Interview with PORTIA SABIN, head of Kill Rock Stars, via email januray 08
I was so impressed to get in touch with Portia, I never put this interview online, cause I thought my questions were just useless...anyway thanx again and all my apologizes for this huge delay !!
As you know, KRS has always been a great ressource of music for BIB. We decided to start the radio show at the time we discovered Sleater Kinney and 12 years after we still heart this label.
Babes in Boyland : When I gathered information on the internet about you, I found out I had been a great fan of a particular song you wrote with one of the bands you played with: The Hissyfits. Can you tell me more about this time of your life?
Portia Sabin : I was in my 20s and I lived in New York and played in a couple different bands. I was in graduate school at the same time, which was hectic, but at least I had time to tour – I loved touring the best.
Bib : How did you turn out to be a drummer?
Portia Sabin : I started playing bass when I was 14, but I’d always wanted to play drums, so I started with lessons in college, but immediately got into a band so that I’d have a reason to practice. We were a Pixies cover band called Javalina.
Bib : You played in many ladyfests, what were your motives? Do you describe your band as a vindictive band?
Portia Sabin : The Hissyfits went to the very first Ladyfest in Olympia, but we hadn’t applied in time and so we didn’t play. But it was really inspiring to walk around and see all these women in awesome bands, I think we felt really empowered by that experience.
Bib : Have you completely stopped making music?
Portia Sabin : I hope not! I played last year in a random Slim Moon and What Army show and it was really fun. I’m just super busy these days.
Bib : How did you meet Slim Moon? Was it thanks to music? (don’t wanna be intrusive though)
Portia Sabin : Yes, thanks to music! We met at a Sleater-Kinney show at Irving Plaza in New York that I had gone to with my band. We were introduced by a mutual friend.
Bib : Were you OK at once to take over from Slim at the head of KRS when he proposed it to you?
Portia Sabin : I had a research fellowship at the University of Washington that I was really not enjoying, and at the same time I was managing The Gossip, which was becoming a full-time job. When Slim proposed me taking over the label I was excited because I felt it was a good time to move myself fully into the music business.
Bib : I think the KRS label is mainly run by girls, Maggie, Toby and you. How do you feel about that? How do people look upon you?
Portia Sabin : Yeah, we are five girls: Maggie, myself, Ingrid, Tobi, and Lauren, and then Maggie’s assistant is a boy and we have a part-time IT person who is a boy. I think people look upon us as normal business people, I haven’t really run into anyone who has commented negatively on us all being women, but it IS a very male industry, we always notice when we go to conferences and such that we’re in the minority.
Bib : Does Slim still have the right to decide on some issues?
Portia Sabin : No. He works for a different label now.
Bib : Less and less records are coming out at KRS, is it a deliberate decision from you or another proof of the record industry crisis?
Portia Sabin : I decided when I took over the label that we’d put out fewer records. We wanted to be able to focus on each release and give our artists a lot of attention and resources. It’s been a good decision, but we still manage to be insanely busy all the time!
Bib : Do you still only sign people who are close to you ? Will a French band get a contract one day?Portia Sabin : Well, Stereo Total is half French! We have licensed several of their records over the years. I am always looking at foreign bands as well as US bands, the major issue with foreign bands is touring. Because touring is such a huge part of making a band successful, the band needs to be able to do it a lot, and sometimes when a band is from far away it doesn’t work as well. As for US bands, I’ve signed only strangers so far – when Slim started the label he partly was trying to document a specific scene, but KRS started signing bands from around the country pretty quickly and has been doing that consistently for years.
Bib : Why are there so many good bands coming from the Portland/ Olympia area?
Portia Sabin : One theory is that these are both still towns that people can afford to live in and be a working band, meaning the rents are low so they can leave to tour for months on end, and there are pick-up jobs (like working in a coffee shop) that they can leave easily and come back to. Being a working band requires this less-permanent lifestyle of subletters and such, and PDX and Oly have a lot of young people who can move in for a few months here and there in a way that works out for everyone.
Bib : What is the band you would have loved to sign?
Portia Sabin : Am I choosing out of all bands of all time? The Smiths!
Bib : What is your KRS album top-5?
Portia Sabin :
Two Ton Boa – EP
Bikini Kill – Pussywhipped
Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
Punks – Thank You for the Alternative Rock
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
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