Photo by Richard Kern, courtesy of Kembra Pfahler
On February 15, Marc Almond, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Sateen, Hercules & Love Affair, and DJs Matthew Pernicano and Danny Lethal will perform at the Globe Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This absolutely mental, once-in-a-lifetime bill will celebrate the second anniversary of Sex Cells, the LA club run by Danny Fuentes of Lethal Amounts.
Because I am so eager to see this show, and because the life of a Dangerous Minds contributor is high adventure, last Sunday I found myself speaking with Karen Black’s leader, the formidable interdisciplinary artist Kembra Pfahler, by phone, after she got out of band rehearsal in NYC. My condensed and edited take on our wide-ranging conversation follows. If I’d noted every time Kembra made me laugh with a deadpan line, the transcript would be twice as long.
Kembra Pfahler: My guitarist is Samoa, he founded the band with me; he’s the original Karen Black guitarist, Samoa from Hiroshima, Japan. And then Michael Wildwood is our drummer, and he played with D Generation and Chrome Locust, and Gyda Gash is our bass player, she plays with Judas Priestess and Sabbathwitch. I just came from band practice, and I am one of those folks that really enjoys going to band practice. Doing artwork and music isn’t like work, and being busy is just such a luxury. It’s been very pleasant preparing for this show we get to honorably do with Marc Almond. We’re so excited!
We played with Marc Almond at the Meltdown Festival that was curated by Ahnoni in 2011. That was a great show with Marc Almond and a lot of other incredible artists. And I have an art gallery that represents me in London now, which is called Emalin, and I had an art exhibit there, and Marc Almond, thankfully, came to it. He’s friends with one of my collaborators called Scott Ewalt.
I’m not a religious person, but I did think I had died and gone to heaven. When artists that you have loved your whole life come to, for some strange reason, see the work that you’re doing, it’s one of the truly best things about doing artwork. I’m very much looking forward to this concert.
Can you tell me what you have planned for the show? I’m sure you want to keep some stuff a surprise, but is the disco dick in the pictures going to be part of the set?
You know, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black has always made a lot of props and costumes, and I never really just buy things. I’m not much of a consumer. I’m an availabilist, so I usually make the best use of what’s available, and we are going to have a lot of props and costumes in this show that I make myself, and I have art partners in Los Angeles, collaborators. We’re going to have a big grand finale sculpture that’s going to be my Black Statue of Liberty holding the pentagram. That’s a huge pentagram sculpture. I made that with a friend of mine called Brandon Micah Rowe.
That sculpture lives on the West Coast, and it comes out when I go to the beach and go surfing. I usually take the Black Statue of Liberty with me, ‘cause it’s a great photo opportunity on the beach. And the last time I was photographing the Black Statue of Liberty—‘cause of course I have several—I took this Black Statue of Liberty in a truck and drove down to Sunset Beach, right at the end of Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, and I just have a great memory of almost drowning with the Black Statue of Liberty. It was very much like reenacting Planet of the Apes. That was the impetus for the Statue of Liberty; I’ve always loved the last scene in Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston realizes that the future is just a disastrous, anti-utopian, dead planet. Kind of similar to what’s happening to us now.
Photo by Brandon Micah Rowe
[laughs] Yeah, it’s uncomfortably close to the present situation.
To me, it’s very close. I mean, film has always been very prophetic, to me. Orson Welles always talks about magic, and historical revisionism, and truth, and the ways that film can actually inform you of the truth in politics, mythological truth, cultural truths. And I’ve always learned the most just by watching films. That’s why I named the band Karen Black, because I was so educated by the films of Karen Black. I know that sounds sort of wonky, but what I’m getting at is I love listening to Orson Welles speak about magic and truth and film as a way to articulate that truth.
Are you thinking about F for Fake?
I’m thinking about the little tricks and happy accidents that occur in film that are what Orson Welles spoke to. I mean, Kenneth Anger talked about magic and film constantly, and light, and Orson Welles just had a different articulation of the same side of the coin.
I grew up in Santa Monica, so I always loved Kenneth Anger; I was always happy that I lived near the Camera Obscura on Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. I thought, I don’t fit in with any of these other Californians, but Kenneth Anger was here at the Camera Obscura. I can’t be doing everything wrong.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my family was in the film business, and I left for New York because I wasn’t accepted by my family and the community, because I was interested in music, and it wasn’t fashionable to be a goth or be into punk when I was in high school. So I moved to New York. But no one was going to New York when I first moved there. I really just moved to New York to be as contrary as possible, and I knew no one would follow me at the time.
You moved to New York in ‘79 or thereabouts, right?
Yeah, I did.
I think the LA, probably, that you were leaving was more, I don’t know, provincial. . . I can imagine the appeal that New York would have had in 1979.
Well, also, the thing was that I really wanted to be an artist, and I got accepted to School of Visual Arts when I was in 11th grade at Santa Monica High School. That’s why, really. The Los Angeles that I was familiar with wasn’t provincial at all. I mean, there’s been generations and generations of weird Los Angeles. My grandparents met on the baseball field: my grandmother was playing softball, my grandfather played baseball, and my father ended up being a surfer, and I’ve always had exposure to a really incredible kind of lifestyle that I think people mostly just dream about. Like, Beach Boys songs at Hollywood Park race track in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. If you think about being born into this time when the Beach Boys and the Stones and the Beatles are playing, and then Parliament-Funkadelic’s playing, and then. . . just the most incredible exposure to music and art and nature, surfing even, surf culture. I mean, when most people are born in countries where they can’t even eat dirt for breakfast, I was born in the most incredible place, that I’ll never forget.
It’s such a huge part of my work, I named my interdisciplinary music and art class at Columbia University “The Queen’s Necklace.” Because when I was a child, I used to meditate on all the beach cities. Starting from Zuma Beach, I would meditate on the cities by saying: [chants] “Zuma, Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, Torrance, Palos Verdes”. . . I’d say all of the cities that represented the Santa Monica Bay area. That was in my field of vision, that was what I saw every day. All those piers, all those waves, and all of the mythology that I grew up with was all about beach culture.
So Los Angeles, I feel closer to writers like John Fante than anyone else. Do you have books in your library that you’ve had your entire adult life that you would say represent your thinking, more so than any other books? Do you have your favorite, favorite books? One or two books that always are with you.
Oh my God, I’d have to think about it.
I do. I mention that because one of them is Ask the Dust. Another one is David J. Skal’s Cultural History of Horror.
It’s a great book that talks about the horror film genre being quite prophetic, and it’s kind of what I was trying to speak about, as far as how film and horror kind of teach us about the future. That’s one book, and also Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies, Volume 1 and 2 is important to me. Do you know that book?
I do not. Is it like a case study?
It’s a case study of men’s relationship to women during World War II and pre-World War II. It’s about men’s relationships to the women in their lives, in Germany, particularly.
Photo by Richard Kern, courtesy of Kembra Pfahler
Los Angeles is a such a magical, beautiful city. It is in my DNA and it will never leave, and no matter what changes occur in Los Angeles, it represents something that’s very personal for me. I don’t really even talk about it that much, but I love it there. My parents live in Hawaii now, and they’re coming to this show in Los Angeles.
Where in the Valley did you grow up?
The land of crystal meth.
And how old are you, Oliver?
You’re almost two decades younger than I am, so you missed things in the Valley like, there was a place when I was in high school called the Sugar Shack. It was a dance club. Joan Jett used to go there, the Runaways would go there. . .
Did you go there? Did you go to the Valley to hang out?
I didn’t, actually, no. I was in seventh or sixth grade, and I was too much of a child to do anything like hitchhike to the Valley at the time. There’s a picture of me as a child on my Instagram, and I was very young-looking when I was that age, and I was very shy. So I had friends who would hitchhike to the Valley to the Sugar Shack, but I didn’t do that, no. I was too afraid.
Was hitchhiking a big means of getting around then, still?
Yes, it was. And that’s also one of the reasons that I moved to New York, because when I hitchhiked on Sunset Boulevard, I remember we used to hitchhike up Chautauqua, and all the surfer kids would say, “Don’t go with the guy from Mission: Impossible! He’s a lurker.” So you used to get molested a lot in cars, as children. I can remember getting constantly picked up by, like, “I am a Hollywood movie producer”—I mean, it was just, like, out of a horror film. And I thought to myself, I can’t wait to move to a city where I can see the streets and count the grid. New York was always something that, you know, you can see where the trouble is. In Los Angeles, I always felt like it was such a darker city, because you’d be driven into the hills, and you got murdered up in the hills. I grew up as a child, you know, Charles Manson had lived in Topanga; that’s where I was from. So it was a very dark, dark city. Los Angeles, astrologically, is a Scorpio town. New York represented, to me, something understandable. That’s also why I left. And I knew that no one would follow me at the time. I don’t know why everyone ended up coming to New York.
Photo by Richard Kern, courtesy of Kembra Pfahler
Marc Almond was such an early bird accessing and paying homage to those Motown hits. I was just watching some of Marc Almond’s videos, and even “Tainted Love,” as pop as that is, it’s so scandalous, him singing to a small, young black child. It’s just incredible. It’d be illegal today. And it’s so charming and innocent and lovely, as it should be. But it represents an incredible shift in the culture, that’s for sure. An incredible conservatism—that really points out an incredible conservatism that’s prevalent in our culture today.
Can you talk about that, because I feel like you might have a lot of insight into that. I’m sure people, if you asked them, would think social attitudes have become more permissive in all kinds of ways. But it’s actually a much safer, tamer, more controlled culture than it was even in the early eighties.
My opinion in a nutshell is essentially: people have become more afraid to come out and interact with one another, and I feel like people still feel like they’re participating in culture, even if they’re alone in their rooms, because of access to technology. There’s a word that I use called “appligence,” which is “application-driven intelligence.” Essentially, we’re getting most of our definitions. . . our history is being transcribed by people, essentially, that just know how to write code, and we’re taking that interpretation as truth. That’s what I was saying about Orson Welles speaking about how film can be an honest source of history, can be a truthful source of history, when, in fact, that history is being honestly transcribed. Unfortunately, there’s so much historical revisionism that I think a lot of folks in the culture, if they read something or see something in film, they take that to be a sort of truth.
So the shift, I think, is because of appligence, application-driven intelligence. I’m no one to articulate any kind of collective. . . I can’t articulate what the collective zeitgeist is about. I can’t. But if you think about things in terms of, like, changing the world one show, one song, or one poem at a time, that, to me, is the definition of what do-it-yourself, grassroots politics is about. It’s where you assemble your community, you assemble your band, you assemble your group of friends, you assemble your block, your street, your city, your state. You start with a very small, grassroots activism, which is to me the only way I’ve ever seen political change occur. The French Revolution, the wall that they built was 100 feet long and 20 stories high; they changed France, you know? A small group of activists changed France. I do believe in do-it-yourself, grassroots politics, or the ability of do-it-yourself consciousness to activate change, to create change. I still feel very strongly about that.
Now, with technology, we have a different kind of do-it-yourself philosophy, where, since in the last couple decades, all of the record companies, as you know, have eroded, thankfully we can all start our own businesses, and we can all activate our own lives by just doing things ourselves. The only difficulty with this do-it-yourselfness that’s occurring now, is that it’s do-it-yourself, but it’s almost so completely solitary we are forgetting how to interact with one another in person.
One word that I love so much, I do believe in liminality, I feel like we’re in a liminal phase right now. We’re gathering our ingredients, we’re filling the recipes that we’re going to need to enact a new system. There’s a big change occurring, and you can’t describe what the change is because it’s happening. But I think the word “liminal” really describes it a lot more positively. It’s a necessary place to be. It’s necessary to gather new ingredients, and it’s necessary to also fail. Because without failure, we can’t get to the other side, and I think that’s what keeps people indoors, is this fear of being imperfect.
We did “Future Feminism” in 2014, and doing this show about future feminism changed all of our lives completely, because we got into so much trouble trying to make an art exhibit where we all spoke about feminism as people that were in bands and people that were doing theatrical performance. So we weren’t academic feminists; we were coming from a theatrical, musical background. This was 2014, and we got hate mail from all of our friends. The folks in Los Angeles saw that we wrote “The Future Is Female” in our last tenet—which also was horribly derided by all of our underground community. They all hated it. They said, “How can you say ‘the future is female’? The future is like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We can’t name our sex, we can’t name anything. We are other than sex.” So they were very angry that we said “The Future Is Female,” and then a year later, all the merchandising came out, and all of the folks in show business that are hungry for content came out and made T-shirts and said “Oh, this is a great time to love women! Let’s get in on this. This is great. We’re gonna make a fortune on those Margaret Atwood movies now. Trans is in.” I mean, we’ve spent the last several decades getting our heads bashed in, getting fag-bashed, getting bashed constantly, dying of AIDS, everything, and after the year 2014, there was a really big shift. And I think that doing the “Future Feminism” show, I think there was a large shift after the show. But it changed our lives completely. It was necessary for us to do it, and it was a wonderful experience, but we really, really were blistered by that experience.
It’s not from reactionaries, it’s not from right-wing people that you were getting shit.
It was from the underground culture. That’s why it hurt so much. It was from our friends. But one thing that’s always important to do: we have to look at ourselves and question the underground as much as we question the authorities around us, as well.
It’s been interesting to see the way everyone is so desperate for content. I feel like the interest in black culture or indigenous culture or females is only going to last as long as they’re able to make money on it in film and books and fashion. Once that idea becomes sour, they’re gonna have to find something else that’s popular. And usually, I think larger corporations look towards artists for those new ideas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a publicist call me and say—I remember Rose McGowan’s publicist called me and said, “Rose McGowan wants to do something in art. Can you put her in Karen Black costume?” This was before the Me Too movement. “She’s trying to reinvent herself, can you put her in a costume?” And I just hung up the phone. I just hung up. You know, of course, I would have loved to have spoken to that person directly. I mean, I’ve never had a manager or a publicist or anything like that my entire adult life, really.
And so then comes along the feminist movement, and I think that Lydia Lunch has been talking about the same things that all of us have been talking about since the eighties.
Photo by Brandon Micah Rowe
I know Richard Kern did the Sewing Circle film, but had you known him a long time before that?
I had, yes. I’ve always been a fan of Richard’s films, and I was an early fan of Lydia Lunch’s. I met Richard a little bit later, but I’ve always really admired his work a great deal. At the time I was photographed by Richard, my look wasn’t perceived to be beautiful. Like, I was emaciated with black hair. That’s around the time that Richard Kern made the book called New York Girls. Richard was someone that really lifted my spirits, he’s always been a really good friend, and I’ve always loved what he did. We’ve remained friends all these years. He just taught a class, he taught “Music and Sound” at Columbia University a few weeks ago, for my class that I was having. Oh, he’s a really generous spirit, and he’s a total original, too. There’s been so many people that emulated Richard; I always thought Terry Richardson was just being, like, a poor man’s Richard Kern.
So Richard is thriving, he’s still doing tons of work, he’s always photographing, and he just came over and shot us, thankfully, for this show. And Richard’s not like anyone that I know. He’s not a covetous artist, he’s extremely generous with giving us pictures when we need. People aren’t like Richard. Most artists get very, very covetous. There’s other photographers I’ve worked with that would insist, I would have to pay them $200 or $300 to use a photo they took of me in my costume. Isn’t that terrible? Covetousness isn’t really in my vocabulary, and Richard’s been so generous, and really cool. We hadn’t taken pictures together in a little bit. So it was really nice that he took those pictures for us. But Richard is still doing incredible work, and he’s one of the only extreme artists who made it out of the Me Too situation without defiling any women.
No, I don’t know of any scandals touching him.
Nope, nope, nope. I’m glad that a lot of people are getting their just deserts, a lot of people that caused harm are finally going to have to start to change.
Does the band have to reassemble now? Is everybody scattered?
No, of course not. We’re always together, the band is always together, it’s just that I’ve gotten more women involved in the band lately. I travel a lot because of the art projects that I do, and being from Emalin gallery, I get to have shows in other countries, and a lot of times the whole band can’t go on tour because it’s costly. I prefer to play with bass, guitar, and drums—I prefer to play with my full band, rather than just with backing tracks. There’s nothing like playing music with folks. And there’s nothing like group singing, as well, I love choral singing, I love singing with the women. There’s groups of Girls of Karen Black in a lot of cities around the world now. There’s Girls of Karen Black in Russia, and in Hawaii, and in California. At this show in Los Angeles, a wonderful artist named Karen Lofgren is in the show, and Matthew Tyler Oyer, and we’re taking a dancer from New York City called Christian Music; she’s kind of the lead dancer, Christian Music is the lead Girl of Karen Black. And some of the women that I’ve worked with have been in the band for 30 years.
So how does one become a Girl of Karen Black?
Um. . . by having similar hobbies. You know how “real recognizes real”? I think we recognize one another, not to sound corny. We have similar interests, that’s all, the women. And usually the women, or folk, the people that I work with, we’re interested in horror, we’re interested in rock ‘n’ roll music—although I grew up listening to Parliament-Funkadelic and Santa Esmeralda as well. My stepdad used to be the contract lawyer for Parliament-Funkadelic when I was a child, and so I listened to that music all through my childhood. It was really inspiring, and I got to see a lot of shows, and those shows were incredibly theatrical! And then I grew up to see a lot of, of course, KISS, and I used to love all the Larry LeGaspi costumes. LeGaspi’s finally getting a lot of notoriety, the designer for the KISS costumes. Rick Owens, the wonderful designer who is a friend of mine—I love Rick Owens’ work very much—his last collection is about Larry LeGaspi, the designer of the KISS costumes.
I always loved costume. My mother, Judy Ball, used to dress us up wearing flower heads, wearing really simple, strange costumes. A lot of the things I do in Karen Black are gestures that my mother had created for me when I was a child.
Parliament-Funkadelic, I don’t really hear it in the music, but that makes a lot of sense with the stage show.
Oh, no, we don’t sound like Parliament. I’m not a funk player. I mean, I play indigenous music, I play classic rock, because it’s like verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar solo-verse-chorus-out. It’s music where performance can live in the guitar solo. I like really simple classic rock, you know?
In the early nineties and late eighties in New York, there wasn’t that much theatrical, queer, decorated, classic rock. We started our band at a time when there was emo and kind of like, what I guess would be sort of like palatable alternative rock? And grunge. So we were just making a contrarian response to that. And everyone used to call us “fags,” and they all used to call us “queer,” and “drag queens,” and “ugly,” of course, “ugly.”
This was the enlightened hardcore scene.
Yes, the enlightened hardcore scene. Of course, people like John Joseph from Cro-Mags always loved us.
Of course, yeah. John Joseph has been a really big supporter of Karen Black. The really hardcore people, the folks from Fugazi were always really supportive of us. But there was a demograph that always. . . we were very unpopular for a long time because people used to say that doing performance and music, you know, we weren’t making “real music.”
Most of our support came from the kind of queer culture that was Ron Athey, Vaginal Creme Davis, really, really extreme queer punk. Bruce LaBruce.
The Anti-Naturalists came out when I was in high school, and I listened to it a lot in my bedroom. And on the cover, probably because the size of a CD cover is so small compared to vinyl, your shoes, I thought, were these incredible space-age future shoes, and it wasn’t until I saw that Disinfo TV segment that I realized you were wearing bowling balls. Are you still doing that?
Yeah. I feel like, Oliver, all those images that you saw on all the albums, those are like pieces of the vocabulary of images that I created. I just did the bowling ball piece for Love Magazine, for the guys from that band Jesus and Mary Chain? They came and filmed. They’re great guys, they’ve got a camera collection in their film company, and they did a whole piece where they filmed me walking on the bowling balls, and I did sort of an elaboration of that piece. It initially comes from a Hans Baldung etching where they used to tie stones to women’s feet. So the bowling ball piece is something I’ve done essentially my whole life, and I haven’t stopped doing it. It takes on different forms, but all of these performance gestures, they’re like a kind of vocabulary to me.
It’s almost like you’re talking about a palette of colors, right?
I think so. In my class that I teach at Columbia, “The Queen’s Necklace,” I’m talking about having a vocabulary of images to the kids that I’m speaking to. And my vocabulary is kind of like immaterial performance gestures. I mean, they do become material, because they end up being sculptures that people look at later, but it’s not exactly a popular genre. Even though I think people think that it’s popular, but it’s not that popular.
We have an interdisciplinary class they hired me for. The students hired me there because they didn’t like the old performance teacher, because the old performance teacher was only talking about the two performance people that are historicized: Carolee Schneemann and Chris Burden. Those are the only ones they’re talking about in college. For me, performance was about the Screamers! Diamanda Galás! The Cramps! Al’s Bar! Henry Rollins! Lydia Lunch! Bruce Brown surfing films! Karen Black Trilogy of Terror! Andy Kaufman! [laughs] Performance was always so broad to me, and to me, performance essentially represented something that wasn’t necessarily entertainment, it was a little more thought-provoking, and you just went a little bit deeper. It meant a little bit more than just regular entertainment. And for me, performance has meant, and Karen Black has meant, I’m willing to sacrifice comforts and willing to sacrifice a lot of things to do this work, because it’s not that popular. But it’s been a really great life being able to do this Karen Black work, it’s been a really great life.
Photo by Brandon Micah Rowe
What’s the story with the photo I’ve seen of you onstage holding a sign that says “BE NICE I AM RELATED TO JAWBREAKER”?
My brother Adam is the drummer in a band called Jawbreaker, and he invited us to play at Riot Fest this year. When we used to go on tour in the late nineties, we used to go on tour all across the United States, and we would play in a lot of places where there were just punk kids, and it was really kinda the first time I think anyone had seen performance art like we were doing. I made a conscious decision not to go to Europe or Japan, where they would be nicer to us. I went to places where they would hate us ‘cause I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. Mind you, I grew up loving the Sex Pistols; the first shows they did [in the U.S.] were in Texas. So I thought, as an artist, that’s what you were supposed to do. You were supposed to go where they didn’t want you. So that’s what we did: we went to Sioux City, we went all over Texas, we went to every state in the United States, and my brother’s band, Jawbreaker, they’re a do-it-yourself punk band, they traveled all around the United States as well. And often, they would be playing in places that we would play, but we were the only band that were performative at the time.
So I would say to the crowd that was about to kill me, “Please be nice to me. I’m Adam’s sister.”
And then the kids wouldn’t kill me. They’d go, “Oh, okay. Wait a minute, we know Jawbreaker, we love Jawbreaker. Oh, okay. What are you guys doing? Oh, okay. You make props?”
I’d say, “Yes. I’m Adam’s older sister. Please don’t kill me.” ‘Cause it was at a time when performance just wasn’t popular in music. People didn’t even wear makeup onstage. Just wasn’t happening at that moment. But we know that the glitter rock people wore makeup, we know that the punk kids always wore lots of makeup. But traveling around in Texas and all these places, a lot of people were still in the closet with their sexualities and stuff? You know, it’s probably dangerous to come out in certain states, of course. Certain states still like hanging—they’re secessionists, or whatever! [laughs]
So you got some pretty extreme reactions in the South, it sounds like?
Well, what would happen to us—you know, I was friends with GG Allin, who, to me, was someone who knew how to get arrested very well. I got to see a lot of GG’s shows, and I actually got to sing on his album, and I saw GG, and GG would say, you know, “Intentionally get arrested!” I think that, thankfully, it’s never been our intention to get arrested? So what would happen to us was that usually the police would come, and then they would see us, and then they would end up staying for the show.
Oh, well, that’s kind of sweet.
It’s fuckin’ lucky.
But do you feel like you won them over in any way?
I feel like it was my intent not to get arrested, knock on wood. I don’t want to go to jail. I don’t want to. I don’t want that to be a part of our mythology. I’m terrified of jail, terrified. Don’t want to go.
We don’t do anything adult-sexual. Our nudity isn’t about adult sexuality, although I have been in Penthouse, and Playboy has supported a lot of my projects, before their demise, before Hugh Hefner died. He supported one of my shows that I did about Giverny, when I went to Claude Monet’s garden? In Giverny, and I got to pose all around Giverny garden.
Oh, I didn’t know about that!
Yeah, it’s a beautiful piece. It’s called “Giverny,” and I got to be in my Karen Black costume in Claude Monet’s impressionist garden. [The video for] ”Bring Back the Night” [from the shelved TVHKB album Home of the Brave] was shot at the Claude Monet garden. It is like the anti-Star Is Born song. “Oh have you heard… the night’s turned silver, too many stars in the sky, no star left to guide me”—I thought if the black sky was covered in stars, we couldn’t see the black sky. “Put the black back back in the night, it’s too bright too bright to see.”
If you consider Aleister Crowley’s “Every man and every woman is a star,” or Warhol’s “Everyone’s a star for 15 minutes,” or now the idea that everyone is famous because of YouTube. . . my thought was there’s too many stars. A star is not born. The show must not go on. You know, a contrary gesture.
That’s amazing. I have to look that up.
Oliver, you might like these images very much. It was the same sort of—it’s our intent not to get arrested. You know that you do certain things, you’re going to get arrested, right? When I shove the crucifix in my vagina or butthole, that’s often quite revolting. And I did that at the Geffen Museum a couple of years ago, but because we’re in body paint, and it’s decorative, and it’s very. . . the feeling and the motive behind it is that it’s art, and it’s a gesture. So hopefully that intent comes through. But that’s pretty much the grossest thing that we do, is with the cross. But to me, my interest in film: like, with film and comedy, playing it straight is the funniest thing to me. The scene in The Exorcist where she’s shoving the crucifix in her vagina was probably the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. [much laughter]
Yeah, it is pretty funny.
You can’t tell me that’s not funny! Especially when Christian people are such perverts, and molesting all these kids anyway.
So that gesture is really about—you know, I went to the Virginia McMartin School as a child.
No kidding! The famous McMartin case.
Yeah, that’s my childhood. So me shoving the cross in my butt and vagina is just taking the piss out of that whole thing. I have to! How could you not?
That’s fascinating. I had no idea.
Yeah, I went there. There was no child molestation in my history with Virginia McMartin. It was a witch hunt that happened in Manhattan and Hermosa Beach. There was no child pornography, there was no Satanism, it was a witch hunt created by an alcoholic woman who was having some kind of difficulty in her marriage.
You know, that’s the spirit of the time. It’s funny, like, that’s sort of totally prevalent in our culture right now, as far as being guilty until proven innocent rather than innocent until proven guilty. So that hasn’t changed very much.
Below, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black performs “Bring Back the Night” in Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny. The band is currently at work on a new album, Fuck Island, to include tomorrow’s hits “Insatiable Futurehold,” “New Rape City,” and “Hole with a Heartbeat.” If you’ll be in the greater Los Angeles area on February 15, get tickets for the Globe Theatre show with Marc Almond while you still can.