top of page

SARAH DOUGHER, a Shark Bait / Babes in Boyland interview @ the Crocodile Café, Seattle (10.26.2000).

Dernière mise à jour : 2 avr.

It's the evening and only the second interview that we have together. As good students, we have read all the interviews, reviews and articles we could possibly find to have a more complete idea of who she is (besides a musician-composer-PhD student-teacher-music editor for Plazm) and learnt as much as we could about Sarah. We are very impressed by her music, her achievement, her wit, everything that makes us feel as big as smashed peas as we walk up to her to ask for an interview. She accepts with warm smile and we seat at a booth in the bar section of the Crocodile Café. The next minutes are incredibly intense (we have so many things to ask her, so few words and so little time) and the following words are the trace of the discussion we had with this Ms Lady of Rock….or at least what we could remember of them because the Mini disc we were using was brand new and yes, we did screw up the interview at one point (still possible to use for the radio show though, thanks for asking) but please don't come up with the usual 'girl and technology' comment rolling your eyes or we might get pissed off, which would result in your ass being initiated to the not so soft contact of a toe-cap DM. Sorry Sarah, though, especially since it was a great part of the interview that got erased. The rest is the almost exact transcription of the Lady's word (yes, you do have to adapt the oral message to the written form. No we didn't change the content). Seattle, Day One at night, enjoy !

BiB/Sb : You play in two different bands beside your solo career and you work as a teacher at the same time, do you ever sleep ?

Sarah Dougher : Yes, I do. I mean I haven't been sleeping very much recently because I am also now applying for other teaching jobs (that's a lot of work!) and I have my job, but my other bands right now are sort of sleeping. It's just me. Cadallaca is taking a little break. We were writing songs and practicing but we are not playing shows right now. The Crabs were on a sort of hiatus. I don't really know what's happening. I mean with Cadallaca, we maybe practice once a week or once every two weeks, sometimes more, but it doesn't really take that much time. I mean for me what takes a lot of time is writing music. Because for me it often involves a very long uninterrupted period of solitude and it's hard to find that chunk of time. You know when I was in school it was really easy because I would just like study for an hour, then practice for two hours, then study for two hours, practice for one… I could do it, I could organize my time a little bit more according to my will.

BiB/Sb : How do you write the songs with the other bands, then? Do you write them all together ?S.D. : Yeah, we write them altogether. Well, for Cadallaca usually Corin and I get together and just sketch out parts of the song or we come up with an idea for a song or something and then in our next practice we play it and see what it sounds like, because usually when we write songs we're just sort of quiet and we see what it sounds like loud and with the drums. We would go like yeah, it needs something, it needs like a really good intro and we compose it together.

BiB/Sb : Is that when you come in with all the different kinds of instrument ?

S.D. : Well, you know we just use three different instruments. It's a just a keyboard, guitar and drums. I mean we may use more instruments in the future, but for now that's it.

Bib/Sb : How did you decide on these instruments to start with ?

S.D. : Well, the keyboard sort of generated the band because I got this organ and I was like 'I wanna have a band with an organ! Will you guys be in my band?' And so we just decided to have the band.

Bib/Sb : Have you known them forever, I mean that's really what it sounds like when you talk about them.

S.D. : Yes, well I met Shana in 1995, when she moved from Chico, CA to Portland, and I met Corin a little bit before that, probably like two years before that, just through music and we had mutual friends. We were housemates for a while. We're just really good friends and we met mostly through music.

Bib/Sb : Is there going to be a full length Cadallaca album soon ?

S.D. : Yes, I don't know when but it will come, I promise.

Bib/Sb : How do you explain the fact that the community is so supportive in Portland ? I don't see it to be that supportive in Seattle, for example.

S.D. : Well, it's hard for me to say anything about this right now, I guess because I don't really know what the scene in Portland is actually like, I only know about my friends and myself, you know what I mean, and I know even less about Seattle. However, what I do know is that the environment that I insist on playing music in is one that is not competitive, not contentious and that insists on the viability of new musicians and experimental music and different configurations of people. It doesn't matter if you've been in a band for ten years and then you start a band with someone who doesn't even know how to play their instrument yet, that's a band! I am really interested in the idea of being able to play music throughout my whole life with people. Having that be a value that I support in myself throughout my whole life because I really love it.

Bib/Sb : Have you found yourself limited by sexism, especially in the so-called cock-rock world ?S.D. : I spend a lot of time trying to encounter or change the minds of sexist people, because I don't really encounter them in my day to day life because I don't arrange my life around them or to please them or whatever. I think because rock is in a lot of ways a laissez-faire social environment, I think that it's only when I've encountered people who think of themselves as part of institutions that I encounter sexism.

Bib/Sb : Do you think that there can be more sexism in rock than in punk for example (if these categories are of any relevance, that is) ? I mean punk was more or less a reaction against an institutionalizing rock…

S.D. : It totally depends on the scene, I think it's a very hard thing to generalize. I know for example like the genre hard-rock right now is really, really sexist, but it exists alongside the genre hip-hop, which actually also is really sexist in a lot of ways but there are punk scenes that also are really sexists. When I go on tour, I go to smaller places like I don't know Kansas City, or St Louis and the women there who are trying to forge their place in the punk scene have a lot of resistance. It's always really shocking to me because I would play with THE girls band of Kansas City, or wherever, and there's not like a whole bunch of them. Whereas in Portland, you have girl punk bands, and girl pop bands, and girls hardcore bands, and girl singers, you know it's like all these different styles of music that women are totally excelling in. When I see that on tour, I think to myself 'oh my god, the punk scene is so sexist' because young girls arescared to even try. I think that Riot Grrrl still must live because of that, and I will still have to go on tour because of that very thing, you know. Then I start feeling all that righteous and excited, but in my owncommunity because I get used to how wonderfully supportive it is, I forget sometimes.

Bib/Sb : How did you pick up the guitar ? Was it empowering for you ? I remember reading this interview of Donna Dresch saying she had chosen to play the bass because it was the least 'woman' instrument she could find. it was everything she was not supposed to be, you know, loud and heavy.

S.D. : It's funny she says that though, because the bass is often the girl's instrument. But I think what she does with it, her way of subverting the background bass line, its supporting role. Bib/Sb : Can you tell us about queercore. I mean so many people have been using the word either to describe a particular type of music (punk particularly) or the sexuality of the performers, what is your definition ?

S.D. : Well, I think many people limit queercore to punk because a) of the word 'core', which is usually used in expressions such hardcore and b) because of the fanzine Out Punk which was really punk focussed. That was an important way that people outside of other scenes got the information of queer people playing music and it was almost all punk.

Bib/Sb : How did it all start, this queercore thing ?

S.D. : God, I don't know. I was never really drawn to anything called the queercore because all my friends were queer and we all played music, so it wasn't like 'yeah, we're gonna start a queercore band'.

Bib/Sb : But you already had…

S.D. : Yeah, here I am… so I guess that when a group pursue to choose an identity or is formed from an identity, it feels like automatically once you name it, it starts to disintegrate. The reason is because it can't possibly contain within one name all of the diversity within it. It just seems so funny because when I think of queercore, I think of other cultural manifestations of gay culture that have flourished and I think about France and a lot of women I know, like Tobi Vail, sometimes write about this too. We are like totally obsessed with Paris of the 20s. That was a cultural phenomenon that was sexually liberated, that was supportive and interested in gay identity and its relationship with creation. As far as queercore is concerned, I see its connections to other genres of music that are identity based, like straight edge hardcore punk and all those identity oriented musicians but I see the movement that we can classify as queercore as being also related to other gay cultural movements. They existed in different places at different times. They are very different now than from what they were let's say before 1967. Besides they exist in different manifestations all over the US.

Bib/Sb : Don't you think that this queer identity is turning into a mere market now, though ?

S.D. : Well, I think people identify as queers for various reasons, and there are as many reasons as there are people who do it. It's just like mainstream culture, you know. Queerculture has a relationship to mainstream culture because we live under capitalism and as a result, queer identity is understood by people who create market as a market. Gay men, that's one market, gay women, that's another market. There are stratifications if you are thinking in the capitalist model. But I think that for many people owning that identity is a life line to their true selves, to how they can exist in the world and be liberated, truly liberated. In that sense, I can't hold the cynical view about it, even though I want to barf when I see an Ikea ad with two gay men choosing furniture… (laughs) I don't identify with that, that's not really my world, you know, but I am also really glad that my mom gets to see that, that gay people do normal things like choose furniture, that they have partners, jobs, kids, lives, that they chose. It's a double-edged sword because it helps gay people who want to assimilate into capitalist patriarchal culture, to participate in this system, but I think for freaks and especially transgender people, it's still a really intense struggle. I think that actually in the next ten years, that's going to be the main focus of gay and sexuality-based identity struggle. The same issues exist for trans-people as did for gays and lesbians up to Stonewall and beyond.

Bib/Sb : So why do you see yourself any reason for fitting into that identification ?

S.D. : Well, it's hard to say because I feel like although my music isn't overtly political, like a lot of it is kind of personal, using a personal voice, I still see it, and I see my making music as really politically motivated act. That's why I switched labels from K to Mr Lady, because I wanted to be involved with people who were a) making overtly more political music, b) people who were thinking about it as part of their relationship to corporate culture in capitalist society, that they are feminists.

Bib/Sb : I want to know what your real passion is, like you say that you teach and you play, you write… I mean you seem like a very involved person in the community. What could you not live without ?

S.D. : I think that we're asked to define these things, make these choices that limit you, limit you, limit you. I have always had the impression that the object of education is to actually widen your options as opposed to limit them. When I was in Grad School, I realized that actually the opposite was true, that what you do is be trained to limit yourself, so that you area professional in just one field and that did not really fit who I am, what I do it is being a teacher. I see that as crossing through a lot of different activities. Being a writer is also like being a teacher, being a teacher is like being an actor, a singer, you know. I think that the space shared between teacher and performer is a large space and I like that too.

Bib/Sb : When did you start playing music ? It feels like you've done that forever.

S.D. : I've played music since I was like 5. I played the piano and the violin. Then I started play the guitar when I was 11, my brother and I bought an electric guitar together and we just learnt Beatles songs on the guitar at first. But mostly I started with other people when I was in Grad School, in like 92, so it hasn't been really that long. 8 years, well I guess it's a long time…. I guess that's an interesting idea about passions. I was in New York last week and I went to this exhibit in the public library. It was an exhibit on Utopia and they had some really amazing manuscripts and maps and stuff, but one thing they had was a quote by Karl Marx on the wall. It said basically that ideally, in a utopia, a man could wake up in the morning and spend time with his family and be a father, then he would practice his craft as a craftsman, then he wouldplay music as a musician and he would labour and be a labourer. In the ideal world, a person would practice over a very broad range of activities. He or she would be adept in all of them because they would be given the opportunity to learn them, to pursue them in the way that they felt best and it wouldn't be a process of elimination, like 'what am I best at?' It would be a process of constant learning and constant development within all echelons of culture, not just 'high' culture, not just blue collar worker, labourer, that you would experience the range of these things, and I think that's really important. Therefore you can just say 'I am a citizen'.

Bib/S.D. : Well, I guess we can say you are.

S.D. : I hope, I hope, I am trying really hard but it's not easy because one reason why people choose one thing is because they have to earn a living and pay their rent, and they have a student loan, like me.

Bib/Sb : Do you have any other collaborative projects going on, musically I mean ?

S.D. : Not right now, I am working with my friend John and my solo songs. It's about all I can handle right now. And we are planning on writing songs this winter, so there should be more music coming soon. My next collaboration I think is going to be recording with this woman in San Francisco called Amy Linton, who is in a band called the Aislers Set, and she is a very interesting engineer and producer. Therefore I see that as a collaboration, that's coming up. She is a very good friend and that is usually I pick the people I work with, they are my friends, we do all this in a very natural way.

Bib/Sb : Are you planning on touring Europe ?

S.D. : I wish I could go to Europe, but it's so expensive. Actually I toured England with Marine Research. I think that if I toured Europe I would like to tour with somebody else but it is not always easy to find people who play kind of the same music as I do.

Bib/S.D. : Well, we wish you the best and thanks so much for your time.

© Babes in Boyland / Shark Bait 2000.


bottom of page