When riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna traded her guitar-driven feminist anthems for much lighter fare with electro-punk trio Le Tigre, hard-core fans gasped. But the group — Hanna, Johanna Fateman and JD Samson — stayed true to its activist roots, save for one difference: You can dance to these diatribes.
“Whether it’s music or making art or videos, we’re still going to be feminist artists,” Samson says. “We all grew up punk rockers and we would never want to get rid of our feminist title. So much of the riot grrrl scene was really angry and made for the people that we were hating. We wanted to switch that around and make music for the people that we loved to come together, unify and have fun.”
To that end, Le Tigre has brought friends on board for This Island Remixes (reworkings of their 2004 This Island album), due Tuesday. “We’re involved in the dance music community so we’re always doing remixes of other people’s work and having other people remix our work,” Samson says. “Once This Island was completed, we gave out a bunch of tracks to a lot of remix artists and got so many things back we didn’t really know what to do with them.”
Vulgar electronic/alt hip-hop artist Peaches mixes “TKO,” while Denmark dance duo Junior Senior funk up “Nanny Nanny Boo Boo” and A Touch of Class offer their take on “After Dark.” “It’s a really different style,” Samson says. “We wanted different kinds of remixes that can be played in wild dance clubs and also played at more experimental dance music places.”
Since their formation in 1998, Le Tigre have proliferated political activism with a palatable mix of playful electronic pop and aesthetical overload, courtesy of their multimedia live shows, which feature choreographed dance routines and accompanying videos. It may be a wise commercial gimmick, but for Le Tigre politics and music have never been mutually exclusive.
When the trio decided to release This Island on major label Universal last year, the notoriously DIY rockers admitted concern about their increased exposure. “We were worried there were going to be a bunch of straight dudes in the audience,” Samson says. “But there were more rad activist kids and queer kids running around! I felt like we actually found more people that belong in the community that we had already created. That was exciting.”
While the group plans to take some time off before heading back to the studio to record a follow-up to This Island, Samson is readying the next installment in her queer calendar series. 2003’s JD’s Lesbian Calendar will be followed this December by JD’s Lesbian Utopia.
“The first calendar was all pictures of me doing different occupations,” Samson says. “But for this one, I went on a trip cross-country in an RV with five lesbians. We went to different women’s lands and went tubing in Georgian rivers. We had dogs behind us named Butch, and gathered wood from a beaver dam. We went searching for the lesbian utopia, and we found it.”