Rockbitch

Rockbitch

We get a lot of submissions from bands that like to perform in various states of undress, up to and including full genital exposure. It will not surprise you to learn that 99% of these bands are dudes. Guys love whipping it out in public, and doing so in the name of rock ‘n’ roll stopped being a transgressive act a long time ago. When Blink-182 does something, it’s officially no longer any big shakes.

For women, it’s different. Thanks to our society’s inherent sexism and double standards, female sexuality is still taboo in ways that male sexuality is not. So the fact that a band like Rockbitch ever existed is a fairly remarkable thing.

Rockbitch was a British hard rock group that emerged from the ashes of another band called Red Abyss. From the start, Red Abyss embodied many of the same principles that later came to characterize Rockbitch: It was female fronted (though the drummer, and occasionally other members of the revolving lineup, were men), communal and sex-positive. But compared to Rockbitch, Red Abyss’s lyrics and stage show were comparatively tame: “We were hiding our lifestyle behind a facade,” reads the band’s official bio, written by their guitarist, Lisa “Babe” Wills, “self-censoring our natural behaviour.”

Part of the problem was that, while fans and promoters encouraged and even rewarded outrageous behavior by male rock bands, they tended to frown upon similar antics coming from the ladies of Red Abyss. “Male bands with whom we were sharing a stage would perform screaming out their fake rebellious bullshit about sex and satan — then insult us to our faces saying that we shouldn’t be fucking all those men and women in our dressing rooms, and did our parents know how we behaved?”

Red Abyss also encountered straight-up sexism at every turn: booking agents refusing to deal with their female manager, male sound guys and venue employees assuming they didn’t know how to play their instruments or outright sabotaging their sets, venue owners insisting on handing the money to a male roadie rather than to a female band member. “We were, bluntly, being treated like shit.” This happened, by the way, wasn’t happening in some pre–women’s lib Mad Men past. This was in the ’90s.

Eventually, the women of Red Abyss had had enough. They became the darker, heavier, more sexually aggressive beast called Rockbitch.

For a few years, up until they disbanded in 2002, Rockbitch was probably the raunchiest band on the planet. Many of the band members performed naked, or nearly so. Songs like “Fistfuck” would be acted out onstage. During every show, they’d toss a “Golden Condom” into the audience and invite whoever caught it, male or female, to come backstage and fuck several members of the band. (“Babe” Wills liked to point out that, of everyone who ever caught the Golden Condom, the only ones who would chicken out were the men, some of whom apparently assumed it was a joke. Rockbitch’s in-your-face female sexuality was, and still is, highly intimidating to many men. Including, we must admit, us.)

None of this was done for shock value, at least not primarily. As outlined in various essays and manifestos on the band’s website, Rockbitch’s mission was to destigmatize female sexuality and sex in general. And hard rock seemed like the perfect vehicle for doing so. “When a woman can’t even strip to the waist and play a bitching, head-down guitar riff, have her lead singer fuck her with a strap-on whilst a stage surfer licks her feet without authorities wanting to ban over 18’s from coming to see it — well, what has the world of rock and rebellion come to!?” their website playfully asks. (And no, that’s not an exaggerated description of their live show.)

By 2000, Rockbitch’s lineup had become all-female: founder/matriarch Amanda “The Bitch” Smith-Skinner on fretless bass, Julie Worland on vocals, Lisa “Babe” Wills on lead guitar, Luci the “Stage Slut” on rhythm guitar, Nikki Fay on keyboards and Jo Heeley on drums, plus two or three “Sex Magick Priestesses” who danced and facilitated some of the sexual rituals. The band’s former lead guitarist, Tony “The Beast,” stayed on as the band’s manager and producer — no doubt in part to run occasional interference with sexist bookers and venue owners.

Musically, the band played theatrical, heavy rock, highlighted by Worland’s operatic vocals, The Bitch’s fluid, often funky basslines and Babe’s scorching guitar. Here’s a good example, a track called “Sex & The Devil” that also happens to features a weirdly witchy video, with the Rockbitches cavorting half-naked in the forest:

As you probably got from that video, besides all the sexual themes and imagery, an element of paganism runs through Rockbitch’s music and philosophy — though Babe is quick to point out on the band’s website that they are neither Wiccans nor Satanists. As best as we understand it — and I admit, as a couple of uptight dudes in monogamous relationships, our understanding is probably shaky — they celebrate sex itself as sacred, particularly the acts of cunnilingus and vaginal penetration, which they describe as forms of “cunt worship,” the vagina being the source of all human life and therefore the most sacred component of human sexuality. This worship/celebration of sex extends, paganistically, to the worship of nature in general; although their website stops short of describing many of the group’s offstage rituals, or explaining the full meaning of their many onstage ones (“we are intensely private people,” Babe explains in her “brief and grudging account of part of our belief system”), their are a few photographs showing things like an “earth-fucking ritual” and a “serpent initiation ritual,” suggesting that the cult of Rockbitch is a fairly elaborate one that extends far beyond just the music and sex acts.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the authorities tended to lose their shit over Rockbitch. The band was banned from performing at many venues, and their music and album artwork was heavily censored in many countries. It’s not clear what role if any this played in the band’s eventual breakup. but it couldn’t have been easy for the women to tour or get distribution for their music.

Rockbitch only released one studio album, 1999’s Motor Driven Bimbo, plus a live album, Rockbitch Live in Amsterdam; during their brief run, the Netherlands seemed to have been one of the few countries where the band was able to tour on a regular basis. A second album, Psychic Attack, was never officially released but has been widely bootlegged and can be found on various torrent sites. Motor Driven Bimbo is out of print, but copies occasionally surface on Amazon and elsewhere, often selling for $100 or more.

Post-Rockbitch, the band’s full lineup resurfaced in a clothed, less theatrical incarnation called MT-TV. But that group soon disbanded, as well. Amanda Smith-Skinner and Jo Heeley later teamed up with singer-songwriter Erin Bennett to form another all-female band called Syren, but tragically, that group dissolved after Heeley died of breast cancer in 2012. Other former Rockbitch members have, as far as we’ve been able to tell, retired from making music — though according to their Facebook page, they still live and work together as a commune.

We’ve known about Rockbitch for years, but were reluctant at first to add them to the Weird List because to do so seemed sexist. So it was a bunch of women with guitars and their tits out — so what? A bunch of men doing the same thing would be met nowadays with a collective shrug. To add them to our compendium of extreme music felt like yet another example of the very double standard in music that Rockbitch railed against.

But as well researched the band further (while our wives were at work), we decided that regardless of their gender, Rockbitch were truly unique. No other band in history, male, female or coed, ever randomized the groupie selection process as radically as Rockbitch did with their Golden Condom, or made oral sex and vaginal penetration such a routine part of their stage show. Rockbitch incorporated sex into rock ‘n’ roll performance in a way that’s never been done before or since. And as powerful, liberated women, they made that sex a political act. A Rockbitch show was a rock concert, neopagan ritual and radical feminist performance-art piece all in one. And lots of people got laid. That’s the truly awesome kind of weirdness this blog was designed to celebrate.

We’ll leave you one more video, for a track from Psychic Attack called “Breathe.” This appears to be a fan-made mashup of strange naked zombie go-go dance animation and video from one of several concert documentaries made about the band, probably 2002’s Sex, Death and Magick (which, if you’re so inclined, and are over 18, you can watch in full on YouTube).

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Army of Gay Unicorns wants you to start 2015 “Concussed and Terrified”

Army of Gay Unicorns

Since the traditional way to start a New Year, at least around my house, is with lost keys and a raging hangover, I figured we should start off 2015 here at Weird Band HQ with a track that evokes Jan. 1st in all its skull-splitting glory. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the aptly named “Concussed and Terrified,” the latest cold shower of noise from our old pal Richard, aka Army of Gay Unicorns. If you by some miracle do NOT already have a hangover, crank this one up and it’s the next worst thing.

Happy New Year, weirdos!

Andy posted his 10 favorite weird videos of 2014 on his day job’s site. Don’t tell his bosses.

ZebraKatz2

Zebra Katz: he made a pretty weird video this year

Hey, so remember how we took that looooong break a couple months back? Well, contrary to Internet rumor, it wasn’t just because we went off our meds. (That was just me.) The main reason it happened was because my partner Andy got himself a fancy-pants new job as the music editor for LA Weekly. They still come out once a week in newsprint form, which seems kinda last century to me, but everyone I talk to assures me it’s still a pretty big deal. So yeah, you should all congratulate him and shit.

Anyway, this means Andy now gets to sneak some weird content onto the LA Weekly website from time to time. He was freelancing for them before, so he’s already gotten some weirdness on there, but now that he’s a shot caller it may become a regular thing. Our devious scheme to spread weird music to the masses is coming to fruition!

So here’s the first weird train pulling out of the LA Weekly station on Andy’s watch: a recap of 10 of our favorite weird videos from the past year. Yeah, Andy threw “Turn Down for What” in there, but the rest of it’s pretty out there for a website that still puts itself into newsprint form once a week.

Andy’s still trying to impress his bosses, so be sure to check out the full list on LAWeekly.com so they gets lots of page views and shit. Maybe you could even leave a comment or tweet it or post a selfie of you jerking off to it on Snapchat or whatever you damn kids do these days. Basically, just spread the word, K?

That Sunn O))) + Scott Walker collaboration is every bit as bizarre as we’d hoped it would be

SunnO-ScottWalker

On paper, the pairing of doom metalheads Sun O))) and avant-garde singer Scott Walker could go either way. The two artists’ mutually exclusive eccentricities could either complement or cancel each other out—or, worse, get caught in the kind of pretension feedback loop that gave rise to Loutallica. When you venture as far off the reservation as Scott Walker does, the pitfalls are many, and it’s a fine line between genius and nonsense.

Fortunately, Soused, the unholy offspring of the Walker/Sun O))) union, is pretty much exactly what we’d hoped it would be: a drone metal opera, with Walker delivering ice-water arias over glacial guitars and frozen synths. The whole thing fairly vibrates with dread, especially when set to the ambiguous, Lynchian images of this short film by director Gisèle Vienne for opening track “Brando.”

Soused is available now via Amazon.com.

Little Big stitch together a “Dead Unicorn” in gruesome new video

Little Big

We had a feeling that after their last video, the Yo Gabba Gabba-esque “Public Enemy,” Russian rap-ravers Little Big were going to return to the dark side. And boy did they ever. “Dead Unicorn,” their latest, combines child rape, skin suspension, human centipedes and the Saw movies with, well, unicorns. Dead ones. It’s hard to watch and you won’t be able to look away.

Sorry you can’t unsee that.

On the brighter side: Little Big have promised some European tour dates in February and March, culminating in an appearance at the Paaspop Festival in the Netherlands April 3-5. Given the current shitty state of affairs between Russia and the U.S., we’re not holding our breath for any Stateside dates, but maybe—like a magical, non-sewn-together-from-dead-bodies unicorn—they’ll pleasantly surprise us.

BiS Kaidan

BiS Kaidan

Ever since we added Babymetal and their J-pop-meets-death-metal steez to the Weird List earlier this year, a bunch of you have written in to point out that actually, Babymetal aren’t even the most extreme example of adorable headbanging Japan has to offer. For truly insane idol-meets-noise Japanese weirdness, we have to go to a short-lived project called BiS Kaidan.

BiS Kaidan was a collaboration between an idol J-pop girl group called BiS (short for “Brand-new Idol Society”) and the veteran noise band Hijōkaidan, who have been churning abrasive noise collages like this one since the late ’70s, occasionally accompanied live by smashing up equipment, pissing onstage and throwing garbage at the audience. (Japanese noise bands, in case you’re not familiar, do not fuck around. The Gerogerigegege used to jerk off onstage and eat each other’s shit, and an early version of the Boredoms called Hanatarash, during one show, once took out the back wall of the theater with a backhoe.) BiS already had a bit a bad-girl rep for mixing hard-rock guitars into their music and making music videos like this one:

So it was a match made in heaven. Or hell, depending on your tolerance level for listening to the dog-whistle shrieks of Japanese girls over guitar feedback and caffeinated punk-pop.

BiS Kaidan were only active for about two years, from late 2012 until this past May. Shortly after they disbanded, BiS broke up, as well, in a move that’s pretty typical of idol groups, I guess, since hardly any of them stay together once the members exit their teens. Wish somebody would tell American and British teeny-bopper groups about this tradition. I saw Take That on The Graham Norton Show the other night and those guys are definitely way past their expiration date.

During their brief run, BiS Kaidan played a few shows that, based on the YouTube videos we’ve seen, look like a cross between a GWAR concert and a pillow fight at a Japanese girls’ boarding school. Aborable and horrifying. Adorifying!

While the BiS ladies were wreaking havoc with Hijōkaidan, they were continuing to produce their own, increasingly out-there music and videos. We’ll leave you with “STUPiG,” which is like some kind of cyber-horror cross between Dir En Grey and Lady Gaga set to the most headache-inducing hardstyle EDM you’ve ever heard blasting from a Honda Civic with a street racing spoiler. Not even Miley Cyrus went this scorched-earth on her cutesy teen-pop roots.

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Winny Puhh are back and just as batshit as ever

Winny Puhh

Thank god for you folks out there in Readerland. If it wasn’t for you, we’d never get caught up on all the weird music we missed during our last hiatus. Topping the list of shit we slept on: a new album from Estonian spazz-punks Winny Puhh, who released their latest album Kes küsib? (Who Asks?) on Sept. 28. Big ups to reader Jimmy Miller for dropping that knowledge bomb into the spider hole we’ve been hiding in these past few months.

We’ve only been able to find two tracks from Kes küsib? online, but they’re pretty insane even by Winny Puhh’s unhinged, hanging-from-the-ceiling standards. Let’s give them a listen, shall we?

That was pretty great, but this next track ups the ante with some throat singing while also managing to be kinda catchy.

Apparently, Kes küsib? was the number one album in Estonia at one point. Which officially makes Estonia the coolest country on the planet. Sorry, Japan. You had a good run.

There doesn’t seem to be any way for us Americans to legally purchase Kes küsib?, unless you trust your Google translator and/or limited grasp of Estonian to guide you through this site, which appears to be selling legit copies of it for 13 Euros. [Update: One observant reader pointed out to us that the site has an English translation button. So Estonian fluency not required after all.] It’s also on a shit-ton of Russian torrent sites, but we’re not gonna link to those ’cause they’re shady. If you really want a Russian black market MP3 copy of Kes küsib?, we’re sure you have what it takes to figure it out.

Mac Sabbath

Mac Sabbath

Every once in awhile, a new weird band comes along with a concept that is so completely fucking brilliant, you can’t believe no one else thought of it sooner. That was the reaction we first had when a friend of ours here in L.A. invited us to see a McDonald’s-themed Black Sabbath cover band called…wait for it…Mac Sabbath! Genius, right?

It was so genius that we were sure they must suck…no idea could be that clever and well-executed. Turns out we needn’t have worried. You’re in good, puffy clown hands with Mac Sabbath…those hands belonging to one Mike Odd, the same twisted visionary behind another of our favorite weird local bands, Rosemary’s Billygoat. (Officially, Mike Odd is just Mac Sabbath’s manager. But let’s just say that must be Mike’s brother under the “Ronald Osbourne” makeup, because the resemblance is uncanny.)

We were apparently fortunate enough, by pure dumb luck, to attend Mac Sabbath’s first-ever live performance (blurry photographic evidence below) back in July and it was fucking amazing. Hamburglar came out first, tossing hamburgers at the audience as he took his place behind the drum kit. Then came the guitar player, Mayor Slayer McCheese, horns protruding from his cheeseburger mouth like he just ate a whole steer. Then came Grimace, and of COURSE Grimace plays the fucking bass. Most bass players have a little Grimace in them. If you painted my high school garage band’s bass player purple, he’d basically be Grimace with slightly more hair.

Ronald Mc…sorry, Osbourne, came out sporting red and yellow fringed sleeves and took up position behind a mic stand shaped like a giant milkshake straw. The band launched into “Sweet Beef” and the rewritten Sabbath songs just got more ridiculous from there: “Frying Pan” instead of “Iron Man,” “Pair-a-buns” instead of “Paranoid,” you get the idea. I’m pretty sure “Rat Salad” is still just “Rat Salad,” though.

The highlight came when Ronald reached into his takeout bag, pulled out a hamburger with bat wings, and took a massive bite out of it. Or maybe the highlight was when he started using a giant straw to sneak slurps of audience members’ drinks. Or maybe the highlight was just watching Grimace play the bass. Seriously, I could not get over that part.

I’ll leave you with a live video of the band performing “Frying Pan,” complete with subtitles so you can appreciate the full hilarity of what Mike Odd and company have aptly dubbed “Drive Thru Metal.” Supersize me, Mac Sabbath!

Oh and here’s our bragging-rights photo of their very first performance:

Mac Sabbath at Bergamot Station

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Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin gets animated in new video for “Autumn Leaves”

Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin

Just in time for autumn’s end, lo-fi queen Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin has released a video for “Autumn Leaves,” the seventh in her series of visual accompaniments to songs from her 2012 album, Fish Drive Edsels. This may be her most visually arresting work yet, thanks to animation and illustrations by British artist Jodie Lowther. It’s a bit like watching a painting come to life. A painting that just took a few hits of acid.

The next track on Fish Drive Edsels likely to get the video treatment is “Bagboy Cowboy,” a song about a trip to the grocery store. To buy fishheads, no doubt.

Thomas Truax

This photo by Andrew Werner; banner photo by Chris Saunders

This photo by Andrew Werner; banner photo by Chris Saunders

We’re back! Did you miss us? We promise to resume regularly posting Weird Bands of the Week and occasionally updating our Weird 100 chart, but other site updates will probably be more infrequent because we’ve both got demanding day jobs now. For our ever-popular Weird of the Day picks, follow us on Twitter or Facebook. And now, back to the weirdness…

This week’s “band” is a solo artist from New York named Thomas Truax (pronounced “True-Ax”) who plays guitar and a variety of homemade instruments, mostly of the beat-making variety. He started out as the bassist/vocalist for a ’90s trio called Like Wow that was part of downtown Manhattan’s “antifolk” scene (did anyone actually like the term “antifolk”? didn’t think so), then turned solo around 2000 or so. His signature instrument, seen above, is called the Hornicator. It’s a modified gramophone horn that he can both sing into and use as a twangy percussion instrument by plucking a string wrapped around its neck. It apparently also has a kazoo inside it, because really, any halfway decent homemade instrument may as well include a kazoo.

Musically, Truax tends to play his own spin on mutant, lo-fi blues, evoking shades of everything from Nick Cave to Jon Spencer to another weird artist famous for cleverly constructed analog drum machines, Mr. Quintron. He’s done an entire album of songs from David Lynch films and another of original songs to accompany a production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. More recently, he’s teamed up with ex-Dresden Doll drummer Brian Viglione. But it’s his solo live shows, where he unleashes his Hornicator and a variety of steampunky percussion instruments with evocative names like the Sister Spinster and the Mother Superior, that really showcase Truax’s weirdness.

Truax has also made more than his fair share of memorable music videos over the years. Here’s our favorite, suggested by reader Chas (thanks, Chas!), for a typically offbeat Truax original called “Prove It to My Daughter” that doubles as both a song and a hypnosis session:

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