Grace McKagan, lead singer of the band The Pink Slips, talks Ziggy Stardust, glorifying aliens, and not putting labels on herself.
Photo by Andrew Macpherson.
HOW WERE THE PINK SLIPS STARTED?
We just kind of started on accident. It started when I was just playing guitar and singing with a friend who visited me while I was in Seattle. We started writing songs casually and it just evolved more. Eventually I decided I wanted to have a full-on band. Over the course of about year it has formed into an actual band with an EP and video. Once it started I got really into it and I am really determined to follow through.
HOW HAS YOUR FATHER, DUFF MCKAGAN, PLAYED A ROLE IN SUPPORTING YOU AND INFLUENCING YOU?
He manages our band. For example, we’re going to be playing at the Smell during Thanksgiving break, so he’ll call the Smell and figure that out. That’s pretty much it. I don’t write any songs with him. He’s an influence in the sense that he is so successful, and he’s my dad – I inherited that same ability. I watch videos of Guns N’ Roses, like Arena 1999, and I’m just like, “Wow, I can do that if he did that.” I don’t seek his approval or have him control our band or make us sing about certain things.
WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST MUSICALLY?
Someone who has inspired me personally is Isaac Carpenter. I write all my songs with him and he’s the drummer of Awoelnation.b. I wrote my first song with him. Like, I’ll have an idea in my head and I’ll say it to him and he’ll start playing it and it’ll be exactly what I’m thinking of. Not only that, he’s one of my best friends. It’s kinda weird cause he’s 35, but I guess when you connect with someone it’s just a really natural relationship. Someone else who has really inspired me is David Bowie, especially his Ziggy Stardust character. He crosses so many boundaries and doesn’t think twice. He had a voice and was so subdued to society. Also Kathleen Hanna, Debbie Harry, and Alice Cooper. Each of them had an artistic vision and wanted to create an experience for their audience and send a powerful message.
YOUR ENERGY ON STAGE IS INSANE, AND SITTING HERE WITH YOU NOW IT ALMOST SEEMS LIKE YOU HAVE A SPECIAL CHARACTER USED FOR PERFORMANCES. DOES THIS OTHER PERSONALITY HAVE A NAME? HOW WAS SHE CREATED?
Well, I’m actually thinking about coming up with a separate persona because I grew up doing musical theatre. I’m still trying to find that other side of myself on stage. I also don’t like to say my last name either because I don’t want to be labeled as “Duff McKagan’s daughter” or have people correlate me with him. He wasn’t a singer at all, we do completely different things and have completely different types of music. It’s just easier to put on a different persona, to act like you’re something more confident than you actually are and I find it easier to make people understand my emotions and lyrics through that character. I love glorifying the underdog.
DO YOU HAVE A ROUTINE THAT YOU FOLLOW BEFORE SHOWS?
Ummmm, I don’t really like to. My drummer likes to do a prayer before or meditation and I always opt out of that because it makes me really uncomfortable. Usually we do a sound check and I just hang out with my band members. When I go on I just make sure I have water. Every show is different from the next. I just kind of do it, you know?
YOUR NEW EP, SAY L’OR VENUS, MAKES MENTION TO CUTE THINGS LIKE ALIENS, ANIME, AND KITTYS YET YOU KEEP A RIOT GRRRL VIBE TO YOUR SOUND. I KIND OF FEEL THIS WAY IN SOCIETY WHERE I LOVE CUTE THINGS LIKE THAT BUT I AM ALWAYS FIRED UP AND STICKING TO MY POINTS OF VIEW AND OPINIONS. WHAT WERE YOUR INTENTIONS BEHIND THE MAKING OF THIS EP?
So that stuff, the whole anime/kawaii stuff etc., was me trying to transpire the idea of aliens. All of these things are alienated in society and from my personal experience, like people at my school that think “that stuff” is so weird and stereotypes it as a hobby, or it’s for outcasts and I really want to glorify these things.
YOUR SONG CRUELLA HAS A LOT OF DEEP EMOTION AND FEELING BEHIND IT, WHAT WERE THOSE SPARKED BY?
It’s my favorite song to play live. It is so personal and I love to get into it. It’s a sad song and I think I can make the audience see the depth I have rather than just being some cute blonde chick on stage. I don’t like to be put into a box. I am not a boy or girl, like I’m neither. I wrote that song about this one girl who made fun of me for having a band. I took what she said about me, turned it into a song and made it more abstract. It was my “fuck you” to her.
YOUR STYLE ALSO HAS A LOT TO DO WITH YOUR IDENTITY. WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN FASHION?
I would definitely say Ziggy Stardust because I love sparkles and really flamboyant things. Debbie Harry, I love vintage and cool stuff. Jessie Jo Stark, I love Chrome Hearts. I would say Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain even though they are totally cliché. I really like Alex Chung’s style. I usually shop at vintage stores. Like, I hate Urban Outfitters, haha.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE FROM THE PINK SLIPS IN THE FUTURE?
A lot of touring and stuff. A lot in New York and a lot in LA and on the west coast. I really want to put up more videos, but I don’t want to put just anything out there, it has to be cool.