Blog Archives

Bassist of the Month: Jo Bench

Jo Bench is one of the few and the proud, a woman who has been playing death metal since the genre’s inception. A member of classic band Bolt Thrower since 1987, Bench provides a good portion of the dark, heavy tones that lend the band its brutality.

Says Jo Bench about her work in Bolt Thrower, “My main purpose since day one was not to draw attention to the fact I’m a woman, and that has helped me massively. I feel like just another musician in the band, and have been treated as such, and I think that has gained me more respect in the long run. I’m very grateful for that.” This approach certainly worked. I’ve seen Bolt Thrower fans on metal forums who had no idea that the band’s bassist was a woman. Her determination to avoid attention based on gender has led fans to focus on something more important: her music. And what awesome music it is, too.

Here are some great Bolt Thrower songs:

Underrated Band of the Month: Phantom Blue

(Everybody, thanks for bearing with me while I took last month off. Here’s a little something to tide you over.)

I’m not gonna lie; Phantom Blue is one of the reasons why I did my grad project on women in the music industry. I discovered them and thought, “Dude, this band is really awesome. Why haven’t I heard of them before?” Their music sounded so great that the only reason I could see why they weren’t more popular was because they were all-female. That thought made me want to research sexism in the music industry.

Phantom Blue has a great classic metal sound, drawing more on thrash and grunge influences in their later work. Unfortunately, their original guitarist, Michelle Meldrum, died of  “a cystic growth on her brain that had restricted oxygen and blood flow to her brain, rendering her braindead” in 2008. Their most recent lineup is radically different from the original one, and their website appears defunct. I was unable to contact them and ask whether or not they’re still active. While we wait for more news, please check out some of their awesome music.

Underrated Band of the Month: Babes in Toyland

They’ve been described as both a punk and grunge band. However, the only adjective needed to describe this band is awesome. These ladies really deserve some more recognition.

Jumpy, ferocious bass? Fierce, relentless drums? Heavy, stuttering guitar coupled with edgy, screaming vocals? Yes, please. How come when VH1 documentaries discuss alternative rock bands of the 90s, all they talk about is Nirvana this and Smashing Pumpkins that? Babes in Toyland should at least get an honorary mention. After all, their first album Spanking Machine impressed the members of Sonic Youth so much that they were invited to tour with them. (Check out the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke to see the results.)

Their names are Kat Bjelland (guitars, vocals), Lori Barbero (drums), and Maureen Herman (bass on albums Fontanelle and Nemesisters; Michelle Leon played bass on Spanking Machine). Check them out; they might impress you just as much as they’ve impressed me.

Bassist of the Month: Kim Gordon

Is there a single Sonic Youth fan who dislikes Kim Gordon? Finding one who does is certainly a challenge. Gordon, whether it be because of her bass-playing, singing, songwriting, or sex appeal, seems to be universally beloved.

Where would the riot grrl movement be without Kim Gordon? Not much of anywhere, according to those who call her the “Godmother of Riot Grrl.” While she denied ties with the movement because Sonic Youth sounded dissimilar to groups like Bikini Kill, many young girls still saw her as a role model; indeed, girls would go up to her after concerts and ask, “Will you be our mother?” (Gaar 370).

What exactly did Gordon do that was so important? She played bass well while embracing her femininity, wearing dresses as she rocked out onstage. Any guy who thinks girly girls can’t rock will shut up after seeing Kim Gordon play. She wrote songs about women’s issues years before the riot grrl movement surfaced, covering sexual harassment in “Swimsuit Issue,” manipulation by the media in “Kissability,” and notions of female helplessness in “Protect Me You.” She adopted a calm, detached stage persona in a society where women are expected to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Perhaps most importantly, she helped to form one of the most influential alternative rock bands of all time, inspiring guys and girls alike and changing alternative music for good.

Thank you, Kim Gordon.

“Hey, Kool Thing, come here, sit down beside me.
There’s something I gotta ask you.
I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me?
I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls
From male white corporate oppression?”

Pretty cool bass.

Sources used for this article:

Gaar, Gillian. She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll 2nd ed. New York: Seal Press, 2002. Print.