Arkansas-bred, Portland-based vocal powerhouse Beth Ditto is proud of the five edgy albums she made during her 15 years fronting Gossip. But when the group disbanded in 2016 and she flew solo with 2017’s stylistic showcase “Fake Sugar” — which puts her banshee howl up front in the gear-grinding punk-metal mix — she had one directive that superseded all her past work. “I just wanted to hear guitars again, to hear bass again, and to make a record that was built upon riffs again,” she says. “And that’s just what we did. Almost every song on this record started with a guitar solo.”
In recent breakdowns of 2017’s chart-topping singles, only a handful were written and produced by women, even the ones by female artists.
Yeah. And I’m not surprised. I think that’s why punk has always been so cool. Because pop music is still doing this capitalism thing, and its industry is a patriarchy to me. Everything about it just falls back on capitalism, and I can see all of it so clearly. I mean, I can see that Max Martin is amazing, and I can see why he’s amazing. But he’s not the most amazing person in the world, and he’s not the ultimate songwriter. So I don’t even watch the Grammys — we all know what it is. It’s all so superficial.
There was a fun magazine article on you last year, describing how you and your wife Kristin Ogata resided quietly in Portland with your two cats, Tofu and Butters. Which made perfect sense.
Well, uh, my wife and I have since split. And it’s OK. It’s all OK. So Tofu is with her and Butters is with me, but at the moment, Butters is limping, so I have to take him to the vet today. He’s an outside cat and kind of a rough-houser, so he gets into fights a lot. I’m also seeing someone new (musician Ted Kwo), and we actually just bought a house together, so it’s very serious, and for the most part it feels really good. (Kristin) and I were so close for so long, it was like being married to your best friend. Which is not always a good thing.
And you covered Tommy James and the Shondells’ “I’m Alive,” too?
You know, I was asked to do it for a Max Factor commercial, and it was a weird edit, because it was edited with a commercial in mind. But I didn’t know it was going to become a single on its own. And it was so fun to sing, because when you look at Tommy James, you forget what a hit powerhouse he is. He’s really underrated.