From Predatory Men to Patti Smith’s Puke, Women Who Rock Holds Nothing Back

I’ve often thought that the whole music world would blow up if we got really honest.

Oh, yeah, that would absolutely happen. [Leans forward and laughs.]

Is there still a fear of talking about it? It does feel like if you pull the right thread, the whole thing could unravel.

I think there’s a lot of people we still haven’t heard from. One of the most frustrating things about making this is how quickly we have to move through this history. Every single one of them deserves their own [documentary]. So many of these women are absolute icons, huge tentpoles in music—and there’s not a book on them, there’s not a documentary on them, there’s still so much we don’t have. We have Kira [Roessler] from Black Flag in it and people go, I can’t believe I’ve never seen her in a doc! Well, because everybody’s going to ask Henry Rollins. But these women are the reliable narrators of their own experience, and until we really hear from more of them, we don’t have that full picture of what it was to be in the music industry at that time—or what it meant to have your career blow up on MTV.

I was glad to see it wasn’t just singers and front women, but that you also interviewed some musicians like Roessler and Tina Weymouth.

And in episode two and four, we also feature trans and gender nonconforming artists too.

Women performers sometimes resent being categorized by gender. Did you have potential interviewees who didn’t feel comfortable being lumped into a doc about women in rock?

Oh, yeah! We knew we weren’t gonna get Chrissie Hynde, but we tried anyway. That was definitely a reason we got no’s from people. There were also women [who talked about that in] interviews. Kim Gordon in particular was like, “This is not how I think of myself, just to make that clear.” But we also got so many easy yeses from women who were very eager to talk about their gendered experience, and the women who influenced them. Or Susanna Hoffs being so eager to say how important the Go-Go’s were to starting the Bangles…. They were pitted against each other’s rivals. She cowrote songs on Belinda Carlisle‘s solo record, but still people elevate this [rivals] idea.

I’m not surprised to hear Chrissie Hynde did not want to be interviewed for a documentary about women. I recently wrote about the TV series pistol, and was amused to see that she’d been transformed into a feminist punk heroine.

I keep tweeting, “Okay, thanks for this Pistols thing, but when are we getting the Slits story?” That’s my angle: I always want to know what the girls were doing.

The series is like a shadow history of rock, and it’s largely celebratory. the word badass gets used a lot. But it’s dropping into this very dark political moment in terms of reproductive rights and lots of other things.

It’s a hellscape, just say it!

There’s an ongoing argument about the power of cultural representation, the liberatory power of rock music and all of that. How much does all that matter when we’re facing this dire current situation?

Representation was a big part of third wave feminism, and I think in some ways this fourth wave, it’s much more about being intersectional and looking at the vastness of power structures and hierarchy…. Young fans of music are cynical and skeptical about anything that is a canonical history. To be a young fan now is to be willing to interrogate whatever it is you’re hearing. And I hope [Women Who Rock] meets the curiosity of young audiences having that cultural dialogue around who we hear from and who have we not heard from, and why are some of these stories so new to us?

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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