A New Breed of Women in Rock

Take a Pixie, add a Muse, throw in a Perfect Disaster and you've got the Breeders.

That's the name of the spare-time recording identity cooked up by a couple of the rock underground's leading ladies: bassist Kim Deal of the Boston-based Pixies, and guitarist Tanya Donelly of Rhode Island's Throwing Muses. Englishwoman Josephine Wiggs, who recently left the group the Perfect Disaster, was brought into the fold for the recording of the new album "Pod."

Its obsessive lyrics and minimalist music (Deal wrote all the originals this time around) tip off its art-rock origins--but that wasn't Deal's concept at all the night she proposed the Breeders to Donelly while dancing and drinking after a Sugarcubes show in Boston.

Recalled Deal, "I said, 'Ooh, Tanya, I got a great idea--we need to make a dance song and we'll be cool and rich. We'll be disco queens.' "

Said Donelly, "We started it and figured out we couldn't do it for beans. We had no idea what to do. But then Kim had all these songs and we just decided to do that instead."

The longtime friends were both in Los Angeles recently while recording albums with their principal bands. Sitting in the shade at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills--their choice for the interview--the two agreed that the Breeders was a morale booster for players who are usually subordinate: Donelly to her stepsister and main Muse Kristin Hersh, Deal to the dominant Pixie Black Francis.

"It was an experience that definitely made me feel competent about my playing," said Donelly, just 23 and already an eight-year veteran with the critically hailed Muses. "It made me feel like an individual musician. That I wasn't just part of the Muses microcosm. I feel more comfortable, I don't get nervous anymore."

Though the Breeders used male drummer Shannon Doughton, their strong female identity places them in a tradition that Deal is surprisingly dubious about.

"I just don't think women in rock do very good," she said. "When I see somebody screamin' on the stage, I want them to at least be able to beat me up before I'm gonna believe them. They've got to have some element of dangerousness about 'em.

"Chrissie Hynde, she pulls that off really good. . . . Patti Smith is good because she doesn't look dangerous and there's no way she can beat you up, but she's the type who would lay in bed with you and then stab you while you're sleeping. . . . She's kind of crazy, so I would believe her. Debbie Harry I believe for some reason. But girls singing boy rock usually doesn't come off right."

And what are the Breeders doing?

"I think we're doin' dumb boy rock." Deal turned to Donelly. "Do you think we're doing boy rock?"

"No," answered her partner. "I don't think the lines exist anymore. It's pretty integrated as far as I'm concerned. . . . When people say there's this whole wave of women in rock, I think, 'When have women not been in rock?' It seems like we've always kind of been here."

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