Filed under: Interview
CHICKS ON SPEED began in 1997 and consists of founding members, New Yorker Melissa Logan, Kiki Moorse from Munich, and Alex Murray-Leslie from Bowral, Australia as well as newer touring members, Anat-Ben David and Ann Shenton.
Their multimedia pop band/art project entered the European charts with Kaltes Klares Wasser in 2001. They were then invited to Top of the Pops and have since grown into a record label, Chicks on Speed Records, releasing artists like Angie Reed, Le Tigre, DAT Politics and Kevin Blechdom, releasing books and designing their own fashion at the same time. They’ve collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld on the fashion front, and have worked with electronic musicians like DJ Hell and Tobi Neumann. They are soon releasing their newest album, which is produced by the prolific Cristian Vogel — Chicks on Speed and the No Heads – Press the Spacebar.
We met up with Alex, Kiki and Anat backstage at sonarsound Japan before their live performance and Japan film debut with The Visitors.
Interview by Laura Brown (ArcTokyo)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : You’re going to play at sonarsound tokyo tonight. How do you feel about it?
Alex : Very excited.
Kiki : This is actually the third time we’ve played Sonar now. We played Barcelona in 2000 and we also played Sonar Sao Paulo just recently this year and this is now the third time. It’s always great to play Sonar because it’s one of the biggest electronic music events.
Alex : Really the only one that incorporates so many different mediums in one festival. I think it’s an honor to be asked to play at Sonar because they don’t usually invite bands or DJs back to play so often, so it’s really great.
HRFQ : And you’ve played in Japan a few times now?
Alex : Yeah. We’ve been here to play here three times. And I came here once to DJ and represent the COS fashion label at Sympathy Q.
Kiki : And I’ve been here a couple of times, sort of half private. And during my previous career as a stylist, when I passed through going to Australia to styling jobs.
HRFQ : Many creators from overseas find Japanese culture is quite unique because it consists of an integration between Western flavors and its own. Do you agree with this idea? And if so, what do you think is the most remarkable area where you can find this sort of integration?
Alex : It’s a cartoon take on Western flavors.
Kiki : No not always. I think a lot of times I think it’s actually done better than Europe. Some of the European food tastes better here than in Europe. I guess the fashion sense is a bit different. But here it’s so to the point — in detail. If a person is into a certain style, they really like pull it through. You don’t really get it that much [in Europe] it’s a bit rougher.
Alex : More natural. I really like it here. It’s like a big regurgitation process. We’re really into this idea and we did some graphics for Fenn O’Berg. That was Fennesz, O’Rourke and Rehberg, and we did this big regurgitator thing. The idea that you consume and spit out things from what you’ve seen around you and something else comes out. I think that’s a great process and very healthy. But it’s very studied [here in Japan] at the same time. I don’t know if it’s so spontaneous. But it’s interesting.
HRFQ : In terms of Japanese designers, is there anyone in terms of fashion or music who has inspired you from Japan?
Alex : Of course Yoko Ono, definitely. And Hanayo, a friend of ours from Berlin has inspired us a great deal. And I was a real fan of Ryo G Ikeda’s music and the work that he did with Casta Nicholi, especially with the live set.
Kiki : Yellow Magic Orchestra, music-wise. And the Boredoms are really cool.B
Alex : And the Acid Mothers and the Temple of …
Kiki : And Hachiko!
Alex : And ODD
HRFQ : How did you initially all get together? You met at the Munich Art Academy?
Alex : That always gets misunderstood. Melissa and I met their first. We were doing a bar called Seppi-bar and we used to occupy spaces around Munich and do illegal bars and then Melissa met Kiki first.
Kiki : Because at the time we both had Japanese boyfriends and of course the Japanese community sticks together, so they knew each other and we were sort of introduced. And Melissa suddenly had the idea that I should dance in one of her art videos because she was making an art video about dance steps or something. And I had this big collection of shoes and she wanted to film my feet with different shoes.
HRFQ : And how did COS then develop from there?
Alex : I was with Melissa first and we got involved doing a painting project because we used to be able sell paintings to banks at the art academy, so every six months or so, we’d have a sale. So one day I went over to Melissa’s and asked what she was doing and she said that she was painting for the sale and I asked if I could paint with her. So my job was to cut out the things for the collage and write statements on them. And we sold all of the paintings — we made 25. But on the way, on the train in the morning, we had to think up an artist name and because we the whole process had been so quick, we thought of Chicks on Speed.
HRFQ : When you started with the “Fake Band”, did you then imagine that music would be your main expression? Do you think that it’s mainly music?
Alex : No, it’s actually not. It’s probably the thing that is most recognized. And that’s actually the point, why we made the book, to highlight the fact that we’re not just a band — we do all of these other activities. That we do fashion, have a web-shop, have a record label, that we do art installations and graphics with other artists, so actually the music is heavily weighted definitely. But you could compare the amount of outfits that we make for the stage is quite comparable. Or the art installations are now getting more and more important so that now the exhibitions and the short films and the music are equally important. It’s always changing.
HRFQ : In terms of releasing multimedia, you haven’t released any DVDs? Do you think about going in that direction at all?
Alex : Yeah. With Visitors. It will probably be released on COS records. We’d really like to license it. There’s a well-known DVD label here called Gas or something. And they have good distribution, so we’re looking at different ways of releasing it. And then we’re going to make another short film in Feb. 2005. At the fashion extravaganza in Barcelona. So, yeah.
HRFQ : And can you talk at all about how Visitors came about?
Kiki : We were invited to do a project at Deitch Project in NYC. And we first of all had this idea of doing a work-in-progress, like a big workshop. And there was a screen-printing area, a sewing area, and of course murals going on and stuff being made everywhere. And a part of this was also film-making. And that’s how Visitors came about. And then the film-maker Deborah Schamoni came up with the whole concept of it.
Alex : The film was a massive collaboration with people, Al Steiner, Ted Gaier. Melissa also made some of the music and Kristin Erickson did a banjo solo. And Anat was also present there during the film. So it was really like “COS featuring…” So these collaborations become so important to actually make them happen. Because we’re not experts in film or experts twiddling knobs on a computer, so it’s really about these collaborations that make these pieces of art possible. So it’s really great.
HRFQ : Anat, you are part of COS for this Japan tour. Can you talk a little about Melissa and how you, Anat, got involved?
Anat : I met Melissa, Kiki and Alex in Israel, was it seven years ago? Something like that. The Pil & Galia Kollectiv are friends of ours, they are journalists and curators, they saw COS in The Face and were really crazy about them and had to get them.
Alex : Because the last sentence said, “if you want them to do something, just write to them.” And they did.
Anat : And I was an artist-in-residence in this theatre and Pia and Galia were working under it. So they invited the Chicks and we had a show. And then the Chicks did a video in Israel and we met. And afterwards I moved to Europe, so it was easier to collaborate with them.
HRFQ : And now that Melissa is pregnant, you’re working with different people.
Alex : Well, we worked with Anat since 2001 on the live shows, and Anat was always on stage, doing the 20 minute slot before our show, she was presenting her own work. How would you describe your show Anat?
Kiki : Marlene Dietrict-type, cross-dressed…
Alex : Scandalous-Looking… Anat, you have to speak about your work more! 🙂 And Anat was doing that. And we’d come on stage and she’d stay on stage and do the live projections, mixing and filming, dancing and interacting with Melissa on stage. And when Melissa got pregnant, we were all a little shocked. We were like, “the band has to stop”. And she said “no, just get somebody else”. And we were like “what do you mean, get somebody else?” It seemed totally out of the question. It took a few days for us to process it and then we had a big meeting. And we thought that there were probably only two women in the world that could do this. And the idea was never that these people would replace her or act like her. They have to be their own strong characters and add something. So this person would actually be like the 4th Chick. So we’re thinking that when Melissa comes back, we’d like to play with the four of us sometimes. Whether it is Anat or Ann Shenton. We’ve been playing with Ann Shenton from Add N To (X), but they don’t actually exist anymore and she’s in Large Number. So, Melissa is having a baby on 17th Jan., so she’s very big now.
End of the interview
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