Sunday, 10 May 2009


Tobi Vail has been a prominent figure in the Olympia music scene for over a decade. Although she' s been involved with many bands and musical projects, she's best known as a drummer of Bikini Kill. She's also a D.I.Y. zinister, writer, feminist and activist. Her actions inspired and influenced punk girrrls all over the world, myself included and I'm stoked to do an interview with her!

What have you been working on recently? Could you introduce me your band Spider and the Webs?

Spider and the Webs was a group I started about 5 years ago. We toured the west coast, put out two 7"s, two self-released demos, toured Europe and the UK as well as the west coast. It was more active in '04-'06. Then I played drums in a group called the Old Haunts for about a year, recording an album with them and doing three tours. After that ended, I booked a few shows with Spider and the Webs, but there are no plans to tour or record. I also play with Joey Casio, we're working on some new songs and I'm looking for another group to play drums in.

You've been active for more than a decade now. Is there any difference between the state of the matters then and now? Do you think anything has been changed? Do you feel any step forward at all after all those years?

I've been going to shows since 1983, playing in bands since 1985--so it's actually more than 25 years that I've been doing stuff. A lot of things have changed. I guess I'd need a more specific question here!

I read that Bikini Kill shows used to be very violent, do you think that the female musicians/performers are treated with more respect nowadays?

I think that women who really are a threat to male-domination will often face violent consequences, but that it is worth it. Women who just want a career in music, or who shy away from making a political statement via their band will always gain more approval and have an easier time than we did in Bikini Kill.

Eventhough it seems that Riot Girrrl movement left a great legacy for women to follow I hardly see some kind of community and activity from the female part. How to make more women realize that it's important to participate, create our own space and network, communicate, raise issues that are important to us...etc in our scene/community?

Well, Ladyfest has continued on with this and there are things like Homo A GoGo that still happen. Locally there is a fashion show that many feminists and queers see as political, but it doesn't speak to my vision of things so much. These are good questions you ask, I don't know the answers.Who/ What was the biggest influence in relation to feminism during your adolescence?People who just did stuff. Girls in bands, girls who made zines, girls who spoke their minds, girls who liked to skateboard, etc.

In your manifesto you stated that to be able to define ourselves and change our lives and therefore the world, first we need to analyze what role does capitalism play in our day to day existence. Do you have to make a lot of compromises to live your life as creatively and alternatively as you wish?

which manifesto? I feel that I don't compromise in my creative work at all. As a part of my job I sell records, which is a part of capitalism, but the larger goals is to be able to pay working class musicians a living wage, so I don't personally feel compromised by that, no.

The american economy is crumbling. Do you perceive any changes in your (or your friends) life? How do you see the situation in America and the world in the future?

well this is a big question. next year the college here will increase tuition by 14% and the following year they will increase tuition another 14%. pell grants (tuition wavers to low income students) are also being cut. so this means more students will go into debt for longer. in addition to this, they will be admitting fewer students. so there might be less people going to school. the library here has cut staff and cut their hours. the state subsidized health care plan we have where I live is cutting their budget by 40%, which is huge, and means a lot of low income people who play in bands will not have access to affordable health care. non-profits arts organizations are losing their funding and cutting their programs. people are getting laid off and people who own houses are facing foreclosure. older folks have lost their retirement money and are having to work longer. people are a little worried about the future. i have stopped going out to eat and am trying to save money. it's too soon to say how this will all play out....but it seems that it will impact poor and low income people the hardest.

Tell me more about your political activism? Did you manage to achieve what you wanted with the Bands against Bush?Are you involved in any other project now?

well Bush was reelected and the organization fell apart. I'm not doing much at the moment. I've been in school off and on since 2004. I went back to school after the war started in order to study American History. I took a year long course on Feminism that framed my politics in a more current global, economic framework. Now I'm learning to speak Spanish and see solidarity work as being important. I feel I can have the greatest impact through music and my writing, so I'm trying to focus on that as well.

You work for one of my favorite labels- Kill Rock Stars. tell me more about your work, any bands we should check out, any new releases?

Explode Into Colors is a great new band that we will be working with. The New Bloods is my favorite record we ever put out and that was last year. Mika Miko is another great punk group, but sadly we didn't put out their new record, I hope we get to work with them again in the future.

You remain independent of corporate ownership, why is it important to you?

Corporations put profit first over people and the environment. Now more than ever we need to put the environment first and work to end imperialism. Part of this is creating alternatives to corporate globalization.