Interview with Erleen Nada
By Katherine Sweetman
It was a Thursday night, and I went downtown to see a “show” at 4th & B put on by a national “independent arts organization, for artists, by artists” called RAW. I went especially to see one particular artist/musician, Erleen Nada, because I’d seen a music video created by my friends at Scumbag Movies, and I wanted to see this artist perform LIVE.
“I believe as a musician the number one rule is not to give a shit what anybody thinks and just keep on doing what you love because as long as you’re creating music you enjoy someone else is bound to enjoy it too.”
Erleen took the stage in a huge white wig and white-painted face, and then she delivered an amazing performance art/punk rock set that was probably too raw for RAW. The majority of the white, 20-30 year old, upper middle-class audience seemed unprepared for any of it. They couldn’t ignore what was happening on the stage, but they looked uncomfortable (90% of them). The rest of the “show” was kind of a trade show/art market on the floor of 4th & B where people paid and then displayed their various crafts. But while Erleen Nada performed all transactions were halted. At the end of her set she ripped off her wig and sang a song called Shut the Fuck Up — REALLY LOUD. The lyrics mainly consisted of “shut the fuck up” repeated again and again. It was kind of wonderful to watch this screamed at the audience while they stood around throwing sideways glances at one another.
Suffice it to say, I was enamored by the performance and I wanted to know more about Erleen Nada.
Interview with Erleen Nada (E.N.), Interviewer Katherine Sweetman (K.S.)
K.S. Erleen, I’m having trouble categorizing you. I think of you as a performance artist falling into the category of outrageous performers like Rachel Rosenthal and Karen Finley, but I think you are also very punk rock and maybe you self-identify more as a musician. How do you describe what you do on stage?
E.N. I love Rachel Rosenthal and Karen Finley and am very happy to hear that I am in the same category. I definitely see my self as a musician first. I like the fact that my music can’t be categorized, and I hope to keep it that way. Music is what drives me, the performance part of it just seems to come very naturally when I’m onstage and is largely unplanned (at the moment). There is an indescribable force in me to write music and create art that I’ve been quite aware of my entire life. Even as a young child, 5 years old+ I would “write songs” and record them on audio tapes. My mom has hours worth of recordings on old audio tapes that I made when I was very young. Around the same time I would dress up in my mom’s slip dresses and dance and sing to Madonna songs. I used to love Madonna videos like Dress You Up and Like A Virgin. I would dance and sing to her songs and pretend to be her. I still love to dress up and be outrageous, so I guess not much has changed since then. I’m not sure what comes over me when I’m on stage, something just takes over; I could almost describe it as a demonic possession or an altered state of mind.
K.S. If you could perform with any artist in the world who would it be?
E.N. I would absolutely love to go on tour with Devo. Their shows are so energetic and inspiring, and they have an incredible stage presence. I’d love the chance to learn from the masters. Plus I’d like to take Mark Mothersbaugh’s Booji Boy Mask and run around screaming and making strange sounds with it on– especially at pit stops.
K.S. So, I saw you perform at this event at 4th & B called RAW, and I think you were maybe even too raw for them. Tell me first of all the names of the songs on your set, and then tell me how you think the audience reacted. If you noticed or cared.
E.N. Set list: “Dance Music for Russian Spies,” “Situation,” “Dicknotized,” “Psychedelic Space Ship,” “Cowbell Song,” “Shut the Fuck Up,” “Peachy Keen” (“Peachy Keen” was on the playlist but they cut me off).
I believe as a musician the number one rule is not to give a shit what anybody thinks and just keep on doing what you love because as long as you’re creating music you enjoy someone else is bound to enjoy it too. I’d rather have a few awesome people appreciate it than whole a lot of lame brains. That being said, no I didn’t give a shit, nor did I pay attention what anyone may have said or did negatively in reaction to the show. Actually, I have no idea what happened, but from what I’ve heard they’re was some sort of uproar from a few very sheltered individuals. As far as I know this is the first time that has ever happened. Usually I play for people who are a lot more open minded and more cultured. In some ways I consider it a compliment, that in this day in age, when everything has been said and done in the world of entertainment, I can still manage to get a rise out of people. But I can’t take too much credit, it really says more about them than it does about me, anyone who was up in arms about my performance really needs to get out more. It’s not like I pulled a scroll out of my vagina and read it out loud to the crowd. Come on now, really.
K.S. Tell me the story behind the song “Psychedelic Spaceship”.
E.N. “Psychedelic Spaceship” is all about this crazy real life cult based out of El Cajon, CA, Unarius Academy of Science. Formally lead by “Prince” Ariel aka Spaceship Ruthie (female, but called “prince” for all her male past lives). Basically these people believe that a space ship will drop down into Prince Uriel’s backyard and come whisk them all away. They take it very seriously. Their psychedelic and kitschy “educational” videos (more like a series of sci-fi movies) are so out of this world, that after watching the entire series I just knew I had to write a song about them.
watch it on YouTube–> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-J9suzyFg0
K.S. What’s next for you? Where are you performing or where do you hope to perform next?
E.N. Europe is where I hope to play next. At the moment, it seems like the majority of my fans are there, so it makes to tour there soon. In fact, a German record label called Destination Pop recently released a 7″ vinyl single of my songs Peachy Keen and The Cowbell Song (b-side). Which is available for purchase online. With only 200 original copies made, it will be an extremely rare collectors item in the future. I plan on releasing more vinyl in the near future, but they will likely not have Peachy Keen or The Cowbell Song on them.
Aside from that, I’m currently working on a several new songs with Diana Death (formally of Deadbolt) which I am really excited about. I plan to have a new album finished by 2013. Much of the new material so far has a foundation in old skool hip hop music such as Egyptian Lover and Afrika Bambaataa but with a distinctively dark undertone, and eccentric female vocals (think Anxiety Annie, Diamanda Galas, Danielle Dax). We are also in the process of creating new music videos for these songs. Lots of great stuff coming up in the future for Erleen Nada!