THE JULIE RUIN
New York, NY
In 1997, while on break from the iconic punk band, Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna wrote and produced a solo record under the pseudonym of Julie Ruin. The album is considered a classic of subversive pop and has been praised by artists ranging from Kim Gordon to Mykki Blanco. Kathleen had always planned to perform the songs live, so in 1998 she and her friend Johanna Fateman went down in a dingy East Village basement and tried to learn how to play the Julie Ruin record, but instead began writing the first Le Tigre record, a hugely influential album from a band who went on to release three full-length albums and tour extensively until 2006.
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In 2010, with Le Tigre on hiatus, Kathleen tried again. She had heard that her Bikini Kill bandmate, Kathi Wilcox, was moving from Washington, D.C. to NYC and asked her if she would consider playing bass in the new project. To Kathleen’s delight, Kathi agreed.
Kathleen had seen the legendary punk cabaret act Kiki and Herb (Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman, respectively) shortly after she moved to NYC in 1998. In that act, she found solace and a sense that she wasn’t alone in her art-making. Like her take on feminism, Kiki and Herb took queer activism, mixed it with the traditions of cabaret, added in a punk sensibility, and created an enduring act that lasted the better part of 16 years, toured the world and was nominated for a Tony Award. Kenny once sent Kathleen a gushing fan letter only to be surprised when she wrote him one back. After Kiki and Herb ended, Kenny continued working in the downtown scene and was a co-creator of the cult show Our Hit Parade. As a solo artist he has opened for The Magnetic Fields and recorded with the Stephin Merritt side project, The 6ths. Kathleen emailed Kenny in 2010 and asked if he might want to try writing country songs together. They got together once, worked on a song, and even though the song never materialized Kathleen knew they would work well together. The next email Kathleen sent him was to ask if he would play keyboard in The Julie Ruin. He, of course, said yes!
Kathleen met Carmine Covelli when he joined the Le Tigre world tour in 2004 as the video and lighting tech guru. During that tour he filmed a chunk of live performance and behind-the-scenes footage that ended up in Who Took The Bomp?, the documentary about Le Tigre’s final tour. Carmine comes from a musical background of metal, hardcore and punk. He is also an actor, performer and sound artist in the experimental downtown theater scene, performing at such places at PS122, St. Marks Church, DTW, and The Kitchen. In 2007, Kathleen saw a solo show of his called “Are You There Galapagos? It’s Me, Carmine.” She found the show so smart and funny that she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She had also seen him play drums in a few acts around town, so one night during her birthday party she asked him to join the band.
Kathleen met Sara Landeau in 2006, when they taught and coached bands at The Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn. Sara studied at the New School and Juilliard, and graduated from Columbia University. She now runs her own music school and teaches guitar and drums to young women all over NYC. She spends her days advocating for girls of all ages to learn to play rock music, form bands, and develop self-empowerment through music. Sara had been in a host of punk bands that played shows around NYC, and had a unique killer surfy guitar style that Kathleen loved and thought would enhance The Julie Ruin sound.
The group began practicing even before Kathi moved to NYC and was able to join them. They loved the challenge of taking the solo recordings from the Julie Ruin record and recrafting them for a full band. At the end of most rehearsals they would just jam. Those jams turned into the songs that now form Run Fast, the band’s debut album. From the raw opener, “Oh Come On,” to the soulful “Just My Kind” (produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy), to the synth-heavy title track, “Run Fast,” the album captures the band’s many sides. Through it all, Kathleen’s vocals connect all the dots.
Besides the James Murphy track and a couple of songs that Kathleen mixed on her own, the album was mixed by Eli Crews, who tracked and mixed tUnE-yArDs album, whokill.
As to why Kathleen took so long to return to music, the answer is to be found in the documentary film The Punk Singer, that Sini Anderson and Tamra Davis made about her. A hit on the festival circuit, The Punk Singer follows Kathleen for a year, during which she discovers that she has Lyme Disease which had gone undiagnosed for years. After extensive treatment, Kathleen’s illness is now in remission, and she has become an advocate for Lyme Disease education.
The Julie Ruin is very excited to be launching a tour to support the release of Run Fast, with dates starting in September of 2013.