MISS LE BOMB: "If You're Happy And You Know It, Stomp Your Feet"
Interview by Erkki pHinn Rautio / pHinnWeb
30 January, 2006 -- Catriona Shaw, a.k.a. Miss Le Bomb ("for all that's wrong"), is a mistress of many disguises. Originally hailing from Scotland, she's not only a talented visual artist (check her site for some examples of her work), but also sings with the band Queen of Japan (who recently made waves with their cover version of 'I Was Made For Loving You' by Kiss). She has collaborated with such people as Electronicat, Hans Platzgumer, Gerhard Potuznik, Isabel Reiss, Kamerakino, current indie-pop favourites Franz Ferdinand, Bulent Kulkucu, and others. Now she also does her own solo material: her first underground electro pop release on Berlin's Careless Records is out early 2006.
This winter Miss Le Bomb has spent under artist residency in the small town of Rauma, Finland, where she has been working on a project called Freeze Frames, and it was this Finland connection that initially got her in contact with pHinnWeb.
- What's happening now in the lives of Miss Le Bomb -- any news?
I have multiple lives, that's true...
- Oops, that was a typo, should have been singular form -- but glad you made the best of it!
Well, I've got my first solo 12" called 'Jealousy', with remixes by Snax and Electronicat; coming out end of February on Careless Records" a new label from Berlin's Handle With Care production company. Aside from that I've been in tiny Rauma in Finland making films with the locals and doing a bit of drawing for the last three months... and am about to run off to Helsinki for my second ever Finnish gig!
- Tell me something about your own background, and how did you start making art and music?
I grew up on the Orkney Islands in Scotland which was great until I hit 14 years... I've always been making art, my parents are both involved in that field so they encouraged me a lot. I also learnt to play accordion and won "Most promising Young Accordionist" prize in the Orkney folk festival three years running! Mm, I also sang in the school choir... but was rejected for a lead part in a musical because I was so nervous at the auditions my voice came out more like a squeak.
After finishing my art studies in Edinburgh, I moved to Munich where I met up with the Chicks and got propelled into the underground music/event scene which was happening there. I met Hans Platzgumer and wanted to make some music performance piece with him but this transformed into something else, namely Queen of Japan.
At the same time I started a project with Mooner and Benjamin Bergmann called "Club le Bomb" (this is where the name Miss Le Bomb stems from) and we ran an illegal club in the centre of town for about six months which was very successful. We'd always put on some spontaneous performances and along with Queen of Japan and my artistic performances/work (which were tending more and more towards audience-interactive pieces) I got very used to stage situations. And a little addicted to them too...
- So, tell a bit about your band, Queen of Japan...
We didn't mean to start as a band but I'd been drunkenly bragging to Hans that I could sing and then he asked me one day, out of the blue, if I'd like to try singing some Freddie Mercury covers for a cabaret show he'd been invited to in Vienna. Of course I said yes, then at the show, Gerhard Potuznik turned up who had just started the Angelika Koehlermann CD label. He loved the performance and wanted to put out the CD. We didn't have a name at that time and Tex Rubinowitz dubbed us Queen of Japan. (The concept of Angelika Koehlermann was to release only Japanese artists and if they weren't Japanese they would just pretend they were!)
After that Albert Poeschl joined us and we decided to cover some more of our favourite rock/pop songs that we thought we could "improve" upon (not wanting to sound arrogant here!) We made an album, Nightlife In Tokyo which featured the cover of 'I Was Made For Loving You', our little hit. A lot of people jumped on the song and there were promises of world fame etc. which never really came about. Quite frustrating on one hand, on the other it's OK, I didn't want to be another "Everything But The Girl"...!
- And how about the other people you've been collaborating with, like Franz Ferdinand and so on?
I've known Nick [McCarthy] from Franz Ferdinand for years, he used to live in Munich and we'd collaborated on some music projects; I played accordion with him dressed in rollers once at a party and we both played in Kamerakino at some point. So when Franz Ferdinand started to get big he was asking a lot of his old friends to collaborate which was, of course, really exciting!
I sang a duet with Alex [Kapranos], we did a new version of their song 'Michael' but it didn't get released unfortunately. They said they thought a girl singing removed the homoerotic implications of the song... well, whatever!
I've recorded with Gerhard Potuznik on several occasions and of course with Electronicat, which is great. I really respect them both and I usually only work with people who I know or am close to. I've also worked a bit with Bulent from Generation Aldi, that's always fun. And of course I've done a lot of other projects with Hans... hmm... only boys? Can't be...
I have another project with a talented lady called Isabel Reiss who has her own band, Mosh-Mosh. It's an accordion-chanson project called Hektor and Rositha; I play accordion, she sings, it's all very depressing and melancholic. We played to a raving audience in a local restaurant in Rauma recently, that was something!
- How would you describe your style of music?
- What kind of equipment do you create you create your own music with?
I'm a huge fan of Yamaha synths, probably because that's what I grew up playing on. That's why my music hasn't progressed so much either, ha ha! Actually I started producing a lot on the laptop using some cheesey sounding VST instruments which I like but found it a little annoying after a while. Fred Electronicat is helping me produce some tracks so I've got some real instrument recordings on some and I'm trying very hard to learn bass guitar... ulp. Also will use the accordion for some sounds...
- Are there any other role models or influential artists for you?
I must admit I still love the first Deee-Lite album after all these years... I will never forget the video (and clothes!) for 'Groove Is In The Heart' and Lady Miss Kier has a great voice. I've been quite influenced by the old punk scene although I didn't participate, I was too young at the time.
I like pretty much anything where I feel the person involved is really taking some risk and that there's a real risk of things going wrong -- but that there is a passion behind the thing that pushes them to do it anyway. I love Chester Brown comics, especially Ed the Happy clown. This could turn into an endless list...
- And any current acts which would particularly impress you, or you feel are on the same wavelength with you?
Dynasty Handbag, Harry Merry, Electronicat, Cotton Casino, T.hrone, the Gossip, Tracey and the Plastics, Demolition Doll Rods, The Magnificents, Snax; aaaarghhhhh, too much... syntax error.
- What about your live performances, and any interesting anecdotes about them? What have been the best and worst places to play, for example?
My worst gig was my first solo gig: it was in Turin, Italy and was the opening night of a new club. My flight from Berlin was delayed by seven hours due to some radar fallout over the whole of northern Italy and when I finally reached Milan it was already 12.30 am with another two hour-drive to Turin. When I arrived I discovered they didn't have any of the equipment I'd asked for on the tech rider except the microphone and that there was a limiter on the whole system. I had no time for soundcheck and all the people were either horribly drunk or on the verge of leaving so I had to hurry to start. It was my first solo gig and I was decidedly nervous, nobody knew who I was or had heard any of my music. I started singing, there was no stage and I basically stood in the middle of the dancefloor. The crowd were smiling and as the show went on the smiles became giggles and then finally laughter, at which point I realised there was a footballer-haircut drunk Italian guy who'd been standing behind me form I don't know how long, mimicking my every dance move... kind of horrific.
My best gig... I've had some great gigs but my most recent good one was in somebody's living room in Helsinki. It was a pre-Christmas party arranged at the last minute by some friends and I happened to be in town. All very improvised and a fantastic crowd, I even had my own set of willing Finn go-go girls. Very nice.
- 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?)
I've been trying to figure that one out for myself for quite some time... I'm not a professional musician, so I think coming from an art background definitely helps as far as improvisation is concerned. You can make do with a little bit to create something bigger. I guess you are also much more aware of how you come across in a performance situation or can lend a more visual quality to the music through how you present yourself. Artists are typically very self-conscious and egotistical and I think this helps... ha ha.
I suppose too that if you opt to go to art school you're already kind of opting out of normal society prospects of job, economy, security, etc. This can give you more motivation to try anything out, a life in the popular music scene is as insecure a vocation as art, so there are parallels there. And it's pleasurable as an artist to have a more instant form of communication in a way, through records or live performances. You can reach out to a larger audience than you may be offered by gallery situations... I could deliberate about this for hours.
- You have been staying in Rauma, Finland, now, as part of an art project. How did that Finnish connection come about, and do you have any previous involvement with local artists and scene?
I'd been to Finland in 2004 with Electronicat for two days, we were in Helsinki and Tampere. Basically I just felt it was a great place to be, there's a special quality to Finland which I like. I didn't really have any specific connection to Finland except for Timo from Op:l Bastards who I'd met here with Annie and met again on several occasions during festivals etc.
When I applied to come on a residency to Finland I really didn't know much about Rauma, it's a very small place! But I just wanted to get away for a bit and concentrate on one thing, one project and this was the perfect opportunity. I gathered together some email addresses from friends in Germany who I knew had Finnish connections and just got in touch with those people. I hadn't any involvement with Finnish artists before but now I have met quite a few and hope to keep up the contact and come back as often as possible.
- And how have you found Finland in general?
Its simply the best. I'm a fan. I don't know how I will survive without a sauna in my apartment... and it's taught me some interesting new ideas in the realm of porridge cookery.
- Tell me also something about the scene in Berlin...
Its a big sprawling grab-the-cake-and-eat-it-and-spit-it-out-again-to-share-with-your-mates jelly donut of a scene. It's fun and it's disturbing at the same time. Berlin's a tough city to live in, despite what you may have heard about cheap this and that and oh-so-great; it takes a lot of energy to stick it out and that's reflected in the music scene there. It's a very unstable structure, likely to ex- or implode at any second...
- What is your own take on the (depending on whom you ask, much-maligned or hyped) "electroclash" craze of the recent years?
I don't really think about it so much. I know that a lot of people feel that their music or reputation has suffered through this and I realise that what I do or have done with Queen of Japan could be classified under that genre. But at the end of the day it's just a genre, and if your music has enough staying power and you believe in what you do, it's best to forget about other peoples pigeonholing techniques.
I like and dislike a lot of the electroclash stuff; I think there is a lot of nonsense out there in the entertainment industry, but just as much in other genres as in this one. Its definitely interesting how punk/rock has been merged together with a very commercial club scene: two things that differ so much in history are now one. But I only see it being embraced wholly by the commercial side unfortunately. If there was some more underground electroclash movement that might be good... but everyone's so insistent on distancing themselves from that term. Term schmerm... If you're happy and you know it, stomp your feet.
- Your own Top Ten for the moment/all-time?
In no particular order:
Go Go Giddy Gangrene Go - Harry Merry
Bermuda Triangle Blues - Blondie
anything by the Make-up/Weird War
Try Me On I'm Very You - Deee-Lite
Goodbye to Berlin - Christopher Isherwood
free MIDI files on the Internet
The Baby - directed by Ted Post
Origami Star Wars figures
- Your own future plans now?
I want to make a film... and go to China for a bit. And learn French. And influence people and make new friends and save animals and the planet. Nothing coherent.
- Your favourite question they never ask in interviews?
Are you proud to be Scottish?
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