Luscious Jackson’s Kate Schellenbach
by Jane Farrow
Trance-pop, subterranean New York hip-hop, or just plain cool, Luscious Jackson is an oasis of all-girl funkiness in a sea of boy-based groove. But why quibble over categories when you could be having a Toni Home Perm party with your girlfriends and doing the shag to the spinal-injury-inducing beats of “Naked Eye,” the lead off single from their latest release, Fever In Fever Out?
Kate Schellenbach-Luscious Jackson’s drummer, who also happens to be the ex-girlfriend of Breeders’ bassist Josephine Wiggs and former percussionist for the Beastie Boys-takes time off from making the band’s new video to chat with guest music editor Jane Farrow and put to rest some of the trashiest L.J. rumors ever heard.
Girlfriends: True or false: You wanted to be a drummer so you could look at the bums of your band-mates.
Schellenbach: Hardee-har-har. False. I thought it would be cool to be behind the scenes and I didn’t have it in me to be a lead singer. And I liked the fact that you could sit down. (Laughs)
Girlfriends: Have you ever caused a car accident while touring by veering across lanes of traffic to get to a cool store or restaurant?
Schellenbach: Yes, probably. Definitely those hangar-sized thrift stores, like someplace in the Midwest that you just know is gonna be good. Or K-mart even, like, “Oh my god, its K-mart! Pull over.”
Girlfriends: If I was riding around in the Luscious Jackson-mobile, what kind of junky snack food wrappers would I see on the floor?
Schellenbach: We have a microwave in the RV, so I guess you’d see a lot of health food burrito wrappers. They’re really still junk food even when it says “natural” or something. Oh, and Pringles.
With these critical matters out of the way we turned to the more frivolous topic of their newest tunes. Nine out of 14 tracks on Fever In Fever Out were recorded in Schellenbach’s cramped, loft-apartment studio space. Nicknamed the “meat and potatoes studio” by her sister, the 16-track, mini-groove factory is shared with the aforementioned Ms. Wiggs (a vegan) and Ms Schellenbach (“Okay, umm, I’m a meat eater”). With vocalists and guitarists Jill Cunniff and Gaby Glaser picking up most of the slack in the producing area, Schellenbach concentrates on getting her drum sounds right and contributing the occasional sample.
A Hamilton, Ontario, expatriate and all-around sensitive guy, Dan Lanois coproduced the album, making wide use of his own unique arsenal of lo-fi microphones, big-assed tambourines, and mood-enhancing sage-grass which he would light up and blow into the girls’ faces-“To make sure we weren’t too self-conscious” explains keyboardist Vivian Trimble. The result? A slick and soulful collection of layered, trancey, synth funk, laced with trademark L.J. vocals and steady, backbeat drumming.
Commenting on her own musical influences, Schellenbach cites the classics from Al Green and Sly Stone to contemporaries like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. “I’m not into showboat drumming. I like people who keep the groove going … drumming that’s really trashy and loud, wide open, not too many effects. We’re onto that less-is-more thing musically; drum lines that go along with your heartbeat.”
Advice to aspiring skins-pounders? “Drumming isn’t really that hard. The drum sticks don’t weigh that much and you don’t have to move that much. You can make it really hard if you’re whaling around and throwing your arms around and shit like that. But I like to keep it small and funky.” Schellenbach makes the intriguing observation that punk drumming creates bigger shoulder muscles, “from bashing at the cymbals. Like it depends on how high you are lifting the drum stick in the air and how hard you are hitting it.”
So forget the circuit training ladies, and get down.
But wait, what about being famous and queer and cuddly with another rock-chick and stuff like that? “Being in New York you can be pretty anonymous. People are generally cool, but sometimes you don’t necessarily have the privacy you might think you have. Like sometimes I’m walking around the East Village holding hands with somebody and I hear about it a week later, like we were spotted or something.
“When I was going out with Josephine it was kind of a story because we’re both in bands and fairly well known in the alternative music world and people were interested in that, which was perfectly understandable. It was fine. We like our fans, we like meeting people, and we like talking about music. More than anything, we wake up in the morning and say, “Oh my god, we’re so lucky we can do this as a living, just doing what we want to do, what we dreamed about doing.”
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