"I always bring my prophylactic along on tour against other people's germs," begins Lydia Lunch, ever euphemistically. "It's a mic cover. If you smell mics, you know why. They're raunchy. It's not just smell. It's touching it as well. I wear gloves often on stage--with gloves and a prophylactic, you're fine. You never lose your voice."
Recently, I read Bob Fingerman's perversely fascinating depiction of struggling amoral NYC artistic sorts in Minimum Wage--wherein the main character's fiancée objects to him hooking up with Lydia: "Not that pornographer," she spits. But at least we know she's sanitary.
Oddly, I've never thought of Ms. Lunch as a temptress or sexual predator. This despite Ms. Lunch's infamous series of Richard Kern films made during the '80s, wherein she gets butt-fucked with a gun (among other scenarios). This despite the fact I had a poster of her gothic countenance in Teenage Jesus And The Jerks glaring down at me from my student residence wall. This despite the fact Lydia proudly bases her entire oeuvre around sex: passion, betrayal, anger, death, lust. (Well, maybe I do, but submerge my desire under the mantle of "art.")
"What can I say?" the lady asks. "Passion turns ugly. When something is so all consuming the bottom is going to drop out. You might hate the person, but the sex is going to be great, because sometimes the energy that hate evokes can be far more intense than pleasant sex. Sometimes the person you hate the most fucks you the best."
It's the process of seduction I'm interested in: the music. Lydia's first band, Teenage Jesus And The Jerks--she was 16, and they were formed with all the anger and certainty of youth--encapsulate NYC 1978 better than any band this side of Television. She followed that up with 1980's slinky and lustful Queen Of Siam, plus two decades of disturbing, abrasive spoken harangues. Now, she has a new album of twisted lounge music out, the singularly disturbing Smoke in the Shadows.
"The record is very evocative of a period while I was living in Los Angeles. People say they hate LA, and there's a lot to despise about it, but it also has a deep underbelly. It's one of the most heartbreaking of places, especially after dark: the haunting, the dead dreams of so many people who've come there and [been] ruined by it."
What attracts me to Lydia? Her brutal candor: the fact she is unembarrassed by both sexuality and honesty. The worst insult you can give anyone is to call them nice.
"Exactly," she laughs. "In a rock 'n' roll terminology, hate sex is a very male-dominated thing, so if women or girls now understand what this is, maybe they're using it as a revenge thing because hateful men have revenged them. It's the objectification of sex--that's what the whole groupie thing is. Fuck them and then forget them. It's a good way for teenage girls to pass their time. You've got to have something to amuse your Friday nights."
Do you separate yourself from your art?
"No. What I do comes so naturally. I'm not struggling with anything--especially words. I don't have notebooks of lyrics or songs. I don't write one fucking line I don't use. If I need to write a speech I write a speech. I do this because I have to, because if I didn't I wouldn't know what I would do. My greatest art is being able to survive every day, and not being a miserable cunt."
Do you feel your influence on other artists?
"I wish. You can't patent a fucking attitude. Look at the body of my fucking work, and the diversity of it, and the subjects I'm dealing with, and the stamina I have… and you're just going to adopt my attitude? Fuck off! It's not like my goal is to be up here as some stupid icon. My goal is to lend a bit of relief for people that share a similar dystopic attitude. My influence can be felt when I'm fucking dead--like most people. Like the Marquis de Sade."