The idea for this post actually came out some months ago, when I saw a post by a friend talking about an inspirational woman in music, and it got me thinking, after she agreed to take part in a then-nascent idea – could I ask other women I knew to do the same, to talk about the women in music that inspired them? And then I thought some more – I wanted to highlight women in music generally, so I only asked women I knew that are involved in music – be that band members, solo artists, DJs, writers, people “behind the scenes”. But did I know enough women who were involved as such, particularly as various statistics around the involvement of women in the music industry doesn’t provide an encouraging picture?
Tuesday Ten: 324
Tuesday Ten: Reader Takeovers
Well, yes, I do know enough. Lots of women I know are involved in music in one way and another, so lots of thinking happened, and I accelerated asking people to be involved so that the post would coincide with International Women’s Day today. Happily, I got a great set of submissions and some really interesting stories from a variety of women involved across the musical spectrum.
In other words, this is amodelofcontrol.com handing over to women in music to talk about their own experiences and inspirations. As always with these posts, the only editing I’ve done is to format them for this site, all words are the writer’s own.
Thanks to everyone who took part and wrote, or even took the time to politely decline (as I appreciate that not everyone I ask, when I do these kind of posts, will want to write, or won’t have the time).
Final thing, before I hand over: what were your primary inspirations?
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“I am the queen of Rock n’ Roll, and for this to not to be recognized is pure sexism.”
[from this interview]
I find myself drawn to enigmatic musicians over ones that come with artist statement in hand, more than willing to give all their secrets away in their influences, lyrics, and interviews. The quiet, non front-person in a band is an interesting role. I have to tell you, initially I really didn’t like this question. However, I think Poison Ivy really fits for me. She’s aspirational in a way that I don’t imagine artists becoming anymore.
I actually don’t want to know everything about her. She’s a guitar genius. She’s clearly a nerd for aesthetics, genre, and music. Beyond all this, though, I feel like she owns the Male Gaze in a way I don’t see this much these days. To play the guitar she did, in a bikini (with a machine gun), and control her image and presentation is extremely intimidating. This is a compliment, just to be clear. It’s hard not to paint with ignorant brush the paint of nostalgia over The Cramps, but at the time her efforts are doubled in their intentionality. I want and don’t want an interview with her at present day.
I considered many options for this list. Björk? PJ? Gordon? Deal? More than any of the options, Ivy is a testament to the enigmatic. I don’t need to know her. I know her art, and that’s enough.
selected by Tiffanie of Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand – look out for an interview with the band on this site soon
I was born in 1973 and first heard Patti’s song Because The Night in 1977 when I was four years old. My father than later played me Gloria from Horses. Smith’s voice was raw and powerful and struck a chord with four year old me, she was one of my first introductions to Punk and Experimental music. I was far too young to understand songs like Radio Ethiopia, that came a lot later when I got into Einstürzende Neubauten in the 90s. I started writing poetry at the age of 12 and again Patti’s influence could easily be seen in my writing. Dream of Life had come out in that time and it’s a beautiful and mature album.
A few years later I was just getting into protesting, first anti-hunting and later on at Twyford Down in Winchester, People Have The Power from Dream Of Life was often on my playlist during these years. Smith’s releases are often erratic, sometimes going for years without one, it was ten years before she released another album after Dream of Life, Gone Again deals with the death of loved ones and must have been a very hard album to make as her late husband Fred produced much of it. About A Boy is a song for Kurt Cobain, who was a hero of mine and I remember hearing it and just crying and crying. Patti had a lot of sympathy for Cobain as she had experienced the worst excesses of the music industry and it takes a very strong person to say no to all the temptations that take you away from your creativity.
Certain songs of Smiths always hit me hard and Radio Baghdad from Trampin’ was another that has struck a chord with me. This perfect song is about a mother who sings her child to sleep in the middle of a bombing. Growing up in the Cold War, the horrors of war were always at the forefront of my mind and I went on to protest against the Iraq wars in the 90s and the early 2000s. This Is a Girl from her last album Banga is about Amy Winehouse and whilst I was not a fan, I can appreciate what talent she had and it’s always tragic to lose people with gifts in circumstances that can be so easily avoided. Smith is always on our side as another musician and a woman that has paved the way for us to be ourselves, she is someone who’s talent spans generations and is a strong and beautiful light in the world.
What a difficult task to narrow down many inspirational artists. My inspiration range is so wide! From the early riot grrrl sound of Bikini Kill to the angry garage sound of Red Aunts, or the unapologetic poetry of Lydia Lunch to the more haunting and fragile voice of Beth Gibbons. There is also the experimental and complex universe of Gazelle Twin. Who to choose?
Having to do so, I decided to pick the stormy Hanin Elias because she excelled at pushing the exploration of anger to the max and came up with excellent chops as part of Atari Teenage Riot as well as in her solo project. Hanin has been one of my role models for a long time. Incorporating personal anti-fascist political views, social activism as well as a high dose of female power, she managed to create an impressive stage persona, someone you really don’t want to mess with and that you respect. Her personal musical liberation and her fury resonated with my own rage. Also, at this point of my life, my interest started to slowly shift from female punk to incorporate more aggressive electronic sounds and build bridges between them. The aggression and sonic assault presented in the tracks Sick to Death, Rockets against Stones or Sex Police really grabbed me. You Suck was amazing too because Hanin experimented with a different yet interesting hip-hop orientated vocal delivery. Nowadays, even if I relate less to Hanin’s softer approach, I would still recommend this track called You Will Never Get Me.
The mix of lo-fi minimalist distorted music and a female crooner voice really spoke to me, opening new doors: why not break musical rules and conventions and mix musical elements that would not normally fit together such as the gritty and the soft, the angry and the plaintive or even the bleak and the hopeful? To this day, I am still driven by this antagonistic approach (even if I tend to be better at depict the grim and the bleak in my own opinion…).
selected by Marian of LOCKS, who support The Amazing Devil in London on 22-Mar, and release new material soon
For me what I find inspirational is when someone is unafraid to do things their way because they know what they’ve got is good or special. There are a few women I could name who do this that have inspired me but as an example Dolores O’Riordan sang in the way she did with a sort of traditional lilt. For me it is women who are proud of their traditions or the differences in what they do.
Cara Dillon is another. She takes very old songs that are dead and gone and breathes new life into them.
selected by Sharon Kyronfive, who at one point was an editor of Industrial Nation magazine and the assistant label manager of 21st Circuitry Records when she wasn’t busy tying plastic shit to her hair
I really tried to write about someone else. Really, I did. I thought maybe Gudrun Gut — founding member of Mania D and Malaria!, early member of Einstürzende Neubauten, and more recently, co-founder of the female electronic musicians network Female:Pressure. Great story, right?
But I’m just going to say what I think we all know and feel. There’s just something about Cosey. As women, we’re constantly juggling a selfhood of contradictions. The mother jostles with the career woman, the artist, the lover, and, no doubt, many more (I just picked my favorites here). But these things don’t all play nicely with one another, and life can sometimes feel like a futile attempt at competency in all of these areas without ever quite achieving fulfillment in any of them.
The thing that continues to inspire me about Cosey is that she seems to have found some sort of balance between her myriad of identities that feels completely authentic, realized, and devoid of incongruity. She’s the performance artist that performed naked in her own bodily fluids. She’s the founding member of a band that invented an entire genre of music. She’s one-half of industrial music’s most enduring love story. She’s an artist whose work has been shown in galleries around the world. She’s a one time stripper and pornographic model. She’s a mother. She’s a wrecker of civilization.
Women in industrial music have a bit of a credibility problem. If you’re in a band, no one believes you can play an instrument or write your own music. If you’re dating someone, he must have taught you everything you know. If you’re wearing a short skirt, you can’t possibly be taken seriously. Oh and now you want to go be a mother? It was nice knowing you.
Cosey defied all of that. She co-invented a genre. Her nude photos are in the Tate Modern permanent collection. And, by the way, remember Throbbing Gristle’s legendary 1981 final show in San Francisco? She was pregnant at the time.
The solace I get from her example is that, as women, we don’t have to choose a life as defined by fragments. We have the choice to show up completely as who we are—woman, artist, mother, lover, and no doubt many other things which, by the way, aren’t any of your fucking business.
There are so many women creating incredible electronic/industrial music right now that it’s difficult to not give them all a shout out. It’s beyond inspiring to see a grip of talented ladies crushing the stage with no fear of taking up space and controlling the presentation of their sexuality by being as confrontational and aggressive as it suits them.
The first woman I saw commanding a stage in such a manner was Shirley Manson of Garbage on the 1996 MTV VMAs.There was no choreography, no costumes, no bubblegum. She was up there in a short white dress and big black boots with a huge pink boa on her mic stand – reinforcing stereotypes while manipulating them to her will. Since then, she has continued to mix polished femme styling with a take-it-or-fucking-leave-it attitude that cannot be ignored. Her authenticity and presence inspires me to always be in the moment on stage and give everything I have to each performance. Also, she was a Terminator which is pretty badass.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Tamara Jenney, formerly of Alter Der Ruine and currently The Shift, for her immediate and direct inspiration. Beyond creating amazing sonic layers behind her Prophet 6, she mixes graceful fluidity with a captivating intensity that draws you in to her performance, which helped me to better understand how to be confident behind a keyboard and contribute to a high energy show.
Punk to me is more than a one-way costume. Black ripped clothes and safety pins are the typical uniforms that certain high street shops would have you understand as being the ultimate in Punk Rock 101. However, for me, punk is an absolute lifestyle and goes as far as to guide everything from your food choices (go vegan!), to the way in which you see every other person as 100% equal regardless of society’s assumed roles and stereotypes. Punk = self sufficiency in its TRUEST form and sticking to your ethos, regardless of what is popular or not. One woman who absolutely embodied this was Poly Styrene. Poly was a singer, songwriter and absolute activist to her very end. Her integrity and sharp tongue highlighting everything from racism to consumerism through all of the music she turned her hand to.
When Poly sprung on to the exciting London punk scene in the 70s in all of her day-glo, mixed-race, second-hand shop clobber, Brixton resident Poly cut microphones and stereotypes with her dental braces and formed her band, X-Ray Spex, following an advert to call out other ‘young punk who want to stick it together’. Poly actively called out sexual objectification by her male counterparts and literally stole shows with her pop lyrics and tracks such as Oh Bondage Up Yours!. Poly’s music to me, is a call to arms to question social norms, celebrate individuality and most of all, to embrace being a Grrrl in whatever form it presents itself in your daily life. Poly’s later years involved mental health diagnosis and later cancer that would be her end.
Poly’s ethos literally inspires my every waking moment and with that, directed me to work in the music industry. I cut my teeth working at music management company, ie:music, with industry leaders Tim Clark and David Enthoven (two VERY punk idols), before moving on to support artists in the Berlin scene. Following a stint working in mental health to bring new empathy to my music industry career, I assist Music Managers and Artists alike to realise their artistic dreams – all with very punk attitudes, too. My spare time is set to encouraging women and non-binary people to take up instruments and gain confidence via Girls Rock London and I also share my experience with others through charity, Music Support, a collective of industry experienced volunteers who support anyone in the music biz experiencing mental health crisis.
Björk to me is the epitome of a living, breathing being of pure artistic expression. Having complete creative control over her visual and musical expression from recording to art direction and design is the greatest inspiration! It’s proof that it can be done and done brilliantly. Furthermore her work is a sublime fusion of art and music that is 100% original and non mainstream which means the world to me as a designer/music obsessed alternative woman.
Kate Bush built her own recording studio to get the sound she wanted for her music – talk about impressive. She also kept full creative control over her musical and creative vision. Kate’s lyrics, musical compositions, choreography and costuming helped create a magical world for me to find solitude in as a child and solace as an adult.
Ani Difranco started her own record label Righteous Babe Records in the 90s so she could release her own music. Her lyrics and story telling me covering her bisexual views on life are very empowering and humbling. They reach a place in my soul that keeps me grounded.
Cyndi Lauper wrote Girls Just Wanna have Fun at 30. When I learned this it had a profound effect on my self worth as a woman who still just wants to have fun and for that to be okay in your 30s…and beyond!
Had to mention also: Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Adalita, Siouxsie, Viv Albertine, Chrissy Amphlett and Pauline Black from The Selecter.
selected by Jo of Desperate Journalist, who release new EP “You Get Used To It” on 30-Mar
I want to write about St Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) – a fantastically creative and dynamic composer, naturalist, theologian, poet, linguist and playwright. She is probably best known for her beautiful, soaring monophonic vocal compositions which enjoyed a bit of a surge in popularity during the early-mid 90s when I first encountered them via my mother, handily for me an early music fan (who helped make me this pretentious, there, we have it). Hildegard’s musical works are striking, highly emotional pieces which evoke a very human yearning in the context of religious song, much more so than that of most chants written around the period. There’s a beautifully natural matching of the cadences of the words with the lifts and falls of the melody which feels distinctly modern to me.
Such unusually present, ecstatic sung music was a product of Hildegard’s incredibly intense religious faith, which frequently and famously manifested itself in truly bizarre and terrifying visions – which she communicated compulsively in numerous writings and illustrations. She claimed to have experienced these from a very early age, and her renown as someone mystically gifted, along with her prolificity, creativity and eloquence led to her soon becoming a highly influential member of the Benedictine Order in Germany, something very rare for a woman of the time. She became able to openly criticise her superiors in the church effectively and held the various ears of Popes and even royalty.
As someone who isn’t religious, I don’t believe that these visions were actual communications from God (it has been suggested that they may have been extreme migraines or symptoms of some form of epilepsy), but I find the way that Hildegard filtered such intensity of feeling and conviction through a massive range of beautiful/surprising/thoughtful/accomplished multidisciplinary work, and the direct and tender manner in which she used that work to try and better her world and her church, quite moving. Not to mention she wrote some totally sick neumes (I’m so sorry).
This is mystical shit.