Taking off the Shell

Comedian Dustin Meadows’ show Struck a Nerve is so good. It’s once a month. You’re missing out by not being there. Cowabunga-up dude. Don’t be a party pooper!

struck a nerve


Imagine April O’Neil was real. And she died today.

This is such a weird coincidence that it’s the same day as this event, but April O’Neil passed away this afternoon. I wrote a whole essay about how the Turtles were the quintessential ’80s boy band, but, in her honor, I’m going to read her official obituary from her former employer, Channel 6 News, instead.

“Famous news journalist April O’Neil has gone to the big pizza party in the sky. She was perpetually 27 years old.

In her 1996 autobiography, titled “Taking off the Shell,” O’Neil said she was raised in Duluth, Minnesota. Her idyllic childhood was spent reading, playing in oat fields and raising pet turtles. She loved visiting her Aunt Agatha, who was a detective. Both of her parents were scientists, a career field that was pushed on her, she said, and one she followed out of loyalty as her professional life began.

From 1983 to 1984 she worked as a computer programmer for the infamous Baxter Stockman, whose brain mysteriously disappeared after his death. Unsatisfied by the tech talk, O’Neil soon found her true passion—Journalism.

“April O’Neil was a pain in the ass,” said Channel 6 owner Burne Thompson, “but she somehow always knew where to find the story. I don’t know how she did it.”

O’Neil’s longtime co-worker and director Vernon Fenwick could not be reached for comment.

O’Neil’s tenacity in the field earned her many accolades, including several Pulitzers for breaking news reporting. Her ability to sniff out news was damn near fictional.

But the feisty journalist was not without her own scandal. In fact, it seemed to pursue her mercilessly.

Friends, including former Channel 6 receptionist Irma, say she moved apartments often and unexpectedly. Her credibility was seriously damaged in 2005 when she reported that there were anthropomorphic teenaged mutant turtles that were ninjas living in the sewers and fighting crime. O’Neil soon after checked into a rehabilitation center for exhaustion and pill addiction.

In 2003, she brought a lawsuit against Channel 6 for discrimination. She alleged that the station demoted her because she would not change her clothes. The station argued that yellow jumpsuits just did not look good in high-definition. They settled out of court.

In 2006 tabloids went on a witch hunt to find out if she was a natural-born redhead, and a highly successful pornography series, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Boners,” starred a busty, scantily clad O’Neil look-a-like and mocked her demise.

O’Neil is survived by her estranged vigilante husband, Casey Jones, who is due to get out of the New York State Penitentiary early because of good behavior as captain of the prison’s white supremacist hockey team, and their adoptive daughter, Shadow, who is, according to her website, a modpodge keychain artist and acupuncture sushi food truck owner.

O’Neil’s death happened under mysterious circumstances. A New York utilities worker found her in a coma three days ago in a sewer, surrounded by half eaten pieces of pizza. The pizza was deemed poisonous by the NYPD.

Adding another element of strange to her death, O’Neil woke up briefly and her last words before dying were, “The turtles have been framed. Shredder did it.”

The NYPD has listed Actress Megan Fox as a person of interest in O’Neil’s murder.

Rest in peace, April O’Neil. Talented and tumultuous life, the world needs more characters like you.”

A horse is a horse is a whore

This year I’ve kind of fallen into performing my writing. Sharing my work that way is not really a goal of mine — in fact, it’s quite terrifying — but everything I have been involved with has been so much fun. I love this town because opportunities to perform my writing live are even accessible! Anyway, I wanted to post about my favorite event so far because it will be reoccurring AND its motivations meant a lot to me.

At the first installment of Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse, four  women — a musician, an entrepreneur, a comedian and a writer — shared a 15 minute act inspired by whatever Horsewoman they had been assigned. For example, I wrote about war. We could take our theme whichever way we wanted, spin it however we saw fit. Proceeds from the event went to the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.

horsewomen promo

My essay played on the war of words we have with each other and between genders. It was about how words can feel dismissive of an entire self and how they are used as weapons of war against the Other. Part of my essay involved these bad boys.

cunt cookie

Cunt cookies. They were cookies iced with the words that we are called because we are women: cunt, bitch, slut, fat ass, crazy, weak, dramatic, princess, etc. The idea is that we made them sweet and we ate them in a new way. And the, later, we would turn them into what they really were — steamy, stinky piles of bull shit.

I felt so inspired afterward, by sharing my story and by hearing the other artists’ stories. I would share my piece here, but it really just feels too personal, too intimate, one of those essays that you have to share with someone in the moment. I left feeling completely in tune with the people who were there and totally inspired to keep fighting the good fight, making love not war even in times of war. Maybe I do want to do more writing like this…

Horses… horses… horses… whoreses…

Summer Reading List 2014

I’ve always thought of readers — talented readers, people who can sit down for five hours and read one book — as unappreciatively skilled. That kind of attention requires impressive meditation on words, even if the story is entertaining enough to consume you.

I am not one of those readers. I’m a bouncer. I usually have six books going at a time. I’ve been trying to read every night this summer before I go to bed — stability of a schedule, y’all. Here are the four I’ve been bouncing  between. Particularly entertaining to me has been Alice Walker, most famous for her book “The Color Purple.” She’s a poetry and prose badass and if you have any interest in human rights or social justice, I highly recommend reading her creative nonfiction essays.

From “The Dummy in the Window” in Alice Walker’s book of essays, Living By The Word: “I believe that the worst part of being in an oppressed culture is that the oppressive culture — primarily because it controls the production and dispersal of images in the media — can so easily make us feel ashamed of ourselves, of our sayings, our doings and our ways. And it doesn’t matter whether these sayings, doings or ways are good or bad. What is bad about them and, therefore, worthy of shame, is that they belong to us.”


"The Stranger," by Albert Camus; "The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker," by Rudolph P. Byrd; "Living by the Word," by Alice Walker; "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen."

“The Stranger,” by Albert Camus; “The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker,” by Rudolph P. Byrd; “Living by the Word,” by Alice Walker; “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.”



Wet like love

broken egg


The threat of a storm sends tremorous chills down the small of my back. More so than the cold water it delivers, fast, past the raised hairs of my neck.

How thrilling that I am safe, while the burning violence of lightning and the stampede of the thunderclap are so close. My heart beats as fast as the rain falls.

It feels like when you have found yourself freshly in love. Excitement and danger and broken pieces of something important loom. Nothing of nature will be the same after the storm. Maybe it will have fed the flower—-thirsty for something, everything, beckoning, pushing back, fragile, throat, thrust, hungry for the water, hungry for the hurt—-and not left the stem snapped at the neck by the force of the downfall.

But what better way to perish than in pleasure, head upward, drenched from the voracious embrace of your nature, all that you need.


Dear old dad




Happy Father’s Day to my Dad! He names all the cows on his dairy farm. Many times, he names the cows’ new female calves something that starts with the same letter as their mother. I always liked that.

A grownup goes to the zoo

If age is just a number, when do we actually become adults?

I’d argue that, technically, being a grownup and being an adult are two different things. Being a grownup means you have physically grown up. You are physically not a child anymore. Being an adult is a state of mind. It means you take a shower everyday, have an accountant, etc. Being an adult also usually means you have children.

After someone graduates from college or reaches age 23, I think of us all as the same age… unless you have children. I have grownup friends and I have adult friends. And it’s not that one person is more or less worthy of something than the other, but it’s interesting that I subconsciously make that distinction. Perhaps I do it because I’m taking a mental note about whom it’s best to call at 4 a.m. My lifestyle is more like a 41-year-old woman I know who has no children than that of a 27-year-old with two.

Perhaps the unintentional mental distinction between my friends who have kids and those who don’t is self consciousness too. Stupid media’s “mommy wars” pit us against each other even though the only ones brazenly continuing “mommy wars” are the people who write about it as a “cultural topic.” Or that lady on TV with, like, 20 kids.

I want to tell all my friends my age with children, “That’s so cool! I love babies! I’m totally not judging you at all! I think your body is amazing! CAN I HUG YOUR BABY AGAIN?” I mean all of these things, genuinely,  but I wonder if I overcompensate sometimes if I feel like the other woman brings herself down for having a child before me even if we’re the same age?

I know I’m not a teen or pre-adult. Evidence: Shaving habits. I’ll go to the pool and not leave immediately if I realize my bikini line isn’t flawless. Also, I will wait a while to shave the soft hair that grows in every few months on my upper lip. It acts as a sweat absorbent while I’m jogging.

I’m jogging! That’s evidence that I’m a grownup.

I know they’re all just arbitrary terms, but it’s been on my mind because I think about how much I want a child in the next several years but how that is absolutely, totally out of my control because finding a partner to have children with is absolutely, totally out of my control. And it drives me crazy when things are out of my control! This dude does not abide. (This, shall we say, affectation is probably responsible for my inability to maintain a mate with any sort of longevity. Womp, womp.)

Being a parent seems like being in the army. But unfortunately, parenthood is more about luck of the pull-out than recruiting. That’s too bad, because to Parenthood I would look like poor-teen-boy-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder-about-being-mildly-OK-at-everything does to the army. Prime target!

Take, for example, my recent trip to the Columbus Zoo with my sister and her children. My thoughts before a zoo visit are very indicative of a grownup who would make a good parent.

“I will get sunburnt here. I will be hungry as soon as I arrive at the place where a hot dog is $4.50. I will be cold. And then I will be hot. And then I will be cold again.”

I then prepare accordingly by packing a sweater, sunscreen and shredded wheat because I am 80. I was chewing Nicorette and drinking a vitamin shake as I pulled up to the zoo’s parking lot, where SUVs and minivans filed into spots like herded cattle.

“Shit, Jackie, stop making forced analogies and take a photo of exactly where you parked. Maybe a panoramic view is best and you should write down where it is just in case your phone freaks out and dies and you can’t look at the photo. Look how responsible/ terrified of you I am, Universe. Now send me a suitable mate with whom to baby make in two to three years, please.”

At one point, though, during our safari through fake Africa (you know it’s fake because of the Dippin’ Dots stands), I lost my six-year-old nephew. Losing a child that you are not only responsible for but deeply in love with for more than 20 seconds will make you violently regret all that “Law & Order: SVU” binge-watching you used to do. I officially hate USA Network.

I carelessly tossed strange children to the wayside, trying to find my blonde bundle of joy, much like that scene in Home Alone where Harry are Marv are trying to find Kevin on the sidewalk… that’s such a good movie… Gah! I scolded myself for thinking about a movie comparison while my nephew could be on a flight to a lifetime of sweatshop labor and porridge desserts. I scolded myself for not paying more attention to him at the time he ran off–I was trying to zoom in to a baby giraffe with my camera phone to take a sweet pic for my Instagram.


Nailed it.

“Oh, god, what if my nephew got kidnapped because I was taking a photo for Instagram! That is almost as bad as the people who take photos of everything they eat! I don’t want babies! This feeling is horrible and I… is that him!?”

Sure enough, I found him, and when I did, he was, no kidding, five inches away from a giraffe’s face. I stood there stunned. He found the best seat in the whole fake Africa. My first reaction was to take another picture for Instagram. My second reaction was to make sure it was definitely him about to get a wet sloppy kiss from this amicable beast. My third reaction was to shout to everyone who was listening, “I have found the lost child and can be responsible for holding babies again! Also, sorry I threw your child to the side just now!”

Animalistic tendencies were on full display that day, and not just behind the cages.

The best parents I know have a great sense of balance between the things they can control and the things they can’t. Whether I remain a grownup or transition into an adult or a mom or whatever, that’s probably the key lesson from my recent zoo visit. Always keep an eye on the kid but also just let things happen a little more. Abide. Be. Like this camel here (pic below). It pooped itself while laying down and continued to just sit there. Its companion camel looked on, likely considering the same course of flatulation action. Flatul-action? Ha! Nice. How can I not find a life partner with lines like that?

camel pooped itself

“Compulation” of success

There’s not a lot of tangible reward to being a journalist. Most of my journalist friends are rebel types with above average work ethic. Even inside writers of the fluffiest fuzzies, not  too far down, a First Amendment soldier lurks.

It’s rewarding to tell people’s stories, to actively participate in free speech, to have a job writing (Writer’s Digest sends me a depressing email at least once a week with a subject line “You CAN make a living writing!”).

But that’s about it. We don’t make a lot of money. Our field is changing by the minute so we’re constantly being challenged to find new ways for print to survive. The line between advertising and editorial is growing so muddy you could ford the river between the two in a nice new pair of goulashes.

That’s why awards season is so fun for journalists. It’s validation for a job well done when there’s little other tangible validation to be found. (Also, most of us have fragile egos and fluctuating self confidence. We did, after all, choose a profession where everything we do has a byline.)

The point of this loquacious lead: I won some writing awards at the Press Club of Cleveland’s statewide Excellence in Journalism contest.

I was so excited to attend the ceremony. I wore my new library card shirt from my new gig at The Library Store. #alwaysbeworking

Library shirt

I placed first in non-daily newspaper writing for the category Personality Profile writing for this story about Alix, and second for Arts and Entertainment reporting for this article about the two toddler-refugees-turned-CCAD-designers.

The big one, though, was this guy:


Best Freelance Journalist in Ohio. Bam!

Wait… is that… that word… is spelled wrong… oh… oh god!

award closeup

Pretty immediately, though, I decided the “compulation” on my award was perfect. Two reasons.

1)  It’s a reminder that copy editors are important. What a concept.

2) It’s a reminder to keep working and working as hard as possible. I may be good, but I could be better. For every success I have I can count five other fuck ups. Mistakes don’t mean I’m not talented, and success doesn’t mean I’m not human. Keep that ego and that self-criticism in balance, sister, and then you really win.


‘Til next time

There is a difference between learning your lesson

and having been taught one.

Mistakes are narcissistic.

They like to look at themselves

over and over again.

And over again.

It’s over again.

10 Questions for an Artist: Damn the Witch Siren

There goes the neighborhood.

There goes the neighborhood.

The only thing Krista Botjer and Nathan Photos fight about is music.

“The fights are not about what we’re doing in music,” Krista says, “they’re about how we’re going to make this happen.”

The pair is the electronic duo Damn The Witch Siren and they have settled on a plan for making “it” happen: They’re moving from Columbus to Hollywood in July.

“I think I’m more nervous than she is,” Nathan admits, but their new album, “Superdelicious,” which they officially release Friday, has them both excited to make the transition, quality product in hand.

Krista and Nathan swear they fell in love at first sight, which only seems partly true. The rest of it was love at first sound. The two musicians were immeshed in the bands they were a part of at the time (you know Nathan from The Town Monster), and seeing the other play and perform music sealed the deal.

“He writes with heart,” Krista says. “I knew he had something to say and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Naturally, they formed a band, and in 2012 they put out their first compilation of songs, “Let’s Fall in Love.” When they play, Krista transforms into the sexy and fun Bobbi Kitten and Nathan into the brooding but bouncy Z Wolf.

On “Let’s Fall in Love” you can hear them finding their sound and finding each other.

“Superdelicious” is a pumping riot reminiscent of musicians who have truly grown together. It’s so fun to listen to, the songs are super catchy and the complicated sound artistry hits you in waves of fourth and fifth listens. (I wish you could hear right now me trying to imitate the sample of Krista’s voice on “Pearls and Lace” that is my favorite. My neighbors are probably worried I’ve hurt myself.)

Plus, they really rock it live. I’m a big Damn The Witch Siren fan, and I’ve already downloaded the music to my computer and the CD’s still spinning hot and sweaty in my car.

As the album sleeve eventually gathers dust on my bookshelf, I imagine it will grow grimy with gold glitter, atrophying into a kickass gothic unicorn that gallops off every night and returns at sunrise, leaving a hazy trail of delicious in its wake.


Damn the Witch Siren's album release party is at 9 p.m. Friday at Ace of Cups.

Damn the Witch Siren’s album release party is at 9 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Ace of Cups.

How would you describe the creative process of making “Superdelicious”?

Bobbi Kitten: We started some of our songs right after our first album. We kind of knew our direction. We knew that we wanted it to be very beat driven. It’s a hodge podge of collaboration.

Z Wolf: We’re both really into technology at the moment, so we use our iPads or iPhones to start songs. I’ll be at work and I’ll come home and she’ll be like, ‘I started this thing’ and it’s just a beat and then we’ll do a vocal and then we got the song “Honey, Honey.” I love working with her because we just bounce ideas off each other all the time.

Bobbi Kitten: Yeah, I’ll be like, come up with something that sounds like Devo.

Z Wolf: All the lyrics on this one are her. … I’m always kind of uncomfortable with singing, which is kind of a reason this is my dream band because she’s an awesome vocalist. I always use the analogy of why would you drive a pinto when you have a ferrari? I love to sing. I love it so much, but I also know my strenghts and weaknesses. And she’s way more charismatic on stage than I am.

Bobbi Kitten: We were trying to be mindful about being gratuitous with the vocals. “Honey, Honey” is vocals from start to finish, basically, but I think it’s cool to know your boundaries. I always worry about that as a vocalist. That’s my strongest instrument. But that’s also a double edged sword. I want to make a song out of all vocal samples. That’s a goal of mine. I don’t know if that will be something for us, but learning more about production and all that stuff, that’s one of my goals. I think we did a good job with “Microphone.” Nate produced most of the song. He put in a dub step fill and he wrote all that ominous part and it’s really cool. It’s cool to collaborate like that.

Z Wolf: I feel like we’ve barely done anything at this point. I’m dying to make an album that’s not really electronic at all. I feel like that’s career suicide, at least if you’re a big band. Most bands don’t do things like that–be one thing and then do a 180. But I’m sick and tired of the rules of music. Experimentation is why it’s so fun. Like, I love metal. I’d love to make a metal album and have her screaming on it.

Bobbi Kitten: We’ll see about that. I don’t know how cool my scream will be.

Z Wolf: No, you’ve got a great scream.

What’s the most difficult part about being a musician?

Z Wolf: Right now, for me, it’s juggling not making any money and having a shitty job that we have to go to everyday that just cuts our day in half. It just gets exhausting. Not a lot of payback for music at this point. It can get taxing on your soul. But at the same time it’s the most nourishing thing for your soul. It’s totally worth it.

Bobbi Kitten: I love my job. But the day job cuts into what you do want to do for the rest of your life. The exhaustion makes you feel like you’re getting old. Am I getting old? No! I’m just really fucking busy. How do you make money doing this? That’s the hardest part. How do you do it without selling out, put the most simple way. I’ve read so many blogs over the last two years about how to make it in music, and they’re like ‘You gotta write a number one hit!’ and it’s just like, um, OK. We want to write pop music, we want to write something that connects to a broad range of people, not for money but just because we want to make fun music, we want people to relax, we want people to go out and have a good time. We still want to say things, though. You’re juggling when you’re writing pop music between compromising your art, and we haven’t compromised, so maybe we won’t make money off this.

Z Wolf: I’ve always done what I wanted to do musically.

Bobbi Kitten: I always find myself going a little crazy because I’m like ‘I want to put this out there.’ And then I’m like, is that selfish of me? To want to put your art out there? Is that selfish to not wait until it’s ready? It makes it feel cheap. … It makes you feel cheap when you put it out on the internet. Oh what now?

Z Wolf: Yeah, there’s just so much out there nowadays. Everyone is making music and all the music is free. It does kind of give it a cheapness that we didn’t have when we were growing up. I cherished my small CD collection growing up. It’s not better, it’s just different. I kind of love this world we’re in, but it’s kind of crazy how much there is and it’s kind of scary where you feel like you’re in a very deep ocean with very little chance of actually making a career out of this. It also can be discouraging when you know no one cares about your album as much as you do. We’re clearly the most excited, but hopefully we can change that.

DTWS' majestic guard cat.

Damn the Witch Siren’s studio bouncer, Lyla. After experiencing back-t0-back break-ins at their downtown apartment, the two moved into Nathan’s parents’ home, where they do all their recording, until they head west this summer.

You guys are so fun to watch on stage, and the production of the videos you play behind you during your set are always relevant. 

Z Wolf: It kills me that I can’t watch her.

Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes it feels very awkward. I love performing and it’s easy to get really lost in the music but then there are those moments where everyone’s staring and you can see people, you can make out people’s faces, and you’re like is this weird, are people enjoying themselves? I just want people to have fun. It’s easier when you’re having your own fun.

Z Wolf: We both hold back quite a bit. We don’t want to. We’re trying to unleash, but the crowd can make you awkward. In your mind it’s always a room full of people and they’re all dancing, and when it doesn’t happen you’re a little reserved. This generation just seems more reserved, a lot less prone to dance. It’s a divergence of so many different things, people are into so many different things. And, again, that’s not bad, it’s just different. But back when there was The Beatles, there was just The Beatles and everyone in the world just lost their minds for them and that was it. Now there’s so many choices and you can’t lose your mind like that unless you’re with a group of people losing their minds like that. Not everyone’s going to lose their minds like that to this little band playing a little club.

What inspired “Superdelicious,” your new album?

Z Wolf: Our first album was a lot about the two of us meeting. It was more of an internal thing, whereas this one is more about the outside world. There’s more on there about social media and the world we’re living in now and the overwhelming, huge amount of music there is out there and making something that has some validity in that context. There’s also a lot about fashion and the way women are treated and feminism.

Bobbi Kitten: “Pearls and Lace” is a really fun song. The meaning of the song is a lot about feminism. It’s about being a woman and it sounds tongue and cheek. It sounds like I’m a man, I’m a woman, I’m a man, I’m a woman, going back and forth and I feel like the song “Honey, Honey” is a lot like that too, just kind of standing up for being a woman. One of the lyrics in “Pearls and Lace” is “All hookered up in pearls and lace.” When I was in high school I got called to the principal’s office for wearing lace, but you couldn’t see anything, it’d be a lace shirt where you could see the shirt but not through the bodice of the shirt, yet men could wear really sexist T-shirts, like “Cool story, babe, now go make me a sandwich.” Teach men to stop sexualizing the female body so much instead of putting so many restrictions on women. There’s this female band whose members wear these cloaks all the way up to their chins and they want to put an end to all of this sex in pop music, which I understand to some degree, but then they’re covering up their bodies and it’s just like, you should be proud! Be proud! That’s not saying anything. That’s kind of going backward.

Z Wolf: There’s a lot of sexuality in our music. We just got our first writeup for the album and the guy said the one turnoff of the album for him was that the lyrics were racy. I think she comes off like a very powerful woman in her music. Someone who is a role model. My favorite part of “Pearls and Lace” is the second verse where she says “You looking like a dirty knock off/ rock and roll is here to stay/ they dubbed you the savior” and then all of the sudden she gets pitch shifted to down and she says “Move bitch, get out the way.” That’s my favorite part. It can be taken a lot of ways. It’s a throwback to the Ludacris song and it’s also kind of a symbol of how men can dominate in areas including pop culture.

DTWS pink guitar

Catering table for DTWS studio mates.

Catering table for Damn the Witch Siren’s studio mates.

Z off duty.

Z off duty.

Why write as your characters, Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf?

Bobbi Kitten: It’s fun.

Z Wolf: We love theater and theatrics. Sometimes people want their pop and rock stars to be really relatable and be like them and wear flannel. Other artists you want to be larger than life, ridiculous, and I think we’re just naturally more of that camp by nature. Film, puppets, experimentation.

Bobbi Kitten: Some of my favorite artists were always writing like they were someone else, folk singers who could become different characters in different songs. It was easier to find my voice as a singer and as a writer because we had built these characters. It’s just a different way to express yourself.

Why a wolf?

Z Wolf: It feels like a douchey answer. I’ve always loved wolves and I’ve always felt like that’s my spirit animal or whatever. Wolves are going extinct because people have hunted them to extinction and that depresses me to no end, so like I feel like Z Wolf is one of the last ones. We needed one more. I feel kind of dorky about it, but nothing gets me as emotional or fired up as animal rights. I try with futility to raise money for them, like with [my former band] Town Monster’s albums, but it got no response. No one seems to give much of a shit. We’ve been vegetarian for a year now. It’s really altering, just living in a different way. I used to eat meat two times a day and now when I cook chicken at work it sickens me. I have no real desire to eat them anymore.

How have you grown vocally, Krista, through Damn the Witch Siren?

Bobbi Kitten: When I was a kid I used to sing all the time. But I had a real high squeaky voice, and I remember auditioning for things and I got this part and my friend Mary was a really great singer, too, and I remember all the kids were telling me Mary should have got the part, that I had such a weird voice. I became terrified of singing. I had the weirdest voice. It feels like a totally different life from now because all I ever get now are compliments on my voice, just talking too. It’s so weird because as a kid I was afraid to talk to people. … In high school I would speak really soft; I was still terrified of it. I always wanted to sing, though. I love being on stage. …  I think my voice was a lot different before I met Nathan. It feels like a whole life away. … When I met Nathan, all the rules went out the window. I felt inspired. That’s when I found my true singing voice, was when I met Nathan and we started making music together.

Z Wolf: Her voice is like honey but sharp; it will cut you. She’s very diverse. I wanted to work with her immediately. I knew she had tons of potential. She’s very charismatic. I try to encourage her and push her to do more, be like a cartoon character almost. I always want her to be as ridiculous as possible. I think she holds back a lot still and I want her to let go completely. I have that reservation too. When I was in Town Monster we were playing out so heavily and I felt like a more confident singer and keyboard player and now I’ve been doing more production, so my production has got better but I’m dying to start playing piano more because I don’t want to lose that. I just want to be in a project that I love and I love our band.

DTWS heart mic

What’s your musical origin story, Nathan?

Z Wolf: I was in band in fourth through eighth grade and I really had no interest in it. It was a time killer. I liked messing around on the trombone or whatever but it didn’t click with me. … When I was 15 I went and got MIDI Notation software for $45 at CompUSA. I had already been writing lyrics in my sad little goth boy notebooks, but I took that software home and within an hour I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do.’ Everything I made for years was horrendous. … I started making music by punching in notes on a computer. Eventually my mom let me trade in my trombone for a four track tape recorder and an acoustic guitar. I started singing and it was just raspy muttering. I just never stopped. I don’t think I’m truly talented. I think I just work really hard.

What does your work schedule look like? How often do you rehearse? 

Bobbi Kitten: All the time.

Z Wolf: Yeah, we’re pretty obsessed.

Bobbi Kitten: Sometimes we’ll take a week off where we don’t rehearse, but when we’re not rehearsing we’re writing or we’re working on video or something. It’s always very consistent. Having a set rehearsal schedule doesn’t work for us because it takes away from the creative process. We already have the discipline and sometimes you just don’t feel like doing certain things. You kind of have to go with your creative impulse as far as what to work on each day.

Z Wolf: I felt like I was in the worst dry spell of my life in 2011. I’ve been pretty prolific. I’ve written hundreds of songs, but that was the biggest period of time where I didn’t write a lot of stuff. I don’t really know why but I don’t look at it as much of a rut now because during that time period I got a lot better at production. And, really, we had met at that time and I think I just needed some time to fall in love. At the time I was stressed out about it. … Then I made a solo album in, like, a week. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever done but for various reasons I do like it. It’s dark and depressing. That was the end of my dry spell. I kind of had to force myself to make that. At the time I was not impressed with it at all but having some time away from it I like how it’s me and I like how different it was for me. It’s all crazy vocal effects and Auto-Tune, which I think everyone in the world hates except me, but I think that album feels like this weird subterranean world unto itself and, in that, mission accomplished.

How would you describe how Nathan uses Auto-Tune?

Bobbi Kitten: It’s very textural. He paints this line that’s light pink and then he puts all this darkness around it but it just becomes a part of the light pink. He keeps the darkness light.

DTWS equipment detail

DTWS equipment cat shot

What equipment do you use?

Z Wolf: My favorite part about being an electronic artist is that it’s so malleable. This keyboard doesn’t make sound on its own and those two devices there don’t make sounds on their own. But then you plug them into the computer and they do whatever you want them to do. We’re doing all sorts of crazy silly shit up there. We’re using a keyboard to play all the keyboard sounds but we’re using the faders and knobs and sometimes we’re turning drums on or off or we’re setting effects. She triggers a lot of vocal effects on stage, she triggers different clips, like a bass line or drums. We put different samples on this thing and can play with them in so many ways. It’s total madness.

Bobbi Kitten: The past year I feel like I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘What are these machines? Play a real instrument.”

Z Wolf: I used to see this guy whose truck I saw all the time and I just wanted to ram him with my car because he had a bumper sticker that said “Drum Machines Have No Soul” and it was like, drumkits don’t have a soul either! The drummer has the soul.

Bobbi Kitten: Being a singer songwriter doesn’t get me excited. With Ableton [the brand of the musical tech they use], there are all of these new sounds that people haven’t really used before that we can manipulate and that really inspires me.

What are your goals musically?

Bobbi Kitten: We have a lot of plans for our live show. Right now we have synced music videos that go along with our live performance but we will also have midi-controlled lights in the near future. We don’t want to give away too much of what else we plan to do but definitely a lot of cool technical shit that will embrace a lot of new technology.

If you could invite three artists, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

Damn the Witch Siren:

1) Marilyn Monroe

2) Morrissey

3) Tom Waits

Bobbi Kitten:

1) Edie Sedgwick. She was extremely witty but she was also a character. She was someone else when she went out and I want to see that in execution. I always wondered what it would be like to be really witty and clever and in it. She seems like one of the most interesting people.

2) Patty Griffin. She’s a folk singer songwriter. I admire her and she was one of the first singer songwriters that moved me to tears. She writes in other people’s bodies. She’s an 80-year-old woman one day and a man the next day.

3) Marilyn Monroe. Everyone has an opinion about who she was as a woman, but I feel like they don’t understand how dynamic of a human being she was. I understand her want to be validated for her art. And falling in love with brilliant men. I feel like she was just a soulful, thoughtful person.

Z Wolf:

For the record, my answers would change every day.

1) J.K. Rowling. I would just love to talk to her about her books. And just cry on her shoulder. “Why would your fiction hurt me that badly?”

2) Jesus. I think he gets a bad rap nowadays. I’ve done a lot of studying of spirituality and I think he had it right. It’s impressive how much I agree with the things he strictly said. Even if the rest of the Bible is bullshit, Jesus had his head on straight.

3) John Lennon. For similar reasons. I know so much about the guy already I don’t know how much I could glean from having dinner with him, but I really honor him and he’s a big hero of mine. He was so compassionate and he wanted to do good in this world. Also, he was terribly flawed. But he meant well and he really did take strides in his life to become a better person and I’m all about that. I was a shitty teenager and I’ve been a selfish person through a lot my life, everyone is, and I think it’s important to take a step back and look at who you are and try to be better.

DTWS k and z in studio

I Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my blog

The June issue of Vanity Fair featured an essay by Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky, now 40 years old, was 24 (24!) when she had an affair with Bill Clinton, a married man and president of the United States. We all “know” her legacy to date. What we don’t really know is her side, and that’s what the essay tries to offer. It is the first time she has really spoken out in a decade or two lest people consider her even more of a “gold-digging whore” by telling her own story.

The essay makes no excuses for her misdeed. She is regretful of her mistakes and admits her remorse that it was a consensual relationship that hurt another person. What she also does not excuse, though, are the people (ie. Hillary and Bill Clinton and the feminists that absolutely threw her under the bus or treated her like a child) and a culture that has created a very strict outline of her story and personhood because of its own insecurities.

I shudder to think what it would be like to watch yourself become a negative cultural archetype in real time.

“I am determined to have a different ending to my story,” she writes, “so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past.”

Lewinsky has had trouble finding a job since the scandal even though she’s clearly intelligent–her first job, after all, was in the White House. Anything she has tried her hand at has been ridiculed mercilessly. A stint in the fashion design industry, for example, only lead to beret and blue dress jokes on a national scale.

The point of her essay was to promote her new work in stopping internet bullying and humiliation, of which she was arguably the initial victim. Cool, but how do you stop that other than calling it out for what it is? I just hope she doesn’t back down from being true and outspoken about how the slut shaming after the affair changed her life.

Being a sexually active woman is like playing in a minefield. It can be nerveracking to learn other people know about your sexual activity that takes place outside of a committed relationship because there are so many ways people use it to not take you seriously. Lewinsky’s blow job is a microscopic example of this on a macroscopic scale. She was not permitted to tell her own story, to have any agency over her narrative unless she wanted to give the talking heads more ammo. She became one-dimensional, a target for all our own fucked up strictures about sex. And that one-dimensionality was not just “Whore!” It was also “Naive child!” who did not know what was happening to her. You’re either the demon or the victim.

Lewinsky writes, “Despite a decade of self-imposed silence, I have been periodically resuscitated as part of the national conversation, almost always in connection with the Clintons. For instance, in January and February of this year, Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator and a possible 2016 Republican presidential aspirant, managed to drag me into the pre-election muck. He fought back against the Democrats’ charges of a GOP war on women by arguing that Bill Clinton had committed workplace ‘violence’ and acted in a ‘predatory’ manner against ‘a 20-year-old girl who was there from college.’ Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: It was a consensual relationship. Any abuse came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.”

Her sexuality was and still is anything but hers as soon as it became public, and I think this is something other women struggle with having ownership of on varying levels, too.

And, while Hillary’s hurt had to have been greater than Lewinsky’s initially, I think it’s cruel to deny Lewinsky the dismissal she must have felt when Bill kept calling her “That Woman,” adulterous or not. The clear winner in all of this, as is usually the case, is the man.

Lewinsky brings up Hillary in the essay, too, particularly her conversation with family friend Diane Blair, in which Hillary called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon” (no judgement on Clinton here except that it’s harsh. Every been cheated on? You feel some rage.) and, most notably, “she blamed herself for her husband’s affair (by being emotionally neglectful) and seemed to forgive him.” Lewinsky adds, “I find her impulse to blame the Woman–not only me, but herself–troubling.”

Oy. This is the only part where I think Lewinsky gets it wrong. I think Hillary, from my interpretation of these recorded conversations, was blaming all three of them. And what’s wrong with that? The power dynamic bullshit favors the dudes for now, but infidelity is crazy loaded with circumstance. It’s too easy to say Hillary should not have considered her role in the cheating at all; that’s some more sexist bullshit and until we level the playing field of the way we value both sexes can we approach these situations with less casualties.

(Part of the problem is that Hillary couldn’t have had an honest discussion about her emotional neglect if she wanted to because that would have given her haters even more ammo for calling her a cold, hateful bitch. Sexism, politics, power, etc.)

That’s why stories like Lewinsky’s, however painful to retell, are important, because they help expose honesty and the multi-dimensionality of famous women, something we’re not very good at accepting in this culture. It’s why Tonya Harding is a horrible villain. Why Beyonce is skewered for having an album that both references a muddled-glorification of domestic violence and the importance of feminism. Why Lewinsky is a slut. Why Jennifer Aniston is a perpetual unmarried woman scorned. And why William S. Burroughs, an addicted maniac who murdered his wife, is, nonetheless, a literary icon.

There are so many layers to Lewinsky’s story, held together by the gross congealed consequences of sexism. Add it to the pile.