For well over half my life, I have appreciated all things punk rock. This blogsite here really has stuck around because of that notion. I love listening to the genre, I love talking about it, and specifically I love being part of the community.
I find myself fascinated with 80s and 90s punk mostly perhaps as it was what I was solely focused on as a teen and just is a comforting reminder where I came from. I love learning of side-acts and projects from many of the members of these bands that have helped fuel my life.
A couple months back I was given an opportunity to chat with someone who I have always been a fan of since my early days of becoming obsessed with punk rock. It is no lie, she’s played in one of my favorite bands that I never was able to see back in their heyday.
Thanks to her releasing a debut solo album, Kira Roessler was available for an interview and I made sure I jumped on this opportunity.
If you have no idea who Kira is, then I will give you the high-level recap. She once was the bassist for Black Flag, but that isn’t the only think you should know. Her punk roots go pretty far back to the point Pat Smear and her were in a band called Twisted Roots.
She actually was asked to join Black Flag while she played with DC3 – Mind you, DC3 was fronted by Dez Cadena, formerly of Black Flag,.. – Anyways, she later formed a dual bass band called dos with Mike Watt soon after and dropped a few albums before moving on to other avenues in the film industry. Where not completely removing herself from music, her priorities shifted.
Throughout her musical career, she matured into a more prolific bassist which in turn just continued to impress me. Her solo album is no exception and where it has been years in the making, it is everything I would have expected to come from her.
I had a million questions I wanted to ask Kira, but also did not want to be a nuisance so toned it down some which in turn became quite a great conversation.
Check it out:
BHP: Hey Kira, not going to lie, slightly freaking out over here given your musical history and the the impact your music had on me growing up. I must say I am so stoked to have a moment of your time and promise I am not going to just ask about Black Flag from the get go.
Instead, I’ll start off asking about MinuteFlag. I love that EP so much although hate that the music essentially was released because of Boon’s untimely passing. I am just curious though, how did this collaboration come together in the first place?
Kira: Wow – not many dig this deep. Well Minutemen and Black Flag were obviously label-mates on SST. For a while Mike worked at the office at SST. I am not sure what the deciding factors were, I know the Minutemen often felt a little competitive with the other bands – they did a double album because Husker Du did one. But Black Flag was jamming pretty regularly in practice, and playing instrumental material regularly. But I do not know who suggested the joint recording. Mike and I hadn’t done the two-bass thing yet and I felt like it was hard to find space during the jams with another bass wailing away. It didn’t really come out as well as he hoped and I think that was part of why they agreed to wait until one of the bands no longer existed to release it. But I like it, it’s pretty weird.
BHP: Ok, now that I got that out of the way, what took you this long do something on your own terms? Given people you have surrounded yourself with throughout your life, many who have done solo projects themselves, I’d have thought you would have done something decades ago.
K: Well I have been recording my own music in my room for many years. Building songs virtually by sending ideas to other people who then would add their parts just became a good way to operate. Since I work a lot of hours sometimes, most of my bass work happens early in the morning which is not necessarily when others want to play. So I have had a body of work (so to speak) for a while. The intention was never really to release any of it. But Kitten Robot had a label and my brother Paul approached me and said they wanted to release a record. I turned 60 this year and it was somehow the right time. It doesn’t hurt to have someone ask. I will always be making music, though, whether it is released or not. That is where the joy comes, in the creation.
BHP: In a day and age of global pandemics, I assume a lot of what was recently recorded came from constant solitude. What was differed this time for you about recording music?
K: Actually much of the music was recorded before the pandemic. Working alone in my room made sense to me long before 2020. The actual final phase of polishing and mastering happened in 2021, so very little of this record had it roots in the pandemic. I did write some songs during that time… and I actually mixed and mastered a record for my favorite guitar player Glenn Brown of his songs, that I had written bass lines. This material was created virtually as well. I just tried my hand at mixing and mastering since I needed an extra project during the pandemic.
BHP: Your debut is very intimate and carries experimental vibes throughout. When you started recording this did you have an idea of where you were headed, or was this more of a “let’s see where this takes me?”
K: My music always tends to be very personal. I am moved to write from a feeling or idea that comes from inside, and I try to capture it with my bass and then my voice. This particular group of songs tells a story – it is chronological – so I did not know exactly where I was heading because it was written across time as things were happening.
BHP: Who was “The Ghosts” about? I really enjoyed that one and figured I would at least ask.
K: “The Ghosts” captures the story of the record the best in a way. It is a story about love and loss. “The Ghosts” was written at a time when I was facing a loss and all the losses that had come before in my life came into my head and heart like ghosts… appearing to torment me just as I was facing this new pain …
BHP: Your brother helped with producing this release and dropped it on his label, Kitten Robot Studios. It absolutely kills me by the way that he more or less hung out with Darby Crash and Pat Smear in high school by the way. Anyways, what was it like to work so closely with him when putting things together?
K: Paul and I have a very close relationship. We have been in bands together and gone through this long journey together. But working on my songs at Kitten Robot Studio I feel that our collaboration has grown a great deal. Paul’s music tends to be very lush and layered and it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to him to leave the spaces. I am quite the opposite. So he will help me with ideas of layers to add, and I will strip away things I feel are using up too much space. It’s a dance. On my songs, he gives me ultimate decision making so in a way – he just works hard to facilitate what I am trying to do. He is an excellent producer in that way. His goal is to help people achieve their vision.
BHP: Do you think you’ll do a small tour to support this release?
K: I do not have any plans to tour. I do not have any plans to play live. I will say that I am trying to find a way to share something, some kind of event, but I have not but a vague concept so far.
BHP: One thing I really have admired about you is once you parted ways from the L.A. punk scene, you started experimenting with sound in dos first from a far and then in person, contributed to some of the most essential releases in various ways. and then managed to become a dialogue editor and sound editor. How were you able to accomplish off of this? Did you make any sacrifices to take leaps towards any goals you may have had?
K: Of course it can feel, at times, like it is a sacrifice having to put my musical life to the side in order to make a living… but the truth is that I have been nothing but lucky.
When Mike and I thought about having a two bass band – we were very clear that for us to have the space we needed, there needed to be no other instruments. I learned a lot during dos about leaving holes and spaces and also how to find the spaces in order to add something. It became my preferred sound or style, not to have everything on top of each other. My tastes became stripped down, because I could hear the emotion better. And after all, I love music when the people playing are felling something and then I get to feel it too. That became the goal.
In terms of work, I studied computers at UCLA and then became a computer programmer to support myself after college. But working in the corporate world was kind of miserable for me. I am a non-conformist and the corporate world insists on conformity. I felt like an oddball the whole time. Then I met a guy by chance through Paul who was doing sound for a USC student film. Paul was composing for it and I played some bass. I became enamored with the idea of using my musical background and my computer background to work in sound editing for television or film. I twisted the guy’s arm to hire me and answered phones and did admin work until I could learn the skills I needed to contribute in sound. Just lucky – because it is work that suits me very well.
BHP: Luck or not, I am sure it was not easy, can you tell me about some challenges you overcame?
K: Well of course the biggest challenge is to achieve some kind of balance. To make a lot of music, work on a lot of great projects – but there are only so many hours in the day. I go through times when it is very hard to find time to create music because work is challenging. And I am not a prolific song writer. I go through very dry periods when the ideas just don’t come, or the ability to translate the ideas feels stuck. But I try very hard to just appreciate what I have – recognize how lucky I am, and not focus on what isn’t happening at any given time.
BHP: Clearly you have so many stories about your life from the mid-80s onward. Have you ever thought about maybe writing an auto-biography?
K: I find writing to be a pretty challenging type of work. It does not feel natural, especially to blather on about myself. Then there is the problem of having to remember all those fascinating details that I should remember. And actually my life before the 80s had some pretty cool stuff too!!
BHP: If you could regroup with one band you played with in the past, which would be be and why?
K: Interesting question. Like go back in time? Or like the re-hash thing where groups re-form after years off and do a record or tour? The truth is that for me, the idea of re-creating something years after the fact is less appealing than doing new music and moving forward. I do not regret any of the time I spent in any band … but that doesn’t mean I want to revisit them. For me there is always the journey forward, with new things to say, and potentially new people to say them with. So … I got nothing.
BHP: You know, I wanted to follow-up here and just say regroup with any band you ever played with and for the sake of nostalgic purposes, but I get what you are saying and understand sometimes dripping back isn’t as purposeful as looking ahead.
Finally, probably one of the more important questions. You said in your bio you are a dog mom. Tell me about your pups.
K: I currently have 3 rescued dogs … all seniors 14, 12, and 10 years old. They are 20 pounds and under, as I live in a 2 bedroom condo. For them, there is room to run if the mood strikes them. The oldest, Jim is in some ways the most active. But he has gone almost completely deaf … which is hard for him.
Hank, the middle child, is the problem child. He has bitten my husband and I on more than one occasion. Generally speaking he feels that he is under attack at times and those are dangerous times indeed. He is 15 pounds of fury in those moments. Luckily they are relatively rare.
Our youngest is our female, nicknamed Stinky … the reason is probably self-evident. She is a sweetheart, very calm and loving… she just prefers to wear a layer of yuck if she is able to find one. But we (my husband and I) love them all dearly. I never had kids – so my dogs give me that opportunity to nurture and care for a being who loves me unconditionally (most of the time).
BHP: Thanks for your time. I enjoyed the release a lot!
K: Thank you, and I am glad you enjoyed the listen.
Kira, the debut solo album by Kira was released on 19-OCT-2021 on Kitten Robot Records. Check out the video below for the song “The Ghosts”: