Every musical generation produces a few visionary artists that not only define the parameters of their particular era but also continue to create relevant and thought-provoking work that sends ripples of influence through successive generations. Kathleen Hanna has been that kind of musical and cultural beacon for the past two and a half decades, from her role in launching the Riot Grrrl movement with Bikini Kill in 1990 to her self-avowed radical dedication to feminist principles to her ongoing pursuit of her creative ideals with The Julie Ruin.
Hanna’s tenure with Bikini Kill has been well documented. The band’s UK tour with Huggy Bear was the subject of the documentary It Changed My Life: Bikini Kill in the UK, and Hanna was featured in the docs Don’t Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl, which detailed her childhood conversion to militant feminism, and Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker? More recently she was the focus of Sini Anderson’s 2013 documentary, The Punk Singer.
After Bikini Kill’s amicable 1998 break-up, Hanna recorded a lo-fi bedroom project under the pseudonym Julie Ruin, then co-founded Le Tigre, which expanded on the sampled Electronic aspects of the Julie Ruin recording. Le Tigre experienced significant acclaim and success, but Hanna left the band in 2005 after her advanced Lyme Disease diagnosis, shifting her attention to volunteering at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls as well as teaching and studying at New York University.
Six years ago, Hanna revived The Julie Ruin as an actual band, featuring former Bikini Kill bandmate Kathi Wilcox on bass, cabaret artist Kenny Mellman on keyboard, Sara Landeau on guitar and Carmine Covelli on drums. The quintet performed intermittently before releasing the song “Girls Like Us” in 2012, and its debut album, Run Fast, the following year on Dischord Records (Dischord co-owner Ian MacKaye produced the first Bikini Kill EP in 1991).
The Julie Ruin’s proposed 2014 tour was canceled when Hanna’s health forced her into three months of intensive treatment. Last year, Hanna announced she was finally asymptomatic, and began work on new material that would finally emerge as the latest Julie Ruin album, the just-released Hit Reset, which bubbles with the B-52s' melodic effervescence and bristles with Public Image Ltd.'s antagonistic joy. Kathleen Hanna's commitment and passion may be stronger today than it was two and a half decades ago and The Julie Ruin is the latest musical manifestation of her indisputable dedication and brilliance.
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