Posted June 19, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Alison Mosshart Examines Car Culture on New Spoken Word Album and Book

Alison Mosshart photo credit David James Swanson
Alison Mosshart photo credit David James Swanson

Best known as one-half of the Kills, Alison Mosshart, who also performs and records as Baby Ruthless, the persona she adopts as the lead singer of blues-punk foursome the Dead Weather, has collaborated with everyone from her Dead Weather bandmate Jack White to the Arctic Monkeys, Primal Scream, Gang of Four, Cage the Elephant, Foo Fighters, James Williamson and Mini Mansions. 

In addition, her paintings have been shown in galleries across the world.

Now, she’s just revealed details of Sound Wheel, her first solo spoken word album and companion piece to CAR MA, her printed collection of paintings, photographs, short stories and poetry. Both are set for release on Aug. 7 on Third Man.

CAR MA‘s first limited edition print run sold out in one day upon release in May 2019. It will now be made widely available for the very first time via Third Man Books. The Special Edition bundle includes both hardcover, signed, limited edition CAR MA book and limited edition vinyl Sound Wheel LP, available direct from Third Man only.

According to press materials, Sound Wheel is an album about “cars, rock n’ roll, and love.” Mosshart imagines the auto body shop like some kind of Coney Island where America’s highways represent the last great roller coasters.

“When I was writing CAR MA, there were some passages I struggled to get right, and I got in the practice of reading them out loud and recording them, to hear and feel where words or sentences were rubbing together wrong,” she says. “I’d listen back to these recordings and they’d be real informative to me in that way. This tool I was using to help me, started feeling like this whole other angle or art form. And I started thinking it would be interesting to perform/record the whole book, not in a straight up spoken word way, but more like a sound sculpture of characters and voices and miscellaneous cut ups, no rules.”

After a full month of being obsessed with making the book, she then spent the next month obsessed with recording it.

“I told Third Man about this, and they dug the idea,” she says. “Due to the time constraints of vinyl, not every bit of writing is recorded, I took liberties with a razor blade on some stuff, and there are a lot of interludes from old tapes I found from old phone conversations I had in the ’90s, even a whole monologue where I played a crooked car dealer leaving a very long voicemail to a potential buyer — that does not appear in CAR MA, the book. I was just riffing and it really made me laugh. Sound Wheel is the sonic version of the book, but it’s its own animal really. It’s not music but there are songs on it; it’s not spoken word, but I talk a lot. Of course after all that writing and then all that recording, I thought, ‘Hmmm, well, it sure would be fun to make little films for all these sound pieces… and so I started doing that.’ CAR MA continues to be, for me, exploding out in all directions.”

The Standard Edition of CAR MA will be available from bookstores everywhere August 11, 2020.

The announcement of Sound Wheel and the new release of CAR MA follows Mosshart’s debut solo singles, “Rise” and “It Ain’t Water,” which will be featured on a forthcoming 7-inch release on Domino Records, available for pre-order now and set for physical release on July 31.The vinyl release pairs “Rise,” her debut solo track recorded for FacebookWatch show Sacred Lies, and “It Ain’t Water,” both with self-produced videos Mosshart created in quarantine. Mosshart is also working with Jamie Hince on the next Kills record and dreams of the day in the hopefully not so distant future, (pandemic-willing) when they’ll be back on the road with exciting new music to share.

Photo credit: David James Swanson.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].