interview is from the source
Beth Ditto is vomiting. Not in the good way, either. But with Gossip on tour in support of its breakthrough release, “Music for Men,” the singer can’t really take a day off. Produced by beardy studio wonder Rick Rubin and featuring a staggering disco-punk single called “Heavy Cross,” the album’s chances of measuring up to the singer’s huge persona are certain. The Portland, Ore., trio plays tonight at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. We spoke with Ditto by phone last week.
Q: When you were throwing up earlier, was it the good kind where you got too drunk, or the bad kind, where you ate too many fish sticks?
A: Probably the bad kind, where I had a virus. I don’t know if there is a good kind. Maybe if it’s before you go to bed, but definitely not when you wake up. Actually, now I have a really bad sore throat and a head cold and a fever. It’s been a crazy ride.
Q: Hey, it’s a great excuse to lock yourself in a hotel room and watch bad TV.
A: I wish I had a hotel room! We’re touring in a bus, which is better than a van. But it’s stupid cold in here. Earlier I sneezed and shot all this snot all over my hand, and I was in the top bunk, so I couldn’t even move. I had to wait for someone to walk by and I was like, “Please, somebody give me some toilet paper!”
Q: You need a Neti Pot.
A: I don’t think I could do it. I never put anything in my nose, ever. But I did put a rock in my ear when I was in day care.
Q: I’m thinking we could somehow spin this into another great rumor. Do you read all the crazy things people write about you?
A: I never read anything. I think the one way to stay sane and maintain your faith in the world is not to read what people write about you. I haven’t even looked at my Wikipedia page.
Q: It says you’re from Arkansas. How did you ever get out?
A: I knew I was different. I knew I was gay since I was 5. I had been a self-professed feminist since I was 12. But I was trapped in this Christian hell. One day my mother’s co-worker’s daughter showed up with all this stuff she had taped off MTV, mostly Hole. Through her I met all these really rad kids and discovered punk music and riot grrrl.
Q: Now Rick Rubin is producing your albums. Does he really have a bird nest in his beard?
A: No. The rumors are not true. But he does have a really great beard. He actually approached us. Like everything else in my life, it was extremely fateful. He has a reputation for being really hands off, but he was there every day and very validating. He gave us a lot of confidence, a lot of advice. He tried to teach me about keys and notes and octaves, and I told him, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Q: Do you ever secretly wish you could sing like Tori Amos?
A: I love Tori Amos. As a kid, I was always told I was too loud and took up too much space, so I really resented my voice for a long time. And then I started listening to punk music and all the women had these loud, crazy voices. What bit me in the ass is I didn’t have a punk voice. I had a conventional voice that was really loud. It wasn’t until two records in that I realized I had a good voice.