Interview: Gossip

source: Lee Broomfield

Image Lee Broomfield

Gossip (Beth Ditto, Brace Paine, Hannah Billie) bulldozes over boundaries like they were imaginary. Fronted by a larger than life character – both literally and figuratively – Beth Ditto, who also happens to be gay, it makes sense that the band would transgress societal norms like only the greatest of rock’n’roll bands would. Their brand of dance punk is just like the band – a mixture of accessibility and subversion. Their live shows would typically consist of Beth stripping to just her undergarments like a good punk rocker should and yet she sings with the vocals of a gospel act. Not just renown for their music, the band is also infamous for frontwoman Beth’s foray into the fashion world, they are as well known in the music scene as they are in haute couture. Before their performance at Heineken Green Room last 5 October, JUICE got to speak with guitarist Brace Paine on life back in Arkansas, Beth’s image, and what Karl Lagerfeld’s really like…

You and Beth grew up together in a mid-western town, shooting squirrels and going to church. What was it like for you guys to grow up in a place like that?
In high school, it was really hard. We were different than everyone else and we can’t really be ourselves as we were not exposed to the music scene that is happening out there. But the place is beautiful and it’s got a landscape not to be missed. It wasn’t easy honestly and we were like a buncha nerd ‘tards.

If you guys were to stay there in Arkansas, what like will you be doing?
I dunno. I might still be working in Burger King, haha.

Beth is very outspoken. For one she’s a feminist and she’s got this whole subversive image to her. Do you think Beth as an individual had overshadowed the band as a whole?
People could say that but I don’t ever feel that way. We are very good friends, so close to each other. People can think what they want about Beth and I have no control over that. She does what she does, we do what we do. We never really worry about that because we really have fun working together – having tours and playing shows, and most importantly, we work as a band! Which I find appropriate performing for Heineken Green Room as it’s all about breaking the monotony, convention and boundaries and being yourself.

Gossip is well known not just for the music but also the way you guys look, dress and act. Are you comfortable with that?
I am getting more comfortable with it. At first when fashion comes into the play with our band, and when Gossip starts getting bigger in England and begins to get associated with fashion, I felt pretty uncomfortable. Because I have a really basic sense of style, but I kind of start appreciating fashion as another art form as I know that Beth always sees music and fashion intertwined.  I’m slowly getting more comfortable with Gossip being perceived as fashion icon.

Do you feel pressured to be glamour like how Beth is always being perceived as edgy and glitz whether in photo shoot or music video?
I never feel that way because we know fashion is an expression of personality. Gossip has always been working with stylist that knows our distinct characteristic. Both Hannah and I are more into laid back style and tend to be associated with colours such as plain black or white while Beth can go a bit more glam and glitz as she’s able to carry the juxtaposition of cool and rebellious. We are pretty comfortable with that.

What’s it like to transition from recording in a bathroom to a full-blown studio?
It’s amazing actually. I mean it’s incredible to have complete control on our creative idea and to be given a creative base to do what we like. It is a beautiful thing and beneficial when you have longer deadlines and better room to produce that kind of art that we desire. This whole process is almost parallel to Heineken Green Room – creating music from the grassroots and showcasing it on an international stage.

Do you think that the media plays up to Beth’s weight and sexual preference too much?
I think she’s really an interesting female role model for bigger women and she is a respectable role model for us. I will always have her back. The media is going to say whatever they want anyway, so why worry about that.

Was it weird for you guys to perform at Karl Lagerfeld’s show who’s known to be quite fat-phobic?
What’s weird is that Karl had made a lot of fat-phobic remarks, saying things like how he won’t make any clothes for fat women but he did actually make a dress for Beth. Maybe he changed his direction or changed his mind. Karl is hilarious though, he looks like the most serious man on earth anywhere he goes.

You guys must have some special moment when performing at star-studded shows. Any special anecdote you want to share with us?
I don’t know any special moment. Sometimes playing in those big stuff show can be really impressive, especially those with sheer number of people. But other times, really blasé. Although couple of years ago when we performed, it was really overwhelming and beautiful, seeing people singing along, the amount of people can be more than the isle we stayed in.

Were you star-struck with any of the line-ups?
Yeah. But I don’t really get star-struck by just about any artist unless it’s someone like Yoko Ono.

Summarise for us what a typical Gossip gig is like.
A lot of sweat!

We’d like to be drenched in Beth’s sweat!

Gossip played at Heineken Green Room at KL Live last 5 October 2011. Get inspired to be yourself at