Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nov. 12: Singer Kathleen Hanna - aka - Julie Ruin - is 45-years-old today.

Born in Portland, Oregon Kathleen Hanna is an American musician, feminist activist, and zine writer. In the early- to mid-1990s she was the lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill, before fronting the dance-punk band Le Tigre in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1998, Hanna released a solo album under the name Julie Ruin.


While attended The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in the late 1980s, Hanna worked as a stripper to support herself while studying photography. Working with fellow Evergreen student and photographer Aaron Baush-Greene, she set up a photo exhibit featuring the pair's photography, which dealt with sexism and AIDS. However, the school administrators took the photos down before they got the chance to be viewed.

This prompted what Hanna refers to as her "first foray into activism"–the creation of an independent feminist art gallery called Reko Muse with friends Heidi Arbogast and Tammy Rae Carland. The three women then formed a band called Amy Carter, which put on shows before the art exhibitions.

Hanna also began doing spoken word performances that addressed sexism and violence against women, issues with which she became concerned after volunteering for a domestic violence organization over the next two years. Eventually she abandoned spoken word in favor of music, being inspired by one of her favorite writers, countercultural icon Kathy Acker.

Hanna later started another band called Viva Knievel that toured the United States for two months before disbanding. Upon returning to Olympia, Hanna began collaborating with fellow Evergreen student and punk zinester Tobi Vail after seeing a performance of The Go Team, and recognizing Vail as the mastermind behind the fanzine Jigsaw, which Hanna greatly admired.

Hanna and Tobi Vail's first collaboration was a zine called Revolution Girl Style Now. This led to a later zine titled Bikini Kill, a response to sexism in the punk rock scene, written with fellow Evergreen student and friend Kathi Wilcox. The three women decided to form a band to personify their ideals and recruited Vail’s bandmate Karren as the fourth member, naming the band after their zine.

Bikini Kill soon became part of the Olympia, Washington music scene of the early 1990’s, which was characterized by political awareness, a strong artistic do-it-yourself ethic, and an emphasis on local collaboration and support.

The band's first release for the Kill Rock Stars label was a self-titled EP. Bikini Kill then toured the UK, recording a split LP with UK band Huggy Bear. This tour was filmed and the band was interviewed by Lucy Thane for her documentary, It Changed My Life: Bikini Kill In The UK.

Upon returning to the U.S., the band began working with Joan Jett, who produced their single, "New Radio/Rebel Girl." After the release of this record, Hanna began co-writing some songs with Jett for her new album.

Hanna also appeared in another band called Le Tigre. This band featured a more electronic style of music similar to the sampler-driven sound Hanna had begun to explore with Julie Ruin.

Hanna also produced several solo pieces for the Kill Rock Stars "Wordcore" series of recordings, including the 7" single "Rockstar" and the song "I Wish I Was Him."

While occasionally collaborating  with high-profile acts such as Nirvana and Jett, Bikini Kill was well-known for shunning major labels and the mainstream rock press. After two full-length albums, several EPs and two compilations, the group disbanded in 1998.

Recommended (Links to Amazon):

Julie RuinBikini KillPussy Whipped


Unintentionally, Hanna inspired the name for Nirvana's 1991 breakthrough single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," when she wrote "Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Kurt Cobain's wall.


For more about Kathleen, visit her Website at -


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