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Iraq 'n' Roll

Biter's interview with the women of punk band the Raging Grannies

By Allie Gottlieb

THESE WRINKLY and warbling wild women have planted themselves across the country in splinter group form, so it was only a matter of time before they landed in Silicon Valley. Though they originally invaded the United States from their founding foregrandmas' homeland, the socialist-medicine-laden Canada, they're here, they're dear and we'd all better get used to it.

But don't let the Raging Grannies' "gorilla theater" act in cute flowery hats fool you. Their lyrics are radical, rebellious and downright subversive. The mainstream media's take on the band as a little, old, cute, harmless, bright spot in an otherwise touchy time of war-type tensions only encourages the Grannies. In this chat with a few of the 37 local members of the Grannies, Biter gets to the bottom of the band's stealthy approach to spreading a new lefty ideology through an in-your-face approach and an accordion.

BITER: Influences? Inspirations?

GRANNIES: Well, Dana St. George is into the Green Party. Gail Sredanovic follows Lockheed Martin. Lockheed's a big influence. ... [mumbling, inaudible] We've also been very affected by the work. of John Ashcroft. Donald Rumsfeld, of course.

Your lyrics are subversive (some might say, a wee paranoid). Take the song "FBI Is All Over Town"--"You'd better not speak / They're tapping the phone / They're working all week / With a microphone ..." How do crowds generally respond to you? Do people get hostile?

Well, they're just afraid of old women. We look so innocent. Yeah, you have to be pretty rude to give an old lady the finger. We had a heckler once, but it was clear that he was pretty unbalanced.

Where do you usually play in Santa Clara County?

We like to go where we're not wanted.

Which of you have been arrested?

JANET HALE: I was. I was arrested while protesting [the war in Iraq] with Stanford students in San Francisco. [Another Granny admits to having an FBI file during the Vietnam War, but didn't want to go into details for fear of setting the government on her trail again.]

What sets you apart from the other bands?

Our hats and wrinkles.

What should readers know about the Grannies?

That we're not just fluffy little old ladies. And that if we're backed into a corner, the white gloves are going to come off.

Grannies present at interview: Gail Sredanovic (vocals), Gail Bechler (vocals), Janet Hale (vocals), Mary Ayers (vocals), Ruth Robertson (vocals), Dana St. George (vocals, accordion). Known ages of Grannies present range from 50 to 75.

Lastly, here's a brand new release from the Grannies, never before quoted in print:

"Raging Grannies USA" (sung to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA")

We are the Raging Grannies from Californ-I-A
We sing in San Francisco and down in San Jose
All over the valley and all along the bay
Sing with the Raging Grannies, Grannies USA!

No bombs no bombs Grannies say
No bombs no bombs we won't play

Grannies wanna do it in a more peaceful way
So come and sing with Grannies, Grannies USA
All over the valley and all along the bay
We are the Raging Grannies, Grannies USA

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From the May 8-14, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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