KRISTIN KONTROL on paving a solo path by overcoming personal negativity

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KRISTIN KONTROL
Welchez takes on a new musical endeavor as KRISTIN KONTROL (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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Following the release of her debut solo album, X-Communicate, Kristin Welchez (aka Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls) sat down for a chat with The Current's David Safar about paving a solo path for her new musical endeavor, KRISTIN KONTROL, by overcoming personal negativity, writing affirming songs and opening for Garbage.

David Safar: What inspired you to take on a music project in addition to a band that you have released multiple albums and received great reviews with?

KRISTIN KONTROL: Well, thank you! It was not so much taking on a new project as just shifting into a new project. I started Dum Dum Girls in 2008. It was a home recording project, essentially. I got signed to Sub Pop surreally soon and put out six albums with them over the last seven years or so. I felt upon reflection after my last record and the touring cycle that I had taken it as far as I could go with it. I've always tried to evolve and expand on what I was doing musically, mainly because Dum Dum Girls is literally a step-by-step catalog of me learning how to write guitar and learning how to write songs. It wasn't like I sat down as was like, "This is what I'm going to do forever." It was, "I am a musician, I'm a singer, I'm a songwriter." At a certain point, if where I want to go doesn't really fit in with the archetype that Dum Dum Girls had become — because having a band with a strong aesthetic, both sonically and visually — is a great thing and at a certain point it can be a limiting thing. I've reached that point. I knew that if I put out this exact record [X-Communicate] as Dum Dum Girls, it wouldn't fly for a few reasons. It doesn't fit the context of what people expect, want – it requires a completely different type of band, and so rather than change everything and keep the name for namesake or branding or whatever — which I hate, and don't care about — it felt like the more natural approach to shake its hand, be thankful for its time [laughs], and move on to a space that I could continue growing with over the next however many years.

You mentioned earlier about being kind of pushed into the music business and the spotlight pretty early on, while you were still developing a lot of your own musical talents and figuring out how to be in a band and how to put a band together. In hindsight, what do you wish you had told yourself years ago when you were starting Dum Dum Girls?

Of course I wish my path to doing my own thing hadn't taken so long and hadn't involved so much struggle and trauma and reaching a point where I hated being in a band and I maybe hated music. That was essentially what prompted me to finally writing my own songs. Dum Dum Girls started very casually without any intention of becoming a career band. It was just, how do I repair my relationship to making music since it's the thing I love the most and it's brought me overwhelming negativity, at least at that point in my life. I value each step because I don't think I'd be here if I hadn't really learned by doing all the wrong things [laughs], but I wish that I had a more solid sense of self.

You're out on tour with Garbage, are you a fan?

I am definitely a fan.

What was that moment like when you found out that were going to be opening for them on tour?

It wasn't as dramatic as you might hope. It was a series of emails where it was like, "Dude, we gotta do this. How do I do this?" It involved emailing Shirley [Manson] directly, and being like, "Heeeeey!"

Seriously?

Well, Dum Dum Girls had played a few shows with them so we had casual rapport and she has always been really supportive. She's just, she's great. She's whip-smart, and she's hilarious and she's kind of everything that you want to encounter in a female musical role model and beyond. My backstory with her is that Garbage was my first concert ever.

Seriously.

Yes! Which my mom wouldn't let me go to, not because I was like five, but because she was really controlling and overprotective.

Where was the show?

It was in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, I can't figure out where it was exactly. It was either '94, somewhere between '94 and '97. I think it was their first tour, but it might have been their second tour. I don't sadly have a memory.

So mom said no.

Mom said no. Dad said, "I got this."

X-Communicate triggers the words ex-communication which has a meaning that could be taken in a lot of different directions, so what did the title mean to you and the song that you named the album after?

I grew up super Catholic, so that archaic idea of ex-communication of people's spirits or possession, or exorcist-style stuff. In this setting it is more referring to the things in your life that you are hanging on to that maybe you need to not hang on to. It's a pretty honest question of evaluation of where I am now, should I make this call, or should I keep trying. That wasn't what I was going to call the album actually, I had some more esoteric, stupid title planned. It was a typo in an email where my [artist and relations] guy was like, "Cool, so title." We were talking about metadata and I was like, "Okay, yeah, that's better. That sounds like an album title. We'll go with that."

"Show Me" is a little darker than the other parts of the album.

I think it's lighter.

You think it's lighter?

It was one of the earlier songs that I wrote that made it on to the record. And when I say early, I mean post-the 45 songs that didn't make the record, it was part of a batch that did.

Hold up, take a step back. 45 songs didn't make it the record?

I think I finished about 62 songs. The first 40-ish weren't completely demoed all the way because there was an element of self-awareness that they were not quite good enough. "Show Me" was I think the only song that I had any kind of intent with, and it wasn't so much, "I want it to sound like this. I want to use these production elements." It was more that, to me, I was like, "Okay, how about this: I have not ever done an affirming song." I've never done a song that could be understood simply with a message that is supportive or welcoming or. Like, what haven't I done that? [laughs] That's what I get out of music. That's what I need. I gravitate toward songs like that. Yes, of course I need the catharsis of really angry songs or really sad songs. That helps me process part of my emotional baggage, but it's the songs that make me feel okay that are the ones I always go back to. I was like, "I'm going to try to do one of those."

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