Sharon Cheslow

Sharon Cheslow

Sharon Cheslow (born October 5, 1961 in Los Angeles, California) is an American musician, composer, and artist. In 1981, she formed Chalk Circle, Washington, D.C.'s first all-female punk band. [Andersen & Jenkins 2001 p. 93] She has since become an accomplished artist who works between different mediums, mostly sound-based. Hornreich 2002]


Early years

Born in Los Angeles, Sharon Cheslow grew up in the Jewish area near Wilshire and Fairfax. She listened to rock and roll and was influenced by her parents' love of music, especially protest music. Gibbon 2008] Her mother graduated from UCLA and was pro-civil rights. Her family moved to the Washington, D.C. suburbs in 1967 after Cheslow's father got a job with the U.S. Department of Transportation. They first moved to Silver Spring, MD and then to Bethesda, MD where she experienced anti-semitism.

D.C. bands and publications

Before getting into post-punk and hardcore punk, she was influenced by the Beatles, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, The Slits, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, and jazz. Her first band Chalk Circle, as guitarist, grew out of her friendships with Anne Bonafede, Henry Garfield (later Henry Rollins), and members of the Teen Idles and Untouchables around late 1979/early 1980. [Andersen & Jenkins 2001 p. 57] They shared a love of Bad Brains and California punk. When the D.C. hardcore scene became more macho Chalk Circle didn't fit in so well, [Klein 1997] [Andersen & Jenkins 2001 p. 93-94] [Azerrad 2001 p. 150-51] but they got support from art punk bands such as Half Japanese and Velvet Monkeys. Cheslow attended University of Maryland and first learned about feminist theory through film studies classes with Robert Kolker. These experiences led Cheslow to examine and write about the role of women in music.

Cheslow’s first fanzine was "If This Goes On", co-published with Colin Sears from 1982-83. [Andersen & Jenkins 2001 p. 115] [Azerrad 2001 p. 145] With Cynthia Connolly and Leslie Clague, she compiled the photographic punk oral history book "Banned In DC" in 1988. It was one of the first books to document a regional American hardcore scene. Her first issue of "Interrobang?!" was published in 1989 with a Nation of Ulysses interview.

Cheslow was also in Bloody Mannequin Orchestra in the early 1980s and their recordings came out on WGNS. BMO combined hardcore punk with noise rock, no wave, and improvisation. She was also in a one-off project with Fugazi's Joe Lally.

California years


Cheslow moved to San Francisco in 1990, continued to collaborate with musicians in D.C., and was an influence on Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. In the 1990s she was in indie rock bands Suture (with Dug E. Bird of Beefeater and Kathleen Hanna), Red Eye (with Tim Green of Nation of Ulysses), and The Electrolettes (with Julianna Bright). Her recordings came out on Dischord Records, Kill Rock Stars, and her label Decomposition. She played guitar and bass and was a singer and songwriter for all three bands, although Hanna was the main vocalist and lyricist for Suture.


In the mid-'90s, Cheslow published her comprehensive list of women in late '70s punk in "Interrobang?!" and it became available as an online list. [Klein 1997] [Kearney 2006] In 2000 she edited an issue on music and transcendence which featured writings by Pauline Oliveros, Maggi Payne, Nicole Panter, Public Works, and Allison Wolfe.

She is a contributor to Thurston Moore's book "".

Coterie Exchange

While studying intermedia arts at Mills College in the music department, she began performing and exhibiting experimental music, sound art, and installations. Her sound collages and explorations are documented on the CD, "Lullabye from the Sky", released in 2002 on Decomposition under the name Sharon Cheslow and Coterie Exchange. It featured collaborations with Tim Green, Julianna Bright and members of Deerhoof among others. The project was the audio component from sound installations she had been performing. In 2003 "Fan Music: Winds of Change" was featured at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Her videos to the tracks "Dream/Construct" and "September Son" are on two Kill Rock Stars video compilations. In 2004 she toured and collaborated with Yellow Swans, Inca Ore, and Chuck Bettis.

Cheslow moved back to Los Angeles in 2005. Since then she has collaborated with Weasel Walter, Christina Carter (Charalambides), and Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Markers). In L.A. her collaborators have included David Scott Stone, Anna Oxygen, and Steve Kim (Silver Daggers). [SS 2002] She performs with guitar, electronics, organ, digital audio, objects, and vocals.

In 2006 and 2007 she presented the Coterie Exchange sound event "Sonic Triptych" in Oakland, LA, and NY. The NY version was a collaboration with filmmaker/video artist James Schneider (who directed "Blue is Beautiful"). "Sonic Triptych" first premiered in San Francisco in 2002 with nine women, including Blevin Blectum and members of Erase Errata.


*"Dream/Construct" on "Video Fanzine #2" (NTSC VHS, Kill Rock Stars, 3 October 2000, KRS300) []
*"September Son" on "Video Fanzine #3" (NTSC DVD, Kill Rock Stars, 12 July 2005, KRS400) []


*"Mixed Nuts Don't Crack" compilation (1982) with Chalk Circle
*"Time Clock = Hole in Head" (1983) with Bloody Mannequin Orchestra
*"Roadmap to Revolution" (1984) with Bloody Mannequin Orchestra
*"Streetlights in the Dark" (1985) with Bloody Mannequin Orchestra
*"A Wonderful Treat" compilation (1991) with Suture
*"Static Storm" (1998) with Red Eye
*"Plug Me In" (1998) with Electrolettes
*"Lullabye from the Sky" (2002) with Coterie Exchange
*"Uncertainty Rides the Waves" (2004) with Coterie Exchange, KIT
*"Collaborations" (2005) with Yellow Swans, Inca Ore, Chuck Bettis, Jerry Lim, Kris Thompson
*"Plants That Kill" (2007) with Liz Allbee, Weasel Walter

;EPs and Singles
*"“Pretty Is”" EP (1992) with Suture
*"“Special Delivery to My Heart”" 7” (1995) with Red Eye
*"“Octane Lies” 7”" (1999) with Electrolettes



* Citation | last=Andersen | first=Mark | last2=Jenkins | first2=Mark | title=Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capitol | publisher=Akashic Books | place=New York, NY | year=2001 | isbn=1-888451-44-0 | url = .

*Citation | last=Azerrad | first=Michael | title= | publisher=Little Brown | place=Boston, MA | year=2001 | isbn=978-0-316-78753-6 .

* Citation | last=Connolly | first=Cynthia | last2=Clague | first2=Leslie | last3=Cheslow | first3=Sharon | title=Banned in DC: Photos and Anecdotes From the DC Punk Underground, 1979-85 | publisher=Sun Dog Propaganda | place=Washington, DC | year=1988 | isbn=9780962094408 .

*Citation | last=Giattina | title=8 Days a Week | newspaper=San Francisco Bay Guardian | date=Oct. 5-12, 2005 | url= .

*Citation | last=Gibbon | first=Layla | title=an interview with Sharon Cheslow
periodical=Maximum Rocknroll | date=March 2008 | url=

*Citation | last=Hornreich | first=Dina | title=Shout Out: Sharon Cheslow | periodical=Venus | date=Spring 2002 | url= .

* Citation | last=Kearney | first=Mary Celeste | title=Girls Make Media | publisher=Routledge | place=New York, NY | year=2006 | isbn=0415972787 .

* Citation | last=Klein | first=Melissa | contribution=Duality and Redefinition: Young Feminism and the Alternative Music Community | editor-last=Heywood | editor-first=Leslie | editor2-last=Drake | editor2-first=Jennifer | title=Third Wave Agenda | publisher=University of Minnesota Press | place=Minneapolis, MN | year=1997 | isbn=9780816630059 .

*Citation | last=Koch | first=Kerri | title=Don't Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl | year=2006 | url= .

*Citation | last=SS | title=Sharon Cheslow @ Echo Curio | newspaper=L.A. Record | date=Dec. 21, 2007 | url= .

Further reading

* Citation | last=Raha | first=Maria | title=Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground | publisher=Seal Press | place=Emeryville, CA | year=2005 | isbn=0415972787 .

External links

* [ Official Website]
* [ "Interrobang?!] "
* [ "Banned in DC"]
* [ Electrolettes' Kill Rock Stars Factsheet]
* [ Decomposition profile] by Tobi Vail
* [ Sharon Cheslow's myspace]

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