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Since this interview first appeared in Razorcake issue number twenty-six, Kira Roessler has been kept busy primarily with her day job as a dialogue editor for film and television. She has been recognized by her peers in her field, winning two Emmys for her work with episodes of the HBO miniseries John Adams and Game of Thrones.
Musically, she continues to play the bass regularly. After a fifteen-year break between albums, in 2011, Dos (her band with bassist Mike Watt) released their fourth album, dos y dos, on Watt’s record label, Clenchedwrench. It continued the band’s dueling, melodic basses with Kira’s occasional vocals. The duo still plays out sporadically, primarily in the Southern California area.
Additionally, Kira has two other projects: SAUPG, a band that puts songs together over the internet and according to her, has “no big emphasis on releasing the songs.” However, you can listen to SAUPG’s Soundcloud here. She has another dual bass band with Devin Hoff, who has played stand-up bass with many artists, including Xiu Xiu and Nels Cline. The project, called Awkward, has yet to release anything.
–Kurt Morris, 2014
SST dipped into the beat generation’s reservoir and created something unique. Punk didn’t come out of a vacuum, and SST’s purist commitment to putting out vinyl for art’s sake was reminiscent of the alternative press movement of the ‘60s. The label was a safe haven for bands as diverse as The Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Saccharine Trust and label owner Greg Ginn’s group, Black Flag. They were bound together by a common ethos and aesthetic: to create vibrant, pertinent music with a disregard for public opinion and pressure. SST wasn’t a label; it was a lifestyle. These were blue collar guys and gals who willing sacrificed any hope of monetary or crossover success. They toured in a van, starved, fought, and were savagely beaten numerous times for being punk—before it was sold in stores. As the bass player of Black Flag (after founding member Chuck Dukowski’s departure), Kira Roessler was committed to SST’s lifestyle long before she gained her bars. Her philosophy, formidable bass playing, and commitment to education have provided infinite inspiration to me.
Kira maintains her strong work ethic today as a sound editor (often working sixty hours a week) and maintains her commitment to bass through Dos. After hanging with her for a couple of hours I’ve come to realize Kira’s still very much the same. The only difference: no more black coffee. Kira takes the healthier tea alternative now.
Interview by Ryan Leach, 2005
Photos by Richard Hogge
Ryan: What are some of your earliest memories of music?
Kira: I think what happened was my parents got a piano in the house. I decided I wanted to play, so they said, “If you practice a half-hour-a-day, we’ll get you lessons.” My brother Paul was nine and I was six. So we started doing classical piano lessons. I played piano for five years. I was very competitive with my brother; trying to keep up, because I was younger. I quit because I got sick, and I fell behind and I couldn’t keep up and I was losing the competition. I couldn’t handle it. My teacher was really upset, ‘cause he thought I had talent. But the interesting thing I think about piano was that I’m left handed and the left hand is the bass line. Somehow, it all tied together—it led me there even though it wasn’t an intellectual choice. I always have a soft spot for hearing that piano music, or classical piano or piano with singing, ‘cause my brother writes songs on the piano.
Ryan: That was when you were in New Haven?
Kira: Yes, I lived in New Haven, but only till I was eight. Then I moved to the Caribbean and I lived there for three years. Then I lived outside of San Francisco in a suburb called Moraga for two years, and then I was in LA most of the rest of the time. I’ve tried a couple times to give young people bass guitar lessons. It’s funny. I offer free lessons to people and they never come back.
Kira: I can’t understand it! I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.
Ryan: That work ethic you had coming up, where do you think you got that—that innate drive? Very few people could practice in their room for six to ten hours a day.
Kira: You know, I hate to say it, but I have done a lot of soul searching all these years, and I think a lot of it was competitiveness. I wanted to keep up with my brother who had this project band that was very complicated music he was trying to play, and I somehow had to hit the ground running. But that being said I think there is more to it. The reason that I got my tattoo, which is the logo of Black Flag, is, to me, it means that whatever you do, do it all the way. I feel that was a concept I could live with. I don’t start something without completing it. I don’t do any work—any sort of activity—without giving it my all. It seems unreasonable to do anything and not putting all of my effort into it. I can’t understand kind of dabbling in something. It is not in my nature. I don’t know where it comes from but it’s true about everything: my work and my exercise, my friendships, my relationships. I just have a tendency to do it all the way and cut my losses if I can’t. I don’t seem to be the norm in that way. I think that the break I took from when I was eleven till I was fifteen, where I stopped piano and started bass, I think the truth of that was that I missed music in my life and I didn’t know it. I think that there had been a void. ‘Cause the bottom line is if I don’t play my bass for a couple weeks I won’t consciously know what’s wrong, but something is wrong. It is just like that. There was this emptiness for awhile. By the way, a real miserable time in a girl’s life is eleven to fifteen. It became a friend and an outlet that it provides. One can only hope people find something like that in their lives that offers them that release and safe haven.
Ryan: Yeah. So talking about your brother’s prog rock band, Arc Squared…
Kira: The piece was called The Arc and the band was called The Arc Squared.
Ryan: When his band broke up, did he get wind of the punk movement? Is that what ended that, or did it just run into the ground?
Kira: Paul had always had bands. He had Top 40 bands. He had been writing his own songs from a very early age. We always had a converted garage at our parent’s house where he practiced in and Dad and Mom couldn’t get mad about it. He was very constant. In terms of the work ethic, Paul very much has it for music, too, almost to an obsessive degree. Fifteen was also a big turning point because my Mom moved away. My brother and I ended up living on our own in a house in the Valley where we converted the garage to be a practice place. Originally, that was for Arc Squared. Then we started getting exposed to punk rock and going to punk rock shows. It was very similar timing as that dissolved and our first punk rock band, which we immediately developed, where Paul played drums, because we didn’t know if keyboards were allowed in punk rock. So Paul played drums and a good friend of his, Mike Brown, that he had been in a band with from up north came down and became the guitar player. A friend from high school, William, was the singer. Waxx, my first band. My first gig ever was at The Whiskey A Go-Go. I was sixteen.
Ryan: That’s not too long to have been playing. That’s pretty brave.
Kira: [laughs] I sucked, I can assure you. We sucked. I can play you tapes. I can prove that.
Ryan: But then Paul went on to do The Screamers?
Kira: My memory of it is was, one of the things that I did in the punk rock scene was I tried to make friends with bands. I caught on that networking was important. The way I remember it, I got to know the guys in The Screamers. The drummer in The Screamers told me they wanted to get rid of their keyboard player and I told him that my brother had played piano for a long time. So, yeah, it was one of those magical things. Like I said, we were afraid that keyboards just weren’t going to be possible and then the only keyboard band in punk rock needed a keyboardist, and Paul was the obvious choice. He kept doing Waxx. He kept playing drums. He played in The Controllers for awhile. He didn’t purely stop. But that was just a great fit for him, because The Screamers, for the punk rock scene, were one of the big bands. I liked them. I used to roadie for them. That was part of my way of networking. I would show up early and move people’s equipment and help them with their stuff, so I could get into gigs for free, but also to get to know the bands and stuff. So I roadied for them and The Germs and The Avengers when they came to town from San Francisco. I loved The Avengers! They were good! But that was part of it. I was broke, so I tried to operate with about all I could do. I knew the basics of how to hook up equipment and stuff. I was pretty strong for a little thing.
Ryan: So you were in a couple of bands that never properly recorded until Twisted Roots?
Kira: Yeah, Waxx. I had my own all girl band called Sexsick and I had the Visitors and The Monsters. None of them ever recorded. I’ve been kicked out of most every band I’ve been in, except my own bands. But I was kicked out of The Monsters… The Visitors disbanded and became The Monsters, so maybe I didn’t get kicked out of that. But, yes, several projects, and the truth is I was learning a huge amount through playing with different people, which I think is a great way to improve your playing—playing with different drummers, playing with different guitar players. Glenn (member of The Monsters) was a great rock’n’roll guitar player who really helped me forget a lot of that—those six-to-ten hours a day hadn’t done me any good. It might have made my hands stronger, but it made me sort of stiff and musical, and here we were trying to do stuff that was less musical. So he was unlearning a lot of stuff for me and making me learn to play more relaxed. The truth is I thought I always sucked. You know, The Twisted Roots record came out recently and I heard some of that stuff with a fresh ear, and I was like, “Hey, I wasn’t as bad I thought I was.”
Ryan: Did you form that right after Darby died?
Kira: Before he died, because The Germs weren’t really playing that much and Pat (Smear, guitarist for the Germs and Twisted Roots) wanted to keep playing. I don’t know how that happened. Maggie went to school with me. She was in twelfth grade at Hollywood High with me and she was this hippie chick and I used to sing Monsters songs to her and tell her about the punk rock scene. I got her into the punk rock scene. I don’t know how Paul decided she was the right ragamuffin image for his lead singer. She had this young boyfriend who played drums, Emil; and so Paul did all that, networking and who to decide who to put in and play. Then we had this friend Rick, who was the promoter guy, who got our first gig to headline at the Whiskey, which is kind of bizarre when you think about it. One of the reasons The Monsters never gigged was because Nicky (Beat, drummer from the Weirdos) didn’t want to play unless we could headline The Whiskey first, ‘cause coming from The Weirdos I guess he expected that. We couldn’t get a gig headlining at The Whiskey, so we never played. But Twisted Roots did its first gig headlining at The Whiskey, on a weekend! That sold out, ‘cause we had the right guy promoting it.
Ryan: You got pretty good press. I know Rodney Bingenheimer was spinning your single.
Kira: Well the truth is there wasn’t that much vinyl of the local bands, so he was hungry for that. No, I think we were sort of shunned, really. I think that we weren’t punk enough. It didn’t really fit with what people were looking for. Again, that’s my perspective. My perspective is nobody cared. We did those gigs headlining at The Whiskey, maybe a couple weekends like that. It was a small scene, though, so maybe we were big. I always thought of it as the really big bands were The Weirdos, The Screamers, The Germs, The Dickies…
Ryan: Three of those four bands were not in The Decline of Western Civilization.
Kira: But the Decline was focused on the SouthBay area not everybody was down there. I was talking about the Hollywood scene which I was part of.
Ryan: Some people’s grievances with the movie were the exclusion of The Weirdos and The Screamers.
Kira: Hey, the director gets to decide. Creative license. I work in that business. I know how it works. The director’s in charge. But that’s what’s fun is that people have different ideas of what happened and history is a matter of who’s writing the book. That’s what is kind of interesting about it. There’s this Germs movie now being made. There are people who are trying to tell the different stories. The Minutemen movie is coming out. Like a lot of movements, if you will, it was cliquey and there was a whole Hollywood clicky thing going, and the SouthBay thing is what Penelope Spheeris decided to cover. Another thing is the timeline. The Screamers almost stopped by the time she was getting ready to make her movie and The Weirdos, too. They might be back now, but they were gone for a while! Rehash is so hip right now. Can you believe it?
Ryan: With Twisted Roots, was it a lot of lineup changes that led to its implosion?
Kira: The truth is, it’s really hard to keep any band together. It’s a marriage between four or five people, and marriages don’t hold together that well. It is difficult personality-wise and very few bands can hold it together and want the same things. So I got thrown out and the band broke up.
Ryan: You got thrown out of your brother’s band?
Kira: I should probably not say that. That’s part of my story. I got thrown out of Paul’s band. Paul was in charge. It wasn’t that he wanted to throw me out, it was that one or more of the other people in the band didn’t want to play with me anymore. He would go, “who’s the better player?” And that’s part of why I always thought I wasn’t a good player, because it was, “Well, would I rather have Pat and Emil or Kira? Well, Pat and Emil.” And it happened a couple times. So then he got Dix Denny (bass player for the Weirdos) and a guy named Gary Jacoby. Because the truth is usually when that happens, and this is what I learned, usually when someone says, “I don’t want to play with her anymore. Get rid of her,” they don’t want to play, and she’s the scapegoat. But that happens in hindsight. That’s what kept happening. I would get thrown out and the other guys would leave anyway, and then he would reform it. He got Dix Denny and Michelle, who was my best friend from jr. high, and then I was welcome again, ‘cause Dix and Michelle were my friends, too. We got Gary and we were all happy again. I don’t remember how that incarnation broke up. Then there were smaller incarnations, a four-piece incarnation, where Paul became the lead singer and we didn’t have a girl lead singer. We even did that on tour with Black Flag. We did a version of Twisted Roots with DC3 opening for Black Flag. There were other things pulling. I was trying to do my own band for part of that time. Paul did Screamers stuff. I went to UCLA. Although I played the whole time, it did take a certain amount of energy. Like you said, and you put it very well, not everyone wants to work too hard. I think that’s a factor, especially if some of you want to practice every day and the other guys don’t want to show up. Practicing costs money. Usually, you have to rent a studio.
Ryan: I think one thing, with hindsight, in the initial scene, is how much you fought for it, especially Black Flag. People don’t necessarily have to anymore; to use Mike’s words, “it’s normal for a kid to have a punk phase.”
Kira: I don’t know if I agree with that, ‘cause the truth is, it’s hard right now. If you want to start a band and figure out how to get gigs and tour and everything, it’s really hard. I wouldn’t know how to do it. I generally had help. People had connections and networked. Black Flag did one thing: they developed a national network of a touring thing, and that was something they did long before I was in the band. They developed and connected together the country, to a certain extent, for a set of bands that followed in the footsteps. It’s hard for me to say it’s harder, because I know people who are trying to get bands happening right now who are struggling, and that it’s not that easy. Yeah, there are some clubs, but there have always been clubs. It has always been hard to get clubs to let you play. The bottom line is: if you can’t draw they don’t want to let you play—the same as then. One of the things that was playing against people was that the clubs thought “punk rock” meant violence. There was a little bit of a blacklist kind of situation going on. So I guess there was that element, that it was less acceptable. But the bottom line is starting a band is hard. Keeping a band together—relationship wise—is hard. Getting gigs is hard. Going on tour is even harder. Getting a record deal. This is all tough stuff, always has been. That’s my take on it.
Ryan: When you started playing in Black Flag, what year were you in at UCLA?
Kira: I had completed three years, so I really only had one more year to go, which was part of why. I had never considered quitting. I told them that I have to finish, that I will take quarters off and make time so that we can tour, but they agreed to work around my schedule. I basically took every other quarter off and it took me five years instead of four to complete. They kicked me out right before my final quarter.
Ryan: During that time you were living in a van at one point, correct?
Kira: Keeping an apartment didn’t make a lot of sense, ‘cause I was gone half the year. So I was sleeping on my brother’s couch, living in Bill’s (Stevenson, Black Flag’s drummer) van, I was living at the practice pad and I was on tour. It didn’t make any sense to have a place. I didn’t have the money. My Dad was supporting me with college, but once I started taking quarters off I started feeling guilty about that arrangement, and told him he didn’t need to support me anymore; because it was taking longer, because of the choices I was making. I couldn’t really afford it and it made no sense.
Ryan: So, literally, it was either school or Black Flag for that period of your life?
Kira: Well, I would go to school in the morning and then come to the practice pad, and, usually, we would answer mail. It was a working office going on there. Then once everyone was there we would go down and play till we dropped. It took five hours a day most days. There wasn’t much more time than that. I would go to school and play or tour. When we recorded, and this is probably just how I remember it, somehow I was always studying for midterms. We would have these forty-eight hour lockouts and we would play till no one could play anymore and I would be in the corner studying calculus. I could tell you the number of times that I was literally dropped off at UCLA out of the van from tour. My memory of it was that it happened more than once. You can imagine the look on the UCLA sorority girls’ faces when Kira falls out of the van having been on tour for months, ready for the first day of class. Again, I’m probably over dramatizing it, but it definitely happened. We did it during the ’84 Olympics. There was two weeks off of school so we did a tour, and then I got dropped off out of the van. But it was never about money. I joined my favorite band. I was thinking about getting the tattoo before I joined the band. I had to get it once I joined! It was like that. They, literally, were my favorite band. So there was no question in my mind about whether I wanted to do it. Looking back, they were putting up with a lot of hardships working around my schedule. It was part of what became the problem for them. We did a winter tour in central Canada, and that was because of my schedule. They were impacted severely and so was I. It was a tough thing and, like I said, touring and having a band is tough stuff. It isn’t for the weak at heart. You know, ask Mike. Give up or get in the van again.
Ryan: Did you read Henry Rollin’s diaries?
Kira: You mean while he was writing them? No.
Ryan: No. He published them.
Kira: The Get in the Van book? I think my first exposure to that was I was being interviewed and someone plopped in front of me some highlighted portions about me. My first exposure was the negative stuff. Then I saw it at some bookstores and got exposed to it more from a marketing standpoint. Anything you want to know about my experience of that?
Ryan: Well, maybe some of your feedback. Like you said, it was a family thing there. The one thing I really get out of that book is just how hard you guys worked during that time. I know very few people that would give what you guys gave during that time.
Kira: I think you have to take it with a little bit of a grain of salt. If you think about what you would write in your own journal, or what I would write in my own journal, and what reality was when you looked back on it, it might have a little bit—that exhaustion that you’re feeling, that perspective—might be a little skewed because “It is my journal, because it is my opportunity to have self pity and my little self-centered perspective on what’s going on.” So although I think it’s totally sincere, I think reality is a little different—from all of us. Yeah, it was difficult, it was hard. We were tired and exhausted and fed up and yet we were grateful and happy to be doing exactly what we wanted to do. Catch me on any given moment and I would’ve been able to express either. So, I think it is a skewed perspective and that’s not to say that it’s not true or real.
Ryan: One thing I get out of it is the dedication your band and SST bands had. One other thing that was interesting: he talks about you getting into a fight with a girl in a bathroom. Is that what hurt your hand? ‘Cause Michael Azerrad wrote a book (Our Band Could Be Your Life) saying that you suffered an injury that you were plagued with for life.
Kira: Well, it’s funny how reality goes. I’m sure it’s everybody’s own perspective. My hand was already injured when that happened. I was in Long Beach and Black Flag was playing an instrumental gig. Ten minutes before we go on, I go into the bathroom and this very large woman kicks the crap out of me, and grabs my right hand, which has all these problems, and bends it back, which is why I know that it’s an inside job and that someone told her I had a hurt hand. It’s complicated in that she went after my weak spot. At first she tossed me around a little bit, and it didn’t hurt, so I just kind of let her. Then she got me on the ground and started smashing my head against the floor, and grabbed the hand and bent it back, and that’s when I got kind of sick of it and kicked her off me. Girls were screaming and running and I knew they would go get the guys, and the guys did come and she ran away. They chased after her and didn’t find her. Yeah, she hurt an already injured hand, and you know what? Her goal was for me not to play that night, so I played that night. That’s what it comes down to. That’s my ego and my competitiveness again. It hurt and it hurt later. I think both my weaknesses and strengths are that I really don’t want my weaknesses to supercede. When I hurt my hand, which was the first week I was in the band, my doctor said don’t play for six weeks. I’m a girl and I just joined Black Flag. Am I not gonna not play for six weeks ‘cause my hand is hurt? Four days later I’m back at practice and my hand has never been the same. That was my choice. They would have let me not play. They said take whatever time you need. My ego wouldn’t let me do it. I gotta be tough. I’ve suffered everyday since. It’s not as bad as all that, but my hand didn’t heal properly because I did that. It was the same thing that night in the bathroom. She kicked the crap out of me, she won, it hurt, I could have gone crying home, but you know what? I’m looking at these guys and they’re ready to play and I’m like, “Can I play?” And I decided I could. I suppose if I couldn’t have, I wouldn’t have. We never did not play a gig because of any of our pain. All of us had times when it seemed like we wouldn’t be able to: where Henry’s voice seemed like it was gone or where Bill [laughs]—you know, Bill’s kick drum thigh was twice as big as his other thigh. There was a lot of physical pain. I played with a 102 fever in London, the only time we played there. It would have taken a lot for me to not play any gig for anything. You might have caught me crying backstage afterwards or sticking my hand in the ice bucket, but, you know, that’s ego in a way. The same thing is true with Dos today, though. It would take a lot for me to miss a Dos gig. That’s the bottom line. Something would have to really be broken to the point where I really couldn’t do it. It’s not just about Black Flag or even those guys. Of course, it helps if you know that they would do the same and that you’re all in it together. You don’t want to be found to be the weak link, especially as a girl in that band. Remember what Henry said: “I might not like her but I respect her.” The classic quote! I never wanted to let him see that I was vulnerable or weak.
Ryan: You guys have smoothed everything out?
Kira: The truth is there wasn’t that much to smooth out. One of the great things about that band was that it was very professional. There wasn’t a lot of screaming, there wasn’t a lot carrying on. Now maybe that caused problems ‘cause some of that needs to be aired, and we could debate the value of depressurizing the situation by discussing, but that’s not the way it was. We were professional. We didn’t fight. We didn’t carry on at each other. We treated it like work. There was a lot of value to that, especially when you were tired. You just went on, and shut up and play and don’t talk about it. It was a pleasure that there wasn’t screaming and fighting going on, I’ll tell you that. Like the last time I saw The Minutemen play. They were opening for REM and George, D. Boon and Mike had this big fight and they were in opposite rooms. It was great, you know. I always want to remember them that way, in a way, ‘cause it was the epitome of their relationship. They could and we couldn’t. In a way, it was cool. They could scream and fight and love each other and play and we couldn’t. We had to do the professional thing, which had its advantages.
Ryan: The second side of My Way has this stigma of the audience not appreciating it. Was that…
Kira: That’s funny. You know I didn’t play on that record.
Ryan: Yeah, I know. Greg did.
Kira: But I did play on that tour.
Ryan: Yeah, you did.
Kira: And we did generally always played side two in its entirety on that tour. Let’s face it, you have this body of songs. There are three slow dirges.
What are you gonna do? Mix it up or put ’em all together? And I’m like, “It’s a concept!” Side two! It was my idea to put side two on the back of the t-shirt. As a matter of fact, one of those songs is the song I broke my hand—I’m exaggerating—hurt my hand on. One note. “Excuse me, I need to go to the hospital now.” People had this idea of what punk rock was suppose to be and side two didn’t fit. Bottom line: it wasn’t fast. It was slow and painful. It was nonconformist, which, by the way, is what punk rock is all about, so screw them. That is part of what Greg, and all of us behind him, always believed. We are not going to do what they want us to do. We are going to keep growing, we’re going to keep changing, and maybe we’re going to lose some fans. If they want us to keep playing Damaged forever, it ain’t going to happen. Especially after the injunction, where for long times we couldn’t put records out. We had all this material. We wanted to do new stuff. Greg was sick of doing old stuff. He had new things to express and side two was part of it. It was kind of like, if you don’t like it, you don’t like Black Flag anymore. We’re okay with that, ‘cause this is what we want to do. To play that kind of music, you can’t really care if it’s not going to conform to somebody’s idea of what it should be. You know, do I want to go hear X still playing the same songs they were playing fifteen years ago? No, I would rather see them do something new and interesting and different. That’s my perspective. Somebody else might want to see them rehash the old stuff. You take your pick!
Ryan: I always thought that even the smaller things, like Henry and Greg growing their hair out.
Kira: I had the shortest hair in the band in ’84. It’s a thing about nonconformity. Most of us, who were really punk rockers, that’s what it was about. As soon as punk rock was a little too hip, you were going to stop doing it. Henry was a skinhead and then he had long hair. You know, hair grows by the way if you don’t keep cutting it. And Grateful Dead—some of the people involved really loved that band and listened to the music. It wasn’t just a statement. They actually were behind it. It wasn’t my musical taste, but there were others who it was their musical taste. I think there was an identification with the touring. I think Black Flag had a girl in the band because they thought it would mess with some peoples’ heads. I didn’t know it. You know, I didn’t really realize what I hadn’t gotten myself into in terms of that until I saw the cover of Slip It In. I thought, “Maybe they don’t just like my bass playing. Maybe it wasn’t all about my bass playing after all.” The way it happened, that I got into the band, really made me think it was about my bass playing.
Henry called me up and said, “All right, you should go jam with those guys after the DC3 practice.” And I was like, “Okay.” I hung around and said, “So, do you guys wanna jam?” And they’re like, “Oh, yeah. You wanna jam?” They didn’t even know. I was like, “I thought this was arranged.” So we jammed and then they asked me to join. They were my favorite band so I joined. I didn’t really recognize that they might have interesting ideas about women and that me being in the band was controversial. I didn’t think that way until I saw the cover of Slip It In and I kind of realized, for one thing, they certainly didn’t glorify women. That cover does not glorify women, and that’s okay with me, ‘cause I don’t glorify women. You know, for a long time, and sometimes I still do, I think men are superior. Well, because my theory is we’re equal in many ways, except men are physically stronger. So if we’re equal in all other ways and men are physically stronger, then men are superior. You get my idea. I didn’t really suffer a feminist bent. I didn’t want to be a good girl bass player.
Ryan: Do you think that you would have stayed in the band and continued with music or would you have followed a career after that?
Kira: How hard we were working, it was hard to imagine that going on forever. There wasn’t a lot of money. To anyone who’s not clear: there wasn’t a lot of money. Ten bucks a day per diem on tour. We’re living in the van. Financial security never seemed possible there. That didn’t mean that I wouldn’t have done it for a few more years with all that involved. I sort of always knew that I would want some financial security at some point and finishing school was directed at that point. The only other time that I did just music for a year I was bored. So there was part of me who never thought I could be totally intellectually stimulated just playing music. Who knows what might have been, ‘cause I didn’t have the choice. I got asked to step down and did my last quarter and went and got a job.
Ryan: And during that time you were writing songs with Mike for the last Minutemen album?
Kira: The Minutemen opened the first week of the 1985 tour, which was a four-month tour, and Mike and I stayed up all night talking in the van a couple of times. One of the things we talked about was that he wanted me to try to write some lyrics. During that tour I wrote them and sent them home and he incorporated some of those into, not just 3-Way Tie for Last but then also fIREHOSE. I continued to write some lyrics, but that started on that tour.
Ryan: The songwriting process that you were doing with Mike there, was that similar to what you did in Dos?
Kira: No. Actually that resulted out of two totally different things. The lyric writing thing, in a sense, is a detached thing. I write a poem and I have no attachment to it and it’s his to decide to do with it what he will. The Dos thing, when D. Boon was killed, I was dating Mike. I was out of town when I got the news. I came back to town and Mike was in his room and he didn’t want to play bass anymore, and he didn’t want to leave his room. Somehow, luckily, I was sort of a bright spot in his life. What I tried to do to get him to play again was I had been doing, these story tapes, bedtime stories for my nephews. I had these bedtime stories where I would read the stories and do two intertwining basses for the music.
It was my little music project, ‘cause I didn’t have one anymore. I had this thing with two basses so I just tried to get him to jam with me in the room, ‘cause he didn’t want to let me leave the room and because he would let me come over. It was one of the only things he would let happen right then when he was in his sadness. So, I got him to pick up his bass again. The real connection creatively for me was this story-tape stuff. Some of our early jams became early Dos songs. Some of the story-tape stuff, like there is a song called “The Rabbit and the Porcupine” and “The Slow Little Turtle.” These are songs from little animals stories that I did and wrote two bass lines and he learned. It either evolved from jams that we did during that time when he wouldn’t come out of his room. I’m exaggerating, but I thought he might never play again. I was scared that somehow he had to get past the idea that he couldn’t play bass with anyone else. So it was just we gotta have a new project. I needed a new project. fIREHOSE: I’m sure you’ve heard this story. That wasn’t his idea. Ed showed up at this door.
Ryan: From Ohio.
Kira: Right. I don’t know, without a kick in the pants, if he would have done either.
Ryan: You’re really into a lot of Spanish music and guitar?
Kira: I’m into Spanish, the language, and the Spanish music is more of an extension of that. I just try to keep my Spanish fresh, so I listen to Spanish music and watch Spanish TV and see the variety shows. I listen to love ballads, K-Love. They play them over and over again and I get to know them. So it’s good practice for my singing and for my Spanish, but I’m not really attached to most of it as a musical style.
Ryan: You were talking about Henry doing a Black Flag thing. Greg did a Black Flag thing, too. Did he ask you to play?
Kira: I heard through the grapevine that we were all welcomed—after the fact. I have to be really careful, ‘cause I don’t want to do anything to hurt anyone or say anything negative about anybody. I love Greg. I want him to be successful. If he said that I was welcome, I wish I would have put some effort into it. I made an assumption, which was the wrong assumption, perhaps, that he wouldn’t want me, so I didn’t seek out to do it. I would have, if nothing else but to mend fences. I would have done it, no question about it. I would have done it in order to support him doing his thing and clear away old stuff. I’ve heard mixed things about it in terms of people saying they really enjoyed it and that they didn’t enjoy it so much.
Ryan: You didn’t happen to catch it, did you?
Ryan: They had a bass loop.
Kira: Yeah, I know. It was in three parts. One of them was recorded with Dale Nixon. Makes perfect sense to me. He was the player on My War.
Ryan: Wasn’t that a pseudonym for Greg?
Kira: Yes, it was Greg. It is Greg, and that’s my point. That seems appropriate. I support them in what they do. There are no hard feeling here.
Ryan: You were talking about the Dos record. It’s been a while. When is that one gonna be released?
Kira: It takes forever to do a Dos record, what can I say? So it’s almost recorded three-quarters of the way: the Dos record, Numero Quatro. The songs have been mixed, so we have a few more songs we’re working on. The problem with doing a Dos record, aside from the fact that Mike is always on tour and that when I work I’m very busy, is the simple thing that it is all in the song. It’s not like you can have a very simple song and do a lot of layers. There are just the two basses. So it’s all in how our basses intertwine. It’s all about the writing and that is sometimes a slow and painful process. On top of that there are months and months where we don’t get together. So we lose progress, and then we get it together, and I work with tapes. So it’s just a long and slow process. It has been discouraging. There was a point at which I didn’t want to say that we were doing a record anymore, ‘cause I’m tired of saying that we are doing the next record. But he got Pro Tools at his house and that has really helped, because we didn’t have to get seventeen songs together and go into the studio. We’ve been able to do them one at time and we’re really starting to see the light at the end of tunnel. It’s discouraging and yet we’re not going to stop. We’ve been together twenty years and we’re going to have our fourth record. If I tried to be realistic, the end of the year is the earliest it could be done.
Ryan: And you are a sound editor?
Kira: I’m a sound editor.
Ryan: How did you get into that?
Kira: I was working in the corporate world as a computer geek. It didn’t suit my personality in multiple ways, including the way we’ve been talking about my tendency to do it all the way, in that in a big corporation you’re a cog in a very large wheel; and that what you do individually is not important. What I’ve come to learn is that working in smaller teams, probably in any industry, is more suited to me, because then what I do is critical to the path, to the success. So I work for a small sound company, because my brother introduced me to this guy. We did this band thing and that’s how I met this guy Brian. Basically, I twisted Brian’s arm into hiring me. He didn’t want to. He had a very small company. He didn’t know how it was going to work. What happened was exactly what I expected to happen. Things got busy and he needed help so he started throwing more and more work at me. Dialog editing and ADR (additional dialogue recording) tends to be the female in sound, so often sound affects are the guys, and I started working toward that. I came to realize, working in a smaller company, was that it’s important to me that what I do matters. In a corporate world, that didn’t matter. I like my work to make a difference.