As far as bassist Share Pedersen is concerned, the only real problem with being in an all-female rock band like Vixen is that people ask the dumbest questions.
Last year, for instance, when Vixen (who will perform at Hammerjacks Sunday) was touring behind its self-titled debut album, Pedersen and her bandmates were astonished at some of the questions that came their way. "Back then, we were getting the most ridiculous questions," she recounts over the phone from a Lincoln, Neb., hotel. "Like, 'Did Bon Jovi put you together? Did Poison put you together? Are you girlfriends of somebody in the business?' It was hilarious."
It was also, she says, a little unfair. "I mean, I'm sure when Slaughter's new album came out, nobody went, 'So, did Cinderella put you guys together?' "
She does admit that some of that "Did Bon Jovi put you together?" stuff stems from the fact that Richard Marx produced a song for Vixen's debut. "At that time, it was 'Richard who?' " she chuckles. "We met Richard because we had the same management, and he just came to a rehearsal one day and said, 'Wow, you guys sound great. I'd like to work with you someday.'
"But much as I'd like to give him the credit, he did not help us get signed or anything. People thought he put the band together, people thought he produced the whole album, people thought we were Richard Marx's little sisters . . . Actually, this xTC lineup has been together for about five years, and the band has been going in one form or another for a lot longer."
Still, for some listeners, bands like Vixen are women first, and rockers second. Never mind what Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have achieved over the years; never mind the success of Lita Ford or Joan Jett. Even though Vixen has built its reputation not as a "girl group" but as a loud-and-proud hard rock act, there are still those who believe that a woman's place is in the audience, not onstage in front of a Marshall stack.
How does Vixen deal with such implicit sexism? "Well, you just develop a really good sense of humor," says Pedersen. "There's really nothing you can do about it except just keep playing. This time around, people know, it's like, 'OK, Vixen, they're a real band, formed a real way, end of story.' Enough of the girl thing already, you know?"
Truth be told, what the members of Vixen really want to be known for isn't their gender, but their ability to put together memorable material. Vixen, after all, aren't hard-core head-bangers; this band's sound is more song-oriented, like the radio-friendly sound of Aerosmith or Warrant.
"That's just the kind of stuff that we like," Pedersen says. "That's the kind of songs we listen to, and that's the kind of stuff we like to write."
These days, though, a lot of song-oriented hard rock acts don't write that kind of songs -- they buy them, instead. Even big-name rockers like Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and Heart have had songwriting help from tunesmiths-for-hire like Desmond Child and Holly Knight.
As a result, Vixen was literally besieged by songwriters as the group prepared for its second album, "Rev It Up." Says Pedersen, "When we were in writing for this record, man, we were getting phone calls left and right, from Holly Knight and a thousand would-be Holly Knights.
"It was weird. I can remember going to my corner video store and renting a video and the kid goes, 'Wow, you're in Vixen, aren't you?' And I say, 'Yeah.'
"So he says, 'You know, my friend and I sent in a tape to your management. We really want to write songs for you. . .' I was like, 'Give me the video. Go away.' It's just become so commonplace to take songs from everybody else, it gets a little bit ridiculous sometimes."
Given the ease with which Knight or Child crank out hit tunes, you'd think the members of Vixen would be eager to imitate their contemporaries. But, says Pedersen, "If anything, I always look backwards and think, 'God, I wish I could write a song like 'Wild Horses' by the Stones, or a million songs by Elton John, a million songs by the Stones.' I look at that stuff and say, 'Those are songs.'
"I don't like a lot of the new stuff," she adds. "It all sounds the same to me, with the exception of Aerosmith." But even if she did like "the new stuff," she and her bandmates would still hesitate to work with a hired gun, because they wouldn't want to compromise the band's sound.
"There's a sound that I think you get when you write with a big name songwriter," she explains. "It's really hard to get your band's sound across. Because there's always a sound, a song-type that you have. At least, we think we have one. And why should you struggle to get that across? Why don't you just do it yourself?"
Where: Hammerjacks, 2201 S. Howard St.
When: Oct. 21 at 8 p.m.
Call: 481-6000 for tickets, 752-3302 for information.