Thursday, October 28, 2021

Interview with Lori Bravo of Nuclear Death, Lori Bravo and Lori Bravo Raped by Dave Wolff part 1

Interview with Lori Bravo of Nuclear Death, Lori Bravo and Lori Bravo Raped by Dave Wolff part 1

As the lead singer of the Arizona band Nuclear Death from 1986 to 2000, how do you feel about being called the first lady of death metal? Despite the fact that there were female singers in metal bands in the 1980s, they weren't as common as they are today. At the time, were you considering spearheading anything or just following your passion?
First of all, I’m actually the one who coined “the first lady of death metal”; I’ve been calling myself that. I’ve also been calling myself “the queen mother of death metal” for quite a while. I might be the reason I’ve been called that. I’m a writer and I tend to come up with pretty good taglines, words, phrases and whatnot. But even if I didn’t, I’m very proud of that fact. I’m blessed and pleased. There were no women in metal doing what I was doing and I didn’t want to do what they were doing. I didn’t want to do Doro Pesch or Bitch.
The only singer I related to was Wendy O. Williams because she was doing something unique, shocking, innovative and amazing; she just had the biggest clit ever. Nobody could touch her and still can’t. Intelligent, beautiful person. She was probably the only one I looked to when I heard about the Plasmatics in high school, that I would remotely consider feeling influenced by. I wasn’t influenced by women in metal; I thought they were absolutely boring and I wasn’t interested in what they were doing. I didn’t find it the kind of stuff I wanted to do; I found it lackluster and anti-cathartic. It just wasn’t my thing. I would buy records with women and be completely disappointed every time I put them on. With that said, I’ve come to appreciate some of the women like Doro Pesch. At the time I didn’t feel she was extreme enough for me to feel influenced by. To me she was just another metal singer who happened to be a woman. I didn’t want to be just another singer in a metal band; the kind of woman who said ‘I’m just one of the guys’ or ‘I’m just a singer; I’m not a girl.’ I didn’t feel like a male or a female; I felt like a singer and a musician. Women just bored me to tears. I liked Joan Jett, but she’s not metal. I tried to like Lita Ford; she’s a great guitar player but I thought her albums were boring as fuck. I didn’t find them interesting. And I didn’t know about the bands that would be around later.
The idea was to create a band with like-minded people and do something that hadn’t been done before, musically speaking. I wanted to be Miles Davis, I wanted to be an innovator and make music no one heard or thought of doing. And we did that. That for me was key. [guitarist] Phil Hampson and I eventually created it together because we were a couple. He became my guitar player and my boyfriend at the same time. We were big readers, we liked horror movies and soundtracks; it was just the perfect fit. Then we found [drummer] Joel Whitfield who was into everything we were into. I don’t know if he was as well read as we were, not that he didn’t read, but not as much as Phil and I.
We didn’t know what we were doing, but we specifically didn’t want to sound like everyone and we had to figure out a way not to. I was a woman but I wasn’t singing like a woman, if you want to say it like that. Most of the men were singing higher than I was. The idea was to do something different and make sure it stood out.
We were listening to Destruction, Slayer, Discharge, Septic Death, Raven and Iron Maiden… Mercyful Fate and Venom… those were two big influences, especially Mercyful Fate because they had a classical background like I did. I had hardcore/punk influence coming in; Joel and Phil didn’t bring it in because I had that already. I fell in love with Discharge and that was the end. I heard “See Nothing, Hear Nothing, Say Nothing” and I went even deeper, found the Dead Kennedys and Circle Jerks… Black Flag was one of my favorites, early Black Flag and classic Black Flag with Henry Rollins. Fear and the Plasmatics. Wendy O. was tough and I wanted to have that persona of being able to front a band. She was taller than I was so I had to figure out how to Napoleonize myself, if you will, to become bigger than life. My voice was bigger than life; singing opera as a kid was a good thing. My personality was very abrasive, I’m very direct and in your face; I don’t take any shit. That helped because I’ve never been shy in my life.

It has been stated that Nuclear Death was not as well appreciated as other death metal bands due to their “left field” approach. Nonetheless, new fans are now discovering them. Was it frustrating to wait so long before you were recognized or did you figure it would happen eventually?
I was shocked when other death metal and metal bands were getting signed and flown to Europe, and [our label] Wild Rags Records never put us on tour. I put us on tour and paid for it; they didn’t pay for shit. When we went to Texas we were paying for it, and we never went to Europe. We didn’t really play that often, sadly, never did a proper tour. Luckily we did the Michigan Deathfest and we did Puerto Rico. That was a disaster. It was fun but I would hate to hear what the show sounded like. I can imagine how terrible we sounded with the horrific equipment we were using. It was kindly given to us by other bands but it wasn’t the same. Michigan Deathfest had a good sound, not that we could hear anything on the stage anyway.
It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be appreciated, I wanted to be respected. I’m really big about respect because I’ve been disrespected my whole life. That’s a big thing for me, to be respected… personally, anyway. I couldn’t understand after being the fat girl who could sing, forming my own band, finding a boyfriend, having all this happen, that we still weren’t respected, we were still completely disrespected and nobody would touch us. The good thing about that was I didn’t care what people thought about us, musically speaking, because I knew what we were doing was great. I put up with horrific abuse from Phil… I allowed him to be a sadistic fuck for the six years I was with him because the music was so great. I chose that over happiness and I would do it again because music for me is number one. I haven’t had a boyfriend in over twenty one years, not by choice. But if I meet someone they’re second to music, always. Music is everything to me, it’s always number one and always will be.
Being not appreciated, it was more about “what? People still have issues?” They weren’t respecting me. I was real skinny and I looked really good like I do now. But I starved myself to look good … I know I’m attractive because I come from attractive people. I’m happy with the way I look, not one of those “I wish I looked like blah blah blah” because I don’t. I figured that alone would be a draw, because sex sells. Phil and I had a long talk and he said I needed to lose weight because we wouldn’t be taken seriously with a fat girl singing. He didn’t put it exactly like that, but that’s basically what he was insinuating. I don’t think he expected me to go extreme the way I did, but “hey, why not? Eat very little, smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink a lot of coffee. In fact, all the beer we drank is probably why I stayed alive (laughs) because I never thought of calories coming from alcohol.
We were doing this amazing stuff, and Phil’s lyrics were amazing. Eventually I caught up and surpassed him, but they were fantastic. All those other bands didn’t have good lyrics. Flotsam and Jetsam? Please. Have you read their lyrics, really? They’re written by people at sixth grade level. Really ridiculous, stupid and dated. Nuclear Death wasn’t dated; you might think we were because of the sound. But I can tell you right now, the lyrics are not really dated. It’s not like suddenly the horror genre went away and nobody writes about taboo subjects and scary things. Of course they do, still. So we’re not dated and I think that’s a cool thing I didn’t expect. I didn’t know when we were writing these albums they were so far ahead of their time. I’m really thankful for the internet because that’s where everything changed. I’m thankful that a person eighteen years younger introduced me to computers and the internet, not to be afraid of them like they’re going to take me over and sing “Daisy” to me while I fall to a fiery death. My thing is just respect; now I have it tenfold and that’s really what I wanted. I’m already who I am and I can bank on that. Sometimes I forget that my name carries weight, and that Nuclear Death is a thing. The internet changed everything, and like you said there are younger people coming in and learning of me, their parents or uncle had an album, and that’s great. Every listener counts to me.
I famously said as a person that sells lots of merchandise, or tries to, that everybody’s a dollar sign. But I don’t look at people who listen to me like that. There are still people that listen and I have nothing but respect for them for taking the time to find out what Nuclear Death is all about. I really like that people into death metal and aggressive metal and extreme music can listen to [solo album] “Bare Bones” [2021], get something out of it and realize it’s just as extreme, if not more. Nuclear Death is stories that are not autobiographical, but my music is autobiographical. That’s powerful and extreme. I never stopped making extreme music. Someone just asked me the other day, when did I stop making extreme music? I said I’ve got a new album out; I never stopped making extreme music. “Bare Bones” is as extreme as you can get. Listen to it and read the lyrics. How much more extreme can you get? I went through absolute hell with that record (laughs).
The frustration came from people making money off me and I wasn’t making any money. But they weren’t doing it nefariously. I was very ill, I was a drug addict for years. A little bit past the 2000s maybe, like 2003 or 2004. I became a hardcore heroin addict. Not shooting up, but I smoked it. You can die that way too, by the way. Then I was a speed freak; I always liked meth because you can always go up when you’re done going down. I was tired of being down and I was never creative on heroin. I wrote the whole of [Nuclear Death 1996 album] “The Planet Cachexial” on meth. “Birthing of Slumberblood” anyway. Not that it made me creative, but if you stay up and you have a brain like mine…
The thing with me was not so much being recognized, but how can people make money off me and I can’t? I’m sitting here broke and on food stamps’ I’m still on food stamps by the way. People in the last couple of years have reached out and are really trying to help me. Odin Thompson of Moribund Records (USA) just put out [album] “Harmony Drinks of Me” which has never been officially put out. You can only get it from me. I still have the OG version but he’s got the new deluxe versions out now. [Showing me album cover]. This is what recognition looks like. Someone really awesome comes and wants to put your entire catalogue out again. And he’s not the only one. I license t-shirts, Georgios from Floga Records [Greece] re-released things, Ted Tringo from The Crypt [USA] was the first to do it with the box set. That’s when I started realizing that I was important, and that the music was important again. I always felt it was important, [Earlier] I had divorced myself from the whole thing; I didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. I just felt it was a legacy I didn’t want to be part of anymore because I felt nobody cared. I wanted to distance myself as a musician and a singer. I am a singer and I wanted to make sure people knew I could actually sing.

Death metal has been thought of as narrow-minded and not requiring artistic talent, yet Nuclear Death were incredibly inventive in their songwriting and you personally hold Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and Tori Amos in high regard. Is there anything you would say to someone who doesn't expect that?
I would say fuck you. In any genre creativity is key because without it you wouldn’t have anything. How did the Rolling Stones get there when they’ve only played two to four chords their whole lives? What else is there that makes it interesting if they can still be playing and people still go and see them? And they put out millions of albums with only four chords, maybe five? Why? It’s the creative element. If you’re thinking of Western music, there are only so many chords and progressions. It’s up to you to take those and make them what you will, and that’s what makes it interesting.
I listen to the fabulous New Orleans radio station WTUL and WWOZ which is a fabulous jazz station in New Orleans… I listen to that more than people’s records, honestly. Mike 5ive is a really cool DJ; he does hip hop and he kicks ass. He’s a really cool dude. Here [in New Orleans] you get supported as an artist; that’s one of the reasons I moved here.
I think even the death metal bands I never found interesting, I find them creative. They made songs; I just didn’t like them and found them lackluster or boring… same shit, different day. I wouldn’t say it’s because of their being narrow minded or lacking artistic talent. Artistic talent exists in many forms. I’ve learned this even more over the years listening to so many different musicians and artists. WTUL; you don’t know what you’re going to get with that radio station. That’s what I like. I’ll be there on Spotify, I can follow them on Twatter [Twitter] and see what their playlist is. I get my head cracked open by all these artists that are new to me. Some of it can be a chord, one note or a droning whirr and be the most interesting thing in the world. Death metal is heavy use of vocals with growling and screaming. I think people dismiss it as not artistic, it’s not really real or highly exalted. But fuck that.
There’s a show on WWOZ called Transatlantic With Logan. He’ll pick a time in say 1996 and play the music that was popular… mostly hip hop wise, Cuban and African music. He’ll play what was popular in Cuba, Kenya and here [USA]. You’ll hear African drums and growling that sounds like the person was possessed. In some Jamaican music, some reggae, you’ll almost hear death metal vocals sometimes.
It takes something to sit down and write something. Even if I don’t like the music the person writes. They sat down, or maybe they stood up, or maybe he was drunk. They were thinking and decided to write something, and you have to give them credit for that. No matter what kind of music it is, you are using creativity. I hate U2, they’re one of my most hated bands. I don’t understand why anybody thinks they’re great. I know they’re talented and creative but I fuckin’ hate them. (laughs). I just find them (snores). But I’m sure there are people who find Nuclear Death boring too, or me, whatever.
I would say just listen to my voice while I’m singing. You probably can’t hear Amy and Tori because they’re newer influences from the 90s. But Janis Joplin was the reason I realized I can be a rock singer. I saw Woodstock on TV when there was one TV in the house, I couldn’t sleep and there was Channel 45 on UHF. It was the first time I ever saw the movie. They were halfway through… {Joplin] obviously didn’t play Woodstock, she played Monterey. But I did see Jimi Hendrix and he’s the reason I play guitar. Not too long after that, they played Monterey Pop Festival and I got to see Janis Joplin sing “Ball and Chain” and that was it. What she was singing was blues, not rock. This was before you could go on the internet look her shit up and see everything she’s ever done on Youtube. How do I find out more about this person? I knew her songs “Piece of my Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee:” from the radio. Those are the only ones I ever heard. I had no idea about Big Brother and the Holding Company or any of that stuff, or anything about where she was from. She was from Fort Worth, Texas and a blues singer. I don’t think Any Winehouse gets enough credit for being a great jazz singer. Any Winehouse is one of the greatest jazz singers that ever lived. Janis is one of the greatest blues singers that ever lived. I think it’s really sad that they were never put in that highly exalted area. They should be. Amy wrote her own music and lyrics, she was a fuckin’ genius.
And Tori Amos… I was dating a guy that turned me on to Tori Amos. He gave me “Boys for Pele”, my favorite Tori album to this day. The very first moments changed my life forever. I started reading her interviews online, and it gave me such power as a woman. She’s always been a feminist; her music is very directed towards women and speaking for women and I think that’s really cool. Amy Winehouse is a feminist but she also really wanted her man to be stronger than her, she wanted to eventually be a mom which sadly didn’t happen. Janis in the early days wanted to fit in with the guys so they would take her seriously, then she became a rock star and sex symbol. Two of the three people you mentioned are no longer with us in untimely ways due to substance abuse. But Tori… I didn’t even read these questions yet and earlier I was watching a Tori Amos performance, “Live from the Studio”, David Byrne from Talking Heads is the co-host. It’s kickass.
When I was interviewed by my friend Terminus [Extreme Metal Podcast] he thought I was influenced by the dude from Dark Angel or Death Angel, I was like “What? Fuck no.” Those people were way after me. For Nuclear Death, I had to figure it out on my own. I had to figure out how to make a voice happen that would be extreme, and be able to stand up to the guys I was trying to stand up to, musically speaking. Most of the lyrics were Phil’s work, he was writing stories and I was acting in them. I had to be whoever I was, whether an observer or a narrator. Am I a man? Am I a woman? Am I a monster? What am I? Phil used a lot of “I”… “and the dog, we make love”… “and my scales, they tend to itch”… “my eyes sometimes liquefy, so at times it’s hard to see” [“Stygian Tranquility” from “Bride of Insect” (1990)]. What’s that about? How am I going to portray this? And that voice is how I portrayed it.
I would just say that anyone making music is not narrow minded, even if I don’t like what they’re making: “this is the shittiest shit I ever heard”. And I’m not talking about manufactured pop stars with five or six people writing their songs. I’m talking about a person sitting there with their instrument and making up a song. I have to respect that because writing songs is not easy. There have been songs that came to me and I wrote them all the way through. That’s very magical. There are other songs I have to work very hard on to get them to do what I want them to do. I don’t think songwriting is easy at all. I’m really good at it but I don’t think it’s easy. Because it’s so personal, maybe that’s also why it’s not easy. It’s so hard for me to listen to my own album. I have to try to remove myself from the emotion of it. It’s so overwhelming it makes me want to die and throw up.

When it comes to vocal fry and melodic vocals, do you use any particular technique? I am reminded of Diamanda Galas when listening to you; is she an influence in any way?
No, because I didn’t know who she was. I was introduced to Diamanda during the Nuclear Death era when Joel was in the band. Somebody from Greece sent a tape of “Wild Women with Steak Knives” to me. And “The Litanies of Satan”, I think. I was just like “wow”. This was by snail mail so I couldn’t click on the internet. But I wasn’t influenced by her because I was already doing that. All those voices on “The Planet Cachexial”, I already had those voices when I was a kid. My dad was the music dude, he was probably where I got my musical ways from. He wasn’t a singer, he was a trumpet player. But he used to read to me when I was a kid, and he would do voices for all the people.
I learned to do all that because I have a good ear and I can pick up language and sound quite quickly. Those voices on “The Planet Cachexial” which kind of reminded me of Diamanda, I didn’t even know what I was making those up for yet. They would eventually work their way into the album because I was becoming creatures and I needed the creatures to have tones and tonalities and whatnot. I didn’t want them to speak in English to tell the story. She was an influence since then, as far as what an amazing performer she is. This woman is a classical genius. Nobody is like her, she is completely her own Diamanda. Though she didn’t influence me back in the day I absolutely love her.
Melodic vocals… I was a kid that would listen to the radio and sing along with every single song. I could be hearing Julie London and next I could hear the Doors and next I could hear Donny Osmond and next thing I know I could hear Loretta Lynn. Whatever was on the radio, I’d sing it. My voice wasn’t completely developed yet… that’s how I learned to play guitar. I’d sing the chord and play it. I don’t read music but I understand what chords I’m doing. I don’t know music theory but I’ve learned technique over the years from just being a singer.
But I had eight months off last year with “Songs of Silent Reflux” [2021] to have my burned vocal cords healed because acid had been coming up for twenty five years and nobody knew it. I didn’t sing for eight months, That’s why it took me so long to put the record out. I had one more song, “Diamond Heart”, to do. I had to stop. The doctors said they were burned and needed to rest, so I didn’t sing. When they were fine I stopped taking the medication and started singing again. First I did the “Songs of Silent Reflux” recordings. I wanted to redevelop so I can do lower, quieter registers as you can see on “This Mouse”, “The Fluttering” and “Barium Dreams”. Those were done as I was transitioning back into singing. Then I decided to listen to the best singers I could think of and start singing with them. I usually sing with other people to get different tonalities. I picked Amy Winehouse because I hadn’t heard her music in a while. I just went deep into Amy and sang with her every day I walked twice a day. I was singing with her for an hour a day. Also Beth Gibbons of Portishead, which is funny because these people sing higher than I do, their registers are different. Those are the two singers I went back and forth between.
I don’t really know if I would say it’s a technique; it’s just that I know how to sing. It’s just what I was born with; I was really lucky. It’s the one thing I don’t have to work at. It just happens which is lucky because everything in my life is rough including playing guitar. It’s still something I have to work on, rehearse and practice to make sure I don’t suck. It just happens and I’m so thankful for that.

By the end of the band's career, Nuclear Death veered away from extreme metal and towards experimental ambient sounds, synth-jazz, and melodic operatic vocals. Tell us why the change was made, and how long-time fans reacted to it?
When I met Steve he talked me into becoming a studio band. “The Planet Cachexial” came out and nobody bought it because we had no label and no distributor. We made all these CDs and we would go to put them in stores ourselves around town. We made a trek to California to put them in stores; obviously nothing happened. We had a little card put in so you could let us know you bought the CD and I would send you the Slumberblood book for shipping only, which was crazy because it was so expensive to make. I didn’t know what I was thinking. Nobody ever bought it anyway; I think one person did.
We made “The Planet Cachexial” and he just got disillusioned, honestly. The Beatles anthology had just come out, there were three or four days of documentaries and the album with the new song “Free as a Bird” with John Lennon’s vocals. Steve decided no one cared if we played out. We couldn’t get a gig to save our lives in [ND’s first home state] Arizona. I lost touch with anyone I could even contact to know to do anything. So he said let’s just make music and put albums out. He was just beginning to teach himself audio engineering with an 8-track. So we built a studio in our bedroom. We also moved once and built a studio in that bedroom. We didn’t record the albums there, but we recorded the rehearsals there.
No fans reacted to it because there were no fans to react to anything. Same with “Harmony Drinks of Me” [2000]. That’s why Odin wanted to go backwards and put “Harmony” out first because nobody even knows it exists. And it’s the last album. It was a big deal for me, because it was about telling people I was done with Nuclear Death and giving them a taste of what’s to come. Ninety percent of it was written by me from start to finish. I’m not saying Steve didn’t write songs, because he wrote and composed “Shoot” on his own, he plays on all the songs and he produced it. But I wrote the lyrics and music to these wonderful songs. They’re very personal but they’re metaphorical. I wasn’t ready to be honest yet because I was still in a relationship with him. This was also a break-up album. “Eyes Closed (The Sin)” was me breaking up with him. I would fantasize about Marilyn Manson (laughs); I had just gotten into Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails when I was writing the album. I was fantasizing about Marilyn Manson when we were having sex because I didn’t even want him to touch me. Steve was still into drugs at that time. I stopped doing drugs, I cleaned up and was doing tae bo and working out. I was over the meth bullshit, I thought this is so boring, I’m tired of it.
Electric Spaceboy” was about my first orgasm which I gave myself when I was fifteen. I was fantasizing about Ziggy Stardust and listening to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” in my room. I didn’t know what I was doing so it’s kind of funny. This song is about being with someone you don’t want to have sex with, so you’re fantasizing about someone else. “Sunless” is self-explanatory; I hate the sun. I came from Arizona but I hate living there and I don’t like sun. I know it’s good for us and we need it because we’re mammals, but I’m just saying I don’t like sun. “The Baths” is because my mom used to wash my hair in the tub, she’d lean my head down by the drain. It used to scare me and I thought my head was going to go down the drain. “Strident” is about being in love with death, which I am. I’m very obsessed with death, and the idea of death has been a big part of my life for my whole life, which is weird because it wasn’t like I had some kind of death experience when I was a kid or anything. It just is what it is. “Shoot” is Steve’s instrumental and it’s him being a really awesome composer. “Haunted Man-Nimbus” is about my grandfather.
I know you didn’t ask me about that, but the reason I’m bringing it up is because I was changing, I’m me and this is my band. If you listen to “Harmony” it’s extreme. It doesn’t need to be loud and fast to be extreme. Just like my new album is extreme. I think my new album is more extreme than anything Nuclear Death ever did. It’s fucking insane. “Harmony” is extreme in its own way. It’s a very sad album as well. I mean, it doesn’t sound sad, but it was sad making it because I knew…
The neat thing about it is creative control. It’s a big piece, but I created the front and back covers with the dead animals and Steve and I’s hand prints. We did the hand prints in blood. We used my menstrual blood because there was plenty of it. I used cups so I could paint with it. The message was like, “here’s our blood, we’re giving it to you.” It was kind of a tip back to [album] “…For Our Dead…” [1992]. A friend at the time did the layout; he was a young kid with a computer who knows all the graphics, and we were able to have him do it. Which was a lot cheaper than having a place do it. At the time it was really expensive to make. It’s the most expensive Nuclear Death album made. [shows inner cover] This is more blood; this is another painting I did and this is all my blood here. [shows another section] This, at the time I was reading a lot of poetry: Jim Morrison, Patti Smith but also old poets: William Blake, William S. Burroughs, Ezra Pound, Sappho, Arthur Rimbaud, one of my favorites. As art director, I wanted us to look more like an intellectual type of thing. I had Steve dress in a velvet jacket and he put his hair back, old school with a ponytail. He got a quill pen with the wine in front of our bookcase. I had my witch robe, I had cuts on my legs and have my witch gear here, my ritual stuff… I am a practicing witch. This is in our house.
Steve gave me complete creative control, I was trying to be more intellectual. To me “Harmony” was a more intellectual album, it was more cerebral. [shows inside of CD case] That’s our dearly departed cat; she wasn’t dearly departed then but she died of a heart attack the week I moved to L.A. It was really horrible. Cat’s Meow Records is named after her. [shows the re-released CD] This is Moribund Records’ version that just came out. It’s deluxe, it’s all been re-done and it’s beautiful. They did a fantastic job on it. It’s got the bar code and all the cool shit now. I’m very happy about that.
As an artist I never wanted to make the same record, and I won’t. If you listen to every Nuclear Death album, none of them are the same. There’s a reason for that. And if you listen to my albums on Bandcamp, nothing sounds the same. That’s the whole point. I cannot do that. I won’t do it. I always have to be pushing forward and finding new experiences. Believe me, the new music I’m working on, let’s put it this way: it’s not acoustic anymore. You’ll see.
To go back to the other question, there were no fans. We didn’t have anybody. If we did, we didn’t know it because there was no way to get a hold of anybody. Nobody gave a fuck or reacted to anything. Odin was like, “you got this album that nobody knows about”. Same thing with Terminus when I did his podcast: “nobody knows you have that other album. They think the last Nuclear Death album is ‘All Creatures Great and Eaten’ [1992]”.

You still handle all Nuclear Death material on streaming sites like Bandcamp. Do you plan to re-release any of your past albums or will you continue to stream them?
The albums are being released by Odin Thompson of Moribund Records; this label is from Washington state [USA]. He’s going to re-release the entire Nuclear Death catalogue from back to front. That’s why he released the last album first. He’s a badass, he’s an old Viking and he gets his shit. I signed a contract with him and he handles Nuclear Death. Then there’s Dead Ascension out of Texas; my friend Chris is signing me as a solo artist and he will be handling my Lori Bravo work. Everything’s being released again; if you want links they should be on my Nuclear Death page on Facebook because he sent me all that. He just put out some promos of songs like “Eyes Closed (The Sin)” which you can hear while it says it’s coming soon.
And I’m still streaming on Bandcamp. That was Terminus’ idea; he talked me into it. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to put it out streaming; it takes forever and I don’t have time. He said he could do it and that’s how it happened. That’s why it coincided with the Terminus interview because we wanted to jumble them together and make a package deal. I don’t know about Spotify but I do know we’ll be on Apple Music with Moribund Records. Of course, “Bare Bones” is all over everything, thanks to me paying for putting it on all those platforms.
When I left Phil, I retained the rights to everything. Steve didn’t really want the rights which is weird because he played in Nuclear Death longer than anyone except for me. I’m really glad I was able to retain the rights for everything. Finally I’m getting some capital from it. The important thing to me is I’m making money off my work which is good. That’s helping me with my solo work. I’m putting money away from Bandcamp every time I get paid. Terminus called it my pension, and he’s right. I get disability; my merchandising is the only other way I make money. Or if I’m going to play live, which I’m gearing to do. I will also be doing some live performances online soon. I’ll probably do them and post them. Or they might be streamed; I don’t know yet. I haven’t performed live for a very long time. The first thing I want to do is figure out what songs on “Bare Bones” will work as a live performance. I’m also reimagining things because it’s been a while since I recorded and I’m a better singer than I was when I did the record (laughs). The songs will have a bigger body overall. Maybe a couple covers thrown in too, we’ll see. I have to create a set so when I go out in New Orleans I can sit and play. I’m just going to use my acoustic/electric. It would be great to play with my electric too but it’s not really good to walk around New Orleans at night by yourself with a guitar, at all, especially when you’re a woman. Better to take a lift, do your gig and come back (laughs).

How soon did you decide to pursue a solo career after Nuclear Death ended? Did you anticipate reaching old Nuclear Death fans, extending your audience, or both?
I decided during the making of “Harmony Drinks of Me”. I was leaving Steve first of all. I had this friend of mine who was eighteen years younger than me; I moved in with him and his parents of all things. He was my first gay friend and introduced me to that scene. He was creative and coaxed me into playing all these places like the Willow House. I played this club that was a cyber café. I’d go there with my guitar and just play. It was really freeing because I hadn’t done that ever. I hadn’t played live in so long it was an epiphany; “I don’t need anyone else”. I bought a keyboard, he had a really good ear from playing on a keyboard for years. I had him play behind me. He had a friend from high school that played guitar with me. I never had a drummer at that time. I had different monikers.
After that I was raped, then I got back into punk and saw the Distillers, and I added that flavor, Then I met a drummer, a woman named Jessie through my friend. She introduced me to the Riot Grrl movement and female musicians like Hole, Babes in Toyland, Bikini Kill, the Gits 7 Year Bitch, L7… That kind of filtered in and I started writing more rock and female oriented songs about women, about me. That’s when I started realizing I’m a woman. In Nuclear Death I was wiped of that completely. I was wiped of being female. I had to be one of the guys because that was the only way it was going to go. I didn’t really feel female. I had lost my sexuality because I wasn’t in love with Steve anymore and I certainly didn’t want to have sex with him anymore. I got really cold and standoffish. I was raped in a three month period. Once by a person I didn’t know and once by someone I did. Then I changed my band name to Raped; “how come no one had used this name yet? I better use it”. So I did.
Jessie is a master musician who works in New York City as a jazz drummer, Dear friend of mine, my best friend. I’ve known her for twenty seven years now. We decided to get together and play; that was Raped. My friend said “your name carries weight; you should add your name to it”. And I thought, “Lori Bravo Raped: News at 11”. So I started calling myself Lori Bravo Raped and went under that for many years. I dropped it in 2017 and decided to go under Lori Bravo. That itself is just enough.
I honestly didn’t know there were any Nuclear Death fans, until my friend Mr. Internet said “did you know Nuclear Death has a Myspace?” I was like, “what?” “You know, this fan thing.” “Huh?” Then Ted Tringo contacted me and sent me all these box sets I didn’t want anything to do with. “What am I supposed to do with this shit?” Didn’t people already buy them? I didn’t know what to do with them. We tried to sell them back. Eventually my dearly departed friend Brian Patterson who recently died of Covid, he was the one who made my official Nuclear Death page and said “you can make money merchandising. You need to get your head back in it.”
I always wanted to be in a band. But after I was in a band I didn’t want to be in a band anymore. Now that I recorded on my own, I really like working on my own. I like having that control. I know lots of people collaborate and people are always saying “hey, she would collaborate”. I don’t know where I could find the time to do anything. I will do things sometimes but it seems I don’t have enough time for myself let alone collaborating. I’ve become a very insular person, and I kind of like being antisocial a little bit. I can be my own best friend and just kind of be. There’s just so much I have to say. There were so many years I wasn’t allowed to say what I wanted to say because of the people I was with. So I have a lot to say. After this hurricane, that’s just adding a whole new layer.
I didn’t know I was going to be a solo artist. It wasn’t like I was thinking about being a solo artist. I thought I was going to create and have a band and instead I ended up being a solo artist. Even when I had a band it was just Jessie on drums and I. People thought “you need a bass player” and I didn’t need a bass player. I saw Joni Mitchell playing with a drummer and I thought “she doesn’t have a bass player”. I just hate that. “You need this”… no. I had people tell me for my new album I need drums; I don’t. If I wanted drums on “Bare Bones” I could have contacted Jessie. I don’t know how many drummers would have loved to play on this record, but I didn’t want them to because I wanted it to just be me.
I never thought Nuclear Death fans would like it; are you kidding me? A death metal fan’s going to tell me he cried because he listened to “Lay You Down In The Soil”? Wow. Blow my mind. I have learned over the years and through my friend Terminus who’s in his thirties that nowadays death metal is not as “cliqued”. People listen to everything. It’s a lot easier to reach people who like death metal. Maybe they like the Backstreet Boys. I don’t fucking know. Chino from Deftones did a country album… It’s not a clique anymore, not so regimented or segregated. Which is good because I hated the segregation in the metal scene in the 80s; I thought it was really stupid. The skaters are here, the hardcore punks are here and the metalheads are here and those goth people need to leave and blah blah blah. What? It’s all music and art. I’m like an old hippie like that (laughs).

Tell us about your solo recordings and how they developed from the material composed by Nuclear Death. How has your lyrical writing changed and grown with your music?
It got more personal, obviously. Most of the Nuclear Death lyrics were Phil’s vision, not mine. I did write lyrics after I took over, but again I was writing for Nuclear Death in that I was writing stories. It wasn’t until “Harmony” I started delving into my own psyche. I’d been a writer my whole life, I have always written poetry and my own songs before Nuclear Death. What happened was once I took over Nuclear Death, “Harmony” was metaphorical but personal. Once I dissolved Nuclear Death I wanted to be more autobiographical.
My favorite poets and writers write autobiographically. Not everyone does. One of my favorite musicians, writers and artists is P.J. Harvey who usually does not write from personal experience. That said, I need to; it’s therapy for me. How did my lyrics change? First of all, I got to be a better writer. I’d been reading many poets at that time. I was reading a lot of musicians’ lyrics. The more I listen to things, the better writer I am. I have books of poetry I’d like to publish. I brought them with me to New Orleans. At one point my parents bought me a Brother electric typewriter. I got parchment paper and I typed all the poetry I’d ever written. I had planned on publishing it. Things happen, but there are many, many, many things I have written. They’re not songs obviously because poetry does not work as lyrics and lyrics do not work as poetry.
They also became more feminine because I took back my femininity. As I’ve stated I had to completely wipe myself of my femininity to be taken seriously as an artist in Nuclear Death. Almost changing my name… at one point I was going by Baby Freak Eddie (Eddie Van Halen). When I was trying out for bands I used to say my name was Eddie and tried to make my voice sound low, deeper so people would think I was a guy. Nobody wanted a girl… I’ve always had a toss-up between male energy and a female energy within myself anyway. Now that I’m skinny and have the body of my dreams, I look like a twelve year old boy, but I want to look like a woman. I’m very in touch with my male side, my masculine side.
I basically had to be masculine in a way with Nuclear Death. I would have liked to add more sexuality to Nuclear Death; the raw sexuality would be pouring out of me where someone would recognize that. But I wasn’t trying to be sexy; I wasn’t allowed to be anyway because Phil definitely didn’t want me to. Even though he said sex sells he wouldn’t want me up there trying to be sexy, although to me it’s extremely sexy to watch a woman scream her head off and play an instrument anyway, no matter what kind of music she’s playing. But I didn’t know all that back then.

1 comment:

  1. Lori Bravo - pioneer in death metal; so few have even come close to reaching that level of extremeness.
    Pure art.
    Great interview.