Adrian Tenney – Badlands, Los Angeles

“I did definitely feel like for the most part very taken care of by that [punk] community, mostly when touring. I was really blown away by the hospitality of the people in that community. Giving you food, giving you a place to sleep, always doing their best to make sure you get paid. It’s a lot of work. I know. I’ve done it for people here. When people do that for me in other cities, it just feels like the best thing. It makes you feel very loved.”

Adrian Tenney, Badlands

It was a bit surreal to be in LA when I was – the city was experiencing its first real consistent month of rainfall in nearly 10 years, and every time it rained, the water very quickly swelled onto city streets into small urban rivers. The Women’s March was happening the same weekend as a major thunderstorm and still some 750,000 people marched in Los Angeles alone. It was under these cold and uncertain conditions, that I had the joy of chatting over hot hibiscus tea with Adrian Tenney.  Adrian’s been in punk since her teens, playing drums for many different bands over the years. Currently for her solo project, ‘Badlands,’ Adrian writes, play all the instruments and sings on her record – she also does all the tracking and production.

 

Adrian is a multi-instrumentalist, an illustrator, an activist, a horticulturalist – just a damn rad person. Adrian lived in Toronto early on in her teens, but moved with her family to California by the time she was 15 years old. Her home has a drum kit, a piano, a standup bass (that’s currently lying down), a component of a gamelon, a gong, guitars, pedals, shakers – and home made instruments. I was in awe.

We had a frank chat about making music and learning about our voices in punk and aggression. We spent time discussing the context of the world we live in now, (I visited her the day after the Trump inauguration), and how making music and art helps make connection and community. The day also featured a lot of eating including freshly made marzipan, (which is surprisingly delightful) and her mum Lauren’s fresh homemade bread, with maple butter -so so so delicious and chicken and veg tacos with fresh made corn tortillas from the local spot just down the street.  Here’s a few transcribed snippets from our conversations:

*NB: Adrian is not, as the photo suggests, a cat. ‘Chicken,’ the cat, is standing in for Adrian in this photo.  Chicken was a great addition to our interview, providing cuddles and kisses throughout a dark and rainy day. 

Queer Rock Camp: 

“I saw they started a queer rock camp. I thought I’d apply [as a volunteer].  They accepted my volunteer application. It was one full week, every day. I did it last year. The bands got way more political this year over the first year. These are young teens most of them. I learned so much from them. I’m not surprised I learned a lot from them, I just never really knew what to expect.  I feel like I just needed to be around people who were talking about things that I wanted to talk about. That really happened. Sometimes at shows, conversations never got serious. I wanted to talk about real things and that happened [at queer rock camp].”

Punk and seeing/hearing different voices: 

“I’m thinking now about the individual people that had an effect, that I was listening to…and oh that’s really cool, that’s something I’ve haven’t seen anyone do before, and it’s really cool that you’re doing it unapologetically, and if you can do that, I can do that. You can be who you are. And you can make that up as you go along and you can change your mind at anytime about what that is, and if people have developed this idea of who or what you are, it doesn’t matter cause you can still change it at anytime. You’re on the right track guys. Keep doing this.”

Adrian’s thoughts on The Punk rock Uniform:

“The mainstream cultures’ perception of punk is the [punk] uniform…and  oh you’re not gonna listen to authority – it’s so different from everyone’s individual idea of it. It’s funny cause it’s such a relatively historically new term and it’s changed meanings so many times, that it’s like someone could be – oh you did that? – That’s very punk of you! or something, and it doesn’t have to mean you are wearing a studded belt or something. It could mean you…you did what you said …and fuck you telling me I can’t do that cause I think it’s going to be a good thing to do.

 

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