Occupations: Singer, songwriter
Current Release: Bitch's new full-length album Bitchcraft is out via Kill Rock Stars.
Recommendations: Iva Bittova’s “Morning Song” and “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy.
If you enjoyed this interview with Bitch and would like to know more about her unique personal sound world, visit her official website. Stay connected with her on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started playing violin when I was 4, after seeing it on Sesame Street. I started writing poetry around 11, and I wrote my first song when I was in college. Writing songs was a convergence of these two huge passions of mine (violin + poetry).
My Mom ran a tap dancing school in our basement so I was always very rhythm oriented. The whole house just beamed percussive sounds of tap shoes. The first 45 I ever bought was Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” I wrote to Cyndi Lauper when I was about 12 to ask her if I could have the skirt she wore in the “Time After Time” video. I never heard back. (laughs)
I think I was always drawn to big, wild characters, synths and a shameless performance style.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
My identity is very much from a feminist perspective, and the concept of ‘allowing’ is big for me. As someone who was raised as a girl, being ‘allowed’ is something that you really have to choose to do.
My identity is a constant process of giving myself permission, and that is what feeds my creativity.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I love this question, because as a violinist, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I could make huge sounds on my own.
When I started making albums in the 90s, it was about recording what me or my band-mates actually could play during a live version of the song. Moving into producing tracks to play to, making my sound as big as I want to be, has been very liberating. I get to build this bed of beats, synths and power, and lay my deepest voices, my violin and my vocals, on top!
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I love collaborating. My first musical collaborator was my first band-mate Animal. They helped me with the ‘permission’ side of my artist self I reference earlier.
I love collaborating in many different ways. Some people reach out to me to help them actualize their vision. Other times, it’s me reaching out to people for help actualizing mine. Other times, it’s this mutual spontaneous combustion that is borne between us. They are all gas in my tank, creatively.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
It depends on what is ahead of me; if I’m on tour, or if I’m in the studio, or if I’m making a music video.
Today, for example, I woke up in the desert after a 3 day video shoot. I checked out of the Airbnb, and drove the costume and makeup person back to LA with me. After dropping her off, I stumbled home, underslept, and had to answer emails I had ignored during the shoot.
I’m playing San Diego tomorrow, so it was about getting all my gear together, picking up my box of “Bitchcraft” cds that I had shipped to my friend’s house, running to the hardware store to figure out how to anchor one of my props onto a music stand.
There is literally no routine except making tons of lists and trying to remember to do everything!
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I don’t have strategies to enter it except to make time and space for it. Put down the phone. Open up a notebook. Get out my violin, or bass, or whatever is singing to me. I am very sound distracted so it has to be quiet. I love writing after I've experienced a great piece of art.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I have that thing where I hear notes in color.
Sometimes if I’m really stressed out, I ‘picture’ a sound around me and it feels protective and calms me.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I have always been referred to as a political artist, and I have sometimes resented that and other times completely embraced that.
I can’t imagine not reflecting the times in my own work. If I wasn’t singing about being right here, right now, at this moment in herstory, I don’t know what I would be singing about!!
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
There’s a vibrational element to music that words alone don’t have. Those vibrations, I think, make us all feel more alive, which ultimately makes us more calm about death.