Guitar Gabby & TxLips

In January 2016, TxLips (Translation: two lips) was born. This band recently came on my radar, as “Black Women IN Rock to watch.” TxLips, founder, and guitarist, Gabriella Logan – a.k.a. “Guitar Gabby” – is on a mission to elevate Black female musicians in the world of rock. We are definitely on the same vibrational frequency! So here we go….5 questions and 5LBS. Of ROCK.

Courtney Gurlie, photographer


SHEILA: Atlanta has a strong hip-hop scene. What’s it like being a Black Woman IN Rock in Atlanta? Do you feel more challenged being in a southern city?

GABBY: So when I started this band I anticipated that I might receive a lot of the same kind of pushback that I did when I was in high school. I thought maybe they wouldn’t like it. But ironically most of our fan base is white women. With the Black community, at first we’d get that, “Why are you all playing white people’s music?” But the fact is that we’re Black women and we don’t take “no” for an answer. We know who we are and we’re very confident in our music, and will go forward no matter what.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people from The Rock Community and The Hip Hop Community are starting to cross-over and intertwine themselves. A lot of hip-hop artists who are coming up now kind of want to have a little bit of rock edge.  That’s actually how we got started – playing for a rapper. Now a lot of black rappers invite us to open their shows because we’re Black and we’re women. It gives them that edge that they want to be connected to.

SHEILA: So how did the vision for TxLips begin?

GABBY: I met my drummer, Monique Williams, a.k.a. Mo (pictured below), when the rapper, Diamond (Crime Mob) asked me to do her music video. I asked Mo to participate in the video as well, because they wanted an all girl band for her shoot. I took the opportunity to further that by creating Txlips. Mo is the most consistent and supportive member.

Courtney Gurlie, photographer

I have a vision to fulfill and a desire to push Black Women in rock n roll, playing instruments. I always prefer the same people for consistency and cohesiveness. However, I had to understand that people have their own musical endeavors. So instead of traditional “members,”  I have subcontracted musicians, with the stipulation being they must be Black Women.

Currently, Dara Carter (on keys) and Maria Montgomery (on bass) both came to Txlips because they wanted to engage and participate in empowering Women in rock n’ roll.

SHEILA: I want readers to know about your new EP, Queens of The New Age. It’s available on Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and everywhere music is sold under “The Txlips Band”. . .and I love it!

SHEILA: What can audiences expect when they see TxLips perform?

GABBY: A Diverse Rock Experience. That’s one of the things I love about our band. We are very diverse in how we play our instruments. I’m rock-based, because that’s what I grew up listening to. But my bassist, she’s more into funk, that’s how she grew up. My drummer, she grew up playing jazz. But when we bring it all together you can hear the individual creativity coming through. The music has that rock consistency, but you can always hear the diversity.

SHEILA: So who writes the music?

GABBY: I write all of it. The music that I write is coming from experience. But I also try to make it a point that everyone, no matter who you are – whether you are part of the LGBTQIA community, whether you are coming from a white community, or wherever you’re coming from – it’s something that you can relate to and you can understand it.

SHEILA: So there’s obviously something about how you express yourself in this music that appeals to Black women. What do you think that is?

GABBY: I think a lot of the cool factor is that we represent different types of black women – from our individual styles, our attitudes, our hair, to the instruments were playing.

Courtney Gurlie, photographer

Actually we opened up for the Indigo Girls recently, and there were a couple of Black women in the audience. One of them came up to us after the show and said that she was almost in tears, because she was in another room, heard music, and she came out and saw someone that looks like her. She said that she didn’t know that ‘that’ was a thing. Those were her exact words. And that right there…it touched all of our hearts. To represent Black women and be in this capacity, to play in this world of Rock, to be in the forefront trying to lead and carry the torch, is something that is very important to me. We definitely represent the diversity that Black women are because none of us is the same.

For more, visit guitargabby.com and txlips.com

 

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

Starr Cullars

Starr Cullars is on the road again, with a new band, spreading her own brand of rock. It’s progressive and hard, with a funky, cosmic flow. Starr is from the P-Funk pedigree. She was introduced to George Clinton via Prince and Paisley Park. Starr may look familiar as a former Counselor on VH-I’s Fantasy Rock Camp or featured in posters for the upcoming documentary, Nice and Rough: Black Women IN Rock.

SHEILA: How did playing with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars influence you as a rock musician?

STARR: When I was hired by George Clinton, Archie Ivy (Manager), and Garry Shider in the fall of 1992; there had only been women who were background-singers in the group. After about 9 months of working as the Assistant Road-Manager, I was promoted to a performing member on stage. I was and I am the only true-female-musician-member of the hallowed Parliament-Funkadelic.

The Funkadelic side of the group is one of the original Black Rock bands. The founders of Funkadelic: Eddie Hazel and Billy Bass Nelson were hardcore Rockers. Eddie had jam sessions with Jimi Hendrix! So I would be called out at the show’s last hour/30 minutes, and I would play a section of Funkadelic Rock hits: Red Hot Mama (signature), Alice In My Fantasy, No Head, Free Your Mind, etc. Having to learn all these catalogs of music, learning and having the ability to appease all of the veteran Band Cats – many of whom played on the various hit-records and platinum albums. Having all that power, history and active bad-ass Band members teaching and playing with me, truly enabled me to develop the skill and power I function and create from now.

SHEILA: After playing in the 18-piece P-Funk All Stars, your current band is a trio. What were the considerations when you put together your band?

STARR: Definitely coming from that gigantic rotating orchestra, you immediately learn what it means to share the stage and song with a village. For some in certain genres, a large ensemble like that is great. But I am from the school of the power-Rockers. Those Cats that are 3-4 piece super-bands: Cream, Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys, Rush, my big brothers of Living Colour. I am a Musician’s musician. I must be physically involved in the making of the music, to feel it through my instrument, through my body. I can do that best with a 3-4 piece band. If we added anything, the musician would have to be in vibration with us, and have all the necessary skills.

SHEILA: Speaking of physicality. You exude a lot of physical power onstage. And the way you handle your Bass is incredible. How do you cultivate and maintain your stamina?

STARR: Thank you. I have always known that the Bass guitar requires serious strength – just to lift and handle the instrument. My Kung Fu training has 100% enhanced my entire stage/show performance, From my agility and power-control of my Bass, to the stamina, strength, and balance I have navigating the stage. I study Choy Li Fut Kung Fu and Tai Chi at the White Dragon Martial Arts school. These instructors are some of the best in the world (seriously), like real-life Jedi-Knights. Kung Fu is soooooo challenging and definitely hard to do. It’s mind-blowing when you see and feel yourself grow stronger, deeper, more agile, super-hero-like!

 

SHEILA: A lot of the imagery you use is about the cosmos. Is it simply a reference to your name “Starr” or is there a deeper message you want to convey to your audience?

STARR: I would say, my music is about cosmic-inspirations, fighting through life-battles, and empowerment. In one of my songs, “I’m Still Standing” some of the lyrics are:

Nothing has killed me yet

No matter how mad

Nothing has taken me out

No matter how bad

I always said I was like the

Highlander, an Immortal

Somehow destined to go

Through the light portal…


SHEILA
: At a recent show, the M.C. announced you were ‘the first woman-led rock band to perform’ there. You have been on this journey of rock for a while now. Do you see the path evolving for Black Women In Rock?

STARR: No – not without the serious fight into the Rock Industry. Not until more Black Women have more opportunity and exposure in the Industry. The Rock Legend Cats, from the VH1 show, told me directly to my face that, “There are NO women in Rock today – not since, Heart and Joan Jett” (from the 70s/80s). And because I have proven myself to them, that I was “the Queen of Rock today.” I can tell you, that the path is extremely challenging, and plays right into MY M.O. So I am claiming the throne, infiltrating the male-testosterone Industry, and being the “Queen of Rock” in their faces, whether they are ready or not…Because I AM!

Listen out Starr on SoundCloud

Follow Starr on Facebook.

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

Eva Walker, The Black Tones

5 Lbs. of ROCK

Interview by Sheila Dianne Jackson

 

Eva Walker, lead singer of The Black Tones

A few years ago, I was invited to be a part of a new, oral history archive on Women Who Rock, established by the University of Washington. The archive holds powerful stories of how women have used music as a tool for activism – and I was there to talk about Black Women In Rock. Every time I have an opportunity to travel to Seattle, I am introduced to sisters in the punk-grunge scene. And it was on one of those occasions, a colleague introduced me to Eva Walker, lead singer of The Black Tones. As a filmmaker, I would describe Eva as Awkward Black Girl meets The Jimi Hendryx Experience and the Energizer Bunny. Her love and passion for this music, is as real as it gets.

SHEILA: Tell us about the evolution of your musical taste – and the band that turned you on to rock?

EVA: I love rock ‘n’ roll with everything in me. I love grooves, soul and the inspiration of blues that comes with rock ‘n’ roll.

My first real rock hero was Alanis Morrissett, I would listen to Jagged Little Pill every day for hours and hours. As I got into high school, I was introduced to more classic rock artists like, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, etc. At this time, I didn’t see very many black rock ‘n’ rollers. Sometimes it was discouraging to even think about being a rock ‘n’ roller. I was told things like, You’re so white; Black people don’t play guitar; You’re like the whitest black person I know; or Oreo – all because I liked rock music. Not seeing myself reflected in the rock world, I thought all of this was accurate. I thought I was a “wannabe white” person – which made me upset, and really socially awkward. I didn’t think there was a place for me in that world and I felt bad for liking rock. Then I discovered Jimi Hendrix and immediately I said out loud in a whisper “black people DO play guitar!”

From then on and as I left high school and went to college, and was introduced to old American blues folk artists – like Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and a lot more. I learned the Rolling Stones got their name from a Muddy Water’s song, “Catfish Blues” and that Led Zeppelin gave so much credit to their writing and style to Robert Johnson, and Jack White being a huge fan and heavily inspired by Son House.

It was unbelievable the amount of influence black people have on the rock world. You really wouldn’t have rock n roll without Blues, Gospel and Black People. I realized that I was not “white” for playing rock music, but in fact, me playing rock n’ roll was one of the blackest things there is.

SHEILA: What motivated you and your brother to come together and start a rock band?

Photography by Stacy Honda

EVA: I did a solo performance at a Seattle festival called Folklife. By that time I had been playing guitar and singing for maybe 2 years. It was Cedric’s (my twin brother) first time seeing me sing and play. He told me later, tears came down his face because he had no idea I could do that. He said, “Someone needs to back her up!” So that same summer he asked me to teach him drums. I had been drumming for about 2 years as well. So I was able to teach him some beginner stuff and get him started. We did a lesson as often as possible at the Seattle Drum School. The owner was so great about giving us a space free of charge, when no lessons were going on – since we didn’t have our own drums. We are forever thankful for that. At the end of that year, 2011, The Black Tones were born in my grandma’s basement.

SHEILA: What can audiences expect when they see you perform?

EVA: The Black Tones is all about rock ’n roll. We are a rock ’n’ roll band. That is because of the heavy influence Blues has on my writing. We tell stories, make points, protest etc. We do it through rocking out. Our sound, from what I’ve heard, is classic yet original. We aren’t trying to be anything we’re not. We are a pretty laid back group of folks, I have no problem rocking out to the same three chords for 4 minutes, and it’ll be one of the best songs you’ll hear all summer at a live show. I am sure about that (she laughs).

SHEILA: How does Seattle – as the birthplace of punk-grunge, influence your music?

EVA: My siblings and I are full blown Northwesterners. But being raised by full blown Southerners created this sort of half-breed of soul and rebellion. I associate my grandparents with soul, warmth, and tradition. And that definitely is reflected in our music. We don’t like to use a zillion chords in one song, we like to keep it simple and soulful – quite similar actually to my grandma’s kitchen. The northwest grunge gave me inspirations for songs I wrote like “Eddy and Cherry” which is about Cedric and me. Our sound and everything we are made up of – our childhood environment, from the cloudy northwest weather, the tan van full of tools and no seat belts my grandpa drove us to school in every morning, the quietness of Seattle before millions started moving here, to the wood paneling on the walls of my childhood home. These experiences and scenes are the inspiration behind our sound.

SHEILA: You write all of your own music. What is your fav, most empowering lyric?

Courtesy of Band in Seattle

EVA: Our songs are 100% originals. We rarely do covers. My favorite lyric, is probably from our song “Too Many Times.” The chorus starts with “You’re sitting on top of the world, while I’m lying on the universe.” You hear the term “the sky’s the limit, but how so when there’s astronauts?” There’s just about an infinite amount of things you can imagine, and the universe is freaking huge and possibly infinite. This phrase means there are no limitations to what I want to do with my life. There’s a lot I want to do, no matter the obstacles thrown at me.

and being a person of color, a woman, there are obstacles. However, I think the limit is at the edge of the universe, which is where you’ll find me lying down, waiting for it to expand to see what else I can do.

You can learn more about The Black Tones at theblacktones.com

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

Jaleesa Leslie: Cataloguing Black Women In Rock

5 Lbs. of ROCK

Interview by Sheila Dianne Jackson

Jaleesa Leslie

It’s been a minute….5Lbs of ROCK is back. This time, I am chatting it up with Jaleesa Leslie of blackwomeninrock.info, a blog which catalogs/documents black women of all persuasions of rock music. Writing and researching on the topic of Black Women IN Rock was a lonely space almost 10 years ago, when I first began. So I am always excited when I connect with another soul whose out there expanding the platform for exploration, discussion and celebration of these women and the music.

SHEILA: What turned you on to rock music?

JALEESA: I grew up listening to gospel and R&B because that was all that the people around me listened to. Shows like TRL on MTV was what introduced me first to pop music, and then to rock acts like Sum 41 and System of a Down. I started listening to rock music exclusively when I was around 14 years old, after a very emotionally rough year. My initial interest was in punk rock. It was through punk rock that I was introduced to X-Ray Spex and to Poly Styrene, who was the first black woman rocker I ever came across. I fell in love with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana a little later, and Nirvana and The Distillers were my favorite bands as a teenager.

My falling in love with rock music was very controversial, with my family. I fell into it around the same time I started suffering from bipolar disorder, and my religious family deeply believed that rock music was Satanic and the main contributor to my illness. Which was bullshit, of course. But everyone around me parroted this belief and it was hard to go against that. My mom used to throw my CDs and shirts away, my school counselor and psychiatrist tried to discourage my interest; and I had no friends around me who were into what I was into. I wasn’t able to fully explore any sort of rock scene until I became an adult. It’s been hard to really get into it, because I still have a lot of their negative messages internalized – though I still go to local shows here in Atlanta (even though I’m ALWAYS going alone).

My family stopped caring about what I listen to once I became an adult, which is ironic to me since the stuff I listen to now is more extreme than the stuff I listened to as a teen. I literally listen to Satanic artists now! Metal is my preferred genre, but I still listen to a lot of punk rock as well.

SHEILA: When I first started research for Nice & Rough, in 2008, porn sites would fill the page when I entered “black women in rock.” When I searched Betty Davis, the only reference to her were as the 1st wife and muse of Miles Davis. My have things changed! What are the changes you have seen in this dialogue, since you began to catalogue BWIR?

JALEESA: I still come across people who are shocked to see black people, in general, who perform rock music – and who are ignorant of all the ways we’ve contributed to the development of the genre as whole. But there are also more black people who are accepting of alternative culture, which is great. I wish it had been that way when I was growing up and first getting into this stuff. Fifteen years have passed since I got into alternative culture/music, and it’s amazing to see the difference in attitudes in that time frame.

SHEILA: I am excited to see a catalogue of BWIR online. What motivated you to start your blog on BWIR? Please add if you are a musician, singer, or fan only.

JALEESA: I have always been a big music fan, and started this project out of personal necessity. It was really to prove a point to myself, and to respond to these negative messages I’d internalized about my interest in rock being weird and abnormal.

There was a blog on Tumblr called Black Women Who Rock that I loved – but the owners of that blog stopped updating it. I decided to create my own to continue what they started, since I was unaware that there were other projects out there doing the same thing, besides Afropunk (which didn’t exclusively focus on black women).

I started the project in 2011 with a knowledge of only a handful of black women musicians, but have individually catalogued 100+ who fit the bill since then. I didn’t know how connected we really are to rock music beforehand. Having the BWIR blog has personally helped me feel less weird for liking what I like. And I’ve gotten messages from other women who felt the same way, until they discovered my project. Tumblr Staff actually featured the original Tumblr blog in a musical ‘black history round up’ a couple of years ago, which was huge for me and greatly increased the project’s visibility. I went from about 200 followers to over 1000 followers literally overnight. The intention for this project was always personal though, and it just so happens that other people seemed to need it as well. I’ve achieved what I meant to achieve with it, which is awesome.

SHEILA: Do you think Black Women In Rock will ever be embraced by “mainstream”? Not that they want to be….

JALEESA: In my opinion, it goes against the status quo to accept the heavy role that black women have played in rock music. Sister Rosetta Tharpe virtually invented the genre, yet she gets no recognition. Big Mama Thornton originally performed the song “Hound Dog” which Elvis made famous, yet she gets no recognition. Even with black men who have contributed to rock music, you have people labeling Elvis Presley, ‘The King of Rock’ music, while Chuck Berry was out doing his thing long before Elvis was on the scene.

Media has become very decentralized though, so I think regardless of whether or not the idea of black female rockers becomes mainstream, people will always be able to find these women if they’re looking for them. I think it’s helpful to have projects like Nice and Rough and the upcoming Poly Styrene documentary, as well as my catalogue out here to help boost the profile of these amazing musicians. Regardless of whether the mainstream recognizes us, we are out here taking care of ourselves, and I love it.

SHEILA: Who do you see as the hottest, new artists to watch?

JALEESA: Cammie Gilbert from Oceans of Slumber is heating up and getting a lot of attention, which is awesome for me to see as a metal fan. Beverley Ishmael of The Tuts also seems to be on the rise. She’s a great person and her band has this great pop, punk sound – and they’re really fun to listen to. I’ve been personally enjoying Youth Man with singer/guitarist Kaila Whyte, as well as Witch Mountain, with Kayla Dixon on vox.

Sheila is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director-Producer of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

Starr Cullars

5 Lbs. of ROCK

DSC_7616-1

Interview by Sheila Dianne Jackson

It’s tough to get 5 minutes, let alone 5 questions with rock-guitarist Starr Cullars.  A veteran of the P-Funk All-Stars, and the first female member of the 18-piece ‘boys’ club,’ she gets total street cred’ as one bad-ass bass player!  Starr left to start her own brand of cosmic rock with an undeniable funk influence.  The self-proclaimed “Rock Amazon” is currently featured in the Black Rock Coalition compilation, “What Are You Doing Here? The Liberation Sessions Vol 1.”, with her song “Diabolical Done.”

Starr Cullars
Starr Cullars

So for all of the people who have asked if this is a picture (left) of me, I’m happy introduce you to the gracious, beautiful, and all powerful poster-sista and embodiment of the spirit of “Nice & Rough” (drum roll) Starr Cullars!!

SHEILA:  How would you describe your brand of rock?

STARR:  I describe my brand as: Progressive-Hard-Rock music. I naturally have a pure Funk stream flowing through it, because of my pedigree and background.

SHEILA:  What are the top 3 influences and experiences that led you to rock?

STARR:  This is difficult to narrow dawn.  My top 3 influences would be  1) Jimi Hendrix, 2) Black Sabbath/ and 3) Living Colour (my personal friends).  I realized when I was a little child, playing acoustic-guitar at 7, that I was truly a real Rocker in my small being. By the time I received my 1st Bass-guitar,  I was already listening to and learning music by Cream, Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, etc.  By the time I was in college, right before I was hired by George Clinton &  P-Funk, I was completely immersed in being a Rock Musician.

SHEILA:  How do you define the difference between rock and funk?

STARR:  Excellent question, especially for Me.  The difference between Rock and Funk music, since I am from the P-Funk.  I learned Funk music from legends.  I am the only Female-Musician member of the Parliament-Funkadelic legendary group!  Playing the Bass-guitar in that group is the most important instrumentation of the music.

Funk music is the effected result of Classic-Soul, Country-Blues, and Early-Rock music. Where R&B is more refined, elegant and sophisticated; Funk is more syncopated, raw, wild and flowing with loud-rhythmic pronouncements. Rock music is the  effected result of Classic-Blues and R&B, electrified loudly. Rock music is pure freedom, and is based  on the aggressive, loud, powerful expression of musicians being inspiring, rebellious, and epic.

STARR CULLARS

SHEILA:  I was so psyched to see you included on VH1‘s Fantasy Rock Camp.  Tell us about your experience.

Starr Cullars, SBR, Master Mark, and Sammy 2!

STARR:  My VH1 Rock Camp experience was awesome.  I was chosen and featured by the Rock Counselors, Rock Guest Stars, and the Producers as the “star of  the show”! I am fortunate to be a professional-musician from P-Funk, with recording and performing experience. When I arrived on the set, I was immediately recognized, and treated with the highest respect and admiration from the cast and crew. Each day was a challenging test of skill and experience. Everyday we had to learn multiple songs, rehearse and perform them with the surprise Rock Star Guests, perform live at Hollywood venues, and write and record original music!  Each day, every moment, I continued to display my skill and experience. I was praised and championed everyday by the VIPs and the Crew.  It was a fantastic experience for me!

SHEILA:  What can fans expect to experience with your music?

STARR:  My music is interlaced, and born from the Legendary Rockers; but it is alive and kicking with progression, thunderous-power and cosmic-electricity!  Fans can expect to experience, a powerful-new-world in our 21st century…My mission is to powerfully flow forward, carrying out this most-special duty of ‘Rock Amazon’ of inspiration and light!

I will be touring my band, The Starr Cullars Crew.  I am also doing Rock Counselor gigs with the Rock Camp (I am the only camper ever asked to become a Counselor!)

Listen to  Starr Cullars’, “Diabolical Done” https://soundcloud.com/starrcullars/04-diabolical-done

Sheila is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director-Producer of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

Allow Me To Clarify, Nice & Rough Really ROCKS!

by Sheila Dianne Jacksontinaturner-2

The media has been teasing us about the business of celebrating women in rock.  Rolling Stone honors women in rock and you get spreads of artists like Brittany Spears and Madonna. And when it comes to black women in rock….Well, if you’re in the loop enough to be reading this blog, you know the deal.

There was a recent documentary called, “Women Who Rock.” Here are some of the comments from viewers:

– “Beyonce? Really? Are you kidding me? In a “Women Who Rock” documentary? ”

– “I guess this was called “Women Who Rock”, rather than “Women IN Rock”, because it’s more about women in popular music, rather than women in rock & roll. Okay, but some great rockers were overlooked to make room for various pop singers.”

– “The show was disappointing in that it seemed to dash over, rush through, or just plain omit contributions of some pretty important black female artist…”

Well, I don’t want to complain.  I want to change things.  This multi-media project is my solution.

So for those of you who were wondering if this is just another tease, I want to clarify what Nice & Rough is about.  It’s about the journey of black women who perform rock music.  And the “Rock” in Black Women in Rock is not a statement of how awesome they are.  It refers to the soul-jarring, electric-guitar-rifting, rock genre of music.  Black women have a history and a present in rock music, and my goal is to share it and celebrate it.

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director-Producer of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

MilitiA

5 Lbs. of ROCK

Interview by Sheila Dianne Jackson

MILITIA on the micWe’re back…for 5 opportunities to delve a little deeper behind the scenes of Black Women IN Rock.  We are excited to feature solo artist and lead singer of Judas Priestess, MilitIA.

SHEILA: How did the name, MilitiA. come about?

MILITIA:  I earned it. A dominatrix gave me this name, many moons ago.  I had just moved to New York City and eventually joined a grindcore/shock rock band, playing bass and screaming death metal vocals.  This dom was the lead singer and she called me “Militia” because I took care of business.  Any issues the band had, I was the go-to.  In an emergency, I’m a damn good person to have around because I don’t freak out, I just handle it.

The spelling of it: “MilitiA.”  is to separate me from every other “militia” in existence.  It’s a popular word so I had to come up with a unique spelling of it to make it my own.  Interestingly enough, a male stripper turned American Gladiator tried to rip the name off me a few years ago.  I had met him in Las Vegas while doing Dee Snider’s Van Helsing’s Curse, next thing I know, he’s on the tele trying to rock my name… That show was cancelled and I think he’s back to exotic dancing and porn.  Thanks for the shout-out, dude.

SHEILA: How would you describe your brand of rock music?

MILITIA:  I’ve always had a problem with self-definitions…  If I had to come up with a hyphenated term to call my brand of rock music, I’d have to say: “Existential-Confessional Power Prog.”  HA!  And what that means is, it’s a swirl of concepts drawn from Existentialist themes, Confessional Poetry, Power Metal and Progressive Rock.  I’m an existentialist down to my core and my music and lyrics definitely reflect it- it’s raw, daring, triumphant and intense.  I always try to write from my most authentic, passionate, personal place; not necessarily saying things that most people would expect.  I strive to come up with new ideas that aren’t like anything else. It doesn’t make me the most popular artist but it keeps me real, goddamit.

mic stance

SHEILA:  Why did you choose rock?

MILITIA:  Rock chose me.  I’ve always been in love with it.  I love the raw power and intensity of rock and metal music.  I’m a junkie for it, for life.  My father is an avid record collector and he schooled me well.  He would send me to my room with a record- like Traffic, Iron Butterfly or King Crimson- and I would lay on the floor alone and listen to it and make movies in my mind that went along with each song.  Or if I really liked a song, I would play it over and over and act out the songs in front of posters on my bedroom wall as if they were watching me.  (What can I say? I’m an only child.)

SHEILA:  How have you been received by fans as a rock artist – both as lead singer of Judas Priestess and as a solo artist?

MILITIA:  Most people love Judas Priestess. And what’s not to love?? We’re the world’s only all girl trib to Priest.  People tend to dig girl bands in general but we definitely kick it up a few notches because of our musicianship and finesse.  Some people have told me that they didn’t even know Judas Priest’s music that well when they came to see us and they went home and bought some Priest albums.  That’s very cool.

I’ve sometimes wondered if my being black has ever been an issue with any of the fans of the music.  I’m sure it has to someone, somewhere… but I don’t give a fuck.  I’m a fan of the music too.  And I’m the lucky one onstage doin’ it.  If someone doesn’t like it, don’t watch me!

Original music these days is tough- between Swear On Your Life (which is on hiatus) and my solo stuff, it’s harder to get people to get what I’m givin because it’s unfamiliar.  Tribute has a built in audience.  However, those that get what I’m doing really dig it.  I have earned some stripes for slugging in out in the clubs doing original material for years, and the fans that I’ve gotten never cease to amaze me.  Some of them do really nice things to show their appreciation and it’s really somethin’- they ask for autographs, give gifts, bake treats, make artwork of me, they email me sweet messages, I’ve been asked to sing at people’s weddings, some do school reports and projects on me, etc- it’s astounding.

I guess some people are surprised to see me, this black female doing hard rock + metal music.  I frequently get asked if I learned to sing in church or if I sang gospel music and then switched to metal.  Ummm… no and NO.  But in all honesty, I’m not concerned.  I’m unapologetic about what I’m doing.  I’m a hard rock metal singer.  That’s who I am and what I do.MILITIA DYS shirt 1 yassir

SHEILA: What are you working on now?

MILITIA:  Currently, Judas Priestess is about to release our first recording!  People have been asking for music so we decided to make it happen.  The first single is due out March 13th.

My solo band MILITIA will make our return to the stage at the “What Are You Doing Here?” book launch party on April 15th at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn.  The book is written by Laina Dawes and it’s all about black women in metal.  I am featured in it along with a slew of some very cool grrrls, you can order it here: http://www.bazillionpoints.com/black-women-in-heavy-metal/   Come to the party, it’s FREE!

I also write, blog, “Rock Goddess Recap”, direct webisodes and host events for Afropunk- the #1 destination for alternative black culture.  I am a spokesmodel for Manic Panic and host an alternative beauty webseries/vlog called “Militious Makeup”, also in cahoots with Manic Panic.

Other than that, I am always writing and creating…

SHEILA:  Who is your favorite Black Woman IN Rock?

MILITIA:  It will always be Tina Turner.  I saw her in concert when I was a kid and she was rockin’ out with all that leather and sweat and hair and skin and mouth and I said… “Yep. I wanna do THAT.”

www.MILITIAISMYNAME.com

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director-Producer of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

Kudisan Kai

5 Lbs. of ROCK

Interview by Sheila Dianne Jackson

Kudisan Kai
Kudisan Kai
As a new tradition on niceandrough.com, each week we will feature one of our member artists.  It’s down and dirty, simply 5 questions, with 5 answers that will take you a little deeper into the lives of some of the most fascinating women I have come to know. Here’s our 1st installment…

SHEILA: When asked, Joyce Kennedy defined herself as a “Rock-Soul-Funk Diva.”  How do you characterize yourself as a music artist?

KKAI:  I could see why she would say that, coming from her rock era. With
that in mind, if I had to define myself, it would be an “Alternative
Metal or Alternative Rock Artist”. I like the word alternative. It
infers “something other than what you think” is the norm. An option.

SHEILA:  What is it about metal rock that calls to you?

KKAI:  To me, rock means freedom and metal is a cry or a scream, an emotional
release. For me, it’s the only place where I am free to honestly
express feelings and be irreverent about it, be angry, be ecstatic. A
cry of freedom.

SHEILA:  Tell us about where you are now in your musical journey? You can
relate it to your upcoming CD and the themes and messages you want to
convey with the work.

KKAI:  I’m in a good place. I am finally taking care of myself and putting
my needs first. I feel nothing but gratitude for my time spent in
Cambridge, MA, teaching. I learned a lot about myself, things I would
have never learned otherwise. My music reflects my ups and downs, bad
relationships, and bad choices; still I came out of it ok. I hope
people can hear and relate to being in a negative space, acknowledging
the present, then being able to move forward to the next episode.

KudisanKai

This CD reveals my journey both painful and pleasurable and how I’ve transcended through my life experiences. The first song reflects deep pain and loss of self. Hopefully, by the end of the record, the audience would have seen an evolution in spirit. Transcendence through perseverance.

SHEILA:  How many black women in rock do you believe there are, globally?

KKAI:  Give us your best estimate? Interesting question. I think there are a whole lot more than people realize. We, as women have always had to be seen in a somewhat “modest” kind of light. I think that since it is not so taboo for a woman to be sexual, bold, and powerful, thanks in part, to rock and to hip/hop making these women more mainstream, I would say there maybe 300-500 women of color out there rocking out?

SHEILA:  Will you give us a sneak peak into your new CD? Pick a song whose
link you’d like to share and tell us about it.

KKAI:  That’s difficult. There are two songs that I would choose from, but
both sit lyrically, at opposite ends of the spectrum. “Portrait” was
written at my most painful state, and “Cry”, at my most blissful. Do
you want to feel “light” or “heavy”? Cry is light, Portrait is heavy.

CLICK HERE AND LISTEN TO Portrait

 

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director-Producer of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

 

GhettoSongbird

5 Lbs. of ROCK

Interview by Sheila Dianne Jackson

YearOfTheGhettosongbirdOrangeTint

It’s that time again….Time for our featured artist of the week: a native of North Philly, GhettoSongbird.  Like, many black women in rock, her story inspires and makes you wanna dig deeper and explore the music that reflects her DNA.  So without further adieu, 5 questions!  Five  amazing answers!  Enjoy….

 

SHEILA: How did the name, GhettoSongbird come about?

GHETTOSONGBIRD: On 16th St. in North Philly in the middle room on the 2nd floor every morning I listened to a songbird sing the most inspiring songs a young black ghetto girl could hear amid gun shots & everyday city life. I named myself after that bird the creator sent to me in hopes that everywhere I land, I could be that song of hope playing on someone’s ear drums.

SHEILA: How would you describe your brand of rock music?

GHETTOSONGBIRD: I never really put a label on it until others started naming it anything from rock-n-soul to ghetto-rock, so I stick with good old fashion rock-n-roll & allow listeners to come up with the cool names.

SHEILA: You are a triple threat – singer, songwriter and musician.  Have you always performed your own brand of rock music, or did your work evolve from another genre or work with other bands?

GHETTOSONGBIRD: I started out writing to hip-hop beats, singing & dancing in talent shows as a teen, and having guitar players play for me. But as soon as I brought my 1st guitar from the pawn shop for $50 off of lay-a-way in my starving artist times, because my guitarist could no longer play for me, the songs I wrote on that guitar had a rock vibe. I started playing acoustic guitar by ear & developed a crush on the tone of strumming. A baby boy I was taking care of broke my acoustic guitar, which led me to pick up my electric guitar.  I fell in love with it, even though it intimidated me. When I played the electric guitar through the tiny “Crate” amp my mother brought me, every one of my mother’s albums I ever rocked to, every sound of the ghetto I heard, every awesome guitarist that played for me, every seasoned musician I jammed with, every sound of world music I took in, every conversation, & notions I had about life gave birth to my brand of rock. I went on to play bass briefly in a rock band, and was the lead singer in a punk band for a very quick moment.  But I knew I needed to focus on connecting my guitar with my voice & words.

SHEILA:  So you took a two-year break from performing.  Tell us about what this period of re-emergence/re-birth has been like for you?  Has your music evolved/changed?

GHETTOSONGBIRD: I got married at one of my shows, in 2007, to my drummer .  Three years later we had our baby girl, and a year later we had a baby boy. For the 1st time in 10 years of non-stop gigging I stopped to take it all in & focus on who I am as an artist. Before I was every show that I did, every “no” that I hoped I could turn into a “yes”, and every song that I wrote & perform, with no clear direction & a lot of frustration.

Taking two years off to have a family blessed me time to nurture myself, my artistry, my business, and my brand. I was getting lost in the chase of trying to make it and fulfill what others wanted my journey to rush & do for their journey, that I forgot what I wanted. I love playing music & sharing my songs like that little songbird in my childhood window, hoping that I can inspire at least 1 person. My music is evolving whenever I play my guitar and discover new notes, while simply jamming with my children, who are evolving musicians. They free my mind from the business side, giving me peace & purpose beyond myself. Just when I think I know my sound, I’m blessed with a song that allows me to challenge myself.  Ask my husband (who has been my drummer way before we got married), he has to hear my grunts & victories.

This time around anyone who supports my artistry can expect a more confident singer/songwriter/guitarist with a stronger stage presence. Before I was learning as I went along with amazing band members changing all the time.  Now I’m becoming one with my artistry & have a family of band members including Ronin Ali (Drummer), Chris Nelson (Keys), Drew (Hondo) Felder (bass) who’ve been playing with me for some time. The energy & chemistry is so profound that in rehearsals we vibe right away & stage shows rock to the 3rd power!

SHEILA: Tell us about your new release “Alley of the Earth.”  Rock and roll and horror have always been bedfellows.  But why did ‘you’ decide to go the horror route with this song and your music video?

GHETTOSONGBIRD: Since I feel like I am starting all over I decided to re-release my 1st CD “Alley Of The Earth” that I recorded in L.A. 10 years ago with the help of my mentor Rosa Lee Brooks who wrote and recorded with the Legendary Jimi Hendrix in the 1960’s.  She told me that I should do more with those songs, that had started out as a demo.  To celebrate the 10th birthday of “Alley Of The Earth” I got in touch with a phenomenal director by the name of Sharvon P. Urbannavage, who I thought would think I was out of my mind once she read the treatment I wrote. She understood my vision and the next thing I knew we were shooting a music video/short film in Easton, Pa.

And yes, it’s a horror theme, but it is my auto-biography in a metaphor. It’s the monsters of insecurities I used to create in my head that would haunt me whenever I felt like others were judging me.  It’s the vulture like characters who I let pull at me because I thought they had genuine intensions.  It’s my love for the horror film genre.  It’s every ism I go through before and after a show.  It’s my rock-n-roll dream.  It’s how the creator continues to create me.  It’s art imitating life.  It’s Ghettosongbird killing her fears with passion, with her weapon of choice “My Warrior Guitar”, so I can rise like a Phoenix from the ashes celebrating my new found love for music and this rock-n-roll journey I’ve been blessed to endure.

AlleyOfTheEarthVideoShoot2

“Alley of the Earth” will make it’s world premiere on NiceandRough.com on Oct. 30th.  Stay tuned for more details.

SHEILA: I love that you are using your music to create value.  Tell us about Assiah, your connection, and how you decided to donate half of the proceeds to assist her?

GHETTOSONGBIRD: My husband introduced me to Assiah’s mother.  I finally met this brave little precious doll at my daughter’s 1st birthday, around the time I 1st heard that she needed a liver transplant. Constantly hearing about how this baby girl was suffering, I felt helpless. Assiah and her courageous mother Rasheena”s strength inspired me to want to do more than go online and talk about me, my next shows and songs. I’ve been working with children for years volunteering, teaching, and providing childcare.  As I was about to promote my video screening, Assiah had finally received the liver transplant and was recovering, but they still needed to recover emotionally & financially.  So my next step was to connect it to my music.

To learn more about Assiah’s story and to support this cause, go to www.assiahsliverfund.org.

www.ghettosongbird.com

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director-Producer of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”

 

Carol “HoneyChild” Coleman

5 Lbs. of ROCK

Interview by Sheila Dianne Jackson

HoneyChild Coleman
HoneyChild Coleman
It’s been so much fun to keep up with black women in rock, and especially with Carol “Honeychild” Coleman!  I love the boldness and courage in her artistry.  The Kentucky-born vocalist and guitarist has been performing her own brand of rock for 21 years.  Her first record was with Badawi, the Bedouin Soundclash, featuring Honeychild.  Like many black women in rock, Honeychild performs at venues across the globe, and can be seen and heard this fall in the UK, Germany, France and Austria touring with Noiseaux, and will be billed under her “new moniker DEM (AKA Honeychild Coleman).”
So you know the drill….5 questions, 5 unedited responses (except for grammar).  Without further adieu……

SHEILA:  How would you describe your particular brand of rock?

HC:  Honeychild Coleman “avant – pop”

SHEILA:  You have been described by others as well, as ‘avante guarde’ – when it comes to your music and  your style.  And I agree.  Your photos always have an editorial edge, and your style is uniquely Honeychild.  Have you always expressed your Self or did you grow into the courage to ‘do you’?

HC:  Thank you! I’ve  been expressing myself through fashion pretty much ever since my parents started allowing me to choose my own clothing and dress myself, roughly around 4th grade / age 10. It was a bit of an obsession right through my senior year of high school and I would often iron and organize outfits for the entire week each Sunday and hang them in my closet in order. My mother would make fun of me because midway through the week, sure enough, I had come up with some different outfits that were not in “the wardrobe plan”.

Honeychild Coleman
photo by paperboxnyc.com

I had been excelling and winning awards in drawing and painting since 2nd grade.  But once, late night my Mom showed me Diana Ross, in “Mahoghany,” and I realized I liked to design clothes. I studied accessory design in college and had my own hat company for a while.  But eventually music took over. I still make some things for myself – mostly for stage. I’ve designed neckties for my bandmates to wear and most recently t-shirts for my band, Bachslider.

SHEILA:  Have you always performed rock music or did you begin in another genre?

HC: The first band I sang in was a disco cover band called The Partridge Heads.   Shortly after that, I started learning guitar and playing around with drum machine.  I performed mainly in the anti-folk poetry scene in the beginning, even as a an electric guitarist. In the early ’90’s, I didn’t have a band behind me when I tried to play gigs in the Bay Area and San Francisco, so bookers didn’t quite get what I was doing. The folks and acoustic scene was too purist to tolerate a drum machine (or distortion) as well, so I didn’t feel there as a place for me to play live music. In the Summer of ’93 I moved back to New York on a whim and started playing in the subway. Busking in the subway, I built a small following and met musicians whom I would later record with and form bands and long lasting community ties.

Pariah

SHEILA:  What did it mean to you for your music to be featured in the critically-acclaimed, Pariah?

HC:  I was extremely moved upon the discovery of how and where my music was placed in the film. This project felt so timely and real and it was an honor to be chosen as an artist scoring the soundtrack to such a powerful story. It would have been easy (and typical) for the director to choose trendy or popular music, but what Dee Rees did us quite genius – as we are all indie and underground artists, co-existing within the mainstream. Very parallel conditions to the protagonist, Alike.

 SHEILA:  Tell us about your new single, “Youth’s Eternal.”

HC: “Youths Eternal” is a song that came to me after writing a novel that moves back and forth in time, with many chapters reflecting Old New York and my art punk days of hanging out all day in Washington Square Park, sketching people and listening to their stories, and the constant movement that can sometimes give New York a revolving door feeling.

Sheila Dianne Jackson is an award-winning author, biographer and CEO of Eve’s Lime Productions. She is Director-Producer of  the upcoming documentary, “Nice & Rough: Black Women IN Rock.”