Brody Dalle: "In the Mainstream it's All Whipped Cream and Fucking Titties"
"The culture has become so overtly sexist and degrading. We're just meat. We're just ass and tits, and it's onto the next ass and tits."
It only takes a quick Google of Brody Dalle's hairstyles in the early 2000s to know that she was born to slay demons and write the fuck out of songs. After gobbing her way through rock 'n' roll in the Distillers, she's been away for a bit, having two children with her husband Josh Homme. We sat down with her to find out what else she's been up to.
Noisey: Where have you been for the last three years?
Brody: I have grown another human and birthed him. And then I made a record.
I've only heard a handful of songs from it, but they all sound like you’re saying "don't mess with me."
Yeah. Don't fuck with me.
Do you still have the "Fuck Off" tattoo on your shoulder?
Ages ago, in an interview with [British magazine] The Face, you said you regretted it, which was sad.
I probably just told the interviewer that. I think there's always an appropriate time for fuck off, fuck you, get fucked, go the fuck away, you know what I mean? I don't regret it at all. People make fun of it so my kid asked me, "What does that mean?" And I was like, "Shhh." Camille [her daughter, who’s eight] can't read it because it's kind of blurry now. I'm like, it says, "Back off." I'd be naïve to think my daughter isn't going to tell someone to fuck off one day. It's important to tell people to fuck off.
She's going to find out what it says.
She will find out. She's no stranger to swear words, I tell you. And it's not because of me, it's because of little girls at her school. She came home and she asked me, "Mom, what does motherfucker mean?" No shit.
What did you say?
I was like, "Well, oh God." Then she asked me, "Mom, what does shitballs mean?" I said, what do you think it means? She said, "When you have shit on your balls." I was like, "That's pretty much it, kid." This is a very prestigious school by the way. It's not coming from me or my husband, it's coming from outside. There's no stopping it.
How would you feel if she came back with her own "Fuck Off" tattoo?
I can't say I'd be upset. I don't want her to get the same shit I do, I want her to have her own experience. I doubt that's likely. She's gonna do what she's gonna do. I want a tough girl. I don't want a princess. We’d have a problem if I had a princess.
Do you think there are enough tough girls in the public eye right now?
No. No. It's all about sex. It's meaningless. It's just sex for sex. I don't get it. Being a certain way can make you sexy, but sex for sex itself—it's so shallow and it's really unattractive.
It all seems quite submissive, too. Everyone talks about empowerment, but Katy Perry...
Yeah. It's coy. Whereas then you have Miley Cyrus, who’s putting her sexuality in your face. I can't say I'm mad about it. I'm wondering if that's what the new generation of girls is going to do. Like I said, I don't get it. I don't think she really knows what it means. But it's aggressive and I'd take that over anything else. Then there's Rihanna, and she's doing that one stripper video where I guess she's empowered, right? Well, I'm not really sure. There has to be fuckin' substance. Where's the message?
Anyone can fuck. Can you make love? Can you make it mean something? That's what it's about for me.
Do you think music has lost its aggression?
Yes. Absolutely. The struggles people have had economically, socially, everything is changing. People want to have a good time, they want to dance. There's a lot of happy-go-lucky dance music and frivolous silliness. There's no anger. I'm sure there is in certain genres—there's still the hardcore kids and the punk rock kids, but in the mainstream it's all whipped cream and fuckin' titties.
Does it make you sad?
It doesn't make me sad. It just means I know what my place is.
So what is your place?
Standing up for something fucking real. Substance. Having something to say? I don't know, really. I'm not afraid of aggression or conflict. It's a natural state of being for me. That's what makes me feel alive. I'm not really interested in spreading my ass on a bed in a video. You're not going to see that.
I can't imagine anyone would dare suggest that to you.
No, probably never.
I read this piece about Taylor Swift, which pointed out that she's the biggest pop star in the world—not the big, noisy, controversial pop stars, but someone who's essentially quite prim and conservative.
Yeah. I would think more girls are like Taylor Swift than Miley Cyrus. Then on a drunk night Miley Cyrus comes out. Most of the time they're aspiring to be Taylor Swift. They just want a cute boy and cuddles. They don't want X-rated porn all the time. It's too much! It's not exciting. We're going to become so desensitised. What's next? It's fucking boring. Go away. I'm so sick of it. There has to be something! God, I wish there was the next Nirvana.
Is there anyone right now who could be that?
No. Not like that. I mean I love Metronomy. I love the Arctic Monkeys. But that's more sexual swagger. They're writing great songs. My husband has made an incredible record too. But as far as some kind of anarchist statement, some "Fuck you" to all of this shit? I haven't seen anything. Have you?
It's out there. It's just about finding the right time.
On your website there's a video of you playing CBGBs with the Distillers...
Yeah! It was fucking mayhem. I kicked someone in the head that night. They had a sign that said, “Take Tim [Armstrong from Rancid, her ex-husband] back!” I said “Fuck you!” That's an appropriate time, right? Stay the fuck out of my business, and I kicked him in the head. I watched his head bobble around, and I was like, oh man, I might have just taken it too far [laughs]. That show was exactly like that, as you see it.
It's crazy to think you'd have signs in the crowd all about your marriage.
But now it's like that but a million-fold, and it's all on Twitter. That was just a kid in a club. It probably took a lot balls for that kid to do that.
He's probably thrilled that you kicked him in the head.
Maybe I did enough damage, he might not remember. I grew up watching my mom go to protests, and it's her fault. When I was eight she took me to an anti-George Bush Snr protest in Melbourne. The protestors hung this banner off a giant sculpture, it said "Fuck Off Bush." I was eight, okay? And my mom runs into the crowd, and they're fist-fighting cops, and they're trying to keep the banner up. That's what I grew up in. The punk scene, for me it makes sense.
Do you miss it?
Yeah. Because it was alive. We had computers, but they hadn't taken over yet. They were just this thing we didn't understand. It was vibrant and alive and people wanted to hang out and talk. It was fucking exciting. It was when music still mattered.
I'm feeling a bit depressed by this conversation.
Something will happen. The one thing my dad taught me was that the only thing that's constant is change. It will not stay the same. That's why I'm always… if you can get through the hard times, it'll change.
What do you think the legacy of the Distillers was? There's a gig you did at Brixton Academy in 2004 or so, and every girl of a certain age who's in a band seems to have been at that show.
Really? That's awesome. I grew up in a scene that was Bikini Kill, Hole, Babes in Toyland, L7. There was such a fucking plethora of incredible shit going on for chicks in music. You didn't even think about it, you just did it. Sadly it's lost. There was a huge backlash, we went in some weird nu metal direction, then it's gone— it's so sexist, so sexist it makes me ill. Nothing has transpired since. Maybe it's going full circle, that's what I'm hoping. I don't know what the legacy is but I hope it's what I was inspired by.
To look at things through a more positive lens, people do seem to be talking about women and feminism in a way that they haven't for a really long time.
Definitely. I've been reading all the blogs, I'm still soaking it in. Looking at Miley Cyrus now, I think that's in your face, it's female, it's aggressive. It's not this fucking coy... it's not a game. She's like, I'm here to do this.
So you know the Robin Thicke video has "Robin Thicke has a big dick" in balloons?
Nooo! That's what it says? Stop it.
How is he not embarrassed? He should be embarrassed to be himself. Isn't he English?
I don't think he is.
He should be. The culture has become so overtly sexist and degrading. We're just meat. We're just ass and tits, and it's onto the next ass and tits. And those ass and tits are too big or too small, so we need to find the right ass and tits. But there is no right ass and tits. It's just... it makes me ill, thinking about it. We need a girl revolution. Or a revolution against all this grim shit.
You were a champion swimmer when you were young. Do you still swim?
I run. I go through phases where I don't do anything, but I'll run six miles a day. That's the best high of all time. It's better than meth and coke and weed and pills.
I don't believe that, really.
Running is the best. No, it really is. When you stop running after six miles, you're still running. It's the happiest—it's better than ecstasy! It's the happiest fuckin' thing. Then you feel like superwoman. It's good for you. And you fuckin' look great too when you run. It's freeing. Did you read that Born To Run book? It's about these runners that live deep inside Mexico, and they run for days. For DAYS. They have competitions in the jungles and the forest, running for like hundreds of miles.
How do they do it?
They don't wear shoes, they have bare feet. They have a style of running. It's like all the new scientific bullshit that goes around running, they're delving into this. It's a big thing. They're high all the time! They're high. They're superhumans.
So you're definitely saying that running is better than all drugs.
Yeah. Pretty much! If you can do it for a long time. If you get good at it. Not if you're smoking a pack of cigarettes a day then just decide to try it. That might not feel very good.
Whenever I've tried it, I feel like I'm dying.
You have to build up to it. I started running because of Wendy O Williams [from the Plasmatics]. I'm not kidding. Someone told me Wendy O Williams was a runner. She was running round a lake in Milwaukee and she got arrested for punching a cop who was trying to take a photo of her running. I thought fuck, this sounds great, I'm going to try that. So thank you Wendy O Williams. Rest in peace.