Lydia Lunch

Singer, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and spoken word performer Lydia Lunch’s brand of oral fixation is not designed to get a reaction from her audiences… but tends to. “You know, I’m always accused of going for shock value,” says Lunch. “What could be more shocking than the real world?”

Lydia Lunch got her musical start in bicentennial New York as one of the early performers in what may or may not have been punk rock. There, she shrieked her way through a super-8 slasher movie of a slide-guitar nightmare called “Orphans” with her first band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, leaving a bellywound in ’70s punk that produces fresh scar tissue to this day. A subsequent band, “Eight Eyed Spy,” was a moonshine swamprock proto-gothabilly project described by at least one critic as “shooting hot loads of steaming musical spunk into the audience.”

Lunch went on to collaborate with a list of musicians that reads like the guest list for Alfred Jarry’s dinner party in Hell: J.G. Thirlwell, Sonic Youth, Rowland S. Howard, Michael Gira, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave, Steven Severin, the Birthday Party and Robert Quine, just for starters. An improbable marriage of avant-garde and hard rock led to the irresistible Shotgun Wedding with Howard; A ’90s project with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and drummer Sadie Mae, with whom Lunch toured Europe, set to music the most fucked-up psychosexual hypermacho themes from the Southern Gothic-Redneck Noir novels of literary author Harry Crews, and produced quite possibly the most disturbing rock and roll song ever recorded (“The Gospel Singer”).

Other vocal works of Lunch’s have been slightly less punchfuck and lots more skullfuck, for my money her best work being a subtle blend of death-jazz, avant-rock and hardboiled noir in which Lunch comes across as a well-armed sex kitten with Eros drooling in her cleavage and Thanatos racking the slide on her Automag.

She’s also appeared in a number of underground films, including early Richard Kern works in the “cinema of transgression” movement, perhaps most notably including “Fingered” — where she participated quite famously in, as Wikipedia politely puts it, “unsimulated sex acts.”

As her spoken word performances developed and broadened through the ’80s and ’90s, it would be an understatement to say Lunch often invited controversy — a 1990 appearance on the cover of the granddaddy of lesbian sex mags, On Our Backs, provoked some pretty energetic letters to the editor, and during a film festival in Berlin a group of self-declared feminists broke in to the projector room and attempted to burn the print of “Fingered.” (They ended up torching the wrong film.)

But the controversy was just getting started — with the publication of 1997’s Paradoxia: A Predator’s Diary, in which Lunch explored the themes of sexual predation in a memoir that might be considered unsavory and in fact proved a bit much for North American publishers — though it appeared in the UK ten years ago, it’s only now being published in the US. As the country took a turn to the right, Lunch, who had moved every few years for most of her life, became increasingly dissatisfied with life in the US; in 2005, she left North America for Spain. She’s returning in November for a tour of the States under the Hangover Hotel banner.

We talked with Lydia by phone as she got ready to hit the road for the Land of the Free.

Read More at Eros Zine.

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