Q&A: Lords of Acid
The Belgian techno act is still 'Pretty in Kink'
Originally fusing acid house and techno beats with sensual lyrics about sex, drugs, and other hedonistic endeavors, Lords of Acid emerged from the ’90s rave scene to cross over into industrial and electro-rock. Though many of the key performers and songwriters have come and gone over the years, Belgian-based Praga Khan has kept the debauchery going, most recently with last year’s Pretty in Kink. Sultry new singer Marieke Bresseleers is the latest to join the party, helping expand the band’s sound even further on tracks such as the spy-tunes-inspired “Goldfinger” and the hip-hop-infused “What the Fuck!” Headlining a Saint. Patrick’s Day show at the Masquerade, featuring Orgy, the Genitorturers, and other like-minded acts, Praga Khan discusses the new album, the current lineup and the band’s contributions to electronic music.
The current incarnation of Lords of Acid features some familiar faces, as well as a new one in singer Marieke Bresseleers. How did she become your latest frontwoman?
It’s very easy to work with a singer who is from Belgium because you can listen to something and go back to the studio. It’s so much easier to come to very, very good results when you can do it a couple of times. That was the problem when I was working with American singers. They came to Belgium and had to do it in one week. Then they left back to L.A. or wherever. This time, I was really looking forward to working with a Belgian singer. So, I asked musicians that I know who could be a good singer for Lords of Acid. I don’t want to make the songs too easy in vocal range and everything, so I really needed a very good singer. They came up with Marieke, who has classical training. She’s a very good singer with a wide vocal range, which was perfect for this album. In the deep she sounds really good, in the high she still sounds very strong, and she can sing very sensual. So, it was the best of both worlds because she’s a very energetic performer with a very good voice. That’s what we needed on this album, and also on the tour.
The rest of the band consists of people you’ve performed with previously. Being from Belgium, how do you go about assembling an American touring band?
I always try to look for a combination of people who are easy to work with, but are also very good musicians. These guys are really good, they’re very professional, but they also know how to party. I would say that’s a good combination for this band. Sometimes it’s a thin line because you need people who are a little bit crazy, but people who are too crazy can’t put on a good show.
You’re playing in Atlanta on St. Patrick’s Day. Do you have any particular party plans for this show, or are there specific places where you like to party when you’re in Atlanta?
St. Patrick’s Day is not a holiday [in Belgium]. Most of the people in Belgium don’t even know what it is. I’ve been [to Atlanta] so many times, but the only thing I’ve seen is the entrance to the concert hall. The bus parks in front of it, there’s the concert hall, the dressing room, and that’s it. You travel in a bus, you arrive in a city, you park the bus, you do a sound check, you go to eat, you see the supporting acts, then it’s time to start the show. After the show you talk to the fans and do a signing session, you go back to the bus, you eat pizza and the bus is already driving.
You’ve always incorporated elements of various genres into the Lords of Acid sound. But Pretty in Kink is even more varied than usual. How did you end up with a collection of songs ranging from the James Bond-inspired “Goldfinger” to songs with more hip-hop influences?
I wanted to make this album sexy and slow tempo. This album has a lot of slower tempo songs and a lower BPM. Every year we have a competition for the best athletes called the Diamond League. Marieke had performed there a couple of times and every time she had to do the James Bond song “Diamonds Are Forever.” That’s how I came up with the idea of doing a James Bond thing, “Goldfinger,” on the album, so she could really go all the way with her voice. The slower beat songs give the album a more erotic feel. I was already thinking about doing something with rap for so long, but I never did it. There’s a rapper I work with in Belgium that wanted to do it, so there’s a couple of tracks on the album that have rap vocals. He’s a very talented composer who works with a lot of American rap artists.
The band has seen numerous lineup changes over the years, most notably Olivier Adams, who helped define the Lords of Acid sound on your first several albums. What is he up to these day?
Olivier Adams is living in Portugal now because he got a little tired of touring and the stress of all that stuff. So, he’s living in the south of Portugal, where it’s really warm and cozy. There’s not so much stress and it’s not like a rat race, like in Belgium, where you have to compete with everything and work against deadlines and stuff. He’s enjoying himself there, living his life the Portuguese way — a lot of fiestas, staying up late, drinking. It was his decision to leave the band.
I really enjoy working in the studio, going on tour, meeting fans. I always have a great time talking to fans who give me honest feedback. There’s a lot of people I’ve known for so long and they give really honest opinions. I appreciate that they are honest because I can learn something from what they think about the evolution of Lords of Acid. When I go on tour, it gives me the opportunity to talk to the fans, to perform and see what the reaction is from the crowd. It also gives me a lot of inspiration. Most of the time, when I start an album it’s when I come back from a tour. It gives me a lot of information, but also inspiration.
Lords of Acid were a huge part of the early rave scene, and the evolution of electronic music. Given your contributions to this genre, what are your thoughts on the current state of electronic music?
In America, I think we were pioneers in dance/electronic music. It was almost impossible to hear dance music on the radio in those days. I think Lust was a real surprise for a lot of people and it opened the door for a lot of European bands in the U.S. market. But it took quite some time because it came out in 1991, then Voodoo-U came out in ‘94, which was the one we did with Rick Rubin. That was the first crossover between real dance music and alternative music, and the combination that gave Lords of Acid a lot of credibility in the market. Rick Rubin co-produced it and when we did the album presentation, people from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other bands told me they were really listening to that music and really surprised that that genre of music could be mixed with rock guitars.
Even in Europe in those days, these were two separate worlds. People who made dance music could play at raves or in a discotheque. Then you had rock bands that could play at festivals. The radio stations in Europe played rock music, but didn’t play dance music. Then in the mid-’90s, Moby, Underworld, and the Chemical Brothers started to play rock festivals, which was a very good thing. The festivals also needed the new vibe because people got a little bit bored from always seeing the same bands. Doors opened for dance music and that gave us a wider audience. People who were listening to rock music also started listening to dance music.
When we did some of our first raves in America in ‘92, ‘93, ‘94, there was not really a rave scene. We worked really hard to promote dance music in the United States, but it took quite some time. Nowadays, EDM is really far from what we are doing because it became really commercial. There’s a very big difference between Lords of Acid and Tiesto or something like that. Lords of Acid is more alternative than the DJs that are big in the States.
When I listen to people like Skrillex, for me that was something new in dance music, like the hard rock of dance music. Dubstep is a harder version of dance, which is also something I had never heard before. I really like trap music because what they’re doing with the rhythms and all that stuff is new.
With EDM, I hear a lot of things I heard 25 or 30 years ago. What I like is to bring something new to the music, make new combinations, new styles. That’s why I don’t mind putting a little bit of reggae in “Marijuana in Your Brain” or heavy guitars in “Sex Bomb.” At the end of the day, I’m happy with what I’ve done in my life and my contributions to the evolution of dance music.
St. Patty's Day Sextravaganza feat. Lords of Acid, Orgy, Genitorturers, and Little Miss Nasty. In Heaven at The Masquerade. Sun., March 16. $26.50 (adv). 75 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW. 404-577-8178. www.masq.com.