A Genre In Motion: Lydia Lunch & New York No Wave

A Genre In Motion: Lydia Lunch & New York No Wave

Wed Aug 8th

Le Guess Who 2018 will host the influential Lydia Lunch and her Big Sexy Noise. How did Lunch become the revered anti-establishment figure she is today? This article offers a brief exploration of the history of New York no wave, and the rise of Lunch - together with the notorious Teenage Jesus and the Jerks - to become a leading figure in New York's no-wave scene.

At the tail-end of the 1970’s, the city of New York found itself in a major financial recession. The city had a severe shortage of cash, and without external help, The Big Apple was destined to go bankrupt. President Gerald Ford, however, refused to infuse New York with the much-needed financial aid; the city had to fend for itself. So it came to be that over the next few years, New York turned into a site of rampant and city-wide crime and a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure.

Teenage Jesus & The Jerk - Orphans:

At the same time, many struggling artists found themselves drawn to the city, which finally started becoming affordable, particularly around the Lower East Side. Here, groups of like-minded artists were banding together: they all felt disillusioned at how the concept of America seemed to be disintegrating in front of them, and put this same and exact feeling into their art.

This is how the no wave movement came to be, with the name being both a reaction to the new wave and punk scenes that came before, as well as a clear signal that the no wave musicians did not want to exist in relation to any other musical genre. While no wave was a disparate genre, it had elements that could be found throughout most of the no wave artists: a preference for atonal and abrasive sounds, repetitive rhythms and a disregard for melody over simple texture.

"When Mute Records recently asked her if she considered Suicide’s music nihilistic, her response was this: "Nihilistic? The whole fucking country was nihilistic. What did we come out of? The lie of the Summer of Love into Charles Manson and the Vietnam War. Where was the positivity? I was supposed to be fucking positive? Fuck you! You want positive, go elsewhere. Go find a different lie." - FACT Magazine

One of the biggest and most influential names to emerge within the no wave scene was Lydia Lunch. Moving to New York when she was sixteen, she quickly became involved in the city's music scene and founded her own band: Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Lunch’s outlook was dark and nihilistic: she made it her mission to become the embodiment of the depraved and rotten soul of America. She wanted to act as a mirror for everyone who was still in denial about the negative aspects of American culture.

Teenage Jesus and the Jerks played aggressively and raw, with a large emphasis on their rejection of the establishment. The sound that the band produced was one of the purest examples of the disgust that was felt towards America: a total deconstruction of rock music and the deification of the culture surrounding it. They were subsequently included on 'No Wave New York', a compilation of no wave music produced by Brian Eno, showcasing the most important artists within the scene.

"If you are to dive deep into Martin’s professional influence since he began producing and mixing, the list is unimaginably long and impressive, helping make major waves in genres such as no wave, hip hop, and alternative rock. All things underground essentially. With so many years of honing his talent, many bands and artists have come to work with him, marvel in his unique crafting style, and be amazed by wild acoustics found in the depths of BC." - Bearded Gentlemen Music

A lot of no wave music was recorded in BC Studio, founded in 1979 by Martin Bisi (who will also be playing at Le Guess Who? 2018) together with Brian Eno and Bill Laswell. Bisi recorded numerous influential artists linked to the no wave scene, including Foetus, Swans, Cop Shoot Cop, Live Skull, Unsane and Afrika Bambaata. This year’s release ‘BC35’ celebrates the 35-year Anniversary of BC Studio and honors the prolific producer’s work. The album is the result of a two-day recording session with BC Studio-affiliated musicians hailing from New York’s experimental underground, and will be performed live at Le Guess Who? 2018.  

Lydia Lunch's Big Sexy Noise and Martin Bisi will perform at Le Guess Who? 2018 together with o.a. The Breeders, Mudhoney, Crack Cloud, FACS, Kikagaku Moyo, Psychic Ills, and Please The Trees.