Since last I spoke with Greek punk band, Barb Wire Dolls (Isis Queen: Blondie, Respect & Punklove), they’ve been touring across the US and have just finished up recording an album with the legendary Steve Albini. I caught up with frontwoman, Isis Queen, for a tour and album update and to hear all about what’s happening in the world of the ’Dolls.
Since last we spoke your band, Barb Wire Dolls, have been on quite an extensive tour across the US; I’m sure there are many but, what has been one of the most memorable shows so far? And, what made it so great?
ISIS QUEEN: Having a packed house at the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip and having Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones come to see us! That was a big highlight, but so was opening for legendary Dead Kennedy’s singer Jello Biafra. Sold out and packed to the limit. I had for sure the best show of my life that night.
What’s been the wildest?
IQ: Getting arrested in Texas for indecent exposure. The police thought I took it too far when I pulled a fan into my sexy place and started imitating an orgasm. A riot almost broke out when the show was stopped. Luckily, the police were afraid the crowd would really start a riot, so they let me back on stage and I felt really lucky that I didn’t have to deal with being stuck in jail and missing out on the next tour dates.
What’s been the most unique place that you’ve played along the way?
IQ: The Boneyard in Columbus, Ohio. It is a hard core punk house and I had two huge guys trying to keep the crowd from breaking the barrier between me and them. They had no idea that I wanted into the pit, so I broke past the big guys and jumped into the wild moshing crowd and had one of the best shows on tour.
Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met while on your travels? Tell us about them. How did you meet?
IQ: Rex Angel. Our RV broke down in extreme heat in the desert near New Mexico and we were stranded for days waiting for tow trucks to get to a garage, and the RV kept breaking down. After the third day of breaking down, we were at a loss. No cell phone connection, the police would not help us since it was “out of their jurisdiction”, and we had to get to our big show in Los Angeles that night. This acid trip hippie from the ’70’s pulled over with a beard down to his groin and he looked like he was in ZZ Top. He did everything to help us, even drive us to California and offer to drive us back to the desert afterwards. He was on his way to Joshua Tree National Park to “shroom” with his son and he believed so much in rock and roll, that he made sure we got to the show in time. We will always remember this stranger who is a mystery still to us.
Barb Wire Dolls origins are in Greece before moving to Los Angeles. Is there anything that you’ve found surprising about American culture or grown fond of?
IQ: America is still the land of opportunity but it is most definitely not the land of the free. Freedom of speech is a joke. And, also a way to find yourself locked in jail under the pretension of being a terrorist threat. Where did the freedom go?! What happened to Occupy is the answer.
Barb Wire Dolls formed at The Ikarus Artist Commune (as part of your Kickstarter fund to raise money to help fund your record you’re offering the chance to spend a week with the band at the commune on the island of Crete); what’s one of your fondest memories from your time living there?
IQ: Just spending the day at the beach surfing with other artists and then taking turns singing songs at night in the courtyard with a fire blazing. So much creative energy was being created there on a daily basis, it still blows me away. The band members of Grouplove that all lived there can attest to this. They wrote most of their album there sitting under the shade of an olive tree.
I’ve been following your journey and it seems like you’ve had a bad run of luck with several vans breaking down and having to rent a U-Haul van to get to some of your shows; what other challenges have you faced on this tour?
IQ: Having the constant breaking down of our RV really hurt us. After a week, we ended up spending thousands to get to shows and in the end the RV died on the highway and we had to sell it for parts. We lost so much money by that one occurrence, that we appreciate more and more now the opportunity to finally get out our debut album and get back on a full US tour. In a working van though!
Barb Wire Dolls are currently on route to Chicago to finish off your debut album with Steve Albini! How did you come to collaborate with Steve? What’s it been like to work with him?
IQ: He simply is a genius and can capture a band’s live sound better than anyone else. We worked with him also because of the engineering he did with PJ Harvey on Rid Of Me. That album speaks volumes and no one but Steve could have made her sound so ethereal and magical.
Has he given you any invaluable advice?
IQ: Just plug in and play like you do at a show. Good enough for me!
What can you tell us at this point about your debut record? I understand that the songs you’ve written for it were wrote as you absorbed the essence of the people you’ve met on the road and of the magical places you’ve seen.
IQ: After we lost our RV, we ended up being ‘stuck’ in New Mexico for three months. We ended up rehearsing without a bass player and all these new songs came to be. Every day we would meet all these people, we would get to know them and what is going on in their lives, and how tough it was for them to survive and be happy in today’s world. This is a global thing now: people are in a deep sleep and need to wake up and start rioting and standing up for their rights and live the dream they always thought was possible. This album is all about waking up the dead, getting out there, and making a stand for yourself. There is always a way when there is a will. You just have to find what inspires you and just go do it before it’s too late.
In regards to previous recordings you’ve commented in past interviews that “we only record live and in one take” – is that the way you’re doing this record?
IQ: Always. It’s the only way for Barb Wire Dolls.
When will the new record be released?
IQ: November 6 in the Americas and Japan. We are still negotiating with a distributor for the rest of the world.
Last we spoke we got to know you a little better; what can you tell me about the other members of Barb Wire Dolls, Pyn and Krash?
IQ: There would be no Barb Wire Dolls without them. They mean everything to me.
How do you feel you’ve evolved as a vocalist with all the touring you’ve been doing and since Barb Wire Dolls’ last recording?
IQ: I changed direction naturally as we toured non-stop. The more zombies I met out there, the louder I wanted to scream to wake them up. Some of them have and some are deaf now!
Who or what inspired you to first start singing?
IQ: Seeing Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin sing in their movie, The Song Remains The Same. He was like a Greek God with the voice of an angel!
Who are your favourite vocalists?
IQ: Ari Up of The Slits, Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, and Henry Rollins when he screamed in Black Flag.
Lastly, what’s your favourite thing about what you do?
IQ: Meeting people and having them at a show where their energies and mine unite and we all are energized and inspired to continue on in this wonderful life we have been given.
Photo credits: 1 – Odio/Amor Photography / 2 – Jimmy Webb / 3 – Chris Evans