Shiva Speedway are a trio of loud, noisy, angular bad-asses from Cambridge, MA (they used to have a fourth member on bass, but he met up with... uh... let's just say... BAD KARMA... real, real bad karma... the kind of karma that carries a tire tool, mon....) who are often compared to a lot of all- female bands they don't really sound like. So what DO they sound like? Well, uhhhh... imagine Swans borrowing Steve Albini's big mean guitars after listening to the Band of Susans while swigging Robitussin. Oh, and factor in lots of shouting and ranting. DEAD ANGEL approves of these things, hence -- golly gee -- an INTERVIEW! Oh boy! And this is no ORDINARY interview... oh my no. For this one, we (DEAD ANGEL and the Headless Sno- Cone Girl) met up with Pam (drums), Heidi (paint-peeling guitar), and Dezaray (more ugly guitar) at the starting gate of the first annual Roadway of Abject Terror Marathon in Death Valley. They were waiting for us in a black, black, black Plymouth Fury with a bulldozer blade strategically placed where the front grill should have been, and they were ready to ROCK (and RANT)....
THE SCENE: Somewhere in Death Valley (ie., a wasteland in the middle of nowhere), on a day where it might be 114 degrees in the shade. Hundreds of wonked-out, elaborately overdesigned and extensively modified hotrods of every size and description are lined up in a dozen haphazard rows, like a bad dream from Hieronymous Bosch's subconscious after reading too many Big Daddy Roth comic books. By virtue of their suave choice of a name -- and their willingness to use heavy blunt objects -- Shiva Speedway have secured a spot at the front of the line. Dezaray is behind the wheel; Heidi has taken charge of the bulldozer blade controls; Pam has manned the weapons bay in back, where machine guns poke out of the side windows and an anti- aircraft cannon takes up the entire back window. DEAD ANGEL and the Headless Sno-Cone girl squeeze into the back with Pam just as the checkered flag goes down....
[Sheer pandemonium as the cars all explode forward and everybody begins using their weapons to eliminate the competition as quickly as possible] DA: The obvious -- how/when/where/why did Shiva Speedway get started?
[Heidi hurls a grenade behind the Shivamobile; DEAD ANGEL looks back and sees the cheesy pink VW bus piloted by Hootie and the Blowfish rising into the air in slow-motion, the tanlged body parts of said e-z listening drones flying in all directions]
DEZ: Well, after we got out of prison...
[Much laughter from the Shiva goddesses and the Headless Sno-Cone Girl (no doubt remembering her own experiences with the judicial system after certain facts of her past involvement with the CIA came to light); DEAD ANGEL grows distinctly nervous....]
PAM: Dez and I started jamming with various people after our previous band, Pop Smear, fell apart. We found a bass player and played with a variety of guitarists until Heidi answered our wanted poster in the fall of 1993. That's when things started to come together. About ten months ago we parted ways with our bass player and then everything really fell into place.
[Pam breaks off momentarily to aim a machine gun at a car that has foolishly come too close to the Shivamobile. Inside the car, a fat Joey Buttafucio tries to master the complex actions of readying a grenade and stuffing a Twinkie in his mouth at the same time; he fails miserably, and is cut apart in a hail of gunfire as Pam shows no mercy. The car spins wildly out of control and crashes into a jacked-up hotrod piloted by one of the many, many former members of Swans; both cars explode in a brilliant fireball that lights up the bleak desert for a brief moment.]
DA: [ending up with his face in the floorboard as Dez floors the accelerator]: Why -- ACK! -- the name "Shiva Speedway"?
PAM: Let's see, Dez liked the name Shiva, after the Indian multi-armed god of destruction and change, and I liked the name Speedway (after Seekonk Speedway, a locale from my youth) so we jammed 'em together and got Shiva Speedway!
DA: Makes damn good sense to me... [struggles upright] Say, is that really Albert Camus in the funny French sports car?
[Everbody looks to the decaying stickman pulling up beside the Shivamobile; much discussion ensues as to the possibilities....]
DA: [to stickman] Hey, are you really Albert Camus, dude?
CAMUS: What does it matter? That's a useless question. I could tell you the answer, but it would mean nothing in the long run. After all, in a million years the sun will be a dead ball of ice and this world will be nothing more than a smoking cinder, a forgotten shell --
PAM: Has to be him, all right.
HEIDI: Hey, is it legal for dead people to be in this race?
DEZ: Good question. Not that it matters. [Twists the wheel violently and runs Camus off the road; his tiny sports car bursts through a guardrail and sails into a deep and mighty gorge, only to explode in a tiny fireball at the bottom far below.]
HEIDI: [watching the fireball recede in the distance] You'd think a guy with a history of car trouble would know better than to enter THIS race, wouldn't you think?
DEZ: Aaaaah, he's a PHILOSOPHER, they don't get paid to think about sensible stuff....
DA: [struggling to regain control of the interview as Sidewinder missiles roar overhead] I know a couple of you used to be in other bands; how/ why did you go from that to this?
PAM: Both Dez and Heidi have been in several bands over the years. Pop Smear was my first band; after that disintegrated Dez and I continued to jam together with a variety of people. Pop Smear (who released one single on Harriet Records) was a band of six strong personalities which just kind of fell together. Both musically and interpersonally this feels much better. We're all open people and listen to each others opinions and suggestions about the songs which makes for a rich mix.
DA: In the reviews I've seen of the demo and singles, I notice that no two reviewers ever compare you to the same bands; the influences are all over the map. (This is a good thing.) So what are the REAL influences at work here?
HEIDI: [hurling empty bottles of beer at the head of a forever nameless and bespectacled MTV VJ as she watches from the sidelines] Yeah, that makes us happy, we'd hate to have reviews that say "they sound just like..."
PAM: As far as influences, that's one of those questions we find very hard to answer. Some of our musical taste overlaps, some of it doesn't. Between us we listen to a range of music from noisy indie rock to more melodic stuff to jazz to blues to experimental music. I feel that everything you spend time soaking up -- from music to books to films to visual art to chance encounters on the street -- makes an impact on creative output and it's your particular combination of influences that makes your expression unique. Hope that doesn't sound pretentious....
DA: Do you ever listen to air conditioners?
DEZ: Say what?
DA: Air conditioners. The hum -- oh God, the HUM... so soothing, so... so womblike... ah, oooo, the ECSTACY... for HOURS and HOURS.... [trembling with barely contained excitement]
HEIDI: [to the Headless Sno-Cone Girl] My God, do something before he goes through puberty all over again in the back seat of our CAR!
[The Headless Sno-Cone Girl kicks DEAD ANGEL in the shin. Real hard.]
DA: OW! That HURT!
PAM: Anyway, uh, no... no, we don't listen to... um... air conditioners.
DA: You SHOULD, it's so exciting --
DEZ: [swinging a chain in menacing fashion] Don't start that again.
DA: Okay, okay.... Um... next question then.... You USED to have a bass player; now you don't. What happened there?
PAM: Well, our bass player was a very nice guy with a lot of problems. After he left us waiting for him on stage for 20 minutes we reached our limit and decided to part company. And things have been so much better since. [At this point maggots rain from the sky for no good reason at all.]
[A solid * THUD * rattles the car; the roof caves inward. A face pops into view near Heidi's head. It is none other than Chow Yun Fat, a toothpick in his mouth, an evil twinkle in his eye, and the bulge of many, many large- caliber automatic handguns bulging from under his suit.]
CYF: Ah, I just thought I would drop in and elaborate a bit. She forgets to tell you that after they "parted company," I had a talk with him myself. It was a bit messy.
DA: What the HELL are you doing in this interview?
CYF: Why, just... hanging around. [laughs so hard he nearly falls off the roof of the speeding car]
DA: So how did you get mixed up with this band, anyway?
CYF: Is it not OBVIOUS? They are named for the wild, mythical Goddess of Destruction with many arms; I am the mythical celluloid God of Destruction with many GUNS. The parallels are obvious, don't you think? Now if you'll excuse me, I haven't shot anything in... let's see... [consults high-grade Rolex watch] two minutes. I'm running behind!
[He leaps onto the trunk of the car with a .45 in each hand and begins firing indiscriminately into the thundering herd of cranked-up automobiles behind the Shivamobile. Cars run off the road; grenades are launched; a Molotov cocktail whizzes past his head; he merely laughs. The guns run out of bullets; he pulls another set from his suit. More bullets are fired; the air grows heavy with the stink of cordite; he throws the empty guns at a referee and knocks the man into the path of Big Black's motorized belt sander on wheels. The carnage is most gruesome. Still more guns appear as if by magic in his hands, from his suit, his pants, his socks, his smelly jockstrap, other places too distasteful to discuss. Eventually DEAD ANGEL grows tired of watching the apparently limitless carnage and returns to questioning the band....]
DA: [over a steady hail of gunfire] So what difference has the change made, now that you don't have a bassist?
HEIDI: It's like we're a new band!
DEZ: [swerving deliberately to impale Mariah Carey squarely on a prong of the bulldozer blade] The old Shiva had almost too much going on.
PAM: We were always into the guitars playing interesting parts and with the bass doing that too it was hard to really hear what was going on. We wanted to simplify so we decided to see what it would be like to play as a trio. Turns out it was the best thing we could've done! It's like being constipated for a year and a half and then taking a splendid dump!!
DA: Speaking of which, all this manic rattling up and down the road is really beginning to loosen my bowels, like they say in the crappy TV commercials....
[The Headless Sno-Cone Girl smacks him. Pam aims the anti-aircraft gun at a monster truck commandeered by Alanis Morissette and lets one big bird FLY. The explosion that follows is a heart-warming sight.]
DA: So give me the scoop on the details behind the unspeakably cool artwork on the Fire Eater single....
[The Headless Sno-Cone Girl now helpfully points out, for those readers who have not SEEN said single, that the front cover is a totally boss picture of Shiva the Destroyer, with no less than TEN arms, wielding a bloody scimitar in one hand and holding a decapitated head in another, wearing a long necklace of tiny shrunken heads. The back cover features a picture of a wee'un dressed like a pint-sized flower child and holding one of those cheesy play guitars -- you know, the kind that has no strings but instead buttons between the frets that make awful squeaky noises, the hideous thing DEAD ANGEL is going to give his nephew for Christmas so he can drive him mother totally insane....]
PAM: I really like those garishly colored Indian popular prints of Gods and Godesses they sell in Indian Spice stores. That Shiva image is along those lines, brightly colored and intense. The back cover is a still from a Mexican film of a little girl with a toy guitar around her neck. It has a very dream-like quality to it. I picked out the images and designed the layout; our friend Robbie Alterio had the computer and graphics know-how to put it all together.
[The Shivamobile rams a tour bus studded with railspikes and, through Dez's SHEER FORCE OF WILL, turns it over; overhyped radio-friendly munchkins fly from the shattered windows like springs from a busted clock. Sheryl Crow stumbles to her feet in the middle of the road; her eyes widen with terror as the Shivamobile bears down on her like the angel of certain doom. She is crushed beneath the wheels like a particularly annoying insect and the Shivamobile roars down the speedway without a pause.]
DA: And what about the previous release, the split with Quivver on Harriet?
PAM: That photo is done by a friend of ours, Babette Myers (she's Richard Hell's sister). That picture (which depicts a mournful looking woman naked in a bathtub) matched the lyrical content of our song "A-Train." That song is about a rape and the photo depicts what that woman did to try and console herself after she was raped.
[THS-CG holds up notepad]: A powerful song for a powerful subject....
DA: Man, I wish I was cool enough to know Richard Hell's sister.
THS-CG: [holding up her notepad, on which is scribbled:] You wish you were cool PERIOD, you hopeless dilweed.
DA: You know, I don't recall asking your opinion --
[Minor scuffling breaks out between the editors of The Internet's Loopiest Music Ezine. Heidi begins tossing Molotov cocktails at the spectators on the sidelines out of sheer mischievous boredom. Dez pilots the Shivamoble right up over the back of a tiny Fiat belonging to the vastly overrated Radiohead, squashing it like a steel cockroach. Grenades explode randomly across the speedway. Missiles, bullets, streaming rolls of flaming toilet paper fly by overhead. The sky darkens with the smoke of dozens of burning vehicles. A referee pilots a tiny golf cart into the melee in a desperate attempt to rein the event back into some semblance of control, only to be blown into tiny shards by an MX missile.]
DA: [marveling at the intense glow of a white phosphorus bomb exploding only yards from the Shivamobile] You have more singles in the pipeline, don't you?
PAM: We have a split single with Austin band Enduro due out December or January on the fine Uprising! label out of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
DA: Ah, this is a good thing... the howling guitars of Shiva Speedway will become a known quantity in Austin by default... [a whirling sawblade hurled from Big Black's deathmobile shears off the entire top of the car] Mein GOTT, that man is INSANE!
DEZ: [unperturbed at brush with death] He's just got the will the win, that's all.
HEIDI: Not that it'll do him any good.
[Pam swings a machine gun in Big Black's direction and riddles their car with a hail of bullets. They respond with equal fury, and a pitched battle ensues for several minutes before the Shivamobile finally edges out of firing range.]
DA: [as the Shivamobile sails over a twenty-foot chasm] Any chance of a full-length Shiva Speedway release somewhere over the horizon?
PAM: We hope so! We're finishing up some new songs now and will record again in a couple of months. Then we'll probably immediately put out another single unless someone wants to help us put out a full length. (hint hint)
[A van pulls up suddenly, with the crafty but clueless hairbags from some forever-nameless Bad Metal Band behind the wheel. One hairbag reaches out with a particularly menacing-looking crowbar and pries off the back door of the Shivamobile; another reaches in and spirits away the Headless Sno-Cone Girl, kicking and clawing.]
DA: Wups, can't be havin' this... [hands Pam the tape recorder, picks up a tire tool] Will you hold onto this? I'll be right back.
PAM: Don't do anything foolish....
DA: Foolishness is my BUSINESS. And business is GOOD.
[DEAD ANGEL leaps out of the Shivamobile, crawls in through the passenger window of the van; much violence ensues. The sound of DEAD ANGEL singing fills the air -- "I got a big damn dog, a big iron bar, I keep that motherfucker in the back seat of my CAR" -- as the van winds all over the road. The back door of the van bangs open and battered hairbags are ejected from the van one by one. One hangs on to the bumper as the van rolls on, driverless, until DEAD ANGEL -- with the aid of many judicious blows to said hairbag's head -- persuades him to let go. The Headless Sno-Cone girl has the good sense to take control of the van and brings it close enough to the Shivamobile to leap back inside; DEAD ANGEL follows suit. The empty van rolls off the side of the road and into a bottomless chasm, where it can presumably serve forever as a lawn ornament in hell.]
DA: [gasping, wheezing, wishing he didn't smoke so many cigarettes] Ah... whoo... excuse me... [hacks up a blackened lung] So, uh... where the hell were we, anyway?
DEZ: You were probably going to ask about the lyrics.
DA: [consults the Headless Sno-Cone Girl's notepad] Oh, yeah. Okay, then. So who writes those minimalist lyrics? Is there just one lyricist for the band or is it all of you?
PAM: Dezaray is the lyricist for the band. Musically it's total collaboration but except for the occasional suggestion she's the wordsmith.
HEIDI: That's because she was the one who learned how to use a dictionary while Pam and I were busy getting pictures of Shiva tattooed on us in prison.
DEZ: It's true.
DA: [nervously] Really?
DEZ: Would we lie? [they all show off gruesomely detailed images of Shiva rendered in black and red ink]
DA: Jeez, I'm going to have nightmares for weeks after seeing those nasty pictures... you should be ashamed of yourselves... by the way, did you know that the Headless Sno-Cone Girl has a tattoo of the FREEDOM ROCK album cover on her butt?
DA: Well, it's kind of a long story....
[Explanation is drowned out by the sound of a missile exploding just outside of the Shivamobile. The force is sufficient to lift the car off the ground and propel it a dozen yards through the air. The landing is so bone- rattling that DEAD ANGEL nearly falls out; not for the first time, DEAD ANGEL questions the sanity of conducting this interview during a no-rules road race....]
DA: GAK! Remind me never to take a vacation in this state.... [consults the Headless Sno-Cone Girl's notes] Okay, before I get so sick that I have to blow some serious chunks, uh, what's the story behind "Hell," the flip side of the new single?
DEZ: That's about my best friend from childhood -- Rosemary. We were true punks, always getting into trouble, stealing cars, doing drugs, you name it we did it. Once we were in a car wreck; the car flipped over and I shattered my pelvis and she punctured her bladder; we were really sick but still such troublemakers in the hospital that they separated us! She wound up marrying this guy that beat her up and shot her cat. She died last year of leukemia and I wanted to write a song about her.
DA: This is cool that you have the good taste to pay homage to an old friend... and even cooler that you've done so in a song so totally heavy... BUT I have to confess that your, ah, prior involvement in hideous auto accidents makes me kind of NERVOUS, so I think I'm gonna bail now....
[DEAD ANGEL attempts to jump from the car; Heidi grabs him by the collar and jerks him back down into the back seat]
HEIDI: Uh-huh, don't wimp out on us NOW, we've almost got the race WON....
DA: I'm more concerned about whether we'll still be ALIVE when we cross the finish line....
DEZ: Aw, quit being such a crybaby and finish the interview. [She swerves all of a sudden, sending the car into a long diagonal skid; tires scream, the stink of burning rubber fills the air, DEAD ANGEL howls with fear. The Shivamobile connects solidly with a tiny, tiny Pinto driven by the inventor of Muzak; the Pinto bursts into flames as the Shivamobile roars away.]
DEZ: GOT HIM! That'll teach him to write crappy elevator music!
DA: [voice trembling with fear, certain that the mighty hand of Shiva will crush him at any second now] Does it annoy you to be compared with other bands solely on the basis of all-female personnel, even when you have almost nothing in common with said bands?
PAM: Yes. But it doesn't happen as often as it might. Recently someone described us as a cross between Polvo and Unwound which we liked a lot.
DA: [to Headless Sno-Cone Girl] Make a note of that... we must acquire albums by said bands for further study....
[The Headless Sno-Cone Girl scribbles madly as the Shivamobile pins out at 225. The car is shaking so violently by now that her writing ultimately resembles Sanskrit, or possibly Chinese ideograms as rendered by a blind man. Either way, it's totally unreadable. DEAD ANGEL hopes that the Headless Sno-Cone Girl has a good memory.]
DA: Any plans for touring now or in the near future?
PAM: We recently did a very very small tour that was more fun than we ever imagined it would be, so we'll probably go out again in the Spring. Probably to Chicago and down to North Carolina.
DA: I didn't know they had anything in North Carolina besides tobacco fields. Will you be playing in tobacco fields?
DEZ: We'll play wherever there's a place to plug in our amps.
DA: Do tobacco fields have electrical outlets?
[Heidi dangles DEAD ANGEL from the car by his ankles; fortunately, DEAD ANGEL is so short that his hairy face still fails to touch the speedway screaming past mere inches below his eyeballs.]
HEIDI: Nobody likes a smartass, guy....
DA: Ah, a point well taken! You can, uh, pull my ass back inside ANYTIME you feel like it.... Yessir, ANYTIME AT ALL....
[Heidi relents, but not before giving him a wedgie.]
DA: [crazed with joy at seeing the finish line finally in sight] Final question: In Shiva Speedway's reasoned opinion, what kind of car does Shiva drive and what's hanging from her rear-view mirror?
PAM: [with mad, insane joy] A black '56 T-bird convertible with a real loud tailpipe and a black brassiere swinging from the mirror. Ass, grass, or gas, no one rides for free!!
[With these words the Shivamobile screams over the finish line -- and just in time, as the transmission falls out completely. The car turns over and over like a tiki doll in heat [THS-CG: Say WHAT?!?], spilling its occupants out onto the hot, steaming ground.]
DA: [kneeling with his face in the hot dirt] AAAAAH!!! Sweet mother earth! I kiss the ground! Hahahahahahaha! YES! YES! YES!
PAM: [to others] You know, I like this guy, but he's REALLY ODD....
[Race official strides over with the prize: A big, big bagful of cash in unmarked twenties. Shiva Speedway pack up and waltz off into the sunset as DEAD ANGEL, now obviously mad, his crankcase cracked by the heat and the hair-raising ride, continues to smooch the ground. The Headless Sno-Cone Girl taps her foot, waiting impatiently for him to pass out so she can carry him back to DEAD ANGEL's headquarters beneath the ice floes of the Arctic Circle....]