I’m looking for a scene. Do you know of one?
I have certain needs that should be met. It’s cool if younger people are in my scene, totally, but people over 25 should have a very good presence, but in a way that isn’t like “this is a drag”. More like, what I imagine say, M.I.A or Tobi Vail or, fuck, I dunno, Dame Darcy’s scene might be like. They’re all over 25! Come on, don’t scoff, Auckland could totally have that. Over 25s don’t have to shrink back into the dark corners of the wine cellar and allow 18 year olds to have all the fun, and nor do they need to sit at home and bitch about how lame the scene is compared to how it used to be (like I do).
I want a music scene that isn’t a “scene”, but is a place that you can feel at home, and there are likeminded people – like, who actually know about the same music as you and are interested in zines and comix and typewriters and libraries and tattoos and roller skating and politics and whether Le Tigre sold out or not. Where I can feel like it’s ok to dress up, dress down, get wasted, go sober, not give a fuck about Who is there, but rather, who is there.
In this scene there are new bands ALL the time who aren’t afraid to take risks, and an audience who indulges them, not because they’re cute scenester boys in tight jeans regurgitating the current bfm flavour of the month, but because the audience is curious and open minded and excited about new stuff and wanting to have a good time.
I want there to be club nights with freaky fashion themes, and people who go all out. I want film nights with Sadie Benning movies. I want girls to play in bands of multiple genres and organise the parties and be recognised as influential. I want pirate radio and local heroes and on every corner a small specific shop with cool music for sale. I want squatted buildings for artists and people doing activism and fixing their bikes. I don’t want pretty indie bullshit where girls have to go dressed as doll-like as possible and applaud the stupid boy band and have to pretend to be shy and disarming and charming and deep. I want DIY for real. I want mess. I don’t want this inner city thing to be such a white scene, where there are very few people who look much like me. I want Polystyrene to be more important than Lou Reed.
Is this getting too demanding? I think you get my point. Is there such a scene that you know of? That’s not on the otherside of the world if possible? Can we have it here? Does anyone like the Frumpies as much as me? Let’s swap mixtapes.
and now here’s the shit on Malaria!.
What do you mean you haven’t seen the videos? Scroll down and watch them then!
Malaria! are my favourite band of the year. I discovered them on the Girl Monster compilation put together by Chicks on Speed, and otherwise may never have heard of them, even though they were clearly influential to many bands including Chicks on Speed who covered a song by them. Sometimes it’s difficult to find out about European punk and post punk bands though, so much of the information we get in NZ is about UK and US bands. Frustrating, as there are many amazing bands from other countries that I fear are passing me by!
Malaria! begain when I was two, in 1981. Formed somewhere in Berlin by Gudrun Gut and Bettina Koster, previously in Mania D, Malaria! have been described as art-rock, but don’t let that put you off.
They soon recruited Manon Duursma, Christine Hahn and Susanne Kuhnke and began spreading their brand of dark, mesmerising, pre-goth, postpunk – ok fine – art-rock, in various shady german venues. (One imagines when you listen to their music, some kind of smoky, dark-lit place, people foggy eyed and enchanted – you know, all that romantic Berlin in the early 80s stuff. Actually, according to singer Bettina Koster, German’s didn’t really get into them til they’d toured the States and London).
They toured the US with luminaries such as the Birthday Party, John Cale, and the indomitable Nina Hagen at Studio 54. According to their website , their tour in the US was the first to introduce the New German music.
Malaria! ended in around 1985, with the members going on to do other things. But I bought their album “Compiled 1981-1984” last year, and have played it at least once a week since then. Favourite song? “Kaltes Klares Wasser”. It’s the most famous single, and the one that Chicks on Speed covered, but fuck, it’s fucking amazing. From the first threatening drum beats, to the flat and yet almost desperate sounding repetitive vocals, this song is creepy and addictive. The album is consistenly great, other highlights being “Geh Duschen”, “Your Turn to Run” (featured on Girl Monster), “Geld/Money”, “You”, and pretty much all of them honestly, so just go get the album and listen.
To be honest, Malaria! (as you may have noticed from the videos) is one of those bands that in todays post-post-ironic world you could view with a measure of skepticism – they’re so very serious!! But if you forgo those ironic thoughts, and picture yourself in Berlin in the 80s, or in your kitchen in Auckland in 2007 having just drunk whiskey and turned the lights off, Malaria! is the soundtrack to your life. Forget Bauhaus and Joy Division, this is where it’s at.
Here’s a recent interview with singer Bettina Koster from lesbian magazine “Girls Like Us”.
A band I just discovered this week, and probably my new favourite for the next few months: Yo Majesty.
Yo Majesty are Shunda K, Shon B, Jwl.B. They’re a Florida band that started around 2000.
To me they sound like ESG, they’ve got that early 80s stripped back sound, post-punk hip hop and kind of club/party style. And their vocals are FAST, but in control, they’ve got that grown up lady sound that reminds me heaps of Salt ‘n’ Pepa or something.
Check out the video for my favourite song of theirs: Club Action:
Ok, ok maybe I ‘m a little too interested in Tobi Vail…so my friends tell me anyway. But I can’t be THAT starstruck cos I only just found her blog yesterday, tabithasays.blogspot.com . Is Tobi short for Tabitha? I never knew!
The other Riot Grrrl related thing I’m obsessing over at the moment is the whole Kathleen Hanna/Evan Dando thing. What KH/ED thing you ask? Well!:
The song “I Wish I Was Him” on the Rock Stars Kill compilation is a cover by Kathleen Hanna of the original song by Ben Lee’s old band Noise Addict. (you might have already read about this part in my last Pony 4 Honey entry). It’s funny if you think about Ben singing sarcastically about big old Evan Dando, but I think it’s an even sharper critique when Kathleen Hanna sings the song (kind of maybe a precurser to “Deceptacon”?).
Anyway, not only did she cover that song, she also made a zine back in the 90s called “My Life With Evan Dando Popstar”. You can read bits from this zine here. She talks about her love/hate thing with Evan Dando, she wants to fuck him and kill him. She takes on the persona of a serial killer, like Mark Lepine who killed 14 women. She conflates herself with Lepine when she contemplates killing Evan Dando, while simultaneously imagining herself as Mark Lepine’s victim – a position forced on her and other female performers by the sexist assumption she is “a punk star who is a slutty feminist bitch”.
My understanding of this zine is she’s trying to illustrate that thing where women can never be THE rockstar, like, they can never attain the high exalted status of a man like Evan Dando: “Evan’s got eyes that squint in the sun when he talks about surfing”, because to the world, the very label of Rockstar is inseparable from Male. Not, of course that we want to be this kind of Rockstar anyway. In this zine, Kathleen is not saying she wants that bullshit “He earns his money the good old fashioned way. He takes it from sexually repressed little kids….in return for their allowances, he fills their heads with meaning — popsongs. Yeah.”
Oh wow, this zine is intense!! I can’t believe that I found a bit of it online.
There are other bits and pieces on this site, including an interview with Kathleen and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, in which I think he comes off as very annoying.
And of course, if you are seeking out Riot Grrrl artifacts, you can’t go far wrong with the Emplive Riot Grrrl Retrospective.