Kathleen Hanna Explains How Janelle Monáe Inspired Her New Record with the Julie Ruin

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Musical firebrand Kathleen Hanna has spent most of her career focused on the political, whether helping to spearhead the riot grrrl movement with her Bikini Kill recordings or questioning filmmaker John Cassavetes’ potentially misogynistic motives with Le Tigre. But on the debut album by the Julie Ruin, a group that sort of follows up Hanna’s late ’90s solo project Julie Ruin in a new band format, she’s turning her attention toward her personal life. As she worked on the Julie Ruin’s Run Fast – which finds her playing with keyboardist Kenny Mellman, drummer Carmine Covelli and guitarist Sara Landeau, as well as her former Bikini Kill bandmate Kathi Wilcox – she found her music becoming decidedly introspective. “I was writing subjectively a lot about my life, what’s going on with me now, memories, stuff that just cheers me up when I’m sad,” Hanna tells Hive. “I wasn’t trying to write an anthem for a generation.”

Still, longtime Hanna devotees will spot fundamental similarities between the full-length and Julie Ruin’s self-titled debut, which she released in ’98 as Bikini Kill was winding down. “It’s definitely built off of the same ideas that my solo project Julie Ruin was built off of, which is non-continuity and that every song can kind of be its own thing unto itself,” Hanna says. “We just let ourselves write everything that we wanted to write. We weren’t like, ‘Everything has to sound the same way.’”

With that in mind, Hanna says that as she wrote Run Fast, she found inspiration in the works of an artist from a younger generation: genre-fusion master Janelle Monáe. “Her record a couple of years ago [The ArchAndroid] was so amazing because every single song was different, and it felt like you were going on a really crazy ride and you didn’t know what would happen when you turned a corner,” Hanna enthuses. “We wanted that more than we wanted a central narrative. We tried to have a lot of variation on it.”

Run Fast is out September 3 via TJR Records.

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