Lydia Lunch doesn’t consider herself a punk musician. She is a spoken word artist, photographer, author, and self-identified conceptualist. More akin to a dada artist.
She was a young teenage runaway when she found herself at the center of the NY art scene in the 1970s. Since being a poet wasn’t all that popular she found herself a band – much like the artist a little before her, Patti Smith (who Lunch once called a dirty hippie).
Lunch has an intuition and a vision that she uses music to express. In fact, she’s said, “If you don’t have a vision don’t give it a fucking sound. You gotta have a vision. I don’t play music because it’s fun, I play it because it hurts people.”
That, and a lot of other righteous wisdom, comes from a 2014 event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, where she discussed No Wave – the musical time known for bands like Mars, Suicide and Lunch’s Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and later Sonic Youth. She says No Wave was essentially, “a bunch of damaged art college students who ended up in NYC, all doing their own thing, so none of it sounds alike. It is a sound you’ve never heard before. It’s a psychic self-defense after the 1960 failures and frustrations. Happy haters.”
With these musical beginnings –15 minute sets designed to create panic in the audience, performed at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s Monday night audition nights—Lunch soon established herself as the gloves off, no holds barred, energetic muse of the scene and built an iconic career.
The Boston Phoenix named Lunch one of the ten most influential performers of the 1990s. She’s collaborated with, and/or influenced, virtually every spoken word artist and noise musician – artists such as Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins Hubert Selby Jr., Thurston Moore, J. G. Thirlwell, Exene Cervenka, Kim Gordon Nick Cave, Marc Almond, the Birthday Party, No Trend, Sort Sol, Einstürzende Neubauten, to name only a few. Her collaboration with Sonic Youth “Death Valley ’69” was named one of “The 50 Most Evil Songs Ever” by Kerrang!.
After many years living in Spain, Lunch has recently returned to the US with a renewed fervor to instigate performances and events (which makes her a great collaborator with The Winkle Room, an LA based art collective with similar DNA.)
Suffice to say, that after 4 decades on stage she still has a lot to say and do. Along with new albums, she’s written new books, including a cookbook, and, of course, she has a weekly podcast The Lydian Spin, to help bring more awareness to visionary artists and “the horror of the last 5 years” in America. Trying to list it all is impossible!
It will get your fire raging against politics, pollution, porn and pastry! Something that we could all use coming in and out of lockdown.
It strikes me that COVID has been similar to the NO Wave early days where people worked in isolation, so I asked Lunch what she thought might come out of it all. “Same as it ever was. We will cycle through this bullshit and come out the other side until another atrocity smacks us in the head.”