Bart Plantenga: We met in 1993 at a spoken word event at the pseudo-hip Fez in NYC. I remember you describing yourself as an anarcho-royalist, something like the spirit of anarchy with the amenities of royalty. You disparaged the entire suffering artist affliction [Van Gogh, Billy Holiday, Cobain, ad nauseum]. You still stand by this assessment?
Judy Nylon: I absolutely stand by it! Poverty and sanctity are separate issues. I hate suffering for or by anyone or anything ever… There seems to be no rule here. Sometimes inherited wealth or physical beauty even drops on the right people. It gets creepy though when someone misuses what they’re given; like when some clown with a 19th-century robber baron trust fund looks at a restaurant bill and informs you that you owe seventy-five cents for the coffee.
BP: The suffering artist constantly inventing new addictions to overcome to get it up for the muse… Have you learned to dodge the damage of isms and addictions that people seed their roadways with to make their journeys seem more heroic?
JN: Oh, totally, inside I’m still the feral boy in Road Warrior (laughs). I mean a lot of people who go from rock’n’roll, into writing bring a “downtrodden” tone as signifier of “realness”. It’s unfortunate. I’m not a big fan of that whole beautiful loser scene. Life viewed from the bottom of a beer bottle that’s dirty and looks out into a bus station in Atlanta — no.
BP: I think of your life as an artistic achievement… Is it OK to live life to the fullest without having it validated by documentation?
JN: It’s not your call. I mean, if you’re dead and your life ends up resurrected by the culture coroners, it’s beyond your control. And if you do come back, you have no memory of it anyway… So the best you can do is to ride it while it’s rolling. You know, while it’s unfolding, like ribbon candy. All I can say is that I’M NOT BORED.
BP: In your liner notes to Pal Judy you noted how exciting the late 70s were for transcending clichés and genre prejudices. How do you feel today about the fluidity of culture, oozing and permeating at will, metastatically?
JN: Clichés and genre boundaries are justifications used to reward mediocrity. All music — all art — is the collective mind building soul. Right now in America there are the same number of people who list their occupation as “artist” as there are incarcerated in the prison system. The more people involved in building a soulful culture, the fewer left to destroy it in rage.
BP: You went to London in the early 70s…
JN: You go where people find you attractive and you feel compelled by the culture. London had resonated deeply even in my childhood. At 21, I got off a plane alone with $200 and carry-on luggage. I was embraced by very interesting people and allowed to create my character. Everything seemed possible. I have that very strong constitution that Keith Richards once said was the ante to be in rock ‘n’ roll. I have a hard head to chop. I’m just a life-long working artist. If I’m stopped in music, I make a lateral move to film or writing. The biggest obstacle of my generation was gender prejudice. Being young, female and foreign was the ultimate music business handicap in England. I remember sitting in Faichna O’Kelly’s office (when he was managing Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats) weeping with the exhaustion of struggling for an equal chance. It clued him in so that by the time he handled Sinead, she got real support and back-up. She was the first one on a major label to get a producer’s credit on her recordings.
BP: You started out working with Brian Eno.
JN: Yeah, the first time was one “Ooh La La!” on a single called “The Seven Deadly Finns”. Somewhere in the vaults at Island, there is an early seventies video of me and Polly Eltes performing my guitar Kama Sutra (cheesy moves from arena rock), edited to the typewriter sound on Taking Tiger Mountain, then played back on a pyramid of old TV sets with Eno in a beret standing in front singing his vocal. This was pre-MTV. I would love to see it again; it must be hilarious. The anecdote about the inciting incident [the harp record] that started Eno’s Discreet Music series has been told with several slight variations on the sleeve, in interviews and a number of books over almost 30 years and even translated out of English. According to what I remember, it was inaccurately told, even on the first record sleeve. There were two people in the room, him and me. I could recreate it as if it were written by Robbe-Grillet, but not one interviewer or author has ever asked me my version to this day. It would take a truly modern artist to say, “This is what I remember but you might also ask Judy”.
JN: So it was pouring rain in Leicester Square, I bought the harp music from a guy in a booth behind the tube station with my last few quid because we communicated in ideas, not flowers and chocolate, and I didn’t want to show up empty-handed. Neither of us was into harp music. But, I grew up in America with ambient music. If I was upset as a kid I was allowed to fall asleep listening to a Martin Denny album…I think it was called Quiet Village. The jungle sounds, played very softly made the room’s darkness caressing instead of empty as a void. Pain was more tolerable. Brian had just come out of hospital, his lung was collapsed and he lay immobile on pillows on the floor with a bank of windows looking out at soft rain in the park on Grantully Road, on his right and his sound system on his left. I put the harp music on and balanced it as best as I could from where I stood; he caught on immediately to what I was doing and helped me balance the softness of the rain patter with the faint string sound for where he lay in the room. There was no “ambience by mistake”. Neither of us invented ambient music; that he could convince EG Music to finance his putting out a line of very soft sound recordings is something quite different. We both listened to the early seventies German wave and were influenced by them too.
BP: You’ve evaded a certain level of fame. You’re not mentioned in either She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop & Soul or The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. Is that strategy or cultural myopia?
JN: Evaded? My strategy’s always been to outlive everyone else. It may not work but no one else will be around to know. But as I’ve already said, I trust my luck and I’m usually at something at its best point. But I’m the first rat off the boat when it’s going down. You stay at something too long and the joy is dead. I think that artistically it’s all the same voice whether you’re doing film, print, or spectacle…
BP: You’ve said that you “find fiction a place where you find yourself not under pressure.” Is this reappraisal time — how your life fits together through writing?
JN: I’ve just gotten to a certain point where I’m curious as to whether you can learn to like what’s good for you.
BP: What about Eno’s song “Back in Judy’s Jungle”?
JN: Ah, yes, a tribute to…I’m very orderly; my things form tablescapes and I like ergonomics. It helps me deal with chaotic humanity.
BP: I listened for references but his Lewis Carroll-esque lyrics made it difficult: “These are your orders / seems like do it or die / so please be sure you read them closely / … I got the job because I was so mean while somehow appearing so kind /… / back at headquarters cocky decisions are made / file under futile, that should give you its main point of reference / it’s all so confusing / … there were milkmen every morning / it never used to be this way…”
JN: Well, I’ll tell you one little thing about it. This was when Brian [Eno] had been thrown out of Roxy [Music].
BP: For what? Crimes against tasteful haircuts?
JN: More like crimes against Bryan Ferry. All art’s somehow autobiographical or self-referential when it’s decoded. I was introduced to Brian by The New York Dolls at a party in Blake’s Hotel. And since his living arrangements were in complete disarray he moved into mine. He’d been sleeping in a chair at his studio because his fiancée, ceramic artist Carol McNicol (who also designed those costumes for Roxy Music) had thrown him out of the house and Brian Ferry’d thrown him out of the band for what might be politely termed “meanness”. He arrived with a small suitcase to move in with me for a few days while he restructured his situation. I lived on the Southside of Redcliff Gardens in a furnished flat owned by Mario Amaya (the dealer shot with [Andy] Warhol), a flat which incidentally Cherry Vanilla would live in later. I look as if I’d be don’t care-ish but in fact I’m kind of warrior-style so all of a sudden he moved into a situation where the International Herald Tribune and milk were delivered in the morning… Everything that had to do with the support system was incredibly ordered. I’ve always lived like a Samurai or at least like Alain Delon in the movie of that name. I already knew how to run a household smoothly. “Don’t waste wildness at home, put it in your work”. I’m paraphrasing Flaubert here. Presumably “headquarters” was E.G. Music, where Eno went every day to fight for a career after Roxy. Curiously, Brian Ferry lived in a flat on the Eastside of Redcliff Square. We’d make a dash for it leaving the house. I might live like a soldier but it was Brian who was at war.
BP: Eno comes from the other end of orderliness…
JN: I rule objects. He rules …people?
BP: In an interview in 1995 on my WFMU [NY/NJ] radio program, “Wreck This Mess” you were doing voiceovers. And when I said, “you’re more than a voice!” You responded, “But I like to be a bit of a retired presence. I don’t like to physically be there. And now of course, is my time. You don’t have to be.” Do you still believe this — a virtual presence, presence by insinuation? Does this suit you?
JN: I guess it suits me. Being louder and more visible would probably make it easier to get projects funded but it’s embarrassing to watch people writhe for the spotlight. My relationship to people and music has always been intimate; it’s natural to me to work and live that way. I suppose I’ve always wanted a global audience without the intrusion of really stupid fame, the kind that cuts you off from moving around unobtrusively and impairs your — I picked up this word “fingerspitzengeful” — feeling something before you see it. … Probably more important than five bars of anything I ever wrote, is the fact that I asked for the same kind of production support that Fripp, Eno, Bowie and all those guys got … a project budget based on an idea whether or not the record company understood it. It’s “risk money”, budgeted as the “research and design” end of any commercial business. I’d met Eno right after he got to do Here Come The Warm Jets so my expectations for artistic freedom were high. My choice was often between not getting to see my idea realized or doing it with the money and credit going to whatever guy is attached to the package. The “beautiful loser” status on offer to females who self-destruct makes me gag and I don’t care how many albums you can milk it for. I never got “jack” but I never backed down; I just had to work in other ends of the arts at the same time and accept the fact that it will take me longer to produce a body of work. But then what’s the hurry if you’re not going to die at thirty. — from 3AM Magazine
Judy Nylon @ Wikipedia
Judy Nylon interviewed
ALL I WANT IS SNATCH
Judy Nylon Fansite
5 minutes with Judy Nylon
Cutting a swathe with Judy Nylon
ALL I WANT IS ALL YOU KNOW – JUDY NYLON INTERVIEW BY MEL
Judy Nylon – Alchetron
Howl Festival Punk Panel 2008 (60 minute Punkcast video) Read More: Howl Festival Punk Panel 2008 (60 minute Punkcast video)
Small Nostalgia (Judy Nylon)
Eno (with Judy Nylon and Polly Eltes) China My China (1974)
‘A Pre-MTV pre-release promo for Eno’s 1974 LP Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy. Brian performs in front of a stack of tube TVs backed by Judy Nylon and Polly Eltes on guitars. Polly and Judy also sing on the LP. This was recorded in 1974 at Island Records in Shepherds Bush where it languished for all these years in the tape storage room.’ — knickerbockerbaby
John Cale (with Judy Nylon) The Man Who Couldn’t Afford To Orgy (1974)
‘Well, when Cale and I toured together… He might have initially thought he was hiring a back-up singer, however … I had started out as a painter so I had no idea what to expect. He was the only guy who ever asked me to be in his band. The only person I had ever seen him work with was Nico, so I assumed that was my job definition… But anyone who doubts you need a certain constitution for rock’n’roll should put in some time on a Cale tour. John, during those years — 74-92 — was so ridden by demons and damaged from the Velvet Underground experience that he had no idea what normal human behavior was and often justified cruelty as truth or some kind of brat theater. I’d missed him intellectually over these last years but the time came when I’d outgrown my ability to tolerate such demanding self-centeredness…We’re in touch again now on a better wavelength. I’m glad it’s worked out.’ — Judy Nylon
SNATCH Amputee (1976)
‘Snatch was the duo of Patti Palladin and Judy Nylon, a pair of expatriates who recorded their punk scree at the former’s flat in London, England. They recorded a demo with a number of songs in 1976; Bomp’s Greg Shaw offered to release anything from it, and the I.R.T. single, featuring two of the demos, was released in February of 1977. Their next single, All I Want, added drummer Jerry Nolan, bassist Bruce Douglas, guitarist Keeth Paul, and pianist Nick Plytas to the lineup. It wasn’t released until March of 1978. The 12″ Shopping for Clothes, released on Fetish, took even longer, surfacing in April of 1980. Palladin reached her greatest level of fame as the detached voice behind the Flying Lizards’ version of “Money (That’s What I Want).”‘ — allmusic
SNATCH Stanley (1977)
‘”Stanley” allegedly features Captain Sensible on guitar. The 7″ was released in the UK by Lightning Records in July 1978 with a pic sleeve.’ — 45cat
SNATCH All I Want (1978)
‘Even the most hardcore rock snob has probably never heard of Snatch. If they have it’s usually in connection with Brian Eno, who they recorded an amazing song about the Red Army Faction with in 1978 (“R.A.F.” was the b-side of the “King’s Lead Hat” single). I discovered them when the elaborate picture sleeve of “All I Want” jumped out at me as I flipped through a well-curated box of 45s at my friend Nate Cimmino’s apartment in the East Village in the mid-1980s. “They sound like The Shangri-las if they’d have been crack smokers, I think you’ll really like them!” he said.’ — Dangerous Minds
Brian Eno (featuring Snatch) R.A.F (1978)
‘B-Side of the 1978 Eno single King’s Lead Hat. R.A.F was the infamous 1970s German anti-imperialist urban guerrilla group.’ — collaged
Judy Nylon Trial By Fire live at Max’s Kansas City (1979)
‘Super rare live recording of the Judy Nylon band with Alejandro Escovedo on guitar.’ — Paul Tschinkel
Judy Nylon Heartbreak Hotel live on Paul Tschinkel’s Inner-Tube (1979)
‘This performance was taped at Max’s Kansas City. Judy played the New York Club scene for a while and this powerful performance is innovative and exciting.’ — Paul Tschinkel
SNATCH Joey live @ Hurrah (1980)
‘I’m not interested in pink lipstick and mohair. I find the whole kind of thing that Blondie’s selling to be particularly offensive. I’m very strongly anti-religion, and anti-family because I see that they’re like a COMPLETE BONDAGE and one of the biggest walls to climb … and the only way … is to get away … from whichever country you’re in… What SNATCH is about is ACCESS TO INFORMATION.. .AND PASSING THAT INFORMATION ON. … The only reason I’m doing all this is to broaden my education, to keep learning….’ — Judy Nylon
SNATCH Black Market (1980)
‘I don’t know. I’m intuitive about my choices, but I have no big plan. Every time I have tried long range planning, the universe has thrown a spanner into the works. I learn about what interests me, process it into my own voice and let it out. It only seems like a straight path when I look back. I suppose it is reasonable to say that I connect to a line of self-taught artists whose work is based in personal experience. Some of the obvious early ones like, Kerouac or Melville or Ella Fitzgerald, were certainly not ‘outsider artists’ and there seem to have been a high percentage of people who lived, picked up their own influences, then turned up in the arts. Originally art rock/punk/no wave music was an open door for a lot more people like that, now this too seems to require self-funding and a university background. In my tribe, speaking of a New York long gone, if I think about who was self-taught and cross-disciplined, John Lurie springs to mind, Lydia Lunch and Alan Vega. There are probably a few more. We all started when nobody needed a last name or an academic resume. It has become easier to evolve in the pursuit of art, information is less hidden, but it is hard to be an artist revolutionary if you don’t die young. I didn’t die so I have a shot at a long artistic life that will be classified different ways at different stages by other people. It’s not my call.’ — Judy Nylon
Judy Nylon & Crucial The Dice (1982)
‘Judy Nylon’s solo album, Pal Judy (ON-U LP16), which she co-produced with Adrian Sherwood, grafts Snatch’s blues poetics and electronic compositional structures onto fairly straightforward rock music and has the audiophile cachet of being eternally elusive, perhaps heard only on some late-night pirate radio show. The result, a moody, adeptly created and performed record suggestive of Patti Smith, smacks of modernised cocktail-lounge music (in the best tradition of that genre). Nylon’s vocals are acrid and funny in their scope, but the record is stolen by her laconic, opiated rendition of “Jailhouse Rock”. Nylon’s beat-inspired lyrical extrapolations were well-suited to Sherwood’s expansive sonic collage. It’s a tremendously seductive record that certainly gave rise to the opinion that Nylon was embarking on an interesting solo career.’ — On-U Sound
Judy Nylon & Crucial Others (1982)
‘Now seems as good a time as any to re-up Judy Nylon’s indecently fine Pal Judy LP. Recorded in 1982 with Adrian Sherwood & the On-U Sound posse, her collaborators here include members of Dub Syndicate, New Age Steppers & African Headcharge, though the overall sound is anything but “dubwise”. Instead, it’s a seductive suite of moody, twilight pop songs, each of them complemented by Judy’s laconic drawl: “a classic rainy day bit of sound & song to drift away to”, according to the NME. Though there are definite comparisons to be drawn with Nico’s 80s work – a presiding John Cale influence, perhaps? – Judy’s sultry cocktail post-punk rarely recalls Nico’s remote, opiated ethereality.’ — Eskimo Fox
Judy Nylon & Crucial Information Rain (1982)
‘With Adrian Sherwood’s amazing production technique providing the foundation, Nylon takes off on this dark, moody exercise in postmodern pop. Oddly, Pal Judy disappeared almost immediately after its release, and it wasn’t until the American label ROIR rediscovered it and reissued it on cassette and CD nearly a decade later that it was put into wide release. And it’s a good thing, because it represents Nylon’s finest moment, as well as more great work by Sherwood.’ — allmusic
Toni Dove Spectropia (2006)
‘While searching the past for her missing father with a time machine of her own invention, the young protagonist Spectropia is accidentally transported to New York in 1931. There she finds herself in the body of a female sleuth called Verna de Mott. Spectropia is a time travel drama exploring the anxieties generated by capitalist consumer culture and emerging technologies through a ghost story and the metaphor of supernatural possession. The cast features punk legend Judy Nylon as “a talking object”.’ — IMDb
Æther9. Ghost trio. Frame 6. Novi Sad. Videomedeja. A Samuel Beckett Play. (2007)
‘We’re revealing our adaptation of “Ghost Trio,” by Beckett on Saturday December 15th. Written in 1975, taped in ‘76 and televised on BBC2 in 1977. It is a parallel universe played out in the same slice of time as the first wave of British punk. Beckett, I wish we’d met. My fellow aethernauts and I would be delighted if you would join us live on-line at our first chance to bring this play from TV to a wider audience. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing and you won’t have to worry about how you’re getting home. Members of Aether9 will be performing from Medellin, Yorba Linda, NYC , Brussels, Geneva, and Paris. The audience, those in the same room, will be joined at ‘Videomedja 2007’ at the Museum of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, Serbia, by two Aether9 artists from Austria and Slovinia who will host the Q & A which follows the performance.’ — Judy Nylon
Bot’Ox (featuring Judy Nylon) Tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse (2013)
‘The two members of Bot’Ox are prominent figures of electronic music “made in France.” Julien Briffaz was for a long time part of the house and techno duo Tekel, also written [T]ékël. All brawn on the dancefloor and full of humor in the titles («Deep Turtle» or «Acid Bonanga» are part of their anthology tracks), the two mutts each took a different canine road in 2009 after a slew of singles and an album published in 2006 with Initial Cuts. Since then, you are most likely to find Julien Briffaz in the studio. Cosmo Vitelli earned his reputation as a producer during the early French Touch years, remixing or being remixed by De Crecy, Cassius and Daft Punk. He also during this time produced a wealth of personal works which lead to the release of the album «Clean» in 2003. In 2004, he founded the label «I’m a Cliché» to whom we owe the debut success of Simian Mobile Disco, Azari & III and Yuksek. His consuming passion for music gradually balances out, spread among three roles: DJing, running his label, and being one-half of Bot’Ox.’ — Bot’Ox website
The Mutants (with Judy Nylon) How Dare You (2014)
‘The Mutants is a twin turbo unit put together by Chris Constantinou (Adam Ant) and Paul Frazer (Black Futures), joined by an all-star cast of legends, icons and idols including Judy Nylon, Wilko Johnson, Wayne Kramer, Neville Staple, Rat Scabies, TV Smith.’ — collaged
Judy Nylon Broken Glass (1983)
‘Judy Nylon were New Wave Band from Utrecht, The Netherlands, named after the avant-chanteuse Judy Nylon. They were active from 1979 – 1984.’ — discogs
Brian Eno Back In Judy’s Jungle (1974)
‘A sort of ramshackle waltz by Eno, from his brilliant Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). The title Judy is the legendary British singer and figure Judy Nylon.’ — clashdohertyrock
A Conversation with Judy Nylon. Hosted by Melissa Unger. (2015)
‘I have access to so much now that I am less dependent on other people immediately around me and concerned more with establishing my own personal filters. I think we’ve all become smarter now that we have a worldwide group memory. I feel like I am part of a pack of collaborators, building something. The challenge is to keep adapting to override all attempts to make any part of the world cut off from the whole. Remember the nights when you were up late and looked out, across the cityscape, for other windows that were lit up? Now I can see the green Skype lights of my friends who are on-line regardless of how many time zones apart we are. It has the same cozy feeling. In the project aether9 that I was involved in, we rebroadcast live traffic cams even though we didn’t control them, within our 9 frame streams to locate the story we were telling. Once I learned how to hack into live public cams, I watched the riots in Athens by jumping from traffic cam to traffic cam as if I were running in the street. In all the arts now, the whole spectrum of experimentation you can expand upon, from the extremely intimate to the universal, has become far more subtle/nuanced because everything is archived from many angles. Almost any moment can be re-examined, and almost as it is happening. Making art can seem spontaneous, but the thought process is disciplined, otherwise you’re just gaming.’ — Judy Nylon
p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Thanks. Courtesy of Mr. Ehrenstein: ‘Here’s a great conversation between Isabelle Huppert and John Waters in which among other things they talk about her films with Catherine Breillat.’ ** T. J., Hi, T. J.! Awesome. I don’t know that Cavani film, I’ll check it out. Top of the week to you! ** Nightcrawler, Hi, I’m kind of a workaholic type. Gisele Vienne’s and my theater piece-turned-film ‘Jerk’ was initially a radio play that we expanded into theater piece. I think that’s the extent of my experience with audio only, but the idea of an audio only novel excites me, partly because I don’t think it’s ever be done before? Your scrapbooks sound really intriguing in description. Yeah, when they or samples from them reach a shareable state, I’m super curious. Thanks a bunch! ** Misanthrope, Hi. It was pretty simple, only took a few minutes. Now I have this bandaid-concealed, stitched up wound-ette on my forehead for a couple of weeks. The doc is having the thing biopsied or whatever, but he thinks it’s nothing serious. Cat still there? Name? ** Steve Finbow, Hi, Steve! Pleasure to have you. I’ll go read your review and give others the opportunity. Everyone, The most excellent writer Steve Finbow reviewed Catherine Breillat’s novel ‘Pornocracy’ back in 2008 for 3:AM and it undoubtedly deserves your eyesight and attention. It’s here. Thanks again, and I hope all’s great in your neck of things. ** Dominik, Hi!! Oops, my excessively hungry blog strikes again. I think so, re: your theory about smoothies, and, yes, why the hell are we wasting our considerable brains on them. I think we both need to guzzle down one and find out. Huh, about the shit pills. I would say maybe I should do a post about them, but I’m absolutely certain I won’t. Three ‘ha ha”s isn’t so bad. I always kind cringe when I use a ha ha in the p.s., and yet I would cringe more if I used a LOL or emoji. Love working in the kitchen of the restaurant I ate at last night and making the Welsh Rarebit I ordered at least 10 times larger, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hm, yeah, I wonder why his turn in Breillat’s films wasn’t parlayed into something sustainable? Good question. ** Steve Erickson, Well, Dworkin was alive when those films were released so maybe she had an opinion. Maybe she even wrote about them? (I will admit I’m not a big Dworkin reader). Oh, man, I feel you on the 104 day. Yikes. I want to see ‘Nope’ — after all, it has an amusement park in it! — but my expectations are pretty low. I only really liked the first 2/3 of ‘Get Out’ and I didn’t like ‘Us’ very much. I, or rather Zac and I since we’re doing it together, haven’t thoroughly thought through the audio presentation details yet, but at the moment we’re thinking yes on sound effects and no on music. Good thing you’re reaching out to those radio shows. No fun, obviously, but a great and even maybe necessary move. ** Bill, Hi, B. No, I haven’t liked the last few Claire Denis films at all, and my interest in the new one is very low. Eventually I’ll see it, I’m sure. If you see it, report back please. ** Thomas Moronic, Hey, buddy boy! Thanks! How are you? Is the novel still chugging along? I see you survived the heatwave. Me too re: ours. Love, me. ** Okay. For whatever seemingly good reason I’ve decided to raise today’s gig starring the curious and valuable musical auteur and living legend Judy Nylon from the dead for your hopeful delectation. See you tomorrow.