Ex-Babes in Toyland bassist says rape essay got her booted from band

Babes in Toyland, from left: Maureen Herman, Kat Bjelland, and Lori Barbero

Babes in Toyland, from left: Maureen Herman, Kat Bjelland, and Lori Barbero

Before we get into the recent acrimony between members of Twin Cities grunge-punk greats Babes in Toyland, a timeline: 

  • 1987: Babes in Toyland forms.

  • 2001: They split. 

  • Feb. 2015: Babes in Toyland triumphantly reforms with their heyday lineup — frontwoman Kat Bjelland, drummer Lori Barbero, and bassist Maureen Herman. City Pages runs a cover story about the reunion and the curious funding behind it ("We are three fuckin' happy chickadees in a little nest," Barbero reports). The band hits the summer festival circuit hard, including a hometown gig at Rock the Garden in July. 

  • Aug. 2015: Citing "personal differences," Maureen Herman exits the band. Twin Cities musician Clara Salyer, 23, is enlisted as the new bassist. Babes will play First Avenue on Jan. 30. 
Which brings us to last week, when Herman published a Facebook note with the intent to shed more light on her dismissal. She claims she was kicked out of the band for writing an essay in support of Jackie Fox, the former Runaways bassist who alleged in July that she was raped by manager Kim Fowley in 1975. 

"My very brave new friend and fellow bass player, Jackie Fox of the Runaways, wrote a piece about life after her Huffington Post rape disclosure. I'm honored beyond words that she mentioned me and my article in Boing Boing as being a support to her. It was her bravery in coming forward that forever changed my perspective of my own sexual assaults.

Despite the severe fallout from my own bandmates about writing the article, and it being the catalyst for me getting kicked out of my band, I regret nothing. I will never be silenced, by ANYONE.

I'm so glad that Steve Silver shared his story about witnessing Jackie's rapist act the same way years later, and that it made a difference for her. Speaking up heals, silence hurts. Thank you, Steve, and thank you, Jackie."

In a recent phone conversation, Barbero dismissed Herman's claims. 

“She’s so toxic, I could give a fuck what she says, to be quite honest," Barbero says. "It just pushes my buttons, I guess. Over all these years I’ve realized the only thing I can do when anything is negative and toxic, you have to let it go. And that’s the reason we have to have a new bass player. It has nothing to do with rape. The relationship didn't work out and we moved on, and that's really the bottom line.”

In the comment thread of her Facebook post, Herman suggests that Barbero was uncomfortable with the essay in part due to her production work for Fea, a band signed to the label owned by former Runaways singer Joan Jett. Barbero says Herman taking issue with that arrangement "caused a little problem," but ultimately was not the reason Herman was fired. 

“It’s just really fucked up," Barbero says. "Kat and I have not said a bad word about her, and we wish her the best. It just makes me really sad, because we have so much history together. It’s honestly not what we wanted to happen. Do you think we wanted to fire our bass player? It’s not a fun thing to do. Two months before we let her go, Kat and I were so upset we couldn’t eat, we couldn’t sleep – we really didn’t want to do it, but we didn’t have any other choice. There are many, many, many reasons, but of course she’s making it so it’s our deal, like she did nothing wrong at all. Time heals all, but I don’t think there’s enough time for this one." 

UPDATE (12:15 p.m., Dec. 30): Herman did not respond to initial requests for an interview, but reached out after the post went live. Herman told City Pages by phone that things went quiet between her and the band following a break from touring in July.

“[At the first show back in L.A. in August] Kat gave me a list of seven grievances that Lori had for why I should be kicked out of the band,” Herman says, calling the list "ridiculous." "The catalyst, Kat told me, was writing the article about Jackie Fox, because [Lori] felt that me being critical of Joan Jett threatened Lori’s business relationship, which I had no idea even existed. With Kat’s help, I wrote a response to her grievances, trying to acknowledge my part in any of these things, and a willingness to try and work it out. What I did not apologize for was the article, because there’s nothing to apologize for. Kat never wanted me out of the band. Kat tried vehemently to keep me in.”

Herman says she eventually reached Barbero by phone, and says she was met with the response, “Kat was supposed to fire you.” A half an hour later, Herman says, she received a text from Bjelland reading, “Sorry, you’re done.”