Published Mar 27, 2011In the last few years, Beth Ditto's disco-punk outfit the Gossip have taken off, thanks in no small part to the success of their 2006 major-label deal-earner Standing in the Way of Control and 2009 follow-up Music for Men. The trio are currently in the midst of recording a fifth full-length record, but commitment to the Gossip withstanding, Beth Ditto is more than just a singer; she's an undeniably charismatic individual whose concern for LGBT issues, combined with her sharp tongue, voluptuous curves, and flair for fashion and style have made her a cult icon. In the past few years, Ditto has stirred up controversy slamming Katy Perry, posed naked for magazine covers, and starting a fashion line for British plus-size clothing company Evans. Last month, Ditto released her first solo material, a four-song release she recorded with British production team Simian Mobile Disco called the Beth Ditto EP. Asked why she choose to go temporarily solo and how the recording turned out, Ditto is characteristically wry, not to mention frustratingly vague: "I just wanted to see what having a baby with somebody else would look like," she says. "It's a beautiful baby. I'm very proud of it."
What are you up to?
I'm watching my cat crawl from couch to couch, but current projects right now? I'm working on a vintage catalogue. I want to start an online magazine, and also a magazine in print, in a "zine" style. That's what I'm working on right now. Oh, and the new Gossip record!
What are your current fixations?
Food, always. Let's see ― I have a crazy oral fixation. If you look in the bottom of my purse, I have so many chewed straws, it's ridiculous. So, I guess, what are my current fixations? Oral.
Why do you live where you do?
I live in Portland, Oregon because it's cheap, it's gay, it's really nice, and it's not hot.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
That is such a good question. The first thing that comes to mind, for me, would definitely have to be the Lobster phone, Duchamp. ["Lobster Telephone" is actually by Dali.] Mind-blowing! Why? Because I love when people come into a room and they seriously stare at this lobster phone and are like "Oh yes, a serious piece of art," but actually it's just a joke. I like the idea that people are taking it apart and "hmm-ing and hah-ing" when actually it's just fucking hilarious.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
It was probably a Gossip show, so I'll tell you this one: In England, in 2000, we were on tour with all these other really rad bands but we changed up who played last each night, so there would always be fights over who would headline. The Gossip were just a young band, and we were like "Whatever, we're 19, we're not going to argue with somebody who's been in a band ten years longer than us to headline." So we took whatever we could take, and we wound up in this town called Hull, which is this working class northern town. We were playing this tiny bar, and there were maybe ten people there, and eight of them were these blue-collar workers ― like, with shaved heads ― and the other two people were probably the only two gay girls that lived there. At the time, we had this song called "Take Back the Revolution" and by the end of the night, all of the workers were screaming "Take back the revolution!" at the top of their lungs, and I thought that was really incredible.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Low is being 19, having no money, and working at Subway... and then having to go on tour and quit my Subway job just to know that I'm going to have to come back and try to find another Subway to work at... and maybe not getting hired because they know I quit my job at the other Subway. That was always really stressful. My high is being able to make a living off of what you love doing. That is the all-time high.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
Oh god, meanest? I don't really know, because usually, I think mean things are really funny. I will tell you though, this one time my friend Jared said "I hated your last album, but your last record was pretty okay." One of my all-time favourite things he's said to me. Also, this one girl said "Beth, I like you, but I hate your band." That was also pretty amazing.
What should everyone shut up about?
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
"Most like" is that I will talk to anyone for a long time, "Dislike" is that I will talk to anyone for a long time.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
My perfect Sunday would be sleeping in 'til two o'clock, getting up, walking or driving somewhere, going to dinner, coming home, watching The Simpsons.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Band yes, bed no. Probably meanness and attitude. Unless they're hilarious.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of Emmet Time, this kid that lives there, who is amazing. He lives in Vancouver, he's literally the most hilarious person I've ever met.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
I bought a single of "18 and Life" by Skid Row.
What was your most memorable day job?
Definitely working at Tee's Me T-shirt shop, where every morning, at nine o'clock, an old pervert would call in just to hear a girl say "Tee's Me, can I help you?" Every morning.
How do you spoil yourself?
Ooooh! Umm, makeup. No, you know what it is? I buy so much moisturizer, it's ridiculous. I like to try new facial products.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
What do you fear most?
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Nothing! I'm a prude.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
One time, we were in Los Angeles when I was really young, and my friend was like, "Look! Over there, Courtney Love!" I turned to look and I was like "I don't see anybody," and she was like "no, she's over there, on the ground!" She had just fallen down.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Nothing; she's so happy for me doing exactly what I'm doing.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Benny Hill background music. I've just always thought, how everyone, when they talk about that, are like "You know what I want played? Something really sombre" or something like that. I want, when they're lowering my casket, for it to be like, all of a sudden, [in a high pitched, nasal tone] "Bee bee becka becka bee bee becka becka beh." I've thought about it a lot!