by Verena Spilker

Rhythm King And Her Friends has always been a very important and inspirational band for me, because they seemed to be the first one explicitly addressing queer or gender issues in Germany (even though Pauline is French). Therefore I somehow felt I could relate to them more easily than to bands from the US for example, although this is the country where they got inspired. Without the Riot Grrrl movement that started in the US in the early 1990s and queercore bands like God is My Co-Pilot, Rhythm King and Her Friends might have never come into existence. With their last two albums I Am Disco (2004) and The Front of Luxury (2007) they proved that they are an outstanding band that will hopefully continue to inspire many.
I met with Linda Wölfel and Pauline Boudry before their concert in Leipzig at Connie Island in June 2007 to ask them about language, their new album, and the queer music scene.

What does the term queer mean to you?

Pauline: One possible translation of the word queer would be “perverse”. It was originally meant as an insult. But the people addressed as “perverts” turned it around using it as something to proudly define themselves. Like Afroamericans used the word “n*****” or the way the term “bitch” is used. And then in the 90’s with the emerging postcolonial discourse and the understanding of gender as the social sex, in opposition to the biological sex, it became important to set a limit to identity politics. If you only talk about a marginalized group, as such, you reinforce the existing categories and a contradiction comes up: the norm is represented over and over again and in this, becomes even more reinforced. Self-defined “normal” people need the “other” to set the boundaries to their own existence to understand themselves as normal.

In many feminist debates Queer Theory is accused of blurring the line between certain categories, like men and women, and in doing so is working against the equal acceptation of both sexes. Do you see that the same way?

Linda: No, not really. Maybe that has got something to do with the term queer becoming too imprecise lately.
Pauline: Yes, people forget where it comes from and all of a sudden all heterosexual males that wear nail polish are called queer. Another contradiction is that at events that are addressing gender issues men still talk so much that women don’t get the chance to say anything at all. Under these circumstances it makes sense to argue strategically from an identitary perspective.

In an interview from 2004, the year your first album ‘I am Disco’ came out, you said that you hardly know any other bands that combine queer content with electronic music. I think that has changed a lot lately.

Pauline: You think so?
Linda: Well, there are a couple of bands to name. Scream Club, Lesbians on Ecstasy, Bunny Rabbit…Who else?
Pauline: There are a few. But still, not that many.
How far do you think you have contributed to the establishment of a queer music scene in Berlin?
Linda: That is really not for us to say, if other people say that we inspired them… but I think by the time we started, there were at least a few others that had had the same idea.
Pauline: Yes, but we didn’t know about them at the time and we had the feeling we had to create a whole new thing for ourselves. For example we had to figure out how to address an audience that expects a heterosexual performance. We didn’t have any role models for that.

When and why did Sara, the third member of Rhythm King and Her Friends leave the band?

Linda: Sara left almost three years ago. That was the time we started touring for our first record. She left because she didn’t like touring. It was too stressful for her. We were in England and it was totally punk rock. She wanted to finish her university degree and didn’t want to have another major issue in her life. We both chose this lifestyle and have been working really hard for this band the last couple of years. There are a lot of ups and downs, because there is a lot that we have to do ourselves, and she decided against that, which was very sad because we were working on some really nice things at that time. But she didn’t have fun touring abroad. Now she lives in Vienna where she works and started a new band as well.
But a couple of months ago we found a new drummer! We always wanted to try playing with a drummer, but the last two years we have basically just been touring by ourselves. Now it feels a little more like a real band again. Up until now we didn’t really have the time to rehearse everything, but there are a couple of songs from the new album that we can play live together, and we are also working on new songs together that we’d really like to record soon. And it all works really great!

So, what else has changed in between your last album and your most recent one?

Linda: I think many things have changed. After the first album it took us a while until we were able to put together new songs and record them. The last record was more electronic, less guitars. There were many songs that were recorded without real instruments, only samples and drum computers. But know we have keyboards, guitars and a bass. We sing a lot more together as well, in two voices.

What subjects do you address on your new album? One of your new songs is called “Metrosexual Ride”. What’s that about?

Linda: That is meant as an ironic commentary on this term that seems to be without any meaning at all. And we were laughing about it before, because it seems kind of untypical for us in a musical way as well. It seems very fluffy. But lately the usage of this word has slightly decreased, because it really doesn’t mean anything, does it? Men that brush their hair… and strange people thinking that that makes them gay…
Pauline: Also the album is called The Front of Luxury. In the song of the same title we sing about work and the needs of people. “We are the Front of Luxury” was a slogan from the leftist autonomic movement in the 70‘s in Milan. With that they meant that luxury does not mean owning luxurious goods, but that it’s a luxury to define your own life, find different ways of working together, create different circumstances for yourself, and write your own history. “Desire is working like a factory!”

You sing in French, English and Bulgarian. Did you ever consider singing in German?
Linda: Sara sang in German once, mathematic disquisitions from her informatics class. But that was a long time ago. We never tried it, it simply never happened.
Pauline: Right. It’s not that we have anything against singing in German, it just never came up.
Linda: It wasn’t a decision that we made, but I like the fact that we are singing in English, because this way we can reach more people. On the new record we are only singing in English and French, mainly English. We get mails from people in Oslo, Moscow and so on. If we weren’t singing in English it might have never reached them.

When and why did Sara, the third member of Rhythm King and Her Friends leave the band?

Linda: Sara left almost three years ago. That was the time we started touring for our first record. She left because she didn’t like the touring. It was too stressful for her. We were in England and it was totally punkrock. She wanted to finish her university degree and didn’t want to have another major issue in her life. We both chose this lifestyle and have been working really hard for this band the last couple of years. Sometimes it’s a lot of ups and downs, because there is a lot that we have to do ourselves and she decided against that, which was very sad because we were working on some really nice things. But she didn’t have fun touring abroad and lives in Vienna now where she has another band and works as well.
But since a couple of months now we have a new drummer! We always wanted to try playing with a drummer, but the last two years we have basically just been touring by ourselves. Now it feels a little more like a real band again. So far we didn’t really have the time to rehearse everything, but there are a couple of songs from the new album, that we can play live together, and we are also working on new songs together that we’d really like to record soon. And it all works really great!

So, what else has changed in between your old and your new album?
Linda: I think many things have changed. After the first album it took us a while until we were able to put together new songs and record them. The last record was more electronic, less guitars. There were many songs that were recorded without real instruments, only samples and drum computers. But know we have keyboards, guitars and a bass. We sing a lot more, together as well, in two voices.

What subjects do you address on your new album? One of your new songs is called Meterosexual Ride for example. What is that about?

Linda: That is meant as an ironic commentary on this term that seems to be without any meaning at all. And we were laughing about it before, because it seems kind of untypical for us in a musical way as well. It seems very fluffy. But lately the usage of this word has slight decreased, because it really doesn’t mean anything, does it? Men that brush their hair… and strange other people thinking that that makes them gay…
Pauline: Also the album is called “The Front of Luxury”. In the song of the same title we sing about work and the needs of people. “We are the Front of Luxury” was a slogan from the leftist autonomic movement in the 70s in Milano. With that they meant that luxury does not mean to own luxurious goods, but that it is a luxury to define your own life, find different ways of working together, create different circumstances for yourself and write your own history. “Desire is working like a factory!”

Interview by Verena Spilker

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