On Tuesday night I was lucky enough to meet the absolute rock legends, Kat Bjelland and Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland before their show in Covington, KY. We met at the Backstage Café to have a drink and chat.
IK: I read that Lori named the band but I’ve read this quote that I love from Kat, “boys and girls are all babes in the universe.” Where did the name and quote come from?
Kat Bjelland: (points to her head) It took me awhile to figure out (Babes in Toyland) was a Disney movie.
Lori Barbero: I have no idea where it came from.
KB: I thought it was appropriate because we didn’t know how to play that well, sorta like babes.
LB: Our instruments were our toys.
IK: Kat, how has your guitar set up changed over the years? Have you kept it mostly the same?
KB: Mostly the same. Except about ten years ago I broke my Rickenbacker. I used to play through a little Marshall. But now I play through a Tonetron amp which my boyfriend’s dad made for me from scratch. I bought a ’74 SG that I got from the girl from the Menstrual Tramps.
IK: So what is your favorite song to play?
KB: I like to play “Oh Yeah!” That’s my favorite to play.
LB: I like playing “Spun.” “Spun” is really fun for me to play, I get to do a snare roll and really smash the cymbal.
KB: I just like “Oh Yeah!” because I get to sing really fast which now is called rapping.
IK: What is your favorite band that came up with you in the 90’s?
LB: I have so many bands from the 90’s. I can tell you who I like now but there are way too many from the 90’s… I love Fea, our support act. I love Skating Polly who supported us in the UK. I also really love Le Butcherettes. Those are my three favorite American bands right now.
IK: At times your were grouped with being a riot grrrl band because of the whole gender thing but what did you think about the riot grrrl movement when it was happening?
LB: We were touring so much and it was just something that was thrown out there kinda like saying the difference between the loo and the restroom. If its an empowerment thing and all then that’s super great but… just because there’s females in the band its not riot grrrl… Music should be audio, not visual.
IK: Do you notice a difference in the way you’re treated now (as female musicians) versus when you started out?
KB: It’s a little different.
LB: There’s a lot more respect this time.
KB: There’s more girls in the front at shows.
LB: There’s a lot more women that participate in the scene which is really great. Power by numbers.
IK: You’re wildly respected by other musicians but how does it feel when people like Joan Jett or Exene Cervenka are in the crowd at your shows?
KB: It makes me really happy.
LB: It’s fun because they’re our cohorts, they’re our peers. I had heard of both of them before we were in a band and they’re people that I followed and respected like Patti Smith and others, just tons of them. And then you’re friends with them. They’re human beings too but you just have this bond and you’re so excited and it’s so fun.
KB: I met Joan Jett, I wrote a song on her “Pure” record and I got to play on it. I got to play her (Gibson!)
LB: I produced a few of (Fea’s) songs on Blackheart Records.
IK: Lori, do you still have your polaroids?
LB: I (only) have some of my polaroids because this asshole from Birmingham took my polaroids and made a poster out of all of the crowd shots, like hundreds of them and the band. I have the ones he didn’t get to steal. I know they still make polaroids but I just use my iPhone now. I still take photos of the crowds after I play and I’ve been doing that from the beginning.
Babes in Toyland are joined by 22 year old Clara Salyer on bass. Their tour will continue throughout the remainder of 2015. DO NOT MISS THEM! Kat Bjelland’s voice is as strong as ever and the band is absolutely one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.