LE TIGRE
Interview by guest interviewer, Eric Adkison
Illustration by Sal Swayzo

THE FINE LADIES OF LE TIGRE HAVE A NEW ALBUM COMING YOUR WAY THIS MONTH. TO HELP PROMOTE IT, THEY SPOKE WITH OUR GUEST INTERVIEWER, ERIC ADKISON, AND GAVE HIM THE SKINNY OF IT ALL. READ ON AND LEARN MORE ABOUT THEIR NEW ALBUM, THEIR NEW TOUR, AND WAFFLES OR PANCAKES.

Eric Adkison: Hello?

Kathleen Hanna: Hello, Eric?

[PHONE LINE POPS AND CRACKLES]

EA: Yeah. I think my phone is a little crummy. Let me fix it.

KH: (laughs)

EA: I'm sorry!

KH: We're eating right now! (laughs)

EA: Oh, you're eating? Let me put you all on speaker phone. (pauses) Hello?

KH: Eric?

EA: Yeah?

KH: (laughs) You sound far away!

Johanna Fateman: Yeah. You have to come back!

EA: I sound far away?

J.D. Samson: Oh my God! You sound like you're in Pennsylvania!

EA: (laughs) Actually, I'm in Kentucky. Louisville, really.

JS: Oh, cool. We love Louisville. We don't know if the speaker thing is going to work.

EA: I'm trying! I'm standing right against it.

JS: That's better. We're turning up our volume now.

EA: I need to know if all of you can say your names so I can decipher the voice differentiation.

JS: Okay.

[LONG PAUSE]

JF: Eric?

EA: Yeah?

All: (laugh)

JF: We'll all say our names.

EA: (laughs) Okay.

[LONG PAUSE]

EA: Are you going to say your names?

JF: You mean right now? (laughs) Hi. I'm Jo.

KH: This is Kathleen.

JS: I'm J.D.

EA: So, where are you calling from?

JF: We're in a conference room at Universal Records.

EA: Just to let you know, I'm standing in my parents' kitchen, and they're really conservative Christians!

[LE TIGRE LAUGHS AND GROANS]

EA: But they're not home, so you can say anything you want.

JS: Are they at the Republican National Convention?

EA: They're at work, but they'd probably rather be there. (laughs) So, Le Tigre, it's been awhile since your last release. I was beginning to get worried.

JF: Don't worry! The new album is coming out on October 19th. It's definite. It's ready.

EA: Are you all going to be on tour for that?

JS: We're leaving for the tour on the 20th or the 21st, and we're going do the States through November. But we're going to Europe before that, on September 25th.

KH: Yeah. The first show for the record is in Moscow! Russia, not Idaho.

JF: And we're also going to play a women's festival in Slovenia!

EA: Slovenia! That's awesome!

JF: Yeah. We're, like, totally international.

EA: What have you all been doing these past couple of years to keep busy since your last release?

JF: StairMaster! (laughs)

KH: I actually was an art gallery person for, like, five minutes. I put on two shows. One of them was J.D. Samson's Lesbian Calendar, and the other one was a show by the photographer Tammy Rae Carland. And I just wrote the preface for a book of women's comics; it's called Scheherazade.

JS: What else did we do?

JF: We've been writing the record, and trying to find a record label. We went on tour a lot, actually, like these little tours, because we had to keep earning money to make the record. What else did we do?

KH: We made a website.

EA: It looks really good. I went there the other day.

KH: Thanks!

EA: I like the artwork.

JF: We spent a long time making those drawings. (laughs)

EA: Did you all draw those?

JF: We did most of the drawings.

EA: I thought maybe you had an artist do it.

JF: We are artists! Someone else handles the overall design of it, but we drew the little creatures that you click on.

KH: Well, there was one other artist involved... her name is "Tracing Paper", and she really helps me a lot with my art.

All: (laugh)

EA: I just found out that Mr. Lady Records has closed its doors forever!

JF: All good things must come to an end. They are a great label and they put out an incredible roster with feminine and queer artists, and we are sad to see them go. But we're glad those records got to see the light of day.

KH: We actually just started our own record label called Le Tigre Records. We are releasing our new album, This Island, on Universal Records. But we are also re-releasing our back catalog of previous records on Le Tigre Records to make sure our older stuff stays in print.

EA: That's great. It's so hard to get music when labels shut down.

KH: Yeah, totally.

EA: And then they go on eBay for, like, $200 or something!

KH: Well, don't tell anybody they're accessible, because now that you said that I'm going to put a bunch of our records on eBay for $200!

All: (laugh)

KH: Just to see if it would work.

EA: It probably would. I was on there recently, and I was gonna buy a Mr. Lady t-shirt because it's kind of a historical thing.

KH: Yeah.

EA: You were on Carson Daly's show last winter. What was that like?

JS: It was really crazy. We were on the show with Will Ferrell and Chris Matthews, which was really weird. We didn't really meet Carson at all except for what was on TV, shaking his hand or whatever. It was so awesome because so many of our friends and fans showed up; almost the whole audience were our friends and fans.

JF: A lot of them had mustaches drawn on.

JS: It was such a good feeling to be playing on TV in such a weird space-- which is not necessarily the safest place for us-- but all of our community made it so safe and wonderful for us.

EA: You've been snowballing more media attention, and you have a new video on MTV for "New Kicks".

JS: Yeah.

EA: That's great. Is stepping into the spotlight of MTV scary?

JS: Well, we were really excited that "New Kicks" was the song we made a video for, and that MTV wanted to play it. That song is made out of protest samples we recorded at the February 15th, 2003 march here in New York City.

JF: To protest the impending war on Iraq that the U.S. started. But I think it's great that MTV is playing it to a wider audience. There are so many people protesting the Bush Administration's policies right now, and we're hoping to give people something to fuel their anti-Bush effort as we face the upcoming election in November.

KH: I think it's really great that we got to make the video we wanted to make, and it's actually getting played, you know? Because it's not like we were pandering to MTV with that video; it was really just what we felt like doing.

EA: That's cool. I see you all as a voice in a sea of musicians, most of whose material is kind of empty and has no message, no activism, and no push.

JF: And no women!

EA: Yeah. And no women.

JF: And no queers!

EA: No queers! What's up with that?

JF: It's gonna change.

EA: So what are some of your views on gender roles in the media? Are gender roles learned through media?

JF: Wow. That's an interesting question. I mean, I think media affects images and people's ideas. I don't think it's just during adolescence when people are trying to find a place to fit in. Speaking from my perspective as a more feminine-type of woman, I know that I definitely felt like I was supposed to fit in to a certain gender role, in terms of beauty ideals and behavior. I went through a period when I was younger when I felt like I wasn't supposed to act as smart as I really was. Fortunately, I've been able to deconstruct that from myself and find something I'm comfortable with. It's not so much that people learn from it, but they learn what is wrong with themselves from it, you know? It's like they internalize these messages from it and say, "I'm not that kind of boy or girl, therefore I need to be different." I think there needs to be different types of gender presentation in the media, you know? Masculine women and feminine men. Or gay people and lesbian people and all kinds of queer people. I think there's a real hunger for that.

EA: Would you say that today's magazines that are targeted at young girls are evil?

JS: I don't know. It seems like magazines for young people... like, I'm thinking right now of Teen Vogue, which is actually a really good magazine! In terms of having interesting articles and music reviews, I'm actually psyched about that magazine! But, of course, it's evil in the sense that it's completely mainstream, and everyone in it is totally skinny and beautiful. But if you take it seriously, then you're the one who has a problem.

All: (laugh)

EA: Oh my God! I have a problem!

All: (laugh)

EA: Are ya'll making fun of me?!?

JS: No!

KH: We were just giggling. I just came back in.

JS: Kathleen just walked in when you said, "I have a problem!"

EA: Kathleen, did you try to take a bathroom break without me knowing?

KH: Yes.

EA: Alright. Well, with the success of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, would you say that has spawned a negative stereotype for gay men?

KH: You know, it's weird. I think that a lot of people have that opinion, especially here in New York, and they think it is definitely a stereotype. But you can also make some generalizations sometimes. What I'm trying to say is, I think it's great that there are gay people on TV, and I think people are being really picky by saying they shouldn't be that kind of gay people.

JF: Well, what's negative is that there aren't all kinds of gay shows with all kinds of gay people.

EA: Right.

KH: I think it's really different when straight guys on Saturday Night Live do it versus when guys who are actually gay are just being themselves.

JS: Those Queer Eye... guys are pretty different from each other.

JF: Yeah. They have the right to play with the stereotype. It's not like they are stupid and unaware.

EA: If the computer and the television didn't exist, do you think our social problems would diminish?

JF: (laughs) Well, we would have a big problem trying to invent them again!

JS: That would be the biggest social problem. (laughs) Will we still have our blackberries?

EA: Yes. You will have blackberries.

KH: And books!

JF: We could do alright!

JS: Hey, this is like that game.

KH: Do you play "Waffles or Pancakes"?

EA: No.

KH: Do you know what it is?

EA: No.

JF: Well, I usually call it "Pancakes or Waffles", not "Waffles or Pancakes".

All: (laugh)

KH: Let's not split hairs, Johanna.

JF: You have to choose whether it is waffles or pancakes that would be eliminated from the world. So I would ask J.D., "Waffles or pancakes?"

JS: And I would say, "Pancakes."

JF: And then she would say back to me--

JS: "Pancakes or bottled water?"

JF: And I would say, "Bottled water." And by saying "bottled water", I have just destroyed the existence of pancakes.

KH: It gets to the point of, like, "Touching or kissing?"

JF: "Bottled water or love?" Then the world gets really bad. (laughs)

JS: I'd be like, "I cant breathe anymore!" (laughs)

KH: (laughs) I can't make out!

EA: Did you all make this up?

JS: Oh, no. I started playing it in college.

JF: You definitely taught it to me.

KH: Yeah. Me, too.

EA: Who taught it to whom?

JS: J.D. learned it in college.

JF: J.D. taught it to Jo.

KH: Who taught it to Kathleen. And then she told three friends.

EA: I guess it still hasn't reached the backwoods of Kentucky yet!

KH: Now it has!

EA: I shall tell three friends.

All: (laugh)

EA: Earlier this year, The Dixie Chicks were quoted at a live performance saying they were ashamed that Bush is from Texas. Fans stomped on their CDs, and radio stations pulled their songs. What are some of your feelings on that whole thing?

KH: I just think that whole thing was totally ridiculous. I thought this was the United States of America, and we can say whatever we want. It's totally disgusting that people are teaching their kids hate by burning CDs in the street. I thought the idea was that we could all say our opinion, and that we could agree to disagree. That's one of the great things about having, supposedly, a democracy. It's crazy the way they were attacked. But then again, their concerts have totally sold out and they got all this press from it. So it ended up not being a terrible thing for them. But I'm sure it was psychologically difficult and damaging to get hate mail, and I'm sure they were physically threatened. I'm sure it was really scary, and it could be something that lingers on in their minds. Even though they are famous, they're still people.

JS: I also think that was a lot of media construction, that so many people were boycotting them. There was one piece of footage that they kept showing on the news over and over.

JF: There were, like, three people.

JS: Yeah. And I feel that they just totally blew it out of proportion, just because they really wanted to bring The Dixie Chicks down.

JF: Also, there is this big belief that country music is all about Christian, right wing, Bush politics, but it's not. Country music can be radical and progressive and anti-Bush, but still be patriotic at the same time. Then again, I don't know, you're from Kentucky, so maybe you know more about it than I do.

EA: I understand what you're saying.

JF: You know, to equate Southern values or being Southern with that type of person is not okay. They were totally challenging that weird association, that people are aligned to their genre of music in some way.

EA: Do you think it had anything to do with being women?

JF: Yeah, probably.

KH: I definitely think that if you're a woman and have any type of power... I mean, look at what happened to Martha Stewart.

EA: The week after, The Dixie Chicks appeared nude on the cover of Entertainment Weekly saying they were sorry. It just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth that they would have to appear nude.

KH: Well, I was the one who made the executive decision on that one.

JS: They actually called us and were like, "How can we save our careers?" We said, "Take off your clothes!"

JF: Take it off!

EA: No way!

All: (laugh)

KH: We're kidding. We're sorry we're all sarcastic and jokey.

EA: That's okay!

KH: You put us in a really good mood! Have you ever seen Panty Raid?

EA: No, I haven't.

KH: If they ever come to Louisville, you have to go see them. They're friends of ours.

JS: And Gravy Train!

KH: And Gravy Train, because our friend Seth is in that band, and I think you guys have a similar sense of humor.

EA: They came through here three years ago, and my friend went and said no one was there.

KH: Awww.

JF: They put on a great show!

EA: The club owners just didn't promote it at all, and the whole thing just kind of fell through.

KH: Well, they're going to be touring with us for part of the States. We're not exactly sure what dates yet, but it would be great if it was... oh, we're not playing in Kentucky.

EA: Man.

KH: Sorry.

EA: That's okay. When is the new CD coming out again?

JS: October 19th!

KH: And then we are gonna start our U.S. tour the next day.

EA: Well, I wish you all luck.

KH: Thanks!

JS: Come on out to one of our shows!

EA: Cool.

KH: Yeah. And bring all your friends, too!

EA: I don't have any friends. (laughs)

KH: Well, bring your parents. We want to have a little talk with them! (laughs)