Kat Power

With a new band, Katastrophy Wife, and a new babe in toyland, Kat Bjelland makes more noise than ever

 

Henry Paul Mattson has his dad's sense of rhythm and his mom's lungs. Which is a polite way of saying that Kat and Glen's nine-month-old is wailing and banging on the metal tray of his highchair with some plastic spoon-toothbrush contraption.

It's bothering the parents more than the customers in the Modern Cafe, the Northeast restaurant where Bjelland waits tables and where the band gathers for an interview a week after the First Avenue show. His head tucked into a red-and-blue striped cap and swaddled in a hood, Henry conducts this fit to empathetic smiles from most of the room. With pudgy, Gerber-baby cheeks and gorgeously unreal blue eyes, Henry solicits less of a hushing impulse than an urge to make him happy. After Cheerios and picture books fail to appease the boy, Kat chimes in with everymom's apologetic refrain, "He's usually really well-behaved."

So well-behaved that Katastrophy Wife plan to spend the summer touring on the festival circuit (the Reading Festival is already confirmed), with little Henry (and a sitter, of course) in tow. Interest in Bjelland's music remains strong overseas. U.K. label Alma Fame has already expressed interest in releasing the band's debut this summer, and has confirmed that it will release a double disc of live Babes in Toyland material, compiled by Bjelland and Barbero from tapes made by friends and engineers, all the way from early Entry shows to later European tours. "It was supposed to be call Devil Lived, but I think they screwed it up and called it Lived Devil," Bjelland explains.

The nemesister has weathered worse logistical foul-ups on the business front in the past. She spent two years recording and compiling a soundtrack album for the Witchblade comic books, jetting between coasts to enlist the aid of musicians ranging from Lower East Side avant-gardist Arto Lindsay to metal vets Megadeth. Though happy with the results, which were finally released on Dreamworks in 1998, she says, "I would never do something like that again. It was really fun, but it took too long." When asked about the business end of Katastrophy Wife, Bjelland announces in a silly voice that it's just "monkey business."

Despite their far-flung connections, the couple is comfortably ensconced in northeast Minneapolis. They speak fondly of semiregular gigs at their "home club," Mayslack's, and when a community activist stops by our table to talk about how local redevelopment projects might wind up gutting nearby landmarks, Kat tells him to get in touch when it's time to make a fuss to stop them. And in spite of the international plans already made, in the long run, she says, "I'd be just as happy playing with these guys in the neighborhood bars.

"I'd play with Glen even if I didn't like him," she adds, then reconsiders. "Well, you know, I'd have to like him a little."

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