DIVA came out yesterday, and I'm proud to say it includes a hat trick of interviews I wrote, with Peaches (on her upcoming album, hybrid DJ act and opera project), Stooshe (on London pride and not being feminists *sigh*) and, best of all, my first ever front-cover feature, an 8 page spread with Beth Ditto and Hannah Blilie of Gossip.
I first met Beth in 2009, at a squat house in East London when Sister Spit were touring. I was there to buy zines, talk up Wears The Trousers first print edition, and watch Michelle Tea and her troupe do their thing, and ended up being invited to read on stage with them - my first public speaking event as a writer! 3 years on, after PLENTY of unpaid writing experience, I found myself commissioned to interview Ditto for the UK's leading queer women's print publication. To talk with Beth again, this time under professional queer journo circumstances, was wicked rewarding.
Figuring out what it is to be someone who operates at this weirdo intersection where lo-fi, non-profit, queerpunk ziney stuff meets with grown-up employment as a writer for respectable broadsheets and glossy queer magazines is a trip. It means having each foot in a different world, and finding a way to reconcile that in a way that works on a personal/political level. I'm still navigating it all, and unlike Beth and co, still very much on a salad days income, but I flatter myself that there's a parallel to be had between this and the way Gossip manage their success in the mainstream. I guess living and working compatibly with your politics is something that a lot of people strive to do.
I asked Beth and Hannah how they maintain their queer punk feminist values in majorlabelsville, a sphere traditionally so patriarchal, heteronormative and corporate - not because I expected them to defend their success, but rather because I see their trajectory from tiny, fierce underground punk band to mega pop pin-ups as radical and inspiring, and I wanted to prompt that discussion. Gossip is a progressive, empowering force in pop culture, and I'd like to see more queerpunk bands succeed in this way, occupying the mainstream without compromising their values. Happily, they were both amiably receptive to the question, and, I suspect, glad to address it with a fellow queer lady writing for a queer women's publication. Hannah affirmed this when she spoke about how the majority of interviewers they encounter are either uncomfortable with or ignorant (?!!) to Gossip's identity and message/s as a queer political band. Context is everything, eh? Pick up a copy to find out how they answered.