Idols: Joan Jett and Girl in a Coma
In 2006, Girl in a Coma already had a cult following in their hometown of San Antonio, Texas, thanks to Nina Diaz’s powerful, passionate voice and the group’s catchy Smiths-inspired rock tunes.
By that November, SíTV recruited the band for its new “life of a Latino rock band” series, Jammin. For the finale, the Girl in a Coma members — 20-year-old singer-guitarist Diaz, her 28-year-old sister and drummer Phanie, and 28-year-old bassist Jenn Alva — were sent to New York to play a club. While rehearsing, in strolled Joan Jett, one of their heroes. “We were like, ‘What the hell? What is she doing here?’” says Nina Diaz.
Jett watched the band for a few songs, decided to pop by the show later, and before the end of the night, had signed the band to Blackheart Records. “I thought they’d be great to have on Blackheart, because we really want Blackheart to be a place where girls feel comfortable to come play their music, because it was so hard for me,” Jett says.
The group’s working on its follow-up to its Blackheart debut, 2007’s Both Before I’m Gone, and Diaz says, Jett has become “a rocknroll mother figure. We know if we’re ever in a bind or if we need any advice, we can ask her.”
When it comes to her onstage look, Diaz, a bandmember since she was 12, says she’s inspired by Gwen Stefani, burlesque, and ’50s and ’60s vintage. “When I’m offstage, I’m in jeans and a T-shirt,” she says. “When I’m going onstage, I like to put on crazy makeup and fix my hair however, to have somebody do a double-take, like ‘What the hell is she wearing?’”
Jett, too, came up with an in-your-face style at a young age, inspired by ’70s British glitter rock, Suzi Quatro’s leather, and her local bondage store. “It was partly glitter, partly punk, and partly street wear.” These days, Jett still rocks the latex and leather but offstage, “I pretty much bum around in jeans and a T-shirt.”
What inspired you to start
What made you decide to
sign Girl in a Coma?
Why aren't there more girls
I'm trying to figure out why people have such issues with girls in rock bands. You see girls singing pop music all over the place, in the press — you're saturated with that image of women in music. That’s what you think of when you think of women in music; it’s pretty much a girl with a microphone singing some pop songs.
Rocknroll is very sexual. To me, the whole "roll" thing implies the sexuality, so a girl playing guitar and drums — certainly playing aggressive guitar and drums or sweaty rocknroll — is out of the norm and what girls are expected to do in the role that they play. Initially, they're looked at as kind of cute — "Wow, isn't that different?" Then after that initial thing wears off, then it's like, "What are you really going to do with your life? You can't be serious." When you are serious, it can threaten some people, and it can annoy other people. I can't really quite put my finger on it.
I can't figure out why there would be such resistance to girls playing rocknroll all these years later. It's just surprising to me that it's not more of a mainstream thing of girls playing instruments. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
Do the young women in Girl
in a Coma remind you of yourself when you were a teenager in the Runaways?
Do you see yourself as
a mentor to the bands on your label?
Where does your sense of
style come from?
It was strictly a dance club. They played all the British glitter singles that were coming out of England that, at the time, American kids never got to hear. Things like T. Rex or "Rebel Rebel" by David Bowie and Gary Glitter, Suzi Quatro, the Sweet, a lot of bands American kids never heard and still aren't really familiar with. It's a lot of heavy drums, handclaps, big choruses, that sort of three-minute very catchy rocknroll stuff. The music really turned me on; I would listen to the records and learn how to play guitar to these singles. But the style also turned me on, lots of big platform boots and flashy clothes, lots of satin — really actually kind of horrible, when I think back on it.
Then I was a big fan of Suzi Quatro, and she was a bass player and played rocknroll, so I was thinking, "She's having hits in England, so girls are playing rocknroll over there. If she can do it, then I can do it, and there's got to be other girls here in Hollywood that want to do it." Suzi wore a bit of leather, so I started wearing a bit of leather — it kind of evolved out of that.
And there was this store I would hang out at in Hollywood called the Pleasure Chest. It was a sex- equipment store, lots of latex and dirty T-shirts and bondage belts and lace slips. I would get a lot of my clothes from that place — T-shirts and belts and things. My style evolved out of all that stuff — it was partly glitter, partly punk, and partly streetwear.
Is your style different
NINA DIAZ OF GIRL IN A COMA
Were you a big fan of Joan
Jett before you met her?
How did you feel when Jett
and Kenny Laguna asked you to be on Blackheart Records?
Do you have a hard time
being in a "girl" band in the male-dominated rock world?
I'm sure right now there's probably a girl out there playing guitar in her garage and she has big dreams. Its just [that] some people are afraid to take a chance, not wanting to face the negativity. You can do anything if you push the negativity aside. There's no need to waste time.
How do you describe your
Usually the most outrageous thing I have is this silver dress with this Marilyn Monroe print on it and silver boots that I bought at a thrift store, and I wear my makeup with red on my eyes. Sometimes I like to wear dresses onstage, sometimes I go for the '50s look with rolled-up jeans and white muscle shirt. It changes, depending on the environment and how I feel. But no banana suit yet. I am hoping one day to have banana suits.