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Chicks On Speed - Chatting With the Chicks

Author: Russ Macumber
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

In 2003 they joined forces with Peaches to scream We Don’t Play Guitars, their seminal hit that announced their arrival as main stage players among the new wave of electro-clash artists. What electro poppettes Chicks on Speed brought to the musical table other than being a case study for multiculturalism at work (it’s 5 core members are from the US, Germany, Israel and Australia) was a healthy dose of artistic cred. Having met at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in the mid-90s and starting out purely as an art project, the group eventually morphed into the fictional band they had created tongue-in-cheekly. In 1997 the group started out running club nights at Munich’s Seppi Bar, where they would sell merchandise (t-shirts, records, cassettes) of what was at that point a fictional band known as Chicks on Speed.

New Yorker Melissa Logan explained. “We both went to Munich Academy, there Alex studied jewellery design and I studied painting, and we collaborated on some projects that started the group, 10 years ago.” It wasn’t long before they moved from art to music production, a place not too foreign to Melissa, whose father was a music teacher and made her learn to play instruments from a young age. “Because we studied art we started [as] a performance art group and painting group - and really soon we noticed that the art world moved very slow, and especially in Munich - it was quite dry and the audience was quite lethargic. So we moved very fast to pop, but always in parallel we continued our art project. And about 5 years ago we started to do it more seriously. And now it’s just between touring, but really as [it’s] a priority.”

So other than the music, you guys also…- “Actually it’s 3 things, it’s fashion, music and art. For the fashion we collaborate with other companies at the moment, we do designs for…Crystal Ball in Japan, and…Insight in Australia” Melissa explained. Back to the music, Melissa says the group has been influenced by “anything from Kraftwerk to umm, let’s say, B-52s. We DJ as well and there’s a bit that’s interesting at the moment, like Uffie.”

With their upcoming Australian tour, Melissa is excited as they are “finally combining the music, the art and the fashion in one tour.” Alex – the Aussie connection – elaborated… “Through our clothes, we’ve designed our special outfits called the Quasimoto and it’s a hybrid…with patchwork Chicks on Speed collage and all that on the fabric, and we’ve developed a whole heap of different videos and the videos are triggered by different instruments that we play on stage, and through the music!”

So how did a Sydney-sider happen to hook up with a crew in Munich- “I went to Art School over there it was like ’92, and so I studied at the Munich Art academy for seven years and Melissa was also there at the same time, and that’s how we met.” Melissa ended up staying on in Europe after college as the Chicks on Speed project gained momentum.

Alex, who is looking forward to seeing her family for the second time in under four months – a rarity given she usually only sees them once a year or so – is equally excited about their upcoming tour. “We’re starting off in Australia with the Future Music tour and then doing the Adelaide Festival, and then we’re heading up to Kyoto in Japan, then after Kyoto we’re going to Tokyo to do an exhibition and then we’re performing at the Modern Art Museum in Tokyo. So we’re doing more of like an art tour up in Japan, creating installations and then doing more theatre pieces up there. They’re sort of more sit down pieces where we develop a whole heap of costumes and videos and spoken word and stuff like that.”

Given the number of passports held by it’s members, I was curious where the COS enjoyed touring most. “I think Australia is usually great, of course (laughs) and then Japan and then a lot of places in Europe, I’d say Spain is really good and Germany. Paris.” According to Alex though, above all, Kyoto is their biggest territory. That must translate into some pretty fervent Japanese fans – are they the craziest- “Our early tours in America were pretty crazy. Also in Sweden, we had some pretty wild shows there ‘cause there’s just like a really, huge dyke community over there, so yeah they used to get quite excited and jump on stage and like tackle us and not let us pick up our instruments!” Alex shared and we both laughed. Chicks on Speed versus Crazy Dykes – sounds like a fair match.

To top off their claim as world champion multi-taskers, Chicks on Speed also have their own eponymous record label, with artists such as Le Tigre and Sylvester Boy among their ranks. However, the focal point for 2008  at the moment is the solo release one of COS’s own, Anat. “(We’re) releasing an artist, Anat, she’s…from Israel and her record’s coming out in a couple of weeks. And then we’re releasing our own album. Oh, we’ve got a single coming out now as well called Art Rules, and then our album’s coming out end of May. Pretty much the focus is on Anat’s record.”

With touring, music, fashion, art, running a record label, I had to ask Alex – do you remember your last day off- She laughs. “It’s limited but we love what we do, so you know. It’s all worth it.”
WHAT: Play Future Music Festival
WHEN: Saturday 8 March (Sydney)