We are Kitten
and we're better than you...
interview
Jutta Koether

KITTEN IS A BAND WITH JUST TWO GUITAR PLAYERS: KIM GORDON FROM SONIC YOUTH AND JULIE CAFRITZ, WHO PLAYED IN THE FIRST LINE-UP OF PUSSY GALORE AND IN SEVERAL OTHER BANDS LIKE SPT, ACTION SWINGERS AND EVEN ONCE WITH THE VELVET MONKEYS. KIM ALSO HAS AN ARTISTS' APPROACH, SHE STUDIED ART, ABANDONED IT FOR MUSIC AND IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM COVERS OF SONIC YOUTH. THEIR SHOWS LAST 25 MINUTES AND DEAL WITH THIN ASSES, VIOLENCE AND BEING SHOPPING VICTIMS. THEY ARE FULL OF IN-JOKES (ďTHURSTON MOORE - WHAT A BOREĒ - THURSTON MOORE FROM SONIC YOUTH USUALLY DOES THE LIVE-MIX FOR KITTEN). THEIR MUSIC BLENDS AGGRESSIVENESS WITH TENDERNESS, AS BOTH QUALITIES ARE FOUND IN THE MUSIC THEYíRE LISTENING TO: PUNK, HARDCORE, RAP, PLUS THE MUSIC THEY USED TO PLAY IN THEIR SEVERAL OTHER BANDS. THEY WEAR KITTEN-NECKLACES, SKI-CAPS OR BASEBALL-CAPS WITH CANNABIS LEAVES. THEY INCLUDE ALL KINDS OF FEMALE ISSUES IN THEIR PERFORMANCE; FROM STYLE TO THE LATEST PRO-CHOICE DEMONSTRATION IN WASHINGTON. KIMíS FAVOURITE PHRASE ďWOMEN ARE ANARCHISTS.Ē EVERY POSSIBLE USE OF THE GUITAR IS ALLOWED AND USED DURING THEIR PERFORMANCE. THEIR LAST SONG IS ALWAYS A QUESTION/ANSWER-PLAY THAT REFERS TO THE SITUATION, IN WHICH THEY PERFORM: THE VENUE, THE GROUP THEY ARE OPENING FOR, AND SO ON. THIS CAUSED TROUBLE FROM TIME TO TIME, WHEN THE NEXT GROUP FELT ATTACKED OR RIDICULED. BUT THEIR LATEST PROBLEM AS FEMINIST ANARCHISTS MIGHT EVEN FORCE THEM TO CHANGE THEIR NAME, BEFORE THEY ARE GOING TO RELEASE THEIR FIRST RECORD: A WOMAN CONFRONTED THEM AFTER A C.B.G.B.íS GIG WITH THE CLAIM THAT SHE HAD BEEN USING THE NAME KITTEN FOR A LONG TIME AS A DISCO PERFORMER. KIM AND JULIE ARE NOW CONSIDERING NEW NAMES LIKE U KITTEN OR FREE KITTEN.

Jutta Koether: THE LAST LINE OF YOUR SET IS ALWAYS: ďWE ARE KITTEN AND WEíRE BETTER THAN YOU...Ē

Julie: Well, thatís the punk-rock-thing, that when you attack somebody or something, you triumphed already.
Kim: Maybe itís more a rap thing. In punk-rock bands we're competitive, but they weren't talking that much about it, whereas rap-groups are boasting about, who is better.
Julie: Up to that point very little in the song is scripted, itís freestyle.

IS THAT THE IDEA, TO DO SOMETHING FREE, OUTSIDE OF THE OTHER THINGS YOUíRE DOING ?

J: Well, Kim plays in a very structured band. But in all those groups we were in, we were not alone, we were for example in the rhythm section. I was expected to stay, even when the boys around me were going off. Yeah, here is a considerable amount of freedom. It seems to be a mixture of this punk attitude: letís just do it, with a very deliberate move to exercise freestyle.
J: Kim has a lot of freedom, because she is playing the guitar (sheís playing bass in Sonic Youth) and we both use an alternative tuning and I finally mastered my guitar playing outside of a conventional tuning. So I finally play the lead guitar, but I donít like the lead guitar, I donít like to listen to it. I can see that itís definitely more fun to play it than to listen to it. And I'm now vaguely more impressed by lead-guitarists. Vaguely, although I still think they should not be doing this, but Iím impressed that they can do it. But I wish they wouldnít.

WHAT ABOUT THE PERFORMING ASPECT? I MEAN, YOU DO A LOT OF THINGS ON STAGE. YOU ALSO DO A LOT IN SONIC YOUTH, BUT THIS EXPRESSIVENESS... LIKE ROLLING AROUND

J: Itís interesting...

BUT YOUíRE NOT DOING IT...

J: Itís interesting for... like Kim is the straight man and Iím asking her questions that I have set up, basically; so she is the straight man and I am the goofy one. But then she just drops and rolls around the floor.

AND HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? DID IT JUST HAPPEN?

K: Thatís rock.
(Laughter)
K: No, I wanted to do all the clichťs, like playing the strings with my teeth.
J: In Sonic Youth they are very competitive about this. Thurston usually goes off into his own world and Lee reacts to it. And Lee is very competitive towards Thurston. But with usÖ I stop when she stops, mostly I stop before herÖ
K: Thatís another thing. Boys usually donít see the benefit in not everyone playing at once, in stopping and letting the other person playÖ
J: They donít listen. Well, one reason is that they play their instruments longer and so, within a song they donít have to listen and to keep track with what the others are doing. Because they know it. I always had to be painfully aware of the others.

BUT THEY, EVEN IF IT APPEARS THAT THEY ARE PLAYING OFF TRACK OF EACH OTHER, THEY DONíTÖ

K: Sometimes they do. I think we do it much more often than others.
J: Yes, you guys are doing it more than other bands.

BUT WITH SONIC YOUTH THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT THINGS GOING ON AT THE SAME TIME, WHEREAS IN YOUR CASE THERE IS NOTHING BUT THAT, AND SO IT BECOMES A DIFFERENT THING. IT JUST BECOMES MORE RELEVANT. AND I LIKE THAT IT IS SO INSISTENT. THAT IT HAS TO BE DONE.

J: I think boysÖ Even when they go completely wild on their guitar, they know what theyíre doing. They do that because they master their instrument. But the total open-endedness with KittenÖ To them is kind of scary. When they start a punk rock-band because they canít play, then they just play three chords, the three chords they can master. They donít play things they may not be able to.
K: In a way there is nothing scarier than playing two guitars without a drummer.
J: As long as a band has a drummer, whether you like them or not you can always tap your foot.

THE RHYTHM. BUT HERE ITíS MISSING.

K: Itís gone.
J: Itís sometimes really scary to play. Itís not that you can listen to this person pumping in the backÖ When I play I like to zone out. And I like to listen to someone in the back, but I canít listen to Kim, I canít hear her, because the sound is bad.

WHY DONíT YOU SING?

J: I canít sing and play. And I like to play. Kim is encouraging me to sing and play, she is much more comfortable with that.

I WAS JUST WONDERING, BECAUSE THAT SONG IN THE END, WHEN YOUÖ O.K. YOU DONíT SING, BUT WHEN YOU TALK, IT ADDS SOMETHING TO THE WHOLE THING.

J: Iím very into singing one or two songs, thatís why it looks that Iím really keen on the mike. But I wouldnít like to sing all the time. I don't know how to approach certain songs, even if I could sing them, so I make Kim sing them.

HOW DO YOU CALL YOUR OUTFIT? GANGSTER-PUNK?

(Thurston Moore comes in, overlapping talk)
J: Yeah, itís true Thurston suggested the ski-caps.
Thurston: What are you talking about, Gangster-Punk? An answer to Gangster- Rap: Gangster-Punk
T: Then it should be Gangster-Style.
(More talk, not understandable)
Sisters for the brothers?
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