Humanist and Spirtualist Little Annie wants “all people to be afforded the freedom to practice whatever belief they want, including the right to be atheist”
The musician Little Annie has belonged to the top of the New York’s avantgarde scene for over thirty years. She first performed in the Czech Republic in 2010 on the premises of Malostranska beseda in Prague. Her second concert in Prague took place in September 2012 and Gender Studies, o.p.s. was at it. Before the concert, Little Annie gave us an interview concerning her opinions on the situation of women (not only) in the music business.
You have been on the scene since 1977 – what changes have taken place since then as regards women musicians?
There were very few women in the business at the time and you certainly didn’t see women in the engineering or production side. But there were women scattered on the scene and they had high visibility – fierce women. Now there are many, in all genres. Also, I guess as a woman (girl, I was very young), certain behavior that was considered “wild man” for the men was considered “a mess”, if you were a woman. But I think the landscape in so many areas of life is different; there is more of a variation across the spectrum right now.
Is music still a platform for women’s rebellion? Is the rebellion a feminist one? What does feminism mean to you?
I think it is a platform for rebellion in general. Whether people use it as such is another story. For me anyway, I never set out to be a rebel, but I seem to be one by the way I have lived my life, for the most part doing what I wanted to do (maybe not always the wisest path, but it is just my nature). It has come at a price, but all choices do.
I refuse to accept the word “no”, whether that “no” be based on my gender, race, age, beliefs, height, orientation to the world in general, and want that right for EVERYBODY.
When I was in school the girls were to do what they used to call home economics, which meant learning to do house work. I love doing my house work, always have, but nobody could make me go to a class for it. So I insisted I wanted to do ‘shop’ which is what the boys did, metal work carpentry. I was not allowed, I made a fuss, but no way. So I didn’t do either. That was a decision not to play the game. Or rather play my way. I’m bringing up a not life or death example – something pretty banal just to show the equasion. That’s an instance where the fight may define myself as a feminist, but it it was also a fight for boys to take housework classes, if they wanted.
So ultimately, I’m a humanist, and I see myself as a child of God, and I want all people to be afforded the freedom to practice whatever belief they want, including the right to be atheist. I’m a spiritualist, which for me is the place where all the rest stems from. Which doesn’t give me license to ignore the sufferings in this world be they a woman having acid in their faces by spurned husband, the people of color who are sitting in prison, for the crime of being black in the wrong place, the gay teenager who will commit suicide, because they can’t bare to be persecuted one more day, the lonely stranger down the hall who thinks that no-one will know or miss them if they died. The dog that will be tortured by some sadistic bastard, the honest policeman or police woman who might get shot dead. The parents who fear their child will be killed by a stray bullet, or by a cop who shouldn’t have been given a gun because they weren’t screened correctly, the homeless who have no place to escape the sun, the transgendered person called “freak”. The sex workers murdered in Long Island by a serial killer, because these women are treated as disposable, their murders have been met with a whisper. The child that is forced to take shop when they rather take Home Ec, and visa versa. The brokenhearted who believe they will never smile, those who suffer from depression whom some well meaning but misinformed friend will tell “cheer up”...
Embrace the wounded, which is all of us. A rebellion of joy as an example that our choices every day resonate.
The stage is a blessing in the sense that it affords you a voice, and I hope that voice speaks to all and maybe lets them know that their voice is heard. All the world is a stage, but life is no cabaret.
BUT having said, when I was growing up, we were told we could be secretaries if we were lucky, work in a factory, be a sales girl. Much has changed and I’m afraid that some younger women take rights that were hard fought for, for granted, which is a mistake, as we can lose them, if we forget how hard we fought to get them. There are still inequalities. And I think there’s a confusion between equality and sexual “freedom”. When I hear women in the media or the street talking about vibrators and objectifying men and themselves I find it as I do when men talk about women like that. “Sex in The City” are not role models, if so, God help us all. Also what’s with women all posing on magazines covering their breasts with their hands? I mean there’s nothing wrong with it, but I recently looked at the newstand and 80 percent of these women were posing as if they were nude. It doesn’t make you a better singer, actress, etc; Merryl Streep and Michelle Obama don’t do it..and meanwhile, I hear women use the word “slut” or “whore” about other women...what’s that about? Or when I worked doing syrnge exchange with sex workers, I actually had other women with "decent" jobs ask: “How could a prostitute be raped?” Like anybody else they said no.
We must learn to be good to one another.
Crass are looked at as models of grass-roots punk cultural activism by many. How was your collaboration with Crass and how did it influence you?
I met Steve from Crass on my doorstep in New York and later met the others and never planned anything (I was 17 yeras old, planning was not in my agenda). Crass influenced me in the same way my parents did. Question everything. Everything influenced me (and still does, or at least it does when I keep my eyes, ears and heart open). Our collaboration came about when Penny Rimbaud read some poems I was writing and a couple became Crass songs.
Where have you drawn your models and inspiration from?
I have no formal education as I left school at age 14, so my learning was done on the streets. So Malcolm X influenced me as did Crass, as did Gospel Music, Frank Serpico, Lenny Bruce, as did the junkies and thieves on the corner...Endless conversations around the dinner table and a library of books at their home was my school. And then when I graduated there and started working with Adrian Sherwood & Kishi Yamoto and became part of the ON-U Sound family and was in the studio day after day with some of the greatest reggae, funk and beat musicians on the planet, I learned music.
Czech bands like the Plastic People of the Universe or Uz Jsme Doma played a benefit for Pussy Riot. How do you feel about Pussy Riots’ plight?
The idea of these women being imprisoned is a human right violation, and as terrifying as all the thousands of others worldwide who are jailed or executed for their ideas, life style, sexual orientation, race and political ideals.
Is the Internet undermining or helping musical expression in your opinion? How usable are platforms like MySpace for you?
It's 50/50. You can make contact with your audience and visa versa and to an extent cut out a lot of the nonsense in the middle. But then again, artists like everybody else need to keep a roof over their heads and bootlegging has become the norm. My music used in Levi’s went viral and Lord only knows how many millions of hits. I’m happy people hear it, but albums, tours need finacing from somewhere. But in general it’s a great tool, and that outways the downside. The old music biz undermined creativity much more than bootleggers.