Girl power


July 6, 2001



During her early days on L.A.'s late-'70s punk scene, she went by the name Jane Drano. The world would come to know her as Jane Wiedlin, the tiniest, squeaky-voiced Go-Go, but she was also the band's songwriting engine, and its secret weapon.

In addition to her contributions to the hard-rocking "God Bless the Go-Go's," the reunited power-popsters' first album of new material in 17 years, Wiedlin recently released the strongest of her four solo albums, "Kissproof World," issued on her own label, Painful.

In addition to her prolific songwriting--she's penned tunes for a long list of other artists, including Chicago's Blue Meanies--Wiedlin keeps busy as a dedicated PETA activist, an in-demand voice artist (you've heard her on the new "Scooby Doo," "Pinky and the Brain" and "King of the Hill," among other animated series) and an actress (she has a role on the MTV soap opera, "Spyder Games").

We spoke as the Go-Go's were gearing up to perform a free show at the Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Q."Kissproof World" is a really strong record, but it's been largely overshadowed by "God Bless the Go-Go's." Were you worried about that happening?



A. That's my little gem that no one gets to hear. That record, I don't know if it was just doomed to fail or what. No matter what good things happened, it still didn't do any better--like getting a great review in Rolling Stone didn't seem to change anything. So without the Go-Go's, I don't know if anything would have happened anyway; it's not like I had a record company to pay for me to do a tour. I probably would have done some shows if the Go-Go's weren't working, but in this day and age, it's really, really hard to have a popular record with millions of dollars behind it.



Q. Because of your voice and your size, you're always thought of as "the tiny Go-Go." But your albums are really assertive, and "Kissproof World" is essentially a record about not getting stepped on. Is it annoying that you and the Go-Go's are rarely cited on rock critics' proto-riot grrrl "women in rock" lists?



A. This is something we talk about all the time! On the one hand, every time we see another damn "women in rock" article, we all roll our eyes and say, "That is such a joke! This whole gender thing is so tired." But on the other hand, when they don't mention the Go-Go's, it [ticks] us off. Because if you're going to be talking about vaginas, well, hello--the Go-Go's have them and we rock!

We're living a great life, and the fact that at this point in time, music critics are trying to sort of dismiss us is really not our problem. We know that we're important and we know that we're good and we love what we do, so that's that.



Q. Do you see yourself doing another solo album? When you've written a song, how can you tell if it's a Go-Go's song, something you want to give to another artist, or a Jane Wiedlin song?



A. I'm not really thinking ahead at this point; I'm pretty immersed in just trying to survive day by day. It's so overwhelming what we're doing right now, and it's so much harder to do as a "grandmommy of rock" than it was as a 20-year-old.

As far as the songs, it's kind of hard to tell, and I've been known to be wrong. On my album, that song "Icicle," [co-writer] Charlotte [Caffey] and I were so adamant that the Go-Go's should do it, and they just kept saying, "It's not really for us." The opposite thing can go, too. But the Go-Go's are easy, because you have five people that it's got to filter through and get approved by to get used, and that pretty much weeds out anything that isn't even a little bit Go-Go's.



Q. A song like "The Good Wife," which is about your failed marriage, is almost painfully personal. And while it isn't the same as Belinda Carlisle posing for Playboy, you've got a topless shot on "Kissproof World" and photos of you portraying a dominatrix. Do you ever ask, "Am I sharing too much of Jane with the world?"


A. I think about it all the time. [Go-Go's drummer] Gina [Schock] and I are diametrically opposed; she thinks you should hide as much as you can from the public at all times, whether you're doing an interview or songwriting or whatever. But I like this road that I'm traveling, where I see how much of myself that I can expose. It's risky and scary but I kind of like it, and there's something in me that needs to do that. Sometimes you see it in other people; like reading Angelina Jolie's interviews, she exposes so much of herself and her private life, and I'm like, "Wow! She is either a mad genius or a fool!"



Q. Because of all the drama, the Go-Go's episode of "Behind the Music" has been a favorite, but they must have gotten some things wrong. The show always reduces everything to the same plot line: Band rises from nowhere, hits big, bottoms out.


A. Right, and now they're happier than ever working at the 7-11, even though they're all old, fat and bald! [Laughs] I find that the less I like the band, the more I enjoy the show. But clearly the biggest distortion with us was that it was all doom and gloom. They didn't talk about how much fun we had--how amazing it was--because that's boring. Between all the nervous breakdowns and fights and hatreds and jealousies, there was also tons of camaraderie and love and fun and pranksterism and everything that makes being in a band a blast, and that continues to this day.

I think that if someone was a fly on the wall right now with the Go-Go's, they would think that we are just as horrible and hateful and bad to each other as always, but there's this weird shift that happened, and it's like a very healthy, grown-up thing. Now, when we start hating each other and getting mad at each other, instead of stabbing each other in the back and talking about each other, we immediately address it, like, "[Expletive] you!" "No, [expletive] you!" We have this three-minute fight and all of a sudden we're laughing and it's done.

But there's still tons of weird energy between the Go-Go's. It's like a five-headed monster, and it can be really awesome or just be really awful.



Q. Would it be possible for the band to be the Go-Go's if one or two of the members weren't involved? If Charlotte or Gina said, "I just don't want to be bothered"?



A. We don't think so. We talk about it a lot, and every once in a while, someone will [tick] everyone else in the band off so bad that we're like, "Hmmm?" But we're stuck with each other. It's just something about it has to be the five us. No matter how much bickering there is, we really love each other, and the older we get, the more we actually appreciate whatever it is we have between the five of us.



Q. I saw your last reunion tour in the early '90s, and it was great, but it was essentially nostalgia because you were just playing all of the old material. This time out, do you find that fans are accepting the mix of old and new songs?


A. We have kind of a weird mixture of fans happening now, because we have the original people who are now in their 30s and 40s, and they know all of the old songs by heart. A portion of them have bought the new album and embraced it, and the other portion hasn't yet; and hopefully they will. Then you have these new people, and maybe they vaguely knew "We Got the Beat" or something, but the new songs just fit so seamlessly in the set with the old songs that I don't think a lot of times they know. It's either like, "This is a rocking song and we're having fun!," or it's not.

That's one good thing about the fact that we're not the greatest musicians in the world: We just do what we do, and in a way, our sound hasn't changed that much. Some people could say that's a bad thing, but whoever would have wanted the Ramones to change? They ruled at what they did.