Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 10, 2007 · Page F4
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Star Tribune from Minneapolis, Minnesota · Page F4

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Issue Date:
Friday, August 10, 2007
Page F4
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F4 • SCENE • STAR TRIBUNE • FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2007 KATASTROPHY WIFE Web: katastrophywife. Sound bites: For audio samples, go to or call 612-673-9050 and enter 5390 for “Heart On” or 5391 for “Run to the Hills.” Katastrophy (still) in the making Slowly, carefully, Bjelland is turning her release valve back on. She has a new manager/ drummer/boyfriend, Adrian Johnson, who has lived with her for almost three years. Johnson had no experience managing or drumming, but apparently he’s what she needed to bounce back. “Since Adrian started working with me, everything has gotten better,” Bjelland said. “The best thing is, I can trust him.” Last month, they issued a new single, “Heart On,” under the moniker applied to most of Bjelland’s post-Babes work, Katastrophy Wife. The new track — a love song that’s anything but sweet, based on Johnson’s two heart operations — is available on iTunes, etc., or as ø KAT FROM F1 an EP. The EP includes a fun, bombastic cover of Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills.” At least for two songs, there’s reason to believe that Kat really is back. She plans to record a full album this winter in Australia, where she was courted by a small label, RiSH Records. “I’m ready,” Bjelland said firmly, even naming the album’s title: “Pregnant.” “I have a lot of new songs. They’re good — heavier than most of the Babes songs, and the lyrical content is more advanced. I’ve had time to plug a lot of info into my brain.” There’s that pesky little detail of putting together a band, though. Various lineups of Katastrophy Wife have fallen apart, including the first one with her second husband, Glen Mattson, and the last one with members of the all-female British punk band Angelica. Bjelland currently has designs on the frontwoman of the Aussie band Magic Dirt, named Adalita , whom she hopes to bring to town this fall to rehearse as a second guitarist (she doesn’t want a bassist). Whatever happens, she said, “I’m not going to make the same mistakes again.” Bruised violet She usually refers to him as “That Person,” the Englishman whom Bjelland accuses of derailing her career. His name is Kurt-Pagan Davies , and he became her manager around 2000 when Katastrophy Wife was getting started. “He saw his target and he went for it,” she said. She claims that Davies did not pay her money she was due from two Katastrophy Wife albums, 2002’s “Amusia” and the barely released 2005 disc “All Kneel,” plus a few Babes in Toyland collections. She also blames him for driving a wedge between her and Babes co-founder Lori Barbero. The rift with Barbero arose when Bjelland and some of the women in Angelica toured England in 2002 as Babes in Toyland without Barbero’s consent — a tour that she said was all Davies’ doing. “I started the tour, and that’s when I saw that all the posters said ‘Babes in Toyland’ [and] nothing about Katastro- phy Wife,” Bjelland said. “I had to keep playing. So we played more Babes songs or else people would throw tomatoes at me.” Angelica singer Holly Blackwell, whose band had an album produced by Bjelland, said in an e-mail from England that her own band had complaints about Davies similar to Bjelland’s. Angelica broke up in large part because of him, she said. Davies, talking by phone from England, called Bjelland’s accusations “rubbish.” He said Bjelland was involved in setting up the controversial Babes tour and tried to make him take the fall for it. Davies said he and other musicians had a hand in writingthe songs on “All Kneel” but “she didn’t want to give us credit.” “It’s amazing to me that such a strong, intelligent, forthright woman can act like she was fooled so many times,” said Davies. “She basically saw me as her glove puppet. And now I’m her scapegoat.” Barbero doesn’t believe Bjelland’s explanation of the pseudo-Babes tour: “I’ve been hearing lines like that from Kat for years, and I stopped buying them a long time ago.” They’ve have talked on occasion in recent years, but Barbero said their friendship “has been permanently severed.” “I suffered through years of her drug problems and lies,” Barbero said. “I love her and wish her the best, but I won’t endure her anymore.” As for Bjelland’s own assessment of a proper Babes reunion ever happening, she playfully quoted her son’s slogan: “Nothing’s impossible!” “I blame myself for not paying enough attention to the business part of it, but that’s why you get a manager,” she said. “It’s such a dumb old mistake, going back to old blues musicians. It’s like, ‘Here, get her drunk and have her sign this.’ They still do that.” Bjelland said she has been sober and drug-free for several years, and her “crazy” mental state has gone away. On the afternoon of the interview, she was in the kitchen making some yerba mate tea — which she swears has healing powers — while her son, Henry, and boyfriend/manager/drummer were upstairs watching “The Wedding Singer.” She laughingly recounted the day she and Johnson showed Henry some old Babes videos, like the 1991 clip from the Reading Festival where Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Sonic Youth are watching from the side of the stage. The 8- year-old got bored fast. “But once in a while, we’ll be in line at a store or out somewhere, and he’ll be like, ‘She’s famous, you know?’ ” she said. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, right.’ ” Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 Former bandmates Lori Barbero, top, and Kat Bjelland fell out after Bjelland toured in 2002 under the Babes in Toyland name. money+business Find it on Sundays in the paper and online 24/7. 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