"In music, I just want people to express their raw emotions; it doesn't matter what label the music gets put on it. If they feel it, then I do, and if they don't, then I don't care."
Interview with Kira Roessler originally conducted in May 2006
Kira Roessler is one of the most accomplished musicians to come out of the early L.A. - Hollywood punk scene. In her lengthy career, she's played with several bands, including Waxx, The Visitors, The Mommymen, The Monsters, Sexsick, Twisted Roots, Black Flag and dos. It always amazes me when I hear or read someone describe Kira as "one of the best female bassists." She is one of the best - period.
Kira modestly describes her contributions in her interview, but fans of hardcore punk will know that Kira's bass playing with Black Flag during their prolific mid- eighties touring and recording period helped sow the seeds of punk in every town they blasted through.
I can't recall the first time I met Kira. She used to frequent the Canterbury Apartments and the Masque. My recollection of her is that she was a very pretty tomboy who rarely wore make up or dressed up. I talked her into some make-up and had to persuade her to put on Nickey Beat's jacket for the photos I took of her in the hallway at the Canterbury. I'm glad she humored me.
In addition to her career in the film industry, Kira remains quite active in music and performs with dos, her band with ex-hubby Mike Watt.
Oh, and we both like Shakira better when she sings en espanol.
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
I don't know if I made a contribution. I am/was a bass player, roadie, friend, cohort, fan within that community. Being there doesn't mean I contributed. I mostly tried to help bands by roadie-ing and stuff where they might need help. There was a selfish interest though, since I couldn't really afford to pay to get into gigs. I would show up early and help load gear and stuff. I wanted to get to know people who played music so I could eventually play with them. All pretty self-motivated really.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
In the early days, I loved the Avengers, Screamers, Germs and Weirdos. I would go to any gig but those were the ones that actually moved me a bit. The Germs were my first live punk show, so that influenced me greatly as well as the trip to the hospital with Bobby Pyn's (Darby Crash) bleeding foot. The Sex Pistols gig in SF with the Avengers was also amazing.... The first time I saw Black Flag with Henry singing...
"There were these very feminine women who were tough as all hell and nobody wanted to mess with them."
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
It was twofold really: first of all many bands had women in them, which was somewhat
unusual, but even stranger to me was that some women seemed to have celebrity status
without being in a band. Or even dating someone in a band. Women influenced the fashion heavily (as they always do), but also broke the mold of what tough was.
Although I was a tomboy, and understood that, there were these very feminine women
who were tough as all hell and nobody wanted to mess with them. It goes back to what I always felt punk was, nonconformity. All traditional roles and norms were out the window and women were very influential in that. Sure guys wrote unconventional songs or dressed and played unconventionally, but women did it all...
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
Nonconformity is still the watchword for me. I abhor following the trend in any sense of the word. I can't seem to conform even when I try. Sometimes I will dress for work and think my outfit is pretty normal until someone sees me and says something like: "I wish I had the nerve to wear something like that." I look down and don't even get it. In music, I just want people to express their raw emotions; it doesn't matter what label the music gets put on it. If they feel it, then I do, and if they don't, then I don't care.
5. What are you listening to now?
I have always listened to Billie Holiday, she has been a mainstay as other things come and go. Lately I listen to some Latin music: Albita is a Cuban Salsa type singer - she's great; Shakira is cool when she sings in Spanish, I listen to Spanish radio in the car.... I like the romantic ballads, believe it or not. Friends have kidded me that I would never listen to that kind of stuff in English.... (which) may be true....I really like Mates of State which is a more recent band. Since I do sound for a living and try to do my own music I don't listen to as much music as one might imagine....
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
When I was in Junior High, Michelle Bell (Gerber) and I had cooking class and she baked a little bread in the shape of a dick and balls.
When I was in twelfth grade, I recruited hippie Maggie Ehrig (Twisted Roots) into punk rock during cooking class....
Me and Stiv Bators (Dead Boys) dropped acid and I swear he dosed the rest of the band
without their permission... they did figure it out....
The only woman I ever had sex with was Joan Jett because she was/is so amazing....
While roadie-ing for the Screamers on a trip to New York I got my entire pay docked for
spray painting the club they played....
Black Flag was my favorite band when I joined them....
I wanted a blue Rickenbacker because Charlotte (The Eyes) had one... I hated that she
switched to guitar in the Go-Gos.
I hated women bass players with long nails....
Craig Lee (The Bags) once said I looked like I was going bald....
I got the crap kicked out of me in Long Beach right before a Black Flag show... still
played but I felt like shit...
I studied Calculus and Applied Math at UCLA in between Black Flag tours, almost killed
When I first started UCLA, I thought I might become a cop because I didn't know what to
do with myself and that I would be tough enough.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been
Have you interviewed Hellin Killer or Michelle Bell (Gerber)??? What about Joan Jett???
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don’t know?
See funny/interesting stories. I still play bass and have had a band called dos for twenty years with Mike Watt. We are currently trying to complete our fourth record. Watch www.hootpage.com for details...
Want more Kira? Read Razorcake's in-depth 2014 interview with her here.