Beauty And The Beat: Alison Mosshart Went Back To Her Roots With That Pink Dye Job
When it comes to modern-day front women, few are as mesmerizing as Alison Mosshart. With her primal growls and intense delivery, she’s made fans across the globe since the Kills played their first show ten years ago. Her list of followers reads like a who’s who of bands (besides splitting vocal duties with Jack White in the Dead Weather, she’s also appeared on tracks for Primal Scream and Placebo), but it’s not just the musically inclined who are impressed with the striking singer-songwriter. Take fashion photographer Kenneth Cappello; upon meeting Mosshart and Kills cohort (and Kate Moss hubby) Jamie Hince in 2003, he followed them on tour, documenting life as an up-and-coming indie rock duo. The resulting collection of photos finally comes together in Dream & Drive, out September 4, just in time for the band’s string of late-summer dates. Mosshart spoke with Style.com about how the book has helped her piece together her past, including exactly why we have Kurt Cobain to thank for her recent hot pink dye job.—Rebecca Willa Davis
Is the anticipation leading up to a book launch different from an album release?
Yeah, it’s definitely different. The book has been around and been in existence; those photos have been around for so many years. It’s not like a record where you record it and there’s not much time in between. We’ve been talking about doing the book for three years.
Do the photos in Dream & Drive serve as a replacement memory, or do you remember a lot of the moments captured?
They help me remember those moments—everything becomes a blur after a while. Jamie has a much better memory for everything we’ve done than I do. So much happens every day that I forget almost everything, and [the photos are] a huge reminder. I remember that stage, that room, that town, and what we ate that day and what we did in that town; I piece together the entire scenario. So for me, it’s really brilliant to have this book, because it’s like I get to relive these things rather than just vaguely.
Some of my favorite photos are the ones of you getting ready—in front of a mirror, looking into a compact. It’s so intimate. At this point, do you have your beauty routine down pat?
Yeah, I can pretty much do my makeup and my hair in ten minutes. It just becomes this thing you do every single night: You get dressed, you get ready, you have a drink, and then you play. You get fast at it. Even at the very beginning, we were so nervous to play—and we still get nervous to play—but nervous in that completely uncharted way where you change your clothes 25 times because you just don’t know. It’s still kind of the same; there are still those nerves. You really care about how you’re getting ready and what you’re putting on. It’s never nonchalant.
Do you go through the same process with packing for tour?
I live out of a suitcase. I generally dump one out, fill it back up, put the new shirt I got in it, and count my socks and underwear. None of those decisions [of what to wear onstage] happen at home, other than, are we going into winter? Are we going to a hot place? It’s usually both, all at once [laughs]. Packing is just always a constant in my life.
There’s this image of you as a fashion icon with endless access to clothing, but one of the things that stuck out to me in Dream & Drive is how often you’re wearing the same pieces over and over, be it gold boots or a leopard-print jacket.
Mostly those pictures were taken a long time ago, [when] we didn’t have any money. But we still don’t buy a lot of clothes and we have our favorite things, and I especially wear the same thing every day. I can wear the same thing for a month before I say, I should change. I wore those gold shoes every day because I didn’t have another pair of shoes, and I wore that leopard shirt because that was the right temperature [for where we were].
How would you characterize your personal style?
I don’t know; that’s for someone else to decide. I’m still wearing clothes that are in those pictures! I feel like I’m in a little bit of a bubble with what I like to wear—it’s very much a personal thing and isn’t really determined by what’s in style and what’s being sold or what the kids are wearing. It doesn’t enter into my psyche too much. But maybe it has? I’m older, maybe I’m looking at things differently?
Your hair has been through a big change recently! What motivated you to bleach and then dye your tresses pink?
There was no thought behind it. I was bored and in Seattle by myself for four days and walked to the Experience Music Project, and there was a 20th anniversary Nirvana exhibition. Looking at all these old photos reminded me of high school, and I thought, God, I’ve had black hair for so long. I used to dye my hair so much. Why did I stop? Fuck it, I have nothing else to do! So I found some girl that could bleach it for me—she just did four inches by the scalp and then the pink, and the rest is growing out.
Have you altered your hair routine because of it?
I haven’t done anything to it. I just take a shower and it changes itself, gets lighter, grows out. [When I was younger] I would literally change my hair once a week, dye it, bleach it, cut it, shave it; I would always have a different hairdo. It was fun. I don’t know why I stopped. I guess all these things were going through my mind and I didn’t really give a shit if it was long or black; it didn’t matter. I remembered myself as a kid; it was nice.
After all these years, you’ve established yourself in the pantheon of women in rock. Please tell me you hang out with, say, Patti Smith and Jennifer Herrema and talk about the good old days.
There’s a total secret society [laughs]! I mean, women playing rock are completely rad, it’s great, it’s super fun. There’s no secret society; it’s a lifetime of doing this job and meeting people you respect. It’s fantastic to meet your heroes and your peers.
Does it feel like the band is at a different place than where you were when these photos were taken?
No, not really. I feel like every day is still an exciting challenge. Since those pictures were taken, I think we’ve done a lot more things, been at a lot of bigger shows; things have changed in that way. But Jamie and I are still the same. We get nervous, we get inspired, we want to play shows…There’s still that hunger and drive, and that’s why we’re still doing this.
Photo: Getty Images; Kenneth Cappello / Domino Recording Co. Ltd.