Brody Dalle of The Distillers sheds her man and dons her crown
MacEwan Hall (U of C) It’s been an interesting ride for Aussie-born singer Brody Dalle. The past five years have seen her band, The Distillers, formed and reformed. They signed to Brett Gurewitz’s (Bad Religion) Epitaph label then again to Hellcat Records and then finally resigned themselves (pun intended) to Sire. Dealing with the lesser loss of the departures of bandmates Kim Chi, Matt Young and Rose Caspar, Dalle has gone back to her maiden name, having split from her husband, rooster-headed Rancid frontman, Tim Armstrong. In between nation-sweeping tours, Dalle has settled for the quiet life, playing the homebody in the new house she and her new boyfriend recently purchased in the San Fernando Valley. According to Dalle, the path she’s taken towards happiness and success hasn’t always been a smooth one, but now she’s proud to be a real Valley girl at heart.
"I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I’m in transition – life-changing shit," says Dalle with a deep chuckle. "When you’re at a crossroads there’s a lot to think about before you pick the direction you want to go. Putting out a strong feminine image? I love it! There’s such a fuckin’ drought for women artists right now, especially women who play guitar. They’re not on the radio, they’re not selling records, unless they’re the kind who just stand there and look pretty and sing. It really sucks."
Dealing with sexism is but one of the modern pitfalls Dalle perceives as a female artist in the record industry. Charged with the awesome task of revitalizing the watered-down modern incarnation of the great punk movement of yore, The Distillers hawk one big loogie on any expectations that the Sex Pistols will rise again.
"My thoughts on the so-called punk revival of the last four years? I’m sick of it! Frankly, I’m sick of punk. I am so over it. It’s just not the same as it was – the revival needs to shift its focus. There are so many punk factions out there right now, it’s hard to know where you stand," says Dalle. "We’ve got more rules now than any other genre. It’s kind of elitist. I love what punk was originally about, now it’s just about the selling of it. Punk’s not dead, but it needs to be reformed. That’s the whole point of being an artist. You do whatever you want!"
Speaking of artistic licence, The Distillers’ latest release Coral Fang is bound to turn a few heads (and possibly stomachs) with its stunningly graphic imagery. A nude, headless, crucified woman gushes huge gouts of crimson blood onto a snow-white background (and it gets worse inside, believe me). The clean cover version of Coral Fang depicts a loopy menagerie of animals congregating under a rainbow sun. No controversy intended. But certainly, fans of The Distillers self-titled debut and their 2002 follow-up Sing Sing Death House must be wondering what kind of socio-political statement looms behind this maniacal cover art. Dalle blithely shrugs off any notion that she’s making waves or sending out any idealistic messages. According to her, it just looked cool at the time.
"I didn’t think about it at all. A friend of mine, Tim Presley, did all that artwork. It was totally his vision. He’s got a band called Darker My Love and he’s a fucking amazing, brilliant artist. I didn’t have anything to do with creating the design for the album – that was totally his male interpretation. I probably wouldn’t have chosen a woman on the cross for the cover, but that’s just me. I think people appreciate our sincerity, but maybe they just like the music. You just gotta keep on pumpin’ ’em out – contracts require this. I just wanna make a good record next, one that we’re all happy with. Until then, I’ll just keep it mysterious. That’s me, the mysterious queen – wearin’ my fuckin’ crown!"
by Christine Leonard
Originally published in FFWD Magazine
Sunday May 23, 2004