CHICKS ON SPEED with SLIT SLOT at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Saturday (April 14). $9. 416-968-2001.
meet the anti-spice girls -- mel-issa Logan, Kiki Moorse and Alex Murray-Leslie, aka Chicks on Speed.
Their cleverly electro-tweaked reconstruction of Malaria's Kaltes Klares Wasser has the distinction of being the first ode to golden showers ever to crack the German top 20. Club music kicked out with a punk aesthetic that's smart, sexy and side-splittingly funny -- how could it miss?
There's definitely a contrived aspect to the Chicks on Speed concept -- these aren't just three suburban gals brought together by their love of X-Ray Specs. Contrary to their corporate-configured contemporaries, though, they don't try to hide it -- they thrive on it.
"We wanted to be puppets," casually confides upstate New Yorker Logan from the Chicks' Berlin headquarters. "But puppets that we conceived and created instead of something that was assembled by a manager or record label.
"We're a "produced band,' but we choose the producers."
And the Chicks can't be faulted for selecting such shrewd electro-trash technicians as DJ Hell, Patrick Pulsinger, Christopher Just and Gerhard Potuznik, as the raunch-enriched joints compiled on their fabulous Re-Releases Of The Un-Releases (K) disc demonstrate.
Thanks to the insidiously bumpin' groove given to Glamour Girl, the Chicks' below-the-diamond-belt blow to the fashion biz eventually had the Parisian catwalks bouncing along to "Fashion victim on the air / I shaved off all my pubic hair / Sometimes they think I'm vermin / I've got more faces than Cindy Sherman."
So how did three bored visual arts and jewellery design students at Munich's Art Academy hook up with Europe's finest electronic sleaze merchants? They knew them all from working the door at the city's notorious Ultrasound Club.
It was while cavorting with the International Deejay Gigolos posse after-hours at Ultrasound and later in the Chicks own Seppi Bar that the threesome agreed to throw away gainful employment setting semi-precious stones and instead pursue careers not making music.
"Hanging around with all these DJ/producers," recalls Australian-born Murray-Leslie, "we wanted to do something, but music was never that important to us. We decided to form a band without music to challenge the myth of Jimi Hendrix.
"The merchandise aspect of it was more intriguing to us than the music," elaborates former Miss Vogue fashion editor Moorse. "The first thing we did was create our own boxed set with a T-shirt, a photocopied image of a record glued to a piece of cardboard and an interview."
More elaborate conceptual adventures followed as the Chicks drew on their shared backgrounds in performance art to explore the quirks of service-based social interaction.
There was the Living project, in which they rented a hotel room and invited people to look in on them as they lounged about on a bed, quietly reading books. But the Trading Post scheme had far more entertaining results.
"We'd put some of our personal possessions on a table in a busy city square to see what people would offer to swap for them," Murray-Leslie explains. "These things were meaningful items. Your mother would tell you to keep them forever.
"Some would try to convince us to take their expired metrocard while others just got annoyed when we told them the wedding ring couldn't be bought with cash. A number of people were freaked out to see Melissa's valid American passport up for grabs."
The highbrow hijinks continued for some time before it occurred to the Chicks that fooling around with music could be fun. Finally, producer Tobi Neumann convinced them to revise the Normals' Warm Leatherette. Their new-wave goof turned out to be a conceptual coup.
"When that came out, some journalist in Helsinki wrote that we were making "fake music,' and soon reporters were asking us heh heh about this new genre we'd invented."
That the throbbing and wheezing pulse at the core of the Chicks sound is largely the creation of their producer-collaborators does raise an interesting question about authenticity.
Certainly, performances in which the Chicks shout their "texts" over pre-recorded jams on digital play-back units textured with sampled noise and filtered effects are anything but conventional. But they're no less valid than the Beastie Boys rapping to a DAT. Authentic-schmentic. If the Chicks can rock the house with only CD players and their wit, then more power to 'em.
"Kathleen Hanna was saying that a lot of the riot grrrl types don't like Chicks on Speed because of the whole authenticity issue," Logan groans. "We use producers, and their feeling is that if you're a girl you should do everything yourself. Whatever.
"I have a big problem with the idea of artists having to slave away, working as their own managers, record label owners, producers and graphic designers. All you do is work yourself to death."