Tour Diary

Johanna Fateman
Tour Diary1


If you walk far enough (down the alley where you enter/exit the club, to the street, then left), the sun will set. Block after block is lined with low apartment buildings and every window is hung with white lace curtains. Except for the one window (out of thousands) that’s displaying a Bob Marley tapestry. Beyond the overpass there’s a billboard picturing a dead child positioned in front of a car’s bumper, a trickle of blood at her temple (a public service campaign re: drunk driving maybe, or, who knows, it’s in German) and another billboard, an ad for licorice. A dominatrix in black patent leather has a glassy licorice square speared on a long acrylic nail. Turn back when you come to a dusky cul-de-sac where only kids are out. Teens walk like unsheathed knives, radiant with expertise vis-à-vis popular culture, and high on their disdain for the older generation. The sharpening of blades (the politicization of youth estrangement) sounds like crickets chirping and windshield wipers. Teens are free because they’re not responsible. Their parents are responsible, legally.

I took a Claritin-D so I’m wide-eyed and sweating through a fanzine interview on a metal staircase across the alley where our tour bus is parked. The luxury and scale of the bus make capital transparent. The stack of xeroxed back-issues this girl has put on my lap distracts me. When faced with it, the prominence of my band as a subject in a particular sub-cultural discourse about difference politics is unsettling. We talk about being on a major label; it’s pretty scripted. Before I leave she persuades me to draw a picture to accompany the interview. I disappoint myself by drawing a scratchy picture of a tiger shaking hands with a businessman, but she seems okay with it.


There’s a blizzard in New York, but we’re on a different planet. Here it’s hot, bright, perfect for a massive outdoor rock festival. A parade of male creeps breezes by security through the entrance to the artists’ area but women are suspected stalkers. I have to show both sides of my all-access pass, it’s scrutinized for signs of forgery, and the guy tenderly gathers my hair away from my neck to see my tattoo, in a motion like my hair is in the way of him seeing me giving him a blow job or something. Not ten feet from us a gay-looking kid in clown-white and chains vomits violently. The subjugation’s ambient. As tokens, exceptions to the near total exclusion of women in the festival line-up, we are given a chance to meditate on it (exclusion) from a couple of different vantage points: we watch from far behind the crowd on shady bleachers; we watch from the side of the stage, Slipknot guys sprinting to suck oxygen through their masks from tanks manned by crew guys behind the drum-riser.


I’m in Sheffield, U.K. on tour with the Clash and it’s become completely clear that I’ve lost interest in rock and roll. It’s the exact feeling that I want to leave, which seems to be my most profound characteristic. I began to suspect it as soon as we’d finished the album and I actually knew it by the time we arrived in England. I’ve never really been interested in being a musician and with the completion of the album I’d accomplished my aims—including: affecting the style of the popular art (which means affecting the culture), attaining certain public credentials as an artist, and making a record that is a classic. –Richard Hell, 19772

We’re in Sheffield too and I’m drawn to this kind of disavowal and grandiosity as well. But that’s not the kind of attitude you bring on stage. Something’s telling me to drink a Red Bull (the croissant I’m eating sucks and I want to feel different). The way I feel now, I only want to read a Victorian novel, but if I drank a Red Bull I might want to: think, write, play a show? Our aim is to create a public event with an emancipatory and hopeful vibe. The question is how can one reconcile private feelings of fatigue, skepticism, and bookishness with the public performance of earnest struggle/celebration. Luckily, with regard to this problem we can look to the history of feminist art for answers.


It’s better to just put your cards on the table: here we are, three women who exclude all men, and in addition to that, we exclude all women who are not exactly ourselves. We’re one thing (women) even as we are split into three parts to speak to three different journalists simultaneously. My part is doing an interview for the radio. An interview is a platform. In this case, it’s in some kind of upper-level elevator-lounge that’s quieter than the ground-floor lobby. The less ambient noise for a taped interview, the better! This journalist is thinking, this is a lot better (quieter) than the lobby. It’s better to just say it right off the bat: why is there a man in the band, and if there isn’t a man in the band why does it appear to be so (pointing to album cover)? Luckily, I’m not the man in question. Not only am I definitely a woman, I am defiantly a woman. My hair grows longer and blonder. My eyelashes are plush and black like spider legs. Part of being a woman, I mean, being a feminist publicly, is being a woman who is unafraid to explain things as they come up during interviews for radio broadcast. So, without hesitation, au contraire, with every appearance of having an appetite for on-air discussion of even the most difficult and bizarre topics, I dig in. I tear into it. I’m on a roll. In general, a rock journalist will be made hysterical (bored to tears) by this kind of talk. But he asked for it and someone out there will lap it up. I’ve poured out a shallow dish of cough syrup, held out a wooden spoon slick with cake batter. I’m drunk on the subject of gender again!


We hear the faint hum of a live TV when we enter a new hotel room and it’s a little scary: have we mistakenly gained entry to someone else’s room, is there a man here with the porn channel muted and the curtains closed? But the room’s empty and the TV screen is blue with white type welcoming Mrs. Fateman and Mr. Samson, inviting us to navigate the menu of hotel services. Luckily there’s nobody here to become terribly embarrassed when the shocking realization is made, so the hospitable gender slip is actually cool. Our hotel room is Sisterhood, AKA “not-reality”: all we really want is CNN because the under-reported bloodshed in Iraq has kept Terry Schiavo and the Pope alive for eleven days now. And we’re wondering how their pending deaths will in turn affect the situation in Iraq. We’ve got free high speed so Mr. Samson’s searching for a vegetarian restaurant in the neighborhood, I’m filling the sink with underwear.


“Writing” seems impossible to me now, but perfect phrases flare and disappear in my peripheral vision when I’m doing something else. Like walking through a crowd. I feel responsible to a new entity, I’ve got a need to conceal my true personality (theoretical concerns and nihilistic tone) from an abstract/fantasized demographic of observers. This feeling started when Audience outstripped Community. Community is now proportionally tiny, but mythically important, and somehow that’s damaging my ability to write. I walk to a department store near the club and buy a mother and baby seal made out of marzipan, masochistically spray my wrist with a fucked-up perfume that comes in a grenade-like atomizer, wander aimlessly. Outside I find a bench and eat the mother and then the baby seal while I read my book. It turns out there’s a whole contemporary genre of terrible novels about historically important people/events retold through the first person narration of a servant who witnessed it all.

1Un-chronological excerpts from journals kept on tour (September 2004 – April 2005) with Le Tigre, a punk feminist electronic band comprised of Kathleen Hanna, JD Samson and myself.

2Richard Hell, Artifact: Notebooks from Hell 1974 - 80 (Madras & New York: Hanuman Books, 1992), 114.