Recorded live on October 16th, 1998 at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan, New York, the track features Watt taking on Kathleen Hanna’s powerhouse vocals and energy. Members of the Black Gang — Wilco’s Nels Cline and Bob Lee — soundman Steve Reed all contribute backing vocals.
“Me and K [Kira Roessler] have a two bass-only band called Dos and we opened up for Bikini Kill once and that’s where I first witnessed this tune ‘Rebel Girl’ getting played,” Watt said in a statement. “I just knew it was their song, the same way I first saw Superchunk do ‘Slack Motherfucker’ and ‘pert-near just like that time, immediately I wanted to do my own version of it. Lots of times I’ve dug songs from people I’ve witnessed for the first time but this went further with me: I wanted my way trying to feel like them, doing it. I know, kind of insane but that’s what I’ve found about where music can take you…this live version here I got to do with the Black Gang was during an encore and I was tuckered big time but still the tune itself helped me bring it — a great tune is like that.”
Added Kill Rock Stars’ founder Slim Moon: “To whatever degree I believe in the ‘great women and men’ theory of human history, Mike Watt is one of the towering figures in the history of punk — so is Nels Cline — and Bikini Kill is the greatest punk rock band in the history of the world. Knowing I got to work with these amazing people means I can die happy.”
Watt and the Black Gang’s rendition of “Rebel Girl” is the second release from the labels’ covers series, following Mary Lou Lord and Mikaela Davis’ take on Elliott Smith’s “Some Song.” Stars Rock Kill (Rock Stars) will also feature Fruit Bats, Little Mazarn, Badlands, Eyelids, and others.