Robert Lund - Man About Town
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A Talk With Les Baton Rouge

New York Waste, April, 2004

Portuguese punk girl Suspiria Franklyn teamed up with guitarist James Jacket and two other girls in 1998 to form Les Baton Rouge. Bassist Peter Shamble replaced one of the females in 2002, and they recruited drummer Lars Friedrich after moving to Berlin last year. The band just completed a 3-week US tour to promote their new CD My Body - The Pistol, starting out in NYC and travelling south by southwest to Austin TX, where I met up with them. They'd found producer Tim Kerr (veteran of Austin's 80s funk-punk Big Boys and many other bands) through the Internet. He liked their earlier CD, they liked his style and energy, so he produced their latest release, spurring them on to a fine recorded performance, and they stayed at his house during the SXSW festival.

At Stubb's, before the Beer Garden show:

RL: Tell me about the tour.

Suspiria: The tour went great, it was my favorite tour, because the shows went great, the reception of the people we met was really good.

RL: Anything stand out as the best time, can you say?

Sus: I dunno, I loved the New York gigs, cuz I love the city, you know, and we love Don Hill's. And Savannah, Philadelphia. And in Boston, it was the first time we played in a basement. It was an all ages show, all those kids in a small place, it was good.

RL: Do you get a different feeling from American audiences than from European audiences?

Sus: It really depends on the places where we play, there is no typical American or European audience. The only thing I can say is that I'm very happy with the way things are going, the audience people really seem to understand what we are doing, they really get into it, dancing and all. We have crazy people in the audience everywhere, it gets insane in Germany and the United States.

RL: You haven't played in any American prisons yet, have you?

Sus: No, not yet, but I would like that. We're gonna play again in Antwerp prison in April, the same one we played in last year.

RL: Was that a male or female prison?

Sus: Mixed, they had men and women in the same room, but separated. They loved us so much!

RL: Now, you seem to play your guitar about half the time. It's great that you get to play, but it's great too see you perform without it some of the time.

Sus: Yes, it works out. I like to put my guitar down, it lets me be free to act up and mix with the audience. (I'm painting my nails.)

RL: I notice that your shade matches James' nails exactly - do you use the same bottle?

Sus: Yes, this is the band's nail polish, we share it.

Later, at Tim's place:

RL: Peter, how did your show go in New Orleans? I hear there's a good spirit in that town.

Peter Shamble: Oh, great. It's weird in that town. We played at a club called Mermaid Lounge, a cool club. I felt dizzy all the time in that city. At first I thought it was because I wasn't eating well. But every time I come to New Orleans I feel funny. Then someone came to me after the show and said "I know why you feel sick. I had to move from New Orleans because I always felt weird, and it's because they put lots of pesticides in the air." So maybe that's why I felt that way. But is a very mystical city, some people call it a Voodoo town. It's true, I feel something mystical in the air every time I go there.

One of the best shows of the tour was in Savannah. Both nights we played, the place was packed. And people who came the first night came back to the second show and brought many more people with them. It was really wild.

The rest of the band joins us, and we talk about some other things:

Suspiria: I wanna make the Jeanette Plat thing a label to help other bands that I like. That was always what I wanted to do.

James Jacket: I have a lot of other activities besides music. If I had more money, I'd like to make an institution for people who are, like, fucked up.

Lars Friedrich: Sometimes people with money are just such fucking assholes.

JJ: I think that money doesn't really change people that much, but I don't think so.

Sus: You cannot change your insides from one day to another just because you get money.

LF: But it happens to a lot of people, they get blinded by money.

Sus: If you are an asshole when you have money, it's because you were an asshole when you didn't have it, you know?

JJ: I just would like to have some power, the power to change things. It's all about ideas, not things. My desires are not really connected to materialistic stuff. I don't need much for myself.

Sus: I am happy to see people get something in their life from the band, I'm already happy with that.

JJ: It's such a great thing to see such big crowds singing along with us, I feel really honored by when that happens.

Sus: Or when they say "you're really a big influence to me," that's really good to hear.

RL: It's really wonderful the way you involve the audience, going around and getting them to scream.

PS: Many people tell us "I haven't screamed like that in years."

Sus: You know, you should have seen the faces of the people in the prison, when I give them the microphone, their expression. They hold so much inside there, it's like they really needed to do that.

RL: Yeah, like they feel "I can DO this!"

JJ: It's all about having fun, but for some people it's like therapy. At many shows I see people don't really move that much, they're like "I'm not gonna be the only one dancing." So they look at each other, and they kind of repress themselves, everybody is just there, like, contained. And that's why, even if we have to punch them, like "Wake UP!", this is what we do, we're their wake-up call.

RL: This is not video, this is LIVE! A whole generation of people have spent so much time watching MTV, they come to a show, stand way back and look at the stage like it's a screen.

PS: And so much of what you see on commercial TV says "OK, this is what cool is, you have to look like this." But you just have know that it's fine to do whatever you want and forget about that.

Sus: And MTV promotes the attitude "I am the big star, you are my fan, you are nothing."

RL: I've seen this happen to people I know. As they get better and bigger shows, they kind of morph into this rock star mode. And others remain real and honest no matter what. That's what counts, honesty and truth.

JJ: And I know people are intelligent, they can tell whether it's for real or not.

Sus: Of course, they are brainwashed, really brainwashed.

RL: Never underestimate the idiocy of the masses. There actually a lot of really stupid people out there.

PS: No denying it.

JJ: But you don't have to look at that, it's not necessary to focus on that.

Suddenly everyone noticed that the tape recorder was on, and no one could speak anymore. So we called it a night since the band was leaving early the next morning for Germany.