Legends: Alison Mosshart
With the 75th anniversary of the iconic sunglasses manufacturer, Ray-Ban underway, INTERVIEW celebrates the NEVER HIDE moments of a few influential leaders in art, fashion, music and film. We’ve met quite a few characters over the decades, but here are some of our favorite interviewees and icons, artists who never shied away from marching to the beat of their own drum. Here we talk to Alison Mosshart:
DEREK BLASBERG: Do you see this dichotomy you have, being both a cute American girl and a tough-as-nails English rocker?
ALISON MOSSHART: That’s a weird question.
BLASBERG: What I mean is, if I saw you in one of your music videos, looking all sullen and broody, I wouldn’t say, “This girl is totally going to be my best friend.”
MOSSHART: Ha! But performing is one thing, and day-to-day stuff—like the way you talk to people—is totally different. If I acted like I did onstage in normal life, everyone would probably hate me.
This is how Derek Blasberg opened his interview with the Kills’ Alison Mosshart in March 2009. Even in the 21st century, it seems that people still view rock and femininity as polar opposites, antitheses. It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the world of hard rock; listing all the male rockers in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would take ages. Naming all the female rockers would take you several seconds: Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Janis Joplin. There are plenty of female popstars, songstresses, soul-singers, but whatever happened to women who could kill on a non-acoustic guitar? Is it these enduring traditional gender norms that are inhibiting women from channeling their fiercer rock side?
Thankfully for us, Florida-born, London-based Alison Mosshart is a contemporary exception: Alison rocks, sweats, wears designer boots, decorates the pages of Vogue (and Interview), inspires fashion trends, hangs out with Kate Moss (the wife of her bandmate, Jamie Hince), holds her own alongside the boys, and is proud of it all.
Mosshart started playing music at 13, touring at 14, and played her first Kills’ show at aged 21, over a decade ago. Since then, the Kills have played every festival from the US to Europe to Tokyo, opened for Metallica, collaborated with Jack White (Allison and Jack are in another band, The Dead Weather), and had songs in Gossip Girl, the Twilight films, and Children of Men.
In short, Mosshart is our 21st century rock ‘n’ roll heroine. In the words of one fan tumblr, “Allison Mosshart, because she’s epic.” In an attempt to get to know Allison a little better, we thought we’d revisit some of our favorite Mosshart moments from the past decade:
Mosshart’s stage style:
BLASBERG: What do you wear [when you perform]? No offense, but every time I’ve seen you perform you’ve worn the same leopard-print blouse over an old T-shirt.
MOSSHART: Yeah, I get hooked on things. Mainly that’s because of temperature reasons and movement reasons. T-shirts and really thin shirts are good because I get hot and sweaty when I’m jumping around.
BLASBERG: Ew! You sweat?
MOSSHART: When I’m done playing I look like I’ve just jumped in a pool. It’s really sexy.
BLASBERG: The jeans you’re wearing look familiar.
MOSSHART: Embarrassingly enough, I think these are the exact same jeans I’ve worn on the past two tours.
BLASBERG: And the gold boots?
MOSSHART: I love my gold boots. Hedi Slimane made these, and now I have three pairs of the gold, plus pairs in every other color, in black, in patent. I have a friend [at Dior] who reorders a pair for me whenever mine get tired. I challenge anyone to show me a boot I like better.
BLASBERG: Is it weird for us to talk about what you wear, your style? You’ve been doing music for over a decade and a half, and then we gab about Dior boots and your favorite leopard blouse.
MOSSHART: It’s a little peculiar. But I loved the way the bands I grew up admiring looked and the way they dressed. That was just as inspiring as the other elements. It’s the whole thing: the music, their lives, their style . . .
What she grew up listening to:
MOSSHART: Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Captain Beefheart, the Stones . . . Johnny Cash!
When her songs appear in somewhat salacious Gossip Girl promos and films like Twilight:
BLASBERG: So you never thought your song “Sour Cherry” would become a Gossip Girl promo?
MOSSHART: No, but I was very proud of that. I love that show. I have friends on that show.
BLASBERG: But isn’t it bizarre? For a rocker in London to discover her song is the anthem of an American teen drama?
MOSSHART: Not for me. I think it would be more bizarre for my mom tohear it on TV. For me, that’s the industry I’m in. When you do music,your friends are writers, actors, painters. It’s all under the sameroof. So anything creative is interesting to me… being on a show that I watch? That’s kind of cool.
Life before the Kills:
MOSSHART: I was in another band in Florida, touring and going to school. I started that band when I was in junior high school—
BLASBERG: Wait, junior high? Like sixth grade? I was still passing notes in sixth grade. Hell, I was still dating girls in sixth grade.
MOSSHART: It was, like, an indie-punk band. It was called Discount. I didn’t make up the name.
BLASBERG: Still, that’s good for a bunch of sixth-graders. If I were in a band in sixth grade I would have called it The Banana Republic Club.
MOSSHART: That might have been better. But I’m thankful for that experience. I was touring at 14. That’s when we toured England and I met Jamie [Hince].
Kate Moss comparisons:
BLASBERG: Is it weird having Kate around?
MOSSHART: We get along great, despite people making up stories that we don’t. Of course we do—we always have.
BLASBERG: So she’s not some skank who stole your style? And your haircut? She has bangs now, too, you know.
MOSSHART: What are you talking about? That’s hysterical.
What she’d be doing if she’d never met Jamie Hince and become a full-time musician:
HINCE: Life would be different if we weren’t making a living out of playing music. We’d still play music, but we’d have to have day jobs.
MOSSHART: I went to art school. I never really planned on playing music. But it was a thing I’d always done, since I was young. So it just carried me away; I never really had to make a plan for it or make any decisions. It just sort of decided on me. And I don’t know what the hell I would have done otherwise.
We’re not sure what we’d do if you weren’t playing music either, Ms. Mosshart…