Hot and Nonstop
The B-52's are post-punk legends whose avant-garde sounds and kitschy style put them on the map in 1979, when most popular music was either angst-ridden anarchy or whipped-cream disco. Unlike other bands who ushered in new wave (Devo, Adam & the Ants) the B's had hot chick singers.
Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson were cool, funky, sexy and vocally stunning—and they've made listening to and looking at the B-52's all the more savory. So when we got to speak with Kate Pierson, there's only one thing we could think of to say:
OC Weekly: You're hot.
Kate Pierson: [laughs] Oh! I'm hot?
Mmm-hmm. Do you ever get tired of hearing that? That you're hot? Because you are. Hot.
I don't hear it as often as I'd like! Maybe people don't say it to my face. Often they'll say, "You look taller onstage" and "You look better in person," and I don't know how to take that. I guess it's a compliment, but then, do my pictures suck?
No. You're hot.
So, were you really a folksy activist when you were a teenager in New Jersey?
Yeah, I wrote topical folk songs—I was in my own band, the Sun Donuts. We all had guitars, and we wrote folk protest songs about Vietnam, the destruction of the environment, civil rights, you name it. I always had a political consciousness. When I was in high school, I couldn't wait to go to college so I could protest—I was burning to get my views out there.
How did you start raising goats?
It wasn't my object. But my husband at the time, Brian, and I wanted to do a "back to the land" thing and live on a farm—it was one of the hippie things I hadn't done yet. When we came back from Europe, we met some people who were all driving to Georgia to hike the Appalachian Trail and one of them was in Athens and could give Brian a job. We moved there and ended up renting a place on Eloise Maxwell's farm—it was $15 a month, no running water and no heat. It was the most beautiful spot. It really was kind of like that room in the "Love Shack" video. And I wound up raising goats.
Geez, you were really into the granola! When did you cross over into the campy-mod thing?
I always had a weird sense of humor, and I always liked to dress up—a ham from birth. When I met the B's in Athens, we just all clicked with that offbeat sense of humor—dressing up and wearing wigs. The beehive thing was a stark image for that time—really out of context for 1979. Our image was like a Fellini drag-queen thing. People actually thought Cindy and I were drag queens for a while.
Was John Waters an inspiration?
Oh, god, yes. We had a John Waters festival once when we were doing the Cosmic Thing tour, and we just watched all the John Waters movies on the bus, and the bus driver was straight out of Florida and was like, "What are you all listening to back there? What's going on!" We had the curtain drawn, and we're watching this guy fornicating with a chicken, and it was a total gross-out. I'm not that into gross-outs, usually, but it was funny.
What about Yoko Ono? There seems to be some Yoko in the creature calls of "Rock Lobster."
Absolutely—she's a hero of ours. At the end of the song, with that eiyee-ak-eiyee-ak, that's from her. We did that in Whammy!, too. We were all listening to Yoko way back when we first started. And then there was that great John Lennon quote in Playboy where he said that before he and Yoko did Double Fantasy together, they were in the Bahamas and they heard "Rock Lobster" on the radio, and he said, "C'mon, Yoko, it's time for us to start making music again." So he felt, I guess, that people were finally being influenced by Yoko, so their time had come around again. It was really exciting to know that he liked us.
It must have been a boon when you got to record some of his songs on last year'sLost Songs of Lennon & McCartney album with Graham Parker and Bill Janovitz.
It was great. We recorded the songs and did a short tour, and it was a really different experience than being out with the B's. We stayed in crummy hotels and played in smaller places, and it was really intimate, really fun. And the music was great—it was fun to explore those songs.
When is your solo album coming out?
I'm doing some recording this week. It's all original stuff, a mixture of rock, dance-oriented songs and some singer/songwriter type stuff. It's been delayed a lot. The B-52's have been on this constant tour for the past few years, doing gigs as they come up, so we fly somewhere every couple of weeks.
Aren't you exhausted?
Um, I am.
Because you've also been doing the Chanteuse Club with Maggie Moore in New York.
Oh, she's fantastic. She and Gail Ann Dorsey and I started doing the Chanteuse at Joe's Pub. We wanted it to be with rotating singers with us as the core performers. The only rule is that we sing without a lot of instrumentation, just with piano or guitar. It's not really traditional cabaret—we do mostly original stuff—but at the end, we all sing together on "Up, Up and Away" and "Love Will Keep Us Together." It's really fun. Debbie Harry is going to do it soon, and Christina Amphlett of the Divinyls.
You never stop! Then you have your new Kate's Lazy Meadow 1950's motel in the Catskills!
I'm here at the Lazy Meadow right now! I'm not working, of course. I'm lazying here in the meadow. It's so beautiful—the trees are blooming, and there's a creek, and Pearl, my English Bulldog, just ran through the mud and is running all around like a dirty little hippo. I just got back from the tour, so I'm trying to rest up.
How's your hair?
[laughs] It's tired, too! It's been standing up for so many years. I don't really do the wig thing anymore. When the weather calls for a wig, you should put one on, but sometimes you can outcamp yourself. So I think the giant wig has had its day.
Well, wig or not, you're still hot.
The B-52's perform with Scissor Sisters and the Messies at the House Of Blues, 1530 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim (714) 778-2583. Sun., 8:30 p.m. $52.50-$55. All ages (16 and under with guardian). For info on Kate's Lazy Meadow Motel, go to www.lazymeadow.com.
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