Last April in Austin, our longtime friend Robert G. Strom sat down with Kitty for an hour long conversation and interview. For our first post on the new version of the site, we’ve been given permission to post the interview below. If you didn’t know Kitty before, you do now.
R: Let’s talk about the new record. What do you think about the Kickstarter process in terms ofit being a new thing? What do you think are the pros of it, cons of it…
K: I think it’s genius. (Laughs). I think it’s the best thing to happen to music in, like, ever.
R: You think so?
K: Oh yeah, pretty much. I mean because when you think about it, basically, CD sales were never for us. You know, never ever. I mean, maybe there was a time like a long, long time ago when you could actually make a penny off a CD but I’m telling you right now, through a label, first they loan you money, then you then have to recoup through your CD sales and then when you actually recoup that money and you’re able to make some money off of your CD, you get a point and that point is literally like, a seventy-fifth percent of a cent. You know what I mean? Like, it’s one one-hundredth of a penny. So you know, anyone who thinks, “ooh these huge bands are making like hand-over-fist money on their CDs…” it’s just not true. Labels are making a lot of money on the CD sales but not artists. That’s why Kickstarter’s so great. Being able to go directly to fans and say “hey, you know, if you support us, we’ll be able to make this awesome product for you” is a great feeling. Everyone who came out and pledged and showed support, it got me really excited to make this album. People want it; and I think that’s invaluable. You don’t get that process if you go through [a label].
R: The fan involvement has been really good and it’s amazing how supportive people have been.
K: It was fun thinking of the rewards. We brainstormed about them for ages.
R: I think you guys came up with really, really good ideas. I know that people were really excited and even people who were thinking “this is [a] stupid [Kickstarter project]” were like, “ I gotta hand it to them, those are really cool…”
K: (Laughs) Aw, that’s great.
R: What do you think about all of the [detractors] and people who backed the Kickstarter, [who] if it’s not exactly like it was on a major record label, say “how dare you put out multiple versions of this record now” or “how can you sell this record to other people? I’m entitled to everything you put out! I bought a Kickstarter shirt so now you have to give me your tour shirts too.” What do you think about people like that?
K: I mean, what do you really say to people like that? You know they’re never going to be happy. I mean, look: I will say this. Every time I see a comment that’s like “fuck those guys,” “this CD better be worth the 150 thousand dollars,” or you know, first of all, we sold the digital download for a dollar. Look, if you don’t want to give us a dollar, then you don’t like us. Then you don’t want me to eat a lunch. You’re taking food out of my mouth! You – in your couch – [there] are four quarters, okay? If you won’t even give me four quarters to make this music, then fuck you! And you know, the second thing is: who are you kidding? You were going to pirate this shit anyways. You were never going to give me a dollar – not even a dollar! You were going to get this off of the Pirate Bay or whatever and you know what? Now that we’re doing the Kickstarter and we don’t have to worry about the CD sales or whatever, well, I mean, I’m not telling you to pirate the album, but go ahead!
R: People get mad at me when I explain to them that this is why there are three different versions of this record. You get your exclusives, tour kids will get their exclusives, and the people who go to Hot Topic and buy their CD will get their exclusive. The tour kids- they don’t go to the store. The Kickstarter kids- they’re not going to buy it on the tour and they’re not going to go to Hot Topic and buy it. So these are pretty much exclusive markets. It’s not like you’re putting out [overlapping editions]. I don’t think anyone’s telling them to go out and buy the record four times.
K: No, not all. I mean, buy whatever you want to buy.
R: That’s why people make these versions.
K: Exactly. I’m just saying (whispering) if you really want those tracks, they will be online! I’m sure your friends will put them up and you’ll get them.
R: What’s funny is that those tracks aren’t online yet.
K: Oooooh, someone better get on that!
R: I think this is the first time in history where people have heard bonus tracks before me.
K: Oh, well, if it makes you feel any better I haven’t heard them either.
R: Oh well I figure we’re all taken care of here. I don’t really care.
K: Yeah. I mean look, everyone who backed the Kickstarter: Thank you. And you know what? You made this happen; and take that joy with you. You were part of something awesome. You were with us from the very beginning and we totally appreciate it. But that kind of being a part of the process? I just pledged the Veronica Mars movie. They don’t need the money! They have four million dollars for that movie. I pledged to a project that does not need my money; but I pledged because I want to be a part of it. I want to show them that I want to add my name to the list of people who are excited about this thing and I’m willing to pay them money. And you know, I wouldn’t even ask anything in return but they’ve got some pretty cool things so I’m taking it (laughs). Like, I want my t-shirt. And that’s awesome. I just feel like, you know, people who did that and then are like “how dare you do this, that or the other thing” are kinda missing the point. Like, you got to be a part of something special. People that didn’t pledge didn’t get that. They didn’t get to be a part of that.
R: It’s not like the Kickstarter version will be sold in four months.
K: No, that’ll never be resold. And they got the cool one. I’m not knocking the other packages, but the Kickstarter one… you guys get this sick imagery. Like, I want one of those. And you know, if it makes you feel any better, I haven’t gotten my Kickstarter CD or any t-shirts, so you know. I’m waiting until you guys get all yours. Right? That’s how much we love you.
R: So this is the first time that you’ve had a record that does not have old material on it. It’s all new material to the fan base. They’ve not heard shit.
K: That’s what I’m saying! How exciting is that?
R: It’s really refreshing! It’s not like you have a bunch of people this time saying “yeah but you guys changed this or that and this isn’t how it would have been in 2002” – it’s just brand fucking new. And it’s so exciting because you have thirteen songs to learn!
K: It was super exciting for me to. I got to hear all the demos as they were coming out and it just got me more and more excited to play them. Like, I am so psyched to be on this tour with new material. It was hard to contain myself during Soundwave because with Steve not there and with festivals we really didn’t want to start playing the new stuff.
R: You guys tried, what, doing Witness and It Gets Worse?
K: Witness, yeah. I actually had to talk to James about some [things]. I wanted him to hear it on stage. We just had to talk about certain stuff. Like little things. “Do you want me to play crashes here?” Or, you know, “do you want it to be really dry? Should I play through this?” You know.
R: What are your favorite songs on the new record?
K: Hm. There are songs that I love to play and there are songs I love to listen to; and sometimes they overlap and sometimes they don’t.
R: What are your favorite songs to listen to?
K: To listen to, I love Anonymous. I love Ass Backwards. Hip Hop Rage… Incredible. So good. Witness is just so huge. Ala Mode. I love Ala Mode. That’s the one that super overlaps for me like, not only do I love listening to it but I… it’s my favorite one to play.
R: So far it’s my favorite one to watch you guys play.
K: That is just like a flail away drum part. It’s so complex but it’s so satisfying. It’s like the perfect storm of rhythm awesome parts. It’s the best.
R: And I think that works out for you guys because I think that’s the fan favorite so far. And I think it will be the big non-single.
K: That’s my new Planet of the Apes.
R: I was thinking about it and that’s one that’s stayed on the setlists.
K: That one just slays live.
R: I was trying to think, “why do they play this one” or “why do they do this one” and it’s like… you guys look like you’re having so much fun.
K: I could play an entire set of Planet of the Apes. And now I can play an entire set of just Ala Mode. Like Ala Mode, Ala Mode, Ala Mode…
R: You guys need to do a remix like you did of Stupid Motherfucker last year and Tornado this year and just extend Planet of the Apes and have it go into Ala Mode. And then you’d get both of your two favorites all at once.
K: That’s true, though I think I would run out of gas. I have strategies about our set creation. Sometimes I need a groovy one in between the face-melting ones. I need chill ones in between the face-melters so I can really get those ones with authority.
R: You don’t want to do If I Only Didn’t Want to F the Ones Who Didn’t F Me into, uh, what’s another one with crazy drums?
K: Hm. Mic Commander? We played that one a couple of times. We definitely did. What’s the one that I was like “no, we’re never playing that again.” Was it Mic Commander?
Steve walks in looking for his MP3 player.
S: There was like five of them that I don’t want to do and you don’t want to do.
K: What was that one though? Aw, I can’t remember. There’s a bunch though. They’re like builds. Constant builds. It’s just like constant drums.
S: I didn’t like playing Dickface live.
R: That’s too bad, I loved Dickface live. It’s really groovy.
K: I love playing Dickface.
S: It’s different for everybody because there are certain things that work for each instrument.
K: That’s why he’s doing an interview with each one of us.
R: And I’m asking the same questions. Originally I wanted all four of you at the same time but I think it actually works better with all of you one on one.
S: Everyone wants us all at the same time. Ain’t gonna happen.
R: Nope. Ain’t riding that train.
S: Hasn’t happened for me yet, it isn’t happening for you.
R: Fair enough.
K: Yeah, so those are the ones I like to listen to. The ones I like to play live, like top of my list are It Gets Worse…
R: That is my favorite song on the new record.
K: Just like Ala Mode, the drum part is just awesome.
S: Watch her during that fucking song. Seriously, the first time I saw her do that I stopped playing. It mesmerized me. She’s like an octopus! That’s all I have to say about that!
K: Aww, thanks Steve! We love each other. It’s true. That’s our dirty little secret.
S: Shh, don’t tell everybody!
K: Oops, sorry.
R: I think It Gets Worse has James’s best lyrics to date.
K: It’s just awesome. It’s so good.
R: That was written for [someone like] me. Some angsty queer adult who realized everybody lied to [him] and then some guy comes along and tells people it gets better? It’s like go fuck yourself, dude.
K: I’ll share some words of wisdom that my mom actually told me in fourth grade. So, I got mercilessly picked on my whole childhood life. I was just a weirdo, I was too tall, I was a tomboy… I was just weird. Like, I played Dungeons and Dragons. My friends and I had fake sword fights in our yard, so I was that kid. For sure, I am there with you people. But you know, I came home from school one day and I’m just balling my eyes out like “I fucking hate them so much, it’s just every day, it’s just relentless,” and the teacher laughs along. No one is protecting me. It was a really bad time. It was the 80’s! It was a different time. Great music, but a bad time. So, um, bullying was like “oh yeah! We encourage it! It toughs you up!” My mom was like “it builds character” and I was like “mom you don’t understand!” So anyways, she looked at me and she’s like: “look. You can’t come home from school crying every single day. You’ve got to find a way to just deal with it.” And I was like, “well, I just can’t wait till I get to college. Because in college it’s going to be smart people who appreciate people who want to learn” and you know, because I was super into school. Here’s what my mom said to me: “Oh yeah, you think it’s going to be great in college, huh? Let me tell you something. You know all these bitches who are making fun of you and picking on you and stuff in grade school? Yeah, you’re going to be with them in high school. Right? Then you’re going to go to college with them. And then, guess what? You’re going to work with them! You’re going to have jobs and they’re going to be in your job. They’re going to be your coworkers or your boss, or whatever,” and she was like, “and not only are you going to have to live with them and just coexist with them and work with them or whatever, but their shitty backstabbing and cutting remarks… it just gets sneakier and more subtle.” It… it just gets worse! And you know? That stuff? It was like woah. She blew my fucking mind. It was like “oh my God, it’s true.” It’s not like I go to this magical land where these people don’t go. I will say this: sometimes it does get better and this is why. Sometimes when you’re in high school, you’re in a very small pond with limited access to people of your kind. In college, hopefully you connect with people. You find your niche. Those shitty people are still shitty to you, but at least you have a little gang of people who can say, “fuck you!” back to them. And you hang out with your friends and you just stay away from them and you can do your thing. You just learn to spot them and you learn how to just see through the bullshit.
R: I think you learn to tolerate people.
K: Yeah, it does get better because you learn how to make it better. It will get better if you make a conscious decision to make it better. Those people, you know, it’s true: they feed off fear and pain, and if you just keep giving it to them, they’ll love it. They hate themselves so much that they just want you to be miserable too.
R: I just got used to disappointment. (Laughs) But you know what I mean?
K: Yeah, you learn to get passed it. You learn, “okay, that sucked.” But then you just keep doing whatever makes you happy. And hopefully you teach people who are intolerant a little bit about tolerance. Maybe. If you’re lucky.
R: You can hope.
K: By setting an example, like, “well I’m just going to live my life, maybe if you know it inspires others to go, ‘oh you know what, I’m going to do that too,’” that’s great.
R: Do you know just how influential some of your lyrics and messages are to teenagers? I feel this is something every interviewer in the past fifteen years or whatever has completely missed out on and often ignores.
K: Well, you know what, I’ll say this. We certainly didn’t set out to be inspirational. If that happened for people, awesome. Because there are bands that were super inspirational to me and got me through super tough times as well.
R: I know people who hear Faggot and for some, they say it saved their lives. And that floors me because I don’t think people notice that.
K: That’s awesome. In order to understand the point of view of that song, you have to have some intelligence. If you’re just like, “that guy is calling people a faggot,” you’re missing the point. He’s talking about being singled out and ridiculed and vilified like that. Using a word that is just a word. Using it to hurt somebody and learning how to take that word back. It’s happening a lot actually lately. And people are like, “no, we’re not going to let you do that anymore.” I think that song is awesome too.
R: Me too. I think the song that really surprised me that really inspires people is Golden I. Golden I has a lot of things like gender bending and there are a lot of suicide themes in it. That one is really, really interesting. There’s so much going on in that song and I feel like that one never gets talked about. I love Golden I.
K: I love Golden I too. I think music can be inspirational and in ways that are not so “I’m writing a song to inspire you!” or “it’s going to be great and happy sunshine stuff!”
R: We all saw how people reacted when Born This Way came out, where they are throwing rainbow Kool-aid in your face and saying, “be inspired! I am freeing you!” Nobody likes that shit.
K: You know, sometimes you just want to be mad. And sometimes you just want to be nihilistic. You know what I mean? Sometimes you just want to destroy. What I hope, like those songs do for me, the songs that are like, c’mon, The Smiths? He’s just constantly talking about burying himself in soil, like, “I think I’ll just end it all.” Every lyric was like, “that’s it! I’m ending my life.” When you feel like that and can listen to a song like that and just wallow in it, it’s like you can get over it. It can be so therapeutic to listen to a song that’s like “I fucking hate you” like Nine Inch Nails and it’s not supposed to inspire you to be like that, it’s supposed to get it out of your system. You know what I mean? And then you’re like, okay, you puked and feel so much better.
R: That’s why songs like Backmask and uh, what’s another song that tells you to go kill yourself? Um… Prom. Prom tells you to go kill yourself.
K: (Laughs) We have so many. Yeah. Like, we’re obviously not… Like obviously I think suicide is not the way out. That’s like everyone but you wins. You know what I mean? My attitude about suicide is: don’t give them the satisfaction. You hate yourself so much; rub yourself in their faces. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Fucking enjoy your life and let them see you fucking doing it. Like, guess what, I’m here and I’m going to do whatever the fuck I want. And it’s going to bug the shit out of you and that is the best part. And you’re going to try and make me feel like shit about it, but it’s not going to work because I’m just going to enjoy seeing you squirm because you can’t make me unhappy. That was the turning point for me where I was like, you know what? Fuck those guys. I wouldn’t take my life because I’m fucking awesome. You guys are the ones that fucking suck. Why would I take myself off the planet? But yeah, I do feel like preachy, syrupy songs that are supposed to inspire you… I’m kinda like “oh brother,” it’s those intensely emotional or songs that say stuff that are like (gasp), that’s the stuff that I get into. That’s the stuff that lets me get out my aggression or just freak out. Don’t worry about life.
R: I absolutely agree. Do you know what turns ten years in November? Well, it’s 2013 now, so we’re talking about 2003. What came out in 2003 in the fall?
K: Uhhhh… Rebel?
R: No, it’s a smaller release.
K: Oh yeah…
R: What do you think about those songs now? What do you think of that EP?
K: What songs are on that? (Laughs)
R: Yeah, that would probably help. I have it here.
K: We have so many releases now that I literally… My mind is going.
R: (laughs) Let’s look at the artwork first. [It’s] my favorite cover of yours because I think that it’s the most stylish, candid photo of you guys.
K: Oh yeah, we were going for a real Clash look there.
R: So on it, we have Wack!…
K: Oh, Wack!… Wack! is another perennial. That was on our set all the time for ages because the rhythm section likes that one.
R: It made me so sad when that one got cut.
K: Aww. Who knows, maybe Wack! will come back.
R: I saw the very last live performance of Wack! to date. Because I remember these things. It was last year in Chicago.
K: We played Wack! last year? Oh yeah, we did!
R: And then it got cut for 7-11.
K: Mhm. Aw, poor Wack! We fought for you, Wack! The rhythm section fought hard. (laughs)
R: Capitol P is better remembered.
K: Oh yeah, Capitol P. That’s also a killer.
R: Alienating Our Audience, which we’ve talked about a few times.
K: Oh yeah! (laughs)
R: And Joke!
K: Oooh, Joke…
R: Which you guys haven’t done in years.
K: Oh man. Seriously. Oh, Joke. Oh my gosh. I actually… Joke I love as a song. I can’t even remember if I liked playing it because it went away so long ago. (Laughs)
R: Let’s see if I have a live recording of it. That’s one of the ones that one of the cool, glitchy intros. Oh my God. I don’t think I do. But you know it was one of the backing electronics you used for an intro.
(Lynz walks in)
K: We’re talking about the song, Joke. (laughs)
L: Oh my God. I actually really like that song.
K: See? (Laughs)
R: It was the “takes one to know one” synth, which would go into the actual song.
K: Oh, right.
R: And then the other one, which only got released… only part of it got released. Which is Brooklyn Hype.
K: Brooklyn Hype! Yeah… is that… that’s not the one with the… Is Brooklyn Hype the one I really like playing… I can’t remember. What’s the one with the, you’ll know this lyric, the “thanks for the party and the maserati…”?
R: That’s Bomb This Track. Which was called Thanks for the Party first if I’m not mistaken.
K: Brooklyn Hype always reminds me of Bomb This Track.
R: They always remind me of each other too probably because of the CBGB show where you guys debuted Bomb This Track and then didn’t play it again for four years.
K: Oh man, it’s been so long since I played [Brooklyn Hype].
R: Yeah, you guys didn’t do that one for very long. But you only released the first half of it. The second half of it just never ever got released. It was like “we’ll put the full version on the album!” or “we’re going to record all the Despierta Los Ninos songs and make it a full-length instead of an EP!” and then none of those songs appeared ever again. There’s actually a sixth track. What’s funny is that this is the official “single” from the EP because I have a promo DVD copy of it sent out to radio.
K: Remember when there were singles? (laughs)
R: (laughs) Molly Live.
K: Oh, Molly…
R: But it’s a live version that was tacked on everything as a bonus track.
K: Oh, Molly… We played Molly into the ground. Molly… um… I know people loved it, but…
R: Honestly, I don’t know anybody who loves that song.
K: See! That’s what I’m saying. It’s like “we gotta play Molly” and “Why!?” I mean it’s a good song and everything but like live? It’s not really like slaying or…
R: (in a deep voice) METAL.
K: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s not like groovy, or, I don’t know.
R: Molly’s a funny one because that’s the butt of the joke: Molly is on every release.
K: (Laughs) Right? Someone was pushing Molly hard. I don’t know who it was, but… someone was pushing it really hard in our camp. It wasn’t me. But I love Molly. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s your favorite song I’m not poo-pooing it. But yeah, there were remixes and I don’t know…
R: I actually really like the remixes of Molly though, that’s what’s funny. I’m not a remix guy but I love the Bitches / Molly remix single. Those were also the Elektra days when a lot of those were doing hip-hop remixes.
K: Did we get µ-Ziq to remix them?
K: µ-Zig is so killer. We got some crazy awesome people. We had Elektra money [and] we got some awesome people to remix that.
R: But you also had Kid Rock though. (Laughs) I have this on a white label vinyl. Remember white labels?
K: Oh yeah. There’s actually a store in Manhattan now called White Label and all they sell is white labels. It’s just a tiny little record store but every single album just has a blank white label on it with black lettering on it. It’s incredible. I don’t know if it’s someone’s art piece or whether it’s an actual store where you can buy these white labels but I think it’s on Grand. So if you’re in New York City you should check it out. Because I walked by the other day and was like what in the world… it’s all white inside and like it’s all just…
R: Should we play the Obscure Song Game? I’ll cut a few out now that I know the answers to them, because I know it’s getting late. (Laughs)
R: We’ll skip over the Tight ones because I just have Dickface, Bite Your Rhymes and Daddy on there.
K: Oh, okay. Bite Your Rhymes I like.
R: Oh yeah, I like Bite Your Rhymes. That’s my favorite on Tight.
K: I wonder if Bite Your Rhymes was the one I refused to play live? (Laughs)
R: You guys have tried it and I know that every single time you’ve cut it.
K: Yeah I think it’s the one. I’m pretty sure, because Mic Commander I think is awesome. But Bite Your Rhymes is one of those ones where like, yeah… It’s just not enjoyable for me. I’m literally like, hanging on by my fingernails.
R: You guys had to slow that one down. I don’t know how often you listen to the studio version, but that’s one of the most mortifyingly like… “how the fuck did they perform this” impressive things across the board for all of the band.
K: Yeah. (Laughs)
R: Okay, I don’t like talking about this song that much because I thought it was burned into the ground about ten years ago but I was asked to ask about it, so… Panty Shot.
K: Oh, Panty Shot…
R: Would you agree that that one needs to stop being asked for?
K: It kinda does. Like, you know, look: it had its time and place. At the time there was so much going on with that. That was the thing. It was like, “pedophiles! Pedophiles! Ahhhh!” This is actually good to talk about it because I feel like we’ve been “ehhhh…” every time someone asks and it’s like “oh brother.” But I’ll address it. Everything was about pedophiles and like “aaaah!” It was like the new boogieman and, to be fair, horrible. Pedophilia? Terrible. Like, I don’t want to hear about it. Yuck. But you know, at that time, Jimmy at least when he was writing it was like, “you know what, I just want to get inside that person’s head. Like, what is it like to be that person, where you can’t control those feelings.” And yeah, it was shocking. We were all out to shock and you know, it did its job! (Laughs) We scared some people; we shocked some people. It was irreverent to dance to that song and be like, “YEAH!” It was just so horrible but in the best way. When you’re just embracing the awfulness. You know what I mean?
R: Oh yeah. Did you know that the studio version was never released outside of a cassette tape? People were really surprised it wasn’t on Tighter.
K: Oh wow. Yeah, you know, I think it had its time and place. It lived in that moment and it’s not necessarily… I don’t want to say that it’s not valid anymore, but it’s not what’s going on right now. If I were going to say what was going on right now it would be about gun violence. It would be about horrible shootings of children that if we wanted to get inside that guy’s head…
R: You’d just have to rewrite I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats.
K: That shit is fascinating and horrible and you know, sometimes it just needs to be said so that it’s not this boogieman-like thing. It’s humanized and it’s a real problem but it’s not like this other thing. There are people right next to you and I’m sure I’ll be sitting next to a guy in a diner who’s fucking nine year olds and has a thousand guns in his basement tomorrow (laughs). That shit is out there and the more people are like “ahhh!” and “uhhhh!” [the more] we need to actually talk about it. I think also this band is about freaking out and having fun and just doing whatever you want without hurting another person. And I think that is the best thing about this band and it’s what I like to do in the band, to do whatever I want without hurting another person. We never started this band to have grand philosophical or political… you know we’re never going to write a song about the war, it’s not… that’s not the function of this band. So songs like Panty Shot had their time and place. For us to beat that into the ground would be like becoming one of those preachy “look at us, we’re so… we’re really saying something!” (laughs). The point of Mindless Self Indulgence is to say nothing, you know what I mean? And kinda say everything by saying nothing. Like you can literally turn your brain off, you can listen to the music, and just ignore everything, or you can listen to the lyrics and delve deeper into it and find your own meaning. Not that I’m comparing us to master works or anything like that, but real art to me is [when] no one tells you what you’re supposed to be getting out of it. It’s open-ended and you can kind of make your own connections inside of it and get what you want from it, whatever meanings you want from it and thoughts you want to think out of it. That… I only hope we’re providing that.
R: I think you guys provide lots of things to a lot of different people. And what’s remarkable to me is that choosing Panty Shot as the last thing to talk about is, I don’t think we could end this interview in any better way. (Laughs) I also think we’d find ourselves here for five more hours.
K: That’s true (laughs)
R: And I want to respect the people who are sleeping and you guys on your travel plan, but thank you so much.
K: (Laughs) Yeah, hopefully that answers people’s questions.
R: There were some people who wanted it to be played live again and I always told people you know I hope they never ever ever play it again.
K: Yeah no, it had its time and place. To play it now would be… eh
R: Go play it in Helsinki and never play it again.
K: (Laughs) Exactly, that’s right. That’s how we like to do. We like to piss off our fans.
R: That’s the way to do it. But again, thanks so much.