Lydia Lunch: Monogamy? Fuck no, I think it’s the death of the libido”

The performance artist, writer and musician releases So Real It Hurts, a collection of essays that range from diaristic rants to political scribes, with an introduction written by Anthony Bourdain.

Lydia Lunch is a leg­end unlike any oth­er. The per­for­mance artist, writer and musi­cian is a fire­work unto her­self – see­ing her per­form live is like watch­ing ver­bal fire­works, she has an uncan­ny abil­i­ty to fuse words togeth­er like bul­lets. She doesn’t hold back. She’s the author of over ten books and she’s now releas­ing So Real It Hurts, a col­lec­tion of essays pub­lished with Sev­en Sto­ries Press, which includes 20 essays from diaris­tic rants to polit­i­cal scribes, with an intro­duc­tion writ­ten by Antho­ny Bourdain.

Known as a key fig­ure from the no-wave move­ment in 1970s New York, singing in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks or per­form­ing along­side Son­ic Youth in Death Val­ley 69, recent­ly Lunch had her album, Con­spir­a­cy of Women, reis­sued by Nico­las Jaar’s label Oth­er Peo­ple.

She’s also the sub­ject of an upcom­ing doc­u­men­tary cov­er­ing her three-decade career, is soon to launch a pod­cast called the Lydi­an Spin and is going on a book tour across Amer­i­ca this month (start­ing with a sign­ing at Pow­er­house Books in Brook­lyn this Thurs­day). She spoke to us over espres­so and cognac about beat­niks, monogamy and her favourite music critic.

How did you get Antho­ny Bour­dain to write the intro­duc­tion to your book?

He was going to do his Low­er East Side TV spe­cial and we shut a bar down and had a great time, he was very rock n’ roll. I was try­ing to find a woman involved in pol­i­tics for six months to write an intro for my book, some­one to get me out of the lit­er­ary ghet­to I’m in, some­one who got it. Two days after I met Antho­ny Bour­dain, I thought I should ask him because I had a great time the short time we spent togeth­er. I went and did the voiceover for the episode and five days lat­er, he was no longer of this world.

Some of the sto­ries in the book are per­son­al, oth­ers are polit­i­cal. What ties it all together?

I want­ed to make a com­pi­la­tion that showed the diver­si­ty of my writ­ing. Any­one who knows my music knows it’s a diverse cat­a­logue. But I have a lot of dif­fer­ent styles of writ­ing on dif­fer­ent top­ics. I was hap­py to bring togeth­er a com­pi­la­tion that reached into these dif­fer­ent pock­ets. It cov­ers Trump, moth­er­hood and insom­nia – that nev­er goes away.

I like how you call preg­nan­cy the hon­ey­moon from hell” where women shit out a watermelon”.

[Laughs]. Hor­ri­fy­ing. I don’t under­stand the self­ish­ness involved, being that vain to think they’re going to birth some­thing so spec­tac­u­lar that it has to be on a plan­et that’s over­bur­dened. Philo­soph­i­cal­ly, I think it’s absolute­ly vul­gar. Most of the women in my cir­cle are not breed­ers. If some­one approach­es me and tells me they want a baby, I say: take off your pants. I’m going to fist fuck you for 18 hours straight, then I’m going to suck your tit for three years, then you’re going to give me a mil­lion dol­lars. If you can you adopt me, I’ll be your baby.” Somebody’s got to tell the truth about these things.

Why include the Drunk on Fuck essay, which details your sex­u­al exploits?

I was pray­ing on men to erase the stench of my father’s hands, some­thing to turn the beat around. It wasn’t about the sex, it was about the ener­gy, the anonymi­ty, the achieve­ment, the per­ver­sion, the hit and run. It was all bull­shit. It was more than just sex, it was just about anonymi­ty, I want it now, I don’t want any respon­si­bil­i­ty or ties to it. It was freeing.

Do you believe in monogamy?

Fuck no, I think it’s the death of the libido. Why are peo­ple so tra­di­tion­al? Look, if it works for you, but I can’t see how it can and I don’t see how its anybody’s busi­ness of what you do when they’re not around. I always tell my lovers: if you want 100 bitch­es, let me help you get them.’ Go ahead. Peo­ple can have what­ev­er they want because I’m going to have what­ev­er I want. It’s that simple.

Why did you love Lester Bangs’ writing?

He was total­ly gonzo; his writ­ing was bril­liant. It didn’t mat­ter what he was writ­ing about, he was filthy, and he wasn’t even a dirty old man. It was the mind­set of a gen­er­a­tion. Lester loved me, which was strange because back then, every­one was run­ning away from me.

There’s an essay about Beat Gen­er­a­tion writer Her­bert Huncke, what did you admire about him?

He was one of the orig­i­nal Beats and even William S. Bur­roughs and Allan Gins­berg stole the title junkie” from him, and that’s what he was. The orig­i­na­tors were often swept aside, and espe­cial­ly writ­ers. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean peo­ple know your books.

Do peo­ple still read books any­more? As Karl Lager­feld said, for every book you read, you have to buy the time to read it”.

Peo­ple have their remote-con­trol imag­i­na­tions, where all they can read is a head­line or a news­pa­per arti­cle. If your imag­i­na­tion has been reduced to a 280-char­ac­ter Tweet, your brain is dis­solv­ing. If you like to binge watch TV on the week­ends, well, you could be read­ing a fuck­ing book, which stim­u­lates your brain in a very dif­fer­ent way.

There’s a sto­ry out­lin­ing all your brush­es with death. Is there any­thing you’re afraid of?

Fuck no, we’re going to end up there even­tu­al­ly. I’ve had many more brush­es with life. I think death fears me. It’s had enough chances. I’m not afraid of any­thing at this point.

What advice do you have for women writers?

Become an archi­tect or a chemist. Writ­ing is a loner’s sport and it’s very dif­fi­cult. I think all women should write, that’s why I do work­shops, but I had 26 rejec­tions for this book after writ­ing for 42 years, so good fuck­ing luck.

So Real It Hurts is pub­lished by Sev­en Sto­ries Press.

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