Alice Bag is one of the leaders of the punk movement in California. She has never been one to shy away from the tough questions.
The former LAUSD teacher will be sitting down with Teri Gender Bender for a special Q and A tonight at the Museum of Contemporary Art. But in the meantime, California Rocker’s Donna Balancia caught up with Alice to ask her questions on life and the pursuit of equality in the current day.
CR: Do you think women are making strides for equality? Have they come up during the last 40 years? If so, in what areas. If not, what has been the problem?
Alice Bag: We’ve made strides but women are still making about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men doing the same job. We haven’t managed to make equal pay for equal work a reality and there’s still that glass ceiling that needs breaking…
CR: Do you admire any other women punk rockers of today? Who?
Alice Bag: There are so many! I love Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys, she is brilliant and has loads of fierce energy. I always have fun watching Allison Wolfe perform, she owns every stage that she steps on. I saw Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes perform at the Regent in LA recently; I watched her from the side of the stage and was completely mesmerized by her performance, she’s intense! Drew Arriola of Trap Girl is total punk chaos, in your face, frightening and thrilling. Kathleen Hannah and Allison Wolfe recently came to visit me in the studio when I was recording my new album, I invited them to sing on a song and they gave such wonderfully punk performances that I ended up going back and re-singing my own parts! They made me step up my game. Those two are wonderfully supportive and I’m grateful to them for making me work hard.
I’m also a huge fan of June Millington. She is not a punk rocker but she is a true pioneer. A guitar-wielding Philipina trailblazer who’s band, Fanny deserves much more recognition than they’ve received.
CR: What is your latest record?
Alice Bag: I’m in the studio now mixing a new record that will be called Blueprint. There is one older song on the record but almost everything else was written recently, most of it earlier this year. It’s pretty eclectic, I like a lot of different types of music and sometimes the various influences seep into my own compositions.
CR: What male mentors did you have coming up?
Alice Bag: My father was my biggest supporter. I had a complicated love/hate relationship with him because he was abusive to my mother, so even though he always built me up the fact that he tore down my mother made our relationship sweet and sour. My dad had a huge effect on me. He always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. Not a day would go by when I didn’t get compliments about how smart, beautiful and talented I was. His gift to me was confidence.
Nowadays my husband is my biggest supporter. He is generous with his praise but he also knows me very well and gently encourages me if he thinks I can do better. Recently he encouraged me to put together a benefit for Mexico and Puerto Rico. I had tried to organize a benefit concert in 1985 and it was not well attended. I had decided that I wasn’t a good organizer but he reassured me that I could do it, so I’m going to try again. It takes place October 12th at The Echoplex and will feature some of my favorie musicians, including Lysa Flores, Dorian Wood, Maya Jupiter, Trio La Victoria, Irene Diaz and Jessica Wild, I hope your readers can come out and enjoy a night of music for a good cause.
CR: Tell us a funny story about Madame Wong’s in the 1980s.
Alice: I don’t have funny stories about that place. A fight broke out while we were playing there one night and Madame Wong decided that girls in bands were a bad idea. She declared a ban on bands with girls in them for a few months after that show. When she did allow girls back on her stage, it was only the sweet power pop and New Wave bands, no real punk. We all went over to the Hong Kong after that.
CR: Who was your best friend in the 1980s?
Alice: I don’t know that I had a single best friend. I had friends for different situations. I was very close to my friend Susan Melendez who was at university with me. We both majored in philosophy so we spent many long nights discussing whatever we were studying. I was also very close to my bandmates. When you’re in a band, your bandmates become like family.
CR: Do you stay in touch with Martha Davis or any of the other SoCal women new wavers or punkers from the day?
Alice: I’ve never met Martha Davis. We didn’t really move in the same circles.
In those days, there was a line between New Wave and Punk, and I was definitely punk!
CR: What do women have to do to gain equal footing today?
Alice: Find common ground. We have to stop having a mentality of scarcity, someone else’s success doesn’t mean that there’s less for us. On the contrary, every woman that gets ahead moves us all a little closer to equality. We have to support instead of compete….Except at Scrabble, it’s ok to compete in that arena.
CR: What do you think of Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes?
Alice: I think she is a daring and creative artist whose performances are completely engaging. I’ve never met her but I’ve been interested in her work for a long time. She fascinates me.