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'Helping Ears and Staying True' - Interview with Kathy Peck
By Tj Orlando, FemaleMusician
(more articles from this author)
2001-06-31
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[FM] You are the co-founder and executive director of H.E.A.R. (hearnet.com), in a nutshell explain H.E.A.R.'s purpose for our audience.

[KP] H.E.A.R. has been recognized around the world for its diligent pioneering efforts both to educate the public on the dangers of excessive noise, and to provide adequate hearing protection to music fans and musicians. From public service announcements in mainstream media, to information and earplug tables at concerts across the U.S., H.E.A.R. is dedicated to promoting awareness of hearing damage. Since our inception in 1988, H.E.A.R. has received support from some of the most respected, popular, and influential names in the music and medical industries.

Hearnet.com is our interactive website that is updated regularly, providing information and resources on tinnitus, hearing loss, hearing evaluation referrals, in ear monitors and assistive listening devices (ALD's), as well as a referral service of audiology affiliates, ear doctors, and entertainment links. In addition to distributing information, H.E.A.R. conducts hearing clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area. We produce school programs public service announcements with music celebrities for national radio, TV and cable networks.

These great accomplishments are due to a dedicated core of volunteer efforts and the grassroots donations that keep us going. Board members include: myself, co-founder Flash Gordon, MD, Jerome Goldstein, MD, past Executive VP of the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, John Doyle Atty, Mont Stong, M.S., CCC-A. HEAR Audiology staff: Mont Stong, M.S., CCC-A, Jonathan Lipschutz M.S., CCC- A, Robert Baker M.S., FAA, Andrea Bourne, M.A., CCC-A and over 100 H.E.A.R. Affiliate Health Professionals and Music Business Professionals who support our work with www.hearnet.com H.E.A.R. is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) and is neither state nor, federally funded.

[FM] You are a renown bass player/singer-songwriter who has played shows with Duran Duran, The Jim Carroll Band, The Go Go's, The Blasters, Onigo Boingo, X, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and many many others. What current projects are you involved with?

[KP] Thanks! I love the bass and writing music. We just did a reunion of our seminal all girl band "the Contractions" at the "H.E.A.R. THIS" CD release benefit party. It was our first reunion in over 10 years. It was really incredible for me to play again. It is like riding a bike. But even better my energy and music creativity has come back as if I never stopped.

My life had really changed when I experienced the loss of my hearing and Tinnitus damage after the Contractions opened up for Duran Duran. The screaming little girls I think it was. I did not know at the time but, I also had a conductive loss that I was only able to correct with surgery after 10 years of wearing hearing aids in both ears. I still am left with the noise induced hearing loss but, I am able to hear without aids and manage my tinnitus today. Playing the bass was only a memory for many years. Although my life was full with building the H.E.A.R. organization and keeping very busy by helping others, I needed to bring back my old self, the creative side of my life back to really heal.

Ginger Coyote of the White Trash Debutantes had helped to put the "H.E.A.R. THIS" CD together for us with an amazing array of 28 bands. Ginger encouraged me to get the Contractions to sing a song because we were on the compilation of new school, old school Rock and Punk bands. The CD has some great bands and great female musicians on it. Texas Terri, WTD, Penelope Houston and the Avengers, Nyna Crawford of the Vktms, Shoen Knife, Mary Monday, and much more. You can find it at Tower Records or at www.subcity.com.

Well, what was suppose to be a song turned into an hour and a half set for the Contractions and a gig offer for the San Francisco Symphony's Black and White Ball Benefit and a recording session to follow.

I had musicians earplugs made for my bandmates at the H.E.A.R. clinic. They are all wearing them and benefiting from them. I sing and play bass in the trio and with musicians plugs I get the protection I need and the confidence that I am not hurting my ears.

H.E.A.R. projects I am working on range from PSAs for MTV and VH-1, Active Physics textbooks and H.E.A.R.'s " CAN'T HEAR YOU KNOCKING" video program in U.S. High Schools, outreach at live music clubs and raves, free clinic nights, benefits, HEARNET.COM, H.E.A.R. Records and looking for good interns or volunteers to help with these projects.

I recently was given the key to Northeastern University in Boston for my advocacy work in the prevention of hearing loss through education. It was a great honor to receive from the Dean of the University. Mary Florentine and the Department of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology honored me with a dinner . We gave a presentation panel discussion on "Deafening Sounds" a PBS documentary which featured my work with H.E.A.R..

[FM] How do you handle managing your artistic career with your music related not for profit organization.

[KP] I have no choice. Music was my life for many years. When I was not able to continue with music because of my hearing loss and tinnitus, starting H.E.A.R. helped me to not only help myself but, to turn my live around from a disaster of loss to a life of helping others prevent what I had experienced. But more recently I needed more in my life. I needed to gain my creative side back as I was not a complete person without it. And man did it come back after literally 10 years of not playing.

[FM] Share an experience, from a woman perspective, how the music industry has either embraced or abandoned you as an artist or business woman?

[KP] Contractions formed in 1979. Very few all women bands were ever signed. It was more like the token girl band of the year. The labels only promoted one at a time it seemed. And they wanted cookie cutter cute girls. Yuck! We wanted to rock and hang our guts out to dry. Mary Kelley is the Contraction's guitar player extremely creative and Debbie Hopkins kills on drums. When I joined the Contractions Mary and Debbie were seasoned musicians. I had new songs I wrote and I listened to PUNK rock in the era of Disco Duck. I was not a great bass player then but, they whipped me into shape quickly.

We use to play lots with the DKs (Dead Kennedys), the Avengers, Offs, Pearl Harbor, Dils, Skanksters, Bonnie Hayes, Romeo Void, Jim Carroll, Elements of Style, Social Distortion, Flipper, Bad Posture, Mutants, Nuns, Crime, Vktms, X, Los Microwaves, Wilma, Varve, Slits, Esmerelda, Big City, Looters, The Lewd, The Sleepers, Blasters, SVT and Chris Isaak. I remember one show with the Cramps, the Contractions and the Fried Abortions at the Mab. My old pal Dirk Dirksen " the Pope of Punk" and infamous impresario at the Mabuhay Gardens (Fab Mab) put that bill together. There were actually lots of great women playing at that time, Blondie, Susie and the Banshees, Patti Smith, Joan Jet, Chrissy Hinde. Many were the pioneers of what is flourishing in music today.

The early alternative bands created the tour routes and passed their info onto the next band. Clubs and college radio, and Xerox mags like the Punk Globe and Search and Destroy were how we communicated and publicized our black and white art form.

The Contractions helped build a recording studio "Truth and Beauty Labs", started a record and publishing company "Q and D Records and Quick and Dirty Publishing" and booked our own tours. More successful small, independent, and artist propagated record labels were founded here in the Bay Area than anywhere else in the world by then. Alternative underground radio was just newly formed in the San Francisco Bay Area and flourished with help of KUSF, KSJO and KALX.

During the time of the late 70's and early 80's post hippie and post disco era the Mab opened its doors on Broadway in San Francisco to PUNK and Hard Rock. Much is written about the New York, Los Angeles or London Punk scenes but, San Francisco was a lucid thriving creative music center reminiscent to the cultural explosion of the Paris art scene in the 20's. Rap was starting, Hip Hop, Punk, Metal, Power Pop, Ska, Performance Art Bands, World Beat and New Wave.

Disposable stapled photocopied black and white art designed to be trash. The idea of throwaway art, no musical boundaries, no rock gods was taking hold and it was equal rudeness for all. Out of this musical cauldron came a spontaneous proliferation of aggressively antithetical bands to the original San Francisco Sound of hippie style bands and the first real onslaught of all women bands. Girls Watch and Boys Played. HA! The underground scene made it more than ok for women to come out and get down. The Contractions loved to jam for hours. We were different. We didn't even know it. We were musicians first and girls second.

[FM] Do you feel H.E.A.R. and HEARNET.COM has attracted more attention towards your artistic project?

[KP] I feel that I can be creative with my work for H.E.A.R. and HEARNET.COM I have learned to wear many hats: advocate, producer, web master, board member, executive director, fund raiser, promotions, business manager, health care professional, counselor. It is fun for me to work with others on many different creative projects all for a good cause. HEARNET.COM receives over 2 million hits and growing. H.E.A.R. reaches out to people worldwide.

The Contractions may actually be reunited because of the "HEAR THIS" CD project. Its all good. I am so glad that I will always have music for myself to be creative.

[FM] You shared with us that there were some legal issues surrounding Hear Net. Briefly explain.....

[KP] Can't really.

Our web site www.HEARNET.com was on the internet since 1995 before Netscape, when there were only about 1,000 web sites compared to 70 million now. Several big corporations sued us in Federal Trade Mark Court for our web site name. All I can say about it is that we are still HEARNET.COM.

I thank my background of being a women in music for many years and the guts it brought to get me through it all.

[FM] What advice can you give other female musicians out there that are juggling a bundle of jobs to stay true to their art?

[KP] Live your dream and dream your life.

[FM] What bit of advice can you give our young audience regarding their hearing?

[KP] Protect your hearing. Protect your career. Hearing loss and Tinnitus do not have to be a fatality of the music biz.

I was lucky to have my hearing restored but, that was because I had an unusual combination loss that could be corrected by surgery only after a long period of time suffering. But, Noise Induced Hearing Loss ( NIH) and Tinnitus can be permanent and career ending. Practice Safe Hearing and Listen Smart.

If you think you might have hearing loss or ringing in the ears contact H.E.A.R. for help. We have Affiliates all over the U.S.A. and in some foreign countries. Contact H.E.A.R. at www.hearnet.com or, write H.E.A.R. PO Box 460847 San Francisco, CA 94146, or call 415-773-9590.

You can also help by supporting H.E.A.R. at your gigs, linking to our web site, donating a song track to H.E.A.R. Records or telling your friends.

[FM] The Female Musician applauds you Kathy Peck, and wishes you much continued success!!!

[KP] I also applaud your great efforts for female musicians. We all need to stick together and take the time to be good to each other.


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