Interview with Kate Reddy conducted by Greg Svitil by phone in the fall of 1996.
Greg: What’s it feel like to have a decade’s worth of creativity finally on one tangible recording?
Kate: It’s obviously really satisfying for me. It’s something that I wanted to do for so long, and to have finally done it, it’s almost a relief. It was something that I thought would maybe never happen. The record was recorded now almost a year ago, so I’m blessed, enamored by the greatness of it or whatever (laughs). But it is still a big relief for me and something that’s really satisfying.
Greg: You’re recording again pretty soon, right?
Kate: I’m hoping to record again soon, yeah. I wasn’t planning on it, and then my friend Norm, who recorded with me on the other record, called me up and he had a tape of three songs that we had played together, that we were just fooling around with, and he asked me if I wanted to record them. And of course I want to record them, so, I’m not sure exactly what’s happening with that right now, but I’m hoping that that will pan out, and that he and I will record a seven-inch together.
Greg: What are your favorite songs on the record and why?
Kate: Well, it changes all the time. I love “Simon Says,” the song with Norm. And “M.K.” is the sort of current favorite, which on the back of the CD is called “Mother Kaulini,” which is what M.K. stands for obviously. Those two I really love the most…right now. It changes. Sometimes I love other ones, depending on the week and the mood that I’m in.
Greg: Isn’t Kaulini the name of your baby?
Kate: Yeah, the song is inadvertently about the woman after whom we named our baby. She’s this amazing Krishna devotee, she actually married Steve and I, and she’s just had a lot of influence in our lives. So the song’s partially about her. And we named our baby Kaulini.
Greg: She must have had a really significant impact, to name your baby after her.
Kate: Yeah, I think she did on both my life and Steve’s life. Steve lived at a farm in Pennsylvania where they do cow protection, and the farm is called Gitanagari. This woman Kaulini had lived there for over twenty years, and she’s just this incredibly devout, pure personality, she’s completely devoted to Krishna, and she’s an amazing cook, and she was like Steve’s mother on the farm, and when I moved there she was like my mother too. She’s one of the most charismatic personalities you’ll ever meet, and it’s not because she’s loud and boisterous, it’s because she’s incredibly humble. I don’t know, I can’t exactly describe how wonderful she is. But she’s definitely had an incredible influence on our lives.
Greg: How much of an impact did marriage and pregnancy have on the songwriting?
Kate: I think it changes what could have been a straight-on indie rock album into a folk record. I recorded when I was really pregnant and I was in this extremely maternal mood, and I think it affected the way the songs came off, because now when we’re playing live, I don’t think people get the impression of us playing folk music. But I think a lot of songs founded really folky.
Greg: To me the overall atmosphere of the record is the really sober acoustic folk music, with the occasional more rocking song.
Kate: Yeah, and I don’t know if that was affected by marriage so much, but definitely by pregnancy and waiting for the baby to be born. You get into a much more internal mood. You’re focused on this little child growing inside you. It definitely affected what my recording came out like. I think if I had recorded earlier, or even now, it would be different.
Greg: When you did Krishna Grrrl, one of the enjoyable things about it was the humor. For you, how much of a role does humor have in spirituality?
Kate: The devotees explain that Krishna has six qualities. I don’t know if humor is one of them. Krishna and Krishna Consciousness, and Krishnas as people, is funny. That sounds really simplistic, but I think Krishna Consciousness for me is so enjoyable and it makes me so happy, that I think that mood came through. And Krishna has many pastimes which are humorous. So when Sarah and I were doing it, I felt like a lot of the mood of 108, which I was playing in at the time, was really heavy, and speaking against the material world, and wasn’t speaking very much for — I don’t mean to criticize 108, because I can’t criticize it really, I thought it was also really excellent. But for Krishna Grrrl we had a joking mood, and I feel like that mood was something that I needed to express also, because that’s also part of my personality. And I feel that humor and laughing and joking is really crucial in Krishna Consciousness, and just in life in general. So that was just a mood that we together made. Also, my friend Sarah and I, that’s our mood together, it’s like a joking mood.
Greg: Krishna Consciousness gathers some criticism from supporters of feminism. Some people feel it’s sexist. Do you feel that that kind of criticism is valid?
Kate: I feel like Krishna Consciousness, there’s still some negative aspects of the material world which have leaked into Krishna Consciousness, with not-so-advanced devotees, myself being one of the not-so-advanced devotees. I’m sure that I lend my own negative qualities. But I feel like that’s part of the material world is that it’s imperfect. But I think that ISKCON is always moving and constantly struggling to move into more positive directions. So even since I’ve joined the temple there have been so many improvements made. So I feel like, yeah, there’s going to be some devotees who aren’t off the bodily platform yet. But certainly Srila Prabhupada was, and certainly my spiritual master is not on the bodily platform, and is not judging someone by virtue of what body they have and making discriminations based on that. So, there’s some validity. There definitely are people who are devotees that carry with them all sorts of things that they’re trying to purify. But I don’t think you should the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t think you should completely disregard the whole thing because not every individual involved is perfect. Look how sexist the hardcore scene is. Look how many women are involved in anything that has to do with hardcore. If you look at the ISKCON society, there are so many more active women doing everything within the society than there are women doing things in bands or fanzines or booking, or anything involved in hardcore. I never realized it before, but when I started to question, hardcore’s definitely more guilty of alienating women than ISKCON is. I’m involved with both things, and I support both things, but I just have to look at the reality of the situation. There are actually as many, if not more, women devotees. And if you look at the hardcore scene, how many women are in the hardcore scene? Relatively few. I think the proportions are much more drastic than they are in ISKCON. And in ISKCON, women perform each and every role that men do, and I don’t see that happening so much in hardcore.
People have asked me a hundred million times why I think that is, and I can’t figure it out, except to say that it must not be that inviting and conducive to women, otherwise more women would be involved. I’m not sure why it is. But I think the men in the scene need to look at themselves and say “why is that, what have we done, and what are we doing that’s not inviting to other kinds of people?”
Greg: So how do Krishna Consciousness and women’s issues come together for you in terms of your personal values?
Kate: I feel like, if people practiced Krishna Consciousness in a completely sincere way and followed all aspects of it and became really purified, then all other issues would be taken care of. I feel like that’s definitely been true in my own life. I’ve become much more satisfied with everything around me and myself and all of my various bad qualities, which I still have a lot of, have improved, and I think it’s because os taking shelter of my spiritual master and all of the different processes of Krishna Consciousness. That’s my sincere take on it. I’m not trying to problematize, but that’s just how I feel.
Greg: What kind of experience was it to watch something like, for instance, straightedge, be so important to so many people, and then fade away?
Kate: I’ve gone through different waves of disappointment with that, and then I realize that there’s always new hearts. There’s always new straightedge kids. Straightedge exists, and certain people get in and out of it, and sometimes get right back into it. And I’m kind of over my initial feeling of dread, that “oh my God, I can’t believe so-and-so isn’t straightedge.” It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, and I know that people are going to go through different phases, and that’s okay. For me, I don’t feel so tied in with “this is my identity, and everybody has to do the same things as me, or it bums me out.” I watch younger generations of hardcore and straightedge people watch their friends stop being straightedge. And I remember that it was a really painful thing for me at the time, and it was something I struggled with. But now I feel more removed. And I feel like this is something people go through. Many of the people from the most early, most fanatical straightedge bands aren’t straightedge anymore. And it’s gonna happen, and there’s only gonna be a few people who stick with it, because our whole society doesn’t support it. I certainly support it. I feel disappointed, but what can you do? You have to be strong within yourself, and try to follow as best you can, and hope that other people do also. But I don’t feel so crushed by it like I used to.
Greg: And it seems that the older you get, the more you realize that for so many people it’s something they experiment with as a phase, at first intended to be a lifetime thing, the beginning of an introspective process. Then it stick around for a couple years at a time, and goes in waves.
Kate: And I think that people are, despite what they say, strongly attracted to fanaticism. People love to be a part of a fanatical movement. That’s why people get into hardcore, partially: because they don’t want to be a part of the mainstream.
Greg: So what do you think about straightedge now?
Kate: I don’t even think about it. I have friends who aren’t straightedge. Hardcore people’s social lives seem to revolve more around shows than parties, so the issue doesn’t even arise for me. I feel like it’s a much truer rebellion. I look at the different industries in the United States that the government is involved in and collects tons of taxes from, and I feel that it’s a much smarter idea to stay away from buying products that put a lot of taxes to the government. Cigarettes and alcohol; I’m not so psyched on the whole drug thing, and I think it’s depressing that heroin has become such a big drug again, and I’ve seen it destroy people’s lives. I think straightedge simplifies your life in a way that you can pursue more intelligible things. Not that everybody that drinks is an idiot. And I don’t want to be anti-people with my straightedge-ism. I feel that, for many of the people that are around me, the question of intoxicants doesn’t even enter into our lives. It’s just not something we do. And I’m satisfied with that, especially now that I have a baby. It’s so weird to me that people do stuff like that when they have kids.
Greg: What is the future of Project Kate?
Kate: I don’t know. My plan is to play it by ear and see how it goes with the baby and the band and all those kind of things, because my priority is actually the baby. And if it works well with her — I’m going to keep playing music no matter what — but I’m not sure how much touring I’ll be doing. Right now we’re playing a lot of shows, and I’d like to do that recording soon. So that’s as much into the future as I know.
Greg: You think you might tour?
Kate: I don’t think so.
Greg: Not out to Denver at all?
Kate: I might come out there, but I don’t think I’m going to do a big country tour, because when you’re seven months old, even an hour is a really long time to spend in the car, and I’m not going to leave her for a month. I’m just not into it, I would miss her too much. She comes everywhere with us.
Greg: Going to hardcore shows at the age of seven months.
Kate: (laughs) Well she doesn’t go inside. Ruin her hearing. But she’s been outside a lot of shows.
Greg: I’m wondering, because I’m starting to learn a little about the impact that sensory bombardment and processing has on you from the time when you were first born.
Kate: Anywhere she’s been, it’s never been loud, because I’m not into that. I’m don’t wanna raise a rock’n’roll kid. I don’t want her to have experienced everything she’d like to experience as a teenager by the time she’s ten years old. I try to keep her pretty much sheltered. We don’t play music around her at home, except when I’m playing guitar. I like to keep her life as simple and peaceful and spiritual as possible. That’s what I’m trying to do. So hopefully her senses won’t be too bombarded with junk that she’s gonna have to try to purify herself of later.
Greg: How are you gonna deal with the issue of sending her to school versus raising her purely Krishna?
Kate: There are devotee schools, but we’re actually planning on sending her to a school that’s near where we are now, which is a Waldorf school. They’re really very open to spirituality, and it’s a really spiritual school. We’re hoping that she’ll become educated there, but her religious and spiritual life will be fulfilled by how we practice at home.