Certain expectations come with seeing a band fronted by Kat Bjelland. As former frontwoman for seminal riot grrl act Babes in Toyland, her trademark sounds were a catscratch voice that hit you like a bitchslap and a tankload of controlled guitar feedback. If you're expecting the same from her new band, Katastrophy Wife, you won't be disappointed.
"My whole life, I've always wanted to be involved in music," says the diminutive Kat. "I wanted to play a guitar when I was in second grade, but my parents bought me the wrong kind. They bought me a big neck flamenco guitar, and I couldn't put my hands around it. I think I really just wanted to write and sing, but I couldn't find anyone who played guitar how I thought it should be to my voice, so I learned how to play guitar. I had a few lessons from my uncle, a beginner course, but after that I would just make up chords and show them to him."
Years later, after the formation and dissolution of a slew of groups (including one with her guitar-tutoring uncle), Kat's got a new bandÐthis time featuring the talents of her husband, drummer Glen Mattson and bassist Keith St. Louis. "I've been in other bands with men, but this is probably different because I'm playing with my husband," says Kat about the lineup. "Being in bands with women is just a totally different dynamic, compared with playing with menÐI couldn't really put my finger on it. I know guys don't seem to take criticism about their playing as personally as women do, and that's something I've noticed with all the women I've played with. I think it may be because making music is more personal to women."
Despite rumors to the contrary, the cast of Katastrophy Wife (and Kat's son, Henry) are not moving to Europe. "Oh, God, that's such a stupid rumor," groans Kat when I bring it up. "We were just going to go tour over there, and then this label suggested that maybe we could spend more than a touring amount of time there, but that was just talk. Record companies are kind of flaky and weird about what they say and what they do. They're two completely different things."
Although actually finding a label suitable to release the Katastrophy Wife debut has been problematic, final production on the CD itself is well underway. Even the cover art is done: an original, Led Zepplin-esque collage designed by Glen Mattson. "I'd like to have a CD release party of my own for the album," adds Kat, whose most recent show was to open for Mark Mallman for his CD release party. "I've never gotten to have one before, and they look like fun."
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