Girl power may not have a bigger advocate than Susan Hyatt, leader of the U.K.-based rock trio Pillbox. The Seattle native sings loud and proud, sounding off against sexual hypocrisy and other injustices in the band’s NYC Records debut album, “Gimme What I Want.”
Hyatt sat down to play “10 questions” with Pause & Play via e-mail, discussing among other things her musical heroes and the music industry’s double standards.
Pause & Play – What was your manifesto for this album?
Hyatt – “The perseverance of the strong female. At the time of recording, I was going through my Saturn return, my sexual peak and all things deviant. The album is a psychoanalysis of all kinds of human relationships and hopefully points out how twisted we all really are. I want women out there to realize that men are not the center of the universe. Women are. It’s our bodies that give life. Why should we go out and get plastic surgery and clean up the house and look after children when there is so much in life to achieve? We have been playing the second-class sex for way too long. If you act like a sex object, you will be treated like one.”
P&P – Could “Me & My Rhythmbox” be the “I Touch Myself” for the new century?
Hyatt – “Yeah, definitely! I love that song!”
P&P – What inspired it?
Hyatt – ” ‘Me & My Rhythmbox’ was influenced by the ’80s cult film ‘Liquid Sky,’ where this lesbian performance artist screamed the words ‘Me & My Rhythmbox!!’ to a bad Casio drum beat. It’s about how powerful female genitalia is, and how we should never take our sexuality for granted or give it away cheaply to the undeserved. And, of course, I pay homage to Billy Squier’s ‘Everybody Wants You’ and AC/DC’s ‘Girl’s Got Rhythm.’ In that song, I’m the Georgia O’Keefe of pop music.”
P&P – Who are your musical heroes?
Hyatt – “Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Trent Reznor, Prince before his evil twin untalented brother called ‘Symbol’ starting rewriting Parliament jams, and Courtney Love for her strength and determination. Of course, I shall always be a member of the KISS Army.”
P&P – There’s a double standard in the music business; male rappers and hip-hop artists can rant and rave about sex, but women can’t. Why is that?
Hyatt – “People want to write this off as a sex album, but they can’t when I write lines like ‘Brian Wilson without the genius.’ I think the substance is obvious in the quality of writing. My sexual issues are a lot different than ‘make love to me baby.’ One of the major issues I encountered and wrote about was my love relationship with a gay man. It is very confusing for both sides when a gay man can sleep with a woman.
“English guys are such closet pervs anyway that they love the record. People in Europe are a lot more sexually liberated and are not easily offended or shocked. I’m sure the Bible Belt regions of the U.S. and the Bush supporters won’t appreciate Pillbox’s music.”
P&P – You’ve been in other bands before. What makes this one work so well?
Hyatt – “Yeah, I have been in many bands in L.A., where I played guitar in the Pandoras, bass in Feline with Debi Diamond from the Januaries and had my own bands that I fronted as well. I think Pillbox works well because essentially I am a solo artist and the guys who play with me understand that, and they just compliment what I do. It’s a mutual admiration society.”
P&P – What do you love and hate about living in London?
Hyatt – “London is one of the best cities in the world. The architecture is beautiful, the parks are breath-taking, public transport is great and it is filled with talented musicians who are always ahead of the game. What I like least is the ‘pub mentality’ that breeds alcoholics. I love my red wine and champagne as much as anyone else, but these people are filled with lager every night of their lives, living on benefit from the government, are unemployed and many are negligent parents of little kids. America’s view of English people being like Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley is complete fantasy. If you want to see real English common life, watch Gary Oldman’s ‘Movie’ or Mike Leigh’s films. A lot of people have small-town minds and Americans are definitely discriminated against.”
P&P – What was the first record you ever bought?
Hyatt – “The first records I bought (I bought two at the same time) were Cheap Trick’s ‘Live at Budokan’ and KISS’ ‘Double Platinum.’ I instantly knew I wanted to be a rock star. I was totally in love with Gene Simmons and his long tongue. I dressed up as him as often as I could in school, I was a freak.”
P&P – What was the first concert you ever went to?
Hyatt – “The first concert I ever went to was KISS on the Dynasty Tour in 1979 at the LA Forum. I had front-row center, ‘cuz I was a spoiled little kid who made my mother buy scalper tickets for me.
“It was the most exciting show I had ever seen, even still to this day. I wanted to play guitar just like Ace Frehley; it was after that show that I begged for guitar lessons. I got Gene’s fake spit-out blood all over my T-shirt, I felt so blessed. In the middle of the show, the large disco ball hanging in the middle of the auditorium burst open from the ceiling, and thousands of KISS Army sponges flew into the air. I figured the sponges were handy to wipe the blood. I was a fan of KISS for life. Pillbox are now covering ‘Beth’ for a KISS compilation record in the U.K.”
P&P – What was the last CD you bought?
Hyatt – “The last CDs I bought were the Januaries and PJ Harvey “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.’ Both albums are completely brilliant and have surpassed anything I have heard in the past two years. I love hearing genius female artists.”
ON THE WEB: www.pillbox.co.uk.
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