Krista Ciminera of Carnal Knowledge

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Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by: Maggie Owsley

Krista Ciminera was the drummer of the now defunct, Brooklyn based all-female hardcore band, Carnal Knowledge. At 24, she picked up the sticks and taught herself to play, determined to be involved in this awesome musical project her girlfriends were forming. Krista’s steady, fast, driving beats are reminiscent of Minor Threat and her DIY approach at drums reflects the same spirit embodied by the band as a whole. Although Carnal Knowledge’s time was short lived, their contribution to hardcore/punk music is prominent and surely left a lasting impression on all who saw their live show or came across their demo tape. Krista is drumming in a new project currently in the works, and in the meantime she’s keeping busy playing guitar with the all-girl Brooklyn punks, Zombie Dogs.

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Name: Krista Ciminera
Bands you are in: Current guitarist of Zombie Dogs. Former drummer of Carnal Knowledge and Handjobs. Former bass player in Speakeasy.
Where are you from and where do you currently reside? Commack, New York and I currently live in Brooklyn, New York.

Tom Tom Magazine: When and why did you decide you wanted to play drums?
Krista Ciminera: In the spring of 2007 I heard that a few women I was acquainted with were starting an all-girl hardcore band (which later became known as Carnal Knowledge).  I approached them even though I didn’t know them that well and they said that they had everything but a drummer.  I wanted so badly to be in an all-girl hardcore band that I told them I would learn.  I’m not sure whether they believed me at first but I always felt as though I could play drums if I really tried.  I always found myself tapping along to the music I was listening to and I thought, “I could do this.”

Tom Tom Magazine: Are you self-taught or trained?
Krista Ciminera: Self-taught.

Tom Tom Magazine:
Do you think being self-taught is an advantage or disadvantage for your playing?
Krista Ciminera: I think it can be both. For the kind of music I play and the scene I’m involved in, I think it can be an advantage. It’s genuine and unique and translates well into DIY punk. I listen to and play music in a scene where you don’t need to be a great musician to be recognized. But on the other hand, I don’t know a lot of drum technicalities. And that makes me insecure about drumming live and getting compared to male friends who drum. A part of me would like to have started drumming a decade ago with lessons, but a part of me understands that my style is unique to my experience as a woman in punk and there is something definitely special about that.

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Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by: Maggie Owsley

Tom Tom Magazine: What kind of drum set do you play?
Krista Ciminera: I never owned my own drum set.  There’s a practice space in the basement of my apartment building and my friend, Daniel, left his kit down there and that’s what I learned on.  It was pretty haggard- most of it was held together by duct tape, there were broken heads, a three legged chair that was supported by an old typewriter- it was quite an experience.  At one point there was a piece of sheet metal tied to the bass drum that acted as a ride.  But I took anything I got because I wanted to learn so badly.

Tom Tom Magazine:Who is your favorite drummer?
Krista Ciminera: Well, I took a lot from and studied Toby Vail. That’s how I started to teach myself – by playing along to Bikini Kill songs. That’s actually how I learned to play guitar and bass, too.  They’re all self-taught and their songs are accessible. Lately I’ve been into the drummer of Grass Widow, from California, and Ashley, the drummer of Ingrid and Layers/Quake.  They’re two women drummers that are really interesting to watch because they have very unique styles.

TTM: What are some of the highlights of your drumming career?
KC: There were a lot of little victories, like going from the high hats to the ride and back.  Or doing a long roll and keeping it going.  I was always alone practicing in the basement and whenever I did something new like that I would kind of look around and be like, “did you see that!?” Gaining confidence in playing live, so that I could play without my legs shaking with fear, that was such a great feeling.  Even though we were a new band, Carnal Knowledge played some big shows, like with Pinhead Gunpowder and Dillinger Four, which made me feel honored and spoke to the fact that I think people really wanted to see us and thought we were important.

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Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by: Maggie Owsley

TTM: Have you ever experienced sexism as a female drummer?
KC: Yes. There were a few moments during shows. Not only am I self-taught, but I was learning the mechanics of drums as I was playing shows. Because I didn’t have my own drum set I struggled with setting up and breaking down kits in the beginning. I’ve had people at shows ask (mind you, only men would ask), ‘Are you sure it goes that way?’ or men in the crowd would just move my equipment without asking, assuming they knew a better way to do things.  This never made me feel good, especially right before I’m supposed to play because I’m really nervous anyway.
There was one incident in particular where a guy said that I didn’t know how to play drums. I took offense to a certain degree because I’d only been playing drums for about 3 months at that point and it wasn’t a secret that I was a new drummer.  But it did really upset me. Him and I talked about it at one point – he said the only reason that people would like our band was because we were women and in some ways I didn’t want to argue him about it, in one way I was like, yeah maybe people do like our band because we’re women and that’s not a bad thing. We’re doing something different, we’re doing something unique and I’m not sorry that people are bored with the attempts of privileged men in bands because it’s the same thing over and over again.  I’d rather own that than try to run from something like that.  The only problem is that when he says that people would only like our band because we’re women, it’s pejorative and meant to cut us down in some way.  When I say it I’m reclaiming it and celebrating it like how it should be.
It also bothered me because being in the punk scene, you’re pretty much playing music with men who have been playing music for almost a decade longer than you have because they’re encouraged to play music, and it’s intimidating to go up against all of these bands that not only have been playing music for that long, but they’ve also been in several bands already.  While most guys got to get out their embarrassing first attempts when they were teenagers, I’m in my mid-twenties making a fresh start.

TTM: How do you feel about the current state of women in mainstream music?
KC: I’m pretty removed from mainstream music so I don’t know how well I’ll be able to answer this.  When I think of women in mainstream music, a lot of singers come to mind.  Not that that’s a bad thing, it takes a lot of talent to sing, but I wish there was more variety.  Being accepted as a woman in mainstream music usually requires women to play out a passive, feminine, hetero sexuality, which is creatively limiting. I would like for there to be more women who write and perform their own music.  Like M.I.A., for example, she does mostly all of it herself and that’s inspiring.  Because there aren’t many women who are playing instruments, like really getting their hands into their music, and I think that would make it much more realistic to young women because they would only have to rely on themselves to create music.

TTM: What about female musicians locally?
KC: Immediately in Brooklyn, especially in the last year, there has been a lot of women playing. Whether its all-girl bands or girl fronted bands. That’s really inspiring. It’s really cool that there can be shows now in the DIY punk scene that are either all-women shows or there’s a woman in every single band, when I felt like a few years ago that wasn’t even a possibility. It’s really exciting! There’s also a lot more women booking shows and taking control of what’s going on. I mean ideally I always want there to be more and more women involved. It’s cool that all of a sudden there seems to be all of these women musicians around, however when you look at the grand scheme of things we’re still definitely the minority. But I do see that something is changing – women feel a lot more comfortable taking a larger role in the scene. I just wish it happened earlier!

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Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine photo by: Maggie Owsley

TTM: What are some of your favorite female musicians/bands out right now?
KC: Hmm…. right now? Red Thread, Cheeky, Condenada from Chicago. The Homewreckers, Little Lungs, Death First, Grocery Thief, Circuits from Australia, Mika Miko, Religious SS Disorder, Sick Fix from DC.

TTM: What are your future plans for your drumming career?
KC: I’m not drumming in any bands right now but it’s something I’d like to do in the future.  I’d like to get a drum set, I think that would improve my drumming greatly.  It would be nice to play on a kit that I was familiar and comfortable with.

TTM: What are some of your goals as a female drummer? Do you think you’ve accomplished any so far?
KC: My goal as a female drummer is to get to a place of confidence.  Lack of confidence is something that holds back a lot of women from doing things that they want to do.  I’ve definitely gained a lot more confidence since I began playing drums.  I want to get to a place where I’m not worrying about what anyone else thinks of my drumming.  I’m definitely on my way there.

TTM: Carnal Knowledge was not around for very long, but made such an impact on so many people who you came across. What do you think stood out about Carnal Knowledge? Why do you think your band was so influential to women in particular?
KC: It’s weird because when Carnal Knowledge was around, I don’t think any of us really understood what we meant to our scene and the people involved.  Looking back on it, I can see that we were kind of the first generation of something that is much larger now. The fact that we were an all-girl band was what stood out about us the most.  We purposefully decided to have the band be all women because it made the band a statement in itself. The fact that we played loud, fast music as women was also unique.  I wanted to do that on purpose.  At the time, there were no all-girl bands in our scene.  Most of us were making our first attempts at our instruments or being in bands, so I think our efforts were really genuine to people.  It was obvious that we were trying hard and really putting ourselves out there for the sake of women in our scene.
We used the fact that we were women to write songs about issues that affected us personally, with sexism being a central theme.  We wrote songs that not only analyzed mainstream society, but also brought it down to a very personal level and commented on sexism within our community.  I think that’s why we connected with the women in our scene because our songs were an outlet for all the girls who felt the same way we did, but didn’t have any other immediate bands that spoke to them.  For example, I wrote the song “Why” after an awful, sexist encounter with a prominent, all-male hardcore band from Brooklyn.  It bothered me that men in our scene can be sexist without any accountability because of the power dynamics that exist within DIY punk and hardcore.  I feel that a lot of times, the only thing separating men in our scene from typical, meat-head frat guys is that they can play guitar and that this gives them some sort of “pass” to act however they want.  But it felt great to write a song about why I’m so pissed all the time with our scene, and why it’s so important for me and my women friends to be in bands.  I think we showed a lot of women that you don’t have to be great musicians to write a good song, and that you don’t have to have years under your belt as a musician to make an impact on people.

Interview by: Angela Boylan of Cheeky & Each Others Mothers

Exclusive Tom Tom photos by: Maggie Owsley

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