The Origins of the Riot Grrrl Ethos

Interview with Marina Red for Frauen im Musikbusiness

Last year I was interviewed by German Magazine, Vinylkeks - Frauen im Musikbusiness
Thanks so much for thinking of me and featuring me on your site.  It was lovely talking to you. 

Hello, you’re publishing the Riot Grrrl & Punk Zine “Marina is Red”. When did you start it and how did it come about? Maybe you can tell us what exactly it is about and who you want to reach with it?

Well, it all started a couple of years ago. I was doing research for my MA dissertation, “Spanish Women in alternative hard rock music subcultures: Gender maneuvering through third and fourth wave feminism”, and I was encouraged by my Uni professor to keep a record of the interviews and information I was gathering. I thought the easiest way would be to blog about it and honestly, I only expected that my teacher and perhaps my Mum would read it. But as time went on, I realised that people were really interested in what I was writing about and it went from there. I then started getting offers from other publications who wanted me to write for them and pay me! It was like a dream come true. I’ve always loved writing and to get paid for writing about feminist music was unbelievable. As the blog grew, I felt that I was reaching many musicians and music fans who were, like me, a little sick of the mainstream music press. Whilst I love the old favourite bands, I don’t really want to read, every month, about a musician who hasn’t done anything interesting since 1979! I feel there is so much good music out there being made independently and it doesn’t even get a small review in a mainstream magazine. I find a lot of publications are androcentric and I very rarely see a woman on the front, never mind anyone who identifies with other genders. Did you know Mojo has only had a woman on the front of less than 8% of the magazines? (I counted and did the maths!) I decided that I wanted to make a magazine that I would want to read. I’d always been into ‘zines and I’d come across a collection of ‘zines as a part of my MA research and I thought that I’d have a go at producing one of my own. I’m no professional graphic designer, but I don’t think that is what ‘zine culture is about. It’s about using what you have and getting the message out there. People still love paper ‘zines and I guess I wrote something that people wanted to read and add to their ‘zine collection. Once I released my first ‘zine, people from all over the world started finding me and I felt that I became a part of an underground community. I was really inspired by the people behind ‘zines like Kamyzine in Spain, Vinyldyke in Germany and I Wanna Be Yr Girl from Brazil. We all speak to each other often on social media and I find them all really supportive of my work and I try to support them in any way I can. I truly feel like I’ve found ‘my people’ and I love being a part of the underground music and ‘zine community. So, I to answer your question, initially I wrote for myself, but I suppose there are many like minded people out there and now I write for them, hoping that they enjoy what I’m doing and I write to give a space for all the amazing musicians out there who are often overlooked by the mainstream press. You can find me at or on social media @marinaisred

You play yourself in the band The Dying Lights – is this your first band and how and when did you start? How would you describe your music style? Maybe you also remember your first concert. Where and how was that?

I joined the Dying Lights about six months ago. Their singer, Sheena, had left in summer 2019 to concentrate on her other band, Venus Rising. I’d been friends with the drummer, Glyn for years. We’d bumped into each other at a couple of gigs and I’d mentioned to him I was looking for a new band, so when Sheena left, they called me up. I met up with guitarist Derek and we clicked instantly. We had a lot of the same ‘off-the-wall’ taste in music and so it felt easy to write together. We were just starting to get a good set together when the COVID lockdown started, so I’ve not even done a gig with them yet. I’m itching for us to get out there and play our tunes live. However, just before lockdown happened, we managed to get our first single recorded, which will form a part of an album once the madness is over. I’m really proud of the single and think it sounds awesome. The drummer Glyn is also a really talented music producer and to work with such a professional is amazing! All the band members have years of experience and I love being a part of such a talented group. We all work on other projects, bassist Tim is just about to release a solo album and Glyn plays in a few other bands. It’s great when we come together to rehearse or record. I love creating music with my good friends.

This isn’t my first band by any means. I played my first gig – I even remember the date – the 28th January 1993! (Yes, a long time ago!). It was at the local college and I was in a band with my sister and a couple of friends. We did covers of The Pixies, Babes in Toyland, L7 and Belly (among a few others). We played to a crowd of about 100 and I was so nervous. I was only 14 and I looked out at the faces of all these cool grungy students and was terrified! However, the music took over and when I started screaming ‘You made my…Shitlist’ into the mic and hammering the riff out on my bass, the people started throwing their hair around, it felt amazing! I knew I’d found where I wanted to be.

Having been very much a part of the 1990’s scene – I went on to play in other bands and write my own music – I guess that The Dying Lights captures some of the 1990s energy. We are all really influenced by the 90s and the earlier punk scenes, so I guess that comes through in what we produce.

You are also doing a doctorate in a related field of “Spanish Women in Alternative Rock” – would you like to tell us a bit about that?

I would, but I’ve not started it yet. I’ve just been accepted to do my PhD at Manchester University and am still deciding whether to start this September or to defer my entry by a year because of what’s going on at the moment. But as I said earlier, I did my MA dissertation on a similar theme and I felt that 12,000 words wasn’t enough to cover the whole subject. I felt I’d only scratched the surface, so I’m hoping to carry on with the research. There has been so little written about Spanish Women in Alternative Rock on an academic level and I feel that their contribution to the subcultures in Spain have been overlooked. I hope to put that right.

Let’s be honest: Corona hits us to the core in the event business – how does it look for you and your projects for 2020? What will happen afterwards?

Obviously this has been a really hard time for everyone and on a personal level, it has been so difficult not seeing my friends and family. However, I always try to stay positive and when I realised I had a lot of extra time on my hands, I threw myself into creating the second issue of my ‘zine. I had so much that I’d written and experienced over the last year, that it came together quite quickly. I also did a full redesign of my website and put a shout out on social media to see if anyone would like to be interviewed. I know a lot of bands, artists, and people who work in the creative industries have been affected financially during this time, many losing their main source of income, so I felt it would be a good moment to offer them some free exposure and if it only means that one or two of my readers spend some money on their music or merch, then that makes me happy. I’m quite fortunate that I have worked from home as an online language teacher for a while, so the income from my day job hasn’t really been affected. I really just wanted to help creative people out as much as possible during this hard time.

I’ve also taken the time to work on my music production skills and while I am far from being professional, I have managed to put out some solo music. I did an EP called “Jack Daniels and Punk Rock”, which is really experimental and very influenced by Kim Gordon’s solo album. I have also released a single “Nevermind the Bollocks, This Queen Saved Herself” which is a bit of a hats off to the Sex Pistols, while also updating the theme to fit a more 2020 feminist angle. My 16 year old step-daughter, Mya, did the backing vocals and she sounds ace!! A Riot Grrrl in the making!!

Is there a particularly touching, great or even bad experience in your time with band and zine that you will certainly never forget?

After spending nearly 30 years in the music scene, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. But what most excites me is all the amazing people that I have met throughout the years. Going to Madrid in 2018 on a grant from University to spend a weekend at gigs and interviewing musicians was an unforgettable experience. Some of the people I met, like Paco Luque from Hora Zulu, are still my good friends and we get together for a drink whenever I’m in Spain. He was there that weekend playing with another band Fausto Taranto and after interviewing him in the bar across the road from the venue, he invited me in to watch the soundcheck and hang out with the band. It was like I had my own private mini-gig before the main show!! Then, just a few weeks later, back in the UK, I turned up at a sold out Alice in Chains gig to see if I could get in. My fella had hung out with AIC back in the 90s and they were one of my favourite bands when I was a teenager. Bass player, Mike Inez came out to find us by the stage door and got us in on the guest list! It was great hearing them catch up and reminisce about the crazy stuff they had got up to on the 1993 UK tour and hear some lovely stories about Layne Staley!

Also, on a professional level, I was headhunted by one of the press officers at Supersonic Festival, who had seen one of my other articles, to spend the weekend in Birmingham and write some reviews of the festival for the Lush Media channel. It was a great weekend and, being an experimental music festival, I felt that attending the event helped me to grow, not only as a writer, but also as a musician and music fan. The music that Supersonic curates is progressive and enlightening. The rule book of what music should sound like is thrown out of the window, and each band or musician brings something unique to the stage.

Marina at 17 holding tight to her new Rickenbacker

How do you think the position of women in the music business has changed in the last 10 years? Have you experienced a kind of “turning point” in your work?

Well, seeing my MA looked at how it had changed in the last 30 years, I could give you a rather long answer, but I’ll be as brief as I can!! Ha, ha!!

I grew up in the 1980’s when hairspray rock was at its height! I liked the sound of the dirty guitars and the rock beats, but I hated the wailing lycra-clad men with their misogynistic lyrics that focussed on groupie culture, and glamorised using women as though they were objects. They would proudly sing about their conquests, or talk about it in the press, like every notch on their bedpost was a victory for their masculinity. I cringed watching them play their guitars like they were masturbating, an extension of their penis, and just felt that the whole idea of what music was about had taken a very wrong turn.

When the grunge scene broke it felt like a breath of fresh air. The boys looked cool in their flannel shirts and combat trousers, some of them like Scott Weiland and Kurt Cobain even wore dresses on stage. At the same time Riot Grrrl was breaking through on an international level and I finally found something I could identify with. When I first heard Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, L7, Babes in Toyland etc I was just hitting puberty and every hormone in my transforming body screamed ‘Hell, yes!!!’ The 1990s were a great time to be alive and I lived it to the full, going to loads of gigs, playing in a band and partying in only the way a growing teenager can. I’d found a punk music scene in a nearby town and was hanging out with the coolest and weirdest people. We had a scene and I felt very much a part of it. I used to get stopped in the street by people who’d seen my shows and asked to scream…. It was a good laugh and I loved going down to my local venues and hanging out with my friends.

I lost touch with the scene a bit in the early 2000s as I was busy doing a degree then becoming a mum. Since I have got back into the scene though, I found that not much has changed for women. They are still fighting hard to find a space and get the recognition they deserve. In the 1990s we did a lot of the ‘gender maneuvering’ (see Mimi Schippers book ‘Rocking Outside The Box’), so as to be taken seriously as musicians. Before then, it was accepted for women to be singers, but if a woman wrote her own music or played guitar, they’d always get the same response…. People would say that they thought she had help from her boyfriend or they’d be vilified by the press (consider how Courtney Love was treated after Kurt’s suicide). They’d be asked to do topless photo shoots or journalists would go to their gigs ‘to see if they could really play!’ This is still happening today and it makes me so angry. I hear the stories of bands like ‘Hands off Gretel’ who are being subjected to sexual abuse at their own gigs and I really can’t believe that this is still happening. I applaud HoG’s Lauren and Becky for speaking out about it and I support them 100%. No woman should be sexually abused while trying to do a job, whether it be in a supermarket, an office or on a stage… Everyone has the right to say ‘no’. And no, fucking well means ‘no’.

How do you perceive the work of your male colleagues and are there areas where you feel disadvantaged? What do you think are the reasons for this?

We live in a Patriarchy. Cis white males have an immense amount of privilege compared to everyone else. Under a patriarchy everyone suffers and those that don’t fit into the cis white male category will always have to work harder to prove themselves and create a space for their talents. Still today, there are so many cis men doing jobs they are completely underqualified for (Just look at our world leaders: Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro, to name but a few!) while others get passed off for jobs they should be doing. I don’t like living in such a weighted society and believe wholeheartedly that everyone can benefit from equality. I love Catherine Mayer’s book Attack of the 50ft Women and love her ideas about Equalia (an idea for a future utopia where everyone gets a level playing field). I hope I get to see it happen in my lifetime, not just for me, but for my daughters too!

Do you describe yourself as a feminist and if so, what does that mean to you?

Absolutely, I am an intersectional feminist. I have done a lot of reading around feminism as a part of my studies and I believe that as people are becoming more educated on intersectionality, there is a chance that real change can happen. But for me, that change is too slow. I’m an active member of the Women’s Equality Party here in the UK and I stand for equal rights that celebrate each person’s individuality and the contribution they can make to society. I believe that fourth wave feminism, with intersectionality and use of social media channels at its core, is making a difference, but I still get annoyed when people think that women have equality or say, ‘well, it’s better than it used to be’. I just don’t buy it. Those in power can change things for everyone, but they choose not to. That’s why intersectional feminism is still relevant and still needed. It’s the -ism I most identify with!

What events in the future are you particularly looking forward to? Is there something you really want to experience, maybe a band, or a festival that you want to be part of in some way?

I can’t wait to do a gig with my band The Dying Lights!! And to go and see some bands again soon! I’m heartbroken that so many festivals and gigs have had to be cancelled this year and am looking forward to being a part of the scene again when it’s safe to do so. I’m also looking forward to seeing the world healthy and well again and hope that those very clever scientists can find a vaccine against this horrible disease. I’m looking forward to being able to jump on a plane and go and see friends throughout Europe and am really hoping to go to Berlin to find out about Germany’s music scene for ‘zine #003. (‘Zine #001 was about Madrid, #002 about Birmingham and I try to focus on a different city in each ‘zine).

Are there any other projects especially for women in the music business that you would like to recommend to our readers?

There are so many people out there who inspire me at the moment! I love Loud Women (UK) Fight Like a Girl Booking (Germany), Hell Hath No Fury Records (Manchester), Die Das Der Record Label (from Birmingham), Mujeres en Musica (Spain) and Indie en Femenino (Spain). I also love working my way through the plethora of female and LGBTQ+ bands that are on Bandcamp. I’m currently listening to Deux Furieuses, Bratakus, The Heroine Whores, Felicia and the Gammon Lumpz, Ava Adore, El Cassette, Genderlexx, Ode To Sleep, Passionless Pointless, The Empty Page and Big Joanie to name but a few! For me, the most important thing is to support these bands by buying their music and merch! The more of us that help each other out and spend a bit of money on each others’ music (rather than shopping in the big music stores), the bigger the community will be and more opportunities will present themselves.

Do you have a message for our readers that you would like to share here or something else that you would like to answer?

I think if anyone is reading this who perhaps hasn’t had the confidence to get going in the music industry for whatever reason, I’d say go for it. Don’t make music that you think people want to listen to, make music that you want to hear, create a ‘zine that you would want to read, shoot a video you would want to watch. The more you do it for you, the more easily you will find ‘your people’. These days, with social media, it’s so much easier for us to find each other and we can make this underground global community something beautiful, inclusive and which gives each one of us the opportunity to express ourselves in the best way we know how: by being true to our individual identity!!

And check out my zines and music over on Bandcamp please.  If you would like to interview me about my work for your podcast, zine, etc...., don't be shy, drop me an email: