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Q&A: Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland

The riot grrrl on Courtney Love, fan hugs and dinner with Timothy Leary

Kat Bjelland, Babes in Toyland, Lollapalooza, Shoreline Amphitheatre

Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland performs at Lollapalooza at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California on August 26th, 1994.

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

KAT BJELLAND (kăt’byĕl’ and) n. 1 Baby-doll-dress-wearing guitarist and singer/songwriter for Minneapolis misfit punk trio Babes in Toyland 2 Former member of Sugar Baby Doll, which also included L7 bassist Jennifer Finch and Courtney Love of Hole 3 Writer of aggressive, intensely personal lyric poetry 4 Subject of the book Babes in Toyland: The Making and Selling of a Rock & Roll Bandvt. [Slang] 1 To scream, Friday the 13th-style over edgy, shimmery layers of guitar pop (the Babes’ latest album, Nemesisters) a) To screech [Wow, she really bjelland that last line] see HOWL

Do people expect you to be angry all the time?
I’ve never run into anyone who’s said that to me directly, but I know it’s my persona because of how I sing. I think it’s more passion than anger.

What habit of yours drives your band mates crazy?
I blink too much.

I can’t see blinking driving anybody too crazy.
True. Sometimes I think I drive them crazy because during recording, after every take I go, “That was really good, that was really good.” But that’s a nice thing to do, I guess.

So you’re just a regular ray of sunshine, is that what you’re saying?
I’ve been good lately. The problem in the past was usually if I’d get too drunk, just basic stuff.

Fill in the blanks: People think I’m blank, but actually I’m blank.
People think I’m a bitch, but I’m really just shy. [Laughs] Just kidding. [Laughs really loud] I’m not shy, but I don’t go around talking to everybody.

How is it having a book out about you?
I don’t think about it unless I see it or someone brings it up. . . . I seem really reluctant, don’t I? I make very boring copy. Not like some people I know. [Laughs] Because I don’t make shit up.

What’s the last piece of advice you gave to Courtney Love?
Probably just to take care of herself and be true to herself. But I always give her that same advice.

Do you think “Violet,” on the Hole album, was a direct response to your song about her, “Bruise Violet”?
No. [Pauses] Maybe. [Pauses] I don’t know. Violet is just a word that a lot of girls like. It’s like a ghosty spirit lady. I used to have a cat named Violet. . . . It’s such a boring old topic, Hole and us.

But it’s interesting.
Yeah, that’s true. I suppose it is. It’s a pretty song. I like the song “Violet.” If we can write good songs back and forth like that, then whatever.

Do you have a favorite current rock star?
I like Diamanda Galas. She’s not a rock star, is she?

No, but I know someone who lived in the building next to her, and she spends a lot of time singing and playing the piano naked.
Wow, how cool. I love her. But I can’t think of any rock stars that I like. I never liked rock stars in the first place. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop lately.

Do you ever have days where you just want to wear jeans and a T-shirt?
Well, I’ve never really worn pants. Not really since high school. I’ve always worn dresses. But this winter it got cold, and I got some cords. I’m not going to wear a dress out in 30-below temperatures.

Why did you choose to move to Minneapolis when you left San Francisco?
It had to do with the music at the time. Mostly early Replacements and some early Soul Asylum. And it seemed like people in the Midwest would be honest and good. [Laughs]

Is there much difference between the way your male and female fans react?
More girls come up to me. They say they’re starting bands, things like that. We have really sweet fans.

A lot of female musicians say that their female fans want to get hugs.
They always do that. I think it’s nice.

Really? I find it really, really weird.
It is odd, because in this society, we don’t touch each other much. But I think it’s really sweet. Guys do it, too. But guys ask for kisses, and I’m just like “Get back.”

What shouldn’t a guy do on a first date?
Ramble on about himself or slag other people. And name-dropping is the shittiest thing you can do.

If you had to read a biography, who would it be of?
I’ve read a lot of the ones I wanted to read. I’ve read Charles Mingus’. I read Billie Holiday’s.

Is there a TV character that you’d like to be?
I hate the television.

What about Mary Tyler Moore? You wouldn’t have to move out of Minneapolis.
All I watch is The Simpsons. And that Northern Exposure show. I’d like to be that Indian lady on that. I’m reading this book called Wisdom-keepers: Meetings With Native American Spiritual Elders. It’s so good.

On tour you probably can’t read much.
Not really, but I did read Crime and Punishment on tour once.

Not a real pick-me-up.
It put me in a bit of a dour mood. But that was one of the first tours. I wasn’t burnt out yet.

Has a psychic ever told you anything that made you change your mind about something?
No. I believe in that stuff, but I don’t like to go. I want to be master of my own destiny. I like tarot better because it’s really vague, and you can read it in your own way. My friends are psychic enough.

When you were on Lollapalooza, you got to be friends with Timothy Leary. What did you talk about with him?
Me and Lori [Barbero, Babes in Toy-land drummer] just attended a dinner party he had recently. His presence is really nice. I can’t remember anything specific we talked about. We didn’t sit there and go [uses mock stoner voice] “Hey, let’s talk about LSD.”

What does Timothy Leary serve for dinner these days?
Vegetarian spaghetti.

In This Article: Babes in Toyland, Coverwall

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