The only way to define the art of Lydia Lunch is simply not to. Hailed by the Boston Phoenix as "one of the 10 most influential performers of the 90's", no other artist of the 20th century has fought, forged, punched, and sculpted their own artistic vision in such a uniquely original way. Defying categorization, Lydia Lunch actively has conquered new territories, and has gained international recognition for the innovative quality of her work.
Through music, books, spoken word performances, film, video, photography, poetry and a multitude of creative endeavors, Lydia Lunch has proven to be one of the most interesting and daring artists of the current era. While many others of her generation have dissolved into the trappings of commercialism, her artistic vision has, through the years, been strengthened, redefined, and focused into an expression uniquely her own. Baptized as a confrontationalist, Lydia Lunch commenced at age 16 as Primal screamer and guitar guerrilla for the seminal "no-wave" band Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (1976). In early 1978, artist and producer Brian Eno attended a series of shows put on to benefit the Artist's Space in Soho and influenced Island Records to finance an anthology LP featuring the four strongest bands- Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, the Contortions, Mars and DNA..
The resulting recording, entitled No New York and produced by Eno, remains as one of the most impressive -- and extraordinarily bold -- debuts of the time.
Simultaneous to Teenage Jesus, Lunch formed Beirut Slump, released one single and recorded an album's worth of material. Her solo debut, 1980's Queen of Siam, on ZE records proved to be one of her most acclaimed efforts, influencing an entire generation of underground bands and artists. Flavored with a big-band cabaret sound provided by The Billy Ver Plank Orchestra, featuring sophisticated arrangements by Ver Plank himself, and an appearance by noted guitarist Robert Quine, the album proved that Lunch could embark in new directions and succeed.
Also a critical success and favorite of the New York rock reviewers, her next band, 8 Eyed Spy brought Lunch into a more traditional rock format. After 1982's 13.13, which featured former members of the Weirdos, Lunch began a series of collaborations, working with Nick Cave and The Birthday Party on the EP The Agony Is the Ecstasy, as well as Einsturzende Neubauten, Die Haut, Sort Sol, The Swans' Michael Gira, Marc Almond, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.
In 1984 she founded Widowspeak Productions as an organ for her own prolific work and that of sympathetic creative renegades. The initial release on her label was The Uncensored Lydia Lunch (1984), her first penetration into what has become one of her most potent and direct mediums -- the spoken word. She also released much of her back catalog, including a two-CD retrospective, Hysterie, in 1986. Her next collaboration was the first of several with Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell, who remixed a shelved project with Birthday Party members from 1982-83 It was issued as Honeymoon in Red in 1987. The two also released the percussive sexual mantra, Stinkfist , under Thirlwell's Clint Ruin alias in 1989. That same year, Lunch teamed with Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon in Harry Crews, a one-off, all female noise-rock band, for the LP Naked in Garden Hills. She teamed up once again with ex-Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard for 1991's Shotgun Wedding, a sensual, sweat-drenched odyssey recorded in Memphis. Rockpool, the industry trade magazine, called the album "An instant classic." Summer 1993 witnessed the release of the triple CD boxed set, Crimes Against Nature, that includes her earlier recording Oral Fixation and Conspiracy of Women, as well as new material. A booklet with the text of her piece The Right to Revolt accompanies the discs. The compilation, Our Fathers Who Aren't in Heaven (1990) features Lunch and author Hubert Selby, Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn), Henry Rollins and Don Bajema. Widowspeak has also presented solo recordings by poet Wanda Coleman and poet/performer Emilio Cubeiro. Her most recent foray in spoken word is the atmospheric Matrikamantra, an illustrated Word Double-CD with music by Joseph Budenholzer. A book of Lydia's haunting photographs accompanies the release.
1998 saw an international retrospective of her photography which culminated in Paris at the Museum of Erotic Art, where 4 of her pieces are now on permanent display.
The poster-girl for the Whitney Museum of Art's Underground Film Festival (Oct. 96-Jan. 97), Lunch appeared in 8 films in the festival including the gut-wrenching films of director Richard Kern with whom she worked in the 1980s. Together they realized Lunch's shocking personal vision of sexual violence and desire in The Right Side of My Brain and Fingered. She also traveled throughout Europe and Australia with the curator of the Whitney, Matthew Yokobosky, co-presenting The History Of Underground Film and acting as a mouthpiece for the festival. She starred in Beth B's Thanatopsis, which premiered in 1991 at the Kitchen in New York, and has been widely seen in film festivals since. A video documentation of Lunch's spoken word piece, The Gun Is Loaded, originally released in 1988 on Mystic Fire Video and is now available through MVD. It was followed 2 years later by Malicious Intent. In addition, Lunch recorded the spoken track for, and was featured in, Sacred Cow Productions' The Thunder (1992), which won a Louisiana Film Shorts Award. Other films include James Nares' Rome 78 (1978), Vivienne Dick's Guerillere Talks (1978), She Had Her Gun All Ready (1978), Beauty Becomes The Beast (1979), Liberty's Booty (1980), and Beth and Scott B.'s
Black Box (1978), The Offenders (1980), and the critically acclaimed Vortex (1983).
October 1997 saw the publication of Lunch's harrowing novel Paradoxia: A Predator's Diary (Creation Press, London) with an intro by Hubert Selby, Jr.. This widely acclaimed novel was translated into German, Czech, Greek, Spanish and French and she was hailed in France as the next generation Genet, Miller, and de Sade. 1997's Toxic Gumbo, a prestige format graphic novel illustrated by Ted McKeever for DC Comics/Vertigo was translated into Portuguese and Italian. A collaborative book of poetry with Exene Cervenka entitled Adulterer's Anonymous was published in 1982 by Grove Press and re-issued by Last Gasp in 1997. Incriminating Evidence, a collection of stories, rants and scripts was released in 1992 by Last Gasp, which also published AS-FIX-E-8, a comic scripted by Lunch and illustrated by Mike Matthews. In 1992, she collaborated with Bob Fingerman on the comic Bloodsucker for Fantagraphics, and in 1993, she taught a visiting artist workshop in the Performance/Video Department of the San Francisco Art Institute.
Lunch's non-stop touring schedule has taken her to clubs, theatres, and universities throughout the United States and Europe. And proving that there is no rest for the truly innovative, she is presently working on 2 separate photo book projects, compiling a retrospective of her writings entitled Sick With Desire, and working towards the completion of her next novel, The Devil's Racetrack. She has recently completed a satirical screenplay, Psychomenstrum.
Lydia Lunch is currently the focus and subject of the book "Lady Lazarus: Confronting Lydia Lunch", written by Maren Hancunt, published by Questing Beast. From the press release for the book: "'Lady Lazarus' is the first in-depth analysis of Lunch?s impact on feminism, the implications of her art for feminism, and the implications of feminism for Lunch?s art. The book provides an overview of Lunch?s career, zooming in on the dynamic issues of anger, pornography, male-identified feminism, sexuality, third wave feminism, Riot Grrrl & punk rock, feminist performance art, racism, abuse, healing and creativity... What emerges is an analysis of the power and potential embodied by the concepts and realities of Contradiction and Confrontation."
In August of 1999 she worked as creative consultant for the film Shadow Hours, starring Balthazar Getty, Brad Dourif, and Peter Weller - released in the spring of 2000. Her rendition of "Gloomy Sunday" is featured on the CD soundtrack from the 1999 film The Blair Witch Project. Additionally, her composition "The Closet" is featured in the film New York Beat, to be released in the fall of 2000. Recently, she recorded the Tom Waits classic "Heart Attack & Vine" for Manifesto Records, on a compilation tribute to that artist, released in the summer of 2000.
Lydia is currently working on her new project entitled Johnny Behind the Deuce, a screenplay and novel written in collaboration with writer Gene Gregorits. She is also collaborating with Nels Cline on Torcher, a sexy jazz noir romp reminiscent of 1980's Queen of Siam. In February of 2002, Crippled Dick Hot Wax will release Champagne, Cocaine and Nicotine Stains - a CD EP of her work with Anubian Lights.
In April 2002, Lydia will be teaching a vocal workshop entitled The Musicality of the Spoken Word in Brugge, Belguim at the Institute of Living Voice, as well as presenting her Video Hysterie at the Athens film festival, a retrospective of her musical collaborations from 1997-2001.