INTERVIEW WITH RACINE
by maxluvero


Photo by Melissa Stewart
 

Racine are Wendy James, Henrich Strahl, James Meynell, Goldenboy and Ray Sullivan.

It’s art punk rhythm and blues with beautiful harmony, a straight garage pop/rock that kicks you hard. It’s pure adrenaline put into music with razor sharp lyrics brought by vocalist and guitarist Wendy James, leader and rock-icon of the English 80’s band Transvision  Vamp.

In 2005 their debut came with the indie label Pia-K recordings on vynil, CD and DVD. The album “Racine n1” has 11 tracks including the single “Grease Monkey”, another album “Racine n2” is due very soon.

We now have the chance to know more from the voice of Wendy.

1 WHEN DID THIS PROJECT BEGIN?

Racine really began back in London about 5 years ago, when I started writing songs and demo-ing them. Those songs resulted in RACINE NO1. Before I recorded that album though, I moved to NYC. I met an engineer, and even though I didn't have a band around me, I recorded the album. I played everything and produced it... it is like a little lo-fi beautiful thing, much detail, but quite simple too. Then there was growing demand for Racine to go out and play, so I started getting the band around me. We did go and play some UK dates, and we also played the Tribeca Grand Hotel here in NYC, but we were a three piece and some backing tracks had to be used - which made quite a modern sound up against the loud guitars and drums - and that is how the sound on R2 evolved. Now, however, we are a five piece band so all the parts are being played live... and I've picked very rocking guys who play great, hard and fast.
Again, I have written RACINE NO2 and am producing it.
I expect the album to be finished recording at the end of March, then decide who's going to mix it, at the same time, start tour rehearsals. We really want to be touring for the rest of the year, once the album is done.

2 WHERE DID YOU MEET WITH THE OTHER BAND MEMBERS?

I met Ray the drummer in a bar on the LES of NYC, he was drumming in a band that was playing there... I met the keyboard player, Goldenboy, through a friend in london, Golden is English but lives in NYC.

I met the guitarist Henric and bass player James through a DJ friend of mine in NYC who said his brother was a bass player, (James) and James knew a great guitarist - Henric.
We all got in a room and played, and it worked, so - we began tracking R2.

3 WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND RACINE?

I really believe all the influences a person picks up in life are what shape their music, and of course their inherent musical taste. My first love and influence in life was early British punk and 70's New Wave from NYC - The NY Dolls, The Ramone's, Patti Smith, Televison and of course (from earlier) The Stooges, The MC5. In the UK - The Pistols and The Clash.
My other main area of influence was/is reggae - as the area I grew up in in London was West London, known for it's Nottinghill Carnival and it's roots reggae culture - very, very important to me, as groove and as diginity and as renegade sound.
On the whole, these influences have remained constant, though I find Hip Hop far more interesting, and groovy and exciting than white rock music now - my three all time favorites in the world - are Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Jay-Z.
I think Jay-Z - his rhymes, and his musical production (Kanye did a lot of it) is genius, and forever marks a time in history, (Public Enemy too, from earlier), Jay-Z is unbelievable - he inspires me endlessly. The Stones ARE the greatest rock n roll band in the world, and Dylan gives me, soul, wit, intelligence, roots, reaction, perfect melody - Dylan has it all. He is capable of being very ascerbic with his lyrics, as are Jay and Jagger - and this is the common attraction, and of course BLACK rhythm and blues.

4 HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE NAME OF THE BAND?

I chose the name after the street in Chicago where Al Capone ran his prohibition business from in the time of the American depression. Whenever I'd seen movies about Capone (Edward G Robinson - for instance) I'd always notice the street sign RACINE and think it was somehow poetic.

Years later, I was in a second hand book store in London, Nottinghill Gate, buying a book by one of my favorite authors - Damon Runyon, and his book was called 'The Racing World Of Damon Runyon' (about gambling at the racetrack) - days later, at home, I glanced at the book and misread it as 'THE RACINE WORLD' - so in a flash the whole thing came together... my two french girlfriends then told me it means 'ROOTS' in french, and of course is also the name of one of France's great writers Jean Racine. (It's also a city in Wisconsin here in the US!), but as I say - the reason really derives of a mix between Al Capone and Damon Runyon.

5 YOUR ARTWORK IS VERY BEAUTIFUL AND SOPHISTICATED AND YOUR IMAGE REMINDS ME OF THE HITCHCOCK WOMEN. YOU ALSO MADE A DVD VERY SOON FOR A NEW BAND. HOW DID IT COME THE IDEA OF THE SHORT MOVIE? ARE YOU INTERESTED IN A CAREER AS AN ACTRESS?

I do enjoy the look of the Hitchcock Blondes, specifically Tippi Hedren. Though I also am equally drawn to Catherine Deneuve and Monica Vitti. (and Annouk Aimé and Fellini's style of women)

Between Antonioni's women, Goddard's women (Anna Karina/Bardot) Truffaut's women (Deneuve et al), actually Deneuve in BELLE DE JOUR (Luis Buñuel) you will find me.

I have no desire to be an actress, I know I could transmit great depth on screen, but music is my passion and has my complete priority and loyalty. I do get asked to be in front of the camera, and possibly I would do it - it depends on so many things, mostly - can I take time away from music, and do I want to?
When I watch movies it is more for the cinematography, the lighting, the direction, the editing, the script.

6 IN ALL YOU HAVE DONE YOU HAVE BEEN A VERY ACTIVE AND INDIPENDENT WOMAN. WAS IT HARD TO BE ACCEPTED AS A WRITER, PRODUCER, MUSICIAN, SINGER AND BAND LEADER IN THE MALE WORLD OF ROCK?

No. As a musician I am taken on the strength of my ideas, my ability and my conviction. I am a good 'uniter', a good band leader - I can pull everyone into shape, and have everyone feeling they are striving to and for the very best of their abilites, I do this mainly by being very direct and clear about what it is I want. Anyone entering a creative situation with me knows this, and so it is a simple equation to understand. There are times when each of us needs to be appreciated and encouraged, and that is what builds band loyalty and understanding, and of course the longer we work together, play together, hang out together, the more telepathic it becomes.

The female stuff - I assure you when i'm working, does not come into it. I am not available for male/female innuendo. It's a gang - whatever sex you are - we hang together but we all have to stand on our own two feet.

7 AFTER TRANSVISION VAMP YOU CAME OUT WITH A CRITICAL ACCLAIMED SOLO PROJECT. WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT?

Well I did the Elvis Costello album, and I personally was not happy with it, although the making of it was a tremendous learning experience. The end result was disappointing, because I had realised Elvis' intention's when he wrote the record were not altogether positive. BUT, the making of it was a blast - great musicians and a lot of adventure.
After that, I literally disappeared into my studio in London and started to write for myself. If the Elvis album showed me anything it was that I could only write for myself from then on, and nothing less would satisfy me.

8 I THINK TRANSVISION VAMP CAME A LITTLE EARLY. I REMEMBER THE FEROUCIOUS CRITICS BUT I DO ALSO REMEMBER THE ENERGY AND THE URGE TO DANCE ON THEIR MUSIC. NOWADAYS TRANSVISION VAMP WOULD FIT PERFECTLY IN THE NEW ROCK POP WARHOL INSPIRED NEW YORK CITY GLAMOUR BANDS. WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS THERE A CHANCE AFTER THAT TO SEE TV REUNITED?

I will never go backwards, I will never be in the Transvision Vamp line-up again.

The music, whilst it is always a pleasure to hear it in a club or on the radio, it means little to me now. I know that what I write is much more musical, much more creative, and much more genuinely my look on life, my humour, my intelligence, my viewpoint, my idiosyncracies, my taste.
I'm so happy I grew up in Rock n Roll, and I had the best time with TVV, we toured so much and had so much success, it was the very best way to turn from a girl to young lady.

9 WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENGLISH MUSIC WORLD AND THE AMERICAN? DO YOU HAVE A FAV BAND AT THE MOMENT?

America is HARD-ASS - it is the home of the Blues, of Hip Hop, the culture here is very very sharp. I love the late 60's to 70's period of America - with the Black Panthers, the Anti-Vietnam rallies, The Stones of that period, the protests, the upheaval of the whole decade was/is so infectious and inspiring. The authors too - Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson, the commentators - Noam Chomsky, the movie makers - Scorsese, Coppola, Bogdonavitch - everything was changing, and it echoed around the world - i.e the student riots in France... I also love America of the 30's/40's in the depression era - that's when Chess Records started on the South Side of Chicago...

England has amazing edge too - The Stones in the 60's , the black families moving to South and West London after WW2 brought amazing music into our culture. Punk also was born out of economic and poiltical depression. All great movements are an act against something stagnant and oppressive. All art is freedom - in the beginning, then very quickly it get's co-opted by the norm, because there is money to be made. As the artist - you have to keep letting go, and keep moving forward, never being sentimental about success. You must be brutal in seeking the new experience and expression.
For me, America is suitable right now, because it's got real 'balls', I can seriously expect great work, and I can get great work done, and everybody's in your face - and I like that kind of aggression. I like not having to be a 'care-giver' to a bunch of pussy's!

10 WHY DID YOU LEAVE ENGLAND?

I found myself in a place and time, where I was able to move - no boyfriend, no real thrill in my enviroment anymore - quite numbingly comfortable - which is deathly. I felt a desire for fresh adventure, and probably the calling of 'greater' things.
I don't need comfort so much as I need challenge.
- I moved.

11 ANY CHANCE TO SEE RACINE LIVE IN USA AND EUROPE?

Yes - as soon as R2 wraps, we go into rehearsals, and it is my fervent wish to tour and tour for the rest of the year. The dates will always be first available at www.theracineworld.com and www.myspace.com/theracineworld.

We will be touring the world, either on our own dates, or joining other tours.

12 WILL RACINE BE SEEN AS THE NEW WENDY JAMES PROJECT OR THE BAND WILL COME FIRST?

Well - it is me... but RACINE - we are a band - whichever. Ultimately when we're on stage there's gonna be five of us to watch!


If you want to know more about RACINE buy their CD and visit www.theracineworld.com

TRUST IN ME!

MAXXX

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