Leading a band that was
credited with launching an entire movement is a hard act to follow, but with
Le Tigre, former Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna has not only
continued the strident politics credited with giving voice to the "riot
grrrls" of the mid-'90s, she has crafted a much more enticing musical
setting for her potent message.
purposely raw and ragged punk rock could be nearly unlistenable at times,
but over the course of five albums -- including last year's "This Island,"
the trio's Ric Ocasek-produced major-label debut -- Le Tigre has perfected
its cheeky, computer-driven, abrasive-but-melodic brand of electroclash/synth
"This record was
really different in terms of how we made it, mostly because it was a deeper
collaboration," says J.D. Samson, who joined bandmates Hanna and Johanna
Fateman in the summer of 2000, adding choreography (she was a founding
member of the dance troupe Dykes Can Dance), electronic music-making and
"The three of us all
started in the same place with Pro Tools, and that is what we used to make
the record. Because we all started in the same place with this brand-new
computer thing, and all learned on our own with hints and tips and shortcuts
and stuff, it was just a constant process of mastering a new instrument.
Another thing is that we had time to do it: We didn't rush it, and we wanted
to make each song stand on its own. We really felt like we grew as
musicians, both sonically and structure-wise. It was important to us to grow
and not remain naive."
LE TIGRE; ELECTRELANE
· 7 p.m.
Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield
As a paradigm of underground values and indie-rock ethics, some fans were
shocked when Le Tigre signed with a subsidiary of Universal Records, but
Samson sees it as a natural part of the band's progression.
"We wanted to grow
up. Some people definitely want the first record again, but that's like
saying to a 20-year-old, 'You were way cuter when you were 12.' We don't
want to keep making the same record over again. We want to build and we want
"That was one part of
it, but we had made about three-fourths of the record when we decided to
make the move to Universal, so we didn't make a slicker record because we
had more money; we made it because we were making the record we wanted to
make. We thought, 'It's possible we could be on a major label with this
record, so let's push it, let's study pop structure, and let's get somewhere
with this. Let's have a co-producer [Ocasek] we want to work with.
"I think up until the
day we signed with Universal, we still could've signed with plenty of other
indie labels, and it just happened to be the day and we thought, 'All right,
let's do this,'" Samson concludes. "If this will be our chance to spread our
love to more people, let's do it, and ever since then, things have really
been the same as it always was. Universal has been great to us."
Indeed, with songs
such as "Nanny Nanny Boo Boo" and "Don't Drink Poison," the group didn't
restrain its feminist politics at all (though Le Tigre tends to treat the
subject with much more humor than Bikini Kill ever did). While Hanna remains
the obvious riot grrrl godmother and the band's feminist firebrand, Samson
has attracted a lot of attention because of her intentionally masculine
appearance and her own outspoken views on sexual politics.
Art Forum magazine
wrote that, "butch and gorgeous, [Samson] threatens to be the most
interesting sex symbol in the music world." The musician laughs at the
attention she's generated by dressing in men's clothing and adopting the
term "herm" to describe her sexuality.
"I think it's
interesting that I've developed this persona as a sex symbol. At first I was
like, 'This is rad, because I'm a lesbian and that can't exist onstage,
period.' And then it was like, 'Wow, these 15-year-old lesbians think I'm
hot; that's so funny!' And soon enough, it was 15-year-old girls who were
straight, and their straight boyfriends. It was like, 'Wow, what's happening
here? What have I created?' But it is really exciting.
"When we used to
tour, we'd travel with myself and some other butch lesbians, and we had some
'herm pride,' which was kind of this joke we made up about being butch and
going into truck stops and stuff. We used it in the song 'Fake French'['I've
got herm choreography / I've got a conceptual stunt double / I've got a
deviant scene, I mean / I've got multiple alliances'], and I guess that's
sort of an inside joke to us. But I definitely feel like my gender identity
and my expression is different from Jo's and Kathleen's. Not that I should
be treated any differently, and I guess that is the point I'm trying to
make: Any woman or any person whose gender identity doesn't fit the gender
binaries should still be treated like a regular person."
REASONS TO LIVE
Time to catch up on our
rock reading with two of the year's best music books.
Second in influence
among England's original punk bands only to the Sex Pistols, the Clash have
been the subject of numerous biographies, but Pat Gilbert's new Passion
Is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash (Da Capo, $18.95, above) is
the book they've long deserved: thoroughly researched, sharply written,
extremely insightful but unafraid to question the group's many
contradictions. Even if you think you've read enough about the band, this
one is well worth your time.
A revolution of a
different sort is charted by William Duckworth in Virtual Music: How the
Web Got Wired for Sound (Routledge, $24.95). An electronic composer
himself, Duckworth begins with the history of "interactive music," including
artists such as John Cage and Erik Satie, and rockets into the future with
pioneers such as Brian Eno and Moby, exploring the many ways the Internet
has changed the mode of distribution for artists, as well as the unique
opportunities it presents for a sort of virtual studio and a creative tool
unlike any other in the history of recorded sound. A bit dry and academic at
times, the book is made more accessible by an accompanying CD.