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Musicians Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman.

Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of the band, Le Tigre (lay-TEE-gruh). Hanna was the lead singer of the 90s band Bikini Kill. Bikini Kill was part of the music/cultural/feminist movement know as “Riot Grrl,” which focused on the concept of ‘girl power” and young women’s empowerment. The movement was based primarily in Washington, DC and Olympia, WA, and its members formed bands, wrote fanzines, and held meetings, protests and festivals. HANNA was a leader and spokesperson for the movement. Her first solo project after Bikini Kill was called Julie Ruin. She then formed Le Tigre. Bandmate Fatemen is an artist and zine writer. Le Tigre’s new eponymous CD, released by the Mr. Lady Label, combines pop, punk and feminism.


Other segments from the episode on September 5, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 5, 2000: Interview with Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman; Review of Bonnie Burnard's novel "A Good House"; Commentary on malapropisms.


DATE September 5, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of Le Tigre discuss
their new group and Hanna's influence on girl groups of today from
her days in the band Bikini Kill

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Noisy guitar bands are often thought of as a boy thing, but not always. For
example, there was the riot-grrrl movement that started in the early '90s;
girl bands with a punk sensibility and a feminist attitude. My two guests
were important members of that movement. Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman
are now members of the band Le Tigre. In the days when Hanna fronted the
Bikini Kill, she was considered one of the founders of the riot-grrrl
movement. The movement spread through 'zines as well as music. Johanna
Fateman writes 'zines about music, art and culture.

Hanna does most of the singing in Le Tigre. Fateman plays keyboards and
some of the sampling. They both play guitar. The band begins a new tour
later this month. From their recent CD "Le Tigre," here's a song called
"What's Yr Take on Cassavetes?"

(Soundbite from "What's Yr Take on Cassavetes?")

(Soundbite of birds, guitar)

Ms. KATHLEEN HANNA (Le Tigre): We talked about it in letters, and we talked
about it on the phone. But how you really about it, I don't really know.

(Soundbite of synthesizer)

Ms. JOHANNA FATEMAN and Ms. HANNA: (Singing, in unison) What's your take on
Cassavetes? What's your take on Cassavetes? What's your take on
What's your take on Cassavetes?

Ms. HANNA: Misogynist.

Ms. FATEMAN: Genius.

Ms. HANNA: Misogynist.

Ms. FATEMAN: Genius.

Ms. HANNA: Misogynist.

Ms. FATEMAN: Genius.

Ms. HANNA: Misogynist.

Ms. FATEMAN: Genius.

Ms. FATEMAN and Ms. HANNA: (Singing, in unison) What's your take on
Cassavetes? What's your take on Cassavetes?

GROSS: Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let's start
with "What's Yr Take on Cassavetes?" Why don't you tell us how this song
came about, particularly the lyric?

Ms. FATEMAN: Hi, this is Johanna. Well, with "What's Yr Take on
Cassavetes?," it was kind of a series of incidents or coincidences that led
this song. I work at an art gallery, and there was a group show of visual
artists sort of grouped together based on the filmmaking practices of
Cassavetes. And so I was reading all the stuff about Cassavetes. And,
meanwhile, Kathleen and Sadie--well, you should tell his part, Kathleen.

Ms. HANNA: This is Kathleen. Sadie and I happen to hook up in Paris,
It was very glamorous. And we wanted to go see a movie, and what was
but "Husbands" by Cassavetes. And we went to see it and we just had, like,
all these conservations about, you know, `Is the misogyny in this movie
calling attention to, sort of, like, white middle-class men's, like,
vacancy, and stuff like that? Or is it just being a part of it?' Because
both felt really gross after the movie, but we also loved it in this weird
way. And when we started talking about how many different kinds of art and
music we feel that way about, that it's, like, they're something really icky
about it, but we still are attracted to it. And how can you constantly be
negotiating that in your mind about everything as a feminist. And so we
started writing that song.

And then, we also want to bring up the point of me, Sadie and Johanna's sort
of intellectual friendships with each other. Because at the beginning of
song, there's, like, a girl in a telephone booth. You can hear sea gulls
stuff like that in the background. And we've kind of set it up to be a
typical, you know, Shangri-La type thing, where, you know, one girl's
another, you know, and being, like, `Oh, I love that man so much. I'm going
to die without him,' or whatever. And then it's really one woman calling
another being, like, `What do you think about Cassavetes? I really need to

GROSS: Well, I think it's really ambitious to write a song about your
ambivalent feelings about a film director, your ambivalent feelings about
certain art. It's hard to write a song about that.

Ms. HANNA: Not for us. That's what we talk about all the time.

GROSS: Well, it's certainly not typical to write a song about that.

Ms. FATEMAN: I think that's part of what we wanted to do with the song, was
to overturn that expectation that it was going to be about typical pop song
fare of, you know, love relationships or whatever, having a good time at a
party or what--I don't know, whatever common themes are. So we wanted to
address this idea of, like, what's a critique and what's a participation.

GROSS: Kathleen, you're considered one of the originators of riot-grrrl
music. I think most artists really hate labels. So let's start with--are
comfortable with that expression?

Ms. HANNA: I'm definitely comfortable with being labeled a `feminist
artist.' Like, I kind of hate the fact that everybody's so freaked out
being labeled. I'm sick of reading it in everybody's interviews. You know,
every single interview is, like, `Don't put me in a box. I don't want to be
labeled.' And it's--like, I'm really happy when I see people who are, like,
`I'm a lesbian, and I'm really proud of it.' You know what I mean? And,
like, `Go ahead, label me, because that's something that, like, gives other
people pride and gives other people a feeling of inclusion.' So in terms
like, feminism I'm definitely down to say I'm a feminist. Riot-grrrl is a
specific branch of feminism, but I wouldn't call myself a riot-grrrl just
'cause I don't go to meetings anymore.

GROSS: What was it when you were involved with it, and what was its meaning
for you?

Ms. HANNA: It was sort of, like, you know, '70s feminist art groups a lot,
with a certain, like, outreach element of, like, you know, doing actions
being involved in protests and stuff like that, and planning benefit shows
for, like, rape crisis shelters, helping out individual women in the sort of
punk music scene, skill sharing, stuff like that. It was really--it meant a
lot to me. I mean, it was a really exciting time when it started in DC just
to be a part of these meetings and see these girls who had never been in a
room only with women before, you know, saying things that maybe they'd never
said and saying things, certainly, that I'd never said to anyone.

GROSS: What would you say has been the impact of that kind of feminism on
your music? And do you think it's fair to describe your music as a
combination of, say, punk and feminism?

Ms. FATEMAN: I think that's definitely part of it, and certainly, like, the
most, kind of--I don't know, the most easily identifiable aspects of it are.
But I think that punk and feminism are more words that apply to, kind of,
history and, like, what our references are in our music rather than what
actually doing right now. I mean, we're certainly still feminists, but I
think that we're not so much interested in staying within a confined set of
aesthetics that, you know, the idea of punk might imply.

GROSS: Well, I'm wondering if, you know, having started out with riot-grrrl
music, if you felt that some of that music was appropriated by mainstream
groups and by mainstream pop culture, say groups like the Spice Girls or TV
shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Ms. HANNA: I don't think the music was ever appropriated, because probably
mainstream listeners, it's just too confrontational and unlistenable and has
too many cuss words in it. But it definitely--I think certain people who
interested in graphs and charts and marketing saw that bands like Bikini
and Bratmobile and now Sleater-Kinney were making, you know, a living on
small independent labels with absolutely, like, no advertising money, you
know. And, like, if we're able to do that, they were like, `What if we put
whole bunch of money behind something that sort of takes the content out of
it, takes the abrasiveness out of it and, yet, has this sort of, you know,
"girl power" message, or whatever, and put that into the world? We could
a lot of money.'

And, you know, whatever. All the `Girls Rules' T-shirts started happening,
and we--a lot of riot-grrrls used to write stuff on themselves, you know,
like, names that were, like, derogatory towards women, like on our arms or
our stomachs if we wearing a short top, sort of as a commentary.

GROSS: Like `slut.' Like you had `slut' on your stomach.

Ms. HANNA: Yeah, like, stuff like that. And it was sort of--part of the
original reason was when I started being photographed, I felt like I was
silenced by the photograph. You know what I mean? Like, I would get my
picture taken and they could write absolutely anything over it, under it,
whatever. And now it's kind of depressing because I'm, like, `Oh, I was
beating people to the punch.' You know what I mean? Like, `Oh, that's what
men are going to think if they see me, and so I'm going to beat them to the
punch by writing this and say, "I know you're thinking that,"' which I think
was interesting for a minute, but I'm not kind of interested in that thing

But the basic point is that then they start having T-shirts that said
And who are the people who own these companies? Probably men--Do you know

what I mean?--who are making money off of this, like, now pseudorebellion
whatever. I just find it annoying and boring, and I don't spend a lot of
thinking about it. I just kind of keep working. And if there are, like,
five-year-old girls who get sort of a feminist type vibe off of the Spice
Girl's girl power, great, you know.

GROSS: Do you think that the more commercial end of girl power also gave
message of, `And if you are really beautiful, really attractive and dress
really well, you can be a part of girl power, too'?

Ms. FATEMAN: Yeah, I mean, definitely, I think so. But I also do think
it's important not to be entirely cynical about the way that riot-grrrl
aesthetics have entered the mainstream because, like Kathleen pointed out,
is for a much younger audience, generally. I mean, the Spice Girls really
for girls who are too young to do their own record shopping at an
record store or who are probably too young to hear some of the content that
was in a band like Bikini Kill. Or--you know, it's like--it's kind of
and oranges at this point. Do you know what I mean? It's--I don't know.

Ms. HANNA: The music definitely doesn't sound anything like anybody I know
who's ever making.

Ms. FATEMAN: Yeah.

GROSS: I wonder if there are certain types of lyrics or performance styles
pop music now that disturb you.


Ms. HANNA: Yeah, we actually try to shy away from this kind of question
because we don't want to give those people any press. Because a lot of the
jerky guys--and everyone listening knows who they are--you know, who write,
like, really, you know, sexist lyrics and stuff and who just come off like
total unsophisticated cavemen, it's like they don't even deserve our

Ms. FATEMAN: Yeah. And it's part of their fantasy that they would be
gaining our attention and making us angry when really we're just not...

Ms. HANNA: We don't care. We're bored.

Ms. FATEMAN: We're just not engaging with that part of culture.

Ms. HANNA: I'm just, like, `Yawn.'

GROSS: My guests are Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of the band Le
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests are Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of the band Le

I think for some girls growing up--this might not be true in every era--it
seemed more probable that you'd be the girlfriend of the guy in the band
than--that you'd be a girl with your own band. What were your thoughts
that? Did you think if you loved pop music, that you could have a band of
your own, or did you think that you'd be, like, the girlfriend of?

Ms. HANNA: Well, I was the girlfriend of until I decided to stop doing
you know. I feel like I would have probably been in a band starting at age
or 13 if I would have thought that it was a possibility, but I just didn't,
you know. When me and my friend Maureen Gaines(ph) took guitar after school
in grade school in, like, fifth grade, we were the only two girls, and we
like, laughed out of the class. We were, like, so humiliated that we just
stopped going.

GROSS: What were you humiliated for?

Ms. HANNA: Well--like, we would practice extra hard because every time when
we went in, like, the guys would just make fun of us constantly and treat us
like we were playing it wrong. And I remember it making me feel really
like, I just couldn't do it right no matter what I did, and there was
something, like, genetically wrong with me that made it so that I couldn't
play, you know.

And then the whole thing as I got older was, like, I was always hanging out
with guys in bands. I was always, like, making stickers for their bands,
making T-shirts for their bands, like, helping them set up shows, like
bringing people to their shows and, like, going to their practices and
that somebody would ask me to sing. And then eventually I was like, `I
wait anymore for somebody to ask me. Like, I just have to do this because
it's what I really want to do.' But I mean, I was relatively young. I was,
like, 19 when I was in my first band. But I really do feel like I would
started a lot earlier if there would have been, you know, more

GROSS: Johanna, what about you?

Ms. FATEMAN: Before I really knew other women in punk bands, I didn't think
that that was a possibility for me. I mean, I--as much as I loved, like,
know, say, Cyndi Lauper or whoever, I don't think that I could relate to her
in a realistic way, like, I didn't see myself having a life like hers. So,
mean, I grew up in Berkeley, California, and there were some women in punk
bands, and I kind of looked to them. And it was, like, `Wow, they're
normal people like me. I could do that, too, if I wanted to.' So I think
took kind of knowing other women in bands for me to feel that way, that I
could do it.

Ms. HANNA: Well, that's part of the beauty of punk, you know, is that--it's
like you go to the same coffee shops as people. Like, a lot of people in
rock or in bands are also setting up shows and working the door and, like,
doing all facets. And it's not just, like--there's not the same kind of
system, although there are people who are better known because they've been
the scene for longer and stuff like that. And there--you know, that whole,
like, excitement about being famous or whatever is just about everywhere,
you can't really escape it. There is, like, a sort of feeling of being,
`Oh, I could do that because that person is doing it and they don't have a
million dollars or, like, a huge label behind them.'

GROSS: Kathleen, having been embarrassed when you were taking guitar
and made to think that you just would never get it right, you weren't good
enough, how did you overcome that when you started performing?

Ms. HANNA: Well, I didn't play guitar, for one, until now at age 31, and
just starting to play in Le Tigre. And I don't know how I got over it. I
mean, I'm sure a lot of times in Bikini Kill, a false sense of bravado
went a long way for me. I just acted confident and pretended I knew exactly
what I was doing, you know, and kept going because I love the spotlight. I
love attention. I love singing and having everybody listen to me. It felt
really good.

GROSS: Now, Kathleen, I read--and you can tell me if this is true--that
you were in school, you starred in a production of "Annie."

Ms. HANNA: Yes, that is true. I was Annie. They couldn't--my school
couldn't really afford props and sets and stuff, and they also had to have
something with a male lead to be fairer, I guess. So it was sort of a
combination of "Annie" and "Oliver." I don't know how they did it. And
it was, like, I had a stuffed dog instead of real dog for Sandy. It was
really bad.

GROSS: So did you have to sing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow"?

Ms. HANNA: I sure did.

GROSS: Now that's a really different kind of singing than the singing
doing on your records now.

Ms. HANNA: Not really. I mean, the thing that's interesting is when I
started out, or whatever, everybody said I sounded like Polystyrene from
Specs. And I had never heard her. And then I listened to X-Ray Specs, and
was like, `Oh, it's because we both project.' Like--and I learned that
like, my many years of children's theater. And I always wondered if Polly
also done a little, you know, "Annie."

GROSS: A little theater in her day?

Ms. HANNA: Yeah.

GROSS: See, I thought you meant when you started singing in "Annie," people
said that you sounded like Polystyrene. I thought that was pretty funny.

Ms. HANNA: Oh, I wish.

GROSS: Yeah. I'm going to play something, Kathleen, that you did with the
band Bikini Kill early in your music career. And this is called "Rebel
Girl," and it's considered, like, one of the anthems of riot-grrrl music.
And tell us something about writing this song.

Ms. HANNA: Well, I lived in DC at the time, and there was just a lot of
excitement 'cause women's groups were starting and there were a lot of bands
there. And--I don't know. At that point, I didn't feel like I had to write
songs. I just felt like I had to reach up into the air and grab them. And
this was one of the ones I sort of reached up into the air and grabbed. It
was, like, a scene of people wrote it. I didn't really write it. I just
the person who actually put the pen to the paper.

GROSS: OK. This is "Rebel Girl," Bikini Kill, featuring my guest, Kathleen

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HANNA: That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood. She's got
the hottest Jag in town. That girl, she holds her head up so high. I think
want to be her best friend. Yeah!

Rebel girl, rebel girl. Rebel girl, you are the queen of my world. Rebel
girl, rebel girl. I think I want to take you on, I wanna try a new

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HANNA: When she talks, I hear the revolution. In her head, there's
revolution. When she walks, the revolution's coming. In a (unintelligible)
what is the revolution?

Rebel girl, rebel girl. Rebel girl, you are the queen of my world.

GROSS: That's "Rebel Girl," from the band Bikini Kill, that my guest
Hanna used to be in. And Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman are my guests.
Their new band is called Le Tigre.

"Rebel Girl" is a very low-fi kind of record. And I'm wondering if you want
to keep the low-fi sound or if you want to get more kind of technically--if
you want to get better technical audio quality on your recordings now?

Ms. HANNA: Yeah. I mean, I think we always wanted that. It was--it's not
aesthetic as much as it's been a money limitation. You know--I mean, like,
the first Bikini Kill album was done on a four-track--well, it's actually
of an album. But it was done on a four-track for $17. So, you know, we
didn't have any money. And even with the albums--I remember spending a
thousand dollars and, like, working for a week or something and being really
freaked out about how expensive it was. And now I'm finding out about the
budgets that regular bands have. And I'm kind of, like, `Wow,' you know.

And we still with Le Tigre try to keep the costs down and also keep the
control in our own hands by recording a lot of our initial tracks ourselves
and doing a lot of preproduction and production in the studio, because we're
really interested in, like--we're interested in taking over everything. No,
we want to--I don't want some, you know, guy who's behind the mixing board,
or whatever, like, deciding what our sound is for us, you know. We want to
know as much as possible...

Ms. FATEMAN: Yeah.

Ms. HANNA: that we can explain our ideas and, in some cases, make our
ideas happen all on our own.

GROSS: Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of the band Le Tigre will be back
in the second half of the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite from song)

Ms. HANNA: I take you home now. Let me get you hot. You're just a parrot
when you're screaming and you're shouting, `More crackers, please. More
crackers, please.' You are what you are, but you don't want to be. I know
need new duds or who does your hair.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HANNA: Who took the bop in the bop-a-lomp-a-lomp? Who took the rams in
the rama-lama-ding-dong? Who took the bop in the bop-a-lomp-a-lomp? Who
the ram in the rama-lama-ding-dong?


GROSS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, we continue our conversation with Kathleen Hanna and
Johanna Fateman of the band Le Tigre. Also, Maureen Corrigan reviews Bonnie
Burnard's first novel. And our classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reads
poem from his new book.

(Soundbite from song)

Ms. HANNA: Phone keeps ringing, and it just got ...(unintelligible).
There's a payment ...(unintelligible) if I call too far. People take it out
on me, let them write. My head feels heavy, but my feet feel light.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. HANNA: The clock keeps ticking inside my head. Bad news is all I ever
get. The check is in the mail, but not on time. Everyone around me wants
start another fight.

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of the band Le Tigre. Here's a
track from their recent CD, "Le Tigre," in which they pay tribute to a
wide assortment of people in bands that have influenced them.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) Tap, tap, it's just the way that we rhyme.
Tap, tap, it's just the way that we rhyme. Tap, tap, it's just the way that
we rhyme. Tap, tap, it's just the way that we rhyme.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Caroline and Eleanor Hanson(ph). Yoko Ono
and Caroline screaming. You're getting old. That's what they say. But
give a damn. I'm listening anyway.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) Tap, tap, it's just the way that we rhyme.
Tap, tap, it's just the way that we rhyme. Tap, tap, it's just the way that
we rhyme. Tap, tap, it's just the way that we rhyme.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Does she stop? I can't wait till she
Does she stop? Gretchen and Phyllis achieve our motto ...(unintelligible).

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Music from the CD "Le Tigre." Singer and guitarist Kathleen Hanna
used to front the band Bikini Kill, one of the '90s riot girl bands that
combined a punk sensibility with a feminist attitude. Johanna Fateman of Le
Tigre writes zines as well as playing music. When she started writing zines
in high school, she didn't think of herself as a riot girl, although her
subject matter was influenced by the movement and some of her zines were
distributed by the Riot Grrrl Press. I asked what she wrote about in her
early zines.

Ms. FATEMAN: I guess feminism. I mean, it was sort of more poetic and
abstract than, like, necessarily sort of just political ideas. But it was
definitely about sexism and growing up and being in high school and being a
teen-ager and feeling extremely alienated and sort of discovering punk music
and punk aesthetics and finding a way to rebel and be part of something
different than what I saw the majority of my classmates or, you know...

Ms. HANNA: But at the same time, it's like you're a really theoretical
writer. I mean, like, Jo's fanzines aren't like zine reports and, like,
pictures of people in bands, like...

Ms. FATEMAN: Right.

Ms. HANNA: They're, like, based in, like, theory and stuff, and the way
she writes is really challenging, and I think it's important to note that,
like, in the Riot Grrrl zine, like, there wasn't just, like, new kinds of
music being created. There was also new forms of writing, new ways of
writing. Like, one of the things in Snarla(ph), which was one of Jo's early
fanzines that she did, was she had these conversations with different parts
herself. Were you the one who wrote that stuff?

Ms. FATEMAN: Yeah. Yeah.

Ms. HANNA: Like, she would have, like, you know, conversation with my
insomnia or (technical difficulties) other ones?

Ms. FATEMAN: I think I had a conversation with my migraine, because I had
migraine headaches. Or what else was there? There was stuff like that.
There was stuff like--yeah, it wasn't zine reports and pictures of bands.
Even though I went to those shows, that wasn't really what I was interested
writing about. And there was definitely other girls working on projects in
that same vein of kind of visual art or literary things that functioned as,
like, adjacent material to the music that weren't about the music.

GROSS: You both talked about the importance of feminism in your life and in
your music. How were you exposed to that? And I'm wondering if your
were feminists.

Ms. FATEMAN: My mom's a feminist, definitely. I mean, I grew up in
California, which, you know, is a university town and sort of famous for
a place where, you know, radical politics are and are talked about. So I
like I was exposed to radical ideas when I was really young.

GROSS: And Kathleen?

Ms. HANNA: I grew up in suburbia--in various suburbias. My family moved a
lot. We moved every, like, three years. My dad worked for the union, for
Local 669, pipe fitters and welders. And my mom has always been a nurse at
various, like, mental health facilities, but wherever we lived, we usually,
like, you know, lived in town houses or something in the suburbs. And my
was kind of, like, a secret feminist. Like, she didn't really--you know, it
wasn't like we have, like, any Bohemian friends or--you know what I mean?
Like, pretty much the books in our house were, like, romance novels and
detective novels. But my mom worked in this sort of, like, clandestine
domestic violence shelter, and I didn't remember this until a couple of
ago. I just remember her kind of sneaking out of the house to this--I think
it was, like, an Episcopal church that had a, you know, crisis phone line
thing in the basement, and she would go there every so often and do that.

And she got Ms. magazine, and she took me to Solidarity Day in DC when I
like--I don't know--10 or something, and we saw Bella Abzug speak, and we,
like, hung out in the feminist group or, like, the feminist groups that were
there, because people were still interested in, like, you know, ratifying
ERA. And all these women were wearing, like, T-shirts that said, you know,
woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle' and stuff like that and
stuff, and I was just caught up in the total frenzy of it, as, like, a
kid being like, `Look at all these women,' and it was like the outside
you know. And the fact that there were all these women banding together
like, yelling stuff, it just really had an impression on me, and hearing
Abzug speak was like--I couldn't believe it, you know, but that was the only
thing like that that ever happened.

GROSS: A lot of girls, when they're preteens, go through this phase
the `Oh, he's so cute' phase, where, like, you listen to music and you're
supposed to have, you know, `Oh, he's so cute' fantasies about the guys who
you're listening to and so on. And I'm wondering if you ever related to
that way. For example, now, you know, like, if you see clips of, say, an 'N
Sync concert, it's almost all preteen girls in the audience, and they're
of screaming and, you know, obviously having all these really important
fantasies to them about the guys who are in the band. Did you relate to
that way at all when you were 11, 12, 10?

Ms. FATEMAN: I was, like, six or something, I was really into Donny Osmond.
That was my first concert. And I went and I screamed myself totally hoarse.
But, you know, I think I really wanted to be Donny. That was the real issue
going on. I wasn't like--and, I mean, I actually wrote more love letters to
Marie than I ever did to Donny, because I was really kind of obsessed with
her, but I felt like it was more acceptable to channel my, you know, fake
energy into Donny. But I was also really into Tony DeFranco and the
Family and would imitate his singing style, along with the records. So it's
kind of interesting because I learned how to sing from a boy who was trying
sing like a girl, you know, like, sort of how Ronnie Specter learned from
Frankie Lymon.

GROSS: My guests are Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of the band Le
We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guests are Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of the band Le

Do you think about the impact of your music and your presence on stage might
have for your youngest fans, what it might mean in their lives?

Ms. HANNA: I thought about it once in Italy with Bikini Kill and there were
these, like, seven-year-old girls sitting by the monitors. I just thought,
`Oh, they're going to be in therapy when they're, like, 35,' `And there's
girl and her face is all red and she was screaming these crazy things, and
people were saying she's a man-hater and I don't know. Is it a dream,
Doctor?' But I just think I would really like to have been young and gone
a concert and seen Jo on stage singing and playing keyboards, and I would
really like to go to a concert when I was younger and see me in all my
and sexual glory and fabulous singing style on stage. So I get really happy
about it. You know, I think that people are pretty incredible and that they
don't really need me to become amazing people, but if I'm someone there who
reminds them that they're really cool, then that's great.

GROSS: I'm glad you mentioned your sexual glory. What kind of sexual
do you want to communicate on stage? Because that's often a really
part of pop music and of concerts.

Ms. HANNA: I'm just, like, a really sexually powerful person in general.
Maybe that's a, you know, bragging thing to say, but it's like, I get what I
want, and I have a good time, and it's like I really get annoyed--well, I
annoyed in Bikini Kill when it was like--it was never women that said this
stuff. It was always guys who were like, you know, `Well, how can you be a
feminist? Because, like, you're sexy,' and it's like, I'm sexy when I'm
eating a veggie burger, you know what I mean? So, like, what am I going to
do? Like, just turn it off? Am I being really funny, Jo? I have to brag.

Ms. FATEMAN: No, it's fine. I mean, it's never gone down this road in an
interview before.

Ms. HANNA: You haven't been in some of the interviews where I've gone down
this road.

Ms. FATEMAN: I guess not.

Ms. HANNA: No, but, I mean, I think it's like we're all, like, totally
beings and it's like, I really hate the idea that if you're a feminist or
something, you're supposed to shut that off, because people see that as
antithetical to your politics or something, and that's ridiculous.

GROSS: Now I want to ask you about another song on the new CD, and this is
called "Les & Ray," and the lyric is about two guys who live next door who
play rock music and inspire you to be in a band yourself. Who wrote the

Ms. HANNA: I did. That would be me, Kathleen, the sexy one.

GROSS: And, Kathleen, is this based on two guys named Les and Ray who
lived next door?

Ms. HANNA: Yeah. That was from when I lived in Laurel, Maryland, and they
actually didn't play rock music. They played show tunes, as I recall, and
show tune medleys, which I'm very fond of. And--I don't know. Like a lot
kids, I grew up really scared. But a lot of times, there was, you know,
violence around me. And I sometimes would, like, fantasize about Les and
like, you know, hanging out with them or whatever because they seemed really
in love. And one time Les took me to the mall to buy a present for my
and we had a really good time, and I didn't feel like he was going to put me
down or be mean to me or, like, scare me, which my mother never did, but
someone else in my life who shall remain nameless did.

And I remember just thinking if anything really seriously messed up happened
in my house that they would hear through the wall and that they would come
me. And so I wanted to write something for them, and a lot of times when we
play live, I'll talk about it and talk about how, you know, the idea of
political, a lot of people think, oh, you have to, you know, be a part of an
organization, which I think is really important and that we should be part
organizations. But there's other ways that people who don't have time or
whatever to do that can be really helpful in the world, and one of them is
be that person for kids, you know, like, the person who believes them. You
know what I'm saying?

GROSS: Yeah. Kathleen, are you talking about, like, sexual abuse at home

Ms. HANNA: Not necessarily. I'm just talking about, like, adults who,
put you down. You know what I mean? And that can be--you know, the more
extreme forms of sexual abuse, that can be like psychological abuse. Like,
lot of people grow up with parents and other family members who say, you
`You'll never make anything out of yourself,' and, you know, `You're fat,
you're ugly, you're stupid, you're lazy. You're, you know, whatever.' And
oftentimes, if we're women or other people in marginalized communities, we
also get told that by the media and we get told that by people at school,
know, so it's kind of, like, all around you. And, yeah, I mean, I did
experience, like, fear of violence and stuff. There was always guns in my
house. So I was scared. I'm one of the people who grew up really scared.

Ms. FATEMAN: I mean, kids usually grow up, I mean, not usually like us, but
often grow up with heterosexual couples as their parents, and often, that,
like, traditional nuclear family is really dysfunctional, but it's also,
like, constantly represented as the ideal in media, so just to see, you
a gay couple, a lesbian couple or, you know, groups of adults living in some
alternative manner to that is really, you know, kind of amazing for a child
see if that option hasn't been exposed to them. You know, it can kind of
you hope for the future, like I could create something different for myself
an adult.

Ms. HANNA: Well, just hearing, you know, people, like, playing music on the
piano together and knowing that they were snuggling probably while they were
doing it, like, that wasn't what my family was like at all, you know, so
really made me think there's something else.

GROSS: Well, Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, I thank you both so much for
talking with us.

Ms. HANNA: Thank you.

Ms. FATEMAN: Thank you.

GROSS: And Kathleen and Johanna are in the group Le Tigre, and from the "Le
Tigre" record, this is "Les & Ray."

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) I knew ...(unintelligible) the house, through
songs played on piano by my neighbors, Les and Ray. I put my hand up
the wall to be closer to the music that they played. You were my oxygen,
thing that made me think I could escape. This is a thank-you song for Les

GROSS: Music from the band Le Tigre. Later this month, they start a new

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: New book "A Good House," by Bonnie Burnard

Our book critic, Maureen Corrigan, has a review of Bonnie Burnard's first
novel, "A Good House." It won the 1999 Giller Prize, which is Canada's most
prestigious literary award. It's just been published in the US. Maureen
it's one of those tales of ordinary life told with extraordinary precision.


Why is it that I mentally yawn when somebody, even a friend, begins talking
about their multigenerational family history? The aunt whose marriage
dissolved after 20 years, the step-cousin who was never quite right in the
head. But give me those same family sagas in fictional form, and I'll
devour them. Some of the difference has to do with the clarity and
succinctness that writing can impose on a storyteller, and there's also the
implicit assurance in fiction that since an author god is in control,
a design, an ultimate meaning to those stray stories about the relatives.

I guess that's all true of "A Good House," a novel by Bonnie Burnard that
an award-winning best-seller in Canada last year. But what I most enjoyed
about "A Good House" was that it absolved me of my passivity as a reader.
characters in this novel are so busy and Burnard describes their mundane
busyness in such enticing detail that I felt like I was busy doing something
useful, too. There are pages and pages here filled up with descriptions of
people stripping wallpaper and canning fruit and cooking. The women are
always putting together big meals where they scrub potatoes and caramelize
carrots and rub roasts. For me, "A Good House" exerts the same vicarious
virtuous appeal as all those cooking and home improvement shows on PBS. I
love to watch as somebody else does all that work.

"A Good House" is set in the small town of Stonebrooke(ph), Ontario. It
in 1949 and stretches all the way to 1997. The story focuses on the
family: Bill, who returns from service in World War II minus a couple of
fingers, and his wife Sylvia; their three kids, Patrick, Paul and little
Daphne, who smashes up her jaw while performing in an amateur neighborhood
circus. Her face never looks quite balanced again. Sylvia dies young of
cancer and Bill soon marries Margaret, a plain and wise woman who becomes
heart and conscience of the family. Years pass, thousands of big meals were
made and consumed. The adult kids marry, divorce, procreate, mess up and
in unexpected ways. And the town and country around the Chambers clan
subtly change, mostly for the worst. It's probably all more absorbing to
about than to hear about.

Burnard was an acclaimed short story writer before she wrote this, her first
novel, and she has the poetic precision of language, of somebody used to
working in a more compact form. Here, for instance, is how she describes
conversation around Sylvia's deathbed, circa 1955: `The adults tried to
about things Sylvia might find interesting--Sandy Koufax and the Brooklyn
Dodgers, Lassie, James Dean being killed like that. But everyone listened
politely, too attentively to the speaker. Almost all of them were too
unnaturally quick to laugh or offer agreement. Sylvia heard their words not
as sentences deliberately formed to tell a person something, but as dull,
one-at-a-time thuds against the dull silence that had begun to wall her in.'
Reading "A Good House" gave me a sense of deja vu all over again.

The fact that this is a post-World War II family saga, that wife number one
dies, leaving her husband to muddle through, and that the author, Bonnie
Burnard, was no spring chicken when she began her novel-writing career all
reminded me of a novel I always recommend to people who ask for a good
That's "Matters of Chance," by another late bloomer, Jeanette Haien. Both
novels, you can get lost in, although "Matters of Chance" is much more
inventive and magical than "A Good House," which engagingly plods along.
the difference between the shimmering New York City of the 1950s, where
"Matters of Chance" is largely set, and Stonebrooke, Ontario, Canada.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "A Good House," by Bonnie Burnard.

Coming up, our classical music critic, Lloyd Schwartz, reads a poem from his
new book. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Analysis: Use and misue of language

Our classical music critic, Lloyd Schwartz, is also an English teacher and a
poet. He says he's especially interested in the way we use and misuse
language in our everyday speech and the possible revelations that come from
that misuse.


A few years ago, I was in an ice cream parlor and ordered a vanilla cone.
`Easier said than done,' the guy at the counter replied, perhaps with more
meaning than he intended. I was reminded of that by an article I just saw
Harper's called Dubya As A Second Language(ph). It's about the fascinating
English spoken by one of our presidential candidates, who's quoted as
"He can't have it both ways. He can't take the high horse and then claim
low road." I would almost vote for him just so I could hear him talk.

Of course, we're all guilty of this phenomenon. I have a poem that
exactly these kinds of twisted expressions, "Proverbs From Purgatory(ph)."
`It was deja vu all over again. I know this town like the back of my head.
People who live in glass houses are worth two in the bush. One hand
the other. A friend in need is worth two in the bush. A bird in the hand
makes waste. Life isn't all it's crapped up to be. It's like finding a
needle in the eye of the beholder. It's like killing one bird with two
stones. My motto in life has always been: Get it over with. Two heads are
better than none. A rolling stone deserves another. All things wait for
those who come. A friend in need deserves another. I trust him as long as
could throw him. He smokes like a fish. He's just a chip off the old
I'll have him eating out of my lap. A friend in need opens a can of worms.
Too many cooks spoil the child. An ill wind keeps the doctor away. The

at the door keeps the doctor away. People who live in glass houses keep the
doctor away. A friend in need shouldn't throw stones. A friend in need
washes the other. A friend in need keeps the doctor away.

`A stitch in time is only skin deep. A verbal agreement isn't worth the
it's written on. A cat may look like a king. Know which side of the bed
butter is on. Nothing is cut and dried in stone. You can eat more flies
honey than with vinegar. Don't let the cat of the barn. Let's burn that
bridge when we get to it. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Don't cross your chickens before they hatch. Do not read this sign. Throw
discretion to the wolves. After the twig is bent, the barn door is locked.
After the barn door is locked, you can come in out of the rain. A friend in
need locks the barn door. There's no fool like a friend in need. We've
passed a lot of water since then. At least we got home in two pieces.
well that ends. It ain't over till it's over. There's always one step
further down you can go. It's a milestone hanging around my neck. Include
out. It was deja vu all over again.'

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz teaches English at the University of Massachusetts in
Boston. "Proverbs from Purgatory" appears in Lloyd's new book of poems,
"Cairo Traffic." It will be published October 1st.

(Credits given)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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