One of the best audience members we got was this guy who came up on stage and lit his pubic hair on fire. It was gnarly.
BY KAREN HEERINGA
PHOTO BY LANCE LAURENCE
Veteran garage rock weirdoes The Black Lips are known for their outlandish antics which may or may not including urination, vomiting, and on-stage nudity. But a recent show with Ariel Pink may have taken the cake. “I do like the freaky weirdo scene,” Black Lips lead singer Cole Alexander says in a recent conversation with Chicago INNERVIEW. “We did a tour with Ariel Pink last year and I felt like he really captured the weirdo scene, and I really appreciated him letting us on tour with him. One of the best audience members we got was this guy who came up on stage and lit his pubic hair on fire. It was gnarly.”
Among the loud, echo-y vocals and noisy saxophones on new Black Lips album Satan’s Graffiti Or God’s Art? is a gem that stands apart from the others entitled “Crystal Night.” Upon first listen it sounds like a soulful tale of two lovers embracing and kissing on a quiet November evening, but eventually takes on a much darker theme. “It’s a fictional tale of a lost love between a Gentile and a Jew during the Holocaust,” Alexander explains. “When we play it live, Zumi, who is Jewish, sings it with Jared, who’s from a Christian family and it kinda comes together great that way.”
Channeling their inner Minutemen on the album, The Black Lips “just made up stuff on the spot to show people the spontaneous side of us,” says Alexander. “It’s still dirty and raw. It was all improvised.” As if creating a soundtrack to a movie, the album also includes an overture and a finale. Recently the band actually had an opportunity to be in a scene in the upcoming film Song To Song, sharing the stage with some familiar faces. Rooney Mara comes on stage as a vocalist while Michael Fassbender acts as their manager. Ryan Gosling shows up eventually, too: “We’re not exactly sure what [Gosling] does in the movie, but he was there when we were shooting, hanging around. He’s super sweet,” Alexander says. “And at some point Val Kilmer showed up, too. We’re huge fans of [Terrence] Malick’s films, so it’s a great honor to be a part of it.”
Not only are they rubbing shoulders in Hollywood, but the band also seems to be trading notes with iconic musicians as well. Sean Lennon produced Satan’s Graffiti…. and Yoko Ono herself sang guest vocals on one of its tracks. “We knew that she was around this studio we were at,” recalls Alexander, “and I was like ‘I wanna record with Yoko.’ I love the way she screams and shakes.” It must be the reason The Black Lips cover a grunge version of “It Won’t Be Long” to go with The Beatles theme already woven throughout the album.
When asked about how he would prefer fans listen to their music, “I always loved the sounds a cassette tape makes,” Alexander replies. “You don’t really hear it unless you really listen. I understand that many people will be listening to this through cheap computer speakers, which I can’t help. What we’d really love is if people had a great stereo set up and played it that way.”
The Black Lips remain weirdoes in the truest sense of the word and if people are as receptive to their new music as they’ve been in the past, pubic hair could become as endangered as the bumblebee.