Kira Roessler - 2003

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Kira Roessler was the bassist of legendary punk/hardcore/metal pioneers Black Flag from 1984 to 1986, appearing on Family Man, The Process of Weeding Out, Slip It In, Loose Nut, In My Head, Live '84 and Who's Got the 10 1/2?. Between 1984 and 1986, you understand. 7 albums in 3 years. Take THAT to Boston Bank of Commerce and cash it, Tom Scholz! Following the demise of that there band, Kira began working towards a "real" career (as we in the "straight" world call it, even though I'm unemployed at the moment), as well as occasionally recording and touring with her husband (and now ex-) Mike Watt as the double-bass power duo Dos. Kira was kind enough to speak with me on the telephone for an hour and a half one dandy Sunday night in October. As she herself admits near the end of the interview, she tends to trail off and mumble at times, so I'm certain I lost some perfectly interesting information to a lousy phone connection. Howe'er, there's still plenty of interest here for Black Flag-heads and Dos-equis. My words are emboldened with confidence; her answers are as plain as day.





Hey, this is Mark Prindle calling for that interview.

I've been expecting you!

What's that?

I've been expecting your call.

Oh great! Well, I'm two minutes late. I hope that's alright.


So I hear you're working on a new Dos album?


How's that sound?

Dos records are slow coming sometimes. Mike is very busy and I'm very busy, and it's hard because it's all about the songs - you know, all the parts and how they work together. It takes a lot and it's difficult to find the time.

Do you think it'll be out sooner than three more years, to beat your 10-year record?

Ha! God, I hope so. Yeah. We've finished - we've got seven or eight songs recorded already, and we've got a lot of material that's sort of in the process, so a lot of it depends on his schedule. And my work too.

And what do you do? You mean your work, your week work, your daily work?

My daily work, yes.

What's that?

I do sound for movies.

For movies? I'm having trouble hearing you, sorry.

Yeah, I'm a sound editor on movies. And in the movie business, they expect you to work a lot of hours.

What kind of movies have you worked on?

All kinds. Some little low-budget stuff and some big-budget stuff.

Any big-budget ones that I would have heard of that you worked on?


Oh! I liked that one.

One that we just finished called "Under The Tuscan Sun."

Yeah, I know that one. Mm-hmm.

One that George Clooney did as his first directing job - it was called "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."

Oh, the Richard Dawson one? (note: I meant "Chuck Barris" - I apologize for that!)

No, it was Sam Rockwell. It was not given a lot of hype really.

Oh okay.

I did "Daddy Day Care."

When you say "sound," like what do you do?

I mostly do dialog editing, which people don't usually know what that is. But you know, when they do all the sound that's not at the location, they chop it all together in the editing process, so when it gets to me, it's pretty chopped up and screwed up, and it's my job to make it all sound cleaned up. I do a lot of repair work. Like if there's a problem on a word, I might replace it with a syllable from another take or something like that. At a very fine level of detail, I make dialog sound as good as it can.

How'd you get into that?

I met someone who was doing it and ran a small company doing low-budget shows. And I asked if they could give me a chance because I wanted to get out of the corporate world where I was working. And he gave me a chance.

What were you doing in the corporate world?

Computers. Programming databases and all that.

Oh wow. How long ago was that?

Oh, about (mumble).

Do you still play -

You get right into it! I was wondering what this interview was - you know, what the context was that made you even wanna talk to me.

Well, you know, I know you from the Black Flag albums, but I also saw you and Mike play as Dos once - about ten years ago, actually. And I just thought it would be interesting to talk to you to find out what you've been doing.

Who is this - I mean, is it gonna be an article -

Yeah, it'll be an interview in a -

About me or -

Mmm-hmm. It'll be an interview. I mean, I've interviewed some other - like I interviewed Keith Morris a while back and -

That's fine! I just didn't have an idea what we were doing. We can continue!

I actually looked online to see if I could find any other interviews with you to find out what not to ask because you've already talked about it, but I didn't find any.

I don't do, you know, people don't ask for a lot of interviews these days.

Oh. Well, they should!

(laughs) It's alright with me! It's just hard whenever you hear an interview or read an interview, it always sounds like someone else - or feels like something out of context or whatever. It can be hard, like "Did I really say that?" A lot of it depends on where you're at right at that moment, you know?


And tonight where am I at? I scrubbed my floors all day.

Well see, that's key and that'll be part of the headline!

There you go. Yeah, I scrubbed my floors today. I was just doodling around on the bass when you called.

Do you still play the bass a lot?

Well, yeah! One of the things I learned a while ago was that a big part of it with bass playing, and I don't know because I don't play a lot of other instruments but, is just having your hands strong enough to do what you're trying to do. So what I find is that even when I don't have the energy to really be writing songs or whatever, doing a full- blown practice, I'll sit in front of the TV or whatever or what I'm doing, listening to the radio or whatever, and I will just doodle with my hands to try to keep my hands strong. I get quite a bit of that in to keep my hands strong, so that when I do try to actually execute something or play with Mike or do a gig or whatever, my hands at least aren't too weak to execute it. I record with my brother sometimes. He works in a studio up in Malibu, and he produces and plays and it's very expensive and stuff, and sometimes they need someone to come up. I've done stuff with him, just to show up and write a bass line on the fly for some song he's producing or whatever. And that's interesting. And I have a few little friendly projects for people who sometimes ask for my help with writing or ask for a bass line, but mostly I try to do the Dos thing. I really like Dos. It's my favorite band.

Do you play in Dos often? I mean, it's clear by how long it takes an album to come out that -

Well, yeah. It's taken a really long time for this last album to come out. To be fair, there's reasons for that that are not just about us being busy, but also about how our relationship changed, the changes we've gone through. I think in a lot of ways, today we work better together than we ever have. So now the challenge is more just to find the time. You know, he lives in San Pedro, I live in the Valley, and I work sometimes 10-12 hour day, so it can be quite a - and then there are times when I'm off - It's funny. It seems like whenever I'm off for a few months, he ends up being on tour. It's been hard, but we go through periods where we'll do a series of gigs. Probably around Christmastime. We'll probably have a couple of gigs coming up in December that I know we're gonna do, and that'll be a time when we can also be working on the record and hopefully my schedule will free up - you know, a lot of it depends on that. But actually getting ready for gigs doesn't take that much effort on our part. We have a lot of songs, and we both play enough that if we practice a couple of times on the songs, we can go do a show. So it's a totally different thing than trying to record songs for the record. And now that he has ProTools at his house, we can record one song at a time. So we can sit down in a practice or two practices or three practices, get a song together and record it, and then get on with the next one. So it's difficult, but it's a different way of doing it than we used to do it, where we had to learn 20 songs and go into the studio. For the last eight years, we've been like "How do we get to the point where we have a whole album of material ready to go record in the studio?" So it's a nice situation to be in.

You say you work together BETTER now?

Well yeah, I think that the personality stuff that was involved, the relationship has sort of matured, where we actually - I think there's less. uhh, I hate to use the word "drama," but you know what I mean - there's a little less emotional charge and a little more sort of professionalism, if you will, in the way we work together today.

What happened with this - I've been reading about it everywhere - this so- called Black Flag reunion?

Yeah? What about it?

Were you asked to be a part of it?

No. As far as I know, and of course, this is just my standpoint, nobody much was asked. In other words, Henry wasn't asked, Chuck wasn't asked, and so I was surprised to hear that the party line coming from Greg - at least at the gig, some people said that he said any of us could have been involved, when the truth is that I was wanting to take part of it, not so much for the Black Flag reunion thing, but I personally would've loved to see them and assess things and, you know, get rid of old problems. I would've liked to just go and clear the air. I would've done it just for that. But no, I wasn't asked and, as far as I know, a lot of people weren't asked. It's complicated in that the relationships have old baggage. And the way I look at it is, like I said, today and if there's old baggage, I would love an opportunity to clear some of it, but that's not the way other people feel about it. I can't say - I've heard good things about the Black Flag reunion and I've heard not-so- good things about it.

So he just kind of announced it and assumed that people would call him if they wanted to be part of it?

I don't know - I can't say what he was thinking. I believe that what he may have been more meaning to say is that nobody was necessarily excluded, but that he knew he wanted to play. That that was what he wanted and if anyone else had really wanted to do it, they could have figured out - I mean, I could have figured out if I'd wanted to, that's the truth of it. People know me, and I know people - I could have figured it out, you know? So he may have been saying, "I'm not going out of my way to exclude anybody; I just asked who I wanted to." You know? I don't know! I really can't say what - I think it sounds like they did what they wanted to do.

You were on Henry's Black Flag CD.

I would say that Henry and I have gotten to do that. We got to put aside some of the old baggage, and we have a bit of a camaraderie at this point. Like we speak to each other every once in a while by email. It's very cordial. It was interesting. It was pure coincidence that I ended up doing it. He literally bumped into my brother at a studio, and said, "Tell Kira to call me. I want her to do this thing." It was like that. And if he hadn't bumped into my brother, who knows? I might have never been on it. It was that coincidental. And I called him up, and he said, "Do you wanna do this thing?" and I said "Sure!" So I did it, and I actually sang at the Whiskey - backup vocals on a couple of songs. I did it live!

Was that the first you'd spoken to -

Weird thing! (laughs)

What'd you say?

I never get up in front of an audience with just a microphone in my hand, you know? That's weird. Being a backup singer is a weird thing. I was doing air bass because I didn't know what to do with my hands.

Was that the first you'd spoken to him in a long time?

It WAS the first that I'd spoken to him in a long time. It's been that way. I wouldn't say that any of us have really stayed in touch. And with some of us, that may be somebody having an issue, and in other ways you just lose touch, you know? You don't hang out in the same circle or whatever. Henry's a really busy guy, Greg has, as I understood it, sort of his own little commune - I shouldn't use that word - but a compound where he works and does his business and does his music.

What do you think about the Black Flag records that you played on?

I think that it was always hard for us to capture Black Flag in the studio. I think it was really difficult to capture what I think we often created live. It was difficult because power is hard to capture in a moment. I personally like the records, but I'm also able to be critical. I'm able to hear the parts about it that don't necessarily do what, you know - Part of why I like the records is because I can still in my head recreate what it really is like, and it's a reminder, whereas I think that someone maybe just hearing it could find it cool, but they don't necessarily have a context. And in that way, they may not - I don't know. I can't listen to it objectively; it's hard to imagine. But I have this idea that they can't necessarily hear the power that I always felt doing it live. But my favorite record is probably "In My Head." I like the instrumental -

I like that one a lot too.

And I like "Loose Nut" a lot too. I like some of the stuff on there. That was from when we started to do some combinations of other people writing a little bit. I mean, I think that added. And what's cool about "In My Head" was that it was sort of going towards being an instrumental, and Henry decided to just be a part of it and write lyrics to make it fly, so the songs have a different flavor to them because they weren't written the same way. And that's something that I always try to do with Dos too is that the way a song is written - the way it germinates, the way it comes about - can make it different. You can end up with two different varying styles creating the song in different ways, not always doing it with the same approach. And that's what I thought was pretty cool about what those records were doing. They were starting to break the mold of how things had been done. And touring together and stuff also - camaraderie builds musical gelling, and we did a lot of jamming. Greg was really into jamming a lot. We played a lot of hours in the studio and the practice place, and even on tour at soundcheck if possible. He really wanted to play as much as possible. He'd play until we were all hurt and couldn't play anymore. It's like guitarists - I mean, you can play for ten hours. We would start dropping. Henry would drop first, because his voice would, you know, a few hours tops, Henry's voice would go. Me and Bill would sometimes make about five hours, but after that, we were like fuckin' spaghetti, you know. And Greg would get some other people to come down with him! It was pretty funny.

Is that why he ran through so many musicians and singers? Because he wanted to practice so much? Or did people just have different reasons?

I certainly wouldn't say that that's why he would decide not to play with someone anymore. I don't know that, and if someone wasn't willing to jam - was only willing to practice for an hour, they wouldn't last very long. But I think that the personality aspect made things more difficult than the playing aspects for the most part. I also think that Greg tended to have, at every stage, a sort of idea of how he wanted the music to be, and sometimes that particular person wouldn't fit in it anymore. Wouldn't fit how he was trying to make the music to be. I guess it's easiest for me to talk about why they got me involved to begin with, because I was there and I think that was - the personality stuff with Chuck was fine. There was no real personality style. But he had a certain bass playing style that was starting to feel counter to what Greg was playing, and so, you know.. I practiced with them once, and they were like, "Yeah, this is what we want. We're looking for a person to play in a certain way." I can only describe it the way they did it at the time - it's almost like whether you jump and gallop ahead, ahead, ahead of the beat, or whether you really lay on the back, on the back and on the back of the beat. And my thing has always been sort of laying in on the back, and that really was a very different style than Chuck, and it happened to be what they were looking for. It really hit them because it was so distinct from Chuck's style. With me, on the other hand, I think it was more of a personality thing, where they just didn't want to play with me anymore. Or at least that's what Chuck told me when they threw me out!

Oh! I thought you quit.


Oh. And then he replaced you and didn't do anything, right? Didn't he break up the band?

Well, no. They did tour after I wasn't in the band anymore, with a guy named C'el who played at the Black Flag reunion. He was part of the show. And Anthony, the drummer who played the last tour with me. They did the last Black Flag tour, and I actually saw them play in L.A. at the end of that tour.

Could you tell a difference between your bass playing style and his?

Yeah, well it was different! It was uncomfortably different to me, to the point where one time they were playing along and I was like, "Hmm, I guess this is a new song." And then a couple minutes into it, I realized it wasn't a new song. And I was like, "Damn, this is (mumble)." But again, that may well be that Greg was starting to move towards a new - you know what I mean? I mean, The Process of Weeding Out - the whole point of that is to say, "I don't care what you like. I'm gonna go on and do the next thing." So it may well be that he was going towards the next thing. I don't think that's necessarily bad. I think he likes progress. He likes change. He likes growth. And he will fight for something different, even if it's not liked as much by whatever fans, per se. He will go for this thing, and whatever his thing is will change, and will keep changing.

I've talked to him a couple of times, and I still can't get a feel for what kind of person he is. He just seems so quiet and kinda guarded.

So quiet?

Well, yeah. Is he a real eccentric? Or is he just -

He is extremely quiet. He is, like I said, very sure of what he's trying to do and what he wants. He's very easy to be around, because he is quiet. He's not a controlling, manipulating kind of person at all.

Oh, he's not? Okay.

Like I said, he does have strict ideas of how he wants things. It's tough sort of like trying to figure out what it is that he wants. And he just loves to play the guitar. He's kinda simple that way. He's really only happy when he plays the guitar. I mean, this is me reading into it, but I think that there are people who play that that's when they are expressing their personality, and when they're not playing their guitar or whatever, they're not really able to express their personality. And I think of him in some ways that way, that that's the way he says, "I'm Greg." And the rest of the time, he just kinda waits to be playing again. But I don't know; it's been a long time since I've worked with him.

Did you find it difficult being in that band? From what I hear, it just seemed like a very kind of testosterone-driven hardcore kinda scene.

I often now describe it as almost like being in training for an Olympic event. It was for me not a real creative time, because I wasn't really called upon to be a creative person or a writer or something like that. It was a very physical challenge. It was very much a physical challenge being able to play those two-hour sets live and keep it up on tour. It was physically really grueling, and often not getting enough sleep and driving late at night, and all the physical challenges were very hard for me. I was at the limit of my physical abilities a lot of the time. There were times when I had problems with my hands. There were times when I was in a lot of pain. So I think it was hard to be in in that way, in the physical way. Actually, in the other way, emotionally and getting along and stuff, it was really quite easy. I think we were all sort of on the same wavelength, because we all wanted to go play and, you know, rock people's worlds (laughs) as long as we could, you know? I mean, there was a good point of time when we were all four, in my mind, very much set on what we were trying to do and executing it. And so it was very easy in terms of the personality stuff. There wasn't arguing or whatever. There wasn't any drama. There wasn't any discord vocalized or anything like that. True, at times people were quiet, but people were tired! People were at their - especially on tour, you get to the point where you're kind of at the end of your ability to function and you had to sort of save every bit of energy you had towards the gig. You almost didn't even have anything extra to use. You'd get very few days off, a lot of times you were doing quite a bit of driving, so there was very little room for anything but the show. Load in the P.A., set it up, play, load out the P.A..

Were you at least able to make a living doing that? Were you making enough money on the road?

There wasn't a lot of money involved. There were legal hassles when I joined the band. There was some legal stuff that had happened with the record company before me, so we had some legal bills we owed that a lot of money went towards. And we had the P.A. system, which cost us quite a bit. Our expenses were pretty high. So there wasn't a lot of money. And we had a per diem, a daily stipend to get by and buy our food, and basically that's all about it would cover. And we slept on peoples' floors and in the van, and expenses were kept down and the money would go to that. There was not really any extra money. But I was never in it for the money! There was never any expectation of money either. So it was very faithful to what I expected it to be, which was just sort of surviving. I was going to UCLA at the time, and taking quarters off to tour. I'd take a quarter off to tour, and then I'd come back. So that was really insane. Like, getting dropped out of a van after a tour, at UCLA to go to my first class. Trying to go back to studying calculus and applied math.

Did people in the class know who you were?

No, Black Flag was not very famous at UCLA. I was a scumbag as far as they were concerned. There were a couple people that were a little punky maybe, but it wasn't where you found a contingent, like now. I mean, even then, when we'd go to Ohio or something like that, the colleges would have radio stations and be interviewing Black Flag or whatever; they were heavy into us. But UCLA, man, I never met anybody.


I really only, well - And I'm in the MATH department! I'm in the, you know - I'm not exactly hanging around in the artistic areas where there might be someone too, you know? I was like hanging around math classes and economics and stuff. I didn't bump into anybody. I didn't get a lot of attention, man. I was pretty much just a scumbag who had trouble finding people who I could compare notes with.

Why the math department?

I was studying computers. Engineering and math and economics, and right after they kicked me out, I did my last quarter and graduated. For me, that was important. When the band asked me to join, I said, "Look, I'm three years into UCLA. I'm not gonna quit school. I'll take time off and try to work around you guys, but you guys are gonna have to work around me." And I think that put a lot of pressure in the long run, and definitely created some problems. We ended up with some fucked-up tours. Like a winter tour, which we ended up spending in Canada at Christmastime, when it was about 65 below.

Oh, I think I read about that in that -


Did you read Get In The Van?

Yeah, I've - well, I shouldn't say I've read it. I've thumbed through it, I've read some things and I've been interviewed about certain things that Henry said about me. I had some interviewer read me some stuff he said about me, and try to get me to comment.

That was like 17 years ago though. It's not like, "What do you think about what he said 17 years ago?"

Yeah, and it's like I said about what the tour was like. You'd be so fuckin' miserable and tired and stuff, of course there was - and this was his journal! He gets to BE pissed off in his journal. God bless him! Why wouldn't he be? We're getting no sleep and busting our asses and in close quarters. There was plenty to be annoyed with. Like I said, the nice thing was we DIDN'T fight. There wasn't drama. He had a little bit of pissedoffness in his journal - well, if that's how he took care of it, great! He didn't give me a hard time. I always felt like he was right there. If there was any kind of bullshit, Henry would be right there by my side. He wouldn't let people fuck with me, so that's understandable. Did it hurt my feelings? Yeah, it hurts a little when somebody says something like that about you. But it's not like I don't get it!

But it really was a long, long time ago though.

It was a long time ago.

Did you, umm.. Oh, what was I gonna go on to from there? Was it as difficult for you touring as it was, as Henry, I guess Henry got beat up a lot or something - I mean, his journals -

Well, if you think about what it would be like to read your personal journal - the thing you wrote when you were being the most self-pitying and you know what I mean? You're feeling those emotions, you're putting it down! You're feeling hurt, you're feeling cold, you're feeling tired, you're feeling oppressed, you know, whatever. If I had had a journal, then it would have sounded somewhat like that too, but did it describe reality? No! I think it describes what you felt, which is just as valid. No, it wasn't really like that. But did he feel like that every day? Probably. It's funny because there's a million ways of looking at it. I'll never forget the image, though, of - you know, we used to carry this fuckin' PA, right? Every day load in, load out - I mean it was a LOT of equipment, and it was just the four of us, usually one other band of maybe four guys and two road crew. And I usually couldn't help much (mumble mumble). And there was a lot of moving shit to do. I just have this image of Henry walking with this cabinet sort of, you know, "Phew!" you know, breathing and really FEELING it, you know, and behind him Jack Breuer the singer from Saccharine Trust bouncing along making fun of Henry. Because you know what I've learned, and I certainly didn't know it then, is it's all in how you look at your life. You can buckle under the weight of the bullshit, having to fuckin' load the shit and feel the agony of the pain of your muscles and tiredness that you really feel, or you can go, "Cool! I'm on tour, gettin' to play, and I gotta load some shit."

Yeah! That's what cognitive therapy is. Maybe he needs that.

Either one of those things is totally valid and real, you know? It was no less real that he was in pain and that it was everything to do with that shit. It was just as real emotionally - THAT - than the other. I mean, it's lonely, you feel like your life is going on back in L.A. without you. You call home, there's shit going on, you can't do anything about it and it's going on without you. You're hearing stories - I would call home and hear stories about who I was fucking on the road, you know? It's hard! It's emotionally hard. You can feel alone, you feel tired - self-pity is a very natural response to what's going on. So I get it! On any given day if you'd read my inner workings, it might have been the same thing. It is a long time ago. And I appreciate the fact that he stated whatever it was that was bugging him then in his journal (mumble mumble).. We did stuff, we've done stuff together, we've emailed back and forth here and there and it's great! I think he's amazing. He does a lot of interesting stuff. He's doing movies. He's writing books. He's doing spoken-word. He does music. I respect him and admire him for the effort and work and just kind of business acumen he's shown. Greg on the other hand has struggled as a businessman. He's been more of the pure starving artist type, which I also admire. I have a brother who's lived up to that role. Sort of a true starving artist personality where it can't be first priority that they even have a roof over their head or that there's money in the bank, because their first priority is to their music. And they don't want to have to play what people want to hear.

Have you listened to any of the music he's been putting out?


Yeah. Gone and Hor and Confront James and all that stuff.

I've heard his stuff here and there, but I can't say I've really followed it. What about you?

Yeah, I've bought most of them.


I'll say I really like some of the stuff he comes up with, but he was just issuing so much stuff that it's really hard to tell one from the other after a while.

I think that the same way that Black Flag records don't really capture in my mind what being at a live show might have, I think it's hard for Greg to capture what he's really going after. I also think that he's very into improvisation, and improvisation is really tricky as a kind of music to have people listen to. I think improvisation is a lot more fun to play than it is to listen to. And I think it's tricky to make that work, where you're actually keeping people with you as you go through it.

Yeah, it seems like it might be cooler to see something live than to listen to it.

Yeah, exactly. Also, producing a record isn't as easy as it seems. It's hard to figure out things like how loud the guitar should be or something like that. One time I'll never forget - we were doing this one record, I can't even tell which one it was - it might have been Family Man. And we did this version, and Greg was doing this thing where he gets the guitar kinda loud and out front, and me and Bill were like, "We think that the mix isn't that great yet. Maybe we could make some changes." And Greg was like, "Okay, go ahead. You guys go ahead and do a mix. We'll see what you guys come up with." And we bring this tape back from what we think is this great mix, we bring it back and play it and it DOESN'T sound - You know, you take it out of the studio and put it in a boombox back in the practice place and it DOESN'T sound right. It's hard to figure out, in that little studio, what it's gonna sound like on a boombox or in somebody's car or on a stereo system - it's difficult to really get a production that works. I think it's a real skill and I understand now why people hire good producers - people who can figure out how to get from what it sounds like in the studio to what it'll sound like once it gets out there.

Yeah, every Black Flag album sounds different from the others too.

They do! I think it's wild how different they sound in some ways. It's kinda weird.

I remember how surprised I was when I first got In My Head, and Henry's voice was mixed WAAAAY way in the back.

Yeah! Well, like I said, because of the way the songs came about, where, like I said before, they were instrumental songs. In Greg's view, that was gonna be an instrumental record. And then Henry did this stuff, and I think what Greg was trying to capture was Henry's voice more as another instrument as opposed to the lead, you know what I mean? I think that happens to Greg, where he has something in mind and he's going for a concept, but it's not always that easy for people to translate it, you know? There was a thing in mind. I think it's kinda weird that way. It's a conflict about what you can and can't do. It's just a nightmare; I get that. I've learned a lot about how much I don't know about how to make records.

Have you ever had the urge to put out an album by yourself? Where you play all -

A solo record?


A solo record?

Yeah, exactly!

No. I haven't.

Why not?

I've done projects. I played a friend's project - a band called Approximation.

Called what?

A band called Approximation.


Yeah, they're playing around town right now actually. I think they're about to record another record. I played on a record of theirs. I did some arrangements - I basically said, "I'll do it if I can do whatever I want on bass, and if I could suggest some arrangements if anything hits me." So I had a lot of leeway. I actually tried a new technique. I learned a new technique - I learned how to slap. I used it as a way of accenting. My hands are kinda destroyed, so I'm worried about playing in a rock band. When we gig, we play without a drummer. So for me to challenge myself musically, I would still do collaborative projects where I would work with my brother, I would work with Approximation, I would work with Mike. I like what collaboration does for me, which is I get to react to that person by being this way. I like what collaboration does, and I don't think I know what a solo project would be. Dos is very close to what my thing would be if I did it myself, but I like the collaboration. For years, when my nephews were growing up, I would do story tapes, with these bedtime stories. I would do bass lines and overdub a second bass playing. And this was for years before Dos. And that was my kind of album! I had a purpose in mind - I wanted my nephews to have a bedtime story and hear my voice and remember me and feel close to me, and I thought bass was a really soothing instrument that would be good for sleeping. And I liked the challenge of coming up with complementing bass lines. So like I said, it would probably be very like that. Now you've got me thinking! I could combine that with sound effects editing, you know? Because I've been wanting to put sound effects on Dos records and stuff. Maybe I SHOULD just do a solo record! Dude!

See? That's why I'm here!

I'm kidding halfway, but you know of course - again, I'd have to have a purpose in mind. And I'd have to get out of work probably. When I'm working. Because when I'm working, even when I'm off working, a lot of time just goes. I guess the truth is that it's hard for me to make music as high a priority as it is for those people we were talking about.

How many hours a week are you working?

Aaaaaaah.. 70?

Good lord!


Are you happy with that? Or is it just how it has to be?

The movie industry is very, very demanding. When I'm on a job, it's basically like I'm their bitch. Now that's not all year round though. There are times when I have a couple months off. Because I'm freelance, I work project to project and sometimes I have more time off than I want! You know, money-wise. But that's just the nature of the industry. I like it as a kind of work. Could I do something that wasn't as many hours? Yeah, but would I have those few months off here and there? Probably not. It's a trade-off. So I like what I do. Will I always do it? I don't know. I've thought every once in a while about teaching, but now I know some teachers and I'm not sure the job is appealing any more.


They work really hard too.

And their day doesn't really end at 2:15 or whatever.

Right. I would love it if there was a way of working part-time on something that would allow me to like what I do, and still have time to (mumble - it actually sounded like she said "pile up kidneys," but surely that can't be right!). But we make choices, and this is what I'm saying - that people who are obsessed starving artists wouldn't make the choice I've made. They wouldn't work that 70 hours a week, because it would take time away from their music. But for me, I love the fact that I'm not trying to make a living in music. Because then I can do whatever the fuck I want with music! When I play, I can do whatever weirdass thing I want. And I've got the most punk rock band in the world - I mean, Dos is bizarre! Nobody does anything that weird. And I couldn't do that if I was trying to figure out how to make a living in music. It's very hard to make a living doing that.

Yeah, it wouldn't get radio play. It wouldn't sell units.

That's true. It wouldn't get radio play, and then when we'd play with like real bands, we'd sound like tiny, you know? `Cause there's no bashing drums or guitar. It's really cool to do it as a hobby, even though emotionally it is hard because I like to play. But if that's the trade-off. See, I have an older brother who is the starving artist type, so I think I grew up sort of going, "Okay, I'm not gonna do that." You know? Because it's a hard way of life.

Yeah, I have a hard time understanding why anyone over 30 would want to keep trying to do that. It just looks so hard.

Well, if you're Mike Watt and you're able to make a living at it -

He's not considered a starving artist, is he?

Well see, when I say `starving artist,' I just mean that they would make the choice - they don't have to starve - but their personality though is one where they're gonna do music all day long and if they don't make a living at it, then they're gonna end up starving. And Mike manages to scrounge by. He's not a wealthy guy. He's a working man kind of musician. He sleeps in Motel 6's with other guys, he has a little apartment and he has the samd band he's had for the last several - maybe ten tours. I mean, it is not an easy life. It's a hard life. And I think that's based on the fact that he made the kind of choices that these people like my brother would make, and he's just had a little luck here or been a little better businessman here than others. But see if Mike wasn't able to make a living at it, he'd probably get a job that didn't take a lot of time so that he could have time to devote to his music. That would still come first emotionally always. I actually get a lot of added value out of my job.

You get a lot of - sorry, you kinda faded out for a second.

I get a lot of value out of my job. My editing work. Even my computer work - I liked it. I get something out of that that the people we were talking about who the only thing they get anything out of is music wouldn't like. And I think it's because my brother was that I decided I can't do that. I won't be like that. Music for me will always be a part of my life, but it will never take over my life.

Would that be the case if Black Flag hadn't broken up? If that life had continued, would you have eventually said, "Okay, enough of this. I'm leaving."?

At the time, I wasn't ready. I wanted to keep doing it. I was looking forward to the time when I was gonna fit in at UCLA and be able to dedicate my full time to it. But I was kinda trying to play two roles. I do think that at a certain point, that lifestyle would've - I see the lifestyle that Mike lives. I can't do it! I wouldn't want to do it! It's hard to tour that much. It's hard to be away from home and be away from the people you care about. It's hard to not sleep. It's hard to eat crummy restaurant food. It's hard. Now I cook my own healthy foods for myself. I'm not really big on creature comforts, but there's a couple of things, like food that's good and a few hours rest - there's some basic things which I value pretty damn highly. That I feel a lot better to have that. And people have asked all along would I.

Go back to that kind of life?

Yeah, would I go on tour, like, you know - who was it? There was some band - I can't remember. Some pretty big band was looking for a bass player at one point. Flea from the Chili Peppers recommended me or something. And I followed up sort of half-assed, knowing that even if there was a lot of money involved, because my brother's said all along, "If it was a REAL tour with MONEY, THEN you'd do it!" But I don't know that I would. It's not about the money. Mars Volta.

What's that? Say it again?

Mars Volta was the band looking for a bass player. I don't know. I love noodling on my bass at home. I like records. I like playing, but it doesn't give me so much that I would put it as more important than some other things in my life. If that makes me sort of lame, you know -

No it doesn't.

I'm 42.

Well I'm only 30 and I feel the same way.

They're my priorities, you know? I like music and I don't ever want to hate it. And I think there's people who end up hating it, because they've sacrificed their lives on the altar of music. I see it. They're older, they're married - I'm sure it's a hard life. Even if you aren't doing a lot of drinking and drugs, you'd might be as well be. It kinda looks like you have been. That's hard living. I take care of myself, you know? Not because I wanna live a long time necessarily. I just like to feel good and healthy and have energy. You have no energy on tour. You're always tired. And if you're lucky, you can fuckin' bust ass for a couple hours while you're on stage, and come up with enough juice to really kick some ass. But the rest of the time, you're writhing. I make it sound real appealing! Do you play?

Uhh yeah. I used to be really into playing the guitar. I've been playing since I was about 15. I used to be really into it, doing it all the time. Then I tried to get a band together and it was just so frustrating that I decided to record at home. So I was recording at home and eventually - I just don't feel like playing all that much. I like the creative process, but there's just so little time in a day.

Putting a band together is a hard thing. It's kind of like a marriage between four guys. Imagine trying to figure out people who want the same thing as you - exactly. They want to expend the same amount of effort, they want to create the same kind of thing, they want to be in the same kind of place in two or three years. That's hard! That is really hard. So that's why so many bands break up, because you might capture it for a moment or a year or for two years, but to keep that going and STILL want the same things, still want to play the same kind of music - it's unusual to be able to create that chemistry of actually wanting the same things.

Especially if you're with people who you weren't friends with beforehand.

I think in a way that helps. I don't know, but I think the ones that really kind of work are the ones where it's very much a business kind of arrangement. Mike is very successful at creating these business-type arrangements that are win-win situations. You have to sort of keep it on a professional level; it can't be emotional or personal. And that's the way Black Flag operated. We'd deal with each other on the stuff that we needed to deal with, and leave each other the fuck around on the rest. And certainly you aren't gonna hang around with these people that you spend way too much time with when you've got a little time off! That's when you go spend time with your family and your real friends. You know, girlfriends of guitarists?

What's that?

It was always weird. Every band I've ever been in, their girlfriends would always be a little uncomfortable with me, and I learned the hard way that the trick was to make friends with the girlfriends. When you realize that, it's fantastic. But it can be a really weird chemistry. Like that or, you know, the girlfriend gets an idea that there's something going on or whatever because you're spending more time with their boyfriend than she is. Being a girl in a rock band is a whole other thing.

Okay, I've taken an hour of your time. I could waste more of your time, but -

Well, maybe what you want to do is go through it a little and then if you decide (mumble mumble mumble), follow up on it.



Yeah, I'm here. I'm -

I mean, feel free if you've got things on your mind now. I'm just saying that sometimes it's good -

Well, I don't want to harp on it or anything. But again, I'm trying to imagine being in a musical relationship with someone that I used to be in an emotional relationship with. It just seems like it would be extremely difficult. I'm just surprised that you guys have manged to find such a -

Me and Mike, you mean?


Well, you know -

I don't want to harp on it.

Well, we haven't really harped on it. I don't mind talking about it at all. I think that the thing with Mike and I is kind of a special case in that I married him. We were married, so we had a commitment. So in some ways, and this is gonna be hard to understand, but if I feel like if the emotional relationship is a loss, it's a double loss if (mumble mumble mumble). It's a part of that commitment that I made to him. And that I did before I married him. We committed - you know, obviously in order to get married, we were pretty tight before, and there were aspects about it that were about being creative together. Mike and I, the first time we really started spending time together was on the Black Flag tour in '85 when the Minutemen opened for us on part of the tour. And then I kept going and he went home, and he said, "Write me some lyrics." So I sent home lyrics, so the last Minutemen record has some of my lyrics. So part of our relationship began with collaboration. And then when D. Boon died, he and I were dating at the time and it was something that we sort of went through together. He didn't want to go anywhere, he didn't want to do anything, he didn't want to play his bass. I stayed there with him and at a certain point, we were able to pick up our basses and start fooling around. So again, I think that collaboration was an integral part of our relationship. I don't think it would work for hardly any other people. And it has not been easy. There have been very uncomfortable times. There have been times when we couldn't really do it. It was very painful, and I have to say that in a lot of ways, I think Mike went through a lot more pain than I did. Because ultimately it was my decision to end the marriage. But obviously I love the guy. He's very important to me and his relationship is important to me. He has been a loyal person in my life. And in life, you have very few people who stick by you. And I think that's damn important. Regardless of the fact that Mike has stood behind me and has always cared about what happens to me, I really care about what happens to him and I value him in my life.

How is he doing these days with, I guess, he had the problem with - was it cancer?

No, it wasn't cancer. He had a very bad -

Oh, that's right, he had a - Yeah, yeah.

And he was very graphic in his description about it, so most people know more details than I do!

Oh yeah, I remember hearing about it now, okay.

And I would say that he has always and still does have a little bit of weakness in his system. When he is sick, he gets very sick. He's a little bit susceptible to infection - stuff like that. He's also one of those amazing people who, through a lot of health problems, has pushed himself and kept doing it. I mean, he's played gigs - he burned his head up one time before his tour and had gauze all over his head the whole tour. He's had problem after problem healthwise. He popped his knee out on tour, and hobbled to the next gig. So he's also sort of a rock about it. We both have some weaknesses and have had to use some emotional toughness to get beyond it and get to the next show. And he's missed very few shows! He's learning more and more to take better care of himself. He's eating more carefully. When he's home, he bikes everyday and he exercises. He's done a lot to figure out how to keep himself well, and he will. But it's a very unconditional thing. And frankly in my life, I've been lucky that way. The few real relationships that I've had, and I mean emotional relationships, having them as friends afterwards has been important, and I've really tried to get there. But I think for a lot of people, that's dependent on other things, like how it broke up and the kind of person you are. I don't have a lot of friends; I'm not close to a lot of people. But the ones I'm close to, I value a lot. And I know what you mean about how it must be weird. There have been times when it has been really hard. We had two Dos shows scheduled a couple weeks after I told him I wanted a divorce. Being the professionals that we were, we never questioned if we weren't gonna do the gig! Fuckin' idiots. It was horrible. Horribly painful. It was really sad in a lot of ways, but we both have a level of professionalism. We both have a level of wanting to do Dos. The reason that Dos is important to us is because bass is important to us, and people don't get the bass to do anything. And Dos is just two bass guitars, so it is very cool. Were it a traditional rock band that he and I were in, where he was the guitar player and I was the bass player and there were a couple other guys, it wouldn't happen. Part of it is just that it is just two people, and other people don't have to deal with our crap - our arguments and stuff. But also, it's a project that's really close to our hearts. Because the bass has been so important to us for so long. When we were married and I was going to work, we'd get up at 6 in the morning and practice!

I bet the neighbors loved that.

Well, we didn't do it loud! We played quiet.

A bass is gonna be loud no matter what.

No way! Not at all. We didn't have amplifiers. Usually he wouldn't even be amplified. And we'd JUST turn up mine so you could hear me because I didn't play the bass quite as hard as he did. We were just insane about Dos! It was like the only time when we were fresh. We were both better in the morning, so we were like, "Okay, we'll get up at 6. I gotta leave by 7 to get to work."

Sheesh. So how old were you when you picked up the bass?


How old were you when you started playing bass?


And why bass?

Actually I played piano when I was little, and my brother did too. And then my brother had this prog rock band. That was probably before your time - sort of Emerson Lake and Palmer -

Oh, I know. Gentle Giant!

Right. So he had this prog rock band and at one point he needed a bass player. And I had quit piano several years before, and I kinda like figured out that the problem with playing the piano is that my brother and I had always viewed it as a competition, and that the trick was, I realized, to play WITH him, rather than compete with him! So he had a prog rock band, and I decided well, I would be the bass player, you know? He needed a bass player. So I started practicing an insane amount. Like I was practicing six hours on school days and ten hours on weekends. Trying to get good really fast, so I'd be good enough to be in his prog rock band. I did that for like a year. By the time I was ready, of course the prog rock band had broken up, but I've been playing bass ever since. I have a theory about why I love the bass. Because I'm left-handed and, on piano, the bass lines are all on the left hand. So subconsciously I think (mumble mumble). I play right- handed like an idiot though.

You play what right-handed?

I play the bass right-handed. When I first picked it up, I thought, "Cool! The hard part is over here on the neck, and my left hand will be there. Won't that be cool?" And then years later, I'm playing with a drummer and realizing the other half is the hard part.

You just learned to play slap bass, you said?

For this project, I learned how to slap with my thumb. Just - I mean, I don't play funky at all. I use the slaps for accent. So in order to get, you know, it's very much a rock record, but I wrote several parts with a sort of "Bam! Bam!" sort of slamming with my thumb to do the accents. Because I wanted to kind of experiment a little.

Who do you think are the best bassists ever?

I always talk about the bass player from ZZ Top. Because for me, a bass player is great if he does exactly what's right for that band.

I don't know that I've ever noticed a ZZ Top bass line in my life.

Exactly! He does what's exactly right for that - exactly! He's just "the guy"! The guy that makes that band sound like that band without being noticed. I think it's so important if you're a bass player.

Would you put him above "the guy" in AC/DC?

There were a lot of guys in AC/DC. There's only one in ZZ Top. And when I think of AC/DC, I think of the drummer who always plays the same drumbeat! That's me. And when I saw the White Stripes not long ago - and man they reminded me of AC/DC!

Who did?

White Stripes?

Oh, White Stripes. Okay.

The girl drummer plays the same beat every song. Don't get me wrong - I like AC/DC! But they're from Detroit, you know? And I'm kinda trying to get into it and then suddenly I'm like, "Yah! AC/DC!" and then I got more and more into it. I took my current boyfriend (mumble mumble) White Stripes.

Are you into any of these hot new bands the kids are all talking about?

I don't know if I'm into any of the hot new bands that everybody's talking about. I'll tell you my favorite new band you may not have heard of is called The Mates of State.

The - say it again?

Mates of State.

The Mates of State.

Mates of State. It's two people - a girl and a guy. The guy plays drums, the girl plays organs, they both sing. It's awesome. But no, I'm really not hip on the music scene. I don't know what's good. If I wanna know what's good, I'll ask Mike or my friend Eric or someone who's really up on things. If I hear about a band or if I wanna hear about a band, I'll talk to some people who listen, because I don't - I really don't know. I didn't know anything about the White Stripes. He just showed some interest, and I got the tickets, and we went, and I thought they were pretty cool! I thought they did some really neat stuff. Obviously, I like two-man bands, so that had a soft spot right there for me. And I thought it was pretty cool, especially when I got the AC/DC drummer thing. But I really don't stay up on music. There are a lot of people you could name that I wouldn't know what they've done.

Do you still get into -

I listen to a lot of Spanish radio.

A lot of what? It must be the fact that I'm in New York and you're in California, you keep going quiet.

Right. I listen to Hispanic radio.


Right. One of my hobbies is Spanish, like I taught myself basically, and so I sorta immersed myself in Spanish radio and media and stuff. And I listen to a Spanish radio station. As a matter of fact, Shakira, who's now a big rock star, was just this little Columbian girl who I actually did like her first two CDs.

Oh yeah?

But I'm not that into what she's doing now. Yeah, it's alright, but I liked what she was doing in Spanish a lot more. Because one of the things she was doing in Spanish that she can't do in English - she was doing a lot of really fast Spanish rhymin' and interesting lyrical stuff. You know, fast. Which I thought was really cool. And I like (???), this salsa lady. But I'm really not hip.

I really never thought I'd meet anyone in my life who could say they were a fan of Shakira before Shakira was hip.

I was!


There you go. She was this babe! She was this babe Colombian girl who was doing some pretty neat things and, like I said, had this style with a lot of words and rhymes. And I was trying to learn Spanish, so to me it was so cool because I couldn't keep up with her language. So I started getting into it and got some records and stuff, and all of a sudden she's doing Coke commercials! I was so surprised. It blows my mind. But then Ricky Martin was on General Hospital not that long ago. I was watching General Hospital back when I was (mumble), and I was watching when Ricky Martin was on, and then he was a Latin pop star, and now he's a really big pop star.

Now he's an artistic genius!

You know, my thing is - I like artists. It doesn't matter to me if they're big or not. I like Madonna! I've always liked Madonna.

Oooh. You don't like her newer stuff, do you?

I don't know! I like all I've heard of her stuff. Most of the stuff I like. And I just like the fact of who she is, and she says what she wants to people and makes them think! I like all that. I don't have any limitations. If you said to me there was some cool band or whatever, I'd go check them out. I can be very open-minded and I like a lot of stuff. There's only a few things I don't like very much. I don't like that much country, although Dos does do a Patsy Cline song and we're gonna do another one hopefully.

Johnny Cash was pretty good.

Yeah, so there's always exceptions. But reggae, I have a little bit of -

Oh yeah, that's right.

It's hard for me to listen to more than a few songs.

I'm with you on that. Pretty repetitive stuff.

I get uncomfortable. I can't explain it. But almost anything - I grew up with classical music. My Dad played it, my brother and I always took lessons playing classical piano. I like the blues - Billie Holliday is one of my favorite artists of all time. Anything where they're really coming from the heart.

Were you into a lot of the punk and hardcore stuff when you joined Black Flag?

They were my favorite band. I was a Hollywood punker. It's kinda interesting because I was from the Hollywood punk rock scene and they were from the South Bay punk rock scene. I was very early in the Hollywood punk rock scene.

I interviewed one of the Weirdos a few weeks ago!

Yeah! They were one of my favorite bands. Which one, Cliff?


He's still around. Yeah, I hung around with them.

How'd you get the audition?

Henry. I used to date Henry before.

Oh, I didn't know that. Okay.

I dated Henry before I was in Black Flag, and one day he -

So that's why he was so bitchy in his diary!

(laughs) Shaddap! One day he calls me up and he goes, (here Kira speaks in a low, serious, Rollins voice) "Okay, they're gettin' rid of Duk and y'know I just wanted to know whether you wanna play and, y'know, I just want you to know, y'know, and if you play with us, y'know, THERE'S NOTHING BETWEEN US!" Okay, I know. Got it. So he tells me to go - I was playing with Dez at the time in his band, which was called DC3. It was this power trio.

I didn't know you were in that band either. Sheesh!

Yeah! I was playing - well, I was in it for a few weeks. I'd just really started playing, and we were practicing at the same place they were. And so Henry was like, "So if you're into jamming with them, y'know, stay and jam with Bill and Greg after the -" You know, whatever, after my DC3 practice. So I'm at DC3 practice and we finish, and Greg and Bill show up, and I'm like "So, you wanna jam?" And they were like, ".Yeah. Okay." As if they had NO IDEA!!! I thought Henry had set this up, but they were acting like they had no idea I was coming to do a jam. They were like, "Oh, okay. Whatever." So I played and we jammed once and then they asked me to join. And I felt really bad about Dez, so I got my brother to join DC3, and I told him to play bass organ because he's more of a keyboard player. I'm like, "This is a power trio, so you gotta play bass!" That was my idea to make them stay a three-piece. And then I told them they had to work around my school schedule. And they were my favorite band! I was literally thinking about getting a tattoo of Black Flag before I was in the band, so as soon as I got in, I had to get in. I got mine at the same time Henry got his on the back of his neck, and he squealed like a pig. But DON'T WRITE THAT!


That he squealed like a pig.

Oh, I won't write that. Yes I will! So at what point did that relationship fall apart?

Oh, we dated for eight or nine months. It was not -

Oh, it wasn't a big thing.

We hung out for a while, and then we broke up. He broke up with me, because I was an asshole.

You broke up what?

I didn't say it very well. I wasn't - I was "clingy," I guess is the word you would use now. And that was the end of that. So I can't blame him really!

You didn't continue to be that way afterwards?

No! Well, when it was over, I knew it was over. It had been over for a little while, and like I said, his theme when he called was "There's nothing between us." He was very clear. "If you join the band, that doesn't mean there's anything between us." So he had been very explicit, and I knew that's how he felt. And in your twenties, you bounce back from these things a little more quickly than you do when you get older.

You could have kept him and your husband would have been in a Gap ad. That would have been cool! Did you keep up with his stuff after Black Flag?

I went and saw him in Connecticut when I lived there and, you know -

He made some really good records in my opinion. Some really good ones.

I've always liked his spoken word thing. I think he's a really funny guy. That's why I dated him. Because I thought he was a funny guy, and I enjoyed being around him. He was probably my first love, but you know, I fucked it up! What can I say? You gotta let it go! But there's a soft spot for him there.


At this point, the 90-minute tape ran out, but I'm almost certain that nothing came after this except her acknowledging that she mumbles a lot, followed by a hearty farewell.

Oh, and then Henry Rollins, Dez Cadena and Chuck Dukowski all got on the line and went song-by-song giving their thoughts about the entire Black Flag catalog. I was all like "Damn!" when I realized that the tape had run out.

Reader Comments (dick master)
Hell, that was really interesting... I'm a big fan of Dos (Dos-equis? *cough*) and Kira-era Black Flag, but I've not really known much about who she is. Now I do, and now I'm running out and watching Under the Tuscan Sun. No, not really, but thanks to that interview I'm loaded with hipster ammunition when the topic turns to Daddy Day Care, as it always does... Anyway, thanks for the great (mumble mumble mumble)...
I just recently got a copy of Black Flag's "82 demos plus more" and there is an interview near the end and Kira is in it so I was like wow, I know nothing about Kira, lemme do a search. So I did and I came across this interview and wow, I think that was a really good interview. I think it took me almost 2 hours to read, but I just couldn't stop, even though it is now 1:30am and i have to wake up early to work, I'm so pleased that I figured I'd write a comment since there were none which I think is a shame. I thought it was a very thorough interview where you almost feel like you're getting to know someone. I enjoyed reading what she has been up to and was very surprised to learn that she did the sound in movies I have seen. Those random trivial things are what I love, like the next time I'm listening to The Mars Volta I will mention that she tried out for them. I love trivia like that. Thanks.
great interview. as another reader said, I was aware of Kira's place in the Black Flag universe, but I didn't know much about her as a person, so that was really interesting. i had just read Get In the Van for the 2nd time and thought I would look Kira's name up on the internet in a "where are they now" curiousity and I found this interview. thanks for filling in the gaps for me!

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