As Gossip return after a two-year break, Beth Ditto chats about Trump, working with producer Rick Rubin and her love of original riot grrls Bikini Kill
After the resounding success of their stirring LGBTQ+ anthem 'Standing in the Way of Control', Gossip were given the chance to work with legendary producer Rick Rubin on their follow-up album Music for Men in 2009. The band split in 2016, but have now reunited for a UK and European tour to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their first major label release. Punk icon and vocalist Beth Ditto, who still lives in Portland (as does drummer Hannah Blilie), speaks to us from Los Angeles where she is riding high from seeing the original riot grrls Bikini Kill, who have also recently reformed. 'I never got to see them before as I was a little bit too young, but if you love Bikini Kill, you're going to lose your mind. It's solid hits. It's so good!'
At a time when hateful rhetoric and actions are on the rise, and legislation under the Trump administration is threatening women's reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights and a whole host of basic human rights on a catastrophic scale, it feels like the perfect time for these bands to return for a courageous rallying cry. 'We have really insane fascism in our faces,' states Ditto. 'It makes me furious and upset. All of the white supremacy that's running rampant right now. We all know it's been there; racism never went away, like homophobia never went away. For these things to be shouted from the mountain tops from the highest powers that be, it's so dumbfounding. I feel like right now the biggest contribution I can give is being vocal.'
As well as the upcoming tour, Ditto has been taking action by donating to the institutions that have been hit hardest. 'Reproductive rights and health are really being threatened right now in America. I've been trying to give what I can to that and give it a voice. As a person who's financially sound, I'll tell you what I've been doing – and I know I'm very privileged that way – I've been donating when I can to what is going to be helpful in the moment, whether that be for the advancement of women of colour or trans people or the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union].'
A lot has changed over the last ten years since Gossip put together Music for Men. 'It was a really surreal time to be 27 and have this incredible chance,' recalls Ditto. 'It was pretty fucking wild! No one ever expected it and then all of a sudden, we were given this chance to work with Rick Rubin. You have this budget to make a record that you've never had before, and someone is giving you carte blanche in a way that you could do whatever you wanted to do and there was no wrong. I learned a lot at that time. It was more about love and acceptance. I've learned to have patience with people who have different opinions and different musical tastes and stuff like that. At the heart of it all, I still roll my eyes a lot. There's still a punk in me. When I'm at a fancy function, I'm still sticking out like a sore thumb.'
As far as what the audience can expect from the tour, Ditto joyfully explains: 'In true Gossip fashion, we have not started practising yet. But we'll get there. I'm excited to get back to playing music with the people I've been playing music with since I was a kid. I'm curious to see how it will all fall back into place.'