Outtakes: Corin Tucker on Feminism, Motherhood, and “Neskowin”

Photo by Robin Clark.
By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

I chatted with Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney, Cadallaca, Heavens to Betsy) about her second album with the Corin Tucker Band (Seth Lorinczi, Sara Lund, Mike Clark, and Dave Depper)  just before she headed off for a one-month tour that winds its way back to Portland for an Oct. 13 show at Bunk Bar.

You can read my profile of the dynamic riot grrrl pioneer in the current issue of PQ Monthly. But there was so much good stuff we wanted to give you the full interview — including Tucker’s thoughts on the current state of feminism, her experiences as a mother, and the back story on the recently released video (by Alicia J. Rose) for “Neskowin.”

Here it is, in all its glory. (And, yes, we asked the requisite S-K reunion question.) Check out the video for “Neskowin” at the end.

PQ Monthly: Last time we chatted, you were about to release your first Corin Tucker Band album. How was the process of writing and recording “Kill My Blues” different?

Corin Tucker: We really opened the doors to a fully collaborative process on this album, working on most of the songs all together in the practice space. Sometimes I’d come up with a guitar line or verse and chorus, or sometimes we’d just jam together on a song.

PQ: Has it been easier to carve out time for music now that your kids are school age?

Tucker: Yes, it’s much easier now that everyone has a routine. I do well when I write in a scheduled routine!

PQ: Do you ever feel a disconnect between your rock star side and you mom side, or are they pretty well integrated? What does that look like?

Tucker: I think my performance persona and my mom persona are very different, but they are just different roles I play. They both involve a little bossiness, I guess so that would be a common thread.

PQ: Do you think your kids know how cool you are?

Tucker: I think my daughter thinks that all moms have rock bands, which is great. My son is much, much cooler than me.

PQ: What kind of music are they into these days?

Tucker: My son is very into dub step at the moment, so I’ve been introduced to Skrillex and deadmau5.

PQ: Last time we talked you said you might consider recording children’s music once Glory! started kindergarten. Have you revisited that idea at all?

Tucker: I still like that idea, but I’m just enjoying what I’m doing right now.

PQ: The new album definitely has a different feel musically. What inspired the move from what you once called “mom” music to a more upbeat, dance-y sound?

Tucker: We noticed people really wanted to dance at our shows, to move around, so we tried to write some dance songs for people.

PQ: Do you have a personal favorite song on the album?

Tucker: I really like playing “Joey” live, but they are all pretty fun, actually.

PQ: “Kill My Blues” goes back to your riot grrrl roots not only sonically, but also lyrically.   What inspired the feminist message?

Tucker: I sometimes feel like I’m having the same conversation over and over again, I’d love to see a United States where women had more political power i.e. matching our 51% of the population.

PQ: You’ve expressed disappointment with the pace of progress in the women’s rights movements. What’s gone wrong? And what (if anything) is going right?

Tucker: I think there are financial and social hurdles to women and minorities getting into politics, and perhaps campaign finance reform would help diversify congress. I do think that talking about women’s issues has made my generation of men more aware of them, and I appreciate that.

PQ: I know a little bit about the story behind the “Neskowin” video, but can you describe it for our readers? Is there an autobiographical element?

Tucker: Neskowin is a coming of age story of two young women in the early eighties. It does have an autobiographical element – I did go on vacation there with my best friends family at the time, but the daring escapades are entirely fictional!

PQ: Have you always known that you look like Poly Styrene, or did that become apparent after you decide to portray her in the video?

Tucker: I guess that Alicia Rose has always thought I bear a resemblance to her and that seed has been alive in her brain since the 90s when we first met. It’s Alicia’s vision all the way so I’m just happy to work with her. I’ve been a huge fan of Poly Styrene and the X-ray Specs for a long time, so it’s meant as an homage to one of my favorite bands.

PQ: Tell me about the tour. You leave Tuesday (Sept. 12). What cities are you most excited to play?

Tucker: Yes! So many places! We haven’t been to a lot of places yet, like Chicago, or the midwest, so I’m glad we’re going there. Of course NYC is always a thrill.

PQ: You’ve been doing this music thing for a while now. But what was your first musical experience? When did you first think of music as your thing?

Tucker: I played my first show when I was 18, and it was a great experience. It was part of “girl night” at the International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia. I was part of a really supportive scene that gave me a lot of opportunities to perform and record right away, so at that age I knew I had found what I love to do.

PQ: Were it not for music, what line of work do you think you would have ended up in?

Tucker: I also work in web development, and I enjoy it.

PQ: Coming up in the Olympia music scene, who inspired you? Who brought out your inner fan girl?

Tucker: Definitely Kathleen Hanna. She has always had a ton of charisma.

PQ: I’ve read that neither you nor Carrie were particularly psyched about the way SPIN magazine outed you back in the day. But looking back, are you able to see the impact that might have had on young queer kids?

Tucker: Yes, I think it probably helped some young people who were coming to terms with their own sexuality, and that is a good thing.

PQ: How is it different touring as a woman musician now than it was, say, during the early days of Sleater-Kinney? How is it the same?

Tucker: I think it’s more common now for a band to show up at a club and have women playing music. I would like to see more female promoters and sound engineers, but I think that is slightly more common now too.

PQ: Speaking of S-K, I have to ask the obligatory reunion question. Is it still in the hypothetical cards? If you had a dollar for every time someone asked you this question, how rich would you be?

Tucker: I’d be rolling in it! S-K is still on hiatus, but never say never.

PQ: So you turn 40 this year. How do you feel about that? Are you doing anything special?

Tucker: I actually feel great about turning 40. I have so much in my life to be thankful for. I haven’t made any special plans…maybe something low-key!