Sexism Still Exists, So We Still Need Bikini Kill

We spoke with Kathi Wilcox about the band's reissue.

Bikini Kill has a brand-new song out today -- except that's not. New that is. At all. The iconic riot grrrl band is out with "Playground," a previously unreleased track from their 1991 album, Revolution Girl Style, and according to the band's Kathi Wilcox, they don't rightly even remember recording the sneering, warped childhood rhyme of a track.

"Playground" -- which heavily samples from old classics like "I am rubber, you are glue" -- won't be the first new/old track from Bikini Kill set to drop in the next month or so. The band plans to reissue their first-ever cassette across all formats on September 22, an album that they initially recorded over a bunch of Nirvana tapes only a few months after becoming a band.

Since then, it's an understatement to say that their influence has grown -- frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and Co. have inspired Sleater-Kinney and Miley Cyrus alike, and Hanna herself officially rang in Riot Grrrl Day in Boston back in April. A more grunge-y sound for the punk band, Revolution Girl Style sees the band at its earliest, however -- before Hanna played in Le Tigre and, eventually, formed her most recent band, the Julie Ruin, which also includes Wilcox.

MTV News spoke with Wilcox before the band's 1991 album hits stereos (and iPhones) once more. Check out what she has to say about riot grrrl's legacy, what we need to know about Bikini Kill and whether she and Hanna would ever work with super-fan Miley Cyrus.

MTV: So you have a new... old song out today? What's it like having people hear it after so many years?

Kathi Wilcox: We hadn't heard it at all since we recorded it, since we had no mixes of these songs at all. So until we got it remixed, I hadn't heard it since then. It was definitely eye-opening. We wrote them all in Tobi's parents' garage. I don't actually remembering recording these songs at all. I remember doing the demo -- but I only remember the songs that came out on the cassette.


MTV: With this record coming out and Riot Grrrl Day coming to Boston and all that, do you think riot grrrl is having a moment? Or did it never go anywhere?

Wilcox: I don't know if it's making an comeback and I don't know if it's always been around -- I know that it certainly was around during all of Bikini Kill and it seems like right after Bikini Kill there might have been kind of a downturn. But then it seems like right after that there were just lots of girls who looked like riot grrrls and who were kind of politically active. It seems like the interest has been going up and up and up since then.

I feel like it's remained relevant. It's something that has never become outdated, because sexism still exists. Being a teenage girl still kind of sucks in a lot of ways. Until those things change, I don't really see why it would ever go completely away.

MTV News: What would you tell a teen who was interested in getting into riot grrrl?

Wilcox: Riot grrrl now -- I would just say, "Make it a modern thing." It shouldn't be a retread of what was happening in the '90s. Obviously it wouldn't be. It would be a reflection of what's happening now. I feel like everything's so much more sophisticated now; people are so much more informed about things like trans issues. That was hardly even discussed outside of academia in the '90s. Now it's on TV. The world has been brought up to speed on a lot of things in a way that's totally great. So anything that happens now would just be benefitting from all of that.

MTV: How would you like to see the movement evolve in that case?

Wilcox: I would like to see it evolve into a bigger thing and pull in other issues and be more complicated, perhaps, than what it was in the '90s.

MTV: Looking back at the record, how do your songs fit into the world now?

Wilcox: Sexism still exists. Violence against women still exists. So I would think that maybe someone listening to them now would hear something that they would take and apply to their life now. Things have changed, but also not that much has changed. The kind of online harassment that women get -- it indicates that hostility and violence against women is still a huge problem. It's not like sexism has been eradicated.

MTV: For new listeners, what would you want them to know about Bikini Kill before listening for the first time?

Wilcox: If this were the first thing that they were listening to, I would want them to know that we had only been a band for six months when we made this record. It was only ever a cassette -- a demo tape. We had only played maybe five or six shows. So it was our very first recording. We had studied feminism in college and we were all finishing college -- that was our last year -- so I think that would inform a lot of what we were doing.

MTV: What would you tell a teen who wanted to start a band like you guys did? Outside the mainstream?

Wilcox: I would say that they should do it for themselves. They should please themselves. Because you're never going to be able to please someone else. If they like what they sound like unpolished, then that's all that matters. You're going to have to be that thing -- so you better be the thing that you want to be, because if you try to be what someone else wants you to be, then you're going to have to be that thing and it might be a miserable kind of life.

MTV: Because she's our VMA host... I know Kathleen Hanna and Miley Cyrus were kind of chatting on Twitter and that Kathleen mentioned wanting to work with Miley... Will the Julie Ruin be doing anything with her any time soon?

Wilcox: I don't know. That's a good question. I have no idea...

Latest News