Le Tigre: Superheroes from some weird feminist alternative reality (Arthur, 2004)

Superheroes from some weird feminist alternative reality: JD Samson, Johanna Fateman, Kathleen Hanna

Life On Their Island
Oliver Hall talks utopian pop and practical politics with electro-dance bullhorn radicals LE TIGRE

Originally published in Arthur No. 13 (2004)

The October issue of Harper’s reprints something I haven’t been able to get out of my mind for days now: a passage of instructions, from a handbook for members of a Japanese student club, for gang-rape. The men of Super Free, “a now defunct club for students at elite Japanese universities,” gang-raped hundreds of women between 1995 and 2003. “Take away the woman’s shoes, purse, and cell phone so that she cannot get away before we have finished,” it says. “Take photos or a video of the rape and threaten to expose the woman publicly if she opens her mouth about what happened.”

To say nothing of rape, shame and humiliation are the secret weapons the powerful use in the everyday battles lost by women—and queers, nonwhites, the poor, weirdos. “Are you gay?” asked a girl I had just met at Club Screwball a few weeks ago; I was too drunk to articulate Gore Vidal’s thesis that “gay” and “straight” properly refer to sexual acts, not people, so I just said, “Well, not really.” “Then why are you funny? You must have been beaten up at school.” “Yes.”

Unlike Kathleen Hanna’s previous band, the great and legendary Bikini Kill, the band that inspired the thrilling Riot Grrrrrrl movement of the early ’90s even as it distanced itself from that movement, Le Tigre is not a punk band suspicious of its audience. All the members of Le Tigre, as I interviewed them independently from their locations in New York—JD Samson in Brooklyn, Johanna Fateman uptown, Kathleen Hanna downtown—spoke of their audience with a kind of awe, and I sensed that providing a special, free place for all those who have had to develop a sense of humor to live in the world, who have to cherish joy because it is a privilege rather than a right for them, gives all the members of Le Tigre a lot of pleasure.

This Island, Le Tigre’s new album and its first ever for a major label, is the kind of pop music you haven’t heard coming from your radio or TV in years—not retro, just painted in primary colors—but that’s where it belongs, making the carwash fun again. “X-out all self-supervision, get your keys out now start the ignition / We’re on the verge of. . .” what?

Rumors are circulating that there will be a Le Tigre float at next year’s New York Gay Pride parade. I begged JD to give me the details, but she said I’d just have to come see it. See you there.

ARTHUR: Your single “New Kicks” uses sounds JD recorded at the February 15, 2003 Iraq war protest in New York City. I was there, but I couldn’t get to the speakers’ stage where much of “New Kicks” was recorded. The police held us immobile between barricades, diverted the march away from the stage, and beat up a lot of people. Was the protest as fun as the song makes it sound?

JD: I think of the song as cinematic, dramatic—kind of an anthem in the sense that it’s for all the people that were there and have been protesting in the past few years, but I don’t really see it as a celebration-type song. My experience was more positive than some of my friends who were arrested and had mace in their face. I just kind of jumped over fences and tried to make my way to where I could hear the speakers. That was kind of my number one quota that day.

The part in the song where [Amy Goodman from Democracy Now]’s naming the list of places, that’s pretty exciting. That was actually from the radio broadcast of the event. When I came across that I was like, “Oh my god! What a good build.”

JOHANNA: What was amazing and made me really happy was realizing how huge it was. That’s what was sort of exhilarating about it, is that we felt really unstoppable and it was really out of the control of the police or anyone, and it felt like it couldn’t be denied because a whole huge section of the city was shut down. I don’t know if I feel like the song is a celebration of that, but we didn’t want it to be, like, a bummer song [laughs]. The song was actually played on Democracy Now. That felt good, it sort of came full circle.

Le Tigre’s appearance on Carson Daly’s late night show is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen on TV. What was that like for you?

KATHLEEN: We were really bummed when we got there, we were totally exhausted. You have to bring your equipment to that shit at like ten in the morning? And we don’t really have a crew, so we were doing it ourselves, and we got stuck in traffic for like two hours, and we hadn’t slept cuz we played a show the night before — we were just totally exhausted, and we were like “Why are we doing this? It’s so ridiculous.” And then we look on the TV monitor, and Carson Daly goes, “. . .and Le Tigre!” and we hear everybody scream! And they pan the audience, there were all these friends of ours that we hadn’t seen in forever that showed up, there’s all these girls in mustaches, and we’re like “Okay, we can do this.”

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Jan 15-Feb 25, NYC: Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal #10 at White Columns


(above: cover of sold-out Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal No. 7)

From White Columns:

Edited By Thurston Moore with Byron Coley and Eva Prinz

White Columns is proud to present Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal, Issue #10: an exhibition, publication, and a series of readings and performances.

Artist, musician, poet and publisher Thurston Moore began editing and producing Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal in 2001 as a forum to publish poetry by individuals who intersected the worlds of poetry, music and art. A dynamic range of writings, with various pages of visual work by Gerard Malanga, Richard Meltzer, Chan Marshall, Dennis Cooper, Kathleen Hanna, John Sinclair, Richard Hell, Jutta Koether, Gus van Sant, Rick Moody, Kim Gordon, Anne Waldman, Bill Berkson, Anselm Berrigan, Gary Panter and many others were published in eight issues in as many years.

Moore was inspired to publish Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal after years of appreciation, study and relentless archiving of post-war poetry publishing focusing on the activity of the “mimeo revolution” of the ’60s and ’70s. The stapled mimeo poetry journals produced from the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Peace Eye Bookstore in New York City, and Asphodel Bookstore in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as a myriad of other subterranean centers of shared post-beat writing, rage, meditation and experimentation continues to inform the publication of Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal.

Issue #10 of Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal will be published and presented at White Columns as an expanded event/exhibition. A stapled issue will be created during the show. Pages from each of the ten journals will be exhibited as enlarged wall pieces, including the heretofore unpublished issue #9, [in keeping with the journals every-third-issue a theme issue, i.e., #3 was themed “cunnilingus,” #6 was “punk,”—with #9’s theme “pot”]. The main gallery space will feature a selection of historical poetry publications from the last fifty years culled from Moore’s own library, including original editions of Amphora, Change, Coldspring Journal, Copkiller, Fervent Valley, Free Poems Amongst Friends, Gaslight Poetry Review, Kauri, Klactovedesteen, LA-BAS, Outburst, Stance, Sum, The Willie, Trobar, Yowl and more.

Working as co-editor on many aspects of Ecstatic Peace Poetry Journal, including this exhibition is writer Byron Coley, formidable musicologist, essayist, poet and producer of music and literary arcana, ephemera and beyond. Select pieces from Moore and Coley’s catalogue will be reprinted in limited states for this exhibition. Eva Prinz, editor, co-publisher of Ecstatic Peace Library and curator of Radical Living Papers: Free Press 1965-75 (2007) brings additional organizational and creative force to Issue #10 as a gallery event.

Reading and performance schedule:

Friday January 15th:
6-8pm. Opening performance: Northampton Wools (Thurston Moore, Chris Corsano, Bill Nace)

Saturday January 23rd
7-9pm. Reading: John Giorno, Byron Coley. Performance: Thurston Moore

Friday February 5th
7-9pm. Reading: Edmund Berrigan, Anselm Berrigan. Performance: Thurston Moore

Friday February 19th
7-9pm. Reading: Richard Hell, Dorothea Lasky. Music: Thurston Moore + guest

Thursday February 25th
7-9pm. Reading: Thurston Moore and Anne Waldman accompanied by musicians Ambrose Bye and Devin Waldman

All performances and readings are free, admission on a first-come basis.

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