The idea of having one job is so ingrained into the career mindset that most people don’t even consider how many different places a career can go. Alice Bag started her career in The Bags in the late seventies playing punk music with her friends, from there she played with other bands, became a social activist, author and even a teacher. Her return to music came this year with her debut solo album Alice Bag, an album that merges an entire lifetime of careers and causes into a powerful debut.
“When I started touring my book Violence Girl in 2011, I was booking all the shows, transportation, and doing everything myself. That was the first inkling I had that I could be a solo artist,” says Bag.
It wasn’t a lack of confidence that kept Bag from going solo, it just never seemed to her as enjoyable a process. “Forming a band was the strongest social relationship I ever had, aside from my parents, I enjoyed the camaraderie and collaboration.”
Bag didn’t make the record alone though, she collaborated with old friends, colleagues and even some family. “I’ve known Kristian Hoffman the longest, since my 1970’s Masque days. Some of the musicians I’ve known for years but many are young, talented musicians like my daughter, Chelsea Velasquez, I’m very proud of her.”
For this latest release Bag crowdfunded through Kickstarter to get the record off the ground. “It gave me the opportunity to get in touch with people that wanted an album as much as I wanted to make it,” said Bag. After reaching her goal within days of starting her campaign, Bag arranged to have the record released through a label, “One of the musicians on the record suggested I get in touch with Joe Steinhardt from Don Giovanni Records, it’s been a match made in heaven.”
Despite a career-spanning sound both sonically and lyrically, Bag insists the record not to be taken as a memoir. “It’s personal because the lyrics are all about topics I feel strongly about, as for the music, it’s all styles that I like and I didn’t feel the need to have a record with just one sound.”
One of the issues Bag felt the strongest about was abusive relationships, which she covers in “He’s So Sorry.” “The song was initially inspired by my friend who was in an abusive relationship but it was also informed by my own exposure to domestic violence.” Bag wants the song to be a message to anyone in abusive relationships, her message is ” there is no good reason to stay – not even if the person apologizes; not even if you love them; not even if you believe they’re going to change. Get out.”
Writing has been another outlet for Bag’s creative side, through books like “Violence Girl” and “Pipe Bomb for the Soul” she’s explored topics of oppression on different fronts, but where some may think her writing has influenced her music, Bag has a different outlook. “I can’t say that my books influenced my song lyrics; rather, my life experiences have influenced both my writing and my art.”
Bag’s song “Programmed” was inspired by her experience as a teacher, and as a student as well, and serves as a look at our educational system. Despite her absence from the punk scene while teaching, she kept the spirit of the scene alive in her teaching. “My teaching was inspired by a desire to change the way students like me (ESL) were being treated, it dovetails nicely into the punk spirit, which was to challenge and tear down the status quo.”
A new record mean’s Bag is getting back in the swing of gigging and touring her record. “I’m nervous and excited about being a lead singer again and I’m looking forward to meeting new people and seeing new places.”
With such an impressive body of work behind her, Bag sees the one thread between it as improving the world in some way. “When I was a schoolteacher, we would go on field trips, and I would always tell my students “Let’s leave this place cleaner and better than when we got here.” Looking to her future and the legacy she wants to leave Bag puts it simply: “I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon, but I hope that when I leave this place, I’ll leave it cleaner and better than when I got here.”