Minority Report
Lydia Lunch

“The Safest Person on the Planet”

Lydia Lunch

Lydia Lunch was born on June 2, 1959. She is an author, activist, singer, songwriter and musician with a quarter-century’s experience. Her newest album, Smoke in the Shadows (ALP157CD), was released on November 23, 2004, her 13th album on Atavistic.

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You’ve lived in a lot of places around the world, and you’ve recorded in a whole lot of places around the world. Technically speaking, do you see a difference in how things record in different regions of the world?

No. You just have to work with what you’ve got. I’ve never been disappointed in the capabilities of recording anything. Even live – a lot of stuff is recorded live and, you know, the performance is what’s most important, not how you record it or how much you spend doing it.

[[Lydia Lunch 3]]

This album has a very warm feel to it. Did being out in California bring out a different part of your creative personality?

It was done on a home studio, so it’s all done without a budget, basically. Um, “warm,” probably because all of the vocals were done in a hallway the size of a closet. It was warm, all right. [laughs]

Do you like professional wrestling?

Well, I used to. It’s kind of taken a dive, I guess, but I haven’t kept up with it. I liked it in the late ’70s, early ’80s, when there were still the smaller federations. But you know it’s just a monopoly like everything else. I mean, once Vince McMahon took over it just turned into a ridiculous sideshow.

Who were some of your favorites?

Ah, let’s see, probably – I have to try to remember their names, so let me just go back here. Terry Funk, of course. I liked Bret Hart when he first came out – that was WWF. You knew he was talented, and hot! Well, early Ric Flair was great, just because of his sense of drama, and he also knew he was a fucking bad-ass.

Do you remember Lex Luger?

Oh yeah.

Have you ever met him?

I don’t think I met Lex Luger. I did meet the Steiner Brothers, who I actually used to like, but that’s when they weren’t in WWF. I went down and interviewed the Road Warriors – this was quite a few years ago, for Spin Magazine – they never ran the article because they claimed the article was too violent. My hypothesis was there were a lot of fakes in rock music that nobody was calling out, so why are we trying to insist that all wrestling is fake, especially with someone like the Road Warriors had their, you know, cheekbones smashed in – that’s when they were having the controversy with the, um, those impersonators of them that came up.

Oh, yeah, Demolition.

Eh, no, it was somebody before that, actually. One was a Samoan. Their name was like the Legion of Doom, but that was what the Road Warriors’ name was. I went down and interviewed them right at that point, and talked to Ric Flair and the Road Warriors and the Steiner Brothers. And what’s great is – this was WCW, and I was backstage in probably Nashville, and all the other women are blonde, wearing pastel clothing, and the Steiner Brothers walk backstage, bleeding, and I go up to test the blood, of course tasting it, and it was real, and they just all fainted.

That’s a great visual.

That’s the way we like doing it, with real blood and broken bones.

You’d have made a excellent valet.

Oh yeah. Believe me, I’ve thought about it!

You’ve got a really distinctive voice, and I notice that a lot of singers doing home recordings, and even a lot of studio recordings, their voices come out really thin compared to how they sound in person. But your voice, especially on this album, kind of carries really well. How did you make that happen?

It’s probably how close I am to the microphone and how thick my tongue is.

You do have a thick tongue.


Are you open to the idea of working with hip-hop producers?

Oh God, yeah. I was hoping that “Trick Baby” on the record would get some honey – I mean specifically, it’s kind of my stab. I’ve wanted to do music like that for a long time, that’s not really hip-hop, it’s not R&B, it’s not soul, it’s funky but it isn’t funk. It’s kind of an indescribable track that definitely references hip-hop. Basically, certain kinds, especially Texas rap was the only music I’ve been interested in the last few years. It’s not even the most modern rap; it’s the period of Scarface, Ghetto Boys, Rigor Mortis, screwed and chopped . . . the Texas beat is a lot slower and far more sinister.

That’s the music I’ve been obsessed with for years, because of the lyrical content, the production, you know, just the sound. I would love to – I don’t know why I scare these people. I met Scarface also; I interviewed him for Spin. That was another article that they banned, but Scarface was fantastic.

Why did they ban the piece?

I don’t have any fucking idea. It was not that long after the wrestling piece. I approach them with these ideas and they liked them until they got the article. It didn’t fit into their corporate superstructure. What I did with Scarface was, I used a lot of his lyrics as quotes from him. I would pose questions that weren’t questions, but answer them with his lyrics, which I think are fantastic, especially from his first album.

Tell me about Carla Bozulich.

Ah, she’s fantastic. She’s one of the most incredible alternative singers out there now. I love what she did with the Geraldine Fibbers, I love working with her and her work with Nels Cline, in general, is fantastic. I think that she’s got a lot of work left to do and will do. She’s working on an album now of much more alternative music, which I think is a direction that would be fantastic for her to go in. She’s proved her point in alt-country and alt-electronica, which is where she started. She’s just an incredible performer, songwriter.

[[Lydia Lunch 4]] Have you decided on your next project yet?

Well, I’m just going to keep working, the people I work with live in Europe, Terry Edwards and Ian White. I’m living in Europe now, so I’ll just continue working there and doing more installations and more photography and more music.

You’re kind of the flagship artist for Atavistic, which releases a lot of your records. How did you get working with them?

I had gone from a few different labels in the early ’80s that just couldn’t contain the body of my work. I mean, each individual piece doesn’t sell enough for most people to keep them in catalogue, and it’s too much for me to take on by myself. I can’t spend half my time trying to distribute my own music. Atavistic is a small operation, really two people, and totally trustworthy, and it’s the kind of music that they just hold very necessary to still be out there now, so it’s a very good situation.

I looked elsewhere to try to get this record put out on a bigger label, just so I could have more promotion for it because I don’t usually promote my records. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the energy and I don’t have the money, because you have to pay to have them promoted. I’m just too busy doing too many other things; whoever finds out about them finds out about them. But this record took so long to come out, and there are so many collaborators on it, that I tried looking elsewhere, but I don’t like what’s out there any more than they like me. Atavistic was definitely the best place to be. They’re trustworthy and they respect the material. And they’ll keep it in stock, and that’s the most important thing.

This is a really low point in the commercial music industry. In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake the industry has made, say, over the last five years?

Well, conglomeration, because they basically count on one or two artists to support an entire label, and it’s like there’s one person supporting the family: you better have less kids! It’s just too fucking expensive, and I think that’s the main thing that’s happened with the music industry. They want their one act to support the others, and if you don’t sell a million copies, you’re doing terrible. It’s just ridiculous. It’s absurd, and I think that’s the biggest mistake they made – not developing people.

In this country, and I’m just speaking specifically for America because people have these really short attention spans, there’s no loyalty. They like a single, they like the record, they might stick with someone for one or two records, then they grow bored and they grow up, because so much of the fucking music is immature, anyway.

What’s your favorite media consolidation horror story?

The state that this country is in. The whole thing is a fucking nightmare. I will refer to one book, which I think everyone needs to read. It’s called Jihad vs. McWorld, and the author’s name is Benjamin. He really breaks it down about how this fascist pop culture, exported, is part of the problem that we’re suffering globally now, because it’s just a forcing of western ideas, first with Hollywood and then with the music industry, onto the rest of the world as a badge of cool, as a badge of lifestyle, as a badge of success. Such a small part of the world lives at the standard that we take for granted –

And it’s a forcing of culture without context –

Thank you.

It’s called “cultural imperialism,” but the cultural imperialism of, say, the ’50s and ’60s was different than it is now. Now, they just throw something out there, and anytime an Arab objects to a video on MTV, he’s immediately labeled a jihadist.

Well, all they’re selling is the costumes. It’s all just a big fucking advertisement – for what, I don’t know, the spiritual bankruptcy this country is suffering and will continue to suffer. Not that there isn’t an underbelly, a massive one that revolts against that, because certainly there is. But that’s not what the main export is. The main export of this country is Hollywood – that’s the biggest business that this country exports.

[[Lydia Lunch 5]] What do you say to people who see a contradiction between your political stances, generally, and your being a member of the NRA?

Look, every woman in this country, when we live in one of the most violent industrialized nations, needs to defend herself in her own home. I’m not about going out and massacring innocent people or starting a one-woman revolution, but women need to be safe in their own home and that’s the bottom line.

There’s been a lot of stories about kidnappings, rapes, murders of young girls, amber alerts and stuff. Are these crimes happening more now, or being reported more?

I think as topics become sexy, we concentrate on them. One year it’s gangland violence, another year it’s crack in the inner city, another year it’s the disappearance of young girls. The point is that this country has an incredible amount of violence due to the fact that we are alienated as individuals. We are constantly force-fed an ideal we will not ever live up to. We are constantly fed images of a kind of celebrity lifestyle which we will never achieve. We promote everything with sex except the understanding of sex. You know, violence is fine in every format to glorify in television and Hollywood movies, but we don’t want to understand the roots of violence. We don’t want to get to the root of the problem, but we’ll glorify the symptom. We dress up pop porn princesses to sell nothing but albums to 14 year-old girls, who then dress like that – and I’m not saying that’s the reason they’re getting kidnapped, and I don’t know if it’s at any greater rate than it’s ever been. I just think it becomes – you know, with shows like America’s Most Wanted, it becomes the popular topic.

When a beautiful girl like Elizabeth Smart is kidnapped by a guy who dresses like a cult member and wanders around, that is an interesting story. Girls disappear, boys disappear all the time – they run away because they’re battered in the home. We don’t want to get the root of the problem. We just want to titillate by forcing their pictures all over the news, like the JonBenet Ramsey case. Children die in the home all the time, they’re molested for years on end. We don’t want to get to the root of the problem.

The sexualization of young girls that corporate media does, particularly MTV and, well, Viacom in general, has a fair bit to do with it. Not that it’s necessarily happening more, but I believe we’re in a time when more and more people are losing their fucking minds every day –

Exactly! Exactly, exactly – I agree with you. People are losing their fucking minds because they’re being lied to from every direction. They’re force-fed this bullshit in the guise of entertainment which is completely empty. Now that people are so lazy that they can’t even live their own lives, they have to watch it through someone else’s absolutely boring, redundant existence. It’s just a sign that not only are we losing our minds, but we have no brain cells left.

There may be the same rate of crimes, but there are more spectacular crimes. There are more instances of people doing crimes that are almost calculated to get media attention. I know that stuff’s happened before, but in a national-security sense it’s more alarming, because our media institutions have lost control of themselves.

And also they want to focus on the negative news, so that they can use their fear tactics to keep us in line and promote their fascist behavior on a grander scale. That’s what the 9/11 thing is. There has yet to be another attack in this country, yet we use one example of terrorism, which we’ve been committing for years, to justify everything we have done and everything we will continue to do, without looking to get at the root of why anyone would be angry at our arrogance and bullyism.

Where were you on 9/11?

I was in Los Angeles. I saw it on the news. I had to fly to Europe a few days later, and I felt like probably the safest person on the planet because I knew that my plane wouldn’t go down, because then people would have to analyze what I’ve been saying for the last 20 years. I felt completely safe. It’s Murphy’s Law. I’m not going to go out. I’m not going to die anytime soon. People would have to listen to what I’ve been fucking saying for 28 years. I feel like the safest person on the planet.

I probably had a different reaction from most people. My question was why it didn’t happen sooner. I can’t understand why that’s all there was, after all we’ve done, the millions of people dead after our genocidal policies over the last 40 years.

Well, you know, they’d been trying for almost a decade before that, and by all accounts 9/11 was intended by its planners to be much, much worse, almost a sort of decapitation strike, before it was eventually scaled back. [see 9/11 Report]

When you understand that they did go after the World Trade Center, as opposed to a housing project in Decatur, IL – unlike what we do, which is go into villages like Fallujah and just clear them out of all people, all civilians, all life – you just have to look at the techniques of our terrorism versus theirs to understand.

How do you think William Burroughs would think about how things are now?

He’d probably be laughing, with a great amount of cynicism and sarcasm and delight. I didn’t really know. I met him a few times; I can’t say I was a friend of his… He was a practical thinker, much like myself, which is kind of rare these days. I think of myself as completely practical.

If you were President, how would you deal with the situation that presented itself three years ago?

I would have analyzed the cause for the effect. I wouldn’t have continued in the way that we’ve been doing. First of all, I would have pulled as many troops as possible out of every territory that they’re in, unless they’re really in there to defend the peace. The whole problem is oil. I could have done everything differently, but the problem preceded this President, thanks to his father and various other assholes.

Would you ever consider running for –

Absolutely not. No way. I’m for the individual to move forward; I have no solutions for all of society. It’s too complicated. I think the individual has to start making reparations and analysis to their own behavior before we can go anywhere with the society. I’m completely for individual responsibility. I think people have got to learn to take it. I think they’ve got to analyze what they do with every second of their day and every dollar that’s in their pocket, because one way or another, half their time and half their money is no doubt going into the pockets and hands of enemies that they don’t even know they’re supporting.

Why did you go with LydiaLunch.org, as opposed to LydiaLunch.com?

Somebody stole that from me, and I just decided to go with .org.

Atavistic, PO Box 578266, Chicago, IL 60657; http://www.atavistic.com

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