One Drummer One Question: Janet Weiss

Janet Weiss1

Illustration for Tom Tom Magazine by Aidan Koch

One Drummer One Question is a new feature from Tom Tom Magazine. The idea belongs to drummer Lisa Schonberg of Explode into Colors. She will ask several drummers one question. This round she asked Janet Weiss. Janet Weiss has drummed for Sleater-Kinney, The Jicks, Stephen Malkmus, Bright Eyes, Junior High, The Shadow Mortons, The Go Betweens, Sarah Dougher, Elliott Smith, Gold Card, The Furies, and Quasi.

Tom Tom Magazine: Music is now easily accessible, and it seems like everyone is in a band.  Even though there are plenty female drummers, it seems like they are popularly perceived as an anomaly.  Do you think that the way female drummers are treated in the current media exacerbates or betters this situation? (blogs, weeklies, zines, album reviews, interviews, college radio, podcasts, magazines, tv).  If you’ve had any media coverage, how do you feel about how you were represented? Do you think you would be approached differently if you were a man? How would you ideally be portrayed in various forms of media?

Janet Weiss:
Current non corporate media such as weeklies, zines, blogs, definitely helps the way female drummers perceived. The more images the mainstream sees of women at drumkits, the less threatening they will be. Society traditionally doesn’t encourage women to be loud, primitive, aggressive. These properties are crucial in the drummer’s world- they can not, and should not, be avoided. For those of us who grew up without conventional expectations, drumming seems natural. I don’t wear high heels and I’m good at sports… I can easily make up my mind and be a leader-type in most situations. These are threatening qualities for women to possess. These are not the women we see in advertisements or on TV shows when we’re young, and these are the images that haunt us when we try to create new ones.

We got a lot of media coverage the ten years I was in Sleater-Kinney. We were very careful about how we were photographed … we made sure we weren’t portrayed as weak, or helpless because we weren’t. We never liked sitting down in photos, or looking passive. Photographers often wanted us to be playful and sweet, and to style us in clothes that weren’t ours like we were dolls. I’m not sure guy bands get that same kind of treatment. We wanted to look like the Stones, to be cool, to be tough, to be heroes. Why don’t women get to be heroes?


Sleater-Kinney with Drummer Janet Weiss in the center

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