Faster Than Sound: Damn, Kathy Valentine Can Write!

Go-Go's local Kathy Valentine reflects on her memoir at three Austin fall events

Kathy Valentine (by Christopher Durst)

Book tour and Go-Go's dates dashed by the pandemic, Kathy Valentine focuses on self-improvement. From her Westlake home, the bassist and contributing songwriter for the Eighties chart-toppers wraps an English and fine arts degree virtually at St. Edward's. Three years earlier, the Austin native began working on her memoir, All I Ever Wanted, which debuted in March (revisit excerpt "Unforgiven," Music, April 17).

Virtual touring for the acclaimed bio continues with a trio of events: Nov. 12 (1:15-2pm), Texas Book Festival hosts a free chat with Valentine and Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz on their new reads. Nov. 13 (6:30pm), she adds music to the Library Foundation's Stories Gala, which requires online tickets. On Nov. 15 (3-4:15pm), the author speaks with the Current's Andrea Swensson during Minneapolis music/movie fest Sound Unseen's first Austin partnership, no badge required.

Austin Chronicle: What's it like opening your life to readers?

Kathy Valentine: A lot of people thought it was going to be about the Go-Go's, but they really liked the personal stuff. I wanted to follow the conventions of tried-and-true storytelling, where the protagonist starts out one way and ends up another after encountering obstacles. I liked the symmetry of focusing on two strong music eras. There was the Seventies in Austin, which was such an identifiable, interesting era, and then the Eighties in L.A. with the rise of the Go-Go's, and the fall.

That was the most important thing – that it be well-crafted. I want people to read this book and go, "Damn, she can write." Because as a creator, I'm very familiar with the dilemma of finding an audience. I've created stuff for a big audience and created stuff where nobody gives a shit.

AC: Do you now feel established as a writer?

KV: In some ways, but the pandemic did affect it. The book tour I had to cancel was going to be the launch of a new persona, from just a girl in a band who's written some songs to somebody that really has a voice. Like with the Library Foundation [gala], I'm not just a writer reading from a book. I can talk and then pick up a guitar and play a song everybody knows.

AC: Any history with your upcoming events?

KV: The Book Festival asked me to moderate a panel in 2015 with Jessica Hopper. Gianna LaMorte from [University of Texas Press] was there and wondered if I'd be interested in writing a book. I wanted a literary memoir, not some typical rock & roll thing.

I had met with an agent before who said, "It's going to be a tell-all, right?" I was like, "No, it's a coming-of-age story." They said, "No one is going to sign you. You're not famous enough." Well, if you write a good enough book, it doesn't matter who you are. People will relate to it.

AC: You were an investor at the Townsend, which closed permanently in June. How will COVID-19 impact Austin's music legacy?

KV: It's really sad to see the Townsend have to close. It's impacting so many people's livelihoods in the music and hospitality industry, and should be given the same consideration as anything else. At the beginning of the pandemic, billions [of dollars] were given to the airlines.

The money is there, and it's used for other things. It's really hypocritical to brand yourself as a music city and not use the funding. If everybody could just get a stipend to be closed and then open up when the pandemic is over, we would save a lot of businesses and jobs and mental health.

Exploded Drawing's Decade of Electronic Exploration

Ten years ago, Andrew Brown opened up for L.A. producer Nosaj Thing on Sixth Street. Onstage, the local musician known as Soundfounder gathered onlookers' email addresses for a series envisioned with fellow Austin experimentalist Ben Webster, aka Butcher Bear. The two already had the name Exploded Drawing after an LP by Polvo.

Inspired by events like Los Angeles' mythic Low End Theory, they dreamed of developing a consistent space for original, local electronic creation.

"I left with two full pages of emails that night," recalls Brown. "That happened to be exactly the crowd interested in this genreless, creative electronic music event. At the time, Austin didn't have anything like that. You were either in a band or a DJ. There wasn't much in between."

Beginning at East Austin's former Baby Blue Studios, the duo filled the gap with ventures on the edges of electronica, beatmaking, hip-hop, and more. Pre-pandemic, the hosts focused on four annual showcases at the Austin School of Film. With visuals by Duale and VJ DK, Brown and Webster estimate they've booked over 400 artists under an all-ages $5 concept.

"It's a really low point of entry for something I consider high art," says Webster. "People get that museumlike experience, where everyone can come in and check out this overwhelming piece of art for a couple hours. You get all different reactions."

Converted to virtual variety shows, Exploded Drawing celebrates 10 years via YouTube on Friday, Nov. 6, 9pm, with visuals by Peligrosa's Orión García. On the national lineup, Deantoni Parks weaves multiformat drumming following time with Mars Volta and John Cale. Producer and Berklee faculty Daedelus, Harlem composer VHVL, and San Diego turntable wiz Sir Froderick also join.

From Texas, San Marcos-based Kinder softens New Age elements alongside dark funk explorations from Dallas' Cygnus. Out of Place, Corduroi, Multi-Tracker, and Graham Reynolds uphold the homegrown scene. Alongside performance artists, Webster estimates a third of Exploded Drawing alums debuted live at one of their events.

Force behind longtime label (iN)Sect Records, the booker put out tapes for much of Friday's lineup, including even-keeled MC Out of Place's prolific sampling and Austin hip-hop vet Aaron Miller's work as Multi-Tracker. With a flair for physical marketing, Webster offers anniversary tees with a seventh birthday vinyl compilation. Brown's local curating also bloomed over the decade as the owner of the Exploded Records store inside JuiceLand Duval and host of KUTX's first electronic radio hour.

After a year on late night, the Soundfounder show upgrades to Wednesdays at 8pm later this month, mirroring the mainstream rise of electronic methodology since Exploded Drawing's start.

"Today, the fact that somebody with close to no budget can produce great music is this amazingly accessible thing," says Brown. "We never could never have predicted that, as the global conversation around electronic music grew, our event would be the space for that conversation in Austin."

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Kathy Valentine, the Go-Go's, Texas Book Festival, Library Foundation's Stories Gala, the Current, Andrea Swensson, Sound Unseen, Gianna LaMorte, University of Texas Press, Townsend, Andrew Brown, Soundfounder, Ben Webster, Butcher Bear, Exploded Drawing, Polvo, Low End Theory, Peligrosa, Orión García, Mars Volta

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