Women Of Sodom
By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 1995
Boston’s Women of Sodom have become well known for their intense live shows, which have a strong S&M edge and are on the verge of being performance art. On “Boots,” they prove to adapt surprisingly well to the audio-only environment and show they can cut it as a “band.” With several ex-Flail members on the instrumental side, Woman of Sodom have created an extremely enjoyable album that brings together gothic and industrial influences without showing even the remotest signs of copying other bands. The music is extremely dancy in places, and the band manages to pack some pretty interesting sonic experimentation into minimal arrangements. Because the music leaves a lot of breathing space, the highly erotic vocals are never overpowered. The nice thing about “Boots” is that Women of Sodom probably didn’t need to try this hard; their dark, sinister image and lyrics of female domination could probably sell their music on shock value alone. Instead, they’re put together a great album that actually has catchy melodies. If you ever saw the noisy (but still cool) live shows from this band’s previous incarnation, Women of the SS, you’ll know that this is no small feat.
The following is Chaos Control’s interview with spokeswomen Ilsa.
I’d usually never ask this question but because your group is so unusual I’m interested in hearing your response; what, in your own words, is The Women of Sodom?
The original Women of Sodom lived in the infamous biblical city of the same name. These open-minded people pursued sex as an experiment, an adventure, rather than the traditional, pleasure-free “procreation-only” sex of the day. We pay homage to the rites and ideals their city was destroyed for. We embrace and explore strong sexuality, experimentation, homosexuality, equality, and hedonism.
Since your performances are so visual, did you find it challenging at all doing a CD? Did you take any particular steps to make the music stand up on its own, perhaps using different means to achieve similar audience/listener response?
It was challenging to take songs created for the visual show and make them work on CD. Xavier and I have been growing visually and musically ever since we started working together about a year ago. What works in a stage show won’t necessarily come across well on CD; therefore, we had to rebuild all of the songs from scratch. We added background vocals to enhance the quality and depth of the songs: bluesy scatting, medieval chanting, and housey jazz melodies. Xavier experimented with a sound-design program and created very new, very fresh sounds. I focused more on raw, growling vocal melodies and sultry spoken word insults rather than typical industrial screaming which has already been done so many times and is so hard on the ear. The booklet is icing on the cake, since it shows that not only are we creative but we’re rather nice to look at too! Now that we have improved the quality of the music, we reversed the process and rebuilt the live show around the new CD — so making a CD helped us grow as a band overall.
I noticed an “adults only” warning on your web site. What are your feelings about on-line censorship?
Our Webmaster, Adam (at Drawbridge, Inc.), explained the need for the warning and we trust his judgement. I disagree with censorship of any kind. If parents don’t want their children looking around the web freely, they can just buy one of those programs which hinders the kids from looking at anything with dirty words in it. Personally, I believe that education and freedom for children is much more important to help children grow up well-adjusted. The example a parent sets for a child is far more important than what they’ll see or read on the web.
Can you explain a bit about the history of the band, and how you evolved from the Sleep Chamber spinoff Women of the SS?
John definitely got me started in this! I danced for Sleep Chamber a bit and was in some videos so I asked if I could do a live show for his Women of the SS music, which wasn’t a band, just an experimental music project of his. He said sure as long as I did all the work. I enlisted my friends Larisa and Zemya to join the new band. That is how I started out. Zemya moved to California and Larisa and I decided to branch out and work with Xavier and Bob so we could make our own music which would better suit my lyrics, which had absolutely nothing to do with nazism (which I abhor).
Who are the current members of the group? Are any involved with other projects/jobs that carry over into their work with Women of Sodom?
Bob and Larisa have left the band and the line-up is currently Xavier (music, guitar, bass), myself (lead vocals, lyrics, ideas, and music), Anneka (vocals, bass, music — she is also the lead singer in the up-and-coming band Splashdown on Castle von Buhler Records), Zina (torture), my sister Krystyna (guitar-playing nun), and Sahar (bellydancer). Our slaves and enema nurses vary.
None of the band members are strippers or professional dominatrixes. All of the women currently in the band are artists. Bina and I are professional visual artists, Anneka is studying music composition, Krystyna is studying art therapy, and Xavier is a computer engineer. Personally, I find painting to be a bit limiting sometimes as it is not as spontaneous as performance art, so performing live is exhilarating. Having a band chock full of artists lends itself to expression rather than just staging a sex show with no substance.
Because of the nature of your performances, do you ever have problems booking shows, or do clubs give you strict guidelines regarding how far you can go? How has the general reaction to you been in Boston?
Because we have such a large draw and receive such good press we have been offered so many shows that we cannot take them all. When we played at the Sextacy Ball in Boston and NYC with Thrill Kill Kult/Lords of Acid they asked us not to spray the audience with the enema water. Other than that the only other club that restricted us is Club BabyHead in RI, who asked us not to give the enema because the police were present. Often club contracts state “no sodomy” or “no blood.” I don’t consider sticking clean water in someone’s butt sodomy — it’s colonic cleansing. In Boston, we have an excellent following. A booking agent is sure to pack a club if we are on the bill. The audience reaction varies from person to person. Some are enthralled, some horrified, but nobody ever seems to be bored. Reaction to the CD (according to our radio tracking which is being done by Triage, NYC) is quite positive across the board, which is encouraging. We get some very interesting comments on our radio tracking reports!
Have you done any shows outside of the Boston/NY area?
Yes, we played on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and Rhode Island, and Northampton. Currently we are planning tours to Chicago/Canada, California/Las Vegas, and New Orleans/Texas.
How has your label been working out, and do you think you’ll ever seek to get Women of Sodom’s music released through a larger record company?
Our label, PussyKitty Records (the label logo is a kitty coming out of a pussy) is a subsidiary of Castle von Buhler records, although it is a separate corporation. Both labels are distributed by Feedback out of Chicago. We get stacks and stacks of mailorder requests just for PussyKitty everyday. Our CD is currently on the CMJ list of top sales by our distributor and we received a call from Cargo (Canada) saying they want to distribute us as well. We don’t need a major label to make a profit as we already are doing that ourselves; however, a major label would make touring and promotion more affordable. So, we are not against the idea but I would only want to sign with someone who would promote us well since that would get our message across to more kids, so the girls will be more confident and assertive and the boys will give women more respect and equality. We have talked about this since we have been approached by a couple of labels already. We feel that we can keep doing this on our own and be just fine, but it might be cool given the right label to have someone help with management and promotion so we can focus on the music and performance. Castle von Buhler Records feels the same way. It is very empowering (although hard work) to start and maintain your own successful label. So fuck you, big labels. You are nothing!
I haven’t seen you perform live for a very long time (well over a year) and many of my readers probably haven’t had the chance to see you. How would you describe your shows, and how have they evolved throughout your career?
We have improved so much since our Women of the SS stage. Boy, did we suck then! We were entertaining and we looked great, but now we have so much more substance and vision. The music is much more important now, although we consistently aim to outdo ourselves as far as being an entertaining performance. Our music is more techno dance rather than industrial gothic now. I like world music and house, so we throw that in, and Xavier is really into sounds. He likes cartoon sounds and I like snakey sounds. We both like melodic hooky pop music. We keep striving for that hooky pop song full of angst and innovation that will capult us into everyone’s dreams and nightmares.
Do you use live musicians on stage, or backing tapes?
Both. We have a DAT tape of the computer sounds, samples, and dance beats. All other instruments are played live, such as guitar, bass, vocals, conga drum, castanets, marakas and background vocals.See all interviews →