Tag Archives: Montreal

Montreal’s Duchess Says Explore the True Meaning of “Cult Following”

Duchesse Says. Photo by Philippe Beauséjour.

Duchesse Says. Photo by Philippe Beauséjour.

It wasn’t long into Duchess Says‘ first few shows, way back into the early ’00s, that frontwoman Annie-Claude Deschênes’ fearless face-offs with her audience began. It wasn’t an antagonistic choice so much as artistic one: Deschênes realized that unless she pushed the limits of live performances, shoving her way into the crowd, “trying different things” each night, the Montreal synth-punk band’s singer would “get bored.”  “I prefer to be close to people because there’s more energ,”Deschênes says. Of course, that kind of risk-taking often has physical consequences.

“One night in Quebec City, I was battling the crowd with some newspapers,” she says with a pained laugh. “I fell on the floor and a girl jumped on me. I broke my wrist and asked the crowd if there was a doctor there or someone who could help me. They started chanting ‘Is there a doctor? Wooo!’ Then they started passing me along over their heads, let me fall on the floor, and I got a concussion. I ended up in the hospital. That night was depressing.”

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“Naked Lunch” Gets the King Khan Treatment

King Khan

Has any author had a greater influence on rock ‘n’ roll than William S. Burroughs? There he is on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, in front of Fred Astaire and next to Marilyn Monroe. Thirty years later, there he is again in U2’s “Last Night On Earth” video, filmed just weeks before his death. In between, he collaborated with Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, Kurt Cobain, and Ministry. Lou Reed, Michael Stipe and Sonic Youth jumped at the chance to visit him when he returned to the States. Bands named themselves after his books (Soft Machine), his characters (Clem Snide) and, in Steely Dan’s case, one of his characters’ dildos. His writing has inspired songs—among them Joy Division’s “Interzone,” The Rolling Stones’ “Undercover Of The Night” and the underrated Therapy? b-side “Pantopon Rose.” The phrase “heavy metal” is lifted from Burroughs, and David Bowie adopted the writer’s cut-up technique while working on 1974’s Diamond Dogs. Since his death in 1997, Burroughs’ influence has barely waned. He’s inspired the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never and The Klaxons. Now, Berlin-based Canadian rocker King Khan is disappearing to Burroughs’ underworld.

 Toward the end of his life, Burroughs recorded an audio version of his favorite parts from 1959’s nonlinear “novel” Naked Lunch. His selections included some of the book’s most outrageous passages, from the graphic orgy of sex, violence and murder that is “AJ’s Annual Party” to the sadistic surgical procedures conducted by the psychopathic Dr Benway. Burroughs’ long-time associates Hal Willner and James Grauerholz produced the sessions, drafting players such as Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz and Eyvind Kang to provide musical accompaniment.

King Khan

The recordings were shelved when a boss at Time Warner caught wind of the project, freaked out and fired everyone involved. But in 2015, Willner decided to resurrect the project. That’s where King Khan comes in. The cult garage psych-smith was flattered to be approached by Willner, the man who had produced Burroughs’ Dead City Radio and Spare Ass Annie, which Khan had bought on cassette as a teenager and treasured. The collaborative result, Let Me Hang You, is a triumphantly outlandish mixture of ambient wonkiness, sleazy jazz, hazy psychedelia and shuffling art rock. Its backing tracks conjure an appropriately eerie and hallucinogenic atmosphere, without distracting from the distinctive creaking tones, affected verbal tics and intense imagery of Burroughs’ recitals.

Khan’s relationship to Burroughs’ work is personal. He discovered Naked Lunch at age 15, after seeing a trailer for David Cronenberg’s 1991 film adaptation. He asked his English teacher about the book, who advised him to, “buy it and read it right away.” It was during this time that Khan’s father became addicted to cocaine, a habit that Khan attributes to an extreme form of midlife crisis. Soon after Khan’s mother found a blackened spoon in the family basement and asked her son what it was, his father began disappearing for days on end. “He would come back and confess to me about the world he had fallen into,” remembers Khan. “These addicts he was hanging with were all shooting coke, and hiding blood-filled needles in toilet bowls to shoot later when all the drugs ran out.” Naked Lunch helped Khan understand and cope with his father’s chaotic lifestyle, presenting, “an underground world of depravity that was as beautiful as it was fucked up.” Continue reading