Q - When did you join MSI? You had no background in music, right? I know youve said before that you didnt even know what tablature was. How scary was it, jumping right into a touring band?
A- I joined MSI in 2001. Prior, I had no formal training but I owned a bass and played with friends. It was very scary, jumping right in like that, but more than anything it was exciting. I had never even been on an airplane before and suddenly I was flying to Vegas to perform in front of thousands of people. A lot of it was not knowing what I was getting myself into, but mostly I was hungry for an adventure. I also felt like I had nothing to lose and if I failed miserably at the very least I would have a great story to tell my friends. I think that was the key, that I didnt care if I failed miserably.
Q - How long did it take you to start to feel comfortable playing the bass? Was there anything in particular that helped you to feel more comfortable with it sooner?
A - I was in the band touring constantly for years before I owned being a bass player. I will say that although I didnt really know how to play before MSI, when the opportunity presented itself I committed myself to learning and practiced morning, noon, and night. Ive never understood the mentality that complicated equals good. My favorite bass lines have always been the simplest ones and if I were to make a list of all my favorite songs none of them contain some crazy bass line only Les Claypool could master. In fact they are probably so simple I could teach you how to play them in an hour. I would rather be Dee Dee Ramone than Flea.
Q - What kind of gear do you use?
A - Ive fallen in love with my Fender Aerodyne. Its such a sexy instrument and the neck is thinner than most basses which is great for my small hands. As for gear, Im not attached to anything other than my bass. Plug me into anything and I will make it work.
Q - It seems like talking about sexism in the music scene or acknowledging the fact that one is a specifically female musician, as opposed to just a musician, is passe. Do you think its still an important distinction to make? Do you think "female musician" is still an important identity? In what ways?
A - I can only say what my experience has been and the truth is that from the moment I started listening to music, going to shows and playing in a band I have been painfully aware of the lack of female musicians out there. Rock and roll is a giant sausage party. Pick up any music magazine and count how many women you see represented if you dont believe me. I have been a touring musician for 8 years and in that time I can count on maybe two hands the number of women I have encountered in other bands. 3 hands if you include singers. Am I the only one who thinks there is something seriously wrong with that? Im actually looking forward to the day when having a girl in your band no longer matters because frankly I dont think it does. Making a big fuss out of it it feels like wearing a t shirt that says "chicks rule". I hate that shit. Its such an obvious statement that wearing it makes me think that youre trying to convince me that its true. That being said I still have no clue why there are so few of us and talking about sexism in the music scene will only be truly passe when that is no longer a fact. Even if you hate our band or hate us individually, somewhere in the back of your brain Kitty and I have made being a woman in music seem a little less unusual and perhaps opened the door to thinking its something you could do too. That is something I am most proud of. The more women see other women in bands the more women will be in bands. I think thats the only way things will change.
Q - How does being a girl affect your life as a touring musician? What kind of shit do you get and from where?
A - One obvious way is that when you get pregnant you have to stop... Other than that the only thing that can be a bummer is the occasional neanderthal you have to deal with behind the scenes. Kitty and I have been stopped from going backstage after having just played. Im talking sweat running down your face and bass pick and drum stick in hand because the security guard cant comprehend that we are in the band and not a groupie. We wanted to make t shirts that said "Im not fucking the bass player, Im the fucking bass player" still think its a good idea. Festivals are the worst because you are dealing with multiple bands and all of their crew. I have a lot of amazing, beautiful and intelligent people in my life so when someone behaves like a fucking hillbilly Im always shocked. Ive had crew guys from other bands say shit to me that they would never say to another man because they would get their nose broken. Jokes on them though, MSI isnt going anywhere and neither are all the friends I have in other bands. Who do these people think they are going to work for if they are a known asshole?
Q - Does having another girl in your band make it any easier?
A - Oh god yes. Who better to understand your point of view or borrow a tampon from? Vaginas aside though, I am just really blessed to have Kitty around. Shes an amazing person who Ive learned a great deal from.
Q - Do you ever get uncomfortable with some of the stuff Jimmy sings, says, or does onstage? I know its all meant to be tongue-in-cheek and deliberately provocative and funny, but I still get a little weirded out sometimes listening to MSIs lyrics.
A - Ya know, I dont. Sometimes I wonder if its because I know him personally, making it easy to differentiate between social commentary, irony, silliness and the plain old fucking truth. I think it has more to do with my taste in general though. I love Bill Hicks and Sarah Silverman and Sacha Baron Cohen. I like it when people make me a little uncomfortable and make me think "holy shit, I cant believe what Im hearing." The same people who want to crucify MSI for the lyrics in "Panty Shot" probably laughed their asses off during Borat and probably sing out loud to "Last Caress" by The Misfits. "I got something to say, I killed your baby today and it doesnt matter much to me as long as its dead." "I got something to say, I raped your mother today and it doesnt matter much to me as long as she's spread..." Thats a classic song. The entire point of "Panty Shot" is to force people to examine the fact that somehow they think things like the racism in Borat or the extreme violence in "Last Caress" is acceptable. Why can you laugh at racism and sing along to killing a baby and raping someones mother but get offended by a song written from the perspective of a pedophile? Its interesting where people draw lines for themselves. I do it too. Everyone does. Funny that Im totally ok with all things MSI but offended by watching most hip-hop videos. God bless the first amendment.
Part two of the interview:
Q - I dont want this to be one of those interviews, but I did want to talk about your marriage to Gerard, at least in terms of the way its often used to dismiss you as a female musician - referring to you as Mrs. Way in articles about your own band and career. Do people do that kind of shit in person? How do you react to it when it happens, either in print or in person?
A - When I said in an interview with Kerrang that I didnt want to be referred to as Mrs. Gerard Way I was pretty amazed at the negative responses that statement generated. People thought that I was being arrogant and that being his wife was an honor that I didnt even deserve so how dare I not want that title. They thought it was somehow a reflection on my feelings for my husband and they were put off by the fact that he was so vocal about his feelings for me and here I was not even wanting to be known as his wife. I felt like my intentions were pretty obvious but the point I was trying to make was for the most part lost. The fact is, Mindless has been around longer than most bands and that we have had a solid and loyal fan base for a decade, independent of my marriage. As a band we were all very proud of our accomplishments and of all the hard work and sacrifices we had made to make our project a success. As a band it was also always very important to us that we be represented as a band, as four distinct personalities that could not necessarily exist without the sum of all four parts. When I got married suddenly magazines stopped even putting the name of our band in print. It was "Mrs. Gerard Way and co. play blah blah blah..." not only did it strip away my identity but it robbed my entire band of theirs and completely dismissed all the strides we had made together. I also felt like it sent a disgusting message that no matter what you do with your life at the end of the day you will merely be someones wife. Its a massive insult and anyone who cant comprehend that is a moron. People often ask me "well, what did you expect?" I dont know, to be judged on my own merits, good or bad? For my band to get the respect that it deserves? Call me crazy and fuck human nature but I dont care if its natural for the world to react that way when you marry someone more successful than you. Its still wrong.
Q - Youre so physically fearless onstage. Where does that come from? Do you just "get in a zone" or is it an extension of who you are offstage?
A - It goes back to creating something that didnt exist in my world that I wanted badly. I went to punk rock shows a lot when I was a kid and I was particularly drawn to the uninhibited and fearless performers on stage. I loved the complete disregard for their own well being, like they were above injury and invincible. Mostly I wanted to see a girl on stage doing all those things. Getting dirty and not caring if her make-up got smeared. So when I joined Mindless it was a priority for me to do that. Its hilarious because if you ask anyone in my band they will tell you that off-stage I am the most uncoordinated person they have ever met. I trip and fall constantly and I would say Im generally pretty shy and awkward. Everything changes when you step on stage. Its pretty magical.
Q - How does being a girl in the art world compare to being a girl in the music world?
A - You are judged on your work and your physical appearance matters not.
Q - Are your visual art and your music related at all? Do they enhance each other or play off each other in any way?
A - They are very separate. My art work is personal and more about my head and my heart. Music for me is more physical. Its about getting to be a super hero for an hour. Its about getting out my aggression and doing things I would never attempt in my normal life.
Q - Who are your top five or ten female bands/musicians?
A - Dolly Parton, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Bikini Kill, Kim Gordon. I know Im forgetting a handful.
Q - What about your top five or ten favorite female visual artists?
A - Frida Kahlo is my absolute favorite.
Q - Who are your biggest influences and inspirations, as an artist and as a performer?
A - Frida Kahlo, Paul Gauguin, Ralph Steadman, Georges Melies, Winsor McCay. Jesus, I could go on and on. As a performer I would say anyone who can dance, anyone thats a little weird, anyone that isnt afraid to fall down...
Q - Is there anything you really hope to do in the future, whether as an artist, a musician, or just as a person?
A - As an artist, my biggest dream is to have my own gallery showing and a book of my work published. As a musician, I look forward to the day where Mindless is recognized for being as innovative and original as it really is. As a person I just want to be a little better everyday.
Q - What are you most excited about about being a parent?
A - I grew up never meeting my father so to be able to have a child with such an amazing, funny, thoughtful and beautiful person and to know that this kid is going to have him as a dad is the best feeling in the world. I never knew what real love was until I met Gerard and now I get to love two people that much. Its overwhelming in the best way possible.
Q - Rumor has it you were once in a punk Dolly Parton cover band - true or false? (If false, I am totally starting one!)
A - True! Beg Yer Parton was the name and it was very fun and very short lived. Did I mention bad? We were terrible, I think you should start your own punk rock Dolly cover band and do the woman some justice.
Q - Finally, what advice do you have for girls who want to be in a band?
A - Start your band already. Come up with a good name, beg, borrow or steal an instrument and you are literally half way there. Fuck fear and fuck feeling inadequate. There are two kinds of people out there - the people who are putting themselves out there and then there are the people who are commenting on what those people are doing. Who would you rather be? Even if you think Im full of total shit know that if I can have a career in music you can too.