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THE DONNAS, a Babes in Boyland / Out of the Box interview @Graceland, Seattle (02.17.2001).

In the cozy Graceland backstage on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Alisha, Derin and I sit around the table with the Donnas. Although they have just 'turned 21', no alcohol is served (just yet) and the usual abundance of vegetables and dip cover the table. In the background, The Bratmobile are doing there soundcheck, which completed the painting with a very nice soundtrack. The girls introduce the selves and their instruments: Donna C plays the drum, Donna A sings, Donna F plays bass and Donna R plays guitar.

OotB/Bib : What is the signification of the letters ?

The Donnas : They are the fist letter of our last name. Everyone think mine is 'fuck', but it's not…

OftB/Bib : So how did you come up with 'the Donnas'. Does it make any kind of reference to bands such as the Ramones or something ?

The Donnas : It came as kind of a joke, really. We were in a band at that time, called the Electrocutes, so we were doing that and at the same time a side project. We thought about the McDonald's 'Happy Meal', you know their messing around with the Flintstones and all that? and the letters got rearranged, which came up as the Donnas and that's how it all started, really. We didn't really think that much about it. It was not like 'ok, we're going to do this Ramones thing, you know where you have the names on the shirts. The shirt kind of came later. It all seemed like a joke when we came up with it and then it stuck, because people seemed to like it a lot, I don't know.

OotB/Bib : I was wondering what your stanze on Napster was ? Since it's such a Hot Topic right now.

The Donnas : I don't really have a problem about it. Metallica is crazy for being so upset about it, because they're so rich anyway, so why would they care ? I heard some people heard us on napster and they want to buy our album. I guess it depends on what band you are. Some bands make money without it, some bands do better with it. Like for smaller bands, it's better because more people hear it, but then for bigger bands it might cut in their record sales, but we're small, so we don't worry about that..

Oot/Bib : I can't use it anyway, my computer is so slow

The Donnas : Yes, it takes like the whole day to actually download what you need. Yeah, we're not the type of people that would waste they time doing that, we're more the type of people who like record covers. It's a lot better to have a little packet.But I mean if someone doesn't care about that, it's their problem and they are free to use Napster. But you know, they can also just tape it from their friends… it's the same.

OotB/Bib : So after this interview we can just go home and download a bunch of stuff from the Donnas ? (laugh)

The Donnas : (laugh) Well, I am sure people will do it anyway, even when it's forbidden. You can't stop them. And besides, some people can't get our record where they live, so it's better that they get our songs from Napster than not hearing us at all.. I'd rather have people that know our songs, you know Then they'll come to the show! If there was proof that people only get our albums out of the internet and nobody bought records, then I would hate Napster. But I mean our records sell pretty good, so…

OotB/Bib : How did you end up on LookOut !?

The Donnas : Well, we heard about it for a long time that they were gonna sign us. We used to think it was gonna happen on certain show, because we knew like Chris, or Mollie (you know, the president and the general manager there) or both of them were going to be there. Finally Derin Ofali, the guy that we started the Donnas with, and this other guy sat down and talked about the deal and stuff.

OotB/Bib : I heard that you guys don't write your own music, is that true ?

The Donnas : No. I mean the first three singles were written by this guy, Derin, we were working with.People seem to assume that young girls working with an older man was just to make money. The Donnas were then a side project bands, and we had written songs before, so it was not like we were a new band that had never written songs. Everybody is now saying 'oh, he was controlling you, you guys are puppets', but he was a friend, it was more of a collaboration. We hung out with him all the time. And it gets really annoying, you know, even now. Because we don't have anything to do with him anymore, except for friendship. And if people think that girls can't write songs without other people, then they have a problem.I didn't think it was a big deal at the time. We had already written so many songs then. Besides, we never had like this master plan. We would go like 'yeah, let's make this single with Derin, it will be fun. We never think anyone would actually buy it. Yeah, even he was just writing those songs with us for fun Any way to get anything out with your name on it, or with your face on it was cool. So we already had one single out with our own band and we were like 'well, he's going to put it out and we'll have to play th songs, but I mean, it's just something else to give your friends and say 'hey look, I've got two records now!' It was really fun to go and hang out with him it was good to go after hours and like play those songs. But I don't think we ever thought that people actually would buy it, you know. It was strange too because when we stopped working with him, it was kind of odd to see him just out of necessity people who would see our shirt would think it was some kind of novelty act, saying we were wearing costumes, you're working with this pupeteer. So when we stopped working with him, everybody was like'yeah, you finally kicked his ass', but we were like'God, this is just so notlikethat, you know' And beside what outside people, those who don't know him, don't know is that this guy writes songs for many other people too. Like all his friends' bands. He put out lots of other singles too. That's why it didn't seem weird, because it was a whole group of people who did it. I don't really understand why we got singled out like this.

Ootb/BiB : How long have you guys been together, then. I mean, you talk about the Electrocutes, was it already the 4 of you ?

The Donnas : Yeah, we were 13, it's been 8 years now, almost. It will be 8 years in May. Basically we met in middle school. Some of us even went at the same elementary school, so we've known each other for a long time.

Ootb/BiB : Are all of you 21 ?

The Donnas : Well, no, some of us are 22 now…as a matter of fact some people really think we're younger. People who saw us when we release our first single, when we were 16 or 17 tend to think that we're going to be that age forever. But hey, we ARE getting older…

Ootb/BiB : Before you're 21, can you play shows, though ?

The Donnas : Yeah, you can play shows, there are lots of people that let us play, but I think they were nicer to us because we are girls and we wouldn't sneak in and get some drinks and stuff, but a lot a boys in bands were asking us 'I got kicked out of that club, why didn't you?'… people just let us. Yeah we were pretty lucky. There was just one club in San Francisco when we were first starting out that wouldn't let us play, but most of the other ones did. Beside by the time we started our first tour we were already 18 and most people would let you play at 21 and over because you're 18.

Ootb/BiB : So what do you guys listen to when you're on the road ?

The Donnas : I like rap (Snoop Dog) We listen to AC/DC in the van most of the time. Them and other bands we are touring with. It's kind of fun especially if it's there last album that they just put out, to listen to it during the day and then see them play at night.

Ootb/BiB : Is there anybody you don't like ?

The Donnas : There's a lot we don't like. Basically everything on MTV, unless it's a joke, pop songs we make fun of. We hate the new rock, we really don't like Orgy, Limp Biskit and all that. The whole turn in the rock thing is just a joke. They made a mistake on 120 Minutes when they were supposed to premiere our video, they got messed up and they played Dog's Smack instead of it. 'Here's the Donnas', like the guy announces it and everything and they screwed up and the next video is Dogsnak, it was really weird. We always joke when we see it now 'hey look, here we are!'

Ootb/BiB : How did you like touring Europe ? Was it your first time there ?

The Donnas : No, it was our second time and the first time was pretty horrible, because it was like… well, it wasn't Europe's fault, it was our fault, or the promoter's fault. There was a bad, bad communication. We were obviously not prepared for where they were having us stay and everything. It was very different from our first American tour. Like for example they were telling us before we left that we didn't need our sleeping bag, that we didn't need to worry about hotels and then when we got there, it was a different story. I mean, it's great to sleep at people's place but we were pretty young at the time and it often felt quite awkward, and then some of the squats are just really nasty. You know we could have survived except that we didn't have sleeping bags. So we started spending money on hotels, then running out of money and then we have to cut the tour short the first time because we ran out of money. But we went back and the second time was great… in spite of the tour manager, but that's another story.

Ootb/BiB : I don't know how familiar you are with the history of influential girls bands here in Washington, with the Riot Grrrlz movement especially. There were a lot of very important local bands, especially from Olympia. Do you have any scene like this where you come from, and which ones of those bands were influential to you ?

The Donnas : When we were younger we were really into Riot Grrl, although we were a little too young to be as political as they were. So we would go to the shows to the Guilmon (we're from the Bay area), and kind of wish that they would let us go in there and into their group of women musicians. Nobody liked us at our school, so we were like 'if they don't like us at our school, maybe the women musicians will like us. But we were so durky and young and a lot of them were kind of stuck up, not at all what we thought they'd be. I thought they were into like girls, and I mean we were four young women who wanted to play, you know. All we wanted to do was just play and we hated the boys, so we thought we had many things in common, but they would just give us dirty looks. Once we gave someone our tape and then we found it on the floor at the end of the show. We were really sad -it was a Bikini Kill show…-- They were like our favorite at that time too, that's why we got really sad, 'cause we were just like dreaming of opening for Bikini Kill at Gilmon. And I mean there were lots of girls bands in the Bay area at that time that were really bad, but we would go to their show anyway, because that's how deep into the Riot Grrrl we got, you know.

Ootb/BiB : So basically you're saying that these bands might not have been as inspiring as they usually say they are...

The Donnas : So I mean listening to these bands was really inspiring, their music was. The scene they had among friends was inspiring too, but just the social part, like for us, who didn't belong to this very specific geographic community, it just mad us feel even lamer and alienated. It was like boys bands didn't like us, and then the girl bands didn't like us either. We didn't fit in anywhere. So we thought we must have been really lame or something, because nobody wanted us, so we just kept playing with ourselves. Every once in a while we met another band our age, they were all boys, you know what I mean ?

Ootb/BiB : I saw you last year and you left the stage pretty pissed... I think there was a problem with NOFX's, or something.

The Donnas : Oooh, that was the worst show in the world, they were throwing shit at us. Well, as far as I am concerned, everybody else in the show saw the shoes, and the water bottle, but I didn't even notice…t's their tour thing, though, I heard they did that to Green Day and basically to...

Ootb/BiB : The only other female band who played there that I remember of were the Lunachicks, right ?

The Donnas : Yeah, but they do that kind of thing all the time, they are used to it, they hang out with guys all the time. They are beautiful, but they are REALLY macho. Everybody was making fun of us there, saying we were 14, although they knew we were not that young anymore, but they sort of treated us like we were little kids. We definitely don't have that respect thing the Lunachicks have. And if we fight back, if we are mean to people, instead of saying 'oh, they are tough', they'll just say we are bitches, bratty little bitches, some prima donna from Cali

Ootb/BiB : Are you saying that generally guys are trying to give you some attitude, then ?The Donnas : No, it was basically the only time that it happened. That night was the latest we played anyway. They would change up the line-up every night. Also there were two stages, and one was better than the other one and if you're usually on one and you end up on the other one, well, you don't know the people. So it can be a bit weird, even as far as the set up is concerned. And then we never know what's going to happen in the audience. I guess it was a pretty bad idea to put a band like us in between those two bands, because they are very similar one to the other. They could have planned the whole thing a little better, I think. They don't really care about the bands or the music most of the time when they set-up events like that

Ootb/BiB : So now you hate NOFX ?

The Donnas : No I am just blaming their fans, and a band cannot be held responsible for their fans, really. It's not their fault. I think the Lunachicks would have handled the whole situation better too. I mean they have been in this kind of thing many times before.

Ootb/BiB : So, Britney or Christina ?

The Donnas : Britney !!! Christina is just trashy, and oh, my god, her hair, they really need to start working on that! She needs more conditioner! Where is the conditioner? I think her legs are too skinny, and they are really far apart! I think she's a bitch anyway, she's just jealous. And then we were in a movie called Jaw Breaker and she was there too and she got really mad at us because she thought we were making too much noise, or something.

Ootb/BiB : Well, I was said NOT to tell you that you look like Christina Ritchie… but I don't understand, because I think she's HOT !(laughs)

The Donnas : Well, I don't mind it, I just got tired of people telling me this. I mean even John Waters told me I looked like her…But she died her hair blond now, and she cut it! Well, I dress up like her in the Adams Family for Halloween sometimes, just as a joke…. I am bigger, anyway…

Ootb/BiB : What kind of advice would you have for girls who want to start a band ?

The Donnas : Oh, we always say that they should just pick their friends and make them play, even if someone is like 'I can't play, I don't know'… I think this is just a stupid excuse. I mean, that's how we did it. Every one of us was like 'ok, sure, I'll be in your band', but we didn't know how to play. It's much better to get along with people to start with, then start with great musicians… What's really important too is that no matter what shit you have to take from other people, just keep on going… and if you're friends, you can do it! And you can do it for fun, and you don't worry what other people think of you. And you know it's going to be hard, because no matter how big you get, unless it's very, very, very big, you're always going to play in dives, anywhere, and people are often going to give you shit. But hey, that's the price you have to pay for the great times you have on tour ! Especially if you headline !

Ootb/BiB : Thanks a lot and have a great show !

© Babes in Boyland / Out of the Box 2001.


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