Bonnie Schlegel
Interview date: 1/23/2011
Petworth, Washington DC

TP: So, do you remember the first time when you first heard about Kansas?

BS: The first time… you know, I don’t even remember. I know I was there. Katy was driving us. We were at some show previous, and we were in Katy’s van, which was our tour van. Which was a Plymouth-like van. I just remember it was the first time going to the Kansas house, and it was just like… where the hell are we going? It was back roads, roads that we hadn’t really been [to] before. Even though I’ve been to various parts of Virginia, coming to the Kansas House, in particular, everything looked industrial.

We were listening to June of 44, I remember that. I don’t know if we had just gone to a June of 44 show, but Katy was playing June of 44. And we were on our way there. And that’s my first memory of the Kansas House. I can’t remember what was going on, except that there was something going on.

TP: Were you guys in high school?

BS: Katy was I college. And see… that’s where I’m fuzzy. That could have been ’98 or ’99. You know what, no… that might have been my first year out of high school possibly. Did Katy mention any dates per say?

TP: I can’t remember. I think she remembered some of them. I think she tied a lot of Kansas to Positive Force stuff.

BS: That’s right. We must have been coming back from a Positive Force show or something to that matter. I feel like we did so much. Like, literally I went with Katy every weekend, and it was like we were going to some show. But it seemed like this kind of big thing, that there was this new place to go to see shows. It was somewhat in the area but we just haven’t been before. And I was like, what is that? And I just remembered that there was something going on, there was some purpose of being there. But what I’m really left with, from the Kansas House, are striking memories of people. Not necessarily remembering specific events. I remember Chris [Richards] was talking about Bombs Over Baghdad. I remember being fucking thrilled watching that. Because before I was into rock music or even played guitar, I used to listen to Outkast. So it was like, oh my god, there’s other people in the scene excited about watching this premier of Bombs Over Baghdad by Outkast!

But the Kansas House was the place where for the first time Katy and I put out our chap books. Which, my writing is embarrassing, to say. It was called The Firework Theory. That was like ’99 maybe? 2000 maybe, so I was 19. 18 or 19. Probably 19. But we put this book out of our different poetry. And Katy’s always been a writer so for me being a singer/songwriter—whatever– I was still too young to be good. I was too young to be good at any of that. So really putting out that chapbook was really my first time playing around with writing out the things I was thinking about, and the things on my mind. Both of our writings, back to back in our little book—the official release of that was at the Kansas House.

TP: Was it with Marc’s thing? Did Marc Nelson have anything to do with that?

BS: Marc Nelson… probably. Because that’s how we got to know the Kansas House. Actually, it would have been through Marc and Most Secret Method. Marc and Ryan. I remember having a conversation in the van, probably the first time we were going, about Marc and Ryan, so I’m definitely thinking that’s how our association to the Kansas House. Marc must have been doing something, and I remember hearing about Bob doing Punk-Not-Rock. So that’s the one particular thing that stands out in my mind. But I don’t think that was the first time I went to the Kansas House. That was probably like the second or third time.

TP: What was it like, and it doesn’t have to be a particular, specific show, but what was it like to see a show there?

BS: Like watching a show at your house! It really, it just… you were among friends. It was accessible. It was just like you were going out to watch your friends, have fun with your friends. I equate it with me and my family sitting down to play Trivial Pursuit, which is something we really freaking love. It’s not a big deal but it’s also fun at the same time. It’s probably a bad analogy. But… yeah, it just felt like every time I was there, if somebody was performing, there was already a previous connection there, so it was like something fun that your family was doing together.

TP: So Motorcycle Wars definitely played there.

BS: We definitely played there.

TP: You definitely played there!

BS: We definitely played there but my brain…

TP: Did Bald Rapunzel ever play there?

BS: No.

TP: Or were you done by then?

BS: Bald Rapunzel ended in 1999, and that was probably around the time I was going to the Kansas House a lot. It was right after that.

TP: How did Motorcycle Wars start?

BS: A conversation at the Galaxy Hut… but it actually might have first started at the Kansas House. I don’t remember if it was Ann or Erik Denno I was talking to, about how they were going to start Mr. Taste.

TP: I feel like what I remember of Motorcycle Wars happening, was Jason being like, Bonnie’s going to come over and play rums. And then Jimmy had bought this bass, and it was all sort of this organic thing. Do you remember anything about the discussion? Mr. Taste?

BS: Mr. Taste, or whatever it was… there was talk from Erik or Ann that J Robbins was going to be in it, this punk rock band. And I feel like I actually heard about Mr. Taste first, before the Motorcycle Wars. Before we… it seemed like right around that time, like a day later or two, all of a sudden, Jason was like, “do you want to play drums?” Or something like that. I don’t even know how the concept of me playing drums… maybe it just happened that there was a conversation between Jason and I that I really love drums and I wish I could be a drummer– my secret! Joe Easley being a very big, huge component of my love of drumming and inspiration. So I think literally there was a conversation that literally began between the Galaxy Hut and the Kansas House. And I think it was first with Jason and then all of a sudden, there was Jimmy and Clark. And how we even meshed, it wasn’t like we were all hanging out before, that’s the thing, that’s what was really bizarre to me.

bonnie copy
Bonnie celebrating at Kansas House, circa 2000.

TP: So, what was it like, do you remember playing shows there?

BS: At the Kansas House?

TP: I sort of remember the Motorcycle Wars shows based off the shtick that was happening.

BS: And that was all Clark.

TP: And that was the whole tin foil thing.

BS: I remember being there with Clark but I don’t necessarily remember a show. I mean, Jimmy has a flier up. I mean, did we really? And they know it… I drank. I drank 40 ounces after 40 ounces, but I never had these moments of forgetting shit. It might have been a little sloppy after a while, but I didn’t have these blackout moments. I was having fun throughout the night and swigging from a 40 ounce, putting it down, and having conversations.

TP: It’s funny, I really feel like that was the era of the 40.

BS: It was the cheapest mode of drinking and it’s terrible. It’s really embarrassing to think about how much I drank and what I drank because it was so cheap. It was terrible.

TP: What do you remember the house looking like on the inside?

BS: Inside… it was a lot cleaner than a lot of places where we played house shows at going on tour. I mean, to me it wasn’t like scrubby. It felt like the people who lived in it took good care of it. And I’m trying to think of who was living there at that point—Ann, Bob. Who else? I remember those two specifically and one more person. But I remember being over there when there wasn’t a Kansas House get together and remember.

TP: Like you would just hang out with people?

BS: Yeah, but only a few times. I was there for more like, hey there’s a show, party, come along. That was the capacity when I was there. But I remember just feeling like… I remember spending a lot of time on the porch. I smoked cigarettes, so I was outside quite a bit. To me, it wasn’t like looking back on the pictures, you know, hearing some of the falling apartness of it; or people talking about, unless I’m just coming from somewhere else with this. I keep remembering it seemed like it was in more disrepair than I thought it was. But you know, the beautiful wooden floor that your feet could feel when walking in. It was almost like everyone was respectful enough to be decent to the place that it just wasn’t trashed, despite everything else. The 7-11 across the street, or, like, I was driving through industrial central getting to there, when it seemed like there was no life.

TP: Speaking of the 7-11, what else do you remember being around that, or sort of the Clarendon area of Virginia?

BS: Well see that’s the thing. I hadn’t spent much time until after meeting Clark and hanging out with Clark, that was when I started spending more time in Clarendon, and Arlington and that part of Virginia. But I remember the first time going there, like woah, this place is kind of desolate. I got that impression even though we weren’t necessarily in the middle of nowhere. But if I had to get a pack of cigarettes, I remember the 7-11, or maybe they sold alcohol, which is why I went there. But it was like nothing else existed but the Kansas House. Everything else around it to me was just nondescript, not worth… not that it wasn’t worth noticing but there wasn’t anything there to notice.

TP: Yeah, it was just like—it was suburban. Ben Adams called it the Axis of Arlington. You had Now Music and Fashion.

BS: Right, right.

TP: And I guess Go! previously. You had Now Music and Fashion, Galaxy Hut, and Kansas. And Murky Coffee, too, I guess, eventually.

BS: Yeah, but to me those were the places that we kind of bounced between. And anything in between… and like I said—I don’t know if it was because I didn’t grow up there. I was always driving, from Maryland, driving to there, or with somebody else. I was just following people as we were going along, so none of the places stood out. It was the people.

TP: And you kind of said something that I think to me, is sort of the key in thinking about it was the idea of the support that was happening. And how, I feel like that is a huge element of what was going on.

BS: The truth is, that the Kansas House could have been anywhere. It could have been anywhere. But it was everybody there. Home is not where, but whom. The people who made the place what it is, that made it feel like it was a living, breathing thing. This was the place that was going to be like home. I always looked forward to going because it’s not just going to be like going to another show. It was going to be where it’s more intimate. We were going to be able to have great conversations with people who… where there is a mutual respect. I wouldn’t say anybody was talking to me with mutual respect because I still saw myself as this young kid.

TP: But I think in a way… the way Katy was saying that whole thing about the people you looked up to who were the elders, or the people who you were modeling yourself after, how accessible they were.

BS: Exactly.

TP: I don’t think that’s necessarily unique to that situation, because I think in a lot of art scenes that is possible.

BS: That’s the dynamic. Where there is this mutual respect and everyone is themselves, and there is this motivation and drive to become a better person, or add to your own character and learn and let it inspire you.

TP: And I think that’s kind of the support aspect of this. And when Ian was talking about it. Ian is like ten years older than me and I’m like ten years older than you.

BS: You don’t seem it!

TP: No, not ten years….

BS: I’m 31.

TP: So I’m 8 years older than you. That’s a large age span, between you guys and Ian– that’s 20 years. But at the same time you guys were able to be contemporaries. You guys were in high school and you opened for Fugazi.

BS: I know, that’s awesome! I keep forgetting that was a part of it.

TP: That ain’t nothing!

BS: It was a big fucking deal at the time. And to think back and to be a part of this, to be connected to this whole scene, Ian and Fugazi. That whole scene. That this existed. Early high school, when I was in really bad situations with people. I mean, this place was like, there’s a place where I’m accepted, and loved and appreciated and where I can just grow. And just be me. And even like, in earlier high school, to even know that a world like that existed? I was so shut out from people’s own individual characters and people doing great things. And coming into it, and realizing it was possible, that you can make your life, you can create what you want and see.

TP: That’s the thing about it that I think… making that possibility. I feel like that was the thing that was so important for everybody.

BS: Right. And you can bring ideas… I mean you’re right. You weren’t going to be shut down. It was almost like everything was up for fair game and ideas. And people… I don’t remember anyone being shut down. And even something like Motorcycle Wars or like the Dead Teenagers. At one point, it’s like, are we really gonna do that? Not that anybody would take it seriously anyway.

TP: Which then, everybody takes seriously. … Okay so I ask this question of everybody, and I always say that I don’t care how you define what the terms of the question are, so if it’s like a conglomeration of things, that’s fine, if it’s a specific moment, that’s fine. But what do you think was your most significant moment, defining significant and moment however you want to define those words, that happened either because of or at Kansas House.

BS… oh god… well that’s a very good question. You know what, my last memory, I fucking remember Clark. Just Clark and… I just remember, just… I’m sorry.

TP: It’s okay.

BS: It’s Clark that I remember. It’s my last memory, just being so stupid together and being so silly, and knowing that I was with someone who was like… way more outgoing than I was. He was so down with being himself and I think that’s what was so inspiring. But he was just so much like me in a lot of ways. We drank a lot. But we were so hungry that we went to 7-11 and we both gorged on 7-11 nachos, cheese and chili. And I’m like, nobody else does this. Nobody thinks of eating that crap– who knows what’s in it!

But my last… the last memory I have of that place, of the Kansas House, is that it’s a place, and there’s just people that I fucking love. I just feel like this is my community. This is where I’d be growing up. It’s a ton of, a culmination of conversations I had. Just you know, at times feeling awkward and young. And I was just looking around be and being like, oh this is just a part of the community I’m in. But I also feel like there’s still so much that I wanted to offer to it that I just wasn’t capable of at that point.

There’s a lot of conversations and I remember doing a lot of observing and listening. It was a place where I had conversations with friends. Where it just felt like home. Where it felt like, there were people that accept me even if I feel inadequate, there were people around me… I think of that memory of playing out in the front yard with Heidi and Joe and being silly. And just like these momentary conversations. But the one memory I have is that Kansas House was the place where Katy and I first put out our chapbook. And to me I think it was, I don’t take that seriously, but since then we put out another chap book that is extremely different and much better than what it was when I was too young and stupid to be talking.

TP: I think that in a way, I feel like it was the place where you could be young and stupid, but minus the stupid… it wasn’t stupid and it was okay if you weren’t young. Sort of being comfortable that you could do crazy things, and whether it was like, playing on the front lawn. It’s this moment where everything is in play, in a way. Whatever you want to do is cool. I don’t want to say everything… you are free to be at your most creative self. And express yourself however that needs to happen, that sort of allowed people to evolve. You guys put out another chapbook.

BS: It’s embarrassing to think, the couple that we had and the bullshit people must’ve been thinking like that girl is so fucking stupid. That’s how I saw myself doing that. But it was something that was taken seriously, something that we could do.

TP: And I think the seriousness was, that was legitimate. I remember thinking how I thought… you guys to me were doing all these things. There was the “oh my god these guys are in high school and they’re opening for Fugazi… that’s crazy!” I felt really inspired. Like, these girls are doing a label, and they are inclusive. They’ve got the spirit that is really important, and to me that felt really inspiring.

BS: And I would say for the process. There was respect for the process. You could put out something and it could be like, whatever… people supported you. And that’s a general statement of the scene in the mid to late 90s that I was a part of. And it’s also interesting to bring this up to because while I, like I said, with the course of becoming pregnant and going off in a completely different direction, leaving music and my whole world that felt like home to me and felt like my most comfortable, there w as a feeling that things were changing anyway. And I still don’t understand in what ways or what happened, or what the new Millennium brought on and just seemed like it changed.

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