Sharon Needles (Betty Blowtorch, PRISS, Hell’s Belles) Interview

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How did you get into music?
My older sister introduced me to Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Queen and David Bowie when I was a kid. Friends from school introduced me to KISS, AC/DC, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith in the late ’70s. By the early ’80s, punk rock wormed its way into my brain and I was hooked and felt right at home.

What were some of the first bands/artists that you listened to on a regular basis?

KISS, Sex Pistols, AC/DC, New York Dolls and The Ramones.

How old were you when you started playing a musical instrument and what was the first instrument that you started playing?

I played a few instruments and sang in grade school but never really stuck with anything for more than a few months. It wasn’t until high school when I picked up the bass guitar that I stuck with playing something.

Why did you choose that particular instrument?

I always had a fascination with the deep sound of the bass and wanted to learn to play. My fingers were too retarded to play guitar, so I started on bass and switched to guitar a few years later. I found that bass was similar to a guitar, a little easier in that you’re not playing 6 note chords but a little harder to master the techniques.

As a singer and as a musician, who/what are some of your influences and why?

I don’t really think of myself as a singer, though I do sing in PRISS as Doll Stanley. I think of myself as a rhythm guitar player.

Some of my influences: Johnny Ramone, Chuck Berry, Malcolm Young, Brad Whitford… Keith Richards and Jimmy Page are also super strong rhythm players, though they are mainly known for lead.

Discuss your experiences (good and/or bad) both as a female musician and as a woman working in the entertainment industry.

95% of the time, you deal with male agents, male promoters, male venue managers, male stage managers and male sound crew. When you walk in as a female and they know who you are, it’s fine. Otherwise, get ready to have them assume you’re the merch girl. On top of everything else, you’re supposed to pretend things are all good. That being female has no effect at all. If you don’t keep up that pretense, you’ll probably get pegged as having some militant agenda or just being a bitch. You know you’re not actually inferior, so you want to go along as if things are fine. You just wanna do your thing and have it be what it is. For hours, even days at a time, this works. You can live life without being reminded that your femaleness is a problem. Then somebody beats you over the head with it again.

What were the circumstances that led to you becoming the Paul Stanley of the all female KISS tribute band PRISS?

Judy and I went into a bar to have a drink one night when the bar was having a “KISS night”. Literally, everyone in the bar was dressed up and made up like a member of KISS. The DJs were spinning KISS and the television had KISS videos showing all night. KISS was my favorite band in grade school and were also a huge influence on the band that Judy and I were in together called Betty Blowtorch. BB had low-tech pyro and dancing blowtorch girls. The singer we had in Betty Blowtorch was also a huge KISS fan and when she passed away, she was cremated and her ashes were placed in her favorite KISS lunchbox. So that night, it was clear that we had a calling to do an all-female tribute to KISS.

What are some of your favorite KISS songs to sing and/or play and why?

My favorite KISS songs are: “She”, “Love Her All I Can”, “Black Diamond”, “I Want You” and “Detroit Rock City”. KISS has hooks for days and those big over-the-top choruses that hit you like a ton of bricks. That’s what has set them apart from other bands.

Do you happen to know if Paul Stanley is aware of PRISS and if so, have you gotten any sort of feedback from him about your performance?

I’m sure Paul is aware of PRISS. PRISS was actually on an episode of Gene Simmons Family Jewels and we met Shannon, Nick and Tracy Tweed. Years ago, Eric Singer was in a band called Glamnation when Judy and I were in Betty Blowtorch. Betty Blowtorch and Glamnation did some shows together back then. We had a blast together! Eric is now in KISS and he has been very supportive of PRISS. I’ve met Gene, Bruce, Tommy and both Erics. I still have yet to meet Paul but I WILL.

What do you play in Hell’s Belles, an all female tribute to AC/DC?

I fill in as their Malcolm Young playing rhythm guitar.

Are any of the members of AC/DC aware of Hell’s Belles? If so, what (if anything) do they think?

Before I started filling in with the band, the rest of the girls met the guys from AC/DC at the Tacoma Dome. AC/DC’s own Angus Young has said of Hell’s Belles, “It’s flattering. It’s great to know that other musicians like you enough to play a tribute to you. Hell’s Belles are the best AC/DC cover I’ve heard.”

What are some of your favorite AC/DC & KISS albums/songs and why?

Favorite AC/DC albums: Powerage, Highway To Hell, Dirty Deeds and Back In Black.

Favorite KISS albums: KISS, Dressed To Kill, Rock And Roll Over, Hotter Than Hell and ALIVE!

Both bands have pocket-solid & hard-rocking memorable riffs and songs that stand the test of time.

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