MY HERSTORY" by Johanna Fateman
Around this time, I started making a fanzine called Snarla with my best friend from high school, Miranda July. We made about six issues over the course of 3 or 4 years. It would probably be grouped in to a confessional genre of writing associated with Riot Grrrl Press in the early/mid 90s (and Snarla was actually distributed by RGP briefly), but our style was more aloof and abstract. One of the best things about making a zine was having an excuse to walk up to someone I thought was cool and give her a copy, which is how I met Kathleen Hanna.When Kathleen moved to Portland and wanted to move into my house and start a band with me, how could I say no? I had just dropped out of school and was working at a used clothing store/Halloween warehouse, wishing something cool would happen. I lived in a house called the Curse with a bunch of girls who never did the dishes. The house was infested with possums, but there were beautiful roses in the front yard. I bought a bass for $60 and my friend Radio Sloan built an amp for me that looked like a haunted doll-house with a speaker. She taught me how to tune and how to play the bass-line of Planet Earth by Duran Duran. I was in the Troublemakers with Kathleen and Molly-16 as well as a band called the Mandy Sturgill anti-sex BMX Space War with Radio, Bella Foster, and Mandy Sturgill. We built a stage in the basement of the Curse and drove the neighbors insane.Art school seemed like a good way to get to New York. Believe it or not I have a BFA in painting. In school, my thing was painting dogs, cats, skunks or girls in an impressionist/cake-frosting style on backgrounds that looked sort of like famous colour field painting, and making fun of the fake bohemianism and retrogressive values endemic to art school culture. I still made zines, but my subject matter was totally different. "The Opposite, Part I" was a "fanzine about art" and was an experiment in writing about disparate areas of culture (i.e. conceptual art, modernist painting and feminist performance) in the same voice. "ArtaudMania!!! The Diary of a Fan" and "My Need to Speak on the Subject of Jackson Pollock" followed shortly thereafter.
When I graduated from art school I had trouble making ends meet between various jobs assisting artists, art dealers, working at a coffee shop, and temping. When I didn't get a job answering the phone at Artforum, I became sub-contracted phone psychic for a number of national networks and I bought a cheap sampler and a drum machine. Then Kathleen moved to New York. She taught me how to use her 8-track and we started making music together again. By the time things really started coming together with Le Tigre, I was working full time at a non-profit art space. It was really difficult to work full days and then go to "band practice." At that time it seemed like we spent most of our time trying to figure out how to get our crappy equipment to work and we clung for dear life to rare moments of inspiration and discovery. But the hard work paid. In the fall of 2000 when we went on our first full U.S. tour I was able to quit my full time job. Even though we are still just scraping by, I felt like I had finally "made it" in New York! I still can't believe that making art with two of my best friends is my "job."
Tigre has kept me super busy for the past few years, but I have worked
on a few other projects also. I was the sound designer for experimental
videomaker Cecilia Dougherty's "Gone"
and I have a solo music project called Swim With the Dolphins. SWTD evolved
from what I was doing in Le Tigre (using the same equipment and technical
skills we were developing together), but I wanted to depart from the performative,
collaborative, rock context of the band to do something more like the
"faceless" production associated with some electronic and dance
genres. In the winter of 1999 I made a 5 song cassette called "the
struggle for the full exercise of woman's equality." I dubbed a bunch
and gave it to my friends and people I met on tour with Le Tigre (i.e.
the rare girls who approached me to ask about how we made our music, what
kind of equipment we use etc.) The name "Swim With The Dolphins"
was inspired by a book of the same title, subtitled "How Women Can
Succeed in Corporate America On Their Own Terms." I have a couple
of tracks on a couple of compilations, but I haven't really released much.