Music Article

Viva Zapata

Learn about the other Seattle rocker who died young -- Mia Zapata, murdered frontwoman of blues-punk outfit the Gits, is remembered in a new documentary and CD reissue

The Gits, Mia Zapata | GITS BACK Zapata's memory lingers 10 years after her murder
Image credit: The Gits: Chris Sevanian
GITS BACK Zapata's memory lingers 10 years after her murder

When Mia Zapata, the 27-year-old singer of the Seattle-based soul-punk band the Gits, was raped and murdered by an unknown assailant on July 7, 1993, she wasn't quite a household name. But many had felt that it wouldn't be long in coming, thanks to her big, gritty voice and raging stage presence. The Gits' first album, ''Frenching the Bully,'' had come out in 1992 to enthusiastic reviews; the posthumous 1994 release, ''Enter...The Conquering Chicken,'' with its chilling cover of Sam Cooke's ''A Change Is Gonna Come,'' was arguably even better, reinforcing the deep sense of loss many felt after Zapata's death.

Now, 10 years later, interest in the Gits is heating up. Guitarist Joe Spleen, bassist Matt Dresdner, and drummer Steve Moriarty have just issued a remixed, remastered version of ''Frenching the Bully'' with bonus cuts (a reissue of the second album is due in October), while ''The Gits,'' a documentary about the quartet by first-time feature director Kerri O'Kane, is near completion. But the best news may have come last January, when police used DNA samples to link a Florida man, Jesus Mesquia, to Zapata's murder. (Mesquia is awaiting trial in Seattle's King County Jail.)

''It is ironic and bittersweet, all this stuff happening around the 10th anniversary of Mia's death,'' says Dresdner. ''Just the fact that we're rereleasing our records and these filmmakers are doing a film and the arrest happening -- it made me think, Wow, they might have an end for that film.''

O'Kane became interested in the Gits after hearing about Home Alive, the Seattle-based antiviolence organization that was formed in response to Zapata's murder. ''After I heard their music, I just got fascinated with the Gits and with Mia,'' says O'Kane. ''It's such an unusual sound, this blues-punk fusion. And the more I learned, the more I was convinced their story would make an amazing film.''

O'Kane is planning to submit the movie to the Sundance Film Festival this fall. ''Mia was such a unique person that she's a wonderful subject,'' she says. Still, ''the whole goal of the film is to get the Gits' music out there and have it be celebrated, because it deserves that.''

Originally posted Jul 31, 2003 Published in issue #721 Aug 01, 2003 Order article reprints