Lit at Ladyfest Ten: Interview with Zoe Howe

5th Nov 2010

Zoe Howe

You might remember a while back we reviewed How’s Your Dad? – Living in the Shadow of a Rock Star Parent. Well, we caught up with its author, Zoë Howe, to ask a few questions before her appearance at Ladyfest Ten.

Tell us about yourself and your work?

I write books about rock ‘n’ roll, my first book being a love letter of sorts to the wonderful and inspiring Slits (Typical Girls? The Story of The Slits on Omnibus Press), I play drums and percussion / sing with Anne Pigalle and Viv Albertine respectively and broadcast music radio through wonderful places like Resonance FM.

What can we expect from your event at Ladyfest Ten?

I will be reading about The Slits from my book Typical Girls?Ari Up RIP.

One of the main aims of Lit at Ladyfest Ten is to promote and celebrate writing by women. What advice would you give to women finding it tough to carve out their own niche?

I would say stay true to yourself and what you believe in, find some cast-iron inspirations (they don’t have to be other writers, they could be any artist that is free-thinking, indomitable and speaks to you) and don’t let anyone try to undermine your confidence in what you are doing, subtly or otherwise!

There are plenty of people who will try to be patronising to keep you in your place or make you feel like it’s not your place to say or do things and so many of us are brought up to be people-pleasers, it can take a while to break through that wall but it’s so necessary!

Gender doesn’t have to have anything to do with it if you rise above that conditioning, just do what you believe in, laugh off the bollocks and don’t buy into it!

What has your experience been as a woman working in your field/in the industry?

I have been having a joyous time working hard, following my dreams and drawing from the inspirations – both male and female – around me when I need strength (The Slits, Keith Levene, Vivien Goldman, Gavin Martin, fantastic people like that).

It sometimes takes me by surprise how even in this day and age we still come up against the attitudes I am alluding to in the previous question, there can be a less direct and more insidious version of old-fashioned chauvinism that rears its head, and the purveyors can be male and they can also be female!

There can be a kind of competitiveness and I do sometimes get taken by surprise by that, but to paraphrase something Vivien Goldman once told me, you just have to have a light laugh, laugh it off and keep powering through and enjoying what you’re doing! We’re here to enjoy ourselves after all.

How important is sex, sexuality and gender to you and your writing?

It’s important of course, it’s always there, and it’s important to me to try to debunk entrenched attitudes and conditioning, even within ourselves. I’m working on a fiction project that is very much concentrating on that, with humour and love, but there are some serious issues in there.

Deep down I think we know we’re the powerful ones … that’s why (some) men have tried through history to keep us down!

For our audience who might not be able to make it to Ladyfest Ten, what authors and projects are you into at the moment that they can investigate instead?

So many things, the amazing Anne Pigalle, who I am privileged to provide some dark cabaret drumming for on live dates (next on 11.11.10, Le Montmartre Bistro, Essex Road, London N1, just before Ladyfest).

And The Slits of course, Viv Albertine and I still collaborate musically, and The Raincoats are also doing very interesting things indeed.

I am also reading a lot of Situationist essays which I find fascinating, particularly from the point of view of psychogeography. My radio show on Resonance FM was all about regional music and psychogeography, very interesting, quite mystical!

Many thanks to Zoë for answering our questions. She will be reading from Typical Girls? at the Lit at Ladyfest Ten finale on Sunday 14th November.

Post by Alex Herod