CHICKS ON SPEED
Interview by pHinn / pHinnWeb
December 4, 1999
The Eira Bass posse of Helsinki continues with their great series of live gigs from on-the-edge electronic artists. This time the turn was for Chicks On Speed, a group of three women who mix in their music elements from various genres of music, from electro to trash metal. The Tavastia club of Helsinki was packed and excitement was just sizzling in the air, when the Chicks finally entered the stage after a wait which had seemed endless. Wearing high heel boots and custom-designed miniskirt leather outfits, Alex, Kiki and Melissa took over in a way which left even the most jaded trend hyenas speechless, since no one had seen or heard anything like this before; escaping all definitions and genres and creating something that was totally new and fresh in their wake.
They were not any of those MTV Eurodance divas manufactured by producer Svengalis nor whining therapy addict Alanis Morissette "down-to-earth" plastic folk types nor were they Riot Grrl, the crusty grunge feminists of yesteryear, but something else, maybe vanguards of a totally new kind of musical genre. Alex once stagedived into audiences; they did trash metal (though on one of their tracks they screamed: "We don't like fucking guitars!"), electro and house, and a track they called "our Panasonic song", so they were no lip-synching Spice Girls though the music mostly came from MiniDisc, but three strong women who left the crowd in total awe and respect.
After the gig I had a chance to meet the Chicks at backstage and it seemed all of them were different personalities, with a certain tension in the air like with the old-time bands such as The Who which kept on fighting all the time, but nevertheless (or just because of that tension) managed to create wonderful music. Alex, the Abba-loving tall blonde, was an affable Aussie, Melissa a ladylike but passionate PJ Harvey type and Kiki the quiet, mysterious Munich girl. The interview that follows was conducted by Net just before the gig. Whatever you do, just don't call them Atari Teenage Riot Grrls.
- All three of you have got different geographic origins. How did Chicks On Speed get started?
Please, see interview.
- Which artists have influenced you the most, and which contemporary musical acts you rate high, or feel are on the same wavelength with you?
Our influences are Virginia Woolf, Flying Lizards, Kleenex, Daniel Pflumm, Pan sonic, Kreidler, Super_Collider, Pipilotti Rist, Tony Ousler, Adib Fricke, Kai Althoff, Mäuse, Graf Hadik, Hecker, Andreas Dorrau, Holger Hiller, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, Bob Dylan, The Orb, Molly Ringwald, Jill Mingo, Piers Martin, Vivienne Westwood, Michelle Rheiner, Mari Funaki, Madonna, Prince, DMX Krew, Young Gods, Sonic Youth, The Human League, The Normal, Le Car, Sam and Valley, Ultravox, Joni Mitchell, Kathleen Hannah and Bikini Kill, Boy George, K Records, Upstart, DJ Hell, Dakar and Grinser, Blondie, Ryoji Ikeda, Carsten Nicolai, Anthrax.
Respect: same as above.
- Your list of collaborating artists seems like a Who's Who in Techno Scene (DJ Hell, Patrick Pulsinger, Christopher Just, DMX Krew). How come you get to know all these people, and which one of these has been the most pleasant to work with?
All met a lot through Upstart (Ultraschall) club and DJ Hellīs label International DJ Gigoloīs, both in Munich.
- The obligatory fanboy/gear geek question: what kind of equipment you create your music with?
It's produced with home made version of Logic and various self-made plug-ins. Sherman filter bank is the best.
- Your best and worst experiences with gigs so far?
We would like to warn all artists about Sean McLusky, a promoter in London, who wouldnīt give us our cash after a performance at the Scala.
WMF in Berlin is where we did our first gig ever and remains the best place to play.
- Do you think revolution and anarchy are nowadays just another marketing ploy? (e.g. Che Guevara as a pop icon used in commercials, etc.)
Yes, we think it's funny how Macintosh tells everyone to think different and use the same computer equipment.
- And do you have any contacts to Alec Empire and Digital Hardcore Recordings, since somehow I feel you represent somewhat similar attitudes and ideas?
Recently we had a few tracks out (made with Christopher Just; 'Turn of the Century') which somehow relate to Digital Hardcore Recordings, though our basic for creative expression is very different and has nothing to do with Alec Empire whatsoever. Our style always changes as we feel it important to try everything.
- What's the meaning of your visual arts background to your music; it seems, for example, all these British bands in rock and punk in the 60s and 70s had some sort of art school backgrounds - can you relate to those?
Visual installations/music and exhibitions are all important mediums for us; recently we have been concentrating on music and the visual content of our live performance. Installations will form more of a role of our group. Next year we plan to follow up on our concept "Monsters": large collages of favourite made up CoS characters exhibited as over-lifesize posters in various contexts.
- Tell me a bit about your forthcoming art gallery projects?
"X-mas" at Kent St. Gallery, New York is a show about consumerism encouraging SoHo X-mas art shoppers to consume. We decided to make our "boob monster" into a soft doll and stick it in the bag.
- Most interesting things happening in the current art scene?
Kai Althoff's "carpet creatures" and Carsten Nicolaiīs drawings; other than that we donīt go looking around at art galleries.
- Can you see your future more as musicians or visual artists?
Both or neither.
- NME claimed you have also written comic books? How about these?
We are presently working together with Jacob Boeskov on a comic project. He is presently finishing some Lars von Trier comic books, this will be interesting to see.
- What was the Chick TV all about?
"Chick TV" was a project we did in conjunction with "World Haus TV" in Weimar Germany. It was part of the project Kulturstadt Weimar 1999, where a lot of artists were invited to participate in various projects ranging from theatre to music/exhibitions.
We did 7 hours of TV, where we showed our films "Living", "Trading Post" and live footage of parties and gigs. We also presented "Trading Post" live on TV and the viewers could trade their personal possessions with us over Web/TV. We traded such things that belong to each of us, that have a special sentimental value; e.g. my (Alex) passport, Melissa's engagement present from her ex-boyfriend, Kiki's rave sunglasses that she bought at the 3rd Love Parade, my school blanket, and more goodies like these.
- How does it feel when such trendy magazines as The Face now almost seem to hype you as "the Next Big Thing"? Do you think there's really a chance to make a difference in the pop market, or just eventually become assimilated in the music industry mainstream?
As Courtney Love once said about the underground: "A new subculture is born, and within 2 minutes the rights will have been sold to Nike".
- Have you personally experienced any sexism in electronic dance music scene?
Not directly, but we've heard stories.
- Too few women in electronic music? Discuss.
Even though there are more and more, there are still too few, but we're glad it's on the way up! :-) During punk there were a lot of active women on the scene, and now there seems to be a trend reawakening that women can relate and aspire to what is going on in electronic music.
- The future plans of Chicks On Speed?
- And the regular pHinnWeb question: how do you see the future of electronic (dance/listening/etc.) music?
More and more genres will meet, it is becoming less purist, more accessible and the audience will expand and interest people more and more from other areas.
- Your current Top Ten?
Fenn O'Berg (the album)
Disko Rough "Mathematik Modernes"
"TV O.D." The Normal
"Nostrils and Eyes" Position Normal
"Tekonivel" Mika Vainio
Ovuca - all
Bodenständig 2000 - all
Ryoji Ikeda - "+-"album and live
Schlampeitzinger - everything
"Spiralen der Errinerung" Justus Kohnke
"C30, C60, C90 Go!" Bow Wow Wow
"Good Time Girl" DMX Krew
"Tanz Machine" Knarz
Hecker - Live Video vs Skot
- Finally, your favourite question no one ever asks in interviews?
Alex wants to talk about romance.
Kiki wants to talk about cats and breeding in the Arctic Circle.
Melissa wants to talk about electro smog in relation to insomnia and the clarity of thoughts at night.
Click here for the images of Chicks On Speed live @ HKI Turbo III, Helsinki, 4 December 1999!
Copyright © (for the text) pHinnWeb 1999. Thanks for scans to Mikko Niemelä.