Spawned in the gritty environs of London’s East End, Dolliscious is the desperate punk vision of longtime rock’n’roll couple Baby Jane Fondle and Johnny Kaiser. Already established faces and scenemakers on the ’60s garage rock scene, in their first band together they’ve turned harsher and darker. Bristling, jagged songs like “Seven” and “Millennium Towers” are as physical and swaggering as any metal band’s (they’re all hardcore fans of Bon Scott-era AC/DC) but have a hard candy coating – think of The Revillos/ Rezillos or early Divinyls. Now you can hear them for yourself: American label Get Hip’s snapped ’em up after only a handful of gigs.
Interview by Graham Russell. Photos by Johnny Volcano.
Jane Fondle: Vocalist and theremin. Fierce voice. Fabulous babe. Totally magnetic onstage. Belts, snarls and prowls while the boys grind into cacophonous action behind her. Makes me laugh when she strikes her rock god/Jagger/Robert Plant poses onstage with her mic stand.
Johnny Kaiser: Drums. Lives in London with Jane now but hails from Edinburgh and still drums with Scottish Merseybeat purists The Kaisers. Has words LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles like Robert Mitchurn in “Night of The Hunter.”
Cyril Roy: Bass. French urchin/guttersnipe. Think of early ’70s photos of Keith Richards or Stooges-era Iggy at the height of their wasted, snake-hipped, Jack Daniels-for-breakfast debauchery, when they still had black circles tattooed around their eyes like permanent mascara rings. That’s Cyril. But with a guttural French accent like Pepe Le Peu.
Barry: Guitar. Has impeccable punk credentials tracing back to the ’70s. Toured and recorded with post-Pussy Galore New York sleaze-rockers Action Swingers. Met Johnny when both played in backing band of British ’60s proto-punker/cult figure Jesse Hector.
Martin: Keyboards, guitar and backing vocals. Dolliscious’ most quiet and enigmatic member. Used to play in Bullet and Rubberneck. That’s all I know about him.
[Interview opens with Jane informing Johnny of domestic crisis.]
Jane: By the way, our toilet’s blocked. So you can get your hand down it.
Johnny: It’s from all those cigarette butts last night.
Graham: I know you two had been planning to form a band together for a long time. What was the sound you were aiming for with Dolliscious?
Johnny: Across between punk and AC/DC. We started off by doing lots of really obscure punk covers with Cyril: “Dead Rock’n’Rollers.” “My Baby’s a Midget”…
Jane: Stuff off Blood Stains.
Johnny: Have you ever heard of The Blood Stains series? Blood Stains Over California. Blood Stains Over Blah Blah … Obscure punk from about 1975 up to about 1983. I’d been a punk all my fucking life and I thought I’d heard everything and then these albums cropped up, and they’re fantastic. Them and the first Killed By Death CD.
Jane: Then we wanted to do something more original.
Johnny: We’ve all been in bands, but they’ve all been in cult scenes.
Jane: They’ve all been ’60s-based, really. And I wanted a complete change from that.
Graham: Well, Johnny and Cyril also play together in The Bristols and it’s a complete departure from that.
Johnny: Yeah, it’s totally different.
Jane: Cyril! [Cyril, Barry and Martin talk amongst themselves, oblivious].
Graham: Pay attention. And it’s completely different from The Kaisers.
Johnny: The funny thing is George from The Kaisers used to play in these punk outfits when he was younger. He was in a great cover band called The Cretins. But it was something I always wanted to do and always felt I was lacking that. The stuff with The Kaisers is great but I was lacking this bit I had to get out of me.
Barry: You always return to your first love. For all of us it was The Who. Punk rock. Then AC/DC. Really primal rock’n’roll. When you get into your late teens and early 20s you kind of get over-selective. This band is about returning to the primal instinct. We’re only left with what we love – there’s no room for pretension.
Graham: The original line-up of Dolliscious was Jane, Johnny, Cyril and Kid Rocker. What happened to him? (Baby-faced Kid Rocker’s a sort of former child musical prodigy turned teenaged rockabilly heartthrob).
Jane: Because he was a lot younger he didn’t really get where we were coming from.
Johnny: He was a fantastic guitarist but at the same time it was the Cyril Syndrome: he was already in too many bands. Also he started studying fashion at St Martin’s College, so that took up a lot of his time.
Graham: Johnny, give a sense of who your other band, The Kaisers, is for an American kid reading this who might be unfamiliar with them.
Johnny: They’re a British Beat group, like Liverpool circa 1961-64. We dress up in that period. It can be quite unnerving. On our last American tour I turned up for a gig in my normal dress sense with big boots and so on. A day later there was an e-mail complaining, “I was very disappointed ’cause the drummer in The Kaisers is a punk rocker. This is what we thought they were all along, punks playing Beat.” People take it a bit serious – they think we dress like that all the time. But a couple of members do.
Graham: You don’t wear the winkle pickers all the time.
Johnny: Christ, the first time they got me in a pair of them I fucking hated it! I felt like a right nancy. Fantastic clothing, but I just couldn’t walk in them for the first year. Obviously, seven years on I’ve mastered it.
Graham: What’s your hair like under the baseball cap?
Jane: [Squeals.] Skin head! Shaved completely.
Graham: (All the other Kaisers sport immaculate quiffs.) How can you be in The Kaisers with a shaved head?
Johnny: Because I wear a Greek fisherman’s cap like John Lennon in 1962.
Graham: Jane, give us an idea of your previous bands.
Jane: [Turns shy.] They’re all crap! Everything I’ve done is shite. The first band I was in was when I was at school, when I was about 14. I wrote lyrics. They were a punk band and I was going out with the drummer.
Jane: What was their name? [Ponders.] Ultimate Reality! [Laughs]. And then I moved to London when I was 17 – four days after my 17th birthday – and played keyboards in a garage band called The Hurting Kind, very badly, with Liam Watson. I knew him just socially, going to clubs like Alice in Wonderland. (Watson is the Joe Meek / Phil Spector figure behind Toe Rag Vintage Recording Studios. American readers probably know him best for his former band, Armitage Shanks. He currently leads The Bristols, which Johnny and Cyril also play in). Then I did The Slingbacks and Delilah Jacks and now this. (’60s-style girl group The Slingbacks were like the nastier little sisters of The Shangri-las. Jane fronted this with Babz, who now sings in The Diaboliks. The mighty Delilah Jacks were a punk-blues combo, like the Brit equivalent of Boss Hog, and sadly broke up without releasing anything.)
Johnny: Delilah Jacks kicked ass.
Jane: They weren’t as punk as this. Not as urgent as what we’re doing now.
Graham: Delilah Jacks broke up almost three years ago. Why was there such a long gap between them and Dolliscious?
Jane: Everybody I knew was already doing something. I was just fed up and there wasn’t anyone inspiring me, that I wanted to see. It gets to the stage where you think, OK, I’ve got to do it myself. There still isn’t really anyone (any bands) I want to go to see, to be honest.
Graham: What’re you looking for?
Jane: Someone like us. Really! The way we are now.
Johnny: Or AC/DC with Bon Scott.
Graham: Cyril, don’t you think you’re already in enough bands?
Cyril: I still spend lots of lonely nights. I play bass in The Sires, The Bristols, and a Shadows cover band called The Silhouettes. I’ve done some recording with Demented Are Go, playing keyboards on a few songs. The Sires are a garage punk band. We’ve put out our debut record (“Rulers of Your Heart” on Twist Records) and a few singles. They’ve got to check it out. The Sires. S-I-R-E-S. And we’ve got a website – http://listen.to/thesires. The Bristols have got a few singles out as well. (Their debut is out on Damaged Goods.) I basically play with girl singers. And The Silhouettes are the saviors of rock’n’roll. And now Dolliscious.
Johnny: The priority! Top of the list!
Barry: Johnny, Jane, and Cyril were already going and then I joined about a year ago and then Martin joined about three months ago.
Johnny: So, basically, I’d say we started three months ago.
Barry: I was in a punk band called Actifed. I’ve played with The Action Swingers. When I did a tour with them, it was Julie Cafrtiz, Ned Hayden and Tim who’s in Ligament and Penthouse. Bob Bert, who was in Sonic Youth, had already left. I did an album with them, recorded at Toe Rag in 1992. I played with Quick Space Supersport for about a year. I’ve played with Jesse Hector. Jesse’s a fucking hero – he’s the absolute embodiment of it. Martin and I had already been in a band together but we couldn’t get it off the ground.
Martin: I was doing nothing. I’d just finished doing something that I didn’t like very much and I played the CD we’d done to Barry and he played me the demo tape Dolliscious had done at Toe Rag and I felt very embarrassed and ashamed of what I’d done! I came in completely cold, but they’re all nice people. The music’s great. They’re treating me alright.
Barry: But what else can he say?
Graham: Jane, are you writing most of the lyrics in this band?
Jane: No. [Gestures to Barry.] I think you’ve written most of them.
Barry: It depends. We try to write it by instinct. Sometimes you come in with something preformed, but the best stuff is always instinctive. Jane does write a lot of the lyrics.
Graham: What’s inspiring you to write these days?
Jane: [Sheepish.] I don’t know, really. I’m not a great poet or anything.
Cyril: Barry’s inspired by me. He wrote one called “Don’t Fuck Around.”
Barry: You know the song “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon? “You probably think this song is about you/ Don’t you?” There’s bits of Cyril in loads of songs.
Johnny: But he’s not sussed which ones yet.
Barry: He always thinks it’s the really obvious ones. And they never occur to you they might be about Cyril and then you think maybe subconsciously they are about Cyril. In that respect, ALL the songs are about Cyril!
Cyril: [Boasting.] All the songs Barry’s done are about me.
Barry: He’s probably more socially active than me, I’m embarrassed to admit, and he comes up with the best stories. The things he says about people. His descriptive capabilities are so good you can’t help putting them in a song.
Johnny: There’s a lot of naivete about it as well, obviously, as a French man …
Barry: He doesn’t know when he’s telling me I’m going to nick his ideas.
Graham: What’re the new songs you’re working on like?
Barry: We’re trying Kraut rock-type stuff. We’re trying to get absolute tension. That’s really punk rock: it’s all about tension and release. Any tool to make it rock. We’re trying to copy it in the vain hope it’ll make us sound even better.
Johnny: But when you say copy, half the band’s never even heard this type of stuff. Half the stuff Barry comes out with, I don’t have a bloody clue what the hell he’s on about.
Jane: Just to experiment. Sometimes we go with it. Sometimes we drop it after one go.
Cyril: Like The Stooges. Some of their songs, if you take the vocals off …
Martin: It’s just solid grooves.
Barry: The Stooges’s “LA Blues,” it’s just tension building up and building up.
Graham: Funny you should mention The Stooges. When I went to your first real gig (at The Hope and Anchor in September 1999) brought a friend from work ….
Johnny: The guy with the piercings!
Graham: … who doesn’t know any of you, so his opinion was really objective, and after about three songs I asked him what he thought and he said, “They remind me of the Stooges.” And he’s a hardcore Stooges freak, so that’s the highest compliment.
Cyril: We all like The Stooges.
Jane: It goes without saying, really.
Cyril: And we all like AC/DC.
Graham: I can still remember when no punk would admit to liking AC/DC. I always found it funny when Delilah Jacks would talk about liking Led Zeppelin, because for punks they’re meant to be the anti-christ.
Jane: But even when I was a strict Mod for years I still liked all that heavy stuff.
Cyril: People take the piss out of you when you say you like AC/DC.
Jane: [Animated.] People just dismiss them under this heavy metal tag. Well, I’m sorry but there’s nothing heavy metal about AC/DC whatsoever. It’s a hybrid of basic blues.
Barry: I can’t be arsed with people saying, “But you really should like this.” People are too fucking narrow-minded. It doesn’t matter what it is – does it rock?
Graham: The use of the theramin on that instrumental song is so inspired. (Dollicious open every set with “Interstellar Overdrive,” on which Jane plays screaming theramin).
Barry: It’s almost dog whistle pitch. The thing with theramin is, it’s anarchic but when it hits the right pitch, it’s fantastic.
Jane: It’s just noises and stuff. We want to make as much noise as possible for as long as possible when we’re onstage.
Johnny: We don’t want to be associated with Jon Spencer, though.
Graham: You use it differently.
Barry: He kinds of runs over to it and makes a racket with it. I’m not saying we’ve achieved it, but we’re getting to the point where it actually reflects the dynamics of what we’re playing. You know what I mean? Without sounding pretentious. [Pauses]. Although that is sounding pretentious.
Cyril: It works. Our plan works. We’ll rule the world with the power of the theramin.
[Conversation turns to their exacting standards to their own gigs. Jane admits she’s never content with her performance.]
Barry: I want us to sound like that bit in (Italian master filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960s Swinging London art film) “Blow Up,” when The Yardbirds do “Train Kept A-Rolling.”
Jane: When it goes mental.
Barry: Fucking hell. They’re totally strange, like they’re aliens or something. That’s my idea of what a gig is. An amazing song played with complete energy. They smash their gear up. The audience is in tears. When we can really do that, with that fever pitch, only then will I be happy. I’ve never felt that way about a gig. When we can do that, smash our gear up …
Graham: When you can afford to smash up your guitars.
Cyril: We just have to smash up our faces.
Barry: Not just that, but when it’s at that fever pitch.
Cyril: It’s very sexual.
Barry: It’s all a climax.
Cyril: You have to be able to risk yourself into something. You don’t know what it’s going to be, but if you can’t risk your fantasy, you’re just stuck somewhere. Like shagging a rubber doll.