Ken Leighton 12:03 p.m., Jan. 24
RIYL: Johnny Thunders
Upcoming Local Shows
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- Musician Interview: "The Female Johnny Thunders" · May 4, 2011
Influences: Johnny Thunders, New York Dolls, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry
“My very first pop idol was Mozart,” says singer/guitarist'bassist/keyboardist Diana Death. Despite that somewhat highbrow start, she ended up gravitating toward punk music, with one of her early bands being chick rockers the Gory Details.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘You’re like a female Johnny Thunders,’” says Death. “If I have to be compared to somebody, it may as well be him. His talent and badassery are undeniable.” Thunders’s death on April 23, 1991, was officially ascribed to drug abuse.
Death’s adoration of the late punk guitarist inspired her to cofound Chinese Rocks. “To my knowledge, we’re the world’s only Johnny Thunders tribute band. Our setlist spans his whole career, from the first songs he wrote with the New York Dolls to the Heartbreakers and his later solo material.”
In late 2011, Death toured with Billy Rath of the Heartbreakers. Shortly after that, she announced “I’ll be working with Greg Ginn [Black Flag] on a brand-new project.”
35 years old in 2012, the multi-instrumentalist has also served as the bassist for nu-wave quartet the Very, as well as playing a Casio keyboard with minimalist electro-artist Erleen Nada. “I manage to maintain a pretty consistent practice schedule with each band, and I avoid gig conflicts by always keeping a calendar in my purse...I recently played my one-thousandth gig.”
“On the rare occasion that I have a gig-free Saturday, I do runway modeling for local designers at events put on by MayStar’s Fashion Whore.”
So what does Diana Death think really killed Johnny Thunders?
“There’s a lot of mystery around Johnny’s death, and unfortunately, circumstantial evidence points to foul play, although his leukemia would have likely killed him before his 40th birthday. But the romantic weirdo in me thinks it’s also a sort of a cosmic death-wish fulfillment. He did, after all, tattoo his body with the motto ‘Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die.’”
In early 2013, she played guitar for El Vez on his Punk Rock Review tour with the Schitzophonics, beginning March 8 in North Hollywood and winding through California and Arizona, including a March 16 set at the SXSW music fest in Austin, Texas, and she has continued to tour and play locally with the Zeros co-founder.
In early 2016, she was performing with the Gory Details.