September 2017


By The Legendary
Alice Bag
Interview By: Ginger Coyote

This last month has been so much fun!!! I have been getting the chance to interview some of the people ho help me become myself.... I was so lucky to have gotten the chance to interview my friend Alice Bag.... We both attended Punk Rock High School together and we are here to reminisce about it... Here is my interview with a true inspiration....... The Ultra Fabulous Alice Bag

PUNK GLOBE: Your band The Bags were part of the first wave bands in Los Angeles. Tell us a bit about forming the band and who was in the band?

Alice: It all started with me and my good friend Patricia wanting to be in an all-girl band. We had been working on putting one together but had not had any enduring success. At a certain point, the band idea took on an absurd twist when Patricia suggested we wear paper bags on our heads while we played. I loved her idea, so we put an ad in the Recycler (a newspaper that would be the equivalent of today's Craigslist.) We stated that we were seeking female musicians into the Ramones and the Mahavishnu Orchestra who would be willing to play while wearing paper bags on their heads. No women responded, but Geza X and Joe Nanini called us and begged us to allow them to audition. The first version of The Bags included me, Patricia, Janet Koontz, Joe Nanini, and Geza X.

PUNK GLOBE: I just love Geza!! I bet that was a killer band... Was The Masque your home away from home?

Alice: Yes, for me it really was a home away from home. The Masque was on Cherokee Avenue, and I lived about a block away on Cherokee just across Hollywood Boulevard, so I was at the Masque practically every day. It wasn't just a concert venue. It was a place where you could go anytime, day or night and find friends who were engaged in doing something fun and creative.

PUNK GLOBE: I have heard all the stories from Pleasant Gehman... It sounded like good fun.... The World Of Wonder took over that building... James St. James interviewed Joe Dallesandro and I in the basement.. If those walls could talk ... Were there alot of venues to play back then?

Alice: I wouldn't say there were a lot, maybe just a handful. The Whisky A Go-Go was an early adopter. They started having punk matinee shows in the afternoons. They were very supportive of the bands and even came up with a punk rock drink menu. The Starwood also opened its doors, as did Gazzarri's for a little bit. We were also able to do shows at numerous rented halls around town.

PUNK GLOBE: I remember I would get super excited when I heard that The Bags or The Alleycats were going to play in SF? Women of color! You definitely were trail blazers.... Did you have any idea the impact that you were making?

Alice: No, not at all. I was young, passionate and enthusiastic about punk music and the punk lifestyle. I was living completely in the moment and had no idea that anything I did would make a lasting impression on anyone. It wasn't until years later that I realized that my presence, the presence of a queer woman of color in the early scene was meaningful to others, especially when punk began to be portrayed as music for aggressive heterosexual white males.

PUNK GLOBE: Tell us about filming the now legendary film, The Decline Of The Western Civilization?

Alice: Originally, I didn't want to be in the film. I didn't know Penelope Spheeris and I wasn't accustomed to dealing with directors. My creative endeavors up until that point had been much more democratic; in a band, you usually vote on ideas. In talking to Penelope I could tell that she was someone who was going to have complete control of the project. I know now that the job of the director is to steer the project and to have a clear vision of where they want it to end up, but at that time I just wanted my band to sound and look good. I didn't feel comfortable having someone else control our story but I was outvoted and we were filmed.

The filming was a long, drawn out event with several bands being filmed on the same night at a show that went on until the wee hours of the morning. It wasn't a regular concert, either. Recording equipment had to be set up and checked, a legal statement had to be read aloud to the audience before each band played. My memories of that night are all negative but in the end, I have to admit that the film introduced lots of kids to punk and it had a lasting, positive effect on many people. Some fans used the film as a jumping off place to research more bands and more about the scene and that makes me happy because some of the most iconic bands were not filmed for the project, including the Screamers and the Weirdos who were without question the most popular bands of the early L.A. Punk scene.

PUNK GLOBE: The film impacted so many people... Did The Bags break up after the late great Craig Lee passed on?

Alice: We broke up a few years before that. We had a falling out with Patricia and that was the beginning of the end for us. The Bags never felt right without her in the band. By the time the Decline of Western Civilization was released, we had already broken up. I think that's part of the reason I dislike seeing our band in that film, it captured us just as we were starting to fall apart.

PUNK GLOBE: I was in San Francisco, so I did not hear the details of your break up... What did you do after The Bags?

Alice: I had planned to go back to school and give up my crazy dreams of being a full-time rock musician. I was seeing a lot of my friends engage in very dangerous behavior and I was engaged in some of it, too but now people around me were dying. I wanted to stay alive and I thought moving home might help stabilize me. I imagined I would move home, finish college and grow up. I don't think I was home for more than a month before my former Canterbury roommate Shannon Wilhelm called me and asked me if I would fill in on bass guitar until she found a permanent bassist for her new band. And that's how I started playing with Castration Squad.

PUNK GLOBE: My band The White Trash Debutantes, played alot with Castration Squad... Tell us about the band that you formed with the wonderful Vaginal Creme Davis?

Alice: I eventually completed my college coursework, got a degree and a teaching credential and started teaching elementary school. I had a teaching assistant who happened to be part of a performance group called The Afro Sisters. My assistant's daytime name was Mr. Hernandez but his nighttime name was Fertile La Toyah Jackson. One day, my assistant and I carpooled to a school function, while there, he told me we had to leave early because The Afro Sisters had a gig that night. We sipped cocktails as Mr. Hernandez allowed me to witness his transformation into Fertile. It took a while and by the time we got to the venue we were both more than a little bit drunk. Most normal bandmates would have been put off by the arrival of an inebriated band member, but this wasn't a band and nothing about the night was normal. Ms. Davis greeted us warmly, she hugged and kissed me and asked me if I would like to join the group onstage. I had never seen the Afro Sisters, I didn't know their songs or anything else about their performances, so of course I said yes. Ms. Davis stuck a wig on my head, christened me Pussi Washington, told me to follow Fertile's lead and I did. I became a member of the Afro Sisters and fell in love with Ms. Davis that night. Later, Ms. Davis, Fertile and I would collaborate on a "real" band called Cholita, the Female Menudo.

PUNK GLOBE: I know that you had issues with Patricia. Are you friendly now?

Alice: Yes, we are very good friends again. As a matter of fact, she is staying at my house right now. She lives in England but is visiting Los Angeles with her daughter.

PUNK GLOBE: I loved your book Violence Girl, From East L.A. Rage to Stage. How long did it take to write?

Alice: Thank you, Ginger! It only took about 6 months. I blogged the entire book in punk style short blasts. I posted every weekday for about six months and then I shopped it to Feral House. When I first started writing I had just moved into a small house and had big plastic tubs full of photos and memorabilia that were covered with fabric and served double duty as side tables. Because I didn't have a garage to store them in, the tubs were always close at hand and easy to access. Having that stuff in my face made it easy for me to pull out flyers, photos, notes, postcards, and letters. All those things helped me remember my early life. Once I started, I became very disciplined about writing every day. I had a little ritual. I would put my kid on the school bus, then make myself a cup of coffee and start writing at the kitchen table. I wouldn't allow myself lunch until I had written at least one full page. Food is a great motivator for me!

PUNK GLOBE: Your book made Adam proud. I guess it was rough being into David Bowie in East LA

Alice: It was - there were not many Glam fans where I was living. When I was writing Violence Girl I looked through some of my old yearbooks. Like many other students at the end of classes, I went around asking people to sign my yearbook. I have a bunch of dedications that say "to a weird girl" or "to a crazy girl" or "to a freaky girl;" it makes me laugh now but at the time it was very difficult. I always felt like an outsider in school.

PUNK GLOBE: Your book achieved all sorts acclaim from not only your punk fans it also was also favored by many feminists. In particular with Latin Women. How did you feel about all the love you received.

Alice: I feel very grateful that people can relate to my story, not just punks and latinx but English Language learners and people who have grown up around domestic abuse. I've had people write to me and tell me that my book has helped them deal with similar situations in their own lives and that makes me immensely happy. Music helped me during the bleakest times in my life so if I can pay it forward, I am elated.

PUNK GLOBE: Have you released more books?

Alice: I self-published a book called Pipe Bomb for the Soul. The book is based on a diary I kept while I was volunteering in post-revolutionary Nicaragua in the 1980's. Where Violence Girl focuses on me growing up in East L.A., getting into punk and dealing with very personal issues, Pipe Bomb is about coming to an understanding of my place in the world, discovering the privilege I was born into and figuring out the responsibilities I choose to accept in shaping the world.

PUNK GLOBE: It is so good seeing you back out playing music again. You are working with Phranc. Tell the readers about that?

Alice: Phranc and I are working on a project called PHAG (Phranc and Bag). Originally, it started with Phranc's fascination with the Smothers Brothers, a 1960's political comedy musical duo. We've only played two shows together and the project is evolving but there are definitely elements of political humor and music.

PUNK GLOBE: Alice, Did you enjoy playing the Bunk House for Punk Rock Bowling? With the exception of you and Penelope there were hardly any females playing the event. No women on the main stage.

Alice: I loved playing the Bunkhouse! We were treated very well by the organizers and had a blast at Punk Rock Bowling but there should definitely be more women showcased. I can see no reason why we should not be present in equal numbers. There's no shortage of female fronted and gender queer groups and there's no excuse for not including them.

PUNK GLOBE: Amen, Sister Friend! You are also involved with a project to support Transgender rights.. Give us the details?

Alice: I just wanted to support someone else's good idea! Bandcamp decided to donate all their profits from the music downloaded on a particular day to the Transgender Law Center. I spoke to my record label (Don Giovanni) and asked if we could participate by doing a one day release of our upcoming single, and they were all for it! Alice Bag and the Sissybears' Reign of Fear and XX will be coming out as a 45 rpm single in October.

PUNK GLOBE: That is so rad! Do you have any Internet addresses you would like to share with the readers?

Alice: Yes, you can visit me at alicebag.com or follow me on Twitter @alicebag, Facebook.com/alicebag and on Instagram where I post frequently @alice_bag.

PUNK GLOBE: What is in store for Alice Bag in the upcoming months?

Alice: I'm about to go into the studio to record my second solo album. I'm very excited about it because I had such a wonderful experience recording the first one. I expect it will be released in 2018 on the Don Giovanni label.

PUNK GLOBE: Describe yourself in three words?

Alice: All of us.

PUNK GLOBE: You know Punk Globe just celebrated 40 years in existence.. Do you have any last words for Punk Globe readers?

Alice: I have some words for you: thank you, Ginger. Thank you for all the work you've done over the years. You have been consistently supportive of the scene, you've helped create it and nurture it. Here's to another 40!

PUNK GLOBE: Thank you, so much, Goddess Alice!

Still Dazed. Through a Grunge Rockers Eyes. Nikki Palomino