memphis next year. As for Heilige, we'll have to wait and see...
(Note from Stephanie: You can check out some brand new Fictile Shine demos at their myspace.)

Q: In addition to being an amazing musician, you are also a web designer and a make-up artist. Can you tell us a bit about those passions, what led you to them, etc? Do they take a backseat to music or will you always make time for all of your creative outlets?

Jenny: I'm not going to fool myself ever again...nothing will ever replace what music means to me. I love art in general, that's why I love being a makeup artist and a web designer. They are very fun to me, but neither of them gives me the outlet like music does, and always did. I remember being eleven years old, sitting in my bedroom and writing lyrics, wishing i could really play the guitar riffs I had in my head. Music is so important to me, and I'm glad I finally grew up and admitted it.

Q: Now for the two standard Women Who Rock Wednesday questions. 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 true roots of rockin' women!

Jenny: Oh no, I was hoping you wouldn't ask! As far as the first album I ever bought, it was Alice In Chains' "Sap," which to this day remains one of my favorite albums. It's so simple and emotional. This really turned me on to music. As far as concert, I'm going to have to admit my first concert ever was the Spice Girls in 1998. I really got into the cool shoes, and I was 15. In my defense, the very next show I saw was just a little later with Silverchair, Hole and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I did want to go to OzzFest in 1997, but my parents wouldn't let me.

Q: So far, what has been your biggest rock star moment? Maybe it was a concert you went to or played, a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment? Whatever it is, please dish!

Jenny: Really, this interview makes me feel all "wait, I'm a rockstar?" I know I have a while to go, but one thing stands out to me. I played a show Valentines Day 2004, and a 16 year old girl came up to me and said "You Rock!! Can I get your autograph?" I was 21 at the time, and I never really felt like my music made a difference, but I can say, that definitely made me feel like it did.

Thanks for joining us, Jenny! I love both your musical projects and think it is awesome that you got your start band-wise with Pantera covers and will admit that your first concert was Spice Girls. You do rock! You are also an inspiring story of a woman following her musical passion and hopefully that will inspire a lot of my readers!

So, readers, get your hands on that CD by commenting about my interview with Jenny. Then check back next week to see if you've won and read my special Thanksgiving edition of WWRW, which will be all about Women We're Thankful For!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Story songs and some reminders

It's another one of those overwhelmingly busy weeks where I may not blog much, but today I was over at Teen Fiction Cafe blogging about songs that tell stories, specifically about a song by Against Me!'s Tom Gabel that I can't stop listening to right now. Read it here.

Tonight, I'm reading at the Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee Ave in Chicago, at 7 pm as part of the launch of the brand new Orange Alert Reading Series. I'm going to be reading new stuff from Ballads of Suburbia, so come check it out.

And of course tomorrow is Women Who Rock Wednesday, which means I'll be choosing a winner for the signed Melissa Auf der Maur t-shirt. If you haven't entered, check out my blog from November 12th and do so!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Swingin' Party

Liviana from In Bed With Books tagged me for this meme because she thought I'd have interesting music to share. I decided to go for it because it looked like an amusing game to play on the weekend.

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, Minamp, etc on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Put the artist after a dash following the song name.
5. Put any comments in brackets. (I did italics)
6. Tag some lucky people to spread the disease.

How would you describe yourself?
Cheated Hearts- Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"I think I'm bigger than the sound" Hmm, not so much, really I feel one with the sound and I don't feel cheated, but maybe in the past...

How do you feel today?
Failures- Joy Division

Umm I've failed at getting down to business and writing?

What is your life's purpose?
Punks in Vegas- The Bouncing Souls

Hell yeah!

What is your motto?
Mystery- The Wipers

Okay, I guess my motto is a mystery to me.

What do you think about very often?
Hoboken- Operation Ivy

Actually I've never thought about Hoboken until now. That's in New Jersey right? I was in New Jersey once, but I don't think I was in Hoboken.

What is your life story?
Summer Turns to High- R.E.M.

Uh, it had to be REM, didn't it. I suck at interpreting Michael Stipe's meanings, but I guess "Someone put a pox on me, I spit in their eyes" works, I am a survivor like that.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Conversations with my 13 year-old self- Pink

Totally appropriate! That's gotta mean YA writer, right?

What will you dance to at your wedding?
Screaming Skull- Sonic Youth

I love it. I might just have to do it.

What will they play at your funeral?
In the Meantime- Helmet

Umm. Hmm. Well moshing at my funeral would be cool.

What is your hobby/interest?
Mono (the radio friendly mix) by Courtney Love

Okay not like the disease, the first line is about vinyl in mono. Vinyl is definitely a hobby/interest for me.

If you could do anything right now, what would it be?
Exaggerating GF/Bachelor- Dane Cook

I'm just going to take that is if I could anything right now, I'd want to laugh at funny shit. Which is pretty much true all the time. that's one reason why i have cats.

What do you want most of all?
Why Can't You See- Billy Childish and Kyra

Umm, at first I was like what is this song??? It's from a comp. I'm listening to it now and the lyrics are like, can't you see from the look in my eyes that I'm the girl who's gonna die. Hmmm.
Ok now "I wanna take your heart and open it wide", I guess...

What is your greatest fear?
Save My Life- Pink

"She's back on drugs again even though she knows it ain't right..." Yeah I guess going down bad paths are a big fear. And losing the man of your dreams and your success because you fuck up. That would suck. But I would have said spiders. Or maybe it's my fear to have my guilty pleasures exposed and now Pink has come up twice, but really I don't care. I love Pink.

What is your darkest secret?
Atomic Garden- Bad Religion

Yeah I'm building a bomb.... No, I'm not I swear.

What is your favorite thing in the world?
Rock and Roll- The Velvet Underground

Now that one is perfect!

If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?
Intermission 247- Heavens to Betsy

I guess I could use a break with a great bass line...

What is your theme song?
The Disco Before the Breakdown- Against Me!

Umm, it's a good song, but not a theme song...

The next time you hear this song (aside from now, that is), you must dance.
Step- Low

Okay. Well listening to Low makes me think of Tai and Tai makes me happy so sure, I'll dance.

What will you post this as?
Swingin' Party- The Replacements

Oh blog readers, I'm sorry you were so deceived.

Well, I'm not going to do any tagging. Just do this if you are bored and think it sounds fun like I did. But leave a comment if you do it so I can check out your music. And feel free to comment on my music :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Readings in Chicago on Friday and Tuesday

I'm taking part in two events in the next few days and wanted to make sure my Chicago blog readers knew about them as I would love to see you there!

Tomorrow night (Friday the 14th), I'll be the featured reader at one of Chicago's greatest reading series, the Windy City Story Slam. It will take place at Chinaski's, 1935 N. Damen in Chicago. It starts at 8, I'll probably read between 9:30 and 10 and the event will go on into the wee hours. I've never been to a reading event like the Windy City Story Slam. It's like hanging out with your really funny, good storyteller friends and listening to them tell you about some crazy adventure they had. And it's a competition. The championships are in January, so the Slammers will really be on their game. They are going to tell some great stories! Right now I think I'll be doing two readings, a brief section from IWBYJR and a chapter from BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. So if you want a sneak peek from my new book, you'll want to be there tomorrow night. Here's the flyer with all the additional info:
Then on this coming Tuesday, November 18th, I'm taking part in opening night of Chicago's newest reading series, the Orange Alert Reading Series. I'm reading with Spencer dew, Ben Tanzer, and my dear friend Rob Duffer. That is at 7 pm at The Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee. Help us celebrate another great addition to the Chicago literary scene and come out! Again, her's the pretty flyer:

Cool, I hope to see friends new and old at these events!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Melissa Auf der Maur!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! The day when I shine the spotlight on female artists, musicians, writers, creative women of all stripes who I think rock and deserve your attention. Last week, I hosted Brenna Red of The Last Gang, a band I discovered via MySpace and completely adore. Brenna volunteered to give out a whole prize pack of The Last Gang swag and the winner of it is In Bed With Books from MySpace! Please send me a myspace message with your address info so I can pass it on to Brenna!

Okay, you know how I often ask my Women Who Rock about any Wayne's World "I'm Not Worthy" moments? Well I am about to have mine....

My guest this week is a legendary musician who played in one of my all time favorite bands (Hole) and performed at the best concert I've ever seen (the October 21, 1994 Hole show at the Metro in Chicago which felt so life-altering as a 15 year old), and she toured with one of my favorite hometown bands (The Smashing Pumpkins), not to mention her amazing solo album which contains one of my personal anthems ("I Need I Want I Will"), oh and my character Marissa in IWBYJR, the cool, beautiful older sister who plays bass, well Marissa sounds a bit like Melissa because she is totally a tribute to MELISSA AUF DER MAUR!!!!

That's right. Melissa Auf der Maur is here for Women Who Rock Wednesday! You've most likely heard of her, but if you haven't you are in for a treat. If you have, well you are probably as excited as I am! So check out her amazing interview and be sure to leave a comment about it because Melissa was kind enough to donate a signed t-shirt as a prize!

Meet Melissa:

Q: You are definitely a Jill of all trades so to speak. You went to a performing arts high school, are a photographer, have played bass in Hole and Smashing Pumpkins, not to mention your amazing solo career and your next solo album will be accompanied by a film and graphic novel. So which interest came first? How did you discover your various talents, through the help of supportive parents and teachers or did you have other early inspirations?

My mother was Montreal's first female rock DJ and raised me with great music and stories. She sent me to experimental arts and music school from grade 1 on- my choir teacher Mr.Edwards introduced me to the power of music while guiding our kid choir through Mozart's "Requiem". My father was an independent politician and freelance journalist from tough immigrant parents, who raised me to be an "individual" and avoid being a slave to "the man". My home town Montreal, is an artists paradise: low cost of living, beauty, late nights, great food... it's all culture all the time. I never believed I couldn't be a photographer, musician, writer, gipsy traveller.... I am a grateful product of my environment.

Q: Tell us about your early years as a musician. What drew you specifically to bass guitar? When did you start playing (or if you answered that in the above questions, when did you join your first band) and who were some of the musicians (particularly women) who inspired you?

Trumpet came first- I was the only girl trumpet player in my high school band, and I held first chair, meaning I was the leader. Early childhood music education really trains the ear and pays off later. Meanwhile my mother's record collection guided me, and then by the time I was a tiny teen Blondie and Cindy Lauper blew my mind- so my role models were planted- then came all the beautiful sad music of The Smiths and The Cure......... then shortly after I graduated from high school I payed 1$ to see a brand new band with only a 7" out on Sub Pop Records, and they REALLY blew my mind- and their stoic platinum blond female bass player D'arcy must of cemented the deal in my subconscious. I started my first band Tinker shortly after, and the bass came so naturally to me. Upon reflection now, I understand what attracted me to the bass- it was the feeling. You feel the bass, you don't hear it, watch it or listen to it- it's deeper then that. I call it the mother of all instruments. The role it plays in music making is very particular- it unites all the elements together- the rhythms, the melodies and arrangement. You don't notice it unless it's gone. I love her.

Q: I think you are an amazing live performer. I've seen you several times with Hole and on your own. I know others are equally enamored by your live performances because there is a community dedicated to documenting the live performances of Hole and its members, So can you talk a little bit about what you get out of performing live and share some of your memorable onstage moments?

In my experience as a human it's simply the best way to communion with others. I am sure it is what religious people can feel in church. I didn't got to church, but I began going to rock shows from about 13 years old on- Montreal was incredible liberal and my parents were very relaxed, I loved the experience. Shows were a big part of my social life and development. It was also a very exciting time in music- late '80's and early '90s- independent and alternative music was exploding. Around the time I began to play bass I had a dream about the power of music bringing people together, it involved a pyramid, aliens, the Smashing Pumpkins, the band Kyuss, a large group of random people and me. This dream directly lead me to commit my life to music - the song "I need I want I will" is the tale of the dream, as well as the spiritual core of my first solos album. Also, my live experience was very minimal when I joined HOLE at the age of 22- I had only ever played 7 live shows with my first band. My first show with Hole was at the legendary Reading summer festival in England in front of 65,000 people. That was powerful and surreal, and became the symbol of how extreme my journey in music was to be.

Q: It would be almost impossible for me to choose my favorite Hole, Smashing Pumpkins or Auf der Maur song, so perhaps you can tell my readers in case any of them aren't familiar with your work, which songs in your body of work you are most proud or fond of and that they should go check out to hear what Melissa Auf der Maur is about?

The first Pumpkins album Gish changed my life- it really was the first album that really inspired me to play. 10 years later when I joined the band for the farewell world tour, I got shivers every time I played one of those songs live, in particular the song "I am one".

During my 5 years with Hole we only made one album, but it was an epic one "Celebrity Skin". We worked over two years on that, it was the most focused I had ever been on any singular project and I am extremely proud of my work as bass player, songwriter and back up vocalist on it. In particular the song "Use once and destroy" which Courtney always referred to as "Melissa's song" as is spawned from a bass line of mine.

My first solo album "Auf der Maur" was a culmination of all my years of music dating back to my first band, through Hole and the Pumpkins- I had been writing and defining my style all along, and finally committed to put it all into one album. I am very proud of that album particularly cause it had always been a fear of mine that I would not have the guts to ever make my own record- but I did. The song "Followed the Waves" was the song that gave me the confidence to commit to making the album. I still listen back to the 4 track version that I recorded alone in my NYC apartment, and think "Hey! That's heavy!", and there is where I found the guts to go it alone.

My new 3-D concept album "Out of Our Minds" is something I am eager to share with people in 2009- and that is a reflection of my new found commitment to unite all my modes of expression together: Visual, Conceptual and Musical.

Q: You've collaborated with some amazing musicians over the years from your bandmates in Hole and Smashing Pumpkins to the amazing talents you had on your solo album including Mark Lanegan (one of my absolute favorite male voices), Josh Homme, and Paz Lenchantin. Do you plan to collaborate with any of these folks again and who are some of your dream people that you'd like to collaborate with in the future?


I have been so lucky to play with the most talented people I know. By talent I mean individuality, singular voices and true commitment to music for all the right reasons. I will continue to collaborate with my old and new friends. I am extremely proud to add one of my long time heroes : Glenn Danzig to my sacred list of collaborators on this next album. He agreed to do the first duet of his career with his devoted fan, Me!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your next project, which I have heard involves an album, a film, and a graphic novel? What is it and when and where can we get our hands on it? I think it's awesome that you are using so many different mediums to express your vision, can you tell us a little bit about where you got the idea and what you feel like you've accomplished?

I began making this second solo album while still on Capitol Records, but as the queen technology began to shine and the beast of the record industry began to crumble, I got tangled in a lot of red tape! My album was held hostage for what felt like forever, so as I could not release my music, I turned my creative energies to collaborations outside music while I fought to free the album. What began as frustrating proposition turned out to be a great creative kick in the butt. This 3D concept album has been 3 years in the making, and is aimed to be released in spring '09. BUT between now and then I will launch my new multi layered website where you will be able to find clues to all elements of the project unfold- including a 3 song EP of new songs available on digital and vinyl only as of Nov 20th on my myspace. I am also please to report I got out of the major label beast and have emerged an independent artist.

Q: I always ask two standard questions of 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 true roots of rockin' women!

Album: BLONDIE greatest hits

Q: This seems almost silly to ask of the woman who played bass in two of the biggest (and IMHO best!) bands of the 90s, but what was your biggest rock star moment? Maybe it was a concert you went to or played, a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, a time where you just got the rock star treatment, or just a really cool moment like the one your friend Cecil Castellucci describes here.

As I mentioned the defining "me and music" moment for em was my first show with Hole- that's when I knew this journey was serious. It also is a magical and massive festival. Exactly 10 years later to the day I played the same festival in support of my solo album- and that further illustrated this long and wonderful journey.

All the big and magical moments have always involved the music- not the fancy hotels, people or grammy parties- more the live show revelations and the studio collaborations. Writing "I need I want I will" with Josh Homme (of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age") one of my greatest musical influences was another explosion in the "i believe in the magic of music" part of my being.

Basically everything I have experienced in music has been a revelation, as I know it is a great luxury and honor to call her my main ride in this life. I am blessed by the music gods and I wave to them in the sky on every full moon. " I HEAR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Thank you, Melissa!!!!

I don't know about you guys, but I love Melissa even more now! What great answers and you can tell she really feels the music just like we do as music fans. So check out her myspace. I know I'll be on there next Thursday, November 20th to download her new songs and order the vinyl! And please, go ahead and leave a comment about the interview or why you love Melissa and her music right here and you will be entered to win a signed t-shirt from Melissa! I will choose the winner at random next week when I am proud to feature another amazing musician and good friend of mine, Jenny Hassler of heilige! Jenny's an up-and-comer and if you enjoy Melissa's music, you will love hers too, so please come back next Wednesday and learn all about it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Week Ago Tonight History Was Made

I'm about to head downtown to meet my friend Amber for dinner and then meet with a Fiction class and an alumni group from Columbia. I'll be in a building on Michigan Avenue overlooking Grant Park. That significance is not lost on me. A week ago tonight, history was being made right there.

And I'm sure when I get down there I will regret not braving the crowds and ignoring my lack of ticket to go to the rally for President-Elect Obama (oh those words still feel so good, don't they?). I missed my opportunity to be part of history in my own city. I know I celebrated in the way that was best for me, avoiding any possible crowd-induced panic attacks and I still enjoyed and lived through that historic night. It was nice to be a part of history in a positive way for once. There were only two other times in my life where I distinctly remember thinking, "Kids will read about this in history books and I experienced it first hand": September 11 and the protest against the Iraq War that I attended in 2003. But now, something amazing has happened during my lifetime. We elected our first African-American president.

Still I wish I was in Grant Park last Tuesday and I'm sure many of you do as well, so I asked my friends who attended to share their thoughts and photos with me. I wanted to create a blog where we could all experience what they experienced. So I will let them take over.
Mounted police outside of Grant Park

From Sheryl Johnston, whose husband Bob took the photos I've used:

"All I can say is that I've never seen so many people of all ages, races, cultures, and walks of life coming together to celebrate their mutual choice of President. We all cheered, cried,danced, hugged in celebration of this important step for CHANGE. Afterwards, we joined in the impromptu parade on Michigan Avenue, where more dancing,
singing, cheering took place."

From Aaron Golding: "I'm sure you saw some of the footage on the TV. It's was probably as amazing as you imagined. People were crying, hugging, dancing, singing. The roar of the crowd when it was announced was deafening. Way to go Obama!"

Obama takes Virginia

From Germania Solorzano: "I think the alarming amount of stimuli going on was interesting. I was standing in the unticketed section, trying to watch CNN on the Jumbotron. I was too short to see anything. The crowd would cheer and I would ask my 6 foot 3 inch godson, "What's happening?" and he would shout down at me..." We won Ohio." My neck hurt from trying to peer up and through the spaces between very large people. I called my mother in Nicaragua. She was also watching CNN and she began telling me the numbers. Later, the whole crowd got fidgety, because we could hear singing starting in the ticketed section, but CNN wasn't showing Chicago yet. There was a feeling of group anticipation, and like everyone was worried about what they were missing out on...until the channel was changed. Obama's speech was wonderful, but the whole time I was worried for his safety. I'm glad the elections are over. Too much nailbiting."

Crowd cheers the Obama Victory
From Diana Tenuto:

"My experience of being at the Barack Obama Rally in Grant Park on Election Night, 11/4/2008, to be a part of and also witness history:

I was given the opportunity to go to the rally thanks to my mother Barbara. Due to a knee replacement it is hard for her to walk far so we decided to go with a wheelchair. We had no idea what to expect, but just knew we HAD TO GO!!!

There are no words to describe how proud of the city of Chicago I am. The night of the rally was unbelievable! Those that had tickets were able to go in well before 8:30. The crowd was so well-behaved, no fighting or shouting. Everyone was peacefully waiting to get in and sharing stories and anxiousness as we waited. For us in a wheelchair, we thought the journey would be difficult, but we were able to walk up Congress from the LaSalle Blue Line stop without any problems and straight onto Columbus. There was a little wait there, but only because they had a few checkpoints for the ticket holders. Once we got through those (and everyone was really great with us being in the wheelchair) we followed the crowd the wrong way and missed the metal detectors. Oops...

So we turned around and that is when we saw the ENORMOUS LINE. I wanted to cry. This is when I started to have doubts....but all of a sudden we were greeted by two of Chicago's finest and they escorted us through the crowd up to the front where we were then greeted by a secret service agent (yes, a secret service agent!!!). He brought us up to the metal detectors, frisked us and sent us along. This alone probably saved us about an hour and a half of waiting, which we were very grateful for. When we entered Hutchison Field, we saw that they had a platform for wheelchairs that was towards the back, but above ground. We went there because it gave us a better view being up off the ground. With my mom having her video camera, we knew we could zoom in at anytime.

Immediately we noticed that CNN was broadcasting live the jumbotron and they often broadcasted live from Chicago. We were able to be constantly informed of updates and projections and each time Obama won another state, the crowd's reaction was so cool. There were strangers hugging each other, everyone shouting for joy….it was just truly amazing. It was just the first on many moments of unity amongst all of us Obama supporters.

During this exciting election night, my husband Scott was on business in our nation's capital, and my mother and I were receiving updates via text message from him and my brother Alan who was at home (pouting that his older sister got to go with mom rather than him). Alan was updating us as well by watching all the news networks back at home in Elmhurst. At about the same time that Virginia was announced it went for Obama, my brother Alan sent me a text saying, "they're gonna call it soon, I think." My mother had the video camera on for the cheers for Virginia when across the screen on CNN were the words, "Barack Obama Elected President of the United States." The crowd was the chosen background by CNN and you can only imagine how excited everyone was! I don’t think anyone expected it to be decided so soon. Everyone went nuts. Tears of joy streamed down my face as my mother and I hugged each other and strangers around us. It is impossible for me to reflect on this still without giving myself the chills. My husband (who was following the election in DC) had told me that right before they announced Obama won, he had seen that California went for Obama. Those of us at the rally, following the news on CNN did not know this, but we didn’t care – HE WON!!!

It was about an hour or so of pure excitement as we waited to hear from our new president-elect. I know the whole country was going nuts, no one around us could use their phones, everyone was getting, “all circuits are busy” messages.

McCain concedes

I just can't believe I was down there. My mom and I were down there!! When the broadcasted Senator McCain and his concession speech and the crowd handled him well (it was actually GREAT to watch him concede). That night, Senator McCain still didn’t get it. He said that this win for Obama was historic and a victory for the African Americans of our country. However, you should have heard all the African Americans near us that were shouting at him that this victory was for the WHOLE was sooo moving! The truth, this just isn't a milestone in history with Barack Obama being the first African American president being elected, it's a victory for the whole country as we try and get the true American back on its feet.

Nothing could prepare me for when President-elect Obama came out on the stage...I'm tearing up just thinking about it again. His family walking out mirrored to me footage I’ve seen of John F. Kennedy’s family in the 1960’s. Seeing him in person and hearing him speak will forever be with me and the words he said are forever etched in my mind.

Obama takes the stage!

When it was over and we left to go home, my mother and I kept pinching ourselves to see if it all was real…

…and it still hasn't hit me......but I can say that inside my heart I already feel the relief for our country. My mother told me over two years ago that he was someone special, and she couldn’t have been more right. We’re in good hands now. I feel relief and comfort knowing that Obama holds the key to our nation’s future.

This election will always be special to me. My husband spent the night in our nation’s capital and my mother and I were in Grant Park. WE WERE THERE!!! These are great moments to cherish and tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren about someday."

Last, but not least, my friend Stacy Jill Jacobs wrote her own blog entry about the night, which you can read here. And she sent me this picture from Newsweek. She and her girlfriend are in the photo!
If you were at Grant Park that night, please leave your thoughts, but really, everyone feel free to discuss how you celebrated last Tuesday!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Song inspired by IWBYJR and brainstorming a new contest

The best thing about getting your book published is hearing from the people who connected with it. I love meeting fans at events and getting emails and myspace messages. I always write back (maybe someday time constraints will limit that, but right now I'm managing and I will always do my best to do so) because every message I get makes my day. It means the world to me to know that my words made an impact. That's why I write. It certainly isn't for the money, lol! It's because I hope that I have a story to tell that can help people. Maybe it just helps them escape for a few hours or maybe it holds a deeper meaning. I get quite a few letters from girls and women who see themselves reflected in the characters, usually Emily and Regan, and that always pleases me. I created those characters because they were the kind of characters I was searching to read about as a teen and even now. And then I get the most priceless letters of all, from people who tell me that the book really helped them take stock of their life or that they are going to give it to a loved one who they believe it will help. Those people often relate to Louisa and seem to understand that part of the reason I wrote her was as reminder of what happens when you run from your nightmares as opposed to follow your dreams like Emily does. But each letter, each story that my book inspires people to open up about... this is why I became a writer.

On Friday, I got a really cool message from Justine Kope a Chicago musician in the band My Velouria who enjoyed IWBYJR so much that she was inspired to write a song! I can't tell you how much that meant to me. And it was like things coming full circle. IWBYJR was a book inspired by music ("Don't Take Me For Granted" by Social Distortion and the song "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Sleater-Kinney) and now it has inspired music! The song is called "My Gorgeous Letdown" (like Johnny's band!) and the lyrics speak volumes about relationships gone sour like Emily and Johnny's.

Here is a live performance of "My Gorgeous Letdown" by My Velouria:

I've totally fallen in love with this band and encourage you to visit their myspace to listen to more of their songs. I'm psyched because I'm planning to go see them on December 12th, but those of you who live in Chicago and don't have plans this Thursday night, the 13th (I have writing group), go check them out at Abbey Pub.

This reminded me that I had a contest idea awhile back and we are long overdue for a contest. I'm still in the brainstorming phases, but I know this much, I'll be seeking fan art. Basically send in a poem, a song, a drawing, a t-shirt design, or anything inspired by IWBYJR or the characters in it. Hell, you could even dress up as a character or create your own soundtrack for the book. Anything inspired by the book. This will probably go until January 1st and I'm thinking that since I will have such a hard time judging the contest, I'll have blog readers vote. This way everyone who enters will get to show off what they did. But I don't know, do you guys have a better suggestion as to how to judge this contest or do you like that? Also what would you like to see as prizes? I still have one or two signed posters from the event I did with Irvine Welsh (meaning they are signed by me, Irvine Welsh, and Bill Hillmann) and they are super nice. I'm framing one to give to my mom for Christmas. (Shh, don't tell her. She doesn't read my blog or really go online at all.) Is that a good prize along with a gift certificate to downloadpunk or amazon or something? Or what kind of prizes would motivate you guys to enter? I haven't done a contest in awhile because I had such a hard time getting entries for the last one, so I want your feedback.

My other idea is that hopefully people will enter t-shirt designs, like basically create a band logo for She Laughs or something like that. I really want to create a cafe press store that would benefit charity with She Laughs t-shirts. The person whose design is chosen obviously would get a t-shirt, but then maybe the overall winner of the contest could get that too? Along with the signed poster and whatever else? Is that a good prize? Of course I have to check with my publisher about creating She Laughs t-shirts and if I can do that...

But please, give me input on what would make this a good contest/what would encourage you to enter. Let me know about prize suggestions, deadline suggestions, anything else. And start brainstorming what you can do!

In the meantime, don't forget to enter the latest Women Who Rock Wednesday contest. Brenna let me know that the winner will receive a custom designed, stenciled DIY Last Gang shirt, both "27 Red" & "Out Of Time," & a few badges. That's a lot of stuff! I wish I could enter! So go read the interview, comment, and you'll be entered to win!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ballads available for pre-order and reflections on Lost Boys 2

So my second novel, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA, is available for pre-order on Amazon already! If you're really excited about it (and I hope you are), you can go ahead and pre-order it here. Apparently the release date is July 21, 2009. No one told me this yet, just that it is coming out in July, so don't consider that confirmed until it gets a little closer. You never know what to expect with the book industry. I also think it's funny that they have already decided it is 304 pages. Interesting considering I haven't even done revisions on it yet. But regardless, I am mega-excited it that it is listed now because that makes it feel more real. Hopefully it does the same for you, too, and of course if you want a sneak peek of what the book is all about, visit the backstage pass area of my website!

Last night, Scott and I finally got around to watching Lost Boys: The Tribe last night. The original Lost Boys movie is one of my all-time favorites. Yeah, it's 80s, yeah it's cheesy, but I freakin' love it. (And I know I'm not alone, Melissa Walker listed it among her favorite 80s movies in her blog today, too. It must be that YA author psychic connection thing...)

My freshman year in college at Antioch, I was particularly obsessed. We watched it many times that year, in my dorm room and I hazily recall breaking into the "Wellness Center" (aka the counseling/health center on the first floor of our building), getting drunk, watching Lost Boys, and playing this "Road to Recovery" board game as drinking game (so wrong and inappropriate, I know). In fact, my dear friend Lindsay and I took the Lost Boys obsession and turned it into a full-on Corey Feldman/Corey Haim movie obsession. We went to every video store in a 30 mile radius searching for lesser known (read: B or C) Feldman/Haim movies. (Hey, don't judge. We were bored to death in the cornfields of Ohio!) The highlights from our quest included Dream a Little Dream 2, which for some reason we watched multiple times, horrified by CF's Michael Jackson wardrobe; Voodoo, a truly bad and cheesy horror movie, and Blown Away, which is basically softcore porn and personally I was traumatized by seeing CH's butt (wrong, wrong, wrong!! especially if you best remember CH from his high pitched prepubescent singing in the bathtub in Lost Boys).

Because of this obsession, you'd think I would have been one of the very first to see the new Lost Boys movie, but I was afraid. I have had bad experiences with sequels of movies I love (outside of Harry Potter and Pirates and LOTR and movies with planned sequels). I was so horrified by the Crow 2 and my friends and I so vocal about our outrage we actually got thrown out of the theater. And Lost Boys: The Tribe was a straight to DVD release. Not a good sign. So I decided to go into it with a different mindset than I did with Crow 2. I expected this to be totally cheesy and not nearly as good as the original. All I hoped was that Corey Feldman (he's my favorite, CH is just not nearly as cool) would entertain me. And I got exactly what I expected.

Surfer vampires? Cheesy. Funny. I mean I guess mulletted vampires are too, but Kiefer Sutherland is definitely the better actor than his half-brother, who I honestly thought was trying to cover up some sort of accent by the way he delivered his lines, but I checked and he's Canadian. The special effects? Awful. In the original Lost Boys, they seemed to know that the special effect technology they had was lacking so they just used certain camera techniques to imply action and violence and it was way way WAY better. I'm not a huge special effects fan period, but when you have a low budget like this straight to dvd release clearly did, um, just don't use them! Corey Feldman's performance? Awesome! He had the hair, the voice, the look and even used some of the same lines as he did in the first film. In fact I think the best thing about the movie was the small tributes to the first film. Like remember that saxophone player with a Michael Bolton mullet wearing what basically amounts to a codpiece who performs an atrocious song on the Boardwalk in the first movie? They show that guy fat and playing music for spare change in this movie. Scott and I laughed hysterically. Oh and there was a new version of my favorite song from the movie, "Cry Little Sister" and it was done by Aiden, who I am not familiar with but I am seeing them play with Civet next month and I really really hope they play that cover! Here's the video of it, so you can enjoy it with me!

Okay but here are my three gripes about the film.

1. The writing sucked, which I knew it would but I couldn't help being a bit critical as a writer of why they didn't do some simple things to give us some backstory. Like I only knew from reading the DVD sleeve that Nicole and Chris's parents were dead, the vague conversations with their aunt didn't really do it for me and I only know now from reading an interview with Corey Feldman, that Nicole and Chris were supposed to be niece and nephew of Sam and Michael from the first film.

2. How come when dudes get turned into vampires they can control their urges and actions, but when chicks get turned into vampires they turn into raging bloodsucking whores? When Nicole is turned into a vampire, she immediately vamps out, tries to kill her brother and then the next night when she is left alone, she calls this poor emo kid who had a crush on her and attempts to seduce him in order to suck his blood. However when Chris is made into a vampire and put into a situation by the other vampires where he is supposed to hook up with a chick and kill her, there are no raging hormones and bloodlust. He has enough self control to try to help the chick escape. Not to get on my feminist soapbox here, but I can help but think this is a statement, perhaps a subconscious one, that perpetuates the idea that women are "hysterical" and unable to control their emotions in times of crisis. Either that or they just wanted to get as many scenes with women taking their clothes off as possible... I guess that is the cheesy horror movie way. But I read that Joel Schumacher who made the first Lost Boys wanted to make a Lost Girls film and I hope it was about a gang of bad ass girl vampires. I'd want to see that film. I have to say that it has always bugged me that women are just damsels in distress in most vampire tales (or raging sluts). The only one I've seen/read with an empowered female lead is Jeri Smith Ready's book, Wicked Game which is why I adore that book so much.

3. Speaking of wishing it was a different kind of film and also the writing... It drives me nuts that they keep alluding to Corey Feldman's brother being turned into a vampire, but we don't get to learn anything about that at all. We don't even see him except for in the alternate endings and we don't see Corey Haim until the credits. I guess this is to set up a possible third movie, which CH said (along with saying that he didn't like LB2) is gonna happen in a recent interview. But I just don't understand, why not make that movie in the first place? Clearly, it's the more interesting story, vampire hunter turned vampire, and it involves more of the original cast, and from all the hints it seemed to be what the writers wanted to do. So why not just do it?

Like I said, I took this movie for what it was, a straight to DVD cheesy horror movie, and I was fine with that for the most part, but the hints that it could have been something way better made me wish for something more. And now I'm pulling for a LB3 with more Corey & Corey screen time and more of the original storyline.

Wow, you guys probably think I am a complete and total dork now, dontcha? Hey, we've all gotta be fan-girls (or guys) of something. Sometimes my things are cool, sometimes they are cheesy!

What about you? Any obsessions you want to share?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Women Who Rock (the best) Wednesday (ever): Brenna Red!

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!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

VOTE!!!! (And be rewarded...)

Just a reminder to all my voting age readers who are US Citizens to go out and vote today. I went a little while ago. It was easy. It was empowering. I felt excited and patriotic for the first time in... well... possibly ever. Oh and if you go into Starbucks with your "I Voted!" sticker you get free coffee. I hardly ever drink coffee because of the insomnia thing and because I just like tea better. And I don't even really like Starbucks coffee. But I like being rewarded for voting and I need to stay up late to watch the results so I got my free coffee.

Rewarding people for voting seems like the right thing to do today, so leave a comment if you voted or if you are under 18, let me know how you encouraged people to vote, and I will choose one random commentor to win either a signed IWBYJR cover flat or I'll make you a mix CD of my favorite political tunes, your choice, seeing as today is all about choice after all. (And if you want music to vote by right now, check out Jeri-Smith Ready's blog!)

And no matter who you voted for you can still be included in the contest of course. I'm not partisan like that. But I think we all know who I voted for...