[Part 2 of 2]
Here is the second part of the interview with Le Tigre …
Days after Samson and Fateman attended another United for Peace and Justice Demonstration — this time, in response to the Republican National Convention — I met with Le Tigre in Universal Records’ midtown offices. We spoke in a chilly conference room full of audiovisual equipment (the kind of room in which one imagines lots of deals being made) and began by discussing the RNC, the protests and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s use of the word “girlie-man” as a put-down. On her way to the gym earlier that day, Fateman discovered that Schwarzenegger and New York Governor George Pataki were doing a photo-op at a local school.
“It’s just so disgusting,” she said, “that those guys would go to a public school where all the after-school programs have been cut and there’s no money with their fake-ass education plans that just take money away from schools to give rich people tax cuts.”
How have you incorporated the new material into your live show? Is the focus on creating new multimedia pieces for the new songs, or are you updating some of the videos for the older songs?
Kathleen Hanna: We’re updating the old stuff and making new stuff. We’re adding some new stuff, like lighting; we’ve never had a lighting designer before. That’s one of the things that has been nice about the video; when we were playing in really low-budget situations, the video always made it look pretty crisp and interesting. Now we’re just taking it to the next level and using lighting and choreography more.
JD Samson: We hired a choreographer to help us work on some dances for full songs, instead of just little parts. Also, we’re going to be wearing new outfits.
Can you reveal what the outfits will be?
KH: We’re not actually sure at this point, because we’re still working on them.
Your shows are very participatory. Was that a way to make up for something that you saw lacking in concerts in general, or was that inspired by any particular artists?
Johanna Fateman: Some of it is a natural outgrowth of punk-rock philosophies about there not being a strict barrier between audience and performer. But I also think our first record was revealing of the process we use to make music and it was, in some ways, intended to give the message that, “You can do this too. We learned how to use these samplers, and so can you.” So there was something inviting about it.
KH: When we first started putting on more multimedia shows — pretty much when JD joined the band and we started getting more serious about costumes and dancing — there was this whole sort of late-’90s irony thing hanging on. It was this whole idea, especially being a New York band, about being really cool and —
KH: Detached. And you know, I don’t think we really care about that. We care more about being a part of a community and inspiring people to keep doing whatever great stuff they’re doing, as opposed to acting like we’re so bummed to be on stage and we don’t care and we’re really cool.
It just seemed to make sense that if we wanted to give people a gift, it should be a really beautiful gift instead of a really depressing, somber gift. It feels good to allow ourselves to put in so much time and work and to be able to realize all of our crazy dreams that we have in the middle of the night.” It’s fulfilling to us, too.
JS: Because of who we are and because we’ve all worked in other media formats before, it’s easy for us to get involved in the process of making a multimedia performance.
JF: To go back to what you were saying about the new material for the live show, in the past year we’ve played a couple of larger festivals and shows, and we’re thinking about how we can maintain that vibe — for lack of a better word — of our band in a larger venue. How can you make it feel intimate, where everyone is important and everybody is invited to be part of what’s happening, when there are more people, a physically bigger space, and you’re farther away?
KH: It’s interesting that the more theatrical we get the more included people feel. You would think, “Oh, it’s kind of Vegas-y, that makes it more like a show.” But for some reason, it actually draws people closer because they can tell that we really spent time working on it and that we really care.
Just as Le Tigre try to make their live shows as participatory as possible, they have made their Web site an inviting forum. The “Keep on Livin’ ” section provides resources for those coming out as queer or as a survivor of sexual abuse. The “Gear ‘n’ Stuff” section details their experiences working with electronic music equipment, a populist/feminist take on music production that makes tangible their idea that “behind the hysteria of male expertise lies the magic world of our unmade art.”
A section on your Web site lists all of the gear and equipment you use. Why is it important to make that information available?
JS: One of the reasons we made our Web site was because we were getting so many letters about gear and people writing in about how they had issues coming out; that’s why we did that “Keep on Livin’ ” section.
A lot of people were writing to us and saying, “We’re really into trying to do electronic music,” or, “We want to start a band but don’t know how,” and, “What kind of equipment do you use?” We just thought it would be awesome for us to list everything and the different stages we’ve been through and what was available to people who were just starting out. Because there’s so much that’s really cheap and easy to use.
KH: We realized that when we first started it had been sort of mysterious and mystified — how to make electronic music. And I assumed you had to spend thousands of dollars to start, and you have to take some class at a technical college, and you have to do all this stuff. One of the things I really like about our “Gear ‘n’ Stuff” section is that it talks about the failings of our equipment, and how we did stuff this one way because we were just economically limited to whatever we could afford at the time.
We sort of made breakthroughs slowly, and stuff got outdated and we made mistakes with what we bought. It wasn’t like we went out and bought $10,000 worth of stuff and it all worked great and everything was perfectly fine. I don’t know if we talked about it on the site, but we lost all of our sequences on one of our sequencers two days before we went to record. It’s just kind of showing the failings.
JF: Sometimes feminism can be viewed as a very theoretical or abstract kind of realm. You can talk about the idea of sharing information with other women or lots of theoretical things, and that’s totally fascinating to me — I love feminist theory. But there is a nuts-and-bolts aspect also: “Okay, now let’s do something that could actually get someone off the ground with starting a project.”
It’s not like, “Go out and buy this certain thing.” It’s like, “Here’s how we did it.” So you could buy one of these things, or you could buy anything and at least know that someone else just sat alone in a room and read a manual and didn’t have six guys propping them up or doing things for them. When we started making electronic music, we really did feel alone with the manuals. I think part of that — sharing technical information — is trying to make good on the promise of women mentoring each other or getting together to make things happen and trying to give each other resources, whereas boys and men have really fraternal networks of sharing information. It’s like, “We can build something too.”