Riot Woman with Tae Won Yu of Kicking Giant

This episode features musician, artist, and illustrator Tae Won Yu, of the band Kicking Giant, which he played in with Rachel Carns. Tae was deeply involved in and influenced by the early Riot Grrrl and do-it-yourself scene in New York, Washington DC, and Olympia, Washington, where he lived for about a decade throughout the 1990s. Tae, and his music, art, and commitment to creating community and connection have long been an inspiration to me.

Kicking Giant in LA

Kicking Giant in LA

The cover for Kicking Giant’s album  Alien ID , designed by Tae Won Yu

The cover for Kicking Giant’s album Alien ID, designed by Tae Won Yu

In this conversation Tae thoughtfully shares his unique experience with and understanding of Riot Grrrl, including how he first met Molly Neuman and Allison Wolfe from the band Bratmobile after reading about their zine Girl Germs in Sassy Magazine. We talk about the power of community, self-expression, and the empowering feeling of creating your own scene, identity, and movement. He describes participating in a moment that has been cited as one of Riot Grrrl’s inspirational turning points: Girl Night, featuring all women-fronted bands, at the International Pop Underground Convention in Olympia in 1991.

Kicking Giant’s first show in Olympia in 1991

Kicking Giant’s first show in Olympia in 1991

Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile and Tae at the International Pop Underground Convention in 1991

Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile and Tae at the International Pop Underground Convention in 1991

A page from the program of the International Pop Underground Convention

A page from the program of the International Pop Underground Convention

He also discusses how the generation of artists who lived in Olympia before him helped inspire Riot Grrrl and feminist art in the Pacific Northwest and showed him how to build a life as an artist. Those artists include Calvin Johnson and Candice Peterson of K Records, Nikki McClure, Stella Marrs, Slim Moon of Kill Rock Stars, Jean Smith of Mecca Normal, and Lois Maffeo.

Stella Marrs by Tae Won Yu

Stella Marrs by Tae Won Yu

Laundry room dance party in Olympia

Laundry room dance party in Olympia

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Tae’s reflections are a beautiful tribute to the compassionate encouragement that existed in the early 1990s scene in Olympia and an example of creating a life for yourself as an artist and outsider.

Painting by Tae for Build to Spill’s  Perfect from Now On

Painting by Tae for Build to Spill’s Perfect from Now On

You can find the re-issued Kicking Giant record, This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989-1993, at Drawing Room Records. It features a beautiful, gatefold cover designed by Tae that includes photos from the Olympia scene and reflections by both Tae and Rachel. If you want to hear more about the early Riot Grrrl scene, Tae is also featured on the podcast Girl Germs, which focuses on Bratmobile’s first album of the same name.

The front cover for  Halo , designed by Tae Won Yu

The front cover for Halo, designed by Tae Won Yu

Follow Tae on Instagram on his personal account @Taewonyu and his incredible archive of photos from the Olympia scene at @summer_guitars. This episode features the song “Half Lie” by Taleen Kali. Riot Woman artwork and logo by Aurora Lady. Listen and subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.

All images courtesy Tae Won Yu

Eleanor Whitney