Lisa King has been a veteran of the Rock-n-Roll psychic wars for quite a few years now. Her band The Hot Place were formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 2011 out of the ashes of the indie darling band The Swimming Pool Q’s. They are currently in the studio recording the follow up to their 2015 debut, “The Language of Birds”, which has seen a recent re-issue on orange vinyl (see the links at the end for information on how to order). Her output can be found on her record label ‘No Big Wheel’ as well as her singles only subsidiary label ‘Sashimmy’. She took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to speak with us at Torched about her side project Hexotica, the release of their debut digital single ‘Lunar Sea’, as well as the rest of her busy work roster….
Thank you for taking some time out to answer some questions for Torched Magazine, Lisa!
It’s my pleasure!
What was the catalyst for Hexotica? It’s quite a departure from your full time band The Hot Place. Who are you collaborating with?
Hexotica is a side project of mine. The Hot Place is the main band that I work with as a vocalist and bassist, with Jeff Calder of the notable Southeastern new-wave band The Swimming Pool Q’s, and Mike Lynn, formerly of college rock band Betty’s Not A Vitamin, who has been playing guitar with me since the days of our 90’s alt-rock band Unminded. The Hot Place is heavily influenced by 1960’s psychedelia, 1970’s classic rock, and the post-punk and new-wave sounds of the 80’s. The Hot Place has a focus on intricate guitar work, songwriting and arranging, and vocal melody in a more traditional rock format.
Hexotica is definitely a departure from that. It’s a tape-loop and experimental electronic recording project with my longtime friend Penny Courtney. I’ve been collaborating with Penny since high school in the early 80’s. We were always very interested in what I’d call “classic industrial” music, like Skinny Puppy and Ministry, and artists who pieced together tape loops and samples like Severed Heads and Pop Will Eat Itself. In fact, I met Penny, who then went by the name of David, one morning in the school hallway because he had a Pop Will Eat Itself shirt on, or maybe the logo was painted on his jacket or he was wearing a badge. We instantly became friends, and created a band with my friend Andy at the time, called Threshold. That band was another experimental electronic band, and we recorded about 3 albums on cassette, using a Tascam and Alesis 4-track, a Peavy DPM-3 and Ensoniq SQ-2 Keyboards, and drum machines like the Linn LM-2 and Alesis HR-16. Midi was kind of new, and we would hook everything up, loop it, play guitar over it, and add really odd vocals. Later on, David and I would continue the project as a duo, under the name Sampling Footstomp. We loved the Casio SK-1 sampling keyboard a lot. I still have all the master cassettes of Threshold and Sampling Footstomp in my archive! Maybe one day I’ll reissue them.
I didn’t really realize how big the early 80’s cassette culture was, until David turned me on to the Australian underground scene. In 2016, he would embark on a huge project involving the German label Vinyl on Demand, writing the extensive liner notes to the 7 x Vinyl LP Compilation titled “Magnetophonics- Australian Underground Music 1978-1984” (VOD144). It’s really more of a small book, with photographs, art, and interviews. He has always been passionate about tape loop culture, and his collection of rare cassettes is really impressive. The handmade art, and live element of the performances on some of those cassettes is amazing. Artists like The Loop Orchestra, Kurt Volentine, The Horse He’s Sick, Browning Mummery, and Severed Heads are featured on the compilation, as well as some Terse Tapes artists, which was founded by Tom Ellard in 1979. David conducted a lot of interviews with the artists involved, and engaged in a significant amount of research. My home studio, No Big Wheel Studios, transferred some of the more rare cassettes to a digital format, so that the music could appear on the boxed set. That was a real honor.
I must mention here that David (gender Male) is transitioning into Penny (gender Female). So, from this point on, I’ll refer to her as “she”. Penny is also a great DJ, and I’ve worked with her as DJ Gori in the past. In yet another side band of ours, The Von Vons, we have made some EP’s and Singles for World Goth Day. All of the funds we raised from our special WGD downloads would go to support The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, a charity which spreads awareness and promotes tolerance, concerning bullying Goth and Alternative Subcultures. Penny makes a lot of electronic music on her own, as well as some really interesting videos, which you can find on the No Big Wheel Records/Sashimmy You Tube channel.
How would you describe the sound? Ambient? Electronica?
Probably a little of both. It’s certainly atmospheric at times, but definitely based in Electronic music. “Lunar Sea”, our recent debut single, started off with me creating a tape loop with my guitar. I used my trusty Telecaster, and ran it through my Boss Delay and Chorus Pedal, through a small Marshall practice amp, and discovered a chimey sound, which was reminiscent of a Hawaiian ukelele or something like that. I’m a big fan of Johnny Marr, and anytime I can achieve a good, chimey delay sound, I always secretly think he’d be proud of me for that. After looping the guitar, I had about 4 parts. Penny then assembled them in an arrangement she liked, and added what I call the “nautical atmospherics.” The sounds are whooshy, and sound like sea spray, or perhaps the creaking underwater sounds of the Nautilus submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Then, I took the song into Electron Gardens Studio, where The Hot Place is currently recording, and with Tim Delaney as recording engineer, I added my signature 1964 Joe Maphis Mosrite bass sound on there, and recorded the vocal track. I think the vocals were influenced by Kate Bush, or perhaps Bjork or Elizabeth Fraser of The Cocteau Twins. I am also a big fan of Siouxie Sioux’s side project, The Creatures. So, all of that inspired the vocal performance. The B-side, “Obscurum per Obscurius”, which in latin means “explaining the obscure by means of the more obscure,” began with a Wurlitzer and drum tape loop I created. Penny collects interesting samples and sounds all of the time, and she had this perfect sound of a woman’s voice, coming through what’s been called “a haunted Victrola”. So, she added the atmospherics to that track, and also created the arrangement. When I hear it, I imagine that you’ve crossed the Lunar Sea, and now you are stranded in a Bermuda Triangle of sorts, trying to tune in your ship’s radio, only to pick up mermaid or siren’s song.
What are the influences for Hexotica?
Hexotica is influenced by a love of Pacific Rim Psychedelia, like those late 50’s and early 60’s Martin Denny albums, and a bit of literary and cinematic influences such as Homer’s “The Odyssey” and “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne. We are both big vintage Science Fiction fans, and I think Hexotica reflects that slightly nautical, perhaps Victorian or Steampunky vibe, with a little bit of Tiki culture tossed in for good measure. We are both fond of Cthonic sea creatures, like Octopus and the spooky glow of the Angler Fish, so it was easy for us to let our imaginations run away with us. I’d love to make a video for the songs, and can see a Victorian paper silhouetted puppet show with denizens of the ocean.
Are there plans for a full length release?
I would love to. Right now, we have an almost full album of songs by The Von Vons, our second electronic side project, which is more influenced by Kraftwerk and New Order. We adopt alternate persona’s as “Greta Von Greta” and “Fritz Von Fritz”…The Von Vons. It’s a bit of a nod to Sprockets, “where we dahnce”! But, as Penny and I make music in our own bands, I think we’ll file a few things under Hexotica for sure.
What are you currently working on? Isn’t The Hot Place in the studio currently?
The Hot Place is almost finished with our second album! Our first release, “The Language of Birds” was released in 2014 on 180 Gram Orange vinyl, on my independent label No Big Wheel Records. We successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign to press the record, which was definitely a lot of work. The album was one of the last projects to be recorded at the historic analog studio, Southern Tracks in Atlanta. I was working in between artists like Mastodon, Faith Hill, and Bruce Springsteen, and just going in to the studio at odd hours doing everything I could to finish the record. It was my first time in a big, analog, professional recording studio, and it was very intimidating. I hung in there with the support of my guitarist and producer Jeff Calder, and we finished the album. We asked Richard Lloyd, one of the founding members of NYC 70’s proto-punk band Television, to appear as a guest on the album on two tracks, “Saturn Moved” and “Petals of Ruin (reprise)”. That was a huge thrill.
In 2016, I was invited to open up a series of living room shows for David J Haskins, bassist and founding member of Bauhaus/Love and Rockets. I was a teenage goth girl, and my favorite band in high school was definitely Bauhaus, so it felt like a dream of mine had come true. Eventually, in a two year period, The Hot Place would host and play nine living room shows with David J, in Atlanta, Athens, and even in a crypt inside a Victorian cemetery in Savannah, Ga. During that time, The Hot Place was writing new material, that would become our second record. Some of it was written and test-run “on the road” you could say. Unlike “The Language of Birds”, which was mostly songs I had written in the 80’s or 90’s with a very stylized post-punk sound, the new material is very dark psychedelic, and composed spontaneously with Jeff and Mike, as a band.
While doing these living room tours, I played David J one of the tracks, “Hell, Highwater, or Sunlight”, and he instantly heard a harmonica part on there. I am familiar with his harmonica playing from a few Love and Rockets songs, so I knew it would be perfect. He tracked that harmonica part at Electron Gardens with Tim Delaney, before one of our shows, and did it in one take! It sounds incredible, very spooky and haunting. The album will be out this year on No Big Wheel Records. Speaking of independent labels, I also have a subsidiary label, Sashimmy Records, which specializes in 45’s/singles only. One of my Sashimmy artists, Albert Gresens, who goes by the moniker Album Gatefold, wanted to release a very dark and dreamy version of The Stooges song, “Little Doll” on Sashimmy. When I heard what he had created, with this deep tremolo guitar and droning bass, I knew I wanted to sing on it. It has since become another track which will appear on the new record, and Albert joined us on stage playing bass at our last living room show with David J in February.
Tell us about your labels No Big Wheel and Sashimmy Records.
No Big Wheel was started in 2014 as a vehicle to release The Hot Place’s debut album. I had always wanted to use the name, “No Big Wheel”, with a graphic of a little kid dressed as an executive flying around on a big wheel or a tricycle. The irony of the fact that there is literally no “big wheel” at the label, was an irresistible pun. But, I’ve always been a fan of artist-run or small labels, like Sub Pop, Dischord, DB Records, Bar/None, Third Man, Mute and the like. So, I embarked on the adventure. So far, No Big Wheel is mainly concerned with full-length releases, though we did put out a few EP’s. We have a catalog of 6 full-length releases, and 7 singles/EP’s. It’s getting much easier to find sources to press vinyl right now, than it was in 2014, so we hope to release some more physical wax in the future.
One night I was at my favorite sushi restaurant, and I was looking at the a la carte menu, thinking about how cool it would be to have a label with an old-school paper order form, like the ones that used to come inside LP’s, which looked like a sushi menu. Where you just tick the little boxes on the side, for pieces of Nigiri or Sashimi. You could order 45’s “a la carte” just like sushi, but it would be tasty pieces of wax or digital downloads instead. So that was a catalyst. I’ve always been fascinated by the mysterious Geisha culture- the makeup, the style, the literary and musical education of the courtesans, and equally fascinated by the gyrating go-go girls of the 60’s. So the name “Sashimmy” as a play on Sashimi and Shimmy, just embodied all of that for me. I think of the label as the “little sister” of No Big Wheel, but only focused on experimental, psychedelic, or electronic music, and only releasing singles.
Many artists I know have interesting, or odd music they have created, that just doesn’t fit on a full-length, or is too different to fit in with their main recording projects. So, I hope that Sashimmy is a place where artists feel like they can release their creative singles, or even create an alternate identity. So far we have a roster of 18 releases, including local artists from Atlanta, and international artists from the UK and Croatia, and that is very exciting. Penny and I both alternate between creating the album covers for the label, and I make all of the website and graphic design, which is a big part of the look and feel of the label’s ethos. I’m also collaborating with my friend Peter Heckman in New Zealand, an artist who designed the cover for “Little Doll”, and all of the David J/The Hot Place tour posters. I really liked how 4AD and Nettwerk created releases with a certain consistent and distinct “look” in the 80’s, and we wanted to do that sort of thing with Sashimmy. There’s an element of Kitch, Sci Fi, Tiki, and Horror-rock in the imagery, and in some of the music of our artists, and I really look forward to moving forward with Sashimmy with some Autumn releases, because frankly, it’s a whole lot of fun!
Thank you again for spending time answering my questions and all the best!
No Big Wheel:
No Big Wheel/Sashimmy Recs You Tube Channel:
Lunar Sea/Obscurum per Obscurius single:
The Hot Place:
Little Doll Single:
The Swimming Pool Q’s:
Electron Gardens Studio:
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation:
World Goth Day: