The Girl in the Band

Kathy Freeman

as published in AND ALL AROUND WAS DARKNESS (Gregory Bull and Mike Dines – third in the Tales from the Punkside series)

The Accelerators. Kathy Freeman and Martin Yarker

 

Most of my adult life I’ve remained obstinately unaware of the unequal roles of men and women in the music industry and elsewhere. Denial? In hindsight, maybe it’s been a case of “don’t look down.” On a high and dangerous ledge it’s best not to think about the environment but to just get on with the task. Over the years I’ve been obliged to share bills with some wildly incompatible acts as an example of “Strong Women in Music” but never actively sought that role. All I ever wanted to do – and this hasn’t changed – is make music.

In mid-seventies Liverpool, I’d just about heard of the Runaways. The only female musicians I actually knew were the Women’s Lib posse in my neighbourhood, with their limp and tedious 12-bar strums about male chauvinism. It was SO much more fun to hang out with the boys, playing loud, loud, loud and practising aggressive downstrokes till my wrist ached. Which led me to co-found the Accelerators, playing rhythm guitar, as punk rock hit the Northwest.

Maxim's Poster

Women were getting a raw deal in those days, and I was stuck in an abusive relationship with the other guitarist, He’d slapped me across the face after a show for the unpardonable sin of losing his cable when packing up (and by the way, I don’t know to this day why I was responsible for his fucking cable) No friendly caring helplines and forums back then, dear reader. Yet It never even crossed my mind to quit the band. It was heaven, hell and dysfunctional family to me. I put another steel layer round my heart and got on with it.

The rush I got from hitting that stage as a team to play blazing rock n roll – coupled with the adventure of ceaselessly travelling the country in mechanically unsound vans and supporting the likes of XTC and the Buzzcocks – outweighed everything else. Sadly it also blinded me to what was going on in the wider music scene. Procuring and playing gigs was my life mission, and while the likes of the Slits and Siouxsie Sioux were busy rewriting female musical history I was probably shovelling coins into a payphone to talk to some dodgy pub landlord or helping load a PA into a van.

With their dogged policy of taking the opposite standpoint to everyone else whenever humanly possible, the Accelerators were deemed to be far from politically correct. We had a serious run-in with “The Feminists” who even picketed a show we were due to play*

To quote the band Magazine, I was shot by both sides.

*full account in No More Heroes, complete history of UK Punk from 1976 to1980 by Alex Ogg, extract viewable at www.kathy-freeman.de

The Birdhouse

Fast forward to the late eighties – once again I was the only girl in the band. This time it was volume eleven grunge rockers,The Birdhouse. Again my focus was on the playing – I didn’t want to think about sexual politics bla bla bla. But while they were generally respectful to me, the locker room banter of one or two of the band and male crew was anything but respectful to womankind.

Female band followers were generally referred to as “it”, not “she.” There were the crude remarks about the singer’s own unfortunate girlfriend who had “an arse the size of the moon” When, as the band was hanging out in some dingy Midlands aftershow room, the comment…”woah I’d like to give that a pearl necklace”…drifted across the room something snapped. I hurled my handbag at the floor (not the stuff of Amazon legend, but an effective conversation-stopper) and screamed at them to shut the f*** up. Lo and behold, by the next day the worst offenders had come separately to me with shamefaced apologies, each referring to the “alter-ego” mode that comes with being on the road. A kind of Jekyll and Hyde mentality which incidentally also excused them for not showering for five days on the run.

My time in The Birdhouse was up when they decided to become the next Guns and Roses (only to disappear swiftly into pre-internet oblivion) But the experience was duly processed into a song “Here Come the Boys” which I performed in my nineties punk-metal band Joyryde. This time fronted by women. “Strong Women” if you insist.

Joyryde GMB 96

Here Come the Boys

Well look who’s here, who’s just hit town

You better get some action, they won’t be hangin’ round

They’re lookin’ for love, they’re lookin’ mean

They know where they’re going - God knows where they’ve been

Here come the boys

They got social conscience, they really care

They know what’s right and wrong, and how to get their share

When it comes to women, they are the law

They don’t know what a woman wants- they know what she’s for
Here come the boys

He calls his girlfriend up – she’s not at home

Well that’s ok, he’ll never walk alone

Cause life’s for living, not self-control

And if you get diseases - that’s the way it goes

Here come the boys

Audio link: https://kathyfreeman.bandcamp.com/album/joyryde-1991-1998-london-recordings

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Fifteen nights in Maenam

SunriseNot sure which way is up after a 25 hour journey back to Berlin,  but more importantly,  the Blueshawk survived being slung  into the holds of three different planes. Plus I had a great time guesting with my partner’s band  in Maenam, Thailand.

Maenam (on Koh Samui) is a very special place, having not succumbed to over-development. It’s more or less owned by two or three wealthy Chinese families, who don’t want to emulate the neighbouring towns (overrun with sterile resort complexes and trashy tourist shops). Fact – Planning permission is denied for anything higher than a local palm tree. Fact two -People smile and greet you because they’re pleased to see you, not just your wallet.

No Indiana Jones style intrepid trips to the jungle-y mountainous interior for this English Rose. Don’t want scratched legs, exhaustion and bites from weird animals, thank you very much  (anyway you can get all that in Berlin).

Bikini pic

No jungle trips for me

Fridge Noir

Fridge Noir

Already in the sweetest spot on the island, when I wasn’t at a show or languishing in the apartment avoiding the heat I was fine with swimming in the ocean (circa 50 metres away) or strolling along the one principal street.  Enough impressions for a life time there.

Koh Samui is doubtless already well-documented by profi travel writers so that’s it from me. Here’s some more pics.

Dog legs

Dog

 

Scooters

Scooters

 

 

Audiences and other random stuff:

More about Kathy Freeman and her songs : Bandcamp   Facebook    Website

21st Century Troubadour

I love my second hometown, Berlin. I also love getting out of it and discovering the rest of Germany.

I'm ready

I’m ready

A gig is a great way to do that. On October 3rd, I travelled southwest to play a show in the Halunkenburg;  home to a group of charming and committed creative folk who give their all to preserving, and giving new life to historic sites and buildings in the Hof area of Germany. They rescued this medieval dwelling from misuse and deterioration, and it now functions as home, living museum, kindergarten, exhibition space, meeting place and occasional restaurant…. plus film and music venue, which is where I came in.

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The Lady on the Landing (perceived disturbingly as a real person once or twice en-route from my bedroom to the concert lounge!)

At the start of the show, there was a conversation about medieval minstrels, and how I was continuing that tradition; playing a stringed instrument and singing songs which tell a story. But – Big Important Difference  – I wouldn’t have done it happily without my trusty Boss analogue delay pedal which, while admittedly ancient, wasn’t around in the 14th century. A bizarre medieval picture comes unbidden to mind….”My liege, what is this outlandish contraption at the feet of yon Bard? Forsooth it maketh the sounds of the Devil!” …but I digress…

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My Trusty Delay Pedal

I played a very enjoyable show to a respectful – invites only, if you please! – audience, with the help of a  reassuringly modern P.A. system . It happened that artist Michael Etienne was present and he did a grand job of capturing the essence of my set on paper, sketching some surrealistic cartoon images while I played.

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Welcome to my subconscious

Resident Mouser

Resident mouser took a shine to my suitcase

Among the songs which were captured in Michael’s picture: You, me and Alcohol, In the Ninety Nine and Three A.M – all available at Bandcamp. (Drawing as you listen is optional)

More about Kathy Freeman and her songs here on the Website or here on Facebook

Hey, we LOVE your music!

Never trust people who are too effusive about your talent. They’re probably preparing to shaft you. I’d hesitantly accepted a gig offer from a man I met in a bar while doing another gig  (that’s life at the top for you. ) He was “Something-To-Do-With-Art” – big on dramatic gestures and statements, small on details. Naturally he LOVED my music. I was to play for a soiree at the obscure art gallery where he reigned supreme as creator, director, coordinator and all round bigmouth.   Eccentric patrons are par for the course in Berlin, and it should have been good fun – but this guy gave me the creeps.

Relax!…. Before I could even open my guitar case, I was ordered to ‘RELAX!” In a room with no chairs, with him leering at me.  He meant “Start drinking”. I didn’t get drunk. Only bored. Fast forward 60 minutes – I just – as ever – want to play a good show. People are there. People are interested. But he was hellbent on wrong footing me…….

There was the drawn-out “testing, testing” soundcheck routine – in  a room not much bigger than my living room -which could have been done on arrival. (see  My Thoughts About Soundchecks)  Then, the interruption of the first set, mid-song, with a blast of Hawkwind.  Artistic statement? Next, the “veggie meal part of the deal” …. While the visitors were happily tucking into to generous portions of Chile con Carne, inconvenient non-meat eater here gets a last-minute unbuttered bread roll with soggy tomato slices.

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Guten Appetit

But head and shoulders over these minor woes…..NO!  NO! NO! You DON’T have to embrace the performer and give her a sloppy kiss at five minute intervals because people are clapping. Throughout the entire evening he was drunk, overly gushing, and all over me. As a feminist I wanted to kick him in the nuts. As a performer I wanted to do my job. Couldn’t find a way to do both. Cue BURNING SHAME AND INNER CONFLICT….a real fun night out.

Adding insult to injury… Later,  preparing my exit, I get hauled into a toe-curlingly embarrassing public debate about what I should be paid and whose pocket it should come out of. The resulting underpayment was buried so deep in bullshit that I only realised on the way home. But hey – we LOVE your music…..

PS: The whole sorry experience was worth it because it inspired me to write this song, which features the amazing Chris O, queen of the Australian blues scene, playing some devilishly good slide guitar.

My sixty-hour weekend

The breakdown:

15 hours – watching Germany hurtle past a train window

21 hours – sleeping, trying to understand my new phone, and pottering around in the solitude of temporary bedrooms

21 hours – reuniting with old friends, making new ones, getting lost 50 metres from the first venue I was due to play at, strolling alone through spooky enchanted woodlands near the second, eating too much amazing food prepared by my generous hosts, some cursory sightseeing and soundchecks.

3 hours – the tip of this time-and-motion iceberg: One concert in Freiburg, and one in Waldstadt, Karlsruhe (about as far as you can get from Berlin without leaving the country) Both concerts were very informal and I was able to sing my own repertoire to a laid-back and receptive South German audience. Who really listened. My 1000 mile odyssey was well and truly worth it.   Big thanks to Lovis and Bella in Freiburg and to Matthias and Renate in Karlsruhe for hosting the concerts and spoiling me rotten.

Concert:  Photo by Matthias Jaehrling:

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Footnotes:

This audience member gets my songs! (photo by Mattias Jaerling)

This audience member gets my songs! (photo by Mattias Jaerling)

Finally tracked down the star of Kathy X album Life Number Nine (photo Matthias Jaehrling)

Finally tracked down the star of Kathy X album Life Number Nine (photo Matthias Jaehrling)

A gem from Matthias' vinyl vaults.

A gem from Matthias’ vinyl vaults.

you can check out LIFE NUMBER NINE and more on BANDCAMP  and read more about me on my WEBSITE

Ramblings about front room concerts, forgotten lyrics, and Amanda Palmer

Fact: Some people are invariably more into drink ordering, I-phone checking, hen partying or anything else under the sun than listening  to what’s on stage. Many musician friends feel deeply wounded by this apparent lack of respect. I’m not. Which makes me  totally Zen or totally in denial, or both. I just direct myself at the good folk who ARE listening and go with the flow.  And  corporate-type events  where I’m officially background ear candy are  actually great opportunities to experiment, and to improve on new or rusty repertoire.

However when I played a  Wohnzimmer (Front room) Konzert  two months ago near Chemnitz at the Scala Adorf  (official title of Micha and Kat’s front room, in the country village where they host monthly invite-only events) ……. something very different happened.

Everyone was listening in rapturous pin-dropping silence ……and that’s just while I looking for my plectrum. Ah, that’s what respect is! You have to truly deliver to deserve it. Time to  be totally focused, totally honest…. and to think on my feet.  I played the intro of one song, and then faced the singer’s ultimate nightmare – total lyrics blank. After 3 unusually long seconds, I announced that my subconscious was telling me not to play that song, and moved on. (and it’s still telling me, because I can’t remember which song it was) But the songs I did remember went down really well, we got that connection going, and I was firing on all four.  By the second set  it felt less like a poetry reading and more like rock’n’roll.

Cushion-cat watches me at the soundcheck.

Cushion-cat watches me at the soundcheck.

The Magic Carpet

The Magic Carpet

Micha is a massive Amanda Palmer fan, and this got me wondering how the evening would have gone with her at the wheel. Wohnzimmer concerts remove the filter of all those subplots that go on in traditional venues. It’s artist to audience undiluted. I’d read about how Amanda P had achieved total one-ness with her fans by letting them write all over her with felt-tip pens. While I got as far as encouraging them to sing along on a couple of numbers.  Maybe that’s why she’s made a million and I haven’t. But at least I didn’t have to stand in the shower afterwards for 20 minutes with a scrubbing brush and a jar of Swarfega.

My accomodation  was about six metres and a flight of stairs from the venue

My accomodation was about six metres and a flight of stairs from the venue

I can honestly say it was a great evening and I’m ready to do more like it! Especially if they make coffee like Micha does.

Farewell Scala Adorf (photo by Michael Reich)

Farewell Scala Adorf (photo by Michael Reich)

    You can hear some of the songs I played, and a shedload of other ones here at BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at  KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

Shot to Dust

It happens that Steven Spielberg is in town working on his next big production. I don’t suppose the catering facilities look much like these:

Time for Tea

Time for Tea

But the humble nearby China-Bistro, a kettle that took ten minutes to boil, and an ancient woodburning grill were more than adequate for fuelling myself and my tiny loyal crew as we shot my next big production in a derelict former coalminer’s house circa four hours, two buses and three train-rides from the comfort of Berlin.

The plan: Overnighting meant an early start for filming  my next music video. One shoot in a desolate downstairs room.

Between Takes

Between Takes

The second under a towering glowering autumnal skyscape. Only it was the clearest, sunniest day for that time of year since records began….No matter, we found a place where the sun don’t shine

Swamp

Down by the Swamp

More on the whole adventure in my next blog – watch this space and don’t fall in any swamps…..

 Shot to Dust  refers to the song title in the upcoming video. For regular updates on me and my musical adventures join the mailing list.

P.S…..

I don't suppose Mr Spielberg's makeup people are busy tipping old makeup bags upside down in the hope of finding THAT postbox red lippy to save spending 4 Euros in Rossmann's on a new one

The makeup here took some organising! (Are Mr Spielberg’s makeup people busy tipping old makeup bags upside down in the vain hope of finding THAT postbox-red lippy?)

Don't Get Too Comfortable

Don’t Get Too Comfortable   The closest thing to a worksurface that came to hand.  But we weren’t fazed. Don’t ask me what the knife was for.