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Making Their Mark : The all-female Phantom Blue band is out to prove that women can match men in the mainstream hard rock arena.

July 15, 1994|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Steve Appleford writes regularly about music for The Times

CALABASAS — Politeness and chivalry are not ingredients that many hard rock musicians look for in their high-volume colleagues. But that's exactly what singer Gigi Hangach has discovered to her horror in some of the bands she's performed with over the years.

"I was treated like the girl ," said Hangach, who got her inspiration not only from Heart's rock diva Ann Wilson, but also from Black Sabbath's roaring Ozzy Osbourne. "I noticed sometimes guys were on better behavior, were nicer to me than they would have been to each other."

So maybe it's not surprising then that Hangach would finally turn to other female rockers and form a band called Phantom Blue. In a genre traditionally dominated by males, the band of five young women has already recorded two albums of guitar-heavy rock and found some success during three tours of Europe. Phantom Blue performs tonight at Pelican's Retreat in Calabasas.

"I think it gives women in music credibility," Hangach said of Phantom Blue's example. One of the group's singles was recently listed in the Top 10 on the British heavy metal charts. "Our predecessors didn't really do much for women in music, with the exceptions of Grace Slick, Janis Joplin and stuff like that."

Some recent all-female rock acts, including the more punk-flavored L7 and Babes of Toyland, prefer not to be categorized by their gender. But Hangach said she wants to demonstrate through Phantom Blue that women can match men in the mainstream hard rock arena. "Women are just now starting to make their mark," said Hangach, who lives in Long Beach. "I always wanted to do that."

Still, there is some lingering disrespect directed toward all-female bands in some corners of the music industry. In their current search for a new manager, the band was once told: "What am I going to do with a busload of PMS?"

Phantom Blue's newest album, "Built to Perform," was released in March on Geffen Records, shortly before new bass player Rana Ross was recruited. Tonight's performance will be only her third live date with the band.

"There have been times in my career when I would shy away from all-girl bands," said Ross, who arrived in Los Angeles seven years ago from Brooklyn to pursue a music career. "That's only because sometimes all-girl bands are just the brainchild of some producer. In that case, it's not because the players wanted to get together, but because they're thrown together."

What finally interested Ross in auditioning for Phantom Blue, she said, was the musicianship she heard from Hangach, drummer Linda McDonald, and guitarists Michelle Meldrum and Karen Kreutzer.

"I strived for years to get to the level that I'm at, practiced and paid my dues," said Ross, who has played styles from rock to funk to jazz with a variety of other musicians, and studied under former "Tonight Show" bassist Joel DiBartolo. "It was really nice to be in a room with other women that could play their instruments and kick ass. And they all looked good too."

Ross said she was also attracted to the fact that the band is a self-contained unit, writing most of its own material. "How could you turn something like that down?"

For Hangach, that independence offers opportunities for expression that she has yet to fully explore. "I always wanted to write a pro-choice song," she said. "I guess you could do that in a mixed-member band. But it makes more of an impact from an all-female band."

The band did record a song titled "Time to Run," which focuses on spousal abuse, and Hangach worked to give it a defiant edge. "I hate being viewed as a victim," she said of the song's protagonist. "So I just turned it around and made it a strong victim."

At the same time, Phantom Blue will also probably perform tonight such nonsense tunes as "Anti Love Crunch" and others. "I hate bands that take themselves too seriously or get too political. I listen to music to have fun," Hangach said.

Where and When

Who: Phantom Blue.

Location: Pelican's Retreat, 24454 Calabasas Road, Calabasas.

Hours: 9:30 tonight.

Price: $5.

Call: (818) 222-1155.

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