Kat Bjelland (kat 'byel'end) n.
1.Baby doll dress -wearing guitarist and singer/songwriter for Minneapolis misfit punk trio Babes In Toyland
2.Former member of Sugar Baby Doll, which also included L7 bassist Jennifer Finch and Courtney Love of Hole
3.Writer of aggressive, intensely personal lyrics and poetry
4.Subject of the book Babes In Toyland: The Making and Selling of a Rock and Roll Band -vt.
Kathy (Kat for short) Bjelland was born on December 8,1963. Kat was a quiet child who preferred listening to music rather then playing with dolls. Kat’s mother Lynn left her when she was 5 years old. Her father was a structural engineer, and was on the road a lot. Because she was often left alone, from a very early age Kat learned how to protect and take care of herself.
Kat Bjelland was a very popular student at her high school, which was located in a small town in Oregon. They perky teenager was voted head football cheerleader, got straight A's, enjoyed playing basketball, and edited her high school yearbook. As soon as Kat went home she left all of that back at school. Once she let herself in to her family’s house, she would transform into a punk diva. She listened to songs by Billie Holiday, read Sylvia Plath, drank Kahlua, and hoped one day she’d leave Oregon to perform on the same stages her musical idols had.
Like any typical teen at that time, Kat also liked bands like Kiss and Aerosmith. On day while blasting a Kiss song she was introduced to a girl who’d been sent to Oregon after being expelled from one of the world’s best private schools, this new girl’s name was Courtney Love.
Kat and Courtney hit it off right away, together the decided that one-day they’d start a band and leave Oregon behind for good. After high school the two girls moved to San Francisco because of its legendary rock and roll bohemian underground scene. Shortly after arriving Kat and Courtney met a hip musician named Jennifer Finch (later of the girl band L7) who took them to a show featuring Frightwig, an all girl punk rock band. Frightwig inspired all three on the spot to form their very own all female band. The new band was called Sugar Baby Doll.
By the mid-1980’s the San Francisco local rock scene seemed stale and overridden with heroin. Courtney and Kat decided to move to Minneapolis, where they had heard a great new music scene was happening. Bands like the Replacements, Soul Asylum and Husker Du were taking old garage band sounds to new heights and the girls were excited to join their ranks.
In December of 1987, not very long after moving to Minneapolis, Kat met long-time Minneapolis scenester Lori Barbero at a BBQ. Kat somehow convinced Lori that she would make an excellent drummer, luckily she was right. Lori mastered playing drums in no time at all, so much so it seemed Barbero had been playing for years rather then just months. After playing together for a very short time, Kat kicked Courtney out of Sugar Baby Doll/ Babes In Toyland. (Depending on whom you ask) Lori and Kat then played with bassist Chris Holetz and singer Cindy Russell, but the lack of musical chemistry made all involved wonder if the band would do anything except maybe implode. Holetz and Russell left after just one year and bassist Michelle Leon joined. Soon after Michelle joined, Kat dropped the name Sugar Baby Doll permanently. The three women decided to play under the name Babes In Toyland.
Babes In Toyland’s debut single on Treehouse Records ("Dust Cake Boy" b/w "Spit To See The Shine") was an instant success. Kat’s pro-female approach soon gained her the title of feminist icon. Riot Grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Sleater-Kinney would all tip their hats to Kat and name her as their main influence . While less political female bands like Jack Off Jill, 7 Year Bitch and Fluffy would site Kat and Babes In Toyland as a major inspiration. Stylistically, Kat contributed more than most to the riot grrrl movement, her unique ‘kinderwhore’ look of thrift store baby doll dresses and garish red smeared lipstick was also a huge influence on what was soon to be termed grunge. Many years later, Courtney Love and Kat Bjelland would argue over who had come up with the idea of the kinderwhore look. Kat claimed that Love had stolen it from her back in San Francisco. The pair’s tumultuous on again off again friendship and many similarities, made it difficult to prove either way who came up with it first.
After releasing a single on Sub Pop's singles club, Babes in Toyland came to the attention of Sonic Youth, who took them on a tour of Europe. They soon recorded their abrasive debut, "Spanking Machine", with producer Jack Endino. One more independent EP followed before the band signed to Reprise. Between labels, original bassist Michelle Leon left the group in 1992, after her boyfriend roadie Joe Cole was shot and killed. Leon was quickly replaced by female bassist Maureen Herman.
Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo produced Babe’s second album, “Fontanelle", which showed no signs of concession to a major label. In early 1993, the band broke up for several days before re-forming to record the “Painkillers" EP and hitting the road with Lollapalooza 1993. The same year after returning home, Kat married then boyfriend Stu Spasm in a Minnapolis courtroom.
Kat was more interested in her new husband then the public exposure Lollapalooza offered Babes In Toyland. She was very reluctant to become a rock star and with the help of her husband’s drug problems chose not to capitalize on her new found fame. It took Babes In Toyland nearly two years before they released a new record, “Nemesisters" in 1995. Soon after “Nemesisters “ was released Babes went on a long needed break.
With Babes on hiatus Kat and hubby Stu Spasm started Crunt. Crunt was a cantankerous side-project they had created with the help of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simins, Apart from one Kat vocal, Crunt was pretty much Stu’s show. Very soon after its release Crunt fell apart, as did Spasm's marriage. He fell deeper into the depths of heroin addiction and the couple soon divorced.
In 1997 Babes In Toyland decided to call it quits. After the breakup of Babes, Kat’s personal and professional life took a grand turn. She met and married drummer Glen Mattson in 1998. In 1999 Glen and Kat gave birth to their first child, a healthy baby boy named Henry. Kat began to write new songs with Glen while potty-training Henry. The music that was being written would turn out to be the building blocks for Kat's new band Katastrophy Wife.
In the spring of 2000 Katastrophy Wife debuted. In 2002 with the critically acclaimed release of “Amusia”, the UK welcomed Kat’s return when she played the Reading Festival. After Mattson suffered an injury the band’s line up changed to bassist Andrew Parker, drummer Darren Donovan, and Vanessa White, former guitarist of Twist. The result of the new line-up was the second Katastrophy Wife album “All Kneel". The fuzzed-up highly-strung album truly allowed Kat to shine as bright, if not brighter then she had in Babes In Toyland.
Today Kat splits her time between London and Minneapolis and is currently supporting her second album touring with her band Katastrophy Wife.
definition used with permission/written consent from author