Photo by Steve Gullick
Hanin Elias is talking about bombs.
Did you hear about the explosion in Düsseldorf yesterday? she asks. Something like this happens in Germany more and more.
Elias is a member of Atari Teenage Riot, a Berlin-based aggro-electro band whose alliance with the Anti-Fascist League in Germany has always seemed similar to Rage Against the Machines anti-PMRC grandstanding at Lollapalooza a few years ago: empty, easy sloganeering against an irrelevant, near-imaginary opponent. But people like ATR leaders Elias and Alec Empire are right: Something evil is indeed stirring in Germany. On July 27, 10 Russian immigrants (six of them Jewish) were injured in the Düsseldorf train-station bombing; two days later, the head of the German governments anti-political-violence office commented that the growing neo-Nazi militarism is not being taken as seriously as one would like, [giving the neo-Nazis] the idea they are committing these crimes on behalf of many.
The right-wing people are the terrorists at the moment, says Elias. People should be aware of this. Like people in America are always caring about Tibet and their problems, and they never talk about problems in their own country. I think thats a problem we Germans also have. We want to take care of people everywhere in the world, but we dont see that in our own country there are problems that are also bad, that could lead to something even worse.
The whole world is very male-dominated, and its so unfair how its going, Elias laughs in disbelief, as she explains the need for Fatal, the specifically girl-oriented imprint of the ATR-affiliated Digital Hardcore Recordings she founded in 98. What I really hate is bands like Limp Bizkit they can sing that women are stupid and whatever, and its accepted. If you were to sing about white power or something, it leads to racist attacks. With songs [degrading women], its the same situation. I cant understand this, that nobody says something against it. Everyone that has attention from the media has a responsibility to change things to something good.
DHR is about anarchy, about fairness, about not living in a power situation. And I think these ideas actually have a very feminist structure: not having leaders, living in a community where you can trust other people. But with DHR, the music is always seen as pure boy music very hard even when girls were involved from the beginning! I thought, Yeah, we have to change something, to show that DHR music is also for girls.
With Fatal, I want to motivate girls to be more active and not be so passive. And its also good for the boys if they have cooler girls around!
The coolest girls right now may just be Spex, Nhung Napalm and Romy Medina the three 20ish women of Fatals newest signing, the Brighton-based Lolita Storm. Their gloriously now 15-song, 26-minute debut album, Girls Fucking Shit Up, recorded with a fourth Lolita (Jimmy Too-Bad on keyboards) and to be released on August 22, is an aural shitstorm of go-go energy, drum racket and shout-along school-yard melodies, with lyrics about sex (I wanna meat injection/Someone sweet, who can keep an erection), drugs (I luv speed/its the only thing I need) and torturing BBC boob Anthea Turner. Its the Jesus & Mary Chains Psychocandy for the 000s: noise-tastic pop plastic for a short-attention-span generation, by chicks with attitude.
People that have heard our music, they think weve recorded it wrong! laughs 20-year-old charmer Romy Medina. They say, I really like the melodies, but the quality is very poor, you need to get some better equipment. The six songs that were on our demo are all on the album. We havent changed them because you dont mess with perfection.
Theres quite a lot of Dixie Cups in there, says the ageless Jimmy Too-Bad, singing the verse melody to the 60s girl groups hit Chapel of Love and revealing the bands aesthetic strategy: Nick from the past, and then kick it forward!
Were not interested in anything political, Medina says. Were into aesthetics. We like things that are really bright and trashy and fun. We like John Waters, Hammer horror films, Polanskis Fearless Vampire Killers. We like David la Chappelle we want him to photograph us.
Why DHR Fatal?
We wanted to be on Fatal because they have a nice logo, says Medina. Their records look exciting! They all have good covers! They were the only record company that we could have signed to, because they were the only people broad-minded enough to take us on.
Lolita Storms shows?
Ten minutes long, says 22-year-old Nhung Napalm. Its shocking. Its a mess. Its sexy. You have to see it for yourself!
We just want to go out there and hit them for 10 minutes, says 27-year-old Spex. Then they gasp and go, What the fuck was that?! We get bored singing for too long and tired.
Whats with all the songs about sex?
We like it! says Medina, whose carpet-burned knees grace the album booklets back cover. Thats why were sexy, because we like it. People that dont like sex, no matter how good-looking they are, they havent got any sex appeal. Its not just confidence its liking sex.
Were gonna get bored of making music after a while, cuz all our songs sound the same and you cant go on for that long, can you? says Too-Bad. The word band its a horrible word, innit? It sounds like some hoary barroom band, pub band. I think gang is better: We make clothes, and we run a club called Le Champ de Garde its like walking into the 60s Warhol Factory scene, or a club in Berlin in 1930. We play all the music we want to hear Betty Boo, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Suicide. Its camp and trashy. A lot of people turn up, and they go home thinking, Ew, pretentious wankers. But we dont want them there anyway.
Lolita Storm is a shambles we never know what were doing. You have to establish this spirit of chaos, so that things can just fall apart. Its a bit annoying when you get too organized.
Is Lolita Storm just another confection of the Raspberry Reich, as Baader-Meinhof gang member Gudrun Ensslin once derisively nicknamed the modern consumer society?
I dont see it that everybody [on Fatal and DHR] has to be very political in a very serious way, says the 27-year-old (and mother of two) Elias. If three girls sing like this about sex and drugs and everything, I think thats very feminist. The music itself has a political message: Its out of order, its not commercial, its special, its experimental.
Its not quite as experimental as Fatals other releases, like Nic Endos red-black-and-white-noise album White Heat (98), or Elias own In Flames, a recent compilation of her solo work from the last four years that spans aggro-disco taunts, spoken-word noisecore (with once and future Elias collaborators Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman) and chilly cinema-ready ballads. Much of Elias work seems to parody and re-purpose the clichéd conception of the female as being something inherently threatening to the male. The title tracks video, which, with its creepy-crawly black-clad sexy female wall climbers (played by Elias and Lolita Storm), references the 20s French anarchist silent-film serial Les Vampires, is one example of Elias approach. The album booklets inside back cover is another: It features a woman holding a large pistol in front of her bare ass.
Thats me! a giggling Elias admits. When youre very small, your mother tells you, Dont go alone on the street. Be careful of certain guys. You grow up in fear; you cant really develop naturally, trusting everybody. So I try to turn it around: Holding a gun behind your naked butt says, He cant really trust you, even if youre naked.
She laughs. People ask me, Hanin, why do you make this aggressive music? Cant you sing softly for womens rights? And I always answer, Yeah, women are peaceful, and they are in control of their nerves for thousands of years, and they dont fight back in an aggressive way. They think, One day maybe men will understand. But they dont.
HANIN ELIAS | In Flames (DHR Fatal)
LOLITA STORM | GFSU (DHR Fatal)
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Los Angeles, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.