Lydia Lunch interview (2020)

Massive thanks to Sean Simmons for asking me to do this. Onya lad x

Lydia Lunch is brining Retrovirus out for the second time in three years and the last time to Oz. Fair not, she’ll be back, just with another outfit. Lydia was a key member with the No Wave movement in the late 70s, and since then as pretty much covered any media platform there is to cover. Whether on stage, with either spoken word or music, with her books, or her new podcast, The Lydian Spin, she always has something to say and as she said several time in our chat, the war is never over. A spokeswomen for anyone slightly odd, Lydia is a true original and one off. Her views and how she expresses em could only be done by her, along with the sweet smoke filed voice of hers, Lydia is someone for me that when she specks I’m all ears.

Lydia: we’ve done Europe enough times and Australia enough times, it doesn’t mean we won’t come back, we’ll be returning as something else. This is one of my longest running organizations, only because we can pick and choose from such a wealth of material. Me and Weasel do things, me and Tim do things, me Tim and Weasel do things, who knows what we’ll come back with next, let’s focus on coming soon.

Munster: Well you’ve been here three times in three years, what keeps you coming back to Australia?

Lydia: I love you my friend. I love Australia. Other than the travel, whatever, go to sleep. The crowd is great the clubs are great. Like I say we’re running out of places so we keep running back to Australia. I love Castlemaine that show was great in that big theatre.

Munster: The War Never Ends, a documentary about you came out last year, made by your mate Beth B, what was her pitch that made you think this was a good idea?

Lydia: many people have asked me to make a documentary. And I’m like I’m not fucking dead I don’t need a documentary. I’ve worked with Beth since 1979. What convinced me was that she understands what drives me, what originally drove me still drives me. And it’s not just about me, I’m dealing with universal subjects especially in my spoken word. It focus a lot on the spoken word especially the early stuff but the way I collaborate with so many different people and now I have my podcast the Lydian Spin which is fantastic, not only brining other people I’ve worked with in a collective light but there’s gonna be book, a companion book. A documentary, 72 minutes covering 40 years, it’s like a snapshot, so I’m glad there’s a book coming out, and also highlight other people I’ve worked with or I respect. Because there is a counter culture and we are it. This podcast I’ve been doing for a year I’m gonna keep doing it, it really connects different peoples fanbase or friends to people they might not have heard of but are equally valid with that there stubborn creative not going away and weird. Hello that’s why we’re here. And also Beth understand completely what I’m doing, with this creative schizophrenia, I mean the subjects are often the same I just need to find different ways to express it. And it not only about my life experience. I’m speaking for the incentive the over sensitive the weirdos the outscast the ones that feel rejected the ones that have been ghosted and pissed off. So welcome on come all

Munster: glad you can be our spokeswomen.

Lydia: fly your freak flag here we are

Munster: A Kickstarter was made to get the doco over the line and it raised $72,000. That must have been flattering knowing people wanted it to get made.

Lydia: well we had to raise a lot more than that and that was no easy feat, it’s very expensive to travel and make these things. It’s fantastic and with the Kickstarter you’re not only giving people an investment in the project you’re giving them some extra goodies as well. And doing the podcast, that’s free. That’s the next step, I’m now the documentarian of other people, so it’s very interesting. Its interesting times. Its crisis time, we have to be speaking out now. Let’s all come together and have as good a time as fucking possible. We’re not laughing we will be weeping as the earth falls in upon itself, whether it’s from fire, flood, earthquake or bullshit. Hello.

Munster: Don’t think I want the world to end tomorrow but seeing the world explode would be cool to see.

Lydia: well I’m an apocalyptica the end is always near. Just is it near enough.

Munster: Have you seen an Australian film, Smoke Em While you Got em? It’s about the world ending and a massive underground party, would love to have that party one day.

Lydia: let’s hope there still having that party. I figure there not gonna stop war and madness I’m not gonna stop having a good time so fuck all ya all, they can get with the program. The ultimate rebelling is pleasure you have to have community you have to have intimate communication. You have to have friends, you have to create, what else can we do? We are out gunned, outnumbered so you have to be stubborn to our vison and not be bowled under by the madness.

Munster: what’s the best way to get your point across, through spoken word or music?

Lydia: more people can identify with music and can get a groove on. But I still feel direct straight communication, with or without backing videos spoken word is a very important way of communicating, back to the podcast that’s why it makes sense to do that. With podcast people can multitask they don’t have to leave the house or be in the same room. We can penetrate to people’s memories with a click. With a show people need to pay money and leave the house and make the commitment. Podcast is not the same as a spoken word show but its still direct intimate communication. Music is far more fun for the audience, and I guess for me as well. Sure its fun. Till someone has a guitar cracked on their head. That never happens at our shows (laughs). That’s ridiculous. The guitar player usually does it to himself. Weasel Walter is a danger to himself and everyone’s ears, as he will rage.

Munster: what pisses you off in the world today that makes you want to shout into a microphone?

Lydia: (Screams) every fucking thing is the same as always. What a shame. There’s nothing fucking new the bullshit carry’s on. What else is new? There’s no new atrocity’s, just the lies the hypocrisy the greed the duplicity, the inhuman treatment. I mean the war is never over. I’ve been complaining about the same shit since Ronald Regan. I mean I really don’t have to say another fucking word. I’ll just quote the arsehole on Pennsylvania Avenue. Read my transcripts motherfucker. I’ve said it all already, I just find new ways to say it. The situation is the same. The king gas no clothes but he thinks he’s wearing Gucci.

Munster: I read an interview with you on the Vice website and you said “also they have a problem with seeing that progressive aggression can be empathic and not an attack”. Do you think there are some people, for them that the message you’re expressing is over their heads and lost because they might be scared in the manner your delivering it? Where there looking at how you say it as opposed to what you’re saying?

Lydia: well look you have to sophisticate the way in which you deliver things. I mean shouting and screaming that’s what rock bands are for. Like that performance in Castlemaine, there’s many styles of writing and a forum like that I can use many types of delivery. I hardly I think I’m beyond shouting and screaming. People get terrified when I whisper as well. Not you of course, I know you like it when I whisper.

Munster: personally I think you voice is gorgeous, how do you keep it in tack?

Lydia:  honey you don’t want to know what I stick in my mouth to keep it like this. I started as a falsetto and its getting close to a baritones. People say they don’t like the sound of their own voice but you can change it, its just natural maturity. All those late nights and empty clubs, I don’t know

Munster: Alan Vega was a friend of your when you first got involved in music, what are memories of the great man?

Lydia: Radical creative, and lately I’ve been touring with the Suicide Tribute with Marc Hurtado, who did two LPs with Alan Vega with the blessing of Alan’s family and Martin Rev and his wife. He was very inspirational to me because, when you go back and listen to Suicide the music is kind of twee but the music was so aggressive. He was an amazing visual artist as well.

Munster: Weasel Walter and you have been collaborators for some time, what’s it about Weasel that keeps you two continuing to work together?

Lydia: Weasel started getting into No Wave when he was 14 in the mid-west. He was into Teenage Jesus and the Contortions. He’s the only guitarist that can get up and do what Rowland S Howard did what Robert Quine from the Voidoids did or what I did. He’s an improv and compositions master. He also sees a system into the music of Teenage Jesus which I’m yet to uncode. He guaranties me there is a system probably even beyond my interpretation. He likes to push the music. When he works with me with Retrovirus he respects what it original was but he takes it to another level. He’s like me he’s stubborn, he’s an over achiever he’s ridiculously prolific, we like to laugh. I mean he’s one of the most amazing guitarists, drummer, composers and improvisers out there. And he’s a big cute dude what else do you want?

Munster: you’ve been mentioning your podcast The Lydian Spin throughout our chat, how did that start and what was your mission statement?

Lydia: it’s me and Tim Dahl, Simon Slater punked us saying you need to do a podcast as we both talk so fucking much. So we said yeah and we started recoding people in LA. Almost everyone, in the first series, we did 26, and we already recorded almost 40. Most of the people I did know but they all didn’t know each other. We just did Tony Defries who managed Bowies during the Diamond Dogs artist tour. A good friend of mine is best friends with him so she made the connection. It’s a very valid format and its fun

Munster: I enjoyed your Xmess special, and I like how you ended with the Big Sexy Noise track your love don’t pay my rent.

Lydia: thankyou I’m recording my valentines special tomorrow.

Munster: Any chance of Big Sexy Noise coming to Australia?

Lydia: James Johnson as decided he’s no longer a musician he’s a painter. So unfortunately Big Sexy Noise won’t make it. I wish we could. I think the next direction, one I would love to do is a project I got called No Wave Out, which has Umar Bin Hassan from the Last Poets with Weasel and Tim and myself its an amazing project but its very hard to find someone to back it, maybe that’s why I’m coming back to Australia I need to talk to Sean Simmons. It features Umar Bin Hassan a black poet whose 65 that every rapper has sampled. I might try and get that over. It’s a longer trip for my older friends. We’ll see. I’m also working on a psychedelic, improv with Tim, kinda more word based. No title but trust me I’ll be back. See you already crying about me not coming when I’m coming back in a month what are you doing Matt?

Munster: well I’ll go get myself together in a second, before I go can I ask what/s you favourite brand of cigarettes?

Lydia: (screams) you mean the ones that cost $30 a pack. Can you bootleg me some Marlboros?

Munster: I might be able to help with Marlboro’s.

Lydia: stock me up son stock me up.

Lydia Lunch: Retrovirus plays the Corner Hotel, February 28 and Theatre Royal, Castlemaine Feb 29

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