Kill Rock Stars is an independent record label founded in 1991 by Slim Moon and based in Olympia, Washington, United States. The label has released a variety of work in different genres, making it difficult to pigeonhole as having any one artistic mission. Overall, though, the political sensibilities of the label can be said to be leftist, feminist and anti-war and the label has consistently shown a commitment towards underground punk bands and to representing artists in the Olympia, Washington area.
Moon initially started the label with the intention of releasing spoken word 7” record singles. KRS-101 (the label’s first release) was in fact a split 7″ spoken-word record with Kathleen Hanna and Slim Moon; other “Wordcore” releases followed. The first major release was a compilation of Olympia-area bands simply titled Kill Rock Stars (Stars Kill Rock and Rock Stars Kill would follow in the same compilation series) and featured Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Unwound, Nirvana and The Melvins. In fact, Moon has said that the label began releasing music because Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Unwound were too exciting to remain unsigned.
Although the label’s music has never reflected just a single genre or underground music movement, it is arguably most notable for releasing the work of various riot grrrl bands during the mid-’90s, some of which, especially the aforementioned Bikini Kill, generated a good deal of press attention. Other KRS releases in this genre includes albums by Bratmobile, Huggy Bear, Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17. The label continued its tradition of spoken word by releasing their first full-length spoken word LP Big Broad by Juliana Lueking in 1995. This was also the year that Elliott Smith released his self-titled solo LP on the label. Another milestone was the 1997 release of Sleater-Kinney’s third LP (and first on KRS) Dig Me Out, which garnered national press attention in Spin and Rolling Stone magazines.
Slim Moon: Kill Rock Stars founder. Worked at the label until October 2006.
Tobi Vail: Musician, zinester. Has worked at Kill Rock Stars since 1997. Runs mail order, newsletters etc.
Kill Rock Stars – An oral history
Slim Moon (on releasing the first Kill Rock Stars 7” single): In January, 1991, I was living with Greg Babior and i bought some watercolor paints and made a painting on the back of a Pontiac Brothers poster, a bunch of sweeping lines of color, a few splashes and a few words, the most prominent being “kill rock stars”. This was about the same time as when i spraypainted “Zap ’em back with superlove” on a big piece of plywood for a spoken word performance. When I applied for a business license I felt pressed to come up with a name. That poster was on my wall and it seemed like a good idea (especially since the first poem on the first record is called “Rock Star”.)
(On releasing the first Kill Rock Stars compilation) One night, I decided that a compilation of all the good bands in Olympia would sell pretty good if I could get it out by the IPU convention (August 1991). Later that night I talked myself out of it. The next morning Calvin called and said “So are you doing this compilation or what?”
(On releasing the first Unwound single) In 1991, Giant Henry’s last show was just about the funnest party/show I’ve ever been to. For the last song, they played their smash hit “Chris Jordan” for about half an hour. Eventually one of them got up and walked off but the other two kept playing. A member of the audience grabbed the unused instrument and joined in. After a while, all the members of the band had left but the song was still being played. It seemed like it went on for hours. The reason Giant Henry broke up was because Brandt wanted to quit. Later, the same three guys started a new band with all new songs. They called themselves “Cygnus X-1” (or something like that) before settling on Unwound. Their first show was incredible. All I could think was “These guys are ready already to make records, but nobody is gonna put out their records for years. It’s a damned shame.”
(On releasing the first Bikini Kill record) When Bikini Kill told me that they wanted me to put out their record, I wasn’t sure I was ready. I had a secret fantasy of building a record label, but I thought it would take like three years before I had something to offer to a big band. So I was floored when they asked me because it was way ahead of my schedule of how things would go. But they felt they could trust me because I was their friend. It was super exciting. I didn’t know that they were going to get in this vortex of riot grrl popularity with national press and everything. But I knew they were a really exciting band.
(On releasing the first Heavens to Betsy record) Heavens to Betsy was my favorite unexpected thing from the IPU convention. When Corin sang “My Red Self” from behind the drumset, she was so young and earnest, and her voice was so big, and the song was so powerful. It really moved me. When the opportunity came to reissue the Kill Rock Stars compilation on CD, it seemed like a shame to waste the extra space that a CD has, so we put some bonus tracks on there of bands that played IPU that I didn’t really even know about before the convention. This was my first contact with H2B and Corin Tucker.
(On releasing the first Elliott Smith record) Slim Moon: In 1994, I had been asked to be on this five-person solo-act tour called Pop Chord with Tammy Watson, Carrie Akre, Sean Croghan and Elliott Smith. The first night at the Crocodile in Seattle, I didn’t pay too much attention and people talked all thru Elliott’s set. Sean said during his set that it was too bad nobody listened to Elliott Smith – that they were all really missing out. The next night I listened very closely to Elliott’s set. I went out to the van and listened to his CD for the rest of the night until the show was over. I watched his set very carefully every time after that, rest assured.
(On working with Sleater Kinney) With Sleater-Kinney, everything became more than the sum of parts. From the very beginning, Corin’s voice and songwriting were very moving to me. Even from the time I saw Heavens to Betsy at the IPU. And it turned out that she and Carrie were mature, grown up, reasonable people to work with. It was really refreshing.
(On working with Mike “Sport” Murphy) There is some stuff that I put out because it just makes sense. It might not be my favorite, but it makes sense. Then sometimes I insist that we put out something like Sport Murphy, which doesn’t make sense at all. I’m moved by music that is personal and autobiographical and kinda corny.
Lois Maffeo: I dubbed Slim a tape of some band or lecture or something onto a cassette of demos that I had done with my friend Brendan in Washington, D.C. The next time I saw him he said, “Cool tape, but what’s all that Lois stuff on the other side?” I told him it was just some odds and ends that Brendan and I had come up with in basement recording sessions. His next remark was, “Well…if you think you wanna put it out….”
Justin Trosper: It has been interesting to see the label evolve from a sort of project to one of the biggest independents around. It’s pretty cool. Sara Lund: There’ve been good times and bad times. The best part [of being on Kill Rock Stars] is that we’re all friends and have been since day one. We were the first band on that label and have grown along with them.
Read the whole Kill Rock Stars timeline here.
In no order whatsoever – 10 of my personal favourite Kill Rock Stars releases
Elliott Smith – Either/Or
Comet Gain – City Fallen Leaves
Erase Errata – At Crystal Palacee
Bikini Kill – Pussy Whipped
Huggy Bear – Taking the Rough with the Smooch
Shoplifting – Shoplifting EP
Sleater Kinney – Dig Me Out
Xiu Xiu – Knife Play
Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control
Hella –Hold Your Horse Is
Tobi Vail discusses Bikini Kill:
Sleater Kinney – Entertain:
Elliott Smith – Angeles:
The Decemberists – Sixteen Military Wives:
Hella – interview and live footage:
Xiu Xiu – The Fox and the Rabbit:
Huggy Bear – Her Jazz:
Comet Gain – Fists In The Pocket:
Julie Ruin – Aerobicide:
Kill Rock Stars website: www.killrockstars.com
p.s. Hey. ** Dominick, D!!! Well, objectively, and not knowing the complications, emotional or otherwise, it does seem like nothing but a really great idea. When I moved to Amsterdam in the mid-80s, it was pretty rash, or seemed so, and my time there was a mixed bag, but I don’t regret a minute of it, and, you know, you won’t be stuck there if you don’t want to be there. So, yeah, it seems like a fireworks-worthy plan. I’m blocked from the NYT, but I have read some about what your government is doing, including the shocking diminishment of the rights of Hungarian trans, and he seems like a purely terrible fucker from top to bottom. There are a bunch of evil, ultra-stupid leaders around these days. It’s quite a rough time, but fuckers like him always end up losing. They’re always wrong, and they always end up deposed and they’re always considered sickos by history, and you just have to hope they don’t do too much permanent damage before people wake up, rise up, or however they end. Blah blah, but, yeah. I would say the French have done precisely the right thing so far. Things could turn, but so far it worked like a charm. Yesterday was my first day sitting in cafe, walking in the Tuilleries, eating a Japanese pastry, etc. and it was bliss. Didn’t make it to Chipotle yet. Maybe tonight, hm. Today … The great French art festival Manifesta is going to show our films ‘PGL’ and ‘LCTG’, and they want to do a presentation of my upcoming GIF novel, ‘Zac’s Drug Binge’, too so we’re working with them on the details right now. And more enjoying of enlivening Paris. And stuff. I hope your session went well. Obviously excited that you’re working on the new SCAB and feel so good about it. Gurochan is dead. It got killed, I don’t know why, except for, you know, the obvious reasons. It’ll probably come back at some point. It’s been killed three times and always has returned. But, for now, it’s gone. Love with a Roulé au matcha — my favorite and, as of yesterday, once again buyable/edible pastry — in its mouth, Dennis. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Interesting that you know Sarno’s films. I guess I should have figured you would. Everyone, The always up to the minute FaBlog is up to the latest minute via its new entry ‘It HAS Happened Here‘ ** kier, k-k-k-k-kier!!!!! Hey! Man, I’ve meaning to write to you for ages. Yeah, at a certain point I realised you weren’t gonna make it here. And here was pretty unfun until, well, yesterday. Great, come in October! Well, it all depends on if traveling is possible, and I fear the USA will be a huge mess for a long time, but Zac and I are intending to go to LA around Halloween to do some prep work/fundraising for our new film. But that might be a pipe dream. We’ll see. I would guess the TIHYWD shows won’t happen until next year, but I don’t know for sure. But stuff will be full alive here again by then barring an unforeseen backslide. I’m good, much better now that Paris is Paris again. The film fund-raising is slowed by all of this mess but we’re scheming and on it. I’m happy you rode out the worst of the shutdown in such a nice hideout. And that you’re back a little in your studio! Briefly at least. Hope you get to Sweden. Liseberg is great! It’s a really good theme park. Lucky you. Zac and I want to drive to Phantasialand in Germany as soon as the border opens. And we’re going to Futuroscope, which is about an hour from Paris, in a couple of weeks. And Asterix back too. I need amusement parks like crazy. I feel like I won’t entirely become alive again until I’m on a roller coaster. Wait, I didn’t see a link. Where can I see the drawings? Or maybe I can hunt them? So, so, so great to see you, my pal! I missed you! I’m excited to maybe see you this fall! ** KK, Hey! It has been a while. But time is weird right now, I can’t keep track of the days. I’m good, much better. Paris is getting close to feeling completely normal albeit with masks and lots of hand washing. It’s exhilarating right now. You graduated! Congrats! Whew. When does the workshop start? That’s cool. I haven’t played those games. I’ve been very games-deprived. Long, sad story. Are they computer based? I haven’t read ‘Machines in the Head’ strangely. I love Kavan. Let me know how it is. The chess/noise project sounds like potential central, obviously. Films? Mm, this and that, the new Benning, a couple of advance looks at films that aren’t out yet, … I’m blanking. We get movie theatres back in a few weeks. That’ll help. You have a great day too! ** _Black_Acrylic, Mm … unless you have a swinger family, probably not. Plus they’re not exactly ‘Citizen Kane’ if you know what I’m saying. I do like your ghost story premise. Take the time you need, obviously. Time isn’t money. ** Ferdinand, Hi. Paris is beginning to resemble the Paris you last saw. Bit by bit. Cigarette ban?! That’s fucking fascist. I would die. It’s not been an easy time to write. Nope. Now, music making, thats another story. Nice potential gear. Go for it. I like Bruno Dumont’s films a lot. Here’s the blog’s Bruno Dumont Day. His stuff varies in style. ’29 Palms’ is a bit of a wild outlier, but very good, I think. ** Bill, Wouldn’t have imagined Sarno being on your wavelength. Or mine, actually, and he wasn’t until I was prompted that way. Don’t know ‘Borgman’ at all. Hm. I’ll see if I can get on it. It’s not so easy over here sometimes. Thanks! ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Oh, that sucks. Zac and I hoped the scene with the boy crying and jacking off at the same time in ‘LCTG’ was a first. Oh, well. The absence of Criterion Channel over here is real problem. They keep saying they’re gonna open it here, but no sign of that yet. I haven’t seen ‘Obsession’ since its original release. Huh. ** Misanthrope, And then there are those who self-promote constantly, daily, like they think we will have forgotten them and their stuff in 24 hours, which, in many cases, I would love to have the chance to do. I find it shocking. For me, it’s the same with selfie addicts. We need to see everything you do with you mugging in the frame? There are people in my FB feed that post, like, 12 selfies a day. Get a grip, people. You’re not that interesting. I don’t need to tell you that LPS is at an age where getting caught stealing is not a fun situation. His whiteness won’t save him forever. ** Okay. Today I (re)present a lovely and considerable oldie post from the dead blog wherein the great writer Thomas ‘Moronic’ Moore introduces all ands sundry to the great Kill Rock Stars. Get acquainted, etc. See you tomorrow.