Katastrophy Wife’s Kat Bjelland gets her Heart-On
“There’s so many pussy bands on the radio that just aren’t pissed off with anything anymore! Nobody has any balls to say what they honestly feel!”
Obviously, that is not the case for Kat Bjelland, who has no problem vocalising the truth. Her truth. “Just be honest. It’s such an easy concept. It’s not brain surgery”. It is with this unyielding conviction that the former Babes in Toyland leader forms the basis of Katastrophy Wife.
Formed in the basement of her home in 1999, while she was pregnant with her now seven year old son, up to the seventh month until she could no longer get a whole breath out and was playing her guitar strapped to her side, Bjelland decided that, after a few lineup disintegrations, she would make Katastrophy Wife her project and only hers. Though she is joined by partner Adrian Johnson on drums who also doubles as her manager, Bjelland declares on her own website that from “here on in [she] will only re-incarnate [her] self. That being someone who loves to write and create music.”
“I’m actually also looking for another guitarist to free me up so I can play some more lead guitar rather than chords,” she cackles down the phone. “Preferably a girl. But I’m not biased!!”
There is many a testament that declare Bjelland a pioneer of the early 1990s ‘riot grrl’ movement. Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre), to name but one, admiringly places Bjelland up on the pedestal as a woman who “is not only a great musician, but also someone who, intentionally or not, has reshaped culture, allowing other women to run through the door!”
Now, after a 20-plus year career behind her, including a project called Sugar Babylon formed with Hole’s Courtney Love and L7’s Jennifer Finch, Bjelland is more centered and focused than ever before. Ready, no doubt, to kick down some more doors (and possibly a few buildings) with the release of Katastrophy Wife’s new single Heart-On, released through Australian label Rish Records.
“Heart-On is the first song Adrian and I wrote together, and it’s a sex song, think about it,” Bjelland explains warmly and with all the sass expected. “Adrian went through two open heart surgeries in the space of a year! It was really intense. The metal heart valve they used – that’s the picture on the back cover of the CD.”
There is clearly an incredible connection between the couple. Bjelland insists that working with her boyfriend, manager and drummer has caused no friction that eats its way into the romantic relationship they have. “Honestly,” she insists. “Everything has been perfect!”
This sincere and beautiful bond has helped the couple stick together with complete loyalty and influence a major part of Bjelland’s songwriting, not only through Johnson’s open heart surgeries, but also with Bjelland’s, unexpectedly mentioned, schizophrenic episode. “I don’t know how I’ve progressed musically as such but a major influence in my writing was dealing with my whole schizophrenia episode,” she explains. “I actually haven’t spoken to anyone much about this. Dealing with multiple personalities was extremely difficult because some days I didn’t know who I was or where I was at. I was very lucky that Adrian stuck by and helped me through it all. So obviously that was going to affect some of what I wrote about.”
The single also contains a messy and ball-tearing version of Iron Maiden’s metal anthem Run to the Hills. “It was on rotation at home and Adrian said that it would be such a good song to cover and that the only artist he could see doing it would be either me or Jack White,” Bjelland explains. “So I did it!”
When suggested that a possible rivalry between the bands could become a result of her enthusiastically beating the male half of The White Stripes to the punch of covering classic metal songs, Kat asserts charmingly: “No! Don’t you dare! I love The White Stripes! In fact, my first date with Adrian was to go see The White Stripes and he even picked me up in a Limo. I want to tour with them.”
And so, the tour rumours begin and what lies in the future for Katastrophy Wife. “Well, there have been talks recently about me playing some festivals down there so that would be really exciting,” Bjelland says.
She will also be returning to the studio with her other half in August to record the next Katastrophy Wife album, Pregnant. Judging from the Heart-On single, it is no doubt going to be more gut wrenching, powerfully lyrical and ferociously seductive than anything Bjelland has released before.
So will it be months worth of listening to angry and emotional music to inspire the record? “Actually, I listen to a lot of classical and old blues records or nothing at all when I record,” Bjelland says. “Then I just write from what I feel in my heart.” Boasting a record collection that reaches the ceiling and is over 7’ across, Bjelland points out that she has more than enough listening material to keep her occupied. “Adrian listens to a lot of radio so he’s a good mediator between me and what’s on the current playlists,” she continues. “He filters through all the shit so I don’t have to do it!”
Katastrophy Wife have previously released two albums, Amusia and All Kneel, and the new single Heart-On is available through the new Australian label, Rish Records.