Friday, April 6, 2012

Barb Wire Dolls: Hellas Good!

Hey, Hey! My, My! with bands like the Barb Wire Dolls around rock & roll will never die. Most of the time I have to go dig up my stories, but every once in a while, the story comes to me.  Just as the future of rock music was starting to look mighty bleak, the Barb Wire Dolls, fronted by Debbie Harry  doppelgänger, Isis Queen landed  in my hometown. This punk rock foursome from Greece, has touched down in America with all the subtleness of wayward Soviet space junk. They've hit the ground running, and the luv 'em or hate 'em bandwagon is gathering momentum with astonishing speed.

What is it about the Dolls that has polarized American punk fans? Are they the greatest thing since sliced honey wheat bread?, you can decide that for yourself.  They are however, fresh and  that always seems to draw a crowd.  As for the YouTube haters who deride them for not being punk enough for their taste, fuck them. The definition of punk continues to change, as it has since the glory days of garage punk back in the mid 1960's. One man's punk is another man's Green Day, ideals carved into stone have a way of being erased as age and maturity creep up on us. 

The Barb Wire Dolls have several things going in their favor that have allowed them to jump to the head of the line. (something that seems to have rubbed some U.S. punk fanatics the wrong way) Fair enough... I guess, but the total package presented by the Dolls is hard to beat. 1. Having a charismatic blonde bombshell as your lead vocalist, makes all the difference in the world.  2. They are the first commercially viable punk rock band to come along in some time 3. they're enthusiastic without being boorish 4. they play with the same "fuck you" abandon of the first wave punk bands. 

All of which has made their mantra of  "the revolution has begun, so what the hell are you gonna do?!" believable. The Barb Wire Dolls have stared down the naysayers before, beginning with a brutal run through "Ellada exeis Talento" or "Greece has Talent" where round after round they had to deal with a total bitch of a judge who would make Simon Cowell's nuts pull up inside. In America they've stood up to the haters and doubters, their resolve is steadfast and hard, so put away your slings and arrows, this ain't the Dolls' first rodeo.

Lead, follow or get the fuck out of the way. Originating from a country teetering on financial collapse, where their fellow countrymen face an uncertain future, the Dolls are forged in fire. The social circumstances surrounding the Barb Wire Dolls are not much different from those facing British punks in 1977. Given the current state of affairs here in the States and the general atmosphere of malaise and dissatisfaction that permeates over the land. The time seems right for another wave of strident and committed punk rock bands.

The Barb Wire Dolls first formed at the Ikarus Artist Commune in Avdou, Crete in 2008. They relocated to Athens due to a lack of local venues. Along the way, they've had to overcome a bias in their homeland against bands that sing in English. On "Ellada exeis Talento" that seemed to stick in the judges' craw the most. After Rodney Bingenheimer (KROQ-Los Angeles, legendary DJ) started playing some of their tracks on his show, they packed up and relocated to California. Already having conquered Greece, the Dolls set out to do the same in America. 

As Moly from the Holy Moly Doughnut Shop would say "You ask too many questions, buddy!" The Barb Wire Dolls recently took time from their busy schedule to answer a multitude of questions from yours truly. I thank them for their honesty, candor and patience. 

DCC:  I watched the Ellada Exeis Talento videos, I don't understand Greek but the female judge did not like your music. During "So Hot", she dropped the hammer on you with a vengeance, what was her problem?

Dolls:  All shows like that are rigged and we spoke up against the system but they deleted our responses of course. All we wished to do at that point was to be one of the first bands to let the Greek public know that there are actually many underground rock bands in Greece that sing in English and that we were fed up with only Pop bands that sing in Greek be given any real opportunities there.  We kinda changed that now and many rock bands sing now in English on TV.  As for the uptight female judge, who cares about what she thinks.

DCC:  SoCal is ground zero for U.S. punk music, is that what attracted you to Los Angeles?

Dolls:  We watched the punk documentary on LA’s first punk movement “Decline Of Western Civilization” and we really like The Germs, Black Flag, The Bags, X, and so on, so LA was in our minds when we got the call from Rodney Bingenheimer the legendary DJ of KROQ who first played almost every new Punk band back then, from The Ramones, Sex Pistols, to Blondie and he invited us to play a show there. We would have gone to London or New York City at that point if someone else had called first since those cities also were known to us as original Punk movements. LA also fit right because we all surf and skate and so we moved to Dogtown, otherwise known as Venice. We were familiar with the Z-Boys of Dogtown and were friends with many of them before we moved to LA so it all just seemed right at the moment and we went for it.

DCC:  The Roxy, The Viper Room, The Doll Hut... those are tough crowds, how has your band been received?

Dolls:  Great. Never a bad crowd or response.

DCC:  Your music has had a polarizing effect on some people, they either love you or they hate you. Any comments?

Dolls:   As Kurt from Nirvana said “it’s better to be hated for what you love, than to be loved for something you hate” or something like that.  There will always be “haters” and we just don’t care about that aspect of ego. We just feel good when a crowd goes nuts with us and that’s all that matters. Haters are usually the ones that have not been to a show of ours, so they just don’t know. Videos on youtube are not a live show experience and it’s easy to write a comment from your safe lil’ bedroom desk rather than make the effort to go to a show and make your mind up from something real and tangible.

DCC:   The Sunset Strip is known more for metal than punk, some people don't agree that what you play is punk rock.

 Dolls:   Well to us, The Sunset Strip is punk because that’s where LA punk started. After the Strip blackballed punk it became something else but when we play there, it’s all about punk. The street becomes full of punks and it’s exiting once again to feel that urgent vibe that only punks can create. We play rock and roll the way we like it, and we are constantly changing. No need for a label, but punk suits us just fine right now.

DCC:    There's been some questions whether Rodney Bingenheimer invited you over and paid for your ticket or not?

Dolls:    He invited us, so we came. Rodney never bought our tickets and we never said he did. I don’t know where you got that info, maybe from a hater out there in la-la land. He played us for about four months straight on the radio and announced us at our first US appearance at The Roxy and at a KROQ show.

DCC:     I would think that's not true, because you've stated that you sold everything you owned to make the trip to the U.S.

Dolls:   Yes, that’s correct.

DCC:     Nonetheless, you did get Rodney's enthusiastic endorsement and ample airplay on KROQ.

Dolls:    Yes, and we are grateful for this and honored that he liked our band and had the inspiration to help us out the way he did. He is a living legend in our book. Always will be.

DCC:     Isis has been compared to Debbie Harry and Gwen Stefani,  Isis' vocals remind me of Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano. Your thoughts?

Dolls:    Comparisons always come up when something is new.  Music is a bullet. Not God.

DCC:     Having seen Penelope Houston and The Avengers during the first punk wave in 1977-78, I see a strong resemblance (with your band).

Dolls:     They are one of our inspirations for being in this band. They were amazing and they have influenced us a lot as has many others from that first era. The first wave of Punk from London with the Sex Pistols, Clash, and Slits, New York’s Ramones, Blondie, and New York Dolls, to LA’ Germs, X, and the Bags were many of the originals and what came next was also amazing with Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks and Flipper, etc. It’s funny, but all the living members of a lot of these bands are just now getting back together and having a re-birth in their careers and touring the world where they never have gone before.  Still the question is why has it taken so fucking long for something new to finally come about?! 

DCC:    Fuck the Pussycat Dolls, why them? (besides the obvious reasons)

Dolls:   Just because millions each year are spent by the four major labels (who seem to control all music on the radio, tv,  movies, television, and in print - pretty much the whole media outlets of the world) on creating groups like theirs, which is fine IF even one little dime was spent on signing any new punk band. Do you realize that The Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Slits, Social Distortion, The Germs, X, and on and on were all on major labels? And do you know that the major labels have not signed a new punk band in over a decade? Yet they keep investing millions upon millions in other areas of music.  Where are the options for the youth and public? Is punk ever going to get a shot again?  The climate of the world is ready for a punk band to shake things up because the global music scene is dead and no one cares about the fake shit anymore. People have woken up and that’s why we have Occupy and riots and it is only gonna get worse. So, we say “Fuck the Pussycat Dolls and listen to more New York Dolls!”  Shake things up and tell it like you see it. Mean it when you say it. Say what you mean. Fuck the pussies and long live the street generation.

DCC:    Iggy Pop thinks that the artists who are making music today lack authenticity. What are your thoughts?

Dolls:    Not much other than he probably doesn’t have the time to go check out new underground bands and that’s probably why he said that. Or he maybe hasn’t checked out Flipper lately to see what they are up to. There are so many bands out there that are authentic, but everyone is different and we’re glad that not all bands are the same. Or all authentic. It takes all to bring out the best in everyone. It’s good to have a choice and The Stooges may have influenced us in many ways, but so did a lot of other bands that I am sure Iggy would think differently than us. We put Iggy up there in the highest of highest.  He is truly a unique and pure punk pioneer in every aspect. He is punk. But we have a say in this matter and we feel there are shit loads of authentic bands out there right now making vital and urgent music in a mundane world ready for serious chaos to come. Iggy, stay young and keep a TV Eye out for new shit and don’t live in the past lest you become unauthentic in your next new album.

DCC:    I saw you in downtown Deming last weekend, I thought you might be stranded and I was going to offer you some gas money. They do close all the roads when the dust storms kick up, it's like being stranded on an island. Does Deming, N.M. know what it's getting into?

Dolls:    They will soon find out. Curious to see what these people are made of. So far everyone has been way cool and hospitable to us, bringing us authentic Mexican food and opening their doors for us to live in their houses and rehearse in their shops. Gabe Dominguez and Carlos and Garilee have gone beyond being hospitable and have been treating us like family here.

DCC:    How did the shows in Deming come about?

Dolls:   We needed a place to write our new album and Deming just seemed like the perfect place. Quiet, good people, good food, good weather, and in the magical New Mexico desert just off the 10 freeway. Who could ask for anything better?! So we are going to try out some of the new songs in Deming at The Starmax and see what happens!

DCC:    I assume you were traveling from Austin, Tx. to California. You were at SXSW, How did that go for you?

Dolls:    SXSW was epic for us. We played three shows and we had music industry people fly in from all over the world to see us and they pretty much all offered us deals right after the shows. Our manager is dealing with all the business side of things and maybe soon we will sign with one of them.  First we are going to record our debut album at Sonic Ranch recording studio in El Paso, Texas and then see what transpires next. We also were amazed at how weird and wild Austin is. Reminded us of Greece with all the people partying in the streets at night except in Greece there is almost no rock and roll and all you hear is dance music with no soul at clubs.

DCC:   Sugarbuzz Magazine thinks you'll be the next Nirvana, is that just crazy talk?

Dolls:   There can never be another Nirvana, or another Sex Pistols, or another anything. It is time for a new scene with new ideals and new ways to destroy and throw out the real truth about what is going on and giving a kick ass soundtrack to it.  Comparisons are boring but they work for the people that don’t know you yet. Sugarbuzz gave us a great quote we could use to open up some doors and we are stoked that they think of us that way.

DCC:   Has the revolution officially begun?

Dolls:   Yes. It has always been there. Inside yourself. You are all rebels and revolting is what you wanna do when you are stomped on and thrust down into the ground by an all powerful controlling identity. The time is now and the revolution is on full force.  The street generation has woken up and we are not taking it anymore. Don’t look over your shoulders, cause here we come guitars blaring and guns blazing.

Barb Wire Dolls are: Isis Queen (singer), Pyn Doll (guitarist), Voodoo Doll (bassist), Krash Doll (drummer) they are now based in Venice, Ca., The Dolls recently appeared at SXSW and are now hunkered down in New Mexico's boot heel country while they prepare to record their next album at the world class Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo, Tx. They are scheduled to play three New Mexico shows, all in Deming. They will rock  the Starmax Theater on April 8th and then, if  they haven't scared the locals away, they'll play two more shows on April 22nd. and 29th.