Please forgive us if we will be acting like complete fan girls. We absolutely and dearly love Rita Lynch – our next featured artist on Indieterria. We have seen her live on January 1st, 2017 in Worcester, have her records in our musical archives and can hardly wait to see her perform at Musicians Against Homelessness on 22nd September. Read on, this is one of our favorite interviews yet!
First Lady of punk
Don’t believe when they tell you that punk is dead. The genre is not only very much alive and kicking; it is going through a period of renaissance. It may be a bit older (and wiser), less drunk and more philosophical at times, yet its message against austerity, social alienation and economic devastation rings loud and clear. Political climate is certainly helping to bridge the age gap between new audiences and the underground legends and helps deliver a musical middle finger exactly where it hurts the most. Yet, looking for rebellion is not the only reason why the kids turn to punk rock. Its biggest strength definitely lies in the authenticity and originality, constant re-definition and self-discovery. We have teamed up with Rita Lynch, the first lady of punk to speak about her career, surviving the odds and her plans for her rock and roll future.
You were first introduced to music when attending a Catholic school. Apparently, a nun has taught you how to play a guitar. Were the nuns really that supportive? Catholic schools in 60’s and 70 were rather known to suppress any form of artistic creativity.
Rita Lynch: The nun who taught me guitar was one of the better ones. She obviously enjoyed playing guitar herself and, as teachers go especially all those years ago, she was slightly more interested in creativity. She had already put one of my stories in the school magazine. She also had given me the cane, a couple of times, once for laughing in church. None of the teachers back then were that interested in a shy child like me who was always getting ill. So she was a bit of a hero to me all those years ago.
As soon as you graduated, you found yourself in the middle of London`s punk rock revolution. You founded one of nation`s first all-female rock bands – Rita & The Piss Artists, playing mostly squats and small venues. Can you recall some of the wild days and tell us who were in the band beside you?
Rita Lynch: With Rita and the Piss Artists we did a lot of drinking. We were a 4 piece band. I played bass and helped write the songs, but I did not sing. During our time we had 2 different singers. The first was a woman called Caspar; she had a brilliant voice but left us quite quickly. The next singer, Jo, wasn’t a good singer but had enough front to do it. The guitarist was not very good but the drummer had played before so we, the bass and drums, mostly held it all together. One squat gig, we played at the Demolition Ballroom on Stokes Croft, Bristol and somebody pulled the plug on us, we were so bad. We would all get very drunk, maybe take some speed and get up on stage. If we had taken it a bit more seriously, we could have done well, maybe. It was more of a sideline to the serious job of drinking. But we were doing it for a while when few women were.
The drummer from the Piss Artists, Justine Butler, just lives around the corner from me now. She went on to get a Master’s degree and had a child who is grown up now. She is a lovely woman. We meet up now and again and she has come to loads of my gigs over the years – she’s very supportive.
Once your band folded, you permanently moved to Bristol. At that time, the town had a vibrant scene with bands such as The Cortinas, Social Security and The Pigs. How did the mostly male scene react to outspoken female artist from the capital?
Rita Lynch: When I first started playing my own gigs as Rita Lynch, I was a solo acoustic performer. The sexism was terrible, the things men in the music world said to me were often rude, insulting and so misogynistic. Stuff like women dingers are always late for gigs, have tantrums at sound checks, and generally talked about as if they were spoilt children. Some of the graffiti in back stage rooms really shocked me. I was, at the time, going out with a woman and mostly socializing on the gay scene. It kind of removed me from the heterosexual world which really helped in those first few years. I was never late and always professional and built up a defence against this sexism by dressing outrageously and, with my height being nearly 6ft I kind of must have struck quite an intimidating figure. It put a wall around me and inside that I happily wrote my songs and tried to perfect and develop my own music.
You also made yourself a name as a performer/protest figure marching around in a mutilated wedding dress. What was the protest about?
Rita Lynch: I went on a lot of demos back then. But the wedding dress was mostly just for wearing in the day time. So, every day was a personal protest. I bought it for 50 pence in a charity shop and ripped it up, and would wear it just to get attention, like I was living art, walking down the street. But loads of people would stare and, as I was always barefoot in the summer, I must have looked very unusual. Apparently a young child saw me from a window and told her mum there was a real live fairy walking down the street. This was all in St. Paul’s. It was a vibrant place with big reputation for race riots. There was a lot of prostitution on the street corners and police would not go down the frontline. It had lots of drugs, crime as well and racism. It was a cool place to live very freely, if you had the nerve.
You joined cold wave outfit God Bless You as a bassist. At that time, the band consisted only of Simon Black and Dave Ryan. Within a year, you were not only a full time member, but also a co-vocalist. With you in the line up, God Bless You released several singles such as “Sugar” which are considered the beginning of your career as an artist and performer. How do you remember the collaboration with Simon and Dave?
Rita Lynch: God Bless You was amazing musically. Dave had a fantastic voice and Simon was genius with inventing simple but amazing tunes and riffs. I was with them as backing vocalist for nearly 2 years. I learnt a lot from watching them put songs together. They also introduced me to countless good bands and artists like Iggy Pop and Roxy Music. Dave was a poet and a great thinker, his lyrics were brilliant. He was hugely pivotal in inspiring me to sing and write songs. I loved being in God Bless You. Dave and Simon were my heroes.
In 1991 you released your first solo work “Call me your girlfriend”. The LP became very popular and music press compared you to Kirstin Hersh, Patti Smith, PJ Harvey and even Nico. Channel 4 made a documentary about you. Was it hard to copy with the attention of the media?
Rita Lynch: I loved the attention I got from the “Call me your Girlfriend” album but it was scary as I had been underground for so long and I also found it intimidating. It validated me but made me nervous as well. I had to write another album and I was unsure how to go. I personally thought that I could do so much better than this first album. The album got me a lot of attention on the gay scene but the record label I was with, Moles in Bath, did not promote it very well elsewhere. So, I became a ‘lesbian’ singer increasingly which was not what I wanted and I still had to make the cross over to the mainstream. Also, the record label did not distribute the album properly so people could not easily get hold of it. As a result, I was still ‘underground’ but big on the gay scene. Then both, me and my girlfriend, we got beaten up for being gay. These were harsh times to be ‘out’, I found all this very difficult. The music was getting lost and I felt uncomfortable with being heralded as a ‘lesbian icon’. I was a singer/songwriter but all the other identities were becoming more important. Being an artist, I was feeling misunderstood.
Your background and lyrical themes also drew comparisons to Sinéad O’Connor – another female figure that could not be easily squeezed into a box. Looking back, do you think there were really similarities between you?
Rita Lynch: I saw Sinéad play at Gay Pride in London, I can’t remember the year. She blew my mind; I had never seen or heard anything like it before. It was one of the most important gigs I have ever seen in my life. Unforgettable. I was humbled by the experience. There are similarities in that we both grapple with sexuality, Catholicism and politics. She is Irish born, I am Irish born to immigrant parents in London. Being Irish/Catholic is an identity made more personal and volatile due to the racism of the English and the weight of the ongoing war and domination of Ireland by the English. Sinéad was and is one the most important musical influences of my life.
You have been a successful solo artist for the last 25 years. In that period you released thirteen albums under your own name, three with other bands, appeared on over thirty compilations and scored several productions (Vampire Diary, Channel 4`s Rosebud), you toured nationally and around Europe. That`s an incredible body of work. Were you expecting such a long run in this dog eat dog industry?
Rita Lynch: No. I never expected to do music in the first place, let alone to be doing it for so long. I love writing songs, I love singing and putting a good lyric together. But my love of these things has developed hugely with the passing of time. I don’t actually see myself as ‘successful’ artist. Over the years, with all the egos and vanities and nonsense that comprise much of the music business, I have tried to focus on the writing of songs and developing my particular style. I was heartbroken when my first album did not go as well as I wanted and as I got older tried to ‘give up’ music and get a proper job. I never did get a proper job. I am dedicated to making music. It is my job. I want to write as many songs as I can. My ambition with music has altered from wanting fame in a vanity way when I was younger to a true hard working attention to song writing. The music business or industry is vile. I don’t think about it much anymore, like it has nothing to do with me. I admire people who dedicate themselves to their art, even when they do not get success, I have aspired to this. I try to work hard at writing songs. I don’t go out much, whenever I get time, I do music. My son is severely autistic and it has been a challenging experience. My life is dedicated to the care of my son and music. I do a lot of gigs, solo and with my band. I am still hugely ambitious in that I have yet to write my best song. I need to communicate through music; it is my take on the human experience.
In 2006 you reinvented yourself yet again by joining The Blue Aeroplanes. You recorded three albums with them (Skyscrappers, Good Luck Signs and Anti-Gravity). In return, John Langley and Mike Youe back you up on your tours. You seem more like good friends than just musical collaborators.
Rita Lynch: Being in The Blue Aeroplanes was amazing. I admire their music. Also that was how I met my drummer, John Langley. This has been the best musical collaboration since God Bless You. John is the best drummer most people will ever see. He makes every song better with his drumming. When we first teamed up, I wrote the album “Good Advice”. He is massively inspiring and also introduced me to new music. We were a 2 piece for a few years. He upped my game, I had to get better so I practiced more and more and worked harder at my guitar playing. We developed hugely as a band. We sometimes make up songs on stage – improvising with John is a dream. We understand each other musically. It’s like magic. When Mike joined us a few years ago, he fitted in easily. He is a very good musician and picks stuff up very quickly. It felt just right straight away. John and I have been good friends for years and Mike is a lovely easy going person. We have a laugh as well.
In 2016, an anthology of your music “Story to tell (1988-2011)” has been released to celebrate your career and involvement in Bristol music scene. Can you tell us more about this project?
Rita Lynch: Mike Darby used to be my manager about 25 years ago. He had the idea to put out this anthology. It is a cross section of songs spanning 3 decades. I want to bring out another anthology but will do this one myself through the record label I work with now. Also, I am currently setting up to release all my future albums with them and re-release all the previous ones.
You played Worcester on New Year`s Eve at Pig and Drum. You will return to Marrs Bar this September to take part in Musicians Against Homelessness event. Will there be a chance to hear some of your new music?
Rita Lynch: Yes, I will be playing a lot of my new songs. My new album entitled “Backwards” will be released in January 2018. You will have a chance to hear some of my new material for the first time on 22nd of September.
You can follow Rita at:
If you want to see Rita Lynch play Musicians Against Homelessness concert, tickets are a £5 and can be bought from the links below:
To find out more about MAH visit Musicians Against Homelessness on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mahgigs/
Please note that due to a serious hand injury Rita will open the gig and her set will be shorter than expected. But it may be also streamlined on Facebook and it will be different than her usual sets, so you better be at Marr`s Bar 8:00 pm sharp! 😉