A Slit in Time

Ari and punk legends The Slits roll into Lawrence

Punk pedigrees don't come any more bona fide than that of Ari Up. Lead singer of the Slits-the seminal all-girl British '70s punk band that toured with the Clash and the Buzzcocks. If starting your own band at 14 years of age isn't punk enough, how about adding "step daughter to John Lydon of the Sex Pistols" to your resume and suddenly we have one punk as fuck Brit.

In 2006, 30 years after the formation of the Slits and nearly 25 years after their breakup, Ari decided to reform the band with orginal bassist Tessa Pollitt. On their way to the South by Southwest festival in Austin, the band will stop for an unlikely St. Patrick's Day show on The Replay patio. Ari graciously gave us a glimpse of her singular personality via phone-listen to the full podcast interview and Slits music below!

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Ten Million Pounds of Sludge

A Slit in Time

Punk pedigrees don't come any more bona fide than that of Ari Up. Lead singer of the Slits-the seminal all-girl British '70s punk band that toured with the Clash and the Buzzcocks. If starting your own band at 14 years of age isn't punk enough, how about adding "step ...

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lawrence.com: (our call evidently interrupted Ari watching political coverage on TV, so we went with it) Hillary and Obama?

Ari Up: I think that it's not a matter of preference - I think that it's a matter of life and death. I'm gonna throw something out at people that they may not have thought of. We can't have the Republicans win, obviously. No more Bush years we can not have it, right? I think the Republicans are voting for Obama because he won't be able to win as easily as Hillary. If she wins the nomination, she wins everything: We know what we're going to get with her, we know that she's an obsessed nerd and she's gonna help the suffering children or whatever. If Obama gets nominated - which is very likely - the [Republicans] are gonna throw even more dirt and people are gonna say the same thing they said about OJ 'we know he's guilty now.'

Past Event

St. Patty'O Show with The Slits

  • Monday, March 17, 2008, 12:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.
  • Replay Lounge, 946 Mass., Lawrence
  • 21+ / $5


I hadn't heard that before.

The frenzy that's happening with Obama there's gonna find more and more stuff on him once he's nominated. Then they'll say 'oh shit, maybe we shouldn't have rode it after all." They're all politicians. Hillary is the bitch we're gonna get, you know? They all don't mean as much as they say. I don't like any of them in person much.

In context of the band back in the days we were anti-politics, and never have related to politics or religion, really. They didn't support our vision, and they didn't relate to our thing. It wasn't in our world and we couldn't depend on politics to defend our cause, so to speak. Now it's not as much politics as it is life or death. A hundred degree turnaround, whether it's gonna be Obama or Hillary that will be a revolution in itself. We have to take it on.

Are you taking that on as a band?

No, no, no. Of course not. The band will always be a music band. We don't really want to be political. Though now we are a modern generation - we're aware that we have to take on causes as part of this world. The earth has to be protected, oil has to be out the door. Women's and children's rights have to be protected. There are two Americas. It's important that people take part. We're headed to Star Trek times, no more of that black and white shit. It's pretty severe still in America.

What do you think is or was the biggest misconception about your band?

The biggest misconception is that we couldn't play. We can play we kick ass!

Do you mind the term "girl band" or would you rather that be left out of the discussion of your band?

No I think it's very important! That's a good question - a polite question. It does get annoying when people think we were all political and anti-boys which of course we were not. We're very for boys. We are the first girl band and also maybe the first best girl band. So it has to be said that we are. There was The Runaways, but they were built by guys and there was a concept holding the guitars at the crotch and that sort of thing. We were of course totally unique in that we built ourselves to be ourselves and have artistic control. Jimi Hendrix didn't even have that.


Submitted photo

Ari Up (right) with The Slits.

Why do you think that it's still novel for girls to be in bands much less be good at what they do?

The Slits should never have been written out of the women's music history. Where are the women in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame? It should have been us. The Slits is where it started. There were many that came and acknowledged that, like the riot grrrl movement. They are the ones that got the Slits in the book of legends. We have a lot of debt to pay to the riot grrrl movement. Generally girls aren't able to move a lot because there's too much stigma about being politically correct and surviving as girls.

What would you say to a younger woman that was starting to play music?

They really gotta take in hand what we did. You gotta take part in being a revolution being a girl, and then everything you do is revolutionary. You cannot put boyfriends first, relationships first. You are married to music. You cannot put jobs first, you can't put anything first except for music. There are so many distractions for girls because it's all about 'oh, people say this or that, family my mother, my father, my boyfriend, my this, my that'. There are so many obstacles that make girls think they can't do it. Nothing wrong with having a baby on the road. Get a babysitter! There's too much to stop girls. And of course, put your style with it, your expression. If you want to be naked, don't be politically correct, be naked. If you want to wear a veil like a Muslim, do it. Do whatever you have to express.

What do you think is the most important thing that punk music and reggae music taught you when you were younger?

That's part of it. Reggae expressed so much revolution, like punk did. Free expression and talking about what you go through, what you relate to. Rebellious lyrics, everything mixed in one. Both punk and reggae really put everything out there.


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