SPEAKS WITH KITTY KOWALSKI -- ONE ON ONE!!!!
Kowalski and her band The Kowalskis are a staple in the NYC
Music Community. She is a role model for us all...I hope you
enjoy my interview with the irrepressible Ms.Kitty Kowalski.
Ms. Kitty, You Are An Inspiration For All. How Long Have The
Kowalskis Been Together?
KITTY: Gee, thanks! We’ve been together as The Kowalskis
for almost 10 years. 1996 may be our official starting
year. We were Killer Kowalski and released our first 7”
then. We morphed into The Kowalskis after the wrestler,
whom we thought was dead, proved himself alive enough to
have his “Theatrical Agent” send us a cease and desist
letter. Talking to this guy was like talking to an
80-year-old Broadway Danny Rose. That’s why we are called
The Kowalskis. You don’t know how many people have told me
it’s a stupid name, but we fought pretty hard for it. Hell,
The Ramones is a stupid name if no one knew who they were.
If we ever get famous, it will just BE.
PUNK GLOBE: Tell The Readers About The Other Members Of
KITTY: Right now, we have Mike Hoffman, whom Howie Pyro
named “Mike Hunt” when he first joined. I mistakenly named
him “Ace Freakus” on stage once. I was trying to call him
Ace Frehley Circa 1975” and it came out Ace Freakus, which
really fits Mike, once you get to know him. He was in a
NYC garage band called The Vacant Lot and another band
called Sloth. Our drummer was a guy who has been playing
with us off and on since the Killer Kowalski days called
Greg Farah. He plays on our All Hopped up on Goofballs
record. Our bass player, Mike McNamara, which makes me a
Mike Sandwich on stage, played with Greg in High School. He
plays with Greg in two other bands as well – Sux and Mental
Decay. Pretty crazy.
We’ve had so many members, that soon everyone in NY will
have the last name Kowalski. We have some abroad, too.
Let’s see, we had Jay Burnside of the Flaming Sideburns on
drums, as well as Mighty Joe Vincent of the Devil Dogs for a
couple of months. We had Mitzi Dodge of the Friggs, but now
he has her own band, The Booty Olympics.
But the two most notable guys, that I played the longest
with were Jack Steeples and Paul Richard, formerly of
Adrenalin OD (AOD). They were in the band for about four
years and on the Goofballs record. It was
funny – I had been in these bands that had a reputation for
being, uh, sloppy. So, when I made this band, a lot of
skeptics thought, “Here comes that girl again with the hot
pants and halter tops who can’t play…”,
and when they saw the band they were shocked. People
thought, well, if those guys will play with her, she can’t
suck too badly. I actually got good at playing guitar again
touring in most of 2000, but those guys
really whipped me in shape. I used to joke that I want to
be the worst musician in my band – gives me something to
aspire to. I love my guys. They are great.
GLOBE: Who Writes Your Material?
KITTY: Now, it’s just me. One or forthcoming record, all
the songs are mine except for an Undertones cover and an
Andy Shernoff song I wrote the lyrics for. It’s a lot of
pressure. Paul wrote a number of songs for
“Goofballs”, so it was pretty balanced. Jack even lobbed in
a song – one of my faves called “Know it all”. Just a fun
song to play! It’s hard being the only consistent
songwriter in the band. Mike and I tried to
write songs together, but we mainly would up drinking a lot
of beer. Or he played stuff I couldn’t play, so I gave up.
All my songs have to be easy to play, so even I can play
PUNK GLOBE: Who Are Some Of Your Inspirations Musically?
KITTY: There are so many. I could go back to the Brill
Building songwriters. I love all that stuff. Or
Holland/Dozier/Holland, and all the Motown stuff. I learned
to harmonize from The Mamas & The Papas, ABBA and bands like
the Beach Boys and The Monkees (yeah, I know. They were not
a real band).
I think the music that sticks with you emotionally the most
is the stuff you come of age to. You will NEVER feel about
music like you did between the ages of 12 and 15, I think.
For me, that’s Blondie, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The
Damned, The Heartbreakers, New York Dolls, The Dickies, The
Rezillos, Cheap Trick, KISS, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin,
Rolling Stones, Elton John, David Bowie, Queen. I loved so
much of that
Glam or Glam-influenced rock. Punk Rock for me was like
being hit by cupid’s arrow. It was like hearing the sound
of my mother’s voice for the first time. Making out to that
music was the best. Everything was so
new and raw and intense – I just wanted to feel like that
PUNK GLOBE: Tell Me About Your First Show. I Have Heard
It Was With Iggy. I Bet You Were Nervous.
KITTY: My first show with the “real” line-up of The
Kowalskis – me, Jack, Paul and Greg – was with Iggy Pop at
Coney Island High. If I remember correctly, we had not even
rehearsed with Jack yet. He just learned the
tape. Iggy was soundchecking, and I said to the guys,
"Let's go to the basement and practice", and they all stood
there watching Iggy, with their mouths open and shook their
heads, “No”. That was that. I had no
idea what was going to come out when we went in stage. That
was really the first and only time I ever went on stage
feeling that nervous.
PUNK GLOBE: Tell Me About Other Stand Out Shows You Have
KITTY: Wow. There are so many – and some were stand out
for all kinds of weird reasons. I think every show we had
with The Dickies was a blast. They are always great and we
have become really good friends because of all those shows.
They are just the best – STILL such a great live show.
Every show we did for Joey Ramone was really fun and great –
some of the most fun nights in my life – especially his
birthday and the Blitzkrieg Bash. All of these were at
Coney Island High. I think we did one show for him for CMJ
after Coney closed. We always had great shows with The
Dictators, too, and Andy Shernoff produced Goofballs, so it
was great working with him.
We once drove straight back from Texas after South by
Southwest to play a show with the Toilet Boys and D
Generation. That was wild. We had a great show with Snuff
at the Mercury Lounge. Recently, we got to play with The
Undertones, who still look and sound great. Anyone who
wants to study the art of the pop song should listen to
them. The Rezillos is another band that I just ADORED, and
we did a show together and managed to hit it off. I have
seen them all over – from the UK to Texas! We’ve become
really friendly and I’d love to do more shows with
them. More people who do it right.
There are just so many people whose music meant a lot to me
growing up that I have been able to share a stage with AND
STILL rock and are also completely cool! It’s really funny,
because we have had shows with
many bands that were Hot Shit Band-of-the-Week, and treated
us like we were subhuman at the show. We have played with
many music legends who have a history who have earned the
RIGHT to give us an attitude are the most down to earth and
confident in themselves that they don’t act like rock stars
– in a bad way. Go figure.
PUNK GLOBE: You Have Toured A lot What Is Your Favorite
Country To Tour In?
KITTY: This may sound freakish, but Switzerland. We had
some of the craziest and fun fan responses in both Zurich
and Winterthur. Geneva was great, too, once we finally go
there. AND they pay AND people have money to buy merch!
The UK is great for people, bands and fans, but it costs and
arm and a leg to tour there, and there is no shortage of
good bands, so the crowds are a little more hard to win
over. We had an INSANE show in Canterbury of all places.
It was totally great. I never expected that this famous
church town would be so wild.
Italy was great because we played with friend there, members
of The Manges. We are like brother/sister bands. They have
a great scene there in La Spezia, and that crowd was really
great. When we dressed up like The Manges in our gondolier
shirts and played one of their songs while Andrea, their
singer, sang, people
really lost it. It was very emotional because we toured
with them in the US and Canada, and it was kind of
tough, so we bonded heavily and became very close.
I Know That You Have A Bowling Team At Punk Rock Bowling
in Las Vegas. Has The Kowalskis Ever Played For The Event?
KITTY: We have not! Though I have been a Punk Rock
Bowling fixture, at least as a “scenester” for the first
few years, we have not played. There is a very tight West
Coast Punk Rock Mafia that is very hard to break
into. If you are not a Fat/Lookout/BYO/TKO/Side1/Hopeless
kind of band, you are kind of shit out of luck. We don’t
really have that kind of machine going here on the East
Coast. I feel like I had to really fight to
get in there. We are still kind of on the outside, but I
have such a big mouth, and a big reputation, that people
know who we are now, even though they have probably never
seen up or never heard a note. Maybe
we’ll play the Double Down next year so people can see
that I’m more than just a bowling whore.
PUNK GLOBE: Have You Ever Played The West Coast. You Go
Over So Well. You Are So Well Liked.
KITTY: We did in 2000 only one tour. We did go over very
well, to the few folks that saw us. I still get e-mails
about those shows. I love the West Coast, even though I
probably sounded bitter in the last response. I think we
would do well out there, and we did for that brief time,
but it’s just hard and expensive to get out there and play
to build any kind of fan base. We will again when we tour
for this new record.
I also kind of hit a wall after we got back from that
December 2000 tour. My whole band quit. That really
sucked. We toured all year and it was really hard and
there was a lot of personality conflicts that had
nothing to do with me. After that, I had to put the band
back together, and write some new stuff and keep going.
It’s taken time to gain the momentum back, but I think
I’ve got it right now!
PUNK GLOBE: Tell Me About Where You Have Played In
KITTY: Are you a Canuck? C’mon! Confess! Canada is
another place we do really well. We used to drive 10
hours just to play the Elmocambo. Larry Retard of Amp
records used to always get us shows in Hamilton, too, at
the Corktown. Some of those shows were legendary. There
was one show where we played on Social Benefits day (when
everyone got their welfare checks) so the place was
packed, everybody was drunk, and at one point there were
people throwing tables and chairs at us. I almost stopped
the set, but someone said, No, They LIKE it!”. They also
tore the toilets off the walls in the men’s room. Those
guys know how to party!
But we love Canadian bands – old school like The Forgotten
Rebels, Teenage Head, The B Girls, and all that. Canadian
rock is more than Bryan Adams and Alanis Morissette! And
the punk rock certainly has NOTHING to do with bands like
PUNK GLOBE: How do You Feel About CBGB's Closing Down?
KITTY: I have REALLY mixed feelings on this. The
knee-jerk reaction is to say what a shame it is, and how
we will lose this place and piece of history that means a
lot to people. On the other hand, it didn’t seem like
Hilly even cared anymore, not until all this fuss was
raised. He stopped paying his rent. He makes a killing
off T-shirts. They don’t actively try to book good
shows. Any good shows they have are bands that seek them
out because want to play CBGB. They were just kind of on
They should turn it into a rock and roll museum – like the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, if it were cool. The rock and
roll Hall of Fame looks like a hospital. To me, CBGB
already IS the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They would
probably be able to make the ridiculous rent if they were
a museum, too. That way, people can still come look and
have the memories and see some cool stuff, or an
occasional show, and we have this
place as a monument to New York Rock and Roll. It’s an
important symbol, even though the reality is the great
shows are few and far between.
PUNK GLOBE: You Were Part Owner Of The Legendary Club
"Coney Island High"- Tell Us Some Of Your Fond Memories
From The Club.
KITTY: Well, there are so many, I would be here for a year
if I even started. All the events we did with Joey Ramone
were great, as I mentioned before. He just wanted to
support bands he liked and make a fun night and play good
records. That’s all he really cared about. Having the
Ronnie Spector Christmas show was REALLY special. Meeting
her was a REAL treat. There were some REAL surprises –one
of them being Question Mark and The Mysterians. My
partner Jesse called me, “Get down here! This is one of
the greatest shows I have ever seen”, and he was right.
They recorded one of the shows for Norton Records.
It’s good to be king. We got to do things like drag the
Dickies out of retirement and fly them to NY for shows.
They weren’t even playing shows in California at the
time. Jesse and I would call Leonard in the
middle of the night all drunk begging him to play. Thank
god it was three hours earlier in LA. We also got Nick
Apollo Forte to play a show. If the name does not sound
familiar, he’s the guy who plays the lounge
singer in Broadway Danny Rose, which is Jesse’s favorite
movie. So we track this guy down and he played an
all-ages punk show, and everybody went NUTS! He’s in a
pink suit rocking, “Feniculi Fenicula” and these
kids were having the time of their lives. Being able to
do stuff like that made it all worthwhile.
PUNK GLOBE: Who Did the Booking For Coney Island High?
You Had Some Major Talent Play There. I Remember Seeing
Blanks 77, The Ramones, DeGeneration, Bebe Buell so many
people play there.
KITTY: We had a few bookers but the one we had for most of
the time for the longest was Dana McDonald, who for a time
was booking both floors, seven days a week. She did a
really good job, and if she didn’t know
something, she would ask and learn about it. It also
became a thing that people sought us out to play shows,
even bigger bands who wanted to play a more intimate show,
like Social Distortion, Rancid, Beastie Boys, Bad Religion
and bands like that. Hell, we had Iggy Pop and the
Ramones farewell tour. That place only held 500 people.
We had another booker toward the end, Kelly Keller, who
booked the upstairs and she was really into garage rock,
and some really obscure and really cool music. She booked
a lot of bands that no one came to see
at the time, but that are really bog now. She booked a
lot of influential acts. She had great taste in music,
and was a really cool person. The first time I met her, I
came bouncing into the office, Jesse introduced me, and I
go skipping out. She turned to Jesse and asked him, “Was
that the girl from Rock and Roll High School?”. I thought
that was super funny.
I found out last year that she died and it REALLY hit me
hard. She had her own bar and venue down in New Orleans,
where she was originally from. I read a great article
they did in the Gambit on her, and it was
amazing to see the influence she had on so many people. I
wrote about her in my blog, and they mentioned it in the
article. I still get people writing me because of that
blog. One reader and friend of hers told me
they even have a foundation for her now. I’m glad that
people recognize her for her contribution to rock and
roll. She deserves it.
PUNK GLOBE: Jesse Malin Was Also An Owner. How Many
Owners Did the Club Have?
Also Had Quite A Few Rockers Who worked The Club
Including Howie Pyro, Jayne County, Rafael (Cycle Sluts
From Hell) You Had Quite A List Of Employee's.
The “real” owners of Coney Island High, at it’s peak, are
Jesse, who came up with the whole concept; Dean, who had a
business in Jersey and now owns Connections in Passaic -
he and his family put in the most
money; and me, who was just an “investor” for a while, but
I took over operations after we kicked out a crooked
partner. My sister also put money into the business and
really saved us at a bad time.
was and is one of our greatest DJs. Jayne County is the
best, but don’t ask her for any requests! Raff was this
totally tough manager who didn’t take shit from anyone.
She really kept things running for a few years. Her
former bandmate Ginny also tended bar. Joey’s brother was
a bartender and did our Fanzine. Stephan from Lost
Prophets did our concessions after Sisters Grimm moved to
LA. We really thought of it
as a place for musicians run by musicians. We tried to be
as musician-friendly as possible.
PUNK GLOBE: Tell Me About The Film You Did For Troma?
KITTY: That was fun! I almost feel like now I can die
that I have been in a Troma film! My film was
called “Terror Firmer” which was a kind of Toxic Avenger
film. There were lots of New York scene people and
rockers in that, too like Theo from the Lunachicks, Sean
from The Toilet Boys and Lemmy from Motorhead. For one
day of shooting, they asked me to keep Lemmy company. I
was up for the job, but I had some kind of emergency at
the club, so I had to go and my sister hung out with him.
Anyway, people tell me that Terror Firmer is their
favorite Troma film. It’s really cool. Lloyd Kaufman is
just an amazing person.
PUNK GLOBE: Have You Done Any Other Acting Roles?
KITTY: I would not call it acting but I have been in some
other films. In Golliwog’s Cakewalk by Christopher Frieri,
I played an artists’ model (yes, you thought right! I was
naked!). He did an excerpt of all the
nudie bits called The B Reel and it’s great. You can find
I was also in Punk Rock Zombie Kung Fu Cat Fight, which is
as confusing a film as its title. It’s got ALL of that in
there, so if you are up for it, go to the director’s site
PUNK GLOBE: You Are Also A Journalist And a
Photographer. Tell Me About Your Column In Coolgrrrls?
KITTY: I think I came across the site in 1999, and the
concept was really cool – girls who are in bands or are
otherwise participating in their local scene write about
their city and scene and what is going on. And they
are global – there are girls in major cities writing from
all over the world. I wrote to the editor, and he had the
girls vote me in, so I have been doing it ever since.
I have met some of the greatest people for writing for
that site – in addition to all the other coolgrrrls. When
I was writing every couple of week, I had one of the most
popular columns on the site.
PUNK GLOBE: Does Paige Darling Still Contribute To
KITTY: You know, I don’t think so. A lot of the older
stuff is archived so you may be able to find it. Go to
www.coolgrrrls.com and check it out!
PUNK GLOBE:. Do You write For Any Other Zines?
KITTY: Not on any regular basis. I have done interviews
here and there, written essays in the “What I think about
stuff” vein. I used to contribute regularly to a fanzine
devoted to 80s culture called Aquatulle. I am
the kind of person that if you want a contribution from
me. Just ask. It may take a while for me to get to it,
or to be inspired to write something, but I will do it.
That’s how I do most of my writing - someone
says, “Give me something and your deadline is X”. That
gets me going.
I publish my writing and sex advice on myspace.com, and I
have put over 6000 of my photos on
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kittykowalski You can
even search on band names or look at my tags/keywords and
see any photo with that band that I’ve taken.
PUNK GLOBE: Kitty, What Does the Future hold For The
Kowalskis Any Tour, Recording Plans?
KITTY: We’re still kicking and we JUST finished recording
our newest album. We are mastering it next week, and I’ll
be looking for someone to put it out. If no one does in a
couple of months, I’ll do it myself. I’ve never been the
kind to wait for someone else to do something for me.
It’s a really great record. I really don’t see how I
could make a better one. I am really proud of myself on
We will tour as soon as we get it into stores and get a
good tour together. It’s hard, but that’s rock and roll.
You know those bumper stickers about fishing? I should
get one for the van – “A Bad Day of Tour
is Better Than a Good Day at The Office”. Amen.
PUNK GLOBE: Any Words Of Wisdom For Punk Globe Readers?
KITTY: I’m certainly no one to take advice from but there
are few things that haven’t let me down. One is “Live
every day as if it were your last, because one day, you’ll
be right”. This is not a permit to go out and
get fucked up, or get fucked, but to do something that is
important and make things happen. Otherwise, it’s just
too easy to let the days go by and get stuck in a
routine. Then you put your dreams off and procrastinate.
The other thing is to be a participant and not a
spectator. If there is nothing going on that you like,
make it happen. Do it your way. People who feel the same
way who are waiting for someone else to do it will come
out of the woodwork. Fear is the worst. Don’t be afraid
to make an ass of yourself. Fear and second-guessing
kills more good people and ideas before they even see the
light of day. Those, and the
television. You wanna do something great? Turn off the
always be a fan of yours- Kitty..... YOU RAWK THANK YOU SO