Indie

Janet Weiss Says She Left Sleater-Kinney Because She Was Told She Wasn’t A ‘Creative Equal’

During the promotional cycle for Sleater-Kinney’s new album The Center Won’t Hold, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker were hit with a surprising blow: Longtime drummer Janet Weiss decided to leave the group. At the time, Weiss shared a brief statement about the motivations behind her decision, but it was fairly vague, as she attributed her departure to the band’s “new direction.” Now, though, she has offered more concrete reasoning: Her role in the band was apparently downsized.

Weiss recently sat down for a lengthy interview on the drummer interview podcast The Trap Set With Joe Wong, and during the episode, she explained that Brownstein and Tucker told her she was no longer a “creative equal” within the group, saying, “The roles changed within the band. And they told me the roles changed… I don’t want to go into super detail, but [Brownstein and Tucker] told me the roles changed. I said, ‘Am I just a drummer now?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Am I a creative equal? Can you tell me that I’m still a creative equal within the band? They said, ‘No.’ So I left…”

Leaving the group seemingly wasn’t something Weiss wanted to do, and the band members even tried counseling to work out their differences: “We went to counseling and tried to talk it out, which had helped before. Like in 1998, we went to counseling. We still couldn’t get on the same page. I made a list and printed it out for them, like, ‘These are the things I would need to think about staying.’ I just think it was clear that, when they told me the roles had changed and that I wasn’t going to be a creative equal in the making of the music, I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Find more of what Weiss said about the situation below.

“The roles changed within the band. And they told me the roles changed…

I don’t want to go into super detail, but [Brownstein and Tucker] told me the roles changed. I said, ‘Am I just a drummer now?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Am I a creative equal? Can you tell me that I’m still a creative equal within the band? They said, ‘No.’ So I left…

I thought about it a lot. I will never play with two people like that again, you know? They’re totally unique, incredible, intuitive players. It’s a lot to walk away from. It’s my sisters, my family. But I couldn’t be in that band and have it not be equals, especially with what it represents to me…

It represents equality, you know? If we can’t have that in our band, how can we have that in the world? How can we be fighting for equality and not have it in our band? It just became a disconnect. But I don’t think they saw it like that. They’re not evil people. I just think the two of them are so connected, and they really agree on almost everything. They just thought, ‘We are going to take this band somewhere, and we want to be in charge of that, the two of us.’

I think I was a threat to where they wanted the band to go — just who I am. And that felt bad, to me. As bandmates and partners and people I’ve had a relationship for all this time, I wanted to be not a threat and not someone to hold at arm’s length, but someone to embrace and to go together where we wanted to go. But they had really specific ideas, what they wanted. And I just didn’t fit anymore. We were on a different page. We couldn’t get on the same page. So it was really hard. It was not something I took lightly at all…

We went to counseling and tried to talk it out, which had helped before. Like in 1998, we went to counseling. We still couldn’t get on the same page. I made a list and printed it out for them, like, ‘These are the things I would need to think about staying.’ I just think it was clear that, when they told me the roles had changed and that I wasn’t going to be a creative equal in the making of the music, I couldn’t do it anymore.

The last record, the new record, was made sort of without me. It was going to be challenging to get up there onstage and deliver those songs as if they were mine when they sort of weren’t mine at all. It just got real lonely for me. But I love them. And they seem happy. They’re doing their thing the way they want to do it, and it doesn’t have to be the three of us. It can be this pure thing with the two of them. It always existed, that thing… Their relationship is telepathic.

I wouldn’t have left unless I really needed to. I have no ill will towards them at all. I want what we did together to remain this pure thing. I don’t want to work out our disagreements in the public. We tried to work stuff out. The three of us tried and sat down and talked about our hopes and dreams and what we wanted and how we saw things…

I’m not interested in trashing anybody. I do really love those guys. This thing that we made together, it’ll live on. Those songs that we made together will always be great live. Even if it’s not me playing them, the song is going to stand up. I think that’s happening now. We had a thing. We had a real thing. But if roles change in relationships, it’s just natural. Sometimes, you have to face that head-on, that the roles have changed, and reassess.

I tried, and it just didn’t work for me. There’s something that I hold onto. If we can’t make our personal relationships an example of what we want the bigger world to look like, the bigger picture to look like, that, to me, doesn’t work. And there’s no amount of money that could make that worth it. So I had to make a really hard decision.”

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