International Punky Art Rockers: Chicks on Speed
NME, 8 January, 2000
Three Chicks On Speed stand statue-still onstage dressed in leather rags while a giant robo-voice intones "CHICKS ON SPEED" over a demented dustbin-techno loop. "CHICKS ON SPEED... CHICKS ON SPEED..." it goes. The audience gapes.
"Who the fuck are you?" screams a severely annoyed punter. Why, it's Chicks On Speed, dude, where have you been?
Call yourself Chicks On Speed and you're already 84.9 per cent of the way to perfection. Mash up techno, gabba and Eurodisco with a flair for Situationist media-subversion stunts and Godzilla-sized "Frankenstein collages" and then toss in a pinch of '79-style indie-punk art-school snottiness and the result is a 'band' who make Atari Teenage Riot look like The James Last Orchestra. After a fatal coach crash.
The three chums (who met at art school - surprise, surprise) regularly appear on a German shopping channel where they barter away their most treasured personal possessions - like blankets and passports. Is this a statement about the moral bankruptcy or global consumer capitalism?' Probably.
"Some of the people get really angry when we won't take their money," says Munich-born Kiki Moorse. "Why won't you take my money? I will give you 100 marks!"
They have slapped down on vinyl truly frightening cover versions of Camper Van Beethoven, Daniel Miller, The B-52's and Delta 5 - what taste! And their record company, Go Records, is apparently "a suicide label", designed to self-destruct after the tenth release. This might be a comment on the concept of inbuilt obsolescence in late-capitalist consumer society. Then again, it might not.
And they still annoy the fuck out of DJ types by sticking must-play earth-shaking Tyrannosaurus Rex tekno on distinctly un-macho little indie-type seven-inchers. Is this an attempt to subvert the entire dance music industry? Possibly.
OK, so what are Chicks On Speed? The strangest pop group or a poncey art statement? Bis with brain or Tracey Emin with talent? Or both? Or neither? Fuck knows.
"We did a 13-minute performance with strobe lights in a modern art gallery, all the really heavy metal stuff, people leaping up and down everywhere, and they were freaking out because everything was unprotected!" chuckles New Yorker Melissa Logan.
"It would be great to do a gig where you drove everybody out of the building," muses Australian Alex Murray-Leslie. And she's not joking. Or maybe she is.
Be warned, young groovers, check out Chicks On Speed and your head WILL be severely fucked with. Which is one reason why Chicks On Speed are brilliant. The other reason being that visually, musically and conceptually Chicks On Speed verge on the utterly fucking awesome.
The Munich-based Chicks are onstage at London's trendy Wag. Dressed in the Flintstone-style dressed they hacked together themselves the night before, they are dancing like partly deboned deep-frozen chickens while performing 'We Don't Play Guitar'.
"We go to the supermarket", keens Alex, "but we don't play guitar!". She's got an off-off-off-kilter voice. Imagine Placebo-bloke with his testicles dipped in liquid hydrogen. Now smash those knackers hard with a large claw hammer so that they shatter like crystal. You hear how he's screaming? She sounds nothing like that. Trying to 'explain' Chicks On Speed is like trying to nail down a jelly with a plastic mallet and rubber nails. This will be messy but fun.
Oh no! An annoying E-ed-up hippy in the crowd has just elbowed one too many punters in the face. Violence erupts. SPLOSH! Lager fountains over the frugging mob.
"We shop more than other people/But we don't play guitar!"
The hippy winds up a Popeye-style cartoon haymaker but - POW! - a punter steps in and coldcocks the clown.
"We don't play guitar!"
Unconscious E-boy hits the floor with a sickening crunch but the Chicks On Speed have just gone up a notch, blinding us with strobes, deafening us with a gabba cacophony and nobody - not even the most humane and annoying E-hippy-friendly among us - gives a flying monkey's. We are laughing our fucking cocks and cunts off. Alex tosses herself offstage and into the seething pit and the leaps back onstage and hops around like a one-legged bag lady on hot coals. We're in electro-rock'n'roll heaven.
Yes, all very interesting but what are Chicks On Speed? OK, try this - imagine you went to a Spice Girls gig but instead you got Kraftwerk in drag playing Lawnmower Deth songs. Well, Chicks On Speed are absolutely nothing like that. This week, Chicks On Speed are being mainly influenced by Kylie Minogue, Swiss punk-fems Kleenex, Cindy Sherman and, er, Joni Mitchell. But this WILL change. On an hourly basis. But don't, whatever you do, ask them the question - are Chicks On Speed the punk-gabba Jesus Christ to Alec Empire out of ATR's John The Baptist?
"Why do journalists always go on about Atari Teenage Riot?" snarls Melissa. "That's just one part of what we do."
Told you. Hammer, nail, jelly - wheeeeeeeee SPLAT! NME tries to brick Der Chix up in a cosy little pigeonhole for you but the diamond-beaked bastards peck their way out every damn time.
Are Chicks On Speed pop?
"No!" says Melissa.
"Yes!" say Alex and Kiki. The Chicks then engage in an intense 40-second ideological debate.
"OK, then, yes we are pop," says Melissa, finally. Primitive communism in action, kids!
And are Chicks On Speed art?
"Yes!" chorus Melissa, Alex and Kiki simultaneously. One nail in the jelly. One tiny brick in the pigeonhole wall. At last! Hallelujah!
And could Chicks On Speed handle massive commercial success and the accompanying tidal wave of filthy lucre?
"That would be one way of going," says Melissa, sagely.
"No, but if that happened, if you are rich then you've got to invest things in projects and support other people, make things grow and create something of cultural significance," states Alex, sternly.
"But we're definitely a marketable product!" laughs Melissa. Alex starts to look a tad worried.
"We take whatever's around," says Melissa. "Like we went to Christopher 'Punk Anderson' Just of 'Shave That Pussy' fame and we said, 'We want to do gabba!' And it's like this music that is so dead, it's just turned into this, like, music for Dutch fascist clubs, so to take this dead genre and to do something with it, that was actually the point of 'Turn Of The Century' and 'Glamour Girl'."
So the Chicks On Speed aesthetic is essentially a trash aesthetic?
"Sometimes," says Alex. "One can't just put it all in one envelope."
Damn. And now Melissa is bilingually describing the Chicks On Speed cover version of Delta 5's 'Mind Your Own Business' as "bombastischer jazz-rock".
"It's not nice!" says Kiki. "It's not nice music!"
Which is as close as we're going to get to a Chicks On Speed manifesto.
Chicks On Speed know what 99.9999 per cent of allegedly 'indie' bands have forgotten. That the 'alternative' should never be an exercise in comforting nostalgia. That 'songwriting' and 'musicianship' are hideous plagues. That being outside the mainstream is a total waste of time unless you're too damn weird to exist inside it.
Chicks On Speed - a mystery inside an enigma, wrapped out in a weird leather dress that they carved out of an old sofa last night. All 'indie' bands should be this mental. Otherwise, what is the point exactly? Hmmm?
BUY: 'Glamour Girl' (Go)
SEE THEM: London Highbury Upstairs At The Garage (February 22)
Copyright © 2000 NME. Reprinted with permission.