New York Times Popcast

New York Times Popcast: The Return of Bikini Kill and the Long Tail of Riot Grrrl

3 minute Mecca Normal segment of the New York Times Popcast about Riot Grrrl features “I Walk Alone”

We recorded “I Walk Alone” as it was written, and released it in 1986 on our first LP on Smarten UP! — the label I created using the same name as my fanzine (subtitled: a How to Change the World Publication). The album was re-released by K Records in the mid-90s.

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The first LP (Smarten UP! Records, 1986) includes “I Walk Alone” re-released by K Records

“I Walk Alone Live” in 2015

Smarten UP! zine by Jean Smith mid 1980s, Vancouver

Smarten UP!, my mid-80s zine was “a How to Change the World Publication”

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Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill) Network, Toronto, 1992

It was interesting to hear one of the participants in the podcast lamenting the lack of live recordings of some of these bands, which is why David and I are thrilled about the new “LIVE in Montreal, 1996” album (Artoffact Records, 2019) which includes “I Walk Alone” as part of a 3-song feminist medley.

“I Walk Alone” has been in our set for most of the 35 years we’ve been playing. I almost always leave the ‘stage’ to go into the audience to sing it, something that has not been recorded and released until now.

Listen on Bandcamp Man Thinks Woman / Strong White Male / I Walk Alone “Live in Montreal, 1996”

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Mecca Normal entry in the New York Times Riot Grrrl Listening Guide

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New York Times

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Riot Grrrl United Feminism and Punk. Here’s an Essential Listening Guide

Politically, riot grrrl blasted feminism into the future

Mecca Normal ‘I Walk Alone’ (1986)

“Because of their geographic, sonic and political proximity, the Vancouver duo Mecca Normal got swept up in the categorization of riot grrrl, but in fact, Jean Smith and David Lester had helped inspire Hanna to pick up a microphone. They have also survived the moment, still collaborating to this day. “I Walk Alone,” from their first album, set the tone for much of what was to follow. It’s the anthem of a woman staking her claim to independence, solitude, home, safety, the streets and freedom. Bold, blunt, raw and feminist, it remains timely and necessary.” – Evelyn McDonnell

“I Walk Alone” is also on our new album in a three-song medley with “Man Thinks Woman” and “Strong White Male”

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LIVE in Montreal, 1996 is part of the CBC Radio Brave New Waves Sessions series (Artoffact Records, 2019)

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CKUT interview

Download or listen to the podcast of this broadcast here (available for 6-8 weeks after broadcast date). If the podcast doesn’t run smoothly (or disappears) I made a YouTube video of it using random Mecca Normal-related footage.

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Jean Smith Mecca Normal CKUT

This is Vince Tinguely’s last ever show on CKUT in Montreal! He’s been on the air every Tuesday since 1995… is that even possible? What a great time talking with him for TWO hours this morning (now that’s a proper interview!) interspersed with tracks from our new album Mecca Normal LIVE in Montreal, 1996 (Artoffact Records, 2019).

VIDEO: CKUT interview audio mash-up with Mecca Normal footage.

NEW ALBUM: LIVE in Montreal, 1996 from the Brave New Waves Sessions series on Artoffact Records, 2019

Recorded live in 1996 for broadcast on iconic CBC radio show Brave New Waves.
Jean Smith – vocals
David Lester – guitar
Peter Jefferies – drums

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The Best Punk on Bandcamp: April 2019

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“Experimental duo Mecca Normal have never followed trends. Their output over the course of their 30+ year career has centered around David Lester’s expressive guitar and Jean Smith’s fearlessness, both in thematic content and in vocal delivery. Which is what makes Brave New Waves an important part of their discography—not only is it the band’s first live album, it also features Peter Jefferies, who played with Mecca Normal briefly in the 1990s, on drums. Recorded in 1996 for broadcast on a now-defunct CBC radio program, the songs hit just as hard today as they likely did back then.

The seven-minute long mashup of “Man Thinks Woman,” “Strong White Male,” and “I Walk Alone,” three powerful feminist anthems, is particularly noteworthy. Over Lester’s defiant, and at times repetitive, guitar, Smith riffs on the white male patriarchy and the power of a woman walking alone through city streets. During live shows, Smith often leaves the stage during “I Walk Alone,” walking through the crowd and ad-libbing without a mic; on this record, we hear her do just that, her voice trailing off, while Lester plays a walking blues-ish guitar line. But it’s all a feint—a few seconds later, she comes back with a bang, growling: “Because it’s my right to walk anywhere, at any time of day, in any city, wearing whatever the fuck I want to / I walk alone.” It’s no wonder the Vancouver band served as an inspiration to the women who would go on to form Bikini Kill.” – Kerry Cardoza, BandCamp

LISTEN/BUY

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11 DAYS TIL BIKINI KILL IN L.A.: The Women Behind the K

11 DAYS TIL BIKINI KILL IN L.A.: The Women Behind the K

Lively article about the early days of K Records filled with info and music videos featuring Heather Lewis of Beat Happening, Tobi Vail, Candice Pedersen, Lois and me!

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photo: Jean Smith

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Magnet Review

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“Jefferies finds ways to complement the careening wildness of Smith and Lester’s interactions without reining them in.” – Bill Meyer, Magnet Magazine feature

Sook-Yin Lee CBC radio interview

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AUDIO: Sook-Yin Lee talking with Strombo about Mecca Normal in this national (Canadian) radio interview (CBC)

Sook Yin Lee (Canadian broadcaster, musician, filmmaker, actress) discusses her early musical projects, lessons learned from Mecca Normal’s Jean Smith, punk rock and existentialism.

3 hour, 27 minute, 30 second mark

“Mecca Normal led by Jean Smith, who was considered the god-mother of the riot grrrl movement. She was always somebody on stage, it was her and David Lester playing this very urgent and energetic beautiful but rusted passionate music that was very political and artful. Both of them are visual artists as well and I think they were part of the Black Wedge Tour, that was a very political movement of art and culture, and resistance, activism. Activism was key in that community growing up, and so yes, she was always on stage. And she was one of those people who half of the punks hated her and couldn’t stand the singing, “What is that noise?” and so many people loved her. They did feel to me in the very early days that they were kind of, you know, on their own path. Not necessarily of the crowd and completely full of conviction. This song is a beautiful song, its called “Throw Silver” and there’s something in Jean Smith’s voice that is like an injury, it’s like a wound, but it’s a wound that is healing, that is like a shard of glass that is beautiful. She encompasses these paradoxical gorgeous elements and she’s a real powerful, dynamic woman of words and painting and song.” – Sook-Yin Lee

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“Live in Montreal (1996)” review

“If you haven’t picked up Mecca Normal’s recently released Brave New Waves, a live recording from ’96 in Montreal with Peter Jefferies on drums, you are missing out. Tremendous.” – Bret McCabe (Johns Hopkins Magazine writer, arts journo, Baltimore, MD)

album cover Mecca Normal for CBC Brave New Waves session.jpg

 

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Rabble Interview: David Lester

AUDIO: the radical origins of Mecca Normal guitar player David Lester – long time mixer of art and politics, profoundly influenced by the Emma Goldman bio “Living My Life”

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“I Am Here”

Bikini Kill quote-about-Jean-2019-1Bikini Kill Records shared our video snippet of “I Am Here” on International Women’s Day!

“Feminism was not a phase or a failed experiment. We are here!”

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