Sex and the Pity: Lydia Lunch meets Pissed Jeans
Since forming Teenage Jesus and The Jerks in 1976, Lydia Lunch – the multimedia poet, writer, actress, and all-round embittered speaker of truths – has long chronicled the primitive delinquencies of men.
Lunch wasn’t simply a product of New York City’s late-70s No Wave scene – she was one of its true visionaries; and she has stampeded through the decades with an anti-commercial outlook. She’s also sunk her teeth in to music production, having recently assisted self-deprecating US sludge-punks Pissed Jeans with their new album, Why Love Now. Reflecting on the process in this conversation for Crack Magazine, Lydia spoke with Pissed Jeans frontman Matt Korvette to discuss the Internet age, the rotten condition of US politics and the concept of the non-mono-gender. If you’re easily offended, avert your gaze now.
Lydia Lunch: You came and got me baby. You didn’t need a personal invitation. And here we are. What was it that brought you to me?
Matt Korvette: I don’t know. I needed some excitement in my life. Recording can be super fun but really clinical.
LL: I was shocked that you came to me, because Pissed Jeans already have a defined sound. So my first question was ‘What are the lyrics? What are the topics?’ That’s what won me over.
MK: That’s what I thought you’d be interested in. You weren’t there to assess the bass tone or anything, you know what I mean?
LL: I’m not a technical producer. I’m more of the inspirational cattle prodder. The only downside was when I flicked my ashes on to somebody’s neck and it went down their shirt. Who was that? Oh God.
MK: Sean [McGuinness, drummer]. But I think he was fine. Probably hurt him for a moment, but it’s a pretty good story to come away with.
LL: I have a pretty good aim. You said you wanted some excitement, why not start with a small spark that could end in a forest fire?
MK: [Laughs] Definitely. I just hoped you’d be interested. I didn’t know you personally before and you totally cared.
LL: I don’t do anything unless I totally fucking care about it. There were two things that really drew me to it. The chunky nature of the music and the perversity of the lyrics. It’s just fantastic. In It’s Your Knees, you actually adapt the insecurity most women have about any part of their body. It’s like women accept men who are fairly unattractive and disgusting yet women still opt to have sex with them. Women are, for the most part, far more attractive creatures but it’s women that pick on their own knees or their elbows or their wrists like ‘are my wrists too fat? Are my knees too fat?’. I love that you spin the lyrics – can we twist that and see how we accept you grizzly motherfuckers in to our beds quite often? Well, not often enough if you ask me… but if you’re talking grizzly. Not you Matt, you’re hot.
MK: Oh, thank you
LL: You’re hot and all my gay boy friends agree.
MK: I mean who’s hot and isn’t liked by gay boy friends? Right?
LL: That’s what I measure shit by. More than the current socio-political landscape. I think your scale is more of an emotional landscape manifested by the Internet.
MK: I think so. I think about it a lot. The Internet and how it dictates our interactions. I feel like you’re pretty good at living a real life rather than fabricating an Internet one. I can’t imagine you filling out an Internet profile, ever.
LL: I have Facebook sites, but I don’t look at them. You want to write an essay, I’ll read it. I don’t want to read bathroom graffiti on Twitter. I don’t have Instagram. I don’t have time to do that crap. I see so many people getting into little tiffs or misconstruing shit because they’re not having a direct conversation, voice-to-voice or eyeball-to-eyeball. It’s just bullshit.
“The general social masculine role is so self-conscious, scared and fragile. I love fighting with that” – Matt Korvette
MK: But do you notice that there’s a lot of newer bands, maybe younger people, that really take that stuff to heart? They almost shape their music so that the comments will be more positive. It makes me nervous. Like there’s no risk-taking.
LL: My issue is never about being liked, honey. But they’re being defined by something that doesn’t exist.
MK: Is it the Internet that’s making people want to be liked? Or do you think there were just as many people in 1979 desperate to be liked?
LL: People in 1979 were not worried about being liked. They were just doing what they did and if you liked it then good for you. If you didn’t, get the fuck out of the club.
MK: So are things getting worse?
LL: I think it’s indicative of a spoiled, pampered infantilism where reality TV is more important than reality and everybody can be a superstar in a universe that revolves around their own fucking asshole. I like this question – ‘Do you identify with my idea of the ‘non-mono-gender’?’
MK: Yeah, tell me about this.
LL: Well, having consumed my brother in the womb – my first murder – I’ve always felt equally as masculine as feminine. As I like to say ‘don’t let the tits fool you, they’re just balls that have ascended’. I’ve always embraced my sexual schizophrenia. I feel like a faggot truck driver in a women’s body. It’s what I am, honey, I can’t fight it.
MK: I feel like the general social masculine role is such an easy target. It’s so self-conscious and scared and fragile. I love fighting with that if I can.
LL: And it shows in the diversity of your audience. You’re like ‘anything but straight white males’. Not that you’re excluding them.
MK: No you can’t, they’re everywhere.
LL: Not that we have anything against straight white guys but the more non-mono-gender the more interesting people are because they’re embracing different parts of their personality.
MK: Have you ever worked a straight job for a few weeks just for the money?
LL: For two weeks, I worked in a bar to steal food. When I first ran away to New York I went back and got money. I worked as a maid in a hotel but only to steal everything and screw the engineer in the bathroom. But it’s too late for me to have a straight job. I don’t even know if I’ll manage to keep my head above the gutter but I’ve been a nomad for four years and I’ve been on rent strike.
MK: Maybe not a straight job, but have you ever sucked it up and performed just for the money?
LL: No. Truthfully, I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. I would do more if I could.
MK: I don’t have that level of integrity. I’ll hold a bag of Tostitos if you give me 30 bucks. I love money too much.
“Everybody can be a superstar in a universe that revolves around their own fucking asshole” – Lydia Lunch
LL: I’m not saying I don’t love money. I’ve just never functioned in a corporate or mainstream realm. Not even been on a major record label… or major anything. I do too much for anyone to say ‘you’ve got to tour this album for two years’. I don’t have that pressure at all. And because I mostly perform in Europe, I can bring diversity, which I couldn’t do in America. So it’s the opposite for me. It’s like ‘Hey motherfuckers, gimme some shows!’ Magazines don’t cover me and don’t want to cover me. But by this time you either know who I am or you don’t. I don’t really care.
MK: You know when you die, they’re going to act like you changed our lives…
LL: Back up, baby. First, you assume I’m not already dead. Then you assume I’m going to die or die once more.Then there’s the assumption that death matters.
MK: Last year has just been nothing but praising dead rockstars.
LL: I wish more would die. I’m amazed at how few died. How long are you supposed to fucking live? Don’t cry to me that Bowie died at 70 with a billion dollars in the bank. Give me a fucking break. That’s just pathetic.
MK: I like him but I wish I could read something somewhere hating on him just for perspective.
LL: Well, he had about 20 years of bad music. He died 20 years ago. I mean Lou Reed. Die already. I’m glad he did. Spare me.
MK: I don’t expect you’ll die. There’ll just be no more appearances or nobody will be able to locate you.
LL: You know me. They’ll never find my body unless I donate it to Gunther Von Hagens’ body world, sliced into a million slithers. Or stuffed… the ultimate in taxidermy.
MK: You’d be a great hologram.
LL: I’m loud in life. In death I’ll be louder.
MK: What would be your ideal age to die assuming you’re going to die an immortal death?
LL: When the pain is intolerable, then I will slither away. I never get sick at all unless it’s catastrophic. I don’t feel death waiting around the corner but I won’t resist it when the time is right. Then again, my father was as strong as a fucking bull and he died from a brain aneurism. I’d rather go out kicking and screaming.
MK: How about instead of kicking and screaming you go at the hands of a murderer?
LL: I love you Matt. You know all my fantasies.
“I'm loud in life. In death I'll be louder” – Lydia Lunch
MK: I read a quote from Lil Wayne recently. I’m sure you’re familiar with him.
LL: Love crunk.
MK: He does all of these crazy raps and apparently doesn’t write any of them down and he was asked why. He said, “I don’t want to die and have someone sell my diaries like Kurt Cobain.” That’s pretty right on.
LL: That’s different to me. I’m about to sell my archives. Not journals as such but more personal correspondence with bodily fluids.
MK: But that’s something you’re doing on your own accord.
LL: I want to do it before I die. Lil Wayne could go out any day now. Straight bullet.
MK: So – this whole presidential election, what’s your take on that?
LL: I knew it was going to happen. One of my quotes was ‘What do you want? Pussy on somebody’s fingers or blood on their teeth?’ I don’t want either actually.
MK: Yeah, it was a terrible choice.
LL: There was no choice. We didn’t need an election, we needed an insurrection. It’s good because it’s pushing all sides to react. [Trump] is very indicative of the stupid of the American psyche. Just the fact that he’s so blusterous that he’s bankrupted six times and yet he thinks he’s going to repair this country. And then there was the other side. Somebody who’s had her fingers in every war over the past 20 years. Who knows. It’s the same as it ever was. It’s feudalism. It’s non-stop war all the time. The best thing that happened today was that Obama agreed to let Chelsea Manning out.
MK: That was great. A surprise glimmer of hope.
LL: Maybe he did that because Julian Assange said that if he did he would come back to America. Assange and Snowden need to be released from their possible indictments as well. One of the great lies of the Obama presidency, the beige prophet as I call him, was whistleblowers. We welcome them, but Obama incarcerated more than any president before him. I don’t trust any of them. I left America originally because I saw how fascist it was under Bush Jr. So I went to a country that was 30 years out of fascism. I came back because ecstasy is at the mouth of the volcano. Pleasure at the brink of disaster. I’ve been talking about this bullshit since Reagan. A numerical came out yesterday saying eight men in the world own more than half the fucking population.
MK: Crazy. I just wondered will there be a tipping point? Will [Trump] be impeached? Assassinated? Will he just quit?
LL: He won’t quit. Who knows where it’s going? We are the laughing stock. Again, it’s like reality TV isn’t even reality. Lies are the new truth. It’s outrageous. I can’t help but be amused and depressed for the sufferers.
MK: I’m definitely not one of those people that had a wake up call about this. This is the fascist state really showing up. I’m already afraid of the cops. I could be killed at any minute.
LL: The whole country is a bully, which is going around mass murdering others. Cops are just a microcosm shooting people without reason. We are not freedom of liberty for all. We have more prisoners than Russia or China. 65 million American people have criminal records. 300,000 people were arrested in New York alone last year. We pretend that there’s an American dream, that we’re all white and rich, living in LA. I talk about politics in my spoken word. My music is sexual politics, which is still politics. But I think there’s a lot of parallels in our work because we are conscious in what we do. I think you knew to come to me just so I sit in the studio and tell stories. Pretend I produced your record. That was a great joke.
MK: What could be better than giving your money to Lydia Lunch?
LL: Hey, ‘fuck the world, feed Lydia Lunch.’ That was a t shirt I made years ago. Anyway, your music harks back to Jesus Lizard or Butthole Surfers. That’s the period when there were a lot of great rock bands that had some weirdness that made them unique. Even after spending time with you, I haven’t really decoded what your weirdness is.
Why Love Now is released 24 February via Sub Pop