"When it comes to overt politics, I'd already done that and didn't want to do it again. Also, being so sick, I needed to write a record for me. A record made by a person who thought they could tackle any obstacle and then had to deal with the limitations of their body. I needed to write a fan letter to myself, if that doesn't sound too narcissistic. I needed a little Jill Clayburgh, 'It's My Turn' time. I needed to wear my gypsy skirt and spin around in a circle. That's what I did. And I'm really proud of it. That's one of the great things I'm seeing with younger women in bands. They're saying, 'I can write about abortion rights if I want to. Or I can not.' Back when I started, I didn't feel I had that luxury. I was like, 'There's a war on women going on. People are telling me feminism shouldn't exist. I work in a domestic violence shelter. Fuck all of you, I have to make this music.' But now I feel like these 25-year-olds who think, 'Hey, I can write about whatever I want.'"

"Bikini Kill was a great band, and their songwriting was incredibly powerful," says Corin Tucker via e-mail. Hanna's powerful songwriting helped in part to inspire her to start her own band, Sleater-Kinney. "I think 'Feels Blind' is my favorite: 'All the doves that fly past my eyes, have a stickiness to their wings . . .' Kathleen was able to combine feminist poetry with such a catchy and melancholy melody, her message of angst was so strong, and her voice was so unique. I think the sheer courage it took to take such a strong and confrontational stance against sexism, and not give a damn what anyone else thought of her, was the most inspiring thing for me."

As much as she's finally able to look forward, her radioactive past seems to have a half-life that still affects her, still glows 20 years later. Not the least of which are those now famous words she scrawled on a wall—"Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit"—one night when partying with pal Kurt Cobain. It was a joke about underarm deodorant that sparked the most explosive song of the decade. About it, Hanna is understandably wistful.

Band on the Run: The Julie Ruin
Shervin Lainez
Band on the Run: The Julie Ruin

"It's funny," she says, "I didn't really get asked about that line for a long time, except in foreign countries. It didn't start coming up until Wikipedia published it. When I think about 'Teen Spirit,' I think about Kurt's death, and because of his suicide it's hard for it not to leave a bad taste in my mouth. It's a melancholy thing. Happy and sad at the same time, you know? Sort of, 'Remember when we were young and we felt like we could do anything? When we were healthy and crazy?' And that's immediately followed by, 'Oh yeah. Some of us didn't make it.'"

'Run Fast' is out September 3 on TJR Records. The Julie Ruin play the Bowery Ballroom on September 3 at 8 p.m.

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