Desperate Danielle - Melody Maker, November 23, 1985
Melody Maker: Let's talk about women. Considering the words to 'Harvest Buns,' do you see yourself as a woman singing to women?
Danielle Dax: Obviously, being a girl, there are common points between what I write and what women feel, but I prefer in a way to transcend that and take it on a more humanistic level rather than just the male or female level. That whole lyric was about, not just unwanted pregnancy, but also the violation felt when raped and, taking it on a less extreme level, when pestered in the street or in a club, having unwanted attentions forced on you. I think, although most of the time that's a situation only women can relate to, there are times when a man can feel in that position, for instance, if someone is very definite about being heterosexual and have a gay man chat them up.
MM: If not a woman's singer than at least an independent woman?
DD: It's very strange. I was walking around the street doing illegal flyposting one evening and it suddenly dawned on me that there were very few women who'd put together an entire LP themselves, where they'd seen the whole process through, from the artwork to writing to playing to production. It seemed such an obvious challenge that I wanted to do it. That's why I did the first album the way I did, warts and all. I just thought it was quite an important statement for my own ambitions but also as an encouragement for other girls to follow.
Mothered by a dress-designer and drawn out by an intense education, Danielle Dax turned to painting for her expression. It was not until she met Karl Blake (now of Shock Headed Peters) that her career in music and the Lemon Kittens was born.
MM: Do you think successful people in music waste their opportunities, chances to say things usefully from a position of respect?
DD: I think. . . one thing I've only just recently come to realise, if you want to be very successful in music it's an advantage to be stupid.
MM: How do you mean?
DD: Well, I think the majority of very popular forms of music, say disco, pop, heavy metal, take the average intelligence of a person down to its most basic point. It's a disadvantege sometimes in having integrity and taste in what you're doing because, most of the time, you're just selling a commodity that most people coudn't give a shit about. To them music is something to chat people up to in a disco or play when they get home from work, or it's a nostalgia thing. They're not really concerned with the intricacies of the music business or writing.
With no intelligence, no humour and no energy in the charts, Danielle's assumptions of the manipulated artist would seem correct. Her records have the elements of pop in its purest form. She is bright, wild and sexy, her shows are full of theatre and ideas, she seems an absolute performer. Like an actress her stage persona gives no clue to her private character. Even now as she speaks she seems guarded.
MM: Do you act on stage?
DD: I think everyone who goes on stage wants to set themselves up as a performer. That's why they do it.
MM: But are you especially theatrical. . .
DD: Simply because I find there's a whole area within music that is unexploited, where people are very lazy. I'm very interested in the theatre and especially opera and ballet where the stage is utilised in a more interesting way. And all I'm trying to do is to take those interests and use them as effectively as possible. You might get people who go to a gig who've not heard the material or who might not like any of it. Therefore, if you can present them with something that's visually quite interesting, at least they'll gain something from it, if not musical appreciation.
MM: Tell us about the bodypaint. (She used to wear nothing else.) It must have taken a long time to make up.
DD: No, it was great. We all used to take over one of the loos and paint each other so it used to be quite quick.
MM: It must have been somewhat bizarre for your audiences walking in to have a . . .
DD: It used to be really good fun.
MM: Visually you have a hypnotic style, so tell us a bit about fashion.
DD: (cracks up) Fashion's just a joke. It's really only for people who want to be clones, who want to be told what to do. Um. . . it's just a tribal thing, no different to wearing different types of warpaint, or different tattoos. It's just a means of indentifying your clan.
MM: What about the film? (She appeared in "Company of Wolves.")
DD: That came about entirely accidentally, and it was very exciting but very frustrating because there wasn't a lot of scope to do much with that part. (Dax plays a wolf-creature who crawls hideously across the screen for about 20 seconds.)
MM: Have you had any offers since?
DD: I've had a couple of amusing ones, one was about the music industry. There was a scene at the beginning where someone ODs on the settee. It's like an old twits' version of music about six or seven years ago thinking it was relevant now.
MM: Do you have anything else to say, anything we've missed?
DD: The word "hippy" is no longer relevant. "Urban pantheist" is now the one.
Review of Dark Adapted Eye - The New York Times. March 5, 1989 by Jon Pareles
Among eclectic rock eccentrics, Danielle Dax makes Siouxsie Sioux (of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Lene Lovich seem constrained. Miss Dax and her collaborators, Daniel [sic] Knight and Steve Reeves, have soaked up everything from the British glam-rock of T. Rex to the lightly penetrating quavers of India's soundtrack vocalists to the industrial crunch of current dance music. She has the voice(s) to carry off all sorts of borrowings. And her lyrics show a smart, skewed perspective that allows her to describe bizarre doings with childlike whimsy or to put an arch twist on ordinary events. ''Dark Adapted Eye'' is her belated American debut; its 12 selections include seven songs from her third album, 1987's ''Inky Bloaters.''
Sisters of Mercy Come Back, With Their Old Dark Habits - The Boston Globe. April 1, 1991 by Jim Sullivan
The Sisters of Mercy. Playing live on Good Friday.
Is this cutting-edge chutzpah or what? Is this a devilish rock 'n' roll-cum-marketing dream of a scheme? Is this something that could only be hatched in the mind of a skilled provocateur like the ever-sunglassed, deep-voiced, semi-dangerous, Jim Morrison-esque singer-songwriter of Andrew Eldritch?
Perhaps. At any rate, the dark and doomy, hip-all-over-again Sisters of Mercy - launched by Eldritch and a different crew of players in the early '80s in Britain - made their first US apppearance in more than five years at Citi . . . on Good Friday. These Sisters - four guys and a drum machine called Dr. Avalanche - not only play secular music, they play an aggressive, agitated, sensual sort of piston-pounding, mid-tempo rock 'n' roll that is as ironically opposed to basic "good-time" rock as is their moniker to the tenets of the Catholic Church.
In all likelihood, the Easter-Passover timing is probably less a contrivance or sacrilege than it is coincidence: A band's gotta tour when a band's gotta tour. The new disc, "Vision Thing," is hot, and Eldritch has been plowing this minefield for years. It's a minefield of simmering tension, torturous screams, scattered explosions and a lot of emotional damage. It's only now - after several excellent, ferocious early import EPs, followed by a dull US debut album and a boring tour in the mid-'80s - that the revamped Sisters are making a major mark. They're huge in England and Europe, and they're poised to do something similar in the US. They sold out Citi well in advance of Friday's 17-song, 95-minute set and, in California, they're headlining a 12,000-seat venue.
Could the Sisters of Mercy be the next alternative-to-mainstream mega-crossover?
Don't count 'em out. Frankly, with songs like the disarmingly lilting and uplifting "Detonation Boulevard," the hypnotically swaying and sexy "Corrosion" and the angrily thrashing, cathartic "Vision Thing," they may, indeed, make the climb. The Sisters churn out moody, hard-edged, industrially tinged rock that's not far removed from that of Nine Inch Nails. Live, the Sisters aren't nearly as charismatic - Eldritch's idea of showmanship is to get lost in a chemical smoke fogbank and twitch - but the music's got all those key post-punk ingredients: tension, release, surprise, edge, crescendo, hooks. Two effective covers Friday: the Rolling Stones' festering, yet triumphant, "Gimme Shelter" and Dolly Parton's (!) "Jolene," an eerie, pleading love song that Rubber Rodeo once reworked - and that, I swear, must be the source for the Sisters' version. And one superb blast from the Sisters' own distant past, "Alice," a raving prototype for Eldritch's world-in-chaos aesthetic, boiled down to the fate of one desperate woman.
The odd thing about the Sisters' show was that, for all the good stuff - the lurking menace, the erotic undertow, the regained melodocism, the surging guitars of Tim Bricheno and Andreas Bruhn, the taut bass of ex-Sigue Sigue Sputniker Tony James - there was also a nagging static quality. Chalk it up to the unrelenting drum machine, which is not unrelated to Eldritch's penchant for a particular mid-tempo, early Stooges-styled swagger. So the music would sporadically bog down as the fog billowed and Eldritch growled. Yet, by the end, unlike the Sisters' last trip through town, you were with Eldritch's dirges-and-more program. "Something Fast" had an early-'70s Bowie-esque structure and stature - boasting melodic grandeur, quiet interludes and lyrical negativity - and "Vision Thing" brought it all back home with alternating blast of resignation and rage - harsh political and personal thoughts about the world in which we dwell. The Sisters of Mercy: Long may they brood.
Danielle Dax opened with what might seem something incongruous - an upbeat, swirling, sexy, pop-psychedelic set that was in no way cut from the Sisters' serious black cloth. It worked anyway, on its own terms. In just her third gig in three years, Dax came off, simultaneously, as a send-up of pop cliches and the real thing; her version of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" goofed on neo-psychedelia as it indulged in its glee.
Onstage: Gloom and Smoke; Off: Black Clothes and Angst - The New York Times. April 1, 1991 by Jon Pareles
Smoke began pouring onto the stage of the Ritz half an hour before the Sisters of Mercy appeared on Saturday night. A good haze is essential to bands like the Sisters of Mercy. Fans call them gothic, a category that requires gloomy, cryptic lyrics, an aura of mystery and a pounding dance beat; the music draws audiences that wear black clothes and heavy makeup, signifying sensitivity, angst and an acute fashion sense.
By the time the Sisters of Mercy turned on their drum machine and started to play, the members' faces were obscured while the smoke caught dozens of spotlight beams in geometric splendor. Only Andrew Eldritch, the Sisters' singer and songwriter, was fully lighted during the set, between bouts of flickering strobe lights and dramatic silhouetting; then again, he kept his sunglasses on. But fans were thrilled to see him at all, since it was the English band's first tour since 1985. For the occasion, he wore white and stalked the stage as if he'd been studying Jim Morrison's poses in "The Doors."
The band's various lineups have been united by its drum machine and by Mr. Eldritch's bass-baritone vocals. In his lowest register, he is a stoic voice of doom; at emotional moments, his voice rises with a pained vibrato or on occasion a joyless yodel. His lyrics move between romantic suffering and images of apocalypse and anomie, seeing the world as "four billion empty faces." His writing has made some progress in the Sisters' 11-year-old career; while the sentiments haven't changed much, recent songs are less likely to string together cliches like those in "Marian": "in the sea of faces, in the sea of doubt, in this cruel place, your voice above the maelstrom."
In the title song of the Sisters' new album, "Vision Thing" (Elektra), Mr. Eldritch cynically spits out the phrases of George Bush; introducing the song at the Ritz, he snarled, "I used to think, once upon a time, that you didn't all vote for him. Now I think I was wrong."
The Sisters of Mercy have toyed with keyboards and choirs, but the current band is lean and guitar-centered, with its riffs punctuated by guitar solos or feedback; Suzanne Josefowicz's keyboards are less prominent than her descant backing vocals, an octave or two above Mr. Eldritch. The stripped-down arrangements emphasize both the bleak tone and the momentum of the songs, but a the risk of sounding repetitious. For those who don't already think Mr. Eldritch is a deep moral philosopher, the Sisters of Mercy work best as an ominous dance band.
Danielle Dax sold herself short as the concert's opener. On her albums, she is shrewd and eccentric; her songs and arrangements can be wide-eyed or oblique and they use simple rock patterns with a broad streak of parody. On stage, the parody was lost while the simplicity remained. Her band stomped through three-chord blues-rock or two-chord funk vamps while Ms. Dax, dressed as a standard pop sexpot in black hotpants and a blonde bouffant, undulated her hips and let the band drown out most of her singing. Perhaps pretending to be a second-string Siouxsie and the Banshees is a commercial gambit, but any new fan Ms. Dax garners will get more than they bargained for.
Enjoying Life's Quirks With the Open-Minded Danielle Dax - Chicago Tribune. April 5, 1991 by Tom Popson
Danielle Dax says that although some people might consider her to be slightly eccentric - and if you release albums titled "Jesus Egg That Wept" and "Inky Bloaters," you can get that sort of reaction - she doesn't see herself that way at all.
"I think all I am is open to ideas - and I attempt to view things in a quite childlike way in a sense," says Dax, a British singer, songwriter and instrumentalist whose artistic endeavors also encompass painting and acting.
"I think everybody needs a degree of sophistication to survive in the modern world, but not to the exclusion of still having that sense of excitement from life, that enjoyment of what it has to offer - really grasping it with both hands and being open to all the quirks, all the twists that it has to offer."
When asked, however, Dax - who calls herself "pretty straightforward" and "quite level-headed about things" - will confirm reports that she has covered the front-room walls of her London home in tinfoil.
"Well, again it's back to this childlike way of approaching things," says Dax. "Why not? It's good insulation, and it was cheap. But also I come from a visual background anyway. My grandfather was a painter, and my mother was a dress designer. So to not embellish my home environment would be (a) lazy and (b) totally against my nature."
Actually, says Dax, there are several things a first-time visitor might notice about her home.
"The hallway is completely zebra-striped with a mirrored ceiling and a library in it," she says. "It's very long and thin. There was a TV series in England called 'The Avengers,' and it looks like it's from that. And, of course the front-room with the tinfoil and the fluorescent ceilings and floors. There are fluorescent green dots in places and bright pink ceilings, floors and furniture. I have handmade furniture, which I've customized with a scroller, which is like a type of jigsaw.
"It's kind of like a psychedelic Jayne Mansfield boudoir," Dax summarizes with a laugh. "It sounds really unappetizing, but in fact if you use the right shades, it's quite nice - warm and refreshing at the same time. And, you know, it's just fun."
Dax swears that this description of decor is true. Even if it weren't, though - even if Dax lived a completely straight-arrow existence - the onetime resident of Southend, a British seaside resort, unquestionably has created some intriguing music in her time. Her current album, "Blast the Human Flower" - on which Dax sings and plays guitar and keyboards - is a crisp, exhilarating spin through both rock and dance-music contexts, marked by Dax's sweet, clear voice in most places but also by her occasional turns to whispery or husky-sensual shadings.
While the singing and playing of Dax and her band are very accessible, "Blast the Human Flower" also gives evidence of a distinctive musical vision - a combination that is not all that common in pop music. Immediately enjoyable the album also leaves you with a strong sense that an interesting left-field intelligence was behind it.
"The idea, really, is to retain integrity and creativity but also try to reach as many people as possible," says Dax. "If you think about cinema and the people who are remembered now, Chaplin is certainly one example. He was widely loved but also very innovative, and I'd like to think it's possible to do that with music."
Many Americans might not be familiar with Dax. "Blast the Human Flower" is her first release in the States, her earlier albums - the aforementioned "Jesus Egg" and "Inky Bloaters," plus a record titled "Pop-Eyes" - having been import-only items that were released on Dax's Awesome label in Britain. But Dax's profile may be raised a bit now that she and her band are making their first tour of the States, opening for the Sisters of Mercy - they all arrive Friday at the Riviera - to tie in with the release of "Blast the Human Flower."
In addition to explorations of organized religion, politics and war, Dax's album finds her addressing the No. 1 topic of pop music, love and relationships, but in a decidedly off-center manner. The song "Daisy," for example, juxtaposes gentle, violin-accented music with harsh subject matter: a tale of a homicide committed out of frustration and a subsequent loving offer of "sanctuary" to the murderer by Dax.
"I've always enjoyed bringing together opposite extremes," says Dax of the song. "I like the idea of having a bitter pill and coating it with a bit of musical sugar.
"And when you get situations involving murderers, there's always somebody - wife, a mother, a friend - who still loves them even though they've done something that is morally reprehensible. I find that quite an interesting scenario."
Growing up in Southend - which she says has "a quaint, rather peeling gentility to it that's quite sweet" - Dax apparently was not exposed to much music.
"My family was about as unmusical as you can get," says Dax, "to the degree that we didn't have a radio or record player until I bought one as a teenager. I grew up in a very isolated way, with a sense of being able to occupy my time in a solitary way, whether by painting or reading or simply making things up."
Although Dax has a brother, she says he exhibited a similar "loner" temperament.
"It's a good strengthening process," says Dax. "You learn a degree of self-reliance early on, which in this business, I think, is essential for survival."
In later years, Dax traveled to Africa with acquaintances, partly to explore the Great Rift Valley - she had an interest in geology, she says - and partly to ponder in a removed setting what she wanted to do with her life. She decided to do "something artistic," but at the time thought that would be painting.
After returning to England and the university town of Reading, she designed 1980 record sleeve for Karl Blake, who was recording material under the name the Lemon Kittens. Dax joined Blake in the Kittens, her first organized music activity.
An "arty" (Dax's choice of word) outfit, the Lemon Kittens performed from time to time in body paint against backdrops painted by Dax. Dax sang and played keyboards, flute and sax, learning as she went.
When the Lemon Kittens eventually dissolved, Dax established Awesome Records and began collaborating with friend David Knight, who contributes keyboards, guitar and bass to "Blast the Human Flower."
Dax says she originally wanted to make records for which she did just about everything - performing, producing, songwriting, handling business aspects - because she couldn't think of a woman who had done that. And while she has collaborated with Knight and others, that sense of independence and determination is still evident.
"I've worked with a number of different people now," says Dax, who took time from her music career to appear as a "wolf girl" in the 1985 movie "The Company of Wolves." "But it's still my project, and I still call the shots. It would be more difficult (to collaborate on a project) if there were a group of people trying to have a democratic setup. Although I work with Dave and we co-write, at the end of the day I still have final say whether I like the way a particular thing has gone."
Who: Sisters of Mercy, Danielle Dax Where: Riviera Theatre, 4750 N. Broadway; 769-6300 When: 7:30 p.m. Friday How much: $20 (all-ages show)
Some Not-So-Hot Gloom Rock With Sisters Of Mercy - Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1991 by Jonathan Gold
Now that the smartest depressed teen-agers are into Nine Inch Nails and the hippest are into Happy Mondays, Lush and stuff like that, such old-style gloom-rockers as the Sisters of Mercy have to try harder. Black clothing, Gothic lyrics and sunglasses-at-night have, after all, been around for quite a while now.
But Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre, the Sisters' singer-auteur Andrew Eldritch didn't do so well. He posed a little, danced a little, hugged the microphone stand Lou Reed-tight and moaned in a way that recalled the histrionic baritone of "Heroes"-era Bowie. He tried to make the high-school date-night crowd understand his pain -- the sensitive girl in any John Hughes movie might have melted from the anguish.
Eldritch performed letter-perfect versions of his formula hits, over the sounds of a drum machine, keyboards and guitars, and a monotone eighth-note bass. He was the not-too-charismatic frontperson for an anonymous no-soul revue (Bass player Patricia Morrison, who used to play the soulful Keith Richards to Eldritch's Mick Jagger, has left the band.)
One thing you've got to say about these shows, though . . . the lighting is superb: violet beams penetrating gobbets of dense fog, intense beams of pink and green and blue, swirling tunnels of light and color that any mid-'60s production of Die Walkure would have been proud to claim for its own.
Opener Danielle Dax, who was the thinking-man's doom-rock sex symbol when she sang with the Lemon Kittens, opened with a slick, brassy set of gloom. Death-rock, where is thy sting?
See also The Danielle Dax of Silence page, which reprints an extended interview.