Awesome Spinning Platter interview w/Jane
Jane Wiedlin is a modern renaissance woman. Not only is she the legendary guitarist for the most successful all female rock band of all time, she has more career hyphenations than I can fit in this space. She’s about to embark on a tour with the Go-Go’s to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their debut record Beauty & The Beat, but she fit some time in from her busy schedule as a musician/comic book artist/producer/actor/Jedi to talk about her touring plans, her numerous creative projects, as well as what really caused the band to cancel their tour last summer.
Last year your tour was billed as a Go Go’s farewell tour, which was canceled because of injury. Your tour this summer is not being billed as a farewell tour. Does this mean that you will keep going after this tour is over?
Well, like you said, last summer we had a tour booked. We dubbed it the ‘Happily Ever After’ tour, and it was a farewell tour, and just before rehearsals were due to start I had a hiking accident. I was hiking through Corona Heights Park in San Francisco, and I fell off a cliff. I really damaged my leg. I had knee surgery. And, having had a year to think about, we decided that we didn’t want to be so finite and call it a farewell tour. Leaving it open like that gives us the opportunity to work together again in the future, which I am hoping we will do. If you asked me 30 years ago if I would still be a Go-Go at this age, I would have said that you were crazy, but now I’m really happy to be a Go-Go, and I would be thrilled to be a Go-Go for the rest of my days.
How is it now versus then? If I’m doing my math right, The Go Go’s have been ‘reunited’ longer than you were initially together…
You are doing your math correctly… We reunited in 1990, so that’s been 21 years. Most think that this is a reunion tour. That is not true. Even though we aren’t as active as we once were, we still played pretty much every year since 1994, last year being the only year we took totally off, but that was because of the accident. Yeah, so it’s crazy… Even in the heyday, which was only seven years, 3 forming years, then getting a record deal, have a #1 record, and then three years later we split up. So, yeah, we’ve been doing it way longer now.
Are there any precautions being made preventing anyone from getting horribly injured between now and the tour?
Yes. I am chained to my bed. I can’t go outside. That accident came totally out of the blue… I was with my friends, in the park at night. We were having a light saber battle you know, because we’re geeks, and it turns out that light sabers make terrible flashlights. They basically blind you, and I have terrible night vision anyways. So, I couldn’t see where I was going, and I walked right off the trail and right off a cliff. So, one second I was on the ground, the next second I was in the air, the second after that I was on my knees. I heard this noise that sounded exactly like a champagne cork popping, and that was my knees exploding!
So, that really doesn’t say a lot for the protective nature of “The Force”
Ha ha… And the worst part about it was that when I rolled down the cliff, it turned out that I was rolling through poison oak. So I spent the next three weeks miserable, bed ridden, and covered in poison oak. I was the most miserable person on the planet! And then I finally got my butt out of bed, and went to the doctor who told me that I needed to have surgery, and I have pretty much been recovering ever since. But, I have to say, I feel completely lucky that I didn’t die or became paralyzed. I’m very thankful for that. And I think that the Go-Go’s deciding not to break up yet may have been the happiest consequence of this accident.
What can we expect from this tour? It’s billed as a “Beauty & The Beat” tour. Will you play the whole record?
Well, yes, it is the 30th anniversary of the release of our first record Beauty & The Beat, and we have always, in every tour, taken liberally from the record. We play a lot of that material, and that’s not going to change, because most people believe that’s our best record. So we will have plenty of music from that record, but we don’t intend on doing the whole record in it’s entirety. I mean, I guess we could do that, but it’s not in our plans. We will play stuff from every record; maybe do a few new cover tunes. Cover tunes are always fun to play, to try new arrangements and Go-Go-fy it. There is even talk of doing a brand new song that nobody has heard before. As a concert goer, I like to hear the old stuff, so I don’t want to pester people with a ton of new material, but it would be nice to play people something that they haven’t heard before.
Well, in 21 years The Go-Go’s have put out a handful of new tracks. for the greatest hits, and one studio album (God Bless The Go-Go’s), so I think we are ready for some new material.
You make us sound so pathetic… (chuckle) I guess we aren’t the most prolific band out there.
So what have you been working on lately? It seems that you have been very active lately, but is there any new material, not necessarily Go-Go’s material, coming out?
Is there any proof that I’ve been active? No. Kidding. I am so damn busy; I don’t even know what’s going on with my life. I just can’t say no to any project! I love working, and then I get overworked, then I get nervous and have a nervous breakdown. (giggle) But last year I spent a lot of time working in independent film. I’ve worked on three different movies coming out this year. One of them I was music director on, and another one I ended up assisting the producer. I really enjoy working in behind the scenes jobs. I’ve always been a behind the scenes girl, I love being a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I also love performing, too, but I love being able to contribute in other ways. I’ve been doing that. I also started my own comic series called Lady Robotika, and I’ve started writing a musical based on that comic book series. That’s kind of my little dream that someday that is going to get launched. It really seems that all I ever do is work! I even have a recording studio at my house in San Francisco, so there’s recording always going on here. We even have outside bands coming in all the time to record. It’s nice, this really busy, really creative life that I lead.
Can you tell me more about the films that you are working on?
Of course! Two of them were made by San Francisco directors, which is kind of exciting. They are even neighbors of mine. The first one is called Doggie Boogie, directed by Romanus Wolter. It is a family comedy about competitive dog dancing. It’s a great movie! It looks so good, full of color and fancy. It’s the kind of movie that I’m hoping parents will love, because it’s not just for little kids. I’m really happy to part of it. That’s the film that I was music supervisor on. I wrote the theme song for it, and I got a chance to pick out the songs that will be part of the movie.
The next movie I worked on is called The Casserole Club. That one was directed by Steve Balderson, he’s based in Kansas. He makes a lot of movies, and he always works with the same people, which is kind of fun because I’m friends with the cast already. This movie is a great story about a suburban neighborhood in the 1960’s where a group of people had a dinner club that somehow evolves into a swingers club. Some of its funny, some of it’s really sad…. You see all these marriages unravel as a result of their shenanigans. This was the one where I was assistant director. He called me “His Girl Friday” because I did different jobs at once. I got act, but I also got to be seamstress, and prop master, and I did set design, and script runner and pretty much everything.
And the final movie I did was I Want To Get Married. That was written and directed by San Francisco based Billy Clift, who’s most recent film was Baby Jane, kind of a takeoff on Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?. This one is about a sweet, shy gay man that wants to get married. It kind of revolves around Prop 8, and so it’s a very sweet, kind movie. I was very happy to be part of it because it has such a great message.
Any idea as to when these might come out?
The Casserole Club is getting submitted to film festivals now, and will probably be hitting the festival circuit by this fall. The other films, I’m not sure about. It’s such a long process, even for independent films, to get them on the screen.
Speaking of film… When I started asking people about this interview, folks were giving me questions, and this one was one that I really need to ask. Will you be involved in Bill & Ted 3?
I want to so badly!!! That would rule! I’d love to come back, either as Joan Of Arc, I mean Ms. Of Arc, or some other part, but it’s not my decision. I would love to do it, but I doubt it will happen.
How did you get involved with “The Golden Girls Christmas Episodes”?
Editor’s Note: Golden Girls Christmas Episodes is an annual theater event in San Francisco where drag queens reenact their favorite Golden Girls Christmas Episodes
I have a lot of friends that are drag queens. This event is, of course, four legendary San Francisco drag queens, and I am friends with Heklina, the boss of the production for many years, and she invited me to portray Angela Petrillo, Sophia’s sister from Italy. It was kind of a blast! It was my first live theater experience, and I was nervous the first night, but after that it was just fun! They have even asked me back for next year. The only thing we don’t know is what episodes we are going to do.
How many Golden Girls Christmas Episodes were there?
I think that there were only a couple… There were a couple with Angela, but I’m kind of fuzzy on the details, but I know there weren’t that many. We did two episodes per show, and the 2nd episode was an episode that we turned into a Christmas special. For the first episode, the real Christmas special, I played a man, which was fun because I love doing drag king, I love it. In the 2nd episode, I played Angela and we made it Christmassy somehow. They can play with details to make it work out, and I hope they will find more episodes that have a good role for me to play.
How come Frosted never put out a second record?
That Frosted record sold 2,000 copies. There was only one person at that company that supported this record at all. It was very demoralizing. I can’t really operate in a vacuum. I guess I sound bitter, but if you get no support, it’s hard to just keep doing something. I love that record, I totally stand by it. I think that it’s one of the best records that I’ve ever made. The next Frosted record ended up being a Jane Wiedlin solo album (Kiss Proof World.) It’s a little bit easier, if you aren’t going to rely on record companies, to be a solo artist, then it is to try to keep a band together. Especially if you need to keep them fed and happy, it’s just hard.
So, what does Jane Wiedlin listen to now?
God, I hate that question… I listen to my friends, because I want to use people I know when I’m music supervisor. I listen to Gabby LaLa, a Bay Area artist and my friend Abby Travis, who is an LA artist, and there’s a great band out of Healdsburg, CA, called Crazy Famous. My boyfriend just produced their new record, and I am hearing that a lot in the house. So, yeah, I like to listen to my friends.
What prompted you to move to San Francisco? It seems that The Go-Go’s were always an LA band, but I don’t think that any of you live in LA anymore…
Yeah, only one of us is still in LA, and that’s Charlotte (Caffey), still lives in the first house she ever bought in LA. I’ve had 14 different homes since the early 80’s. I just moved every few years, but in 2010 I moved to San Francisco, and I think that it’s the smartest thing that I’ve ever done. I’ve always loved this city, and now I live here!
You’ve become one of those famous people that people think they’ve seen, but are never sure.
Yeah, I get that a lot, like “I think I just saw Jane Wiedlin in the Castro!” and I’m all, like, yeah, you did.
It’s you, and Robin Williams, and Jello Biafra. You should all just get together.
It’s the famous people club! A lot of people seem to think that famous people only know other famous people, but I don’t really know any famous people. Well, I know The Go-Go’s, I guess they are famous.
I’ve seen you with Billie Joe (Armstrong) on stage
I haven’t seen him in years… I haven’t run into him since I moved here, but I think that’s because he’s more East Bay.
I run into Green Day members at Trader Joe’s all the time…
Trader Joe’s is where everyone runs into everyone else.