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Exclusive: Kathleen Hanna on changing as an artist, new band The Julie Ruin

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After a several year absence from the spotlight and the stage, Kathleen Hanna is back in a big way. 2013 saw the release of “Run Fast”, the first album from Hanna’s new band, The Julie Ruin and “The Punk Singer”, a documentary film about Hanna’s career, activism, life and times. During an interview about the film Hanna also spoke about what’s up next for The Julie Ruin, how she has changed as an artist since her Bikini Kill days, and if she’s still into the fanzine scene.

As busy as she’s been working to support both “Run Fast” and “The Punk Singer” Hanna isn’t looking to take a vacation any time soon, in fact it seems fair to say that she is relishing being back in action.

“I want to tour! We just went on a three week jaunt and then we just did a couple one-offs here and there. We’re going to play Art Basel in Miami in December and I’m DJing and doing all this stuff. I’m like, I just wanna be on the road and I wanna be playing shows cause it’s been really incredibly fun and I haven’t had any problems with my voice, I haven’t had any problems with my health, so I’m excited to just get back on tour,” she said.

“Yeah, I want to write another album, but to me singing the songs off this album, I want to do that everywhere. Everywhere!”

Although Hanna did attend SXSW in support of “The Punk Singer” she and The Julie Ruin didn’t get to take the stage at the festival; however, in the months that have elapsed since then, that has changed.

“I mean I kind of wish we would have [played SXSW], but it was before I was physically able to do that, and now I am,” she explained. “We actually just played the Fun, Fun, Fun festival in Austin. It actually really was fun, fun, fun. I was worried it was going to be fine, fine, fine,” she added with a laugh.

Hanna spent her fair share of time touring with both Bikini Kill and Le Tigre as well, and though her desire to be on the road has not diminished--if anything, it seems it has even been rejuvenated as she has made strides in her battle against late-term Lyme disease--she does feel that she has changed as an artist in terms of her process and motivation.

“I think for right now I really have changed, with the recent album I just didn’t want to think about the audience because a lot of the stuff that I’ve done has been audience based, and about sort of, not pleasing an audience, but about giving an underserved audience the music that they are not given and speaking to people who aren’t spoken to through music. That’s always been really, really important to me.”

“I really for this record especially, because I wasn’t altogether well and it took us three years to make, I just wanted to see what the songs wanted to be and not stress out and not be a control freak,” Hanna said. “I think that’s very different than the way I’ve typically worked before. I’ve always done things in a really conceptual manner and in a real audience-based manner and I think that’s what’s changed about my process.”

“I don’t want to be a waitress serving a community anymore...I’m really proud of what I’ve done before but, you know, I need some me time,” she said, laughing. “I’m making art for myself now.”

In the days of Bikini Kill and the height of the riot grrrl movement Hanna was also known for collaborating on fanzines, which were a key part of the riot grrrl movement, but do they still hold fascination for her?

“You know, not so much. I mean, I actually really want to make a digital fan zine on InDesign ‘cause I’m really into computer graphics and I think that making a book that’s specifically like a fanzine that’s online where you can flip the pages and have an interactive element would be really cool, and you know click on a picture and it will take you some place crazy. I am interested in making something like that, but reading fanzines for me right now as a grownup is a little bit weird, unless it’s something really beautiful,” Hanna said.

“When I get ones that have hand drawings in them, or the last really great fanzine I got was many years ago, where this girl went to every Super Cuts in like 10 different states and then she wrote a review of the Super Cuts and she drew pictures of all of the haircutters. It was just like totally funny, and really beautiful. Those kind of fanzines I’m really into,” she explained, “but kind of old school like crusty punk fanzines I’m a little like snoozy bored at, cause it’s like, you know, just do a Tumblr.”

“I sound like an a**hole, I know, it’s really bad, but… It’s like if you’re going to make something on paper, make it worth it and make it really beautiful, don’t just make it a bunch of the same old clippings out of the newspaper and don’t make it look like it’s the 90s, ‘cause it’s not the 90s anymore.”

To see Kathleen’s take on being the subject of a documentary and read the rest of the interview, click right over here.


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