Posts tagged ‘women guitarists’

May 6, 2012

Nina Canal Interview!


Photo by Martin Christgau, courtesy of Nina Canal

Nina Canal is an artist and musician.  She was a member of the seminal No-Wave band Ut (pronounced Oot), and has been name-dropped by such other influential bands as Sonic Youth and Le Tigre.  They were a favorite of John Peel’s, and worked with engineer Steve Albini on their album Griller.  Their list of associations reads like a who’s-who of underground rock.  Canal was also a member of the band The Gynaecologists, and has worked with Rhys Chatham doing both the guitar trio and 100 guitars.

In addition to being a talented guitarist, drummer, and vocalist, Canal is a painter and fashion designer, crossing deftly between different art mediums.  I talked with her over email about her history with Ut, what equipment she uses, and what’s going on in her life artistically at present.

When did you begin playing and why? 

I started to play guitar in NYC in early 1977.  I went to NY from London after  finishing my Fine Art degree.  I had a very good friend from  London, Robert Appleton who had been living there 2 years, and he had met Rhys Chatham, and they had started a band called The Gynaecologists and asked me to play with them.

What was your first guitar, and how did you get it? 

So Robert had a friend Jimmy who worked at a music store in Long Island, he would get me a good deal, so I went out there and bought a beautiful blond Telecaster, pre CBS (just) for something crazy like $250, not sure exactly!

What equipment do you prefer now?  Which guitar?  What amps or pedals?  Why?  Has this changed over time?

Sadly, that Telecaster got stolen in London after a gig in 1986 or so, and not very long before we started working on GRILLER LP, so when I saw Steve Albini he offered to buy me another one in the USA.  However, the prices had gone through the roof, so he suggested a copy made by these guys in Chicago.  They have an outfit called Rubber Ducky Replicas, and they made me a beautiful one.  I was able to ask for a custom colour, hence my trademark bright green telecaster with a mirror scratch board.

I like using  few pedals, I have a Big Muff and mainly  just love the sound of real tube amps, good ones that deliver that wonderful warm yet ripping distortion.

What is your songwriting process like?  I know that when you were with Ut, you and your fellow band members emphasized collaboration and equal exchange.  Have you found that method effective over time, or do you feel more like you’re a solo artist now?

Yes, with Ut we always worked together, in a total collaboration. I have worked on a few collaborations in recent years, in a similar process where everyone has equal say and we go by feel and mutual confidence. I am starting to work on some solo stuff.   It’s not so easy for me.  I always did a little of this even in NY, so yes I am becoming a “solo artist.”

Can you talk a little about your work with Rhys Chatham?  You were in at least one formation of his guitar trio, and participated in 100 guitars.  

Rhys and I were together as a couple at the time he composed Guitar Trio, and I played it with him the very first time and  several other times in NY in those amazing days, and also occasionally in the years between, so it’s a piece you could say I have an intimate connection with.

Yes, I also have played in the 100 guitars, initially at the London performance in 1990 something, and then I was also very briefly a section head for two concerts, one in Nantes, which was a wonderful experience and then we went to Reunion Island with it. That was a particularly incredible  experience.  The volcano erupted while we were there, and we went to see the hot lava jumping into the sea, amazing.

Documentary film maker Laurence Petit Jouve made a film about it, but it has never yet seen the light of day due to lack of finances….

You’re a musician — writing songs, and playing the drums and guitar, but you also paint, and make clothing.  Also, I read an interview where you said you came to rock music from a background in performance art.  Do you feel that your work across mediums informs your perspective as a guitar player?

I am also a painter, fascinated by colour and energy, I got into painting on different textiles, mostly silk and wool or cashmere. I love clothes, and I had started to make my own clothes line in NYC  around 1980 and recently found a lot of photos which I will eventually put up on line.  I need to make a new web site, as mine, although it looks pretty good, is simple and old fashioned

I studied fine art, and was into performance art yes, of course everything feeds everything.  I do not know how to distinguish in that sense, but that’s for some else to do not me.

What are you working on right now? 

Well, now having moved to Marseille, the Ut re union has taken up a lot of my time. We did some touring last autumn, and are now working on the re issues of our entire back catalogue soon,  starting with Conviction on Reactor records

There’s been a lot to organize to enable this processs to proceed, and I have hardly found the time to paint. I plan to start painting pictures and not on silk anymore.

Which artist or artists do you find inspiring?  Why? 

Well, there are just too many to mention! I can say I recently went to see an astonishing show in London by Grayson Perry at the British Museum and that was inspiring because of the many surprises, but he’s certainly not my only inspiration….

January 6, 2012

Wild Flag On Jimmy Fallon Tonight

Wild Flag are on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon tonight.  Very cool.

December 11, 2011

Elizabeth Cotten And Viv Albertine

I was talking with a friend about my “Twelve Amazing Guitarists…” post this past Friday. She mentioned that she did not know who Elizabeth Cotten and Viv Albertine were. I thought I would link to a video for each of them.

I first encountered Elizabeth Cotten while learning finger-picking. Cotten wrote the incredibly challenging song, Freight Train. She was an impressive player, and actually played her guitar upside down, using her thumb to play melodies, and her index finger to run bass lines.

Viv Albertine has a solo album out now, and she has performed with the Raincoats and the New-Age Steppers. But what she’s best known for is as the guitarist and backup vocalist for the legendary punk group The Slits. The first several times I heard the Slits I had no idea what to do with them. Their songs were full of competing rhythms, multi-part vocals. They were dissonant and controversial. They were obnoxious. Really, all the things you want in a good punk band. This is an old video of them performing Heard It Through the Grapevine, and Albertine is the blonde being interviewed at the beginning. It’s followed by their video for Instant Hit.

October 16, 2011

Back From A Visit To Nola

I just got back from New Orleans.  I didn’t see a lot of women slinging guitars, but we did spy this player at Checkpoint Charlie’s on Esplanade and Frenchmen Street.  I haven’t figured out what her name is yet, but I do know she was playing with a local musician named Domenic Fusca.  In the second photo, Domenic’s on the lefthand side.



April 23, 2011

Guitareste Hearts Elizabeth Powell

There’s been a communication breakdown in my attempts to get an interview with Elizabeth Powell.  But hopefully one day soon we can get her on here.  In the meantime, if you haven’t already been listening to Land of Talk, go listen to some albums immediately.  All of the albums are lovely, although my favorite is the first EP, from 2006, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss.  There’s an interview and several live performances from the “DL Show” on Youtube.

And a video for the beautiful song “It’s Okay” from the album Some are Lakes

January 13, 2011

What is Guitareste all about?

This website came about for a few reasons.  I started playing guitar late — in my early 30s, and when I started buying equipment I wanted to emulate the women rockers who I had looked up to as a teenager.  I also wanted to discover other women who played guitar, women I hadn’t previously heard of.  But I quickly realized two things… 1) Most of the “best guitarists of all time” lists do not include women.  2) Most articles about female guitarists do not ask technical questions or questions about equipment.  Not only that, but equipment sites like only have profiles for a handful of women.  And an internet search for “female guitarists,” more often than not yields a list of the women who male guitarists think look hot with a guitar slung around their chest.  (I’m looking at you, Guitar World.)

And then I read David Segal’s article in the Washington Post, No Girls Allowed? In it, Segal says:

…girls don’t see guitar heroines and, in the absence of role models, they never bother to pick up the instrument. An exception is instructive: it’s a safe bet that Avril Lavigne plays guitar because her chief inspiration, Alanis Morissette, plays guitar. (Morissette, in turn, exalts Joni Mitchell.) But women buy just 7 percent of all the electric guitars in this country, according to Music Trades Magazine, and you can’t explain that figure without confronting a glaring truth: We live in a culture where the electric guitar, at least when it’s played at full and distorted blaze, is considered unladylike.

I think Segal’s being purposely dense for the sake of his argument.  He knows there are plenty of women out there who are playing guitar.  But he’s right about one thing, young female musicians do not have as much exposure to instrumentalists that look like them.  And I’d like to do something about that.  I might not prove it’s ladylike to play guitar, but I hope that I’ll prove it’s fun. Hopefully, this site will show you some amazing women who you maybe haven’t heard of, with their guitars, and be a place for aspiring artists to explore and comment.

All that said, I would love to read your comments and feedback.  If you have a question, or see a glaring error in one of the history/biography posts, please contact me!

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