"Don't let people in the industry push you into corners just because you're a girl": DiS meets Kate
Last month saw the centenary of International Women's Day, and in London The Southbank Centre celebrated with a series of shows and lectures, crowned by Annie Lennox's 'EQUALS' concert. One of the musicians chosen to play alongside Lennox, Kate Nash, has done more than most in the last year to help female musicians, especially young or emerging talent. After the great success of her debut album, Nash wanted to give something back to the industry that had nurtured her. It being the music industry, she also wanted to plant something positive in what she knew firsthand to be an often unforgiving place for women. The result was a trust fund for new music, and the resulting record label, Have 10p Records. As well as this, Nash spent the time after her second album visiting schools, donating instruments, and has recently kicked off the fantastically-titled 'Kate Nash Rock N Roll For Girls After School Music Club', based on similar, riot-grrl inspired projects in America.
The After-School Club Tour will do exactly what it says on the label, and bring Nash and her young protege, Brigitte Aphrodite, to schools around the country, speaking and inspiring young women to express themselves through music. Or, indeed, Rock n' Roll. Future lectures, workshops and events are in the pipeline as well.
As well as a confirmed After-school Club speaker, performance poet, glitter aficionado and acoustic punk-rocker Brigitte Aphrodite will be the first release on Have 10p Records. A mixture of spoken word, performance art, and poignant, affecting songs about growing up in Bromley, Aphrodite's live show is a singular experience. On record, she is a lyrical Poly Styrene, with echoes of John Cooper Clarke and Life Without Buildings. Her first single, I Dream Myself Awake is out April 6th on Have 10p Records, and one does hope it's followed by an album soon.
You’ve just started a new record label, Have 10p Records, which is funded by a trust fund you set up to support new artists. Please can you tell us a little more about these two things?
After I finished touring my first record I felt like I really wanted to put something back into the arts out of what I'd earned. I set up a trust fund called have 10p. The idea is that I can support artists and talent that I believe in by funding them however necessary. I started by working with a writer and actress called Sarah Solemani (Him & Her, Suburban Shootout, Mrs Henderson Presents) She was funded with a monthly grant (which doesn't need to be paid back) so she could write and work on particular projects. It worked really well because a piece Sarah was writing ended up in the soho theatre for a residency period and things progressed from there. The second person that I wanted to use the grant for was Brigitte Aphrodite (a singer/songwriter from london). I turned the have 10p trust fund into have 10p records and I've just released her first single. I got Ryan (Jarman) and Nick Scott to design the logo and Peter from Genepool records helped me with distribution. I believe in putting money into art and I think it's important to support other artists, if you can give someone a leg up or a break then you should, art should be about creating a community.
The first signing to the label is Brigitte Aphrodite. Tell us about how you discovered her, and why you thought she would be the right person to launch your label with.
I first saw Bri perform in a play with 2 other girls somewhere in London and then again when she took that play to Edinburgh. The next time I saw her perform she'd turned into a one woman theatre/music show. That time was during a time when I was feeling exhausted with the industry and slightly depressed. I cried after her show because I had been so into it and so inspired. It was the first thing I'd seen in so long that felt so genuine and real and also imaginative and kind of magic, it made me feel so happy. I was really glad to find an artist that made me feel like that again. She just kept developing and now she's like a rock n roll glitterball that crawled out of the sea. We did a few shows together and I asked if I could put out her first single. The trust fund funded a recording session and now the label is putting out the 7 inch.
What is it about Brigitte that drew you to her music?
It's funny and honest and wild and raw and there really is nothing like it.
Are you acting as A&R for your record label? How involved do you want to be in the creative side of your label? Where would you like to be guiding Brigitte towards as she continues to make music?
I kind of just want to help her when and if she needs me. Sometimes we meet up and if she wants advice then I'll give it to her. Creatively I don't feel the need to get involved, it's her thing and I just want to help get it out into the world if I can.
When would you like her to be recording an album and how do you see your involvement when she does?
When we finish tour I think it would be great to get Bri back into the studio and let her record more. Then I guess we'll do a second single. After that we'll work towards making a record, but just seeing where it takes her. If another label came along I wouldn't mind because I see have 10p records as a platform at the moment. Obviously I will do everything I can to do a good job as a label if we put out the record together.
Do you think that there’s a tendency for labels to try and fit young female artists to a particular mould? As a female label boss who has experience on the other side – how would you like to change this?
I personally feel it's not the label's job to get involved creatively. I think it's down to the act/band that you're working with. The label's job is to get the music out there and help the band progress as much as possible. But only in a way that works for that act. Both men and women should be free to develop in that way if they're true artists.
Are there any labels that you look to for inspiration? Any that you would like Have 10p to follow in the footsteps of?
I love fiction, and kill rock stars, moshi moshi and wichita. I think for now I would like to keep things focused on small footsteps as that's the time that I have to dedicate to it and I want to do justice to the acts I work with.
You’ve taken Brigitte on tour with you at the moment. Any fun tour stories?
It's a really cool vibe on tour. Lot's of lovely people around, Bri's band are awesome and I just got a new girl band. I think our best night was probably in the rescue rooms in Nottingham, we had time to party after the show together. There's just lots of hanging out and eating and drinking together, we had a classic 'Travelodge party' last night. take-away curry and leftover booze off the rider in the room. My drummer Fern is from wales and her nan sent a ton of home-made cakes and biscuits to the venue in Cardiff which was pretty delicious. Also Bri carries a lot of glitter with her, i think she actually produces it now and if you've been anywhere near her or anywhere near where she's been you'll be covered in glitter spots for a long time after. I also saw 2 cows having a fight in a field and all the other cows were running away when we were driving to a venue once.
I have to ask about the Kate Nash Rock n Roll for Girls After School Club.How did it begin and what shape will it take over the next year?
Last Summer I was invited to talk on a panel chaired by Miranda Sawyer for Birds Eye View to discuss the gender gap in the Music Industry. At this discussion I was informed that in fact even less women were writing their own music than I realized, that shockingly only 14% of songwriters in the UK that receive PRS are women. I was also asked in an interview 'why I didn't do scandalous photo shoots and why I didn't care about being sex'. I felt fed up of feeling like primarily I'm judged by the way that I look and what I do with my body by the mainstream media and angry that this was obviously having an affect on other women and was actually stopping them from making music. I watched an interview with Kathleen Hanna in which she mentioned summer camps that were run in New York and Portland. I thought it would be great to bring something like that to the UK but we don't really have that summer camp culture. I thought after-school clubs might work better and that if i did it this way I also wouldn't have to focus on just being in London, I could bring it to more than one town in the UK. My aim is to bring a decent music programme to the schools, encourage girls to write their own songs and music, give them confidence in themselves and to do a big gig that they run, they play, they help do sound, lights, setting it up, DJing, promoting it. I want to dispel the myth that girls are bitchy too, they can create supportive networks amongst themselves and encourage each other and younger girls too. I want to help change the statistic and an attitude towards women in music.
You’ve reference riot grrl groups as your inspiration for this project. What do you see in them that you want to bring to After School Club?
I think the riot grrls were all about a sense of community and involvement and entitlement. You could be who you wanted to be without being judged, you could be involved in music even if you weren't trained or experienced. You had a supportive network of other girls that helped you and joined in and made it fun and made you feel comfortable. I hope we can create something like that again within girls in music.
Tell us what you’ve learned from being a woman in the music industry, and what you want to see changed.
I've been attacked by media for the way that I look primarily, people have tried to push me into corners, I've had to explain why I don't use my body to sell my music and I've been encouraged to bitch about other girls. I've definitely experienced sexism. I've also played a lot of live shows, released 2 records, travelled the world, played festivals and done what both men and women in the industry have done. I want to be taken seriously for what I do just like every other musician. I don't want to be judged so politically.
How’s the After School Club going so far? Any fun stories?
I've met such lovely kids, I got a couple of performances from a few of them which was cool. I just love asking them what their opinion is on the issue. It's so fresh and honest, some of the stuff they come out would make great t-shirt slogans but a lot of it makes me feel sad and really makes me want to help them get confidence. what else... I almost left my bra in a headmasters office when I was getting changed today. And I've met two head masters called Mr.C Hunt.
Any advice for young women out there who want to make music?
Just be yourself, be brave and do your first show! Be tough and don't let negative comments get you down. Write loads of songs and figure out what kind of songwriter you want to be. And know that you are entitled to be there and to be doing whatever kind of music it is that you're making. Go with gut instinct and don't let people in the industry push you into corners just because you're a girl.