A Seat at the Table by Amy Raphael

Amy Raphael's new interview collection is a celebration of some of the most exciting faces in music today

Book Review by Heather McDaid | 11 Jun 2019
  • A Seat at the Table: Interviews with Woman on the Frontline of Music by Amy Raphael
Book title: A Seat at the Table: Interviews with Women on the Frontline of Music
Author: Amy Raphael

In the 1990s, Amy Raphael's Never Mind The Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock collated interviews with a mix of women across rock, including Bjork, Sonya Aurora Madan and Courtney Love, with a foreword from Debbie Harry, no less. It's a classic in the realm of music books, catching the temperature of the time. Two decades on, what's changed? Raphael's sort-of sequel doesn't go for a direct now-and-then, instead rallying an amazing new round of troops to look at the state of the world for women in rock today in A Seat at the Table.

Follow Christine and the Queens from the childhood short stories she'd write that creeped her mum out, through the perceptions of Christine as a separate character vs her at her fullest, unfiltered self; hear Ibeyi on the definitions of being feminist, and the worry of staying true to yourself so that you're still proud of the work 30 years down the line. Reach musical highs with Dream Wife who celebrate Blondie and Bowie's empowerment, and Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna literally bringing the girls to the front, to the darker realities of being a woman online as Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches discusses the intersections – and torrents – of abuse, but rising to forge your own narrative and find somewhere to belong.

To pick topics from each is to skim the surface; each is a complex journey through their lives, experiences, loves and complexities as people and musicians in an industry that's still battling issues of sexism, exclusion, and othering. With the lows come the highs – they're fearless, fantastic and continuing to fight.

Raphael has collated a stunning collection of interviews, then removed herself entirely, presenting each as a narrative as if the subject is talking straight to you, the reader. It breaks an added barrier in really being invited in to understand each interviewee, unfiltered. It's a fascinating, brilliant book, full of joy, rage, a love of music, and a battle to show that it can be done even when culture might push back. A celebration of some of the best and most exciting faces in music today, and a must read.

Virago, 6 Jun, £14.99