Kicks in Style: An interview with Lili Z.
If you don't know already, the Volt! 12" EP from last year kicked a lot people's faces in. Innovative, dark, cruel, and brooding music that you can dance to. Not to many bands doing that shit these days. Except Volt! You should recognize Lili, Jack, and FX from their previous adventures with the Splash Four (along with drummer Gipe), who were one of the finest garage bands of all time, from France or anywhere else. Lili Z. herself was sweet enough to answer a boatload of questions via e-mail over the past weeks for us (and Jack answered one too) so we could get some insigtht as to what makes Volt tick. Reports say that the band has some new demos already recorded for an upcoming record, and as always, don't forget to check out all of the fine releases on Royal Records and Polly Maggoo Records, Jack & Lili's labels. And if anyone wants to donate to the "Bring Volt! to the US" fund, contact us immediately!
TB: When/how did you and Jack meet?
Lili: In 1986 in the middle of nowhere because of a button with a band name on it…
TB: How did the Splash Four come together?
Lili: Jack and me had been dreaming about OUR band for a long time, but couldn’t start until I moved from Switzerland to France (Paris) in the fall of 1994…
TB: Where did the name come from?
Lili: "Splash One", the song by 13th Floor Elevators.
TB: Who/what is a Long Finger Olive?
Lili: Olivia was a kleptomaniac teenage girl we knew who was getting into all kinds of trouble…
TB: You guys did a lot of KBD cover songs. Are you avid record collectors? Of so, what are some of your rarest/favorite records?
Jack: Some people say we have about 85,000 records so I guess this makes us record collectors. Favourites? There’s just too many…“Rocket to Nowhere” by Mike Rep on Moxie. “Shanghai” on 78 RPM by Oscar Calle. “Everything You Heard About” Velvet Underground 3LP box set.
TB: What bands were influencing you most during the Splash 4?
Lili: The Electric Eels, The Equals, The Easybeats, GG Allin, The Smoke, The Damned, PF Commando, The Kinks, The Boys, The Lewd, The Chosen Few, X (Australian), The Gags…
TB: What do you think the best Splash 4 record was? Or just your favorite?
Lili: The last ("Shame, Shame, Shame" 10" on Dionysus). But actually I like all of them!
TB: How did you end up doing a record for Lookout!?
Lili: Cathy Bauer who was working for them was a big fan. They asked for an LP after that, but we were done by then.
TB: Why/when did the Splash 4 break-up ?
Lili: In 1998, after about 3 years of existence it was time to take a break for the band. What MORE could we do anyway ? Also, personally I had to put my time into something else at that moment.
TB: What happened to Gipé ?
Lili: Of course we’re all still friends with him. He’s well, still living in Paris, smoking dope and travelling every 2 years to Bolivia for record hunting. He put out the amazing "Delinquentes" and the "Psicofasicos" compilations.
TB: Speaking of that, what ever happened to the No-Talents?
Lili: We lasted about the same amount of time AND during the same period of time as the Splash Four! We broke up for pretty much the same reasons, we’re still friends and all of them still play music as well.
TB: How did Volt come together?
Lili: As you know, we already played together in the Splash Four. FX played bass on the last two records (on the Dionysus “Shame” 10” and on the Lookout 45) and did the tour in the US in 1998 with us. After that we went on to see each other frequently because Jack and me used to dee-jay or just go drink and party in the bar where he was working. Each one of us wanted to form a new band so badly but we still didn’t know with who and what it was going to be like. We just knew what we DIDN’T want, like slip into some “band logic” and fatally end up with routine. And style tags. We’d rather form a new sect than a band! We wanted to make some DANCEABLE noise that would be mean, dark, violent and powerful. We like to practice in the dark with FX’s blue flash light rope on. We also like the idea of making each new song different. (I put a new drum kit together for about every song). In the beginning we even thought we’d switch instruments and mics and use plenty of machines and different instruments… and dogs !
TB: What made you decide to go ‘electro’?
Lili: We never made such a decision and don’t consider our music “gone electro". What is “electro”? Using a synthesizer and drum machine (like Mr. Quintron)? Actually we use them by accident, tomorrow we might use something else… That “technical change” already happened when I recorded my post Splash Four/No-Talents solo stuff that is on the Polly Maggoo 10”; no more hitting on a metal trash can with a mic in it, but on the knobs of a beat machine. Fooling around and experimenting with that little box gave me some new kind of kick and also opened up new horizons in terms of beat sounds and songwriting.
Jack and FX felt the same and that’s how we got together… again!
I also used the single-button synth bass function in it and still do for Volt. I like it, sounds like some triggering synthesizer!
TB: What bands influenced the Volt sound?
Lili: None, and that’s our leitmotif. We don’t want to be another “Xxxxx meets Xxxxx” kind of band. How easy (AND BORING!) to form another band to sound like, let’s say Suicide or Cabaret Voltaire or Dire Straits or whoever. I’d like people to have a hard time describing us. Our record and live show reviews are very funny… we get compared to bands we don’t even know and that’s a good sign to me ! We want to create something we don’t already have on our record shelves. I’m trying to find out what ALL of our favorite music has in common and distill it for VOLT. For example :
Exaggerated mixes, pushing one part to the max at a certain moment etc. So going to extremes would be to build up the song structure with that idea in mind. Enough blank space around the parts we want to emphasize. Like what makes you pay even more attention to the guitar: having it chainsawing through the whole song at volume 10 OR have it just for 5 seconds … at volume 13?
TB: Is garage punk dead?
Lili:No way, there are lots of cool bands, old and new. It’s maybe just that nobody wants to be called “garage punk” anymore. I guess it has kind of worn out. Or bands add a keyboard and call it new wave punk.
TB: How do you feel about the whole neo-new wave movement as a whole (Epoxies, Briefs, etc.)?
Lili: It’s easy to guess what we feel about it.
TB: What would you describe VOLT!’s music as?
Lili: Hey, your record review actually was pretty close to how we feel about it! Our music is full of holes and black/white contrasts. War between guitar and synthesizer, guitar lurking, then crashing down on synthesizer while girl and boy french kiss and flirt.
So far our songs deal with : a pack of wolf dogs barking, a teenage girl responsible for being gang raped, a romantic man in love with a nun, communicating without understanding, sex and new stuff, feast of snakes, couples, and mental paralysis.
TB: Jack did the liners for the new Metal Urbain compilation. How influential were/are they on you guys?
Lili: At the beginning of the Splash Four we used to cover "Creve Salope" by MU (it’s on the French Thee Knights of Trashee label split single). Herman Schwartz’s guitar style and sound is just MONSTROUS !!!!!!!!!!
TB: What other French punk bands were influential?
TB:Do you really have a German Shepherd named Volt?
Lili: We have plenty but we need an upholstered one, any taxidermists out there?
TB: What current bands are you into?
Lili: Country Teasers, The Fall, Electronicat, Ich Bin, Spits, Adult., Billy Childish, Cobra Killer, Add N To (X), Ponys, Miss Alex White.
TB: The first VOLT record was obviously great. What made you decide to do it as a 12” maxi EP?
Lili: Wider grooves, better sound, more space for artwork and because we haven’t done it before.
TB: What is upcoming for Polly Maggoo and Royal Records?
Lili: Plaster the walls (expensive walls ultimately!) with the 400 mispressed copies of the new Lili Z. 7inch! Our EX-record pressing plant in Czechoslovakia not only fucked up the Lili Z. singles but also lost 180 copies of the A-Frames single on Royal Records on transportation and wouldn’t even admit it! AND they obviously had us pay for EVERYTHING, including taxes! So we first need a little time to get over all these let downs until we put out something new… I guess all DIY labels like ours could tell you similar stories, seems like it’s part of it !
TB: So the press of the new Lili Z. is fucked. What is going to become of it?
Lili: We shall go to the Czech Republic and bomb the GRAMMOVONOVE pressing plant with the 400 misspressed copies !!!!!! But I was lucky since a US label was willing to put it out, and not just any label but the ultra cool Sacramento based S-S RECORDS. It should be out by the time you read this, it’s a single ("Leatherlution" b/w "Gisela Malaria"), number SS013…
TB: What is next for Volt? When can we expect a new record?
Lili: Very soon… !
TB: The Lili Z. 10” was one of my favorites of that year. Did you do all the design/cartoons? It ‘s a great looking package. Why is there a Splash Four record crossed out in the gatefold?
Lili: I progressively mixed & burned the songs to a CDR. Before we decided to put out all these songs as a whole I had already made a CD booklet for myself, dedicating one page to each song with collages, drawings and lyrics. I scanned my booklet and made the drawings for the cover so that you’d immediately understand what it’s all about…
(You’re a good observer!) The 10” has the first version of that song ("Ma Solitude & Moi") and the Splash Four record I crossed out has the cover version. We tried to play that song with the band but it didn’t really work out. So we recorded it with the beat box and it came out on the EP on Lookout. There’s another version with Jack’s vocals on a split single with Crash Normal on the french Yakisakana label.
TB:Was it difficult doing everything on that record yourself? Will the new single be similar to the stuff on the EP? Do you record on a regular basis?
Lili: No, not difficult! Difficult is getting out of bed every day at 7 am, getting your toes stepped on in the crowded metro, or finding a decent place to live in in Paris…!
People keep telling me to quit the 4 track tape recorder and switch to computer. They say it multiplies the possibilities by hundreds, that you can do much more, EVERYTHING ! In fact I haven’t heard anything made by computer that is proportionally creative and interesting to the possibilities... I’m absolutely not against “computer music”, but do I want to stare at a computer AGAIN after a whole work day in front of a computer ? I don’t know, putting time and energy into learning Pro Tools if it is to end like the guys I know… They’re totally obsessed by their filters and quantizing their beats and stuff and forget about what they want to express with their music (that sounds like someone else’s music using the same filters!) And to be honest, I’m just too lazy and short of patience ! I will do it when I’m old and have plenty of time. If I was to learn anything properly I should maybe start by taking a guitar lesson or two, hi hi hi! So far I prefer going on sweating and swearing at my old drum machine.
Somehow I enjoy having to cope with my 4 tracks and the fragility of the tape, always a lack of time, the threat of our police type kinda neighbour coming up anytime, improvising and keeping the first take… All this is quite exciting and fun !
Yes, I think the new single is different from the songs on the 10". Of course it sounds close to Volt. I used the same sythesizer on "Leatherlution" but with plenty of distortion. We quit playing "Gisela Malaria" with Volt because it drew too much bad luck…
And I don’t record on a regular basis at all, it’s compulsive.
TB: What’d you think of the Tyrades cover of ‘Couples”? Will you be getting royalties?! Does Jimmy really love nobody?
Lili: Their cover is totally awesome, intense and… TYRADESSTYLE ! I like to think that it is an indirect love declaration to us… Since that song is a secret love declaration from Jack & myself to Jimmy & Robert (from the Tyrades). Actually we’d never “told” them but I’m sure they know… Right after the birth of Volt, Jack & me went to Chicago and spent 10 crazy days and nights with them. I played them an early demo version of "86 Friends" and they helped us find the band name. Do you think we should rather have gone for AUXILIARY BABOONS or SECRET POLICE or DANGAA than VOLT? The way Jimmy turned his back and pronounced “VOLT!” inspired Jack for our anthem. The four of us founded SONAR PUSSY, a monster breeding in our minds that shall come to light one day… Does Jimmy really love nobody? Well, he’s a super tough guy BUT Robert Robot told us that we’ll have to change our lyrics now…
TB: Is “86 Friends” based on a true event?
Lili: Yes, and it was our first song. She was fourteen and lived in some housing project in the North of France. It lasted over several months and the number of assaults is estimated up to … 86! Even her parents wouldn’t speak up because the gang threatened to take their other daughter as well. The media printed stuff like the neighbors’ “she was provoking it” type of witnesses… "News in Brief" columns!
TB: Any Volt! shows upcoming?
Lili:We should storm Berlin with our good buddies Anteenagers MC in June.
TB: Ever plan on bringing VOLT! to the States?
Lili: Why not? Send us 3 tickets and we’ll be there.
You can check out the Volt! homepage at: http://voltklub.free.fr and e-mail them through that site.
Splash Four pic by Mark Murmann
Volt pics by Mumu and Kevin Pierre
Interview by Rich Kroneiss
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