Not only is Lydia Lunch a Gemini—the sign of the twins—but she herself contains a twin. This is what the multidisciplinary performer and self-proclaimed “apocalyptician” tells me, recounting how she was conceived with an apparently male twin that died in utero.
“You know how when you have a living twin that dies, you feel an absence? Well, since I might have strangled the little bastard in the womb, I have a double. I’m doubly Gemini….I feel as male as I do female, I’ve always been that way,” she says. “I guess I absorbed him.”
Like fellow Gemini Walt Whitman, Lunch certainly contains multitudes. Rising to notoriety in New York’s 1970s No-Wave scene as frontwoman of Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, Lunch has written books, appeared in films and recorded with dozens of musicians.
Lunch will perform Murderous…Again in Palo Alto this Saturday, a spoken word and “psycho-ambient jazz noir” piece with saxophonist Matt Nelson and bassist Tim Dahl. Hosted by Earthwise Productions at Mitchell Park Community Center, the current iteration of “Murderous…Again” runs for six shows in Northern California and Seattle.
It’s just one project of the handful she currently juggles. Lunch co-hosts a podcast, also with Dahl, called Lydian Spin. She recently finished filming a documentary for which she interviewed 25 artists across disciplines (including her own literary agent) on depression, anxiety and rage.
Spoken word, while just one of Lunch’s many creative tendrils, is a form that allows her to express that multiplicity with particular ease.
“In this format, I can have many different types of my writing put into one concept. A little poetry, a little ranting, a little whispering, a little shouting….get it all out!”
When prompted on the art’s various titles and genre labels, Lunch has some feelings—the title of “poet” gets a strong “Nah,” with a shrug.
“I like ‘spoken word’ because it’s so generic. I prefer ‘confrontationalist’ to ‘performance artist.’ I don’t even like the term ‘musician.’ Just a…creative irritant. I just thought that up, but it sounds good,” she says, making herself laugh with each sentence.
Lunch’s co-conspirators on Murderous…Again are similarly mercurial in their work. Nelson became known playing with Oakland indie group tUnE-yArDs, and has toured and recorded with several other bands as well as releasing a solo album, Lower Bottoms. Dahl, who made his name as a member of the noise-rock band Child Abuse, joins Lunch not only on the Lydian Spin podcast but in their band RETROVIRUS.
“They can go anywhere and everywhere,” Lunch says of the two musicians.
The project known as Murderous…Again began in 2020, during Lunch’s “absolute boredom over COVID,” when she took some instrumental tracks of Nelson and Dahl’s and recorded her own words over them at home. Enjoying the results, Lunch shared the reworked tracks with both artists, forming a basis for the trio’s live collaboration.
Opening for the trio is Eugene Robinson, of experimental/noise-rock band Oxbow. Lunch has also worked with Robinson. “I’ve sung with Eugene, performed spoken word with him, I once brought him to the Barcelona International Poetry Festival, I’m very excited he’s on the bill. We have a lot of crossover, Eugene and I…plus I love to wrassle him.”
“I love to wrassle him! I know he can kick my ass, but I know his weak spots. He always shows me a deadly maneuver that I never need to use, but then of course I have to use it on him.” (She also informs me of Robinson’s nonfiction author credit, Fight: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ass-Kicking But Were Afraid You’d Get Your Ass Kicked For Asking.)
While Lunch works from a set text, the shape and sound of “Murderous…Again” has evolved over the last few years.
“In this configuration, I’ve been encouraging Matt to start with something very filmic noir,” she says. “Kind of a sexy-dirty-alley sax sound, which is not really where it goes, then, because it just goes more improv-jazz-Satanic….sleaze ‘em into the world, the reality we’re exposing them to.”
While the performance changes each time, this world remains consistent with Lunch’s darkly funny, raunchy and purposely abrasive aesthetic.
“I may go off the page, but there are things I need to and will say.”
Mitchell Park Community Center, Palo Alto
Sat, 8pm, $25