When the Lydia Lunch album, Queen Of Siam, first came out, it found a place on my turntable. It personified an urban decadent sound that perfectly expressed the times. It was also dangerous and experimental. I loved it. Only the fate of an illness resulting from my own excessive lifestyle in those days kept me from attending Lydia’s show for this album at a club in Atlanta where X had also played on their first U.S. tour. When I met Lydia in 1984, it was a time of meeting persons in New York Downtown music that I respected immensely. I did not view her or the others I met on that trip (Sonic Youth, Mars, DNA, Swans…) as hyped media phenomena like the rock stars I had met before. Rather, these were persons with a type of integrity and bold view of sound and performance that ‘made a path by walking on it.’ I knew these people were important historically already. I have numerous snapshots and ‘films’ of Lydia in my head throughout the years but the main one that comes up is watching from backstage as she gave a reading upstairs at the Danceteria in 1984. The place was packed and there were the usual jerk heckler types attempting to give her a hard time. She put them in their place without missing a beat, of course, and when she finished to the enthusiastic applause, ran backstage into the arms of a friend – letting her tough stance fall off -showing an endearing vulnerability… The thing about Lydia that I noticed initially is her down to earth frankness and honesty. She is incredibly quick thinking and vibrant. She exudes star power in the truest sense. If there’s going to be a “Survival of the Fittest” contest, I want to be on the same team as Lydia Lunch. And I still have my original vinyl of Queen Of Siam.
Jarboe : How do you keep informed?
Lydia: I am a news Junkie…I consider myself the alternative to CNN. I scour everything from local news/national news/BBC reports/New York Times/The World Almanac (because I like using statistics alot…when you can find accurate ones) The Spectator/The Nation/Mother Jones/Ms/Utne Reader/alternative News groups/ the writings of Abu Jamal/Ralph Nader/Noam Chomsky/Michel Foucault/Mike Davis etc. I try to read alot of what I disagree with/ know is slanted / dominated by ill reporting riddled w/ inaccuracies /and piece together the real stories from the string of lies force fed to us on a daily basis. The worst problem w/ typical news reporting is the decision to always concentrate on the negative and to feed into whatever fear factor is popular at the moment. I’m reading THE CULTURE OF FEAR: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things, by Barry Glassmen…puts news slants in the proper perspective.
Q: How much is shock or controversy a M.O in your performance?
A: IT ISN’T. NEVER HAS BEEN. UNLESS YOU CONSIDER THE TRUTH SHOCKING. I’m always dealing with real numbers/true incidents/real events/true stories. I do not write fiction, other than the comics I’ve written. What some people find shocking is an intelligent hot woman with the balls to speak her mind, regardless of the fact TRUTH HAS NEVER BEEN A POPULAR COMMODITY.
Q: What ideally do you see as your directive/goal/purpose/input re the accomplishments with regard to your already substantial career.
A: The whole purpose in the art of my creating is to give voice to those who have or haven’t yet found theirs and are still not satisfied with mere entertainment/ are looking for the truth/need someone to address the forever overlooked/underreported/never healed issues such as the imbalance of sexual/political & economic power. I look to the underbelly of Obsession and try to understand the driving force behind our Universal Sickness. When I deal with Trauma it is out of a deep need to help others heal as I have healed.
Q: Do you feel it satisfying for a person to define what they are?
A: I rebel against definition/category/classification/pigeon holing. The need for the public to define & catorgorize is so that they can better sum you up in order to dismiss you within a sentence or less… “Oh she’s so negative!!! “Too HARSH””She exaggerates!” BULLFUCKINGSHIT.THE TRUTH IS ALWAYS HARSH. How can you exaggerate reality???
Q: How necessary do you think a formal education is to actually working professionally as an artist. Are you more at home in the art world/ music or show business or is there a difference???
A: I dropped out of school in the 10th grade and went to NYC and began Teenage Jesus at the age of 16/17.I think most formal education hinders, rather than helps because it’s so restrictive and condemning. I taught one semester at the San Francisco Art Institute. The students couldn’t believe they weren’t going to be allowed to criticize others…Encourage yes, criticize no. The most important thing as an artist in any field is to find your own voice. They don’t teach that in art school. I feel myself outside the present state of music, art, and show business. Certainly I bear no relation to the Entertainment Industry. I feel a more direct link to the Surrealist & Situationists. I work with concepts that are forever being documented and then disbanded, after I’ve utilized whatever format gets my point across the most succinctly, music, spoken word, video, comics, photography or sculpture. On a literary level, I feel the bastard daughter of Genet, Miller, Selby, and ultimately, the Marquis De Sade, one of the most misunderstood philosophers of the past 300 years.
Q: Do you view NO WAVE as any sort of art movement, even a secluded or withdrawn one?
A: Like any kind of Art Movement, it’s not as if a group of individuals sat around and decided it was time to have one. Historically they usually appear at the tale end of a great dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs. The beauty of No Wave was that it ushered in dissonance, individuality, and an anti-commercial mentality.
Q: Ingmar Bergman said “If I don’t create, I don’t exist” What is your reaction to this statement.
A: A woman’s very existence should be the ultimate creative activity. Everything you rebel against should make you seek creative alternatives to the one way presents, educates and ultimately documents their existence. The end result of Creativity is not always product. I present documents of my existence in order to encourage others to think and behave differently.
Q: What factors determine for you personally when it is time to change the musical/medium accompaniment to your live performances?
A: With music, I conceive the project, choose the collaborators, document it, possibly, but not always do one or two tours and then move on. It is the nature of collaborating with musicians who have other projects. Once I’ve documented it, unless it will change dramatically by touring it, I don’t find it necessary to repeat the format. I’m always ahead of the present project, planning the next two or three. With speeches, it it dictated by the immediate need to either speak about the psycho-sexual, or political climate at the moment. Photography and sculpture fill in the blanks between the dominant mediums.
Q: Could you mention 3 personal codes/disciplines in your life? 3 things either tangible or philosophical to which you adhere?
A: Always tell the truth as you know it. Trust your gut reaction. Buck the flow.
Q: What is one important lesson learned in life a young woman would do well to heed.
A: see above
Q: Can obsession/infatuation with another person interrupt the discipline and or focus of creative energy wherein Ôfalling in love’ is actually self destructive? Is falling in love ultimately a trap instead of a muse? Or is the trap the muse?
A: All of my interpersonal stories as well as Paradoxia were based upon the relationships I’ve had. No one has ever been able to interrupt my flow, especially when so much of what I’ve experienced was used to educate, explore, and decipher my own personal obsessions. One has to live life before you can write about it. Many relationships would appear to be either a waste of time or a repeating cycle of what came before. But that depends on what you’re in them for. What you’ve gotten out of them. How you react to the chain of events. Most people fall in love with a mirror/or reverse image of what flatters them most. I’ve never put anyone before myself. I understand that in most relationships, we prize how the other person makes US feel. In other words we are really in LOVE WITH OURSELVES. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN IN LOVE WITH MYSELF, NEVER SUFFERED FROM INSECURITIES OR JEALOUSY, ALWAYS PUT MYSELF FIRST and almost always knew exactly what I was doing, even when it appeared to be the worst possible thing for myself. In putting myself first I allow the other person to be more themselves. I’m less demanding because I can offer more to myself. And do not need the verification of others to prove my worth. I feel this to be very healthy. I’m less disappointed, because I’m not looking for someone to fill my void, I do not have a void. I fill myself, therefore am able to bring a complete person to the relationship, instead of someone in need of something to complete themselves. Women especially have to be able to satisfy themselves emotionally, philosophically and sexually. If you search for another person to satisfy you, they may, but only temporarily.
Q: How much of sex is in the brain-w/out actual physical touch?
A: Depends on the kind of sex your seeking at the moment. Some of the best sex I’ve ever had has been with complete strangers whose names I never knew, who I never saw again, who I didn’t say 5 words too. Because the sex was so seemingly impersonal, it allowed even more of a release from the thoughts that usually obsess. It took me further outside of myself. Fantasy, flirting and conversation with out actual contact can be extremely satisfying, because the act of with-holding is so incredibly delicious. Onanistic pleasures can intoxicate because the only limit is one’s own imagination.
Q: Is a man’s erection an act of aggression?
A: Only when I’m holding it in my hand….
Q: What purpose do men serve in 2000.
A: It’s not men in general, but the individual man or woman that is the most important element of the next millennium. I fear most the abolition of the individual, with the homogenization and commercialization of every aspect of culture in this society. Kids with Nike Swastikas on their t-shirts, decked head to toe in baggy sports wear, generic top 40 so called alternative music, movies whose plots have been rehashed to death, the elevation of the lowest common denominator to icon status. We need a cultural revolution based not on cult but on individuals, whose only connective thread might be that they dare to tell the truth, refuse to sell out and will remain true to their vision. I must be dreaming….
Lydia Lunch is currently serving as Creative Consultant on “Shadow Hours” starring Balthazar Getty, Peter Weller, Brad Dourif working. Additionally, she has been working on her next novel DEVIL’S RACETRACK, compiling a lyric book and two two photo books.