Lydia Lunch vs. New York: 'I Got More Fucking Energy Than the Whole City'

Weasel Walter and Lydia LunchEXPAND
Weasel Walter and Lydia Lunch
Photo by Jasmine Hirst

Lydia Lunch, a preeminent icon of the Seventies’ No Wave scene, has only come back to the city because she “wanted to kick New York in the face.” With her non-stop schedule and robustly productive output, it’s more NYC’s luck that she even comes here. This year alone, Lunch has debuted a visual art show of manipulated photos and a biographical installation at the Bowery’s HOWL! Gallery, toured Europe with her band Retrovirus, reissued her spoken word album Conspiracy of Women via electronic artist Nicolas Jaar’s label Other People and taught at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado, among many other things.

She’s also been performing vocals-and-drums sets with Weasel Walter, noted experimental jazz drummer and one of the founding members of Chicago’s the Flying Luttenbachers, who plays with her in Retrovirus. For those unfamiliar with the project, the band (also comprised of Bob Bert of Pussy Galore fame on drums and former Child Abuse member Tim Dahl on bass) plays a repertory set of Lunch’s career-spanning catalog, but it was not meant to endure. “It was supposed to be a one- or two-off, but it was so much fun,” Lunch says. But her penchant for continued work with great collaborators, having a good time and maintaining her long-standing rebellion against the status quo, even in alternative spaces, kept the band afloat. “I feel like I've always either inserted myself and existed as this complete outsider. I feel unrelated to everything,” she says. “It's bizarre that this is the most rock thing I've ever done...When I started, Teenage Jesus [and the Jerks] was complete rebellion against rock music. But everything comes full circle. And this is also rebellion against rock music, or the lack of it.”

Weasel’s output has never been entirely rock-leaning, either, and is often imbued with the same kind of brutality Lunch has always employed. But their union isn’t just kismet between two like-minded people; Weasel prepared for this role for almost thirty years. “I saw [her] picture in a book about women of rock back when I was thirteen years old,” says Weasel, who Lunch describes as “an expert in No Wave.” “I turn the page and I see this black-haired woman with a big tarantula on her breast, and was like, ‘Huh, what is this?’ And I had a fear of spiders, but I was intrigued, so I read. And it related her sound to a Chilean torture chamber [and] I just figured this warranted some research. So, you know, I was a fan before I was in the band. But I heard she needed a guitar player and needed the best, so I came.”

This expertise has yielded more than just a great on-stage connection. The group recently released a collection of the music as a Bandcamp album called Urge to Kill, which Lunch says was recorded in only ten hours. Beyond the creative chemistry, Retrovirus is special because of the scattered history of their live set. “It's not like I've done any of these songs so many times,” says Lunch. “Some of them were never done live or done live five times or done live five times twenty-five years ago.”

Listeners will have more access to Lunch’s live music history later this year, too, with a definitive live collection of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks from 1977 that will also be released through Jaar’s Other People. Weasel was at the helm of the entire compilation, quilting it together from tapes he has collected over the years, as well as writing the liner notes. She is also looking for a home in New York for the rest of her archive, which she and Weasel just drove here from Los Angeles, despite her waning interest in the city.

“I don't live here. I haven't since 1990. I come here to do my art and Retrovirus when I feel like it needs to get kicked in the fucking teeth,” she says. “But that's not the bane of my existence here. The services suck. The streets are atrocious. The subways are outrageous. And you're paying out your ass to live here in a place where many people are dispersing and are getting out of here because they still have hope...People get trapped here because they're such a cog in the machine and they need the energy. I don't need the energy. I got more fucking energy than the whole city.”

Lydia Lunch - Retrovirus will perform at Le Poisson Rouge on August 23. For ticket information, click here.

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Le Poisson Rouge

158 Bleecker St.
New York, NY 10012

212-505-3474

www.lepoissonrouge.com


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