(This week’s answers provided by Janet)
Q: Will you record a drums-only album?
A: Funny you should ask. In January I recorded a drums only album with a couple of friends. They happen to be two of the most amazing drummers who’ve ever lived, the stellar Matt Cameron of Soundgarden/Pearl Jam fame, and the mind-blowing Zach Hill from Hella. We set up three kits in the Jackpot! studio here in Portland (during an uncharacteristic snow storm) and improvised for a few days. We hadn’t practiced together, and had no set ideas as to what the record would end up sounding like. We sat down and played what we felt during those particular moments together. It was exciting to work in such an improvisational atmosphere, and absolutely thrilling to rock with two guys who push our instrument’s capabilities far beyond the established boundaries. The three of us ripped it up! The record will come out this year. Look for a west coast tour.
Q: Have you ever done or thought about doing a “unplugged” show?
A: We have been asked to do this numerous times. Most notably at the Bridge School Benefit, which we considered but had to decline. The chance to play with Neil Young is something you don’t just pass up without agonizing a little. But honestly, Sleater-Kinney doesn’t make sense to us in an unplugged context. Our songs don’t work as well without the sonic dynamics. We don’t have many parts that are supported by guitar strumming, which makes the thought of reworking our songs into an unplugged format seem like a lot more trouble than it’s worth.
Q: After reading Corin’s remarks about Olympia in last week’s Q&A, I am wondering what you think of the music scene and creative community in Portland? It seems to me that so many clubs have closed and so many bands have either broken up or left town, there isn’t much left to get excited about in “Stump Town”. Do you have any favorite local bands? Where do you like to play and/or see shows in Portland?
A: Hey, take it easy on Portland. I’ve been here 14 years and will defend this city forever. I’ve seen lots of changes (the Pearl District!), lots of bands breaking up (Calamity Jane, Crackerbash, Heatmiser), lots of venues closing (The X-Ray, Satyricon, La Luna). But come on, there’s plenty to get excited about. I only know about the tip of the iceburg I’m sure, but a couple of bands that come to mind are The Minders, The Jicks, The Decemberists, Shicky Gnarowitz, The Thermals, The Swords, Glass Candy. I see shows at The Crystal Ballroom, Dante’s, Berbati’s, Meow Meow, wherever the bands I like play. And don’t wait for the weekly magazines to tell what’s cool. Get out there and decide for yourself. Better yet, start your own band and you’ll have a reason to get excited on a daily basis!
Q: I’m 15, a girl, and a musician so I’m very curious about how you began playing individually? Are you self taught, when did you decide your career would be in music?
A: I began playing the drums at 22, which is late, but not too late, to start. Seems like a lot of drummers learn as teenagers, which is great because it allows a creative and physical outlet for kids growing up. Banging on your drums is therapeutic, no doubt, and the power you feel when you first take up the instrument is thrilling. I was immediately hooked and wanted to get better as fast as I could. I am self-taught like most of my peers, although you might say all the good drummers I listen to and see at shows are my teachers. I was in bands for years without ever considering the idea of this being a career. A career in my mind involves extensive schooling, and suits and ties. The thought of having to figure out a career was stifling to me, so I let that notion go and explored things that interested me. The drums took hold in a profound way. It is true I make a living being a musician at this juncture, but would be playing even if I didn’t.
Q: I have noticed the name Sleater-Kinney in the oddest places lately, Seventeen magazine, mtv, etc. How do you think your band would change if you started to appeal more to those kinds of audiences?
A: This is a question that haunts me. I would believe that at this point, after 6 albums, the changes Sleater-Kinney has undergone have been motivated by personal developments in the lives of the three members. We make a conscious effort to protect our working environment, and to be the ones making the decisions that affect how we are seen and heard. It’s unpleasant to think about the three of us, with our history of doing things very independently, being thrust into a position where we were selling a million records. The notion, however, that kids who don’t have access to independent music, fanzines, magazines, should hear our music is usually the reason we’ve considered our few and brief forays into the mainstream. The way I grew up listening to music in the 70’s and 80’s, the mainstream was hated. It’s difficult for me to imagine either of my bands being on a major label, being played on MTV, because those bands ultimately exist to keep the archaic music industry rich. And within the context of the mainstream, doesn’t one’s weight as a feminist, musician, artist change? I wish I could ask Kurt Cobain.