Saturday, September 24, 2011

Queen of the Damned

The Distillers' Brody Dalle shows her Fangs

By: Troy Johnson
Date: October 29th, 2003

“I'm trying to do my laundry, yo” says The Distillers' Brody Dalle from a borrowed cell phone. The statement could be interpreted literally or metaphorically, as all the media seems to be focusing on is the punk's dirty laundry. 

How she left her husband, Rancid's Tim Armstrong. How she then gave the tongue to her new beau, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, in a Rolling Stone photo. Rancid fans and critics jumped all over her, accusing her of courting fame at the expense of others, some even suggesting that her seven-year marriage to Armstrong was little more than a career move. 

“Well, sometimes it bothers me and sometimes it doesn't,” Brody says of the criticism, her cigarette-stoked rasp as radio-sexy as it is manly. “It depends on the day. It's just another fucking day. And you know what, it blows over and it goes away. It's not like I'm suckin' the president's fuckin' dick. I'm just in a fuckin' band. And that's hysterical.”

The Australian native is a punk's dream-brash and opinionated, her speech is punctuated by a steady stream of cuss words, yet scintillating in the way she addresses strangers as “baby” or “honey”. She's the one with deep-red lipsticked lips, hawking loogies over the heads of the front row. Appealing, yes. Yet not in the same way as traditional beauties like No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, who the Distillers' toured with earlier this year. 

“I was the complete opposite of Gwen-just dirty and mangy. There's a really funny picture of [us],” she says. “I look like a fucking street bum, dude. And she looks like this clean, angelic woman.”

With the release of The Distillers' new album, Coral Fang, being distributed by Warner Brothers, Dalle needs to get used to this sort of odd pairing. When Epitaph released their self-titled debut in 2000, the small club tours were familial-punks with like-minded punks. Fame changes things, treating marquee shows like blind dates between bands. Brody isn't particular about who The Distillers share a stage with, response be damned.
“I think [No Doubt's fans] were a little shocked. It's like this poppy reggae ska shit and then forbidden beat coming through stadium speakers,” she says. “I think there are some people who liked it, but mostly they just stood there with their mouths open. I had a mohawk at the time.”

“They may not like it or they may not buy it, but you might turn some people onto some really good music. Maybe it's not your band, but through your band they find other bands that they like.”

She then goes onto sing the praises of L.A. band The Bronx, which she calls a “mix between Black Flag and Led Zeppelin.” 

That's what's missing with the current music scene, she says-the camaraderie, a little help from your friends. The Distillers have been “held under someone's thumb for a long time,” she says, and now they're starting their “own little empire.”

In many ways, Dalle's life parallels that of another vitriolic female rocker. They both have a raspy yowl that blows most male vocalists out of the water. They both had famous rock husbands. The Courtney comparisons are inevitable, sure, but Brody is more than a bit tired of being treated as the novel, new “woman in rock.” 

“That drives me crazy,” she says. “But there's that whole fox-core thing happening, like women never opened their mouth before. It wasn't that much of an anomaly, you know? Women have been playing music a long time and, frankly, I'm kind of sick of it. If we continue to treat it as this novelty it's not going to get any better.”

“I'm not doing it for anyone but myself. Sorry if that sounds selfish. If [we inspire women to say], I'm gonna play, but I'm not going to play like a girl, I'm just going to fucking play, then that's great.”

Coral Fang is a departure for the band that was once purely about the “forbidden beat”: straight-up hardcore punk. Teamed with producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters), the band slowed things down. There's even-gasp!-a ballad on the record. Brody knows that longtime fans will freak out. In fact, she's looking forward to the dissent. 

“Frankly, I don't care. I wanna lose a lot of our myopic crowd-people who aren't open to experiencing something different musically,” she says. “I'm not interested in playing to [them]. I'm not going to cater to them, either.”

Inspired to play loud, fast hardcore as a teenager when she heard the U.K. band Discharge, she's now looking to Orange County legends Black Flag for the inspiration to slow the fuck down. 

“Greg Ginn from Black Flag said a really good thing when he was asked why they were slowing [the tempo] down,” she says. “His response was that something can still make an impact and be really crazy slow. It doesn't have to be really fast to make an impact. And I really agree with that.”

“I love playing fucking hardcore, dude. Dirty fucking negative-approach hardcore, I fucking love it. But I don't wanna do it for the rest of my fucking life, every day on every song. It's not exciting. It's like eating the same meal everyday. Would you wanna do that?” 

The Distillers perform with Queens of the Stone Age at SOMA, 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 29. $27.50. 619- 226-7662.