The second half of our interview with Kathy Valentine. The Go-Go’s play Woodland Park Zoo on Aug 14.
Do you think it’s easier for female musicians now?
It depends. I live in Austin, Texas, where music is very supported and there’s a lot of musicians. But I can take my band, the Blue Bonnets, that are an all-female bluesy rock band and we can go play a club in another town and you can pick up on the skepticism still. And yet we enjoy it, because everybody that’s kind of looking down at you is usually kissing your ass after the show because it was so good. And we know that’s going to happen.
Why is skepticism still there?
I don’t know. I mean, I still find people surprised when I say I’m a musician. I was getting my hair cut the other day and she goes, “What do you do?” “I’m a musician.” “Oh, do you sing?” No, I’m a musician. I’ve been a musician for 35 years. But us girls that play in bands are still a rare breed. And even rarer are the girls that don’t just do it as a little lark and then go and get married and become a housewife. The girls that want to make that their life, and a big part of their life, I think it’s still a pretty pretty fringe. It’s still a niche.
I’d thought things would be further along now; that there wasn’t still a need for a “women in rock” category.
Yeah. I’ve thought about that too, and I kind of vacillate on my reaction to that. Cause I have to say from my own experience, if I go see a band play, if there’s one girl in the band, that’s the one that tends to get my focus more. And I think it’s really fascinating, and I’ve decided that there’s a mystique and something just really cool and unique about the female in that context. And I’ve decided it isn’t a bad thing that that hasn’t gone away, and it’s still a novelty. “Novelty” has some kind of negative connotations, but I don’t know that’s it’s so wrong that it’s cool and different, and has a little bit more special panache to it that there’s a female on the stage. Maybe that’s a good thing for all of us, you know.
What do you miss from the old days and what do you like about the music industry today?
Well, I liked scenes. Every now and then in a city a little scene will sprout, like what you guys had in Seattle in the ’90s and in LA. And I’ve seen it in Austin here. I like that kind of support thing, where just everything just kind of converges and there’s several bands that are kind of a certain ilk, and it makes people want to leave their house and come out and hang out. And of course I liked back then that concert tickets were cheap, people could afford to go to shows, and it wasn’t so much about just having to pay these high prices and then the artist, because they’re not getting any money from their record company now, there’s all these other things, like the VIP package. We have ‘em on our tour, because there’s just not enough money! You go out and you leave your home and you put your whole life on hold to go out there and you basically break even. So you’ve got to be creative. And so I liked back then that it was, fans could afford to go see a concert, and that’s all they had to do, was buy a ticket to see a concert.
But what I like now, I like the platforms and accessibility that Facebook and twitter provide. I like that I can go in my studio and write a song and put it up on the internet and people can hear it and respond to it and give me feedback on it. I like that. Some people say, “Oh, there’s no mystique.” But to me I kind of like that the artist can, if they choose, be known as people. Like the person that people see on twitter and Facebook is a lot more like the person that my friends know. I can be more of a personality now, rather than just a band member. But I think the live thing is still very very special. You can’t recreate that. It’s never going to be the same, watching on TV or on YouTube, that feeling of seeing a band live. Also, you might be interested, I have a memoir on twitter that is really, I think you would just enjoy. @kvmemoir. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback and compliments on it. I think it should come out in a physical form at some point, because I think it would be nice for people to see it in the right order!
You were going to do a Farewell Tour last year, and then it didn’t happen.
Yeah. It’s not as mysterious as it might seem. A year ago Belinda quit the band. She said “I’m done, I don’t want to do the Go-Go’s anymore. I’ve got a lot going on. It’s really hard for me to come play in America and blah blah blah.” And she had been making noises about that for a long time; she had been kind of reluctant to participate in many years, and that’s one of the reasons we don’t do very much. But last year when she said she was done, she said “The last thing I will do is I will go out for three weeks in July and that’s it.” So what that meant for the other Go-Go’s is either find a new singer and continue to be the Go-Go’s, which is a basically nonfunctioning band; we don’t hang out together, we don’t sit around and write songs and work on records together, for better or for worse. A band needs a combined energy. We’re not the kind of band where one person drives the thing. It’s either got that combined effort or it doesn’t have it. And so the idea of getting a new singer seemed a little off. It’s not like we’re 28 and we want to go on for the next 20 years. So we thought since we’re not going to get a new singer, and she’s quit, it’s a farewell tour. Then Jane hurt her knee and had to get an operation and was unable to play. And for many months it was up in the air whether there would just not be a farewell tour and that was the end of it. And then out of nowhere Belinda said “I’ve got six weeks available this summer.” And so no one really said, “All right, well are you still quitting?” But a few of us decided, Why make a big statement about that? Who knows. I mean, it could be the farewell tour. I don’t really know. When you have a band with the format that there’s a lead singer, they kind of get to call the shots. And if the lead singer doesn’t want to go on a tour or record a record, there’s not a whole lot the band can do about it.
So you could come back for more tours.
Yeah. Who knows?
Charlotte Caffey Q&A
Jane Wiedlin Q&A