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 Machine’s 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 government’s 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 that’s a problem we Germans also have. We want to take care of people everywhere in the world, but we don’t 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 it’s so unfair how it’s 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 it’s accepted. If you were to sing about white power or something, it leads to racist attacks. With songs [degrading women], it’s the same situation. I can’t 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 it’s 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 Fatal’s 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/it’s the only thing I need”) and torturing BBC boob Anthea Turner. It’s the Jesus & Mary Chain’s 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 we’ve 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 haven’t changed them — because you don’t mess with perfection.”
“There’s quite a lot of Dixie Cups in there,” says the ageless Jimmy Too-Bad, singing the verse melody to the ’60s girl group’s hit “Chapel of Love” and revealing the band’s aesthetic strategy: “Nick from the past, and then kick it forward!”
“We’re not interested in anything political,” Medina says. “We’re into aesthetics. We like things that are really bright and trashy and fun. We like John Waters, Hammer horror films, Polanski’s 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 Storm’s shows?
“Ten minutes long,” says 22-year-old Nhung Napalm. “It’s shocking. It’s a mess. It’s 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.”
What’s with all the songs about sex?
“We like it!” says Medina, whose carpet-burned knees grace the album booklet’s back cover. “That’s why we’re sexy, because we like it. People that don’t like sex, no matter how good-looking they are, they haven’t got any sex appeal. It’s not just confidence — it’s liking sex.”
“We’re gonna get bored of making music after a while, ’cuz all our songs sound the same and you can’t go on for that long, can you?” says Too-Bad. “The word ‘band’ — it’s 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 — it’s 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. It’s camp and trashy. A lot of people turn up, and they go home thinking, ‘Ew, pretentious wankers.’ But we don’t want them there anyway.
“Lolita Storm is a shambles — we never know what we’re doing. You have to establish this spirit of chaos, so that things can just fall apart. It’s 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 don’t 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 that’s very feminist. The music itself has a political message: It’s out of order, it’s not commercial, it’s special, it’s experimental.”
It’s not quite as experimental as Fatal’s other releases, like Nic Endo’s 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 track’s 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 booklet’s inside back cover is another: It features a woman holding a large pistol in front of her bare ass.
“That’s me!” a giggling Elias admits. “When you’re very small, your mother tells you, ‘Don’t go alone on the street. Be careful of certain guys.’ You grow up in fear; you can’t really develop naturally, trusting everybody. So I try to turn it around: Holding a gun behind your naked butt says, ‘He can’t really trust you, even if you’re naked.’”
She laughs. “People ask me, ‘Hanin, why do you make this aggressive music? Can’t you sing softly for women’s rights?’ And I always answer, ‘Yeah, women are peaceful, and they are in control of their nerves for thousands of years, and they don’t fight back in an aggressive way. They think, One day maybe men will understand. But they don’t.’”
HANIN ELIAS | In Flames (DHR Fatal)
LOLITA STORM | GFSU (DHR Fatal)