Mickie Rat of Spitting Roses – “It’s punk rock therapy”.

Spitting Roses is a Sacramento, California based band, spawned from The Phlegmings (90’s Riot Grrl Band) and Rosey Palms. Mickie Rat plays drums and sings.

How did you first get in to music? Who or what turned you onto punk rock?

My mom loved Broadway musicals and my dad loved Opera, so there was always music playing in my house when I was growing up. My mom would always be singing some show tune or another around the house, and my dad worked at a rock venue in LA for almost my entire life, and I would hang out at work with him at the Universal Amphitheater (or Gibson Amphitheater as it was later called) and watch the bands from backstage and think how exciting it would be to do that. I’ve wanted to be in a band for as long as I can remember. Robert, my best friend in high school in the 80s turned me on to the Ramones, B-52s, Devo, Kraftwerk, and lots of other cool music. Growing up in LA listening to the Rodney on the Roq show introduced me to tons of other cool music too.

What got you started playing music and how old were you?

I didn’t actually start playing music until I was 22. I tried to take music lessons in grade school where they start you out with a recorder, but I got frustrated because I kept getting told that I wasn’t using the right technique, and trying to learn to read music was really difficult for me. I can figure out a song just by listening to it, so I could play the music correctly, but constantly being told “you’re doing it wrong” when I was playing the right notes with my own technique was frustrating. When I was in college in 1991, I discovered The Germs and the ROIR “Germicide” cassette and realized that these were people that were making up their own rules for playing music. I thought if they could do it, I could too! I started a band called The Secretions with my friends DJ and Dave, and basically taught myself how to be in a band with that band.

Have you always been creative?

My mom tells me that I was writing short stories when I was 7, so I guess that’s a yes. If I couldn’t create things, I would lose my mind. Creating is the best cheap therapy you can get.

How did Spitting Roses come about?

From 1993-1995, I was in a band called The Phlegmings with Julie Bruce, my girlfriend at the time, and Anna and a few other friends. We played out for about two years, including a nationwide tour in 1995, but then called it quits after that. A few years ago, we decided to try to start playing music again with Julie, but she eventually had to move on to other obligations so we got Anna’s friend Kerry to play bass. Meg just recently joined on keyboard and that’s added an extra layer of awesome.

How did you become a drummer? Are you proficient in any other instruments?

Proficient is a strong word, I probably wouldn’t use that, but I also play bass, and can kinda play guitar, but I haven’t played guitar much so I’m not great at it. My method of learning instruments is usually based on whatever’s needed at the time. In the Secretions, we couldn’t find a bass player so I learned how to play bass, even though I’d never played bass before. In the Phlegmings, they couldn’t find a drummer, so I figured I would make myself learn drums, also having never drummed before. It was pretty intimidating to learn to play the drums because you have to do so many different things with all of your limbs simultaneously. Around that time, my late friend Mikel Guis (an amazing drummer) gave me the best advice at that time. All he said to me was “If you can dance, you can drum.” Once that connection was made in my brain, it all suddenly made sense and I wasn’t intimidated by it anymore. I’ve never taken music lessons of any kind, and my technique is probably atrocious, but it works for me, and I’m having fun playing in a band with my friends. That’s all that really matters to me.

What makes a good Spitting Roses song?

It’s more of a who than a what, and that who would be Anna. She writes all the songs, and they are like no songs I’ve ever heard or played, and they are so beautiful to me and so much fun to play. A lot of her songs are about personal struggles or past traumas, which for me are things that make really good and powerful punk songs. Anna and I relate on that level because as songwriters, the best way we’ve found to deal with the bullshit in our lives is to write songs and scream about it. It’s punk rock therapy.

Who are some of your main influences? Who can we hear in your music?

Personally, my biggest musical influence is probably Joan Jett, both for her songwriting and her tenacity. She writes the best pissed off queer-positive punk rock songs and never lets anyone tell her what she can’t do. I’m also very influenced by the American band called X (with John and Exene) and honestly pretty obsessed with them.

As for influences on our songs, I’m sure Anna has the best answer for this because she writes the songs. I hear a lot of things in our songs, a heavy Sonic Youth influence for sure, but also some Heavens to Betsy and Bikini Kill, Breeders, Tori Amos.

What artists with a message have made you change in any particular way and what was that change?

I don’t know if any artists have actually made me change, but The Subhumans and Citizen Fish certainly made me think more about what was going on around me, and encouraged me to challenge the status quo and not just accept things because there’s so many people saying “that’s just the way it is” or “there’s nothing you can do about it.” They’ve taught me that you can change your own personal world just by challenging the way you think.

What was the first music you bought, and what have you bought more than once in different format?

The first record I ever bought was the “Take My Breath Away” single by Berlin in 1986. I loved that band and Terri Nunn’s voice. Not terribly fond of the movie it came from, but the song was great.

The album I’ve probably bought the most times in the most different formats is the X album “Under the Big Black Sun.” It’s my favorite X album. I’ve bought it on vinyl once, on CD twice because I wore out the first copy, and I also own it in MP3 form and on cassette.

What is your most prized music collectible?

I’m gonna list two things that tie for first place because I can’t decide. The first one is my 1977 Greco fender copy P-Bass, it was my first bass and it was given to me by the very first Secretions guitarist who was killed by a drunk driver shortly after we started the band. The second one is kinda weird, and it’s probably not worth anything, but it’s a cassette tape from my college years that I used when I worked at KSSU, the CSU Sacramento student run radio station. Me and some of the other DJs used to like to try and go to shows and get station ID recordings from our favorite bands. I don’t remember exactly what year it was, early 90s sometime, but Nirvana was opening for Dinosaur Jr. at The Crest Theater and I was able to get backstage and get a station ID from Kurt Cobain, who was super nice.

Top 5 albums or songs released in the last 12 months and all time?

I dunno if I can come up with all 5.

In no particular order:
¡Las Pulgas! – ¡No Pasarán! EP; They Might Be Giants – I Like Fun; Killer Couture – The Needle from the album God Forgive The Children. There’s a song or two off of the Gary Numan “Savage” album that I really dig, I know that was from 2017 but I didn’t discover it until October 2018. That’s all I can think of right now for a top 5, i know that’s only 4, but whatcha gonna do? As for the top album or song of all time, I don’t feel qualified or even able to decide that and it would take waaaaay too long to figure out. Like Anna said, there’s so much. How does one decide that?

Do you still buy cd’s and records or mostly use streaming sites? Which sites do you use?

I buy CDs and/or records mostly only if I’m at shows and I like the band that I just saw. Compared to my friends, I have the smallest vinyl collection ever, and most of that is made up of local bands or bands that I’ve seen. For everyday music listening, I usually use streaming or songs I’ve loaded onto my phone. I’m using YouTube Red right now for streaming.

What does 2019 hold for Spitting Roses?

Hopefully playing out of town more, meeting new fun bands, and recording new songs with Pat Hills at EarthTone.

Categories: Interviews, News

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