Black Bananas “Electric Brick Wall”
By Morgan Y. Evans
Most people have a hard time with change. We can’t all be David Bowie and make a career out of bravely embracing the next thing and making it part of us. Jennifer Herrema has never really had that problem, judging from her eclectic output over the years with Royal Trux, RTX and now, the funkifed Parliament and indie-electro boogie rock of Black Bananas. “Electric Brick Wall” is the groovy group’s latest banger and it is gonna be a beast of rubbery grooves, sexy and smokey vocals and everything else but the kitchen sink. The world needs Black Bananas everyday to become a super party and evolve into higher energy beings.
I caught up with Herrema, pretty much one of my favorite people ever, and got the lowdown from her about the new album, some weird shit that was going on, remixes, their crazy new video for “Physical Emotions” and sex in the media.
JH: Little bit of a crisis over here. We can’t find Jaimo. He’s been missing for three days and he left his car and his phone behind. We found a big bag of mushrooms. And nobody can find him.
MYE: OMG are you serious?
JH: Yeah, I was just talking to Nadav and said,”Man, you’ve got to tell his parents to call the cops. His parents are pretty fuckin’ weird, so…I have to go deal with somethin’ later.
MYE: Has he ever done this before? Maybe he had a bad trip or something.
JH: No, never. That’s what we’re hoping but a couple days… no phone, no car. I don’t even know if he had his wallet. I’m just hoping he got arrested for vagrancy or something and he’s just safe.
MYE: Yeah, God, that must be scary. Well thanks for doing this today. We can reschedule if you need to.
JH: No, it’s fine. There’s nothing I can do right now. Nadav probably has a better chance of convincing his parents to call the cops.
MYE: Are they a little paranoid or something?
JH: Yeah. They’re underground. Off the grid.
JH: Yeah. So…
MYE: I can dig it. I’m from Woodstock. I know.
JH: Yeah. I’ve already made a bunch of phone calls. I’ll probably go out later and drive around.
MYE: Well, burn some sage or something for good energy.
JH: Yeah, totally. Put positive vibrations in the air.
MYE: What else is going on? I know you guys have the new record out? Pretty psyched.
JH: Yeah. I was just over in London doing a bunch of press. We’re working on an extended remix for “Physical Emotions” and “Give It To Me”. It’s kind of turning into something entirely it’s own, so maybe it’ll be something new.
MYE: Are you remixing it yourself or working with somebody?
JH: Well, we’re just doing it on our own. It’s extended dance remixes. The Liars did a remix of “Physical Emotions” and that will come out whwnever the press people think it’s a good time. The Avalanches are gonna do a remix. I think it’s gonna be “Eve’s Child”. If people want to do it, I’m like “Yeah, sure. Here’s the tracks.” It’s interesting to see what people do. I mean, whatever. It’s not something I’ve normally done but there’s been a lot of requests lately.
MYE: You are known for combining a lot of different styles into a new, coherent whole. One thing I haven’t seen anybody ask you much is, how do you know what to leave out or edit?
JH: Yeah. (laughing) Sometimes it is a process. Especially “Physical Emotions”. We pulled all the guitar out. On this remix I want to add the guitar and a lot more in. It’s not easy sometimes but I know if I’m really happy with something. If something’s bugging me then it’s turn this down or pull this out, but when you hear it you know that’s it. Over the years you kind of know the range of sonic space things are taking up and if you need to free that space you can EQ or pull stuff out. Until you ear says ,”Yup, that’s it”.
MYE: I love that you’ve been releasing so many music videos. People think the medium is dead but I think the total opposite. There’s freedom in it.
JH: Yeah. It’s usually a collaborative effort. Like M. wartella had an idea. What was weird about that was we’d met that dancer guy Flattop years before. Biran had seen him performing on Universal City Walk and showed us and brought us the videos. We thought someday we had to do something with him. And I just thought subconciously we made it happen. The only thing we put in there was , let’s try and use this guy. And he came up with everything else. It was through his eye. The videos have always beena collaborative effort, working with people who I wanna see what they come up with. There is no total control situation where we clamp down. I’m just not like that anyway. It takes some of the pressure off and it’s fun. You get to see how other people see you. It’s super cool, because Wartella found something that is a total aspect of us, and I don’t think I would’ve ever thought of it.
It’s just cool.
MYE: You haven’t always wanted to crawl around on a giant boombox? C’mon.
JH: Yeah! And the Boom Box thing! The dudes came and brought like 50 boom boxes. It was cool.
MYE: They can build a real electric brick wall out of them. The title is cool. It has a kind of early 80’s vibe.
JH: Yeah, the tital has been around for awhile. Actually Kurt came up with it. Out of nowehere he was like ,” I think I have the name for the next album” and he said “electric brick wall”. At first I wasn’t sure but then I started thinking of and feeling the possibilities and I totally fell in love with it, so…
MYE:Are you planning the look of the band out these days? I just got a promo from a band Children of Technology and they have this speed metal, Mad Max, post apocalyptic look. It’s cool, but I don’t know if they alwasy walk around dressed like that. You guys kind of live your art.
JH: Yeah. It’s a different situation. I mean, I do think about the visual stage look of the band. Actually the last show we did we had a video synth to project and incorporate imagery behind us when we’rew playing. I’ve done stuff by myself. Done stuff with an 8 piece band or one other person. I think with the three of us it is cool to have something going in the background to create an atmosphere. Brian’s got the guitar. Kurt’s got the synth and I’ve got a synth and a mic, but I want there to be more for people to engage in. I’ve seen stuff in the past where there’s not a lot of instrumentation and I can get a little bored. I’ interested in adding that element of more to look at. But you can’t always. Some venues you have no wall to project on. It just depends, so whatever. But other than that, it’s just me, Brian and Kurt. Jaimo wasn’t involved in this album but he’s going through a lot of shit. I hope to get him back involved with us.
MYE: I heard you worked with Neil Haggerty on a few songs, right?
JH: Yeah. “Eve’s Child” and “Powder 8”.
MYE: Was it kinda wild to work with him again in a different context?
JH: Um, it was interesting having regular contact with him. We just hadn’t for like, eleven years or something. Other than like an email once a year telling me how the cats were doing. Some random shit. It kind of stemmed out of him doing the Twin Infinitives performance piece thing. We started communicating over that. he was explaining to me why he wanted to do it and we actually had a real conversation going on back and forth over email. I asked what he was writing and he said he had a couple things I might be interested in. It was actually really simple. He sent me over just like a lot of tracks, an array. He was singing and playing guitars. Real rough. But then i took it over to Brian and Kurt and we were messing with it. I changed some workds and sent him what we fucked around with. It was really easy. Nothing monumental yet. He was like ,” cool, cool.” After that, we just didn’t talk again. But, he’s a weird dude. But, whatever.
MYE: Do you think as much of your past when writing or try to work in the present?
JH: I just totally work in the present. I mean, the other guys, all of them are aware of the records I’ve made before. I don’t know to what extent those guys think about anything from my past, but I don’t think about any of it. I’m working under the same idea and credo, just different people. Me being involved, my aesthetic on all different levels is gonna be there. It just naturally ties itself together.
MYE: I was reading this Aerosmith thing where Joe Perry was saying he doesn’t even know if it makes sense to make albums anymore. They are out of their Sony Contract and I know they feel bad if they don’t sell so many units or whatever. But, I mean, I get it. You’ve been in it thirty plus or forty years. But you in particular are in a lucky spot because no matter how music is presented, on MP3 or vinyl or CD, you always have flowed with it whether it is a single or a full length. It’s not the point. You have records that work together where you want to listen to it as a colective unit, but it isn’t gonna hold you back either way.
JH: Yeah. I love the album format. I don’t think it’s any less important now but people don’t care as much. I mean, I don’t think people care as much about listening to an album as if it were a book. All these things like sequencing an album, the listener doesn’t care about it as much. It doesn’t have to be that way. Some things present themselves as a singular unit and somethings come fragmented. I also don’t have any problems shoving a bunch of random stuff together either. I mean, Aerosmith doesn’t even have to fucking make records anymore. That’s the whole thing, Joe. You don’t have to make anything! Juts make what you fucking want. Maybe they don’t feel they have the luxury of doing whatever they want because they have to, like you said, be seen in a certain light. They need to sell X amounts of units or they are failures. Which is so ridiculous. Music as art as opposed to pure commodity, sometimes people amke music nobody else ever hears, so that’s all on him.
MYE: Yeah, think about people in the middle of the Amazon on Ayahuasca and making crazy music no one ever hears.
JH: Yeah. It’s never gonna be heard by anybody but it doesn’t matter. But people like jOE Perry shouldn’t give a fuck at this point. They are rich as fuck. They should just do whatever they want.
MYE: That’s why I was entertained by the thuroughly panned Metallica album with Lou Reed, because it was so bizaare.
JH: I love the idea of it, but the problem is…Metallica, everything they do is fucking transparent. I’m sure they love Lou Reed and stuff but it really seemed kind of calculated. Whatever. These are just the things i read into.
MYE: When you did Transmaniacon you did that record sort of for your father but when you write these days do you sort of write from your life or come up with stream of conciousness sort of stuff?
JH: No. Mostly even stream of consiousness shit still comes back to something real. There’s never a clear message necessarilly but I can definitely write out of reaction. It’s all a bunch of stuff. I’m never really trying to tell anybody about myself personally, but even when I write in the first person I think of myself as like a character. I can write in the first personbecause of experiences, because it does cycle back to me, but there’s never a singer/songwriter element to it of inadvertantly being dydactic. It’s all myself, because I’m mining it. Does that make any sense? The character got its information from my brain.
MYE: It’s been bothering me lately that I’ve been watching a lot of The Walking Dead. They can say “fuck” and “cunt” on that show. Show little fucking kids eaten by zombies. But there is never any graphic sex or nudity. It seems like the body is more tabboo than violence. Even though sex sells. As someone who is seen as an intellectual but also a more empowered sex symbol, someone who is in control of their own presentation, why do you think people are still so spooked easilly by different body types or natural things?
JH: I really don’t know. Even just styling for Playboy there’d be certain designers and I’d reach out about doing a shoot and there’s been desigenrs that re completely like “we don’t condone Playboy or the exploitation of women”. I mean, it’s so fully ingrained. People don’t even know why. I think females maybe don’t want to be misconstrued as only physical as opposed to physical and intellectual. I don’t really knw. What do you think? I mean, we all know sex and nudity absolutely sells. I’m sure there’s been all sorts of studies. Honestly I’d think more people would do it. the sexuality component is a big marketing tool for a lot of bands for sure. It’s a decision. It is manipulating. By being naked they are saying “you have to look at me”. With music, I’ve never wanted to be manipulative. Even really sad, sad songs…I just rewatched the Karen Carpenter super sad movie again. That music is so fucking creepy and melancholy. So strangely manipulative. But I think mroe so than anything, music for music’s sake. If you can’t get people to enjoy it without playing games than you aren’t really just making music. It also is performance art or a different context, the state of entertainment where music is the side thing. There’s lip synching and stuff where the entertainment is the more important aspect. Stage shows and costumes and lights can be really cool.
MYE: You guys, you’ll hear the song first and it is epic and hypnotic. Then you see the band and it is ,” look at these cool wierdos and that beautiful, freaky chic”.
JH: Yeah, it’s not what we use to bring people in. I’m not against it. Whatever people wanna do. But call it for what it is.
Black Bananas “Electric Brick Wall”
Lana Del Rey is really depressed like legit. Her new opus Ultraviolence is appropriate to post about today on Metal Riot, before her Rolling Stone cover gets hyper analyzed, not just because of the Kubrick associations it fills my head with but because she has bigger balls than most shit-rate metal…
Extreme metal in general is kind of a minority within metal. When I say extreme I mean death metal, thrash metal, black metal. Even though people know of it, its still lower on the scale. Within it, youre always trying to fight to maintain and get things going. At some point you feel like an animal…
People, if they choose you, then they want you to decide
But you’d rather relax, kick back, enjoy the ride
There’s a catagory if you’re straight or gay
You’re a wild card gambler and you like it both ways
. bad brains .
Great j.m. shot from nyc brains show w gza we attended/covered.
. failure .