Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lydia Lunch

The legendary No Wave performer Lydia Lunch returns to New York with a photo exhibition and installation. Chris Nutter interviewed her for HuffPo.


An excerpt:

CLN: Why did you decide to come back to New York now?

LL: I left New York in 1990 before it turned into Disney. I'm here now for the people who still remain who know what this place once was. That's in part what I wanted to do with So Real It Hurts. Coming back now just feels right.

CLN: Who is your New York audience today?

LL: To sum up an audience is to insult the individuals who are there. Anyone who comes to me comes for the comfort that I can bring them. My work is for people who aren't afraid to go into the deepest corner of their obsessions, who need to understand and exorcize their demons, and the horror of it all. To break it down it's almost always the most sensitive, the shy boys, the weirdoes, the non mono-gender, the outsiders who come to me.

CLN: You mean the archetypal old school New Yorker.

LL: Absofuckininglutely.


CLN: Do you feel the need to live in New York again?

LL: I wouldn't say I need New York, but I would say New York needs me.

Visit HuffPo for the whole story.


Scout said...

Lydia Lunch.... that's a name that takes you back to NYC at the 70s/80s shift. She was the most successfully narcissistic and self-promoting of an extremely large group of suburban refugees with lots of eyeliner and attitude at the time (the individual reader can decide if that's a complement or a backhand).

Those gals (and some guys of similar stripe) were a fascinating and exhausting breed, the kind you can only really cope with in the first flush of wild youth.

I remember scores of them fondly; most either died of drug-related issues, or went relatively mainstream and married and spawned. A few are still around, sporting their reliable Betsy Johnson or Joan Jett look in their mid-50s or 60s, somehow managing to survive, (but not much more than that) wondering where their world went. That's a movie someone should make.

Caleo said...

I remember Lydia and her ranting, screaming monologues very well.
As Scout pointed out, that scene was only tolerable to a smallish group of disaffected kids. I found it barely tolerable in the late 80's, and see it as insufferable from my vantage point today. That being said, I'm glad it existed, and that the city provided a space for those folks and their scene, and they were definitely scenesters who policed the boundaries of their circles with gusto.
I was more into Hardcore punk and certain No Wave artists, and Lydia was definitely a part of that, but I didn't like the junkies and the willful decadence. It came off as fake to me.
But that scene produced some interesting people and great music, and contributed to the grand mosaic that was the glory of old New York, the Rotten Apple.

Walter said...

Self-absorbed, pouty suburbanites.

Walter said...

Does anyone remember the Lismar Lounge? First Avenue between 3rd & 4th Streets (or close enough)

Anonymous said...

So... she lived in NYC for only 13 years...she partied in loud, in-your-face sort of ways... then left NYC to tour the world and party in europe... sounds a lot more like the trustafarian bar-crawl NYU students who parachute in then depart to other exotic locales (before they turn to Disney!) than any salt-of-the-earth NY'er.

Ever think that the generation represented by people like this, who must have appalled those average NY's who were trying to hang on thru the decline of the 60s, was more part of the problem than any solution?

New York needs you like it needs yet another highly-mobile 1% who has the privlege to decamp at any moment and thus need not build and maintain community - good for some laughs, yes, but please have the decency to move along...

Caleo said...

Anon.5:26- In a way you're right. Lydia, and some other folks in her scene, happened to be in the right place at the right time. They landed in NYC in the late 70's to dirt cheap rents and several long established art and literary scenes. The city was decaying rapidly, and folks like her took full advantage of it. A vacuum was created by the social decay and crime, and they filled the void with music/art/film. Some of it was great, a lot was not.
She's definitely not a New Yorker, native or long term transplant, but she did contribute to a larger social scene that ended up giving birth to Punk/No Wave, as well as various filmmakers like Jarmusch.
I found her spoken word stuff overheated and repetitive, but she gets respect from me for her contributions to the whole No Wave movement.
She always comported herself with class and maturity in interviews.Many of the folks in that scene died of heroin or alcohol abuse, or just faded away, but a few are still creeping around the LES.
As I said, folks like her contributed to the mosaic of a much more chaotic and menacing city, but that chapter of New York's story, the 70's/80's, will go down in history as a nexus of some of the most creative explosions in music/art history.

Anonymous said...

Caleo, those are great observations, and highlight what I feel is a difficult contradiction embedded here: the tension between nostalgia for a (thin) slice of NYC's artistic past vs. a concern for small business / grassroots community.

Or, illustratively, on the one hand the lionizing of ms. lunch, a petty criminal who gleefully stole from said small business for years before bailing out; and on the other, community values that depend on following government regulations and fair exchange rather than theft.

The two forces are in conflict.

I would love to hear from small business owners who had shops in the 60s and 70s, specifically to hear their thoughts on the tribes that ms. lunch ran with during her brief sojourn in NYC; am guessing their opinion would be as caustic as those who (rightly) rail again corporate chains taking over the city...

Anonymous said...

I like the comments telling the real story, not the typical glamouring for the dirty, crime ridden past. It would be like here in Florida if we longed for more red necks, white trash and drug users to steal and litter all over the place. Them dam visitors and retired people, they just spend money and keep their places looking nice.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sick of the dismissive argument that if you acknowledge any positive aspect of the pre-Giuliani-Bloomberg reign, then you are pining for crime ridden city. There were plenty of artists and creative people who lived in the area beside Lydia Lunch and the no wave artists. There were also working and middle class families struggling to make the neighborhood a better place.

Sure people moved here from other places, because they felt they didn't fit in where they were. They weren't coming for an "as seen on tv" life like the SATC, Friends and Girls crowd. So you prefer the woo-hoo crowd whose concerns are real estate and where the latest trendy overpriced restaurant is?

Crime? Good luck getting a uniformed cop to walk below Houston street back then. Now there's one on every corner to remind the drunken hordes not to leave their IPhones unattended. Puking and peeing on the street, being drunk and disorderly and, yes, buying and selling drugs is ok now.

Cleaning up the neighborhood also meant clearing out the working, law abiding people that had persevered through the bad days. Now they are told they have no right to life in safe, improved neighborhood.

How about the possibility that people are "nostalgic" for a neighborhood that was diverse and affordable and for a city that offered opportunity to everyone, not just those who could afford to buy it?

Anonymous said...

"She always comported herself with class and maturity in interviews.Many of the folks in that scene died of heroin or alcohol abuse, or just faded away, but a few are still creeping around the LES."

Nonsense - stereotyping them as alcoholics and drug abusers is just a way for yourself and others to justify what happened to so many artists from that time so you can believe you're not a part of the problem and that they somehow "deserved" their fate. The vast majority were pushed out because of high rents and the suburbanization of the East Village, not because of what you believe to be their substance abuse. How silly. And great interview with LL, by the way. Thanks for posting, J.

laurarubin said...

heard the name but not familar w/the artist. moved from NY in 1980. this era doesnt interest me except for several painters. interesting to note: some people judged me in NY as you judge her. different content same form. so you are from suburbia? so & so what? in my day, they looked down on you if you were "from brooklyn". now i have a last laugh, haha brooklyn is cool. (always was but let that go). good read considering i detest huffpost.

Caleo said...

Anon.1:49- You misread or misunderstood my comments, and then claim I'm part of the problem.
What problem is that and how am I a part of it ?
To say the scene that Lydia was a part of didn't have a huge problem with drugs and alcohol is shockingly naive and just plain incorrect. Many of the folks in that scene were suburban brats who moved to NYC and used it like a playground, albeit a very rough and gritty playground, much the way today's trust fund kids do. Like Lydia, they had no real intention of settling down and becoming a part of New York, they lived in the moment.
Stating that reality is not an attempt to justify anything, it's a simple statement of fact, observed by myself and close friends who lived here in the late 80's. I interacted with many of these folks, and many had severe drug and alcohol problems and contributed nothing to the community. I don't think any of them owed any one anything, but I don't glamorize those scenesters and the decadence they wallowed in. It wasn't my cup of tea, but I realized it was a part of a greater whole, and said as much.

Anonymous said...

Not a New Yorker?! She's from Rochester.

Caleo said...

Anon.8:35- I'm originally from Rochester too, and that doesn't make me a New Yorker in the way in which natives of NYC mean it.
And nobody from Rochester or any other part of upstate New York refers to themselves as "New Yorkers". Never.

Anonymous said...

These comments are more hostile than Grieve's. This is why I so rarely read the two sites anymore.

Anonymous said...

Walter Said:
"Does anyone remember the Lismar Lounge? First Avenue between 3rd & 4th Streets (or close enough)"

Oh boy do I! One of my favorite dives of the 80s. Could always find a few Hells Angels hanging out and sometimes brawling. The clubhouse was and is still around the corner. My band used to play there all the time. Dingy small basement show space with a much rumored graveyard in the sub-basement. GG Allan played an infamous show there as did Janes Addiction and I believe Nirvana. Those were the days when NYC still had a great Rock/Punk scene. I think its a cleaners now?

Anonymous said...

I think the Lismar Lounge was next to Brickman's Hardware in the space that's been Karma for a while.

Hellish Crossfire said...

Lydia ran away from home at 15, moved in with Alan Vega of Suicide in wasteland LES and invented her own style of guitar playing that is hard to compare to anything before it. Talk all the shit you want but she has had a profound influence on art and music since she was a fucking teenager. What have you done? "become a new yorker"? what is that supposed to mean? I sense a huge wave of jealousy amongst you pathetic morons. The no wavers coming from shithole Cleveland to decrepit NYC and immediately creating their own brutal music/art revolution are far from the trust fund kids you are comparing them to. jealous babies.