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Kathleen Hanna.

Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna is in her Manhattan apartment looking at the Empire State Building through the bars of her window, which is kind of a metaphor for what the former Bikini Kill and Le Tigre frontwoman has gone through. For years, Hanna was debilitated by an undiagnosed illness and many days she couldn't do much more than lay on her couch. Doctors determined she had Lyme disease and thankfully she's now in remission. During that time, she would often hole up in her bedroom and make music. In 2010, much of that material morphed into The Julie Ruin, a full on band featuring former Bikini Kill bandmate Kathi Wilcox, Kenny Mellman, Carmine Covelli, and Sara Landeau. The group released its first album Run Fast in 2013 and followed up with 2016's Hit Reset. In between touring, Hanna was happy to discuss the documentary about her life, The Punk Singer, the early Bikini Kill years and her Beastie Boy husband, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz.

The early punk years were often so misogynistic. How did you navigate those waters as such a young girl?

I kinda didn't navigate is the problem. I also think the problem becomes your success. I was kind of checked out. I grew up not in a good situation with a not supportive father who was an alcoholic and had a lot of guns. It was a scary place to grow up, so I shut my intuition off at a certain point because you just can't live in constant fear without having a heart attack. A lot of people that live in trauma situations constantly shut down. I was still shut down when I was in Bikini Kill. A lot of the violence that was directed towards us, I was just, like, "When I'm on stage no one can do anything to me." That turned out not to be true. I did have stuff happen to me when I was on stage. I just didn't see the warnings because of how I grew up, which is kind of bad. But it's kind of good because I took a lot of risks that I don't think I would take maybe now.


What did it feel like to be in such an aggressive environment?

We started looking around and guys were threatening to kill us. It was really strange going from no one seeing our shows to putting out our fan zine and seeing girls in the front row singing the lyrics and then guys were in the back saying they were going to fucking kill us. We would need escorts to walk us outside because we were scared they were going to beat us up. People had taken shots at us before, not gunshots, but they were grabbing and pulling and trying to hit us. We were really young and didn't have bodyguards or even a tour manager. We just had roadies.

Were you surprised you had such a crazy reaction from guys?

It was weird. When I got interviewed for this book called Girls To The Front about the history of Riot Grrrl, she was shocked about other violent things that happened at shows. The story got retold like everyone liked us, but that is not at all how it went down. There were some beautiful moments where girls did take over shows and helped people who needed help at shows. It was a really cool, beautiful thing a lot of nights, but some nights it was scary. I put my bands in bad situations because I was in denial about how dangerous it really was. Now I look back on it and I'm really glad I did it. Maybe there is some kind of god with some kind of plan, or the universe or something that has a plan. Ha!

In The Punk Singer, you talk about how weird it was you were dating a guy that did songs like, "Girls." How did you move past that?

I was sort of forced to move past it because I was so in love it was undeniable. We had conversations about it. We just talked about it like adults, maybe not like adults. Ha!

Adam was a kid when he wrote that, too, so you grow.

Yeah, and being with him for almost 20 years now, I know who he is as a person, and there's stuff I did when I was 18 that I'm totally not proud of either. I wasn't playing shows with Madonna when I was 18. I think a lot of things they thought were jokes ended up not being jokes. It happened with Minor Threat too. They had the song "Guilty For Being White" and it was a very specific situation from what I heard, where Ian [MacKaye] went to a public school where he felt outnumbered racially and he got beat up by a bunch of people. It ended up sounding like one of those people that are, like, "White lives matter too." It wasn't meant to be racist, but it can come off as really racist. They didn't think it was going to make it out of their town and everybody was going to hear it. That happens a lot when you're young. You're not writing in a way you're going to write when you're older.

I was wondering if "Hello Trust No One" had to do with the scene in The Punk Singer where you're talking about the trust game with your mom and she lets you fall?

Ha! It's so funny. I'm so glad you're laughing about it. I've told every therapist I've ever had about that and they always look at me with this blank look, and I'm, like, "It's funny." They're, like, "It's not funny. It's awful." It's totally funny. Admit you want to laugh. There's another line in that song that goes, "Death or sunshine, it's in my DNA," and I feel like it's just as much from having an alcoholic parent because you learn things are either super good or super bad. Even as much as my mom doing that is definitely a trust no one moment, it did stick with me.

It's kind of a good lesson.

It's kind of hardcore.
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Title Annotation:ZOUNDS
Author:Eustice, Kyle
Date:Nov 16, 2016
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