Interview with Husbands n Knives
Could you give a brief history or Husband n Knives including, discography, band member and what they do?
Lou: I met Julie through my old band Rehabs 4 Quitters; she used to go out with the guitarist. Although i loved singing with Rehabs, I was a bit frustrated with the fact the other members weren’t too keen on me writing feminist lyrics. They wanted songs about getting drunk and fighting, all the tired punk clichés, and that wasn’t really me. So one stormy Autumn night when I was sitting in the pub with them, I took my notebook out of my bag and wrote a letter to my future Riot Grrrl bandmate, begging her to come into my life so I could feel musically fulfilled at last! The Muse of Punk Rock must have been listening, because a few weeks later, Julie turned up at one of Rehab’s gigs. She could play guitar really well and, miracle, knew who L7 and Bikini Kill were. We clicked immediately, and spent the rest of the evening at my house jamming Riot Grrrl songs, totally oblivious to the post-gig party that was going on around us. It was love at first jam! When Rehabs 4 Quitters folded and Julie got dumped by her boyfriend, we knew the time had arrived to start our our Riot Grrrl act. We met McCracken through one of my old band mates and were over the moon when he agreed to join us on bass. He’s a total dude and a pillar of the band! We then recruited a very handsome jazz guitarist called Chester who decided to give drums a try and had our first rehearsals in McCracken’s mouldy house studio. We bought a 65 quid rusty drum kit from a charity shop, borrowed amps and a PA from friends and painstakingly starting writing out first songs. We were pretty much beginners then, it was all very DIY. All the equipment was dodgy and everything was kept in functioning order with gaffer tape and elastic bands. But gradually, we found our feet and 6 months later, we had enough songs to turn up at our local pub jam night and played our first gig. It was amazing! The fire has been raging ever since. Although the original core members remained, we went through a lot of drummers. Jamie is our sixth; he joined after our last drummer Hermit left to join the Bloody Minded. We released our first album “Raised on Synthetic Bitch Milk” in 2010 and are now in the final stages of completion of our new album “Virosa Ebriosa”.
Has any member played in any other band and if so whom?
Julie: I occasionally play lead for The Bus Station Loonies (bringing the average age of the band down to 41 – ha ha). I got the opportunity to play on their Scotland tour last August, which was both hilarious and completely surreal. I can’t fault them; they’re all genuinely lovely blokes who are a pleasure to gig with. Lou: I wrote my first songs back in 2006 with an amazing Torquay punk band called Shrapnel Suntan, and then I joined Rehabs 4 Quitters as lead singer, then HNK. I’m also a member of a sporadic yet brilliant all female folk-group called Seize the Night, an offshoot of the anarchist folk band Seize the Day, whom my partner is a member of. We play once every two years on average but it’s always a great experience. Mc Cracken: I played in quite a few South Devon bands before but my favourite has to be Rattus Rattus… Lou: Named after the Horrible Histories’ rat mascot? …
How would you describe your sound and who are your influences?
McCracken: I think for me my main musical influences have for to be Butthole Surfers for their obscure and sinister sound and frank black for being damned awesome! Lou: To me, our band sounds like the IVF baby of L7 and Bikini Kill. I love the DIY aspect of Riot Grrrl. We’ve been compared to X-Ray Spex and Siouxie and the Banshees too, but on steroids! Personally my musical journey owes a lot to Courtney Love… a musician whom many people tend to find controversial! No other artist, for me, embodies so well the sheer extreme diversity of the female experience. In her lyrics she comes across as sublime, desperate, beautiful, ugly, defiant, grotesque, brave, outrageous, and hilarious. Her lyrical imagery is stunning. Later, bands like Bikini Kill led me to take the plunge and learn rudiments of guitar. As an actual performer, I am really in debt to Chris “Wheelie” Wilsher from the Bus Station Loonies. I like to be a bit of a jester on stage, and he’s your perfect huggable yet kick-arse comedy punk bard. He’s always supported us and we are very grateful to him.
What do you have in the pipeline at present?
Lou: “Virosa Ebriosa”’‘s been two years in the making… Compared to “Raised on Synthetic Bitch Milk” when we were just beginning to find our sound, the new record is more accomplished, musically and lyrically. We have potentially 15 songs which could end up on it. Some are funny, tongue in cheek, upbeat comedy numbers; some are angsty, heavy songs. The songs “You’re One” and “Rage” feature some of my favourite lyrics ever. In “Rage” the second verse goes “And from apple to snake/ from the gallows to the stake/ I am the Gaping Hole/ The Terror of Church and State”. The song is about how the female principle’s been demonised by religious, cultural and political institutions all through History. I’m so proud of these new songs. I can’t wait for you to hear them! We also hoping to get a video released at some stage. We have the synopsis written already, but finding time to shoot has proved difficult so far.
What is the highlight for the band so far?
Julie: I love it when we are invited to play not-for-profit DIY feminist events. It was very exciting playing at Brighton’s Clitrock this year, for the second time running. I also really enjoyed playing at the second Revolt event in Coventry back in July. Both of these events are run by bona fide feminist activists and organisers Nat Dzerins and Ruth Pearce (from the superb DIY punk band Not Right)… Lou: For me it was coming back from work one night and discovering, as I was absent-mindedly browsing “The F-Word”, the Uk’s leading feminist website, that they’d featured us in one of their articles, and had given us a very positive review with that ! And playing Brighton for the first time in 2012. We found ourselves in front of a packed audience who danced all night and seemed to know all the lyrics to our songs! It was fantastic.
You put on a good live performance, do you take rehearsing seriously?
Lou: We try to rehearse as often as we can, but when it comes to shows, the atmosphere in the audience and the adrenaline are what really unleash the Beast for us, and that’s a spontaneous process, you can’t really rehearse it. Sometimes we plan little tricks to liven up our shows. In Brighton, we turned up onstage with “Free Pussy Riot” signs, and in 2011 at Beltane, we distributed raffle tickets in the audience. The winner got a free CD and a voucher for a night of passion with our drummer (Beltane is the pagan festival of Love and Fertility). Fortunately, the winning lady never made use of her voucher. I’m not sure our drummer was actually prepared to give so much of himself for the great cause of punk rock!
Where do the ideas for your songs come from? I’m assuming some are autobiographical?
Lou: Some songs are inspired by personal experience; others are observations on small town life and society in general. “Nazi Bull Dyke” is about a former friend who ended up stalking me. “Song for Aurelie” is about a friend who died from a heart transplant when I was 25. “Domestic” was inspired by the time when several of our friends were struggling in violent relationships. and “Bunny Boiler” by the fashion of Playboy stationary amongst young girls. We also write to lampoon people, from our local pub’s former sound engineer to love rivals to Katie Price fans. “Babalon” is about the Thelemic Goddess of Love and War. She’s a bit of a tutelary goddess for our band. The lyrics come from a poem by rocket scientist and occultist Jack Parsons who unleashed Babalon through a series of rituals in 1946. On “Virosa Ebriosa” songs like “Rage”, “You’re One” and “Isobel” were inspired by the figure of the witch in History as a kind of proto-feminist, misunderstood anarchist.
Do you have any favourite places to play?
Julie: There was this one pub in Falmouth where the landlord left little folded up face towels next to all of our mic stands. I don’t think he’d realised we were a punk band. Nevertheless, it was delightful.
You obviously have strong feminist views, is there any particular event that brought these about and how big a problem to you think sexism is in today’s society?
I remember being 7 and believing that as an adult woman I’d be free to do whatever I aspired to do and be the person I wanted to be. Then at teenage I realised girls’ bodies were suddenly public property. Boys at school leered at them, rated them, and commented on them to our faces. Magazines were full of incitements to diet, beautify, cut open and modify what Nature had given us. It seemed we could never be good enough, slim enough. At that time I also became aware that most Holy Books, written by males for a male audience, were justifying and enforcing the ownership and subjugation of women, arguing we were born sinners and that our thirst for knowledge has caused Humanity to Fall. The sense of betrayal was immense. The female body is still a battleground. Women battle to accept themselves in the cultural framework in which they evolve. Some societies are prepared to spill blood to ensure that female’s sexuality, education and reproductive choices are controlled and curtailed. Some religious groups petition the State to impose their prejudiced values upon the population, with very real consequences for us. Remember the debate over female bishops or the outcry in Christian groups when HPV vaccination became available to schoolgirls? Some people would rather have had young women dying of cervical cancer than give them access to a vaccine that would protect them against VD. They claimed the vaccine would make young girls “promiscuous”. This is truly outrageous! Feminism, for me, is about redressing that imbalance by empowering women and fighting for social justice. Our feminism is inclusive; it doesn’t exclude men, nor transgender people. If we all stand together and fight because we love our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters and friends and value their freedom and talents, we can create a shift in society that would truly transform humanity, and make us all better people.
Where would you like the band to be in 5 years time?
Lou : Still writing, still gigging and hopefully making a good, lasting contribution to the Riot Grrrl scene. I hope we can, in our own little way, inspire more women to live their artistic dreams and find liberation… In truth, I hope Husbands N Knives carries on forever. And when I look at bands like Shonen Knife, who’ve been rocking for 25 years, I know it can be done.
How do you juggle being a teacher and the singer of a band? Do your students think you’re cool?
Lou: Since the word got around i was in a band, some of my students have come to me asking for advice on writing and performing, or just to share their worries. I ve seen some of them really flourish as performers during the past two years, and it’s been really heart-warming to see how song writing and gigging can really help heal and empower young people. In my dreams, I’d like to start a little Rock School for Girls, and go to secondary schools to give Riot Grrrl- inspired workshops on how to start a band, write songs and get organised. We had an offer about a project of that kind last year, but our contact never got in touch again so it hasn’t come to anything. I do hope we’ll eventually be able to get involved though, and if anyone reading this knows anyone who’d like to help us, please get in touch!
If you could banish 3 things into Room 101, what would they be?
Lou: My, that’s a hard question! Vladimir Putin. Homophobia. Oh, and drunken idiots who pick fights with innocent bystanders. The “What’ye looking at?!” types.
Any final comments?
Lou: I’ll leave you with a quote from feminist writer Monique Wittig, which in my eyes sums up well what our band’s about: ““There was a time when you were not a slave, remember that. You walked alone, full of laughter, you bathed bare-bellied. You say you have lost all recollection of it, remember . . . You say there are no words to describe this time, you say it does not exist. But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.”