Alice Bag was born and raised in East Los Angeles, California. As a child, Alice Bag was influenced by the music played by her family, including her father's ranchera music and sister's soul music collections. As a member of the punk rock band The Bags, Alice was at the forefront of the L.A. punk rock scene in the late 1970s. Though punk rock is seen as a predominantly white male genre in the mainstream light; Bag describes the early movement as an extremely welcoming community being open to everyone, especially to women. She is most famous for being a member of The Bags, one of the first bands on the L.A. punk scene. The Bags were notable for having two female lead musicians (Patricia Morrison co-founded the group with her school friend, Bag) and for pioneering an aggressive sound and style which has been cited as an early influence on what would become the hardcore punk sound. The aggressive sound that the band had was later noted to have a Mexican/Chicano influence that Alice unintentionally brought along from her childhood. Members of the Bags appeared as the Alice Bag Band in director Penelope Spheeris's landmark 1981 documentary on the Southern California punk scene, The Decline of Western Civilization. As a lead singer of punk band the Bags, she cocreated the first wave of California punk alongside the likes of Black Flag, X, the Germs, Phranc (then in Catholic Discipline, and the five spunky gals we came to know as the Go-Go's. Bag went on to appear and perform in other Los Angeles–based rock bands including Castration Squad, The Boneheads, Alarma, Cambridge Apostles, Swing Set, Cholita - the Female Menudo (with her friend and collaborator, performance artist Vaginal Davis, Las Tres, Goddess 13 (the subject of a KCET/PBS produced documentary, "Chicanas In Tune") and Stay At Home Bomb.
Throughout her years of gaining her education, Alice Bag experienced not so friendly encounters and was picked on. During her middle school and high school years, she was picked on for her weight, her teeth, and her physical appearance. “And her painful middle school experiences as an overweight girl with buck teeth and glasses.” So she found that she was alone a lot of the time. That took a big part in her music tastes. It drew her to develop a certain liking in music such as Queen,David Bowie and Elton John. She became so into those artists that when she transferred high schools, people called her, “Ziggy” after David Bowie’s persona. This stage in her life guided her to transform into a rebellious, yet attentive teenager.
Later on in Bag’s life when she made the connection between punk performances and ranchera ones, she created the genre “punk-chera,” which she performed by mixing aspects of each separate genre. A historically marginalized arena for artists of color, the East L.A. punk scene proved to be a difficult space for several underrepresented artists to permeate. Bags’ influence was thus, even more important for Chicanas and women in general.(MF) Her screams became her signature sound, and characterized the East L.A. punk scene. (MF)
Alice Bag seemed to be influenced by her family’s history. More of the way her father was. He was an abusive man towards her mother. She found this connection between the way he was and Lucha Libre. She had a love/hate relationship towards him. She knew he could be a villain, but could also be a good man. “It was as much part of the Mexican culture as eating a sweet apple with salt of chili.” (Alice Bag) Although some memories of her father were negative, she still enjoyed and stated that some of her happiest memories were going on trips to Tijuana to visit her father’s family in Mexico. Out of her culture, she was influenced by the performances of Lucha Villa,Pedro Infante and Jose Alfredo Jimenez ;some of Mexico’s greatest singers. They really influenced her feel for music, and caused for her to develop her own style of singing.
A cause Alice Bag has been passionate about is education, especially bilingualism. In a home that chastised her for speaking anything other than Spanish with her family, Alice has first-hand experience to the difficulties of going to school without knowing English. Teachers ridiculed her for not knowing English, long stints with no friends followed by a brief foray into cheerleading, close calls with law enforcement and a firsthand view of police mistreatment of Chicano rights activists, its clear to the reader how each experience contributes to the evolution of a stage persona. Alice began working at inner-city LA schools, teaching English, after she received her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from California State University- Los Angeles.
Alice Bag defied all odds and became a punk rock artist despite many setbacks and family and social pressures. In the article Vexed on the Eastside: Chicana Roots and Routes of L.A. Punk, Michelle Habell-Pallán, captures Alice Bag’s energy and enthusiasm by quoting Los Angeles Times who stated, “When Alice lead singer for the Bags rock group, takes the stage in torn fishnet hose and micro mini leopard-skin tunic, she explodes into convulsive, unintelligible vocals”. Still today Alice shares her music with her followers. In addition to her musical talents she also inspires other women musicians and remains involved with her community through her biography titled “Violence Girl”.
Alice Bag’s immediate family included her husband and daughter, Maddie. In 2005, Alice Bag and her family moved from East LA to the west side of town. The move was startling and different, but after Bag’s husband was offered a job in Phoenix, Arizona, they changed homes once again. Alice Bag and her family currently reside in Arizona. She has taken up hobby sewing, design, and oil painting.
Alice Bag began singing professionally at the age of 8 recording theme songs for cartoons. She recorded cartoon theme songs in English and in Spanish. Through that she was able to showcase bilingual ability and cultural diversity at a very young age. She didn't gain exposure until after forming Punk band ‘The Bags’. Alice originally collaborated with The Bags members Patricia Bag and Margo Reyes in a band they first called “Mascara” then “Femme Fatale,” which ultimately evolved into “The Bags.” The Bags were active from year 1977–1981. They released a single “survive” along with "Babylonian Gorgon". The band was later added onto a compilation album, which is an album of mixed artist with the same genre. The Bags songs included: Survive, Babylonian Gorgon, Gluttony, TV Dinner, Why Tomorrow?, We Don't Need the English, Animal Call, Chainsaw, We Will Bury You, Violent Girl, Disco’s Dead, and Sanyo Theme. The Bags band broke up by the year of 1981 which then led Alice Bag to join another band in the late 80’s called “Cholita!”. “The Bags” band was renamed “Alice Bag Band” for the release of "The Decline Of Western Civilization.” Alice Bag and partner Patricia Morrison had a dispute about who had the right to use the name, and “Alice Bag Band” was created. Following the birth of her daughter in the mid-90s, Alice Bag made the choice to take a break from the music industry and become a stay-at-home mother. Soon after, though, she came to realize that she wanted something else in life in addition to motherhood. As a result, she started her current project, At Home Bomb. At Home Bomb is an all-female community centered around punk rock that exists to address social constraints that are put on women both domestically as well as musically.
Feminist Activism and Violence Girl
Bag's memoir, Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage - A Chicana Punk Story, was published by Feral House in Fall 2011. In 2008, Bag attended a comic-con with her daughter, and this is where her initial inspiration to create Violence Girl came from. Her memoir is a compilation of short stories that sets the stage for her desire to be a punk artist. Her book contains stories of entering the punk rock scene at a time that was more inviting for women musicians. As a musician at the forefront of punk rock, Alice Bag's story can be inspiring for future generations of female punk artists. Violence Girl reveals how domestic abuse fueled her desire for female empowerment and sheds a new perspective on the origin of hardcore, a style most often associated with white suburban males. http://content.lib.washington.edu/wwrweb/making-scenes/bioBag_Alice.html The confrontational style of Alice Bag's performances take direction from witnessing domestic abuse as a child. Alice channeled deeply rooted personal trauma into power on stage, refusing to be victimized or oppressed by men. Through punk music, Alice realized the extent to which she had internalized witnessing violence as a child, and she worked to overcome using violence as a mode of releasing rage. Music became both a process of healing her wounds and a way to extend power and support to her community.
Continuing her movement in empowering women, Alice Bag was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Women Who Rock Conference in Seattle, Washington. A collection of various speakers and activities meant to empower and inspire not only Latina women, but women of every ethnicity, Alice Bag discussed her rough childhood and touched on points from her biography, “Violence Girl”. She sang alongside both The Januariez, a local band, and Medusa, a well-known emcee and hip hop artist. When asked about how she channels her femininity into her angry performances on stage, Alice says she is defined not by gender, but by strength. Bags’ explains at the 2014 Women Who Rock [un]Conference, that the place for punk in the feminist movement is to continue to challenge; Punk is meant to draw attention to things that are wrong in society. “We don’t live in a post racism, post feminism, post anything; punk allows us to speak our minds.”
Since 2004, Bag has also maintained a blog, Diary of A Bad Housewife, and a digital archive of interviews with women who were involved in the first wave of the Southern California punk scene in the 1970s, including musicians, writers, and photographers. The archive also includes newspaper and magazine clippings, photos, and postcards relating to LA punk. On Diary of a Bad Housewife - created to express her feminist perspective on the world, Bag shares her personal thoughts and experiences with women and feminism in music, Chicana culture, among other issues relating to race and gender. She concluded her first post in August 2004 with an encouragement to all women: "Take control of your own history before someone else writes your epitaph."
Not only was she involved in the 2012 Women Who Rock Conference, but also was a part of the panel in the 2014 Women Who Rock Conference.
In our century, a strong way to demonstrate resistance is through social media. Alice Bag is a Twitter enthusiast keeping all her followers up to date with current resistance events. Her daily tweets include information about her most current interviews, new work, and personal thoughts. Alice keeps her audience updated on current rallies, protests, and conferences that defend and promote the Chicansimo movement. Through her tweets you will be able to find references to other great, status quo defiant artists. As of June 5, 2014 Alice Bag only has 2,781 followers. This demonstrates the struggle for punk feminist artists such as Alice herself, to find the space, opportunity, and support through networks such as Twitter. These revolutionary artists need more recognition for their work and a broader audience that will listen and follow. Simple things such as tweets can be a nice, friendly reminder of the internal and external war that Chican@s combat in hopes of finding the spiritual utopia, Aztlan. For Alice Bag’s followers, her tweets work as a reminder that the community is in constant resistance. She also has links to her daily blogs about the her Chicana, feminist, punk rock life.
Here are some examples of Alice Bag’s tweets and the many things she has to offer to her followers:
May 20 9:31 A.M - “A favorite @KembraPfahler quote: “I don’t think being an artist requires talent. I think it require courage and audacity and discipline.”’ Retweet April 22nd 2:11 A.M - . “We are conduits for ideas, we are agents of change. http://ln.is/wp.me/ZPyGC via @wordpressdotcom #EARTHDAY2014" April 7 1:46 P.M - “You can be the person making the change happen, not just someone who is along for the ride.”
In addition to her Twitter account, Alice Bag also has her own Tumblr account in which the punk rock artist talks about her early life stories and experiences as a punk rock artist during her career initiation. In her account she talks about the different encounters she faced with other artists whom she met along the way. She uses this space to touch on her experiences in the past, how they shaped her life and career and how they made her the person she is today. She references many artists who made an impact in her musical career and recalls the moments when she first met them, outlining their first encounter detail by detail. " Tomata was the first Screamer I met. I met him at a party but like so many of the parties that I attended during that time, I have little idea who my host or hostess was. The same night I met Tomata, I also met the flashy, tough looking Cherie The Penguin and her tan, buffed-out faithful companion Tony The Tiger." Alice Bag -Tumblr. She mentions the Tupperwares and Screamers, Cherie The Penguin and Tony The Tiger as well as other shows such the East Side Kids who inspired her career while during her early stages as a punk rock artist. In one of her entries she talks about her first encounter with the group, as she recalls meeting the band's co-conspirators; Tomata du Plenty and Tommy Gear. She utilizes this space to blog about important dates when she will be making an appearance in public or performing as means to share memories relating to her earlier years as a punk rock artist and other important moments today. In addition to sharing stories about her early life, Alice Bag also blogs about her feelings, music, interviews, book excerpts and about other artists who have made an impact in her life.
Furthermore, for those interested in a direct connection with Alice Bag, can find a direct link in her Tumblr account which provides fans and others interested with a one on one opportunity with to email her directly. Alice Bag maintains very active in her blog account and currently has many fans and supporters who follow her on her blog. She is constantly working to engage other young artists and motivates them to keep on striving and not give up. "During my 20’s and 30’s at some point I started to think, “I have to give it up and I have to grow up.” But the truth is that I can never give it up and that’s another thing that I always tell people, especially young people: don’t even bother thinking that you’re going to give up whatever your art or your creative thing is. It’s always there for you."— Interview with New Books in Popular Music.
Meeting The Comandante
Alice Bag has not yet finished chronicling her story. On May 26, 2014 she made available to her followers a passage from the second book she is working on. The released excerpt is titled Meeting The Comandante, which translates to Meeting the Commander. It is dated Sunday April 6, 1986 and is a narrative of an occasion during her time abroad in Nicaragua. Bag traveled to Nicaragua on a work-study program in the early 80s after the wake of a revolution, where she worked at a school in the village of Esteli. The excerpt describes her introduction to a short woman with braided hair and indigenous features, Comandante Gladys Báez. At first she was surprised to imagine this lady as the leader of a revolutionary group consisting of both women and men, but she quickly checked herself and realized the narrowness of her thoughts. The passage continues with her Nicaraguan host mother telling Alice about her experiences with Gladys in Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women, or in Spanish AMNLAE (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenes Luisa Amanda Espinoza).
In an interview, Bag mentioned that she kept a diary while in Nicaragua. The released excerpt seems to hint to the possibility that her new book will consist of entries from this diary.
- Cromelin, Richard (1983-06-08). "POP MUSIC REVIEW Benefit Reunites Punkers for (Mostly) Acoustic Sets". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times). pp. 4–.
- Bag, Alice. "Biography". Alice Bag Official Website. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- Vielma, Cory. "An Interview with Alice Bag". Network Awesome. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- bublitz, Dana. "Women Who Rock 2014 Poster". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Seggel H. VIOLENCE GIRL: EAST L.A. RAGE TO HOLLYWOOD STAGE, A CHICANA PUNK STORY. Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response To Pop Culture [serial online]. Spring2012 2012;(54):65. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 1, 2014
- Ziegler, Chris (2003-08-14). "Alice’s Got a Brand New Bag". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
- Habell-Pallán, Michelle (2012) “Death to Racism and Punk Revisionism”
- Habell-Pallán, Michelle. Vexed on the Eastside: Chicana Roots and Routes of L.A. Punk.
- Bag, Alice. "Alice Bag Blog". http://alicebag.com/bio.html.
- The Bags (Los Angeles band)
- Bag, Alice. "Alice Bag Blog". http://alicebag.com/bio.html.
- Women Who Rock Archive
- http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/wwr/id/418/rec/1, Alice Bag and Chola Con Cello, Interview, 2011
- "http://ejport.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/alicebaginterview.pdf", Q & A With Alice Bag and Elona Jones, Interview, 2012
- Bag's official website
- Bag's Diary of A Bad Housewife
- Bag's online archives of punk photos