Nicole Dunn (top right) and Rhizome before their show with G.L.O.S.S.
Drummer for the hardcore band RHIZOME, Nicole Dunn and I went to the same high school in Concord, CA, a sprawling suburb only about 45 minutes from San Francisco but light years away in terms of issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Since then Nicole has played drums for several notable metal and hardcore bands including PROVOS and CLOAK, and has become an outspoken voice around trans and feminist issues. Here Nicole talks about what it’s been like making music in a feminist hardcore band, transitioning within a traditionally close-minded and conservative scene, and shifting gender values in the hardcore-punk and metal communities.
Matt L. Roar: Hi Nicole! I’m super excited to interview you. Can you start off by talking about your current musical endeavors and other recent projects? What have you been working on? What are you excited about?
Nicole Dunn: Hey Matt! I’m excited to do this interview with you because we go way back. Time flies. I’ve been trying to get some more musical projects going here and there but as of now, I’m drumming for Rhizome. Rhizome has become the punk band I’ve always wanted to be in. Female fronted, lyrics about the patriarchy within hardcore and fast and pissed off! We should be touring in the summer so I’m excited for that. I also started recently jamming with two awesome girls and this dude on vocals. The project is like heavy ‘77 style punk so I’ll keep you posted on that. I also was in a black metal band called Cloak but had to call it quits because I’ve really been trying to focus on this significant shift in my life and they wanted a lot out of me I couldn’t give them. I wanted to pursue other musical endeavors but at a pace that lets me focus on my gender transition as well. Cloak has moved on without me but I’m excited to see what their next release will sound like. I’ve also been doing a radio show for the past couple of years called Cult of Riffs where I play all heavy music. The show is on a internet based radio station called BFF.fm. I don’t think I have any listeners sometimes but it’s fun and keeps me busy, haha. Continue reading
“Don’t forget it! Use your voice!!!!”
So shouted 69-year-old Patti Smith, arms flailing, long grey hair flying, at the Wiltern in Los Angeles during Saturday’s sold-out last night of her tour performing her iconic 1975 album Horses for its 40th anniversary. She spit on the stage, danced barefoot and thrust her voice to the heavens, with the crowd roaring back. An older female artist thrumming with life, rage, rock and joy; aging, ageless, human.
There are and will be many Best Music of 2015 lists floating around on the ‘nets, but none featuring strong female and/or genderqueer vocals—until now! In arbitrary/alphabetical order:
1. Anna Van Hausswolff – The Miraculous
This album felt more doom-metal than her last, which I was surprised by/totally okay with.
Photo credit: Holly Coley
I may be having a musical mid-life crisis. My efforts at personal growth and introspection have landed me in front of a funhouse mirror and suddenly so many things that I have loved, or thought I loved, possibly still do love, are bugging the shit out of me. “Please!” I whined the other day, “I never want to hear another band that thinks they sound like the New York Dolls. Make it stop.” I have a serviceable collection of powerpop 45s. Hell, in 2004 I even snuck backstage to take a photo with the Romantics in my matching haircut and skinny tie. A few months ago, I was weeding out dead weight from my record collection and jettisoned a batch of albums featuring 30-year-old men in pink overalls crooning about their underage conquests. But then, last Sunday, I was visited by my teenage self and received a jolt of inspiration.
Super Unison, photo by Matthew Kadi
There’s this tree growing behind my apartment that took me five years to really notice. It’s huge. Twenty feet taller than our three-story building, with dense leaves, a squirrel’s nest, and a rotating cast of birds. I don’t understand why I took it for granted for so long. Maybe I needed to live in New York City for a few years before I realized how special it was to have an epic, dynamic, vital being growing in your backyard. Anyway, Meghan O’Neil Pennie, the lead singer and bassist of Super Unison, and former lead singer of PUNCH, is like that for me too. Meghan was the big sister of the drummer in my high school punk band. She was always lurking when we practiced in his parent’s living room. In college she was my best friend’s roommate, so we would often cook dinner together and hang. She felt like a family member who had always been around and always would be. So when she started singing for PUNCH, I hardly noticed. I feel stupid about that now. Her vocals on the five(!) PUNCH records released by 625, Deathwish, Discos Huelgas, are so fucking ferocious and unrelenting it hurts my throat and heart to listen. Meghan also has this incredibly powerful stage presence. I’m watching old YOUTUBE videos and found one of her performing at a festival in the Czech Republic and she’s leaping about stage with one broken foot while people stagedive around her. Meghan derived the title of PUNCH’s last record, “They Don’t Have to Believe” from the Kathleen Hanna documentary, The Punk Singer, in which Hanna says “she doesn’t expect everyone to understand or believe in feminism or her personal battle with illness, but they should have to stay out of her way.” Meghan’s work in her new band, Super Unison, continues in this lineage. Her vocals are upfront and unapologetic, slightly more melodic than before, a little less thrash and a little more riot grrrl. Here, Meghan and I talk about her new band, her lyrics, and how she became the musician she is today. Continue reading
The following is a music review (similar to what I did before and before) where I write what comes to me as I listen to Holly Herndon’s new album, Platform:
Traverse time apart from/next to myself
Dedicated machinery, joints dance, hum of fast-paced rise and fall
Linking slow and sudden
Stutter clearly, throughout. The fundamental frequency of great shifts.
Shift to quiet. Shift in circles. Pulse out. Outer ripples provide the current rhythm reverberating back, activating other nodes. Laser cutting across dark matter, loping looping space falling apart fa fa falling apart. Continue reading
If you’re like me when it comes to music, then it’s likely that you’re constantly scouring the internet for exciting and unheard-of musical gems. I get especially hype when I come across women who play actual live instruments and play them well. Rachel Eckroth is undoubtedly one of these jewel artists who allow me to happily revel in indie girl coolness. Although you may not have heard of Rachel, you may have seen her. She is a member of the all-female house band on The Meredith Vieira Show on NBC. She gigs with her band relatively often but can also be found working as a side-woman playing piano or keyboard and singing across a range of genres.
One of my most memorable encounters with Rachel was on a winter evening in 2013. I packed into a tiny room to hear Rachel’s six-piece band perform as part of the Capricorn Music Festival in New York City. The room of about thirty or so musicians and fans received a steady flow of music that sampled a panoply of jazz-infused colors. As the group performed, the room pulsated with nodding heads entranced by the groove. That night, they performed Eckroth’s original tune, “More Beautiful Than That.” When they hit the bridge, I looked around the room—not a single body was still. Her music has a distinct charge. It’s a sonic road-trip, one that will take you places if you decide to let it. As she glided through changes on her keyboard, I remember thinking Damn, she can play.
My daughter just turned 20 months old, and she’s really starting to take control of her musical destiny: while we picked out the music she listened to when she was a baby, now she has her own preferences and can demand we sing or play the same songs over and over again. And she’s verbal enough now that she can actually sing along! As feminist parents, of course, we recognize that most traditional children’s music is a tool of the patriarchy, intended to mold pliant young minds into lovers of the status quo. But as helpless thralls of our adorable child, we make no effort to discourage her from singing the songs she loves. Still, why not rank the songs our daughter loves best from Least to Most Feminist? Here’s a somewhat arbitrarily-chosen list that includes most of her favorites.
Photo by Carolyn Guinzio
After what felt like forever, spring is finally here. It’s time for clearing out the old and invigorating your life with new love, or whatever. You might oust that bum-out of a boo, or energize those lazy evenings spent couch-bound with your love, or kindle some sparking Tinder flames. While it’s the perfect time of year to delve into a little self-love and spring romance, it’s also a good time to remember that love, like most else, is political. If your love doesn’t make you feel strong and solid and inspired to make this world a more amazing, just place, well then your love ain’t no love of mine. Since so many folks wrote to tell me they loved jamming to my Winter Blues Mix, here’s a reprise you can turn up to inspire what you want in love. Then go make it manifest, whether it’s a letting go, or a receiving, or an offering to your community. And since love means many different things on many different days to many different folks, these feminist songs take a peek at love from different angles. Continue reading
Viv Albertine is most recognized for her 70s group The Slits—an all-woman rock band borne from England’s punk scene that blends elements of revolutionary sounds, shock, fashion, and feminism. Albertine’s scope, however, goes beyond just music. Her versatility as an artist encompasses the world of paint, sculpture, film, and fashion. She is a great deal more than just a woman who once rolled alongside groups like the Sex Pistols and The Clash, hitting the bars and streets with fellas like Sid Vicious and Mick Jones and chicks like Siouxsie Sioux and Chrissie Hynde. She balls up her life’s yarn in her standout memoir Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
Clothes… Music… Boys… doesn’t simply serve as a vehicle for nostalgia: In addition to covering Albertine’s hilarious, moving, and painful memories of growing up in England during the years following World War II, the memoir examines the stifled culture of the era that she and her peers in the punk movement revolted against. It uniquely illustrates her coming into childhood, girlhood, womanhood and, most importantly, personhood—the stage where she learns to get in touch with herself fearlessly. The book likewise catalogs the fashion trends that Albertine witnessed and participated in, especially at “the Shop”—SEX—the iconic London boutique established by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood—where Albertine picked up a pair of boots (upon Westwood’s insistence) that she proudly sports to this day.
Apart from documenting the cultural and social atmosphere of these times, Albertine’s book is extremely personal. Her narration strikes a balance of confidence and vulnerability, and the resulting voice is emboldening. Dual spirits reside in her book: one that is pensive and anxious, and the other ruthlessly bold and grounded—a dichotomy that leaves the reader feeling empowered, understood, and granted permission to trust her own instincts. Despite Albertine’s naysayers (the friend that begs her to please stop playing the guitar because she can’t bear the sounds; the OBGYN who tells her she’ll never conceive; the medical world that tells her she’ll die of cancer; the husband who says she’ll never be an artist or a soloist), her willpower does not leave room for compromise. She turns the volume up on her own inner voice. Continue reading