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JD Samson, Le Tigre, March 9th. 2006. Bristol hotel, Oslo. 21:00





We search the luxury lounge for a quiet spot but soon find out it's impossible. "Not or scene" is the least we can say while trying to appear comfortable though we're feeling so misplaced.  We need relative quietness since we're recording the interview.... Muzack on live piano and bass (yes, it is possible), a real fountain, with really water making a really refreshing LOUD sound and really people... the latter having to be paid great attention to because the volume varies... no matter how expensive it is, no matter how many of it you can afford of it, after sipping A LOT of alcohol, human beings have the tendency to getting loud. A couple of them even got the point of doing a free style karaoke on "Yesterday", pure Bristol Hotel trash, who would have thought (yes, we are naive)?!?! Extremely entertaining, though. Anyway, we choose the table for the number of seats around it. A place where you're not allowed to take off your jacket unless you leave it at the cloakroom probably does not allow you to move the chesterfield armchairs around....JD is in town. She will be DJing the same night at Blå, at one of the city's Ladyfest event. We have loads of questions, but only half an hour. She appears on the side and we stand up to greet her.. and to show that we're the one she had an appointment with (lot like we have our faces all over the press). She does not seem surprised (I told you it was not our "scene"), puts our suitcase filled with records next to her and sits down deep in her armchair. We start straight away, though the very beginning as been lost, sorry. You will have to imagine it.... 2-3 minutes only, really, it was about the DIY workshop Chicks on Speed had in the afternoon, and it was going towards a label-oriented question:



 

OvaryAction: Is Le Tigre still distributed by Chicks on Speed records?

JD: Yes, and even our major record is still distributed, our vinyl that is, on Chicks on Speed record.

 


OA: So Universal don't want to deal with the vinyl situation ? Surprise, surprise!

JD: No, and the vinyl in the States, they don't do it either. We have an indie label putting out the vinyl in the States.


 

OA: How did you end up signing on Universal? Is it like you asked them, or did they come and beg?JD: When Mr. Lady stopped, or when they sent an email saying they were not doing any records anymore, we thought "Okay, we have to find someone else". And we spent weeks, well months really, a long time, looking for a label. We looked at some indie labels, some tiny ones - so small that this would be the only record being put out that year....and we went to all the majors too...and the big thing was that we hired a manager that had come from a major...they had fired all their people and hired a whole new staff and so he was really awesome in helping us find a label that was not gonna sacrifice us as artists nor our content.



OA: So what are you going to play tonight?

JD: I was talking to Elin (DJ Sunshine - resident at Blå - where JD is going to play just a couple of hours after we had met her) that we might do a back and forth, so I might just...I don't know, I think it's just going to be fun and all over the place.



OA: But what kind of records did you bring then?

JD: All kinds. I am influenced by a lot of different stuff and I like to play my friends and families music. Lots of queer artists as Tracy and the Plastics even Junior Senior, The Gossip, Erase Errata, Gravy Train!!! and stuff like that. I usually mix it in with Madonna and Michael Jackson. I don't really like Madonna but I like that new song. I got a hung up on it....well I guess it's the old single now. My main reason why I'm DJing is that Le Tigre is taking a hiatus from touring and I'm super missing the feeling of going to a club or something and being with the group of people that are our fans, that community. And I realized when I went to LA this one weekend when I was kinda like: "I really need to make some money and I don't know what to do". So my friends told me to come and DJ and they would throw a party, they would promote it and stuff. All these kids came and it was so much fun. It was kind of easy. You just said to come to this place and everyone had a really good time. So it has been more like creating a space to dance for people who want to or in a certain kind of scene. Usually I can tell what people want to hear in the first couple of songs and then I...well I like all kinds of music and the most of anything I like to make people happy.

 


OA: So what are your golden rules when you are DJing? Is it things you never do, or is it things you always do?

JD: I guess....I....I don't really have any...It's weird. Sometimes when I'm in a bad mood and people are asking me to play stuff I answer: "I don't take requests". But then again last night I was totally....well everyone is in a really good mood and this person came up to me and said "can you play Pulp?" I just said "sure, I will play anything you really like".


 

OA: Do you often play at queer arrangements mainly?

JD: Of course I like it so much better...well wherever I play, queer kids come and most of the places are queer night, or the venues are completely queer run. But in the States I do way less queer stuff than I do here (in Europe). In the States I do industry parties and stuff like that and it gets stupid and then it gets really bad. But a couple of weeks ago I DJed in Toronto in this dance club that was massive, like 1500 people or something. And I was playing with this DJ called Tommy Sunshine - actually - that is one of my favourite DJs. He is totally amazing. And I was really nervous. And everyone was super beat matching electro and I just thought "oh no, what am I gonna do and this is totally not my scene". I felt so humiliated. I had a head-spin all day in the airport cus my flight got cancelled. Then I just got up there and thought fuck these people, and I had the best time and played all this crazy pop music and everybody had so much fun! And then I got a review that I was way better than Tommy Sunshine because of the audience. I like to please the audience cus that is what matters.

 


OA: Do you get really stressed out when you play records?

JD: I get really stressed out beforehand, because I don't know what it's going to be like. I always say that I don't know what to play tonight and then as soon as I start I relax...and I always like to dance a lot when I'm playing and sing along and go crazy. Kind of like when I play a show...and I think people like that too. It's always like: when the DJ is having fun you are too.


 

OA: It even says so on your myspace.com profile, on the comments, that people have had a lot of fun! And people are indeed appreciating your DJdancing

JD: Yes, it's really cool.


 

OA: You say you miss touring, but you have a new band as well, yeah?

JD: It's kind of less like a new band but more like a fun thing I do with my friends. Maybe we will do something else some other time, but it was like we decided we had all this stuff and wanted to put it out. So we did and....we played probably seven shows. Four on the west coast and three on the east coast. All of us live in different cities and it's too hard for us get all together. I think everyone should come to New York and everyone wants the rest to go to their town....


 

OA: Are you actually from New York?

JD: No, I'm from Ohio, which is in the middle of the country. But I’ve lived in New York for about ten years.



OA: And why New York?

JD: I wanted to go to college. I went to this school called Sarah Lawrence College and went through film and video. That's how I met Sadie from Le Tigre and then I was in a band.


 

OA: You've never been in a band before that?

JD: No. It was...well, Le Tigre was more of an art project for us than a band. Like in the serious sense of that word. It was more like multimedia performance art.


 

OA: Were you influenced by the whole Riot Grrl movement or type of scene when you grew up? Did you know about Kathleen Hannah before you actually met her?

JD: I think that is the part of our band that makes it cool. I was not involved with Riot Grrl at all and I didn’t even know about it. Where I'm from and you're under 21 you can't really go to anything, no shows or anything like that. And it was no all age venues there until I had left Ohio. But I remember Bikini Kill came to town and one of my friends went to the show. But I had no idea what it was and I still didn't when I went to college. I got schooled in Riot Grrrl stuff there by this friend of mine and I was like "Oh cool!" but I never got into it. I have actually never listened to Bikini Kill once in my entire life.


 

OA: But were you listening to queer bands at all when you were going out? Like Team Dresch or something?

JD: Yeah! I actually listened to Tribe 8. Because I had read about them in this newspaper cuz they came Ohio and their show got cancelled and they got thrown out. And I thought that was so cool. And then I found one of their records at some store. And that was it. The internet didn't exist so I couldn't find the other bands through that. They played one time but I couldn't go cus I was not 21. Other than that I listened to Indigo Girls and Ani Di Franco and stuff like that. That was all I knew that was queer.



OA: And what about this situation now when Mr Lady is down, is there any lesbian record label in the States that is taking over?

JD: There is one, Sarah Dougher - you know about her? - she started a label called Cherchez la femme. And they've been putting out a little bit of stuff. But I don't know what they are doing right now. I think she definitely was trying to get back that Mr Lady vibe. A lot of people are putting out their own records and small record labels are popping up everywhere and that is good in one way but it doesn't create a good community... I think Mr Lady...well that ideal can't exist anymore because it's a different time now. People are starting their own record labels and a lot of people being in queer bands don't want to be pigeonholed in a queer band category. So a lot of bands are trying the young labels that have straight bands. It's a kind of interesting time for that for sure. And they also try major labels cus doors have been opened, there is more of an opportunity for queer bands to be on major labels.


 

OA: But they are probably going to be pigeonholed there as well...

JD: For sure. I mean we did that but it was kind of cool to do that because it was finally....I was a lesbian on a major label. There is a lot of amazing visibility that has been through that, that wouldn't had happened. I feel good about that.


 

OA: And when we are going back to the DJ'ing....when you go on tour like this, I mean you played on women’s day in Stockholm, you played for Ladyfest Oslo. I think you were going to Australia as well? A queer oriented event..

JD: Yeah, Brisbane Gay and Lesbian Film Festival....


 

OA:....so it's a political DJ'ing tour?

JD: Yes, some of it. I'm also DJ'ing in Stuttgart at probably not a gay place because I don't know if one exists there...maybe it does...yeah? I don't know how that is going to be like. I played in Barcelona in November at this huge club that had five thousand people...I can't remember what it's called...it has all these different rooms and it's like the place to go out on the weekends and you dance till eight o'clock in the morning. There is probably twelve different DJs during the night and I was playing in this pop-room and it was really horrible. The people was just wasted and it's the kind of the room people go to talk. It wasn't really special that I was there. Well some people was like "Hey, I was coming cus you were playing" but I was the DJ playing just for....and what am I doing here? But in the States I don't do political stuff. I have this amazing agent here called Thomas from Queer Beat, that's the guy who books Le Tigre, Lesbian On Ecstasy, Hidden Cameras...and Kids On TV...he does a lot of political queer bands and we have used him since the beginning of time! He's really good at getting political gigs like that and that's why I wouldn't go to anyone else. Cus it's... not to be like.... but it's my job and it's....like...political gigs pay way less than mainstream gigs. And in the States I have a way more mainstream agent that gets me stuff on how much money it's worth but it's less being involved in the community.


 

OA: But isn't it really good since you are first dealing with visibility and then second doing a political and networking type of thing?

JD: Yes, totally. And what is cool about that too is that I do a lot of networking through even like myspace or whatever and people are asking: "Can you DJ?" and even if it's for no money I do it a lot, but I don't tell my agent about it. Cus if I'm not getting payed - she won't be getting paid either...so it doesn't matter, if you see what I mean? But it's fun. I like Thomas cus he gets the most amazing stuff. He even got me this gig in Israel, although it didn't work out with my schedule, but all these crazy places that I never thought I'd ever go to, you know. Like Warsaw and ... the women's festival in Slovenia, Le Tigre played there last year. He's a good guy.


 

OA: Yes, it's the queeruption in Israel this year, I guess it was that he was thinking of?

JD: It is?? Oh, that would have been really cool!


 

OA: Have you been to  a queeruption?

JD: Yes, I was at the first one! And it was really cool. Well, parts of it was really cool and other parts was really weird. Cus it was just this crazy kind of coming together and everyone got really wasted and acted out. There was crazy sex parties and...stuff


 

OA: Yes, the websites present usually a mix of pictures of people making out in groups and pictures of bands , people, and art pieces or actions. They show the same place, but obviously people do not have the same experience, or looking for the same thing...J

D: Yes, totally. And that was the only thing that was really weird about it....it was just about sex....and Hello!...but..


 

OA: Talking about pictures, and though it does not have any more connection to the subject than that:  How did you come up with this calendar idea?

JD: In 2003 I did the first one(and no, you did not miss out of any)and that was really the right moment to do that. It worked really well and it was great.


 

OA: How did you come up with the idea?

JD: I guess it was me and Kathleen when we were in this hotel room in Arizona, I think it was, and we had a day off and there was no-one around and we were so bored and she was taking pictures of me with a disposable camera...and I was trying to be really sexy and stuff and then we found out we totally had to make a calendar, that would be so funny! And that was probably a year before I actually decided to do it. And I thought...what if I made this calendar, I didn't even thought of selling it, it was more just the idea of making one and Mr Lady said they would put it out so I printed about a thousand and they sold out pretty fast. So I printed another thousand and they sold out as well. Well they only sold out last year. So people have been buying it obviously when it was not even that year. So that was really cool to me.


 

OA: I guess people were not really looking at the days, anyway...

JD: I guess not. So then they wanted me to make another calendar, but I didn't want to do the same thing. I had all these ideas of how the next one was going to be like. Everything seemed to be a bit meaningless to me, I had already done this....but I  always had this dream to travel to gay and lesbian RV parks...


 

OA:...cus that one (Lesbian Utopia) is totally a road trip, and you look like you are really having fun...

JD: Yes, we had a lot of fun and it was an amazing experience. And the idea was to search for lesbian utopia. And we totally found it within the RV. I think the idea is that the RV is a metaphor for the queer community and you are totally stuck with the people you are in it with, but constantly moving forward. You need to figure out how to work together and have a good time. You are segregated from everyone else, but pushing forward. I guess that was....it was a totally amazing experience. To go with people who didn't know each other was a cool part about it. We just had some intense meetings and...



OA: But did you have an idea of making a calendar when you left?

JD: Oh, yeah. But we didn't know how it was going to look like. I think we were thinking of doing a book, or thinking of doing a small pocket calendar...or what is that called...a planner! Something like that. But we didn't know what it was going to look like. Part of the reason I did the calendar was that I had a show in a gallery in New York which Chicks On Speed also had a show there too. This gallery called Deitch Projects...it a kind of a pretty hipster gallery and had never had a lesbian show before. Really well known throughout the 70ies and 80ies like that whole kind of Keith Haring kind of scene and they sell...well, they represent Keith Haring, it's a huge gallery. So I really wanted to do something crazy and gay, so I built a life size rainbow RV and I hung these huge flags, gay flags out and painted pink triangulars on the walls and then Lesbians On Ecstasy came and played in the RV. Then it was a crazy dance party and we had a choir that sung "Both Hands" by Ani Di Franco.......



 

We know it does sound like fun and we too wanted to know more but we only had a minute left to force JD to make us a JD special radio spot and get her to sign our Lesbian Utopia (well hers, really, but also ours obviously) -March page. Then  she was picked up to go to the show. Thanks mr driver for being patient with us, double thanks JD for the time you allowed us!


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