1. They used to be Nation Of Ulysses
Not so much a band as a covert terrorist organisation. In 1991, they released their debut album – ’13-Point Program To Destroy America’ – which outlined their intention “to wreck society through direct action by destroying its institutions and the men who serve it”. They went on to explain that this would be achieved by not sleeping or taking drugs.
Their success? Well, they accidentally invented riot grrrl. And claim to have bombed US embassies in Rome, Jakarta and Lima.
They probably didn’t, though.
2 Next they invented the “gospel yeh-yeh” sound
Following Nation Of Ulysses‘ split – and one single as the Cupid Car Club, the cover of which featured ironic instructions on how to commit suicide – Ian Svenonius (voice), James Canty (guitar/keyboards) and Steve Gamboa (drums) formed Make Up with bassist Michelle Mae. Pro-Karl Marx, but anti-sportswear, their first two albums were live gospel records inspired by Svenonius‘ childhood experiences at a local Baptist church in Washington DC.
3 Singer Ian Svenonius is a self-confessed egomaniac
Ian: “To me, being in a rock’n’roll band is like having a love affair with yourself. It’s like old ’60s street gangs in the Bronx, where the leader of the gang had these delusions of grandeur. To them, their group was the centre of the world. It’s the same with me. I’ve got a serious Caesar complex.”
4 Make Up hate the ’60s
Anyone who thinks it was a golden era should wake up and smell the sexism.
Ian: “The ’60s was the most misogynist era of the last 50 years. The whole idealisation of these new girl-child waif-women, the obsession with boys’ club freedom like The Beatles. What was hippiedom? It was men refuting responsibility, and sitting at home smoking dope.”
5 They’re the most paranoid band on earth
Ever since their time in the Nation Of Ulysses, they’ve been convinced that the FBI have been monitoring their activities.
Ian: “The thing about the FBI is that in the last 20 years their funding has dramatically increased at a time when there’s no real subversion going on in America. So who do they have to monitor? It’s people like (Royal Trux‘s) Neil Hagerty and myself and this waiter over here (points to man serving coffee). Do you know what I mean?”
Do they interfere with your life on a daily basis?
Ian: “Well, you never know. That’s the thing. Let’s say you’re interested in activism, and you go and check out the local Maoist party, you’ll find the biggest bunch of drivelling bores, and who’s to say this isn’t FBI infiltration? This is how those people work, subversion on almost any level. They turned the Black Panthers from a visionary organisation into a thuggish street gang.”
Have you got any specific examples?
Is your phone tapped?
Ian: “I’ve heard a few clicks and pops. In the age of fibre-optics, what are these sounds? I don’t know. Actually, I’m quite serious about this.”
6 They think multinationals are tricking you into having babies
Ian: “There’s a baby mania in America at the moment. Everyone’s having them, it’s a big obsession with the middle class. Why’s sex the central component of advertising? It’s not that sex sells, it’s just that the industry sees a low birth rate and thinks it needs to get people to reproduce in order to ensure there’s future generations of Pepsi drinkers.Do you ever wonder how libidinal people really are? It’s not as much as you think.”
7 They’re scared of Scientologists Well, Ian is, anyway.
Ian: “The Scientologists pull the strings. It used to be the Mafia, but now it’s the Scientologists. Look at Isaac Hayes‘ recent revival. Why’s he in South Park? Because he’s a Scientologist. There are other people too, but I can’t mention their names.”
Ian: “I just can’t. Look, the Germans have got the right idea. They’re banned over there, right?”
What’s wrong with Scientology?
Ian: “It’s the next step after Protestantism. The next step towards super-selfishness. Be all you can be, fuck your brethren. You can download all the secrets of L Ron Hubbard from the Internet. Do I use the Internet a lot? No, I don’t like all those beige colours. feel like I’m at Gap.”
8 Oh, and the history of rock’n’roll is a lie For instance, Iggy & The Stooges didn’t invent punk rock. The music industry did.
Ian: “It was invented to lower the expectations of the rock’n’roll performer. In the ’70s, you had rock’n’roll performers getting a lot of power, people like Neil Young living in mansions. Punk was invented to reintroduce the idea of being a heroin addict, of living fast, of fucking yourself up. It was introduced to weaken their position. It’s all to do with economics.”
You’re not a fan of drugs, are you?
Ian: “You might as well masturbate in front of a mirror. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against punk rock, per se, I just hate the mythology of it.”
9 Their new album, ‘Save Yourself’, features a ten-minute version of ‘Hey Joe’. With a happy ending
Ian: “Yeah, Joe comes back from Mexico, because he realises that you can’t just run away from all your problems. People do covers for a variety of reasons, and a lot of times it seems to be to show how extensive your record collection is.
“We want to do the most banal standards, the most over-done standards – ‘Gloria’, ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Louie Louie’. These songs are skeletons onto which you can project your own personality. We want to do songs that have been done by so many people they’ve ceased to have any meaning.”
10 Don’t call Make Up cool
Ian: “Cool is the propagation of the individual against society. Cool is inarticulate, it’s about what’s inferred, not what’s said. It’s against content, it’s pro-form. That’s not what we’re about, OK?” OK.