Saturday, September 24, 2011

Conversations With Bianca

By: Bianca Valentino
Date: 2002
(after the release of Sing Sing Death House)

In the song City Of Angels you tend to paint a pretty dark picture of LA, is it really that bad?
It’s more the extremes that are shocking. America in general especially when viewed through Australian eyes is like sometimes really attractive and sometimes really vulgar. There’s the sort of deprivation that you see hear that you don’t see in Australia. I feel that the more I see it the more terrifying it is. These people are addicted to their addictions, they can never break that barrier down and their instinct to survive is still there obviously because they’re still living but they’re in these horrid conditions. It’s like a third world country, downtown LA. It’s really horrible.

What one thing that living in LA has really taught you?
Not to take anything for granted and that you have to stay true to yourself you know. Friends and family are really important and it’s like nothing is that serious.

LA is dubbed the City Of Angels, do you believe in Angels? Or are you spiritual in anyway?
Yeah, in some form. I’m not religious, when I grew up I went to a Catholic girls school, which was mortifying for me because I wasn’t baptised. By their standards I wasn’t a child of God so… (laughs) …so you know I could never take the communion or anything like that and if I did I’d be in trouble. So with my views I’m pro-choice so being a pro-choice teenager and going to an all-girl Catholic school back in the early 90’s was something that was kind of disgraceful. I am spiritual, I believe in something…I don’t know what it is but I believe that something makes the fucking world spin and the clock tick, maybe it’s just time or whatever but yeah there’s something there’s just so many coincidences. 

You originally moved to LA to be with Tim, didn’t you guys meet at the Summersault Festival in Australia?

Do you think that you guys are soulmates?
Me and Tim, absolutely. There were a lot of coincidences. It was kind of my destination leading up to it you know what I mean?

People compare you guys to Kurt and Courtney and Sid and Nancy, one journalist put it that you and Tim are carrying the punk rock torch into the 21st century. How do comments and comparisons like that sit with you?
As far as the comparisons, everyone’s individual and of course we’re going to get pigeonholed. I don’t really ever think about it or dwell on it you know but it’s nice that I make music and that my partner makes music and we get to do it together and that we’ve built this little empire that’s ours. I love that fact about it definitely but with those comparisons I never really thought about it. I’d have to think about it a little more I guess.

Will we ever see a Tim and Brody duet?
We sing together on a Transplants song. It’s [The Transplants album] the best fucking shit I’ve ever heard in like years. We do stuff all the time together but I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day. Maybe one day.

Wether you like it or not your becoming a role model for girls everywhere, how does that sit with you?
I’ve had to make a lot of individual choices and a lot of sacrifices and do things a certain way which in this industry is sometimes really hard. I never really dealt with sexism in this industry up until recently like the bigger my band gets the more sexism I encounter. Usually I turn a deaf ear or just ignore it, you just go through it. I think that if I can do it, me a little girl from Melbourne can do it then I think anyone can do it. If anything, I could send a message out there that you can do it that would pretty much be my goal as far as that’s concerned.

Distillers are going on tour with No Doubt and Garbage in the fall, are you excited? Do you think it’ll do something for the women in music cause? Do you think it could empower young girls to get out there and give it a go?
Yeah, I hope so. It’s been a long time since there’s really been any sort of infiltration of females on the radio especially here since like the ’90s, since Courtney Love was on the radio and Hole were playing, there was that whole movement. I’ve never been on a tour with girls, which is disgusting (laughs) it’s outrageous. It’s just a shame that there’s not more girls out there doing it for the fact that they want to play music not for the fact that they are female and they are doing it, that’s great to but if you love playing music and you want to do it you should just go out and do. I’m really excited.

I read an interview that was done with you before your first headlining club tour of America and you were really nervous and you said that you only expected like five people to turn up, how is it going from something like that to playing huge venues?
It’s pretty nerve racking I get flying birds when I think about it, in my belly. It’s almost like I don’t want to say it being to crass but like performing in front of that many people, we just did it on Saturday like 10,000 people at the Inland Invasion was like your being tested but in a really good way. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot from this. There’s no other feeling like standing in front of that many people and having a space to express yourself like that. It’s completely different atmosphere than a regular punk show. The vibe is still there just on a mush more colossal scale.

In reviews of read of Distillers shows, I’ve read that at times you seemed detached from your audience? Do you put up a wall to the audience when you go on stage?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that. I would say that I’ve been getting better; I’ve started interacting with the crowd. I’m pretty shy. I like interacting with them though ‘cause I get something back. It’s hard to get up in front of a bunch of people and do what we do. I don’t want to be a pussy about it ‘cause it’s totally fun and rad and you feed off the crowd’s energy obviously but for me being a shy person I’ve had to overcome a lot of those fucking boundaries.

Being from Australia how did you hook up with the people to make the first Distillers line-up?
Through Epitaph, there was a couple of people there and friends like Brad Logan from F-Minus help me find people and then we played with The Nerve Agents, which was our first all-ages show were I met Andy two and a half/three years ago. And me and Andy and The Nerve Agents just became really good friends and when we needed…when Kim and Matt were dissolved from the Distillers and I needed a bass player and drummer it was still me and Rose at that point I called Eric from the Nerve Agents and asked if I could use his drummer and as it turned out The Nerve Agents broke up ‘cause they were having so scheduling problems, people going to school and it wasn’t matching up so Andy joined The Distillers. I met Ryan through Axis Records.

Speaking of Axis, which is a record, comic and collectable toy store. Do you collect anything like that?
I collect…this friend of ours at Bounty Hunter from Japan makes these really great toys, so yeah we collect some of that stuff.

I have to ask, why did Casper leave the band?
She quit in England because (Brody carefully chooses her words) she didn’t like touring anymore and she preferred to be at home with her boyfriend at the time.

Was that really hard for you?
Yeah it was really hard for me ‘cause we’ve been through a lot together, she was like my best friend (Brody says a little melancholy). It was hard but she’s making decisions that can control her life, that make her feel good for a lack of better words so that she can…she’s doing good, she’s not as stressed out as she was back then and I think she just wants to live an inconspicuous life. She loves music and she’s really talented so I hope she does something. I don’t think she really wanted to be in the position she was in in the first place; it took her a long time to figure that out. She’s still bopping around.

Do you have plans to get another guitarist?
Right now playing as a three-piece is making me a better guitar player. I’m really enjoying it right now and also bringing in another guitarist, a fourth party right now… it’s kind of difficult to be honest, to incorporate another personality into a well-oiled machine. It takes a lot of attention to do that and right now we feel that it’s too much for us to take on so it may be later on down the road that we do that. I definitely have a girl that I want to bring in to do it and stuff but she has school and stuff. We’re basically just waiting a while to see what happens.

On Sing Sing Death House there’s a few songs that touch on dysfunctional families and I’ve read interviews that everyone in the band has had a kind of dysfunctional family do you think that a lot of kids that are into punk have that in common? Do feel that there’s a lot of pain and anger from that that’s fuelling punk?
Absolutely. We all assimilate for certain reasons and I’m sure that’s definitely one of them. Every single person I know in the punk rock scene either comes from abusive or dysfunctional families, everyone has a story to tell. The first time I heard Discharge it was like ‘dude that’s exactly how I feel’ even though it’s more political it was the music was what spoke to me, so fuck yeah.

You’ve had a lot to deal with in your life going to a Catholic school, you lived on the street for a while, and you had your band Sourpuss and did all that stuff you’ve had in a way a hard life up until now, was it all worth the struggle to make you who you are today?
Yeah. What they say is what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I believe in that. I know it sounds so clichĂ©, but I do. If you live through all that shit you can just find a place were your comfortable and you work from there. (thinking about the question again Brody emphasizes) Yeah definitely.

Other songs on Sing Sing are about heroin use, is that from personal experience or friends’ experiences?
It’s a bit of both. I know a lot of people that have really struggled with it; it wasn’t really that big of a struggle for me, not that certain drug. It was just drugs and alcohol in general. But that’s definitely were it comes from. (Analysing the question Brody adds) A lot of people always assume that I’m always singing from an autobiographical perspective and it’s not true. I sing about a lot of different people and stories, a lot of stuff inspires me to write, it’s not always about me.

The Distillers seemed to get slammed a lot out in the public arena. What’s one of the stupidest things you’ve ever heard about The Distillers?
Let me see. I feel that it’s mostly just a bunch of people who don’t have anything better to do and are really unhappy with their own lives. Obviously if you’re in the public arena you have people project certain ideals or fantasies on you and some of it can be scathing and mean and horrible. I don’t pay attention to it…people call me a ‘crackwhore’ and I’m like ‘yeah yeah I’m a crackwhore but I can pay for my own crack now’. You take it with a grain of salt, with two fingers in the air, like who gives a fuck.

Why do you think people target you?
I figured this out today actually with a girlfriend of mine, that it’s probably because I’m female. There’s a lot of girls that do the shit talking not necessarily the guys, ‘cause guys don’t talk like that, it’s not the way they operate. I feel it’s just a bunch of insecure girls that like to project on me and make assumptions about my life that are absolutely untrue and unfounded. There’s these misconceptions about me like I’m this big bitch, you know what? Maybe I am a bitch, but not really I do what I want to do and if that makes me a bitch then, whatever.

The Distillers were together about a year before the press caught on that you were Tim’s wife, how did that change things?
People just assumed that I’d gotten everything through that and that relationship. That’s just the way it goes, I knew that that was what was going to happen. My husband’s career is very fruitful and they [Rancid] are as far as I’m concerned are one of the most prolific bands that I know; they’ve influenced thousands of fucking punk kids from Operation Ivy to Rancid they’ve probably had more of an impact on the punk scene since they’ve came out then any other punk band.

Do feel now that you’re coming into your own right?
Yeah definitely. I think people mouth off and they talk shit and then when they see the band and see what we do and they see it as a product they understand that we stand on our own feet. We do work our arse of, we’ve done like twelve American tours and two European tours and that we promote ourselves and we’re out there all the time. We work our arses off we don’t sit on our arses and do nothing.

Blondie made a shirt that said ‘Blondie is a band’ do you ever feel like making a shirt that says ‘The Distillers is a band’?
[laughs] I would but it’s already been done. It gets really frustrating sometimes.

I read in an interview that something that inspired you to dye your hair black was because of an actress you saw in the French movie ‘Betty Blue’?

What do you think makes a girl/women beautiful?
I think it’s many things, it’s more of a self perception and the way that you carry yourself and it’s the confidence to get what you want in life. That’s what’s important, not necessarily physical beauty. I find women who some people may say are ugly physically attractive. But that’s just my taste. It’s definitely how you carry yourself and the fact that you don’t give a fuck about what other people think. 

Is there anyone’s personal style you admire?
Yeah there’s a lot. Back in the day as far as women I do love Debbie Harry with all my heart. She was fucking awesome, a lot of people give her shit for just being this blonde singer but she was really smart and really talented. So there’s Debbie, Poly Styrene was really huge for me, Siouxsie Sioux was great, I love dark haired women there’s just something about them.