HIT CHANNEL INTERVIEW: May 2014. We had the great opportunity to talk with Isis Queen (vocals) of Barb Wire Dolls. Barb Wire Dolls is a Los Angeles-based punk rock band, which formed in Crete, Greece in 2010. They worked with the legendary producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) on their amazing debut album, “Slit”. Barb Wire Dolls always have a very busy touring schedule and enjoy playing powerful gigs. Read below the very interesting things that Isis Queen told us:
We are a four piece DIY Street Rock band and we formed at The Ikarus, an artist commune on the island of Crete in Greece a few years back. In December 2010 we relocated to Los Angeles immediately after Rodney Bingenheimer of L.A’s KROQ -the first DJ to spin records in the U.S. by the Ramones, Blondie, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana- discovered us and started playing our demo in heavy rotation on his legendary radio show, Rodney On The Roq. The media announced that we were the first Greek punk band to play America and our debut show there was at the legendary Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip where everyone from Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, to Red Hot Chili Peppers have played; and we sold it out big time. Since then, we have done over 600 gigs all over the world, I think now it’s seventeen countries and we have been blessed to have headlined some major festivals and co-headline some with legendary punk bands like GBH, Discharge, 999, Sham 69 and others. We have played direct support for Jello Biafra, NOFX, Descendents, and Bouncing Souls too which was a blast. We are currently about to set off on another headlining Summer European tour. In the fall we will do another European tour before we return to the US to record our next album and then follow that up with a month long US tour. We are extremely excited to play for the first time the Whisky A Go-Go in December for our 4th anniversary show after moving to Los Angeles. The Whisky is the most historic rock club in the world. Everyone from Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, Damned, Germs, X, Fear, Police, Metallica and others played there. It has serious history!
Are you satisfied with the feedback you got so far from fans and press for your debut album “Slit”?
“Slit” was born out of relentless touring. Playing to wild and aggressive audiences. Absorbing the fear and courage of our family and friends back in Greece. Great frustration in finding who we are as individuals and how we wish to express ourselves with the music that flows through us. All that plus getting stuck in the New Mexico desert for 3 months were the influences behind the music. In New Mexico is where it all turned around for us and we got rid of the leeches that we were working with and started from the beginning again to create an album that defines Barb Wire Dolls. The word on the street is that “Slit” is the answer to all the music that has been released the last two decades. It’s what the people need to hear to wake up and to start shaking things up again. It’s the perfect answer to the state of music today. It’s raw, real, and full of energy that only a band and society in desperation could have come up with.
Why did you decide to work with the legendary producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, Godspeed! You Black Emperor) for “Slit” and how was it like to work with such an important person?
Our guitarist Pyn was friends with members of Nirvana and they talked a lot about recording with Steve. Pyn had a few bands long ago and Nirvana had come to see his band play before they recorded with Albini, so the idea was always there. Pyn recorded ten albums with Steve before so when the time came to record our debut album, it was a no-brainer. He called him and Steve took time out of his busy schedule to lock us in for two days. We did each song in one take including my one vocal track. Pyn added a few extra guitar licks on it, and some acoustic vibes and the album was done. As for working with him; it was mind blowing. He is everything you have heard him to be and more. He told us private stories about working with Kurt and his band Nirvana, Iggy and the Stooges, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, his conversations with Bono of U2 who wanted to record with him, and even some about Courtney Love that have to remain fully private! He is simply a genius who has shaped the world of rock and roll and will be remembered as the greatest artist behind the soundboard. Period.
There were no real opportunities to play shows in Greece except once every few months and even then there is no club that really wants punk. Things have changed now but four years ago we could not even get booked in our own hometown because the club owners were afraid of punk. We had to go where punk had a history. It was either London, New York City or Los Angeles, and we chose L.A. because a fan offered us a place to stay for a few months until we could get things going. It was a great choice because the scene in L.A. was dead and we got their blood pumping again. So many great bands came out of the garage and onto the Sunset Strip in no time. Los Angeles inspired us.
What’s your opinion about the Greek music scene? Is there comradery among the Greek musicians or there is enormous jealousy and backstabbing as some people say?
Because we couldn’t get booked either in Athens or Crete because we were “Punk” we went to Intrepid Fox and convinced them to give us Sundays because it was their slowest day. They were called Punk Rock Matinees, and the shows were free entrance and there were 3-4 bands on the shows with us and we created a scene of our own there. It was epic while it lasted. Then we got the call from Rodney in L.A. and we left for Los Angeles. It was great playing Intrepid Fox because we would pack up the place and then we would DJ old Punk and New Wave songs until the morning. It was great and a lot of bands got a chance to play. So there are opportunities if you search hard enough despite what people say. Now that more Greek bands are getting a bigger chance to tour outside of Greece I think that all the inferiority complexes that they have had in the past will go away with experience.
Do you think social networks like Youtube and Facebook, can really help an independent musician?
Sure. It’s a different world with the internet involved. It gives you the opportunity to be completely independent.
Can you tell us a few things about The Ikarus, the artist commune you own in Crete?
The Ikarus was formed in 2004 by the CST (Cretan Surf Tribe) to bring together creatives from all over the world with the common goal of celebrating our humanity, our respective cultures, languages and philosophies through art. It is a haven and a greenhouse, where creative thought can flourish, tempered into art on the scorching heat of inspiration and unleashed on a world ready to embrace the concept of mutual evolution on all levels. It is high up in the mountains of Lasithi in a village called Avdou. Everyone from Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedy’s), Flogging Molly, My Morning Jacket, Bob Gruen, to some great painters, writers, Hollywood directors, and more have come there. It’s part surf culture, part hard core artist retreat. We also have open parties sometimes to honor some of our artists in residence.
How did it happen to get to know Bob Gruen (John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Sex Pistols photographer)?
Bob has become a very good friend of ours over the recent years. He came to our first show in New York City at The Bowery Electric on the Bowery which opened to try and take the place of CBGB. We found out that he was taking pictures of us while we were playing our show. After the show he came up to us and gave us his email. He was very impressed I guess with us because he invited us to his apartment to do a private photo session with him for free. We knew who he was because we know our punk rock history; so it was a huge honor for us! He gets big salaries to do photo shoots with the biggest bands on the planet – and here he is totally humble and reaching out a helping hand to a DIY Greek punk band! We have been friends ever since and we invited him to come to the Ikarus last year where he came with his wife and we had a photo exhibit showing of his photos in our studio gallery. He loves Greece. We will be seeing more of him here for sure. We even took him surfing with the CST!
Do you believe that Rodney Bingenheimer’s (KROQ radio host) interest in Barb Wire Dolls had an important effect in your career?
Of course! If it wasn’t for Rodney we would have never taken the chance to go to America. With no real opportunities in Greece at the time, we miraculously were discovered by Rodney Bingenheimer who is the most important DJ in American music history. We sold everything we could and put the rest on credit cards. After Rodney, other radio stations around the country picked up our demo and we got on the Top 10 radio charts in South America.
What are your plans for the near future?
With “Slit” we had no bass player. Pyn played through a guitar and bass amp simultaneously but now we have added a full time bass player. Her name is JayJay. She’s from Crete. And when she joined the band, we started writing new songs immediately. We have sixteen new songs and we already recorded them at Wild At Heart’s studio in Berlin. That recording was just a pre-production demo of our songs and it’s not available, but we are going to the USA to record our follow-up at Sonic Ranch studio in Texas. The new songs are very different from “Slit” but it’s a natural progression. It’s more of what we call “Street Rock” than any other musical label given to us from Punk to Grunge to whatever. The new songs touch more on the personal experiences we have gone through and the evolution of our own plight for freedom. The new album will be titled “Street Generation” and it will be released sometime in 2015.We are playing most of the new songs live now also to get a feel for which songs excite us the most.
Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedy’s. He’s relevant still to this day and he still kicks ass on stage! Also Lemmy is simply the finest example of a Rock Star God. I pray he is well.
Are you happy with the triumphant return of the vinyl?
Vinyl is an amazing experience. We worked with Tom Zutaut (he signed Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue, Metallica) who introduced me to my first listening experience to vinyl. We stayed at his house in Virginia and for days we would all just listen to vinyl as if we were watching a movie. I realized how true it is that we are all made of music. Our very soul is music and when you take it and make it less of a frequency -like in digital or CD’s- then of course you will not be able to connect with it the same. The comeback of vinyl is connecting people to the music again. That is another reason why we recorded with Steve Albini. He only works with analog tape. The making of the album never touched digital. It was even mastered on analog with Bob Weston, who plays also in Steve’s band Shellac and worked on the albums Steve did with Nirvana, Page/Plant, and so on.
Do you think the collapse of the major recording labels is a kind of justice for their corporate greed all these years?
It’s funny you ask this now. We have been DIY since the start and we have lots of indie labels around the world distributing “Slit” and releasing some vinyl records too, but lately the big record companies are chasing after us. They want to release the new album before they even hear it! But you have to know that the business suits that run the major record labels today have tried to force-feed crap to the public and they also forgot one thing: people are not stupid. They might be fooled for a while, but everywhere you look, people are waking up, from Occupy to riots in the streets. The music of a current culture has to reflect that, and punk music was made for that. I don’t want to be told nonstop by some fat cat in a suit that the new Jay Z record is “da bomb!” I want to make my own mind up, and so do others, so there needs to be options for people to make choices of their own. Music is life, and if you are living it, you will find the music to reflect how you feel. If a major record label can get us to a much bigger audience, we may just try it out for this album because something has to change out there. They know that we are angry with the political and social state of this world and we want to scream about it and that frightens them. But if they wake up too, then maybe even more people out there can get the wake up call and come to their senses. We are one of the many bands ready to start a riot anywhere, anytime. So bring on the music and take it to the streets with a beat!
A huge “THANK YOU” to Barb Wire Dolls for their time and everything.
Official Barb Wire Dolls website: www.barbwiredolls.com
Official Barb Wire Dolls Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/barbwiredolls
Download “Slit” on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gr/album/slit/id589335424?ign-mpt=uo%3D4